Tag Archives: Sharing

The Greatest Gift

Greatest-Gift

God is a giver, not a taker. Throughout Scripture, we find evidence of His great generosity towards His creation. From the beginning of time as we know it, when He called forth Creation — when He gave existence to things that had never before existed — we can see the true heart of God. He literally gave of Himself to make each one of us. “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

The very nature of God is to give, to create, and to bless His creation. Unfortunately, many of us are so self-absorbed and greedy for gain that we do not even have the eyes to see the countless gifts that God has already worked into our lives. Yet, God wants us to be givers too. He created us to be like Him – to pour of ourselves into other people, and to reciprocate His love for us. God created us with the power to be able to give back to Him! When I really stop and think about this, it truly amazes me – that God – the sum of ALL good things, who holds ALL power and authority, would humble Himself in this way.

He didn’t make himself entirely independent of His creation, or set Himself up as a mere casual observer of humankind, though He certainly had the power to do so. Instead, He allowed Himself to love us to the point where our returned love would be a blessing to Him. Each one of us, little and insignificant as we are, has been given the profound gift of the ability to bring joy to the heart of God. It is extremely humbling to me, when I stop and consider that God has thus set the laws of His creation into motion. That the One who is Love personified, would actually be blessed by the love that I could offer Him. This is the greatest gift of all, and it is given to every human being who has ever lived or will live–the ability to give of ourselves to God and to each other. Without this gift, life would be very empty indeed.

Bible Says Christmas Is Time of Blessing

In the mad rush of the holiday season, the true meaning of giving is often forgotten. What is meant to be a time of blessing and joy becomes instead, a time of stress and depression. Recently, as I was praying for the church and the nations of the world, a great sorrow began to rise up inside of me. God has placed so many gifts within His church. Each member of the Body of Christ has been given strategic giftings and a unique place that none other can fulfill in quite the same way. Yet, so many are not moving into their rightful place. They are afraid to use their gifts, or they think their gifts are insignificant. Many are secretly hurt and angry at God because they feel they haven’t been given anything remarkable. They mistake God’s anointing and talent in certain individuals as a sign of God’s approval of those people, and they assume their “lack” is a sign that God doesn’t love them as much as He loves others…that God is somehow “prouder” of other people than He is of them. Because of this fear and resentment, they are crippled in taking their proper place in God’s kingdom, falling short of the gift they were created to be.

Others are busily using their gifts, and by their own efforts are successful in the eyes of the world. Maybe they have a thriving ministry. Maybe they are making good money. Maybe they have the respect and admiration of those around them. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that their actions are a blessing to the heart of God, or that they are even obeying what God has told them to do. Ecclesiastes 4:4 says, “4 Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.” Many are so busy creating their own kingdoms, that the kingdom of God suffers a great lack. Their pride and busy occupations have blocked the measure of their true worth in God’s kingdom.

19 “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:19-22). There is so much work to be done, and so few who are willing to do it. John 4:35-36 says, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” God intends both the sower and the reaper to share the same joy of the harvest. There should be no competition among God’s faithful servants, no jostling each other for the “prime” positions, no envy or personal ambition. If we truly love the Lord, our only goal should be to bless Him, to serve Him, and to advance His kingdom.

As I was praying, I saw a vision of the Lord, manifested in the person of someone I love very much. In the vision, I saw this person laying in bed, exhausted after a hard day’s work. The Lord said to me “What do you think she would like right now? How could you bless her?” I could instantly see that a cup of hot tea and a home-cooked meal would be just as much, if not more of a blessing to her than whatever big, distant work I could conjure up to show her my love. Immediately, I could see what God was trying to show me. We are created like Him. If we appreciate a “small” gift given in love more than the fanfare of a “big” gift given in insincerity, how much more does God?

As the vision continued, I could see Jesus sitting alone by a road with people running up and down it. They were all very busy. Some were stopping and chatting with Him for a moment here and there, but as I overheard their conversations, they were mostly to inform Jesus of what they wanted from Him, or what they were going to do for Him. One man in particular ran up to Him. “Oh, Jesus, I’m so excited,” he cried. “I’m off to tell the world all about you!” Quickly he ran off before Jesus could say anything at all. My heart broke, as I saw Him there, sitting by Himself. Yes, He wanted to bless those people with things beyond their wildest imagination. Yes, He wanted them to find fulfillment in serving Him. But what He really wanted most of all was for those people to come and sit with Him and talk awhile…to hold His hand and look deep into His eyes…to share their dreams and sorrows, and to hear His joys and sorrows…to let Him simply give His love to them. In all their mad rush to give and get, they missed the greatest treasure of all, sitting right in front of them.

So much of what we do for God is with mixed motives for our own personal fulfillment. We all want to have a purpose and reason for living. We all hope that if we were to die tomorrow, we would leave a legacy of some kind behind us. Yet for most of us, this becomes the end to which we live. Sadly, when we make anything other than God our reason for living, that thing will become an idol in our lives. Even if it is a good thing, like a ministry or a mate, it can still never fulfill us because it wasn’t designed to. It simply can’t! It doesn’t even have the ability to fulfill. In fact, those idols will begin to work against us, and cause us to suffer spiritual barrenness. They will put us on a treadmill until we become broken-hearted and exhausted trying to keep it all alive. On the other hand, if we receive them simply as the gifts they are and continue to love God first in our lives, we will be given the ability to enjoy them, for this too is a gift. Ecclesiastes. 3:13 says, “13… and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” The key is simply too: “33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33).

When all is said and done, only those things which were done “as unto the Lord” will count for anything. In God’s eyes, there are no “big” or “small” things done for His Kingdom. All He asks of us is to obey Him in what He tells us to do. Let us follow through and obey Him, whether His commands seem great or small. After all, it is Jesus we are talking about here! The One who left His home in glory to bleed and die a humiliating and painful death for each one of us – the One who made Himself vulnerable to us, by giving us the ability to bless Him or hurt Him. As we obey Him, we bring such joy to His heart! Then His joy, which is a strength to the spirit of man, becomes our joy as well. God is not impressed, nor is He blessed by the best of our works done in self. He is only impressed by the attitude of our hearts.

As we look around the world this holiday season, let us stop and consider Who’s birthday we are celebrating. Let us not forget to offer sincere thanks to our precious, precious Lord for His many blessings in our lives. And let us show our thankfulness by our actions! Let us offer the same mercy that God has given us to those around us. Let us press deeper into the heart of God, that we may have something to offer this world besides the same old cycle of greed, pride and rebellion. Let us not be ashamed to become the servant of all, showing our love for God by laying down our rights, our plans, our time and money for the sake of others. Let us demonstrate our love to God by giving Him the very things we are afraid to lay down, trusting that He has the best plan for our lives and would never use or abuse us. Let us truly fulfill the greatest commandment, which is to “Love the Lord our God with all our mind, soul, and strength; and to love our neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Each of us is destined to make a profound difference in the world. Let us not fall short of our destinies! Let us give the greatest Christmas gift that we have been afforded to give; one that we can give year-round – to bless the heart of God!

If you do not know God the way you want to, you can receive the gift of knowing Him right now. Simply pray to Him from your heart and ask Him to forgive you for your sins and turning your back on Him. Romans 10:9: “8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Ask Him to come into your life and make you a new person, born of His spirit. You can give to Him a gift He considers more dear than anything else in the world – yourself. In return, you will receive eternal life with Him, which begins the moment you are born again. May God bless all of you richly as you seek to give unto Him your all.

If you just prayed to ask God into your heart, or you would like to know more about becoming a Christian, please visit the link on becoming born again.

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Who Needs God With Andy Stanley

Who Needs God Episode 1: “Atheist 2.0”

INTRODUCTION

Americans are migrating away from religion, particularly Christianity, at an unprecedented rate. Once upon a time, Americans believed religion offered solutions. Today, religion is viewed by many as the problem.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What kind of faith or religion was a part of your upbringing, if any? What has been your experience as an adult with what you were taught as a child to embrace?
  2. Do you agree with the idea that when we move away from something, we are in essence moving toward something else? If so, when it comes to faith, what do you feel  you are moving away from? And as a result, what do you feel you are moving toward?
  3. Andy stated that just because something is unsettling doesn’t mean it isn’t true. What about Christianity unsettles you the most? What about atheism unsettles you the  most?
  4. Do you believe the process of walking away from faith or religion is more personal or more intellectual? Explain.

BOTTOM LINE

Walking away from something moves us in the direction of something else.

Who Needs God Episode 2: “Gods of the No Testament”

INTRODUCTION

Typically, people who don’t believe in God don’t believe in a particular version of God. But what if they have the wrong version? What if you have the wrong version? If you’ve walked away from faith or religion, it could be that your version of god never existed in the first place.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Where did your view of God originate?
  2. Did you inherit any of the following “growing up gods”? If so, which one(s)?

        Bodyguard god: prevents bad things from happening

On-demand god: honors fair and selfless requests

Boyfriend god: makes its presence known

Guilt god: controls through guilt and fear

Anti-science god: forces trade of the undeniable for the unreliable

Gap god: becomes the explanation for the unexplainable

  1. If at any point in life you decided to walk away from faith or religion, would you say that any of these “growing up gods” contributed to that decision?
  2. To what extent do you associate religion with guilt?
  3. During this episode, Andy said the choice between God and science is a false alternative and that, “If everything were explained and explainable, it would not explain away God.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

BOTTOM LINE

Walking away from a god that never existed doesn’t mean there isn’t one that does.

Who Needs God Episode 3: “The Bible Told Me So”

INTRODUCTION

If the Bible is the foundation of the Christian faith, then as the Bible goes, so goes the legitimacy of Christianity. But what if the Bible shouldn’t hold that much weight in the debate? In this episode, Andy explains that Christianity doesn’t exist because of the Bible any more than you exist because of your birth certificate.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. In the stories you’ve heard from others about their decision to walk away from Christianity, or perhaps in your own story, what have been the reasons? Do any of those reasons  stem from what they’ve been told is true about God or the Bible?
  2. Describe one question or concern you have about something you’ve read or heard about in the Bible. Do you believe it must be resolved in order to further consider Christianity?
  3. How do you think 1st, 2nd, and 3rd century Christians managed to endure significant hardship and effect change in the political landscape of their time without access to a  Bible? What do you think inspired or compelled them forward?
  4. If debates about Christianity no longer centered around Is the Bible true? but shifted to Who is Jesus?, how might the conversation change?

BOTTOM LINE

Christianity doesn’t exist because of the Bible; Christianity exists because of something that happened.

Who Needs God Episode 4: “The God of Jesus”

INTRODUCTION

It’s easy to get caught between doubt and despair when we’ve always assumed God to be bodyguard god, on-demand god, guilt god, etc. If God has lost his appeal because we’ve mixed him up with a gaggle of gods that don’t exist, then how can we know what God is really like?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What is your reaction to the conclusion that Christianity isn’t rooted in blind faith, but in observable evidence? Do you agree with Andy that Christianity never would have made it out of the first century otherwise?
  2. Given the evidence for the viability of Christianity as it’s been presented so far in the series, do you think what Jesus had to say about the nature of God is worth considering?
  3. God is Spirit. In your opinion, is it plausible that God as “spaceless, timeless, and immaterial” could be the “first cause” that science is looking for?
  4. God is Father. Is it difficult for you to view God as a perfect father? Why or why not? What is one thing in your life that could change if God became that personal to you?
  5. God is Love. Much like in Andy’s analogy of shade requiring sun in order to exist, do you agree that evil requires good? If so, does that help to explain how God, in his essence,  could be love, despite the existence of evil in the world? What are the holes in that  idea?

BOTTOM LINE

The God of Jesus is Spirit. The God of Jesus is Father. The God of Jesus is Love.

Who Needs God Episode 5: “In-Justice For All”

INTRODUCTION

We all want to rid the world of injustice. But we can only recognize injustice if we know what justice is to begin with. We don’t always agree about what is just. So, who gets to define justice?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. When have you seen injustice in your world? How did it influence the way you see God?
  2. Do you believe there is an objective standard of “dignity and justice for all”? If so, where do you believe it came from? Do you think it varies from one culture or society to the next?
  3. During the message, Andy said, “When we reject God because of injustice, we don’t solve injustice. We lose the definition.” Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?
  4. Is it easier to regard pain and suffering in the world as an argument against the existence of God or as a reminder of our need for God? Explain.
  5. Does it make sense why God provided a way to save humanity from its shortcomings instead of choosing to judge humanity for them? Are you glad that God went that route? Why or  why not?

BOTTOM LINE

When we reject God because of injustice in the world, we don’t solve injustice. We lose the definition.

Who Needs God Episode 6: “I Do”

INTRODUCTION

We all want to be masters of our own destinies. We all want to feel in control of our lives. The idea of autonomy is attractive; it makes life feel ordered and predictable. One of the biggest barriers to belief in God’s existence is that we don’t want to need God. But what if autonomy is an illusion?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Talk about a time when you admitted you were wrong about something. How difficult was it for you to change your mind? What happened to cause that change?
  2. “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” Be honest with yourself: how does this quote by Blaise Pascal  apply to your belief in or rejection of the existence of God?
  3. Assume for a moment that God does exist. What is your reaction to that notion, and how does it make you feel? As Andy describes in the episode, can you relate to feeling guilty,  accountable, or wrong?
  4. If unaccountable people make regretful decisions, to whom would you say you are ultimately accountable?
  5. What if the existence of God brings forgiveness, relationship, and truth? What is attractive or unattractive about each of those ideas?

BOTTOM LINE

Humility makes us wiser, smarter, and open to growth. Humility is the way forward.

The Ideal Woman

Let us examine the portrait of an ideal woman designed by God and revealed some 3,000 years ago in Solomon’s book of Proverbs.

It seems that women are very much in the news these days:

  • Leading marches in order to demonstrate their political power and influence.
  • Standing up to and denouncing predators and abusers.
  • Championing the rights of woman to compete fairly in every area of business, politics, sports, entertainment, etc.

On the face of it, it would be hard to find fault with any of these individual initiatives and objectives. Women’s vote should be considered crucial by politicians and women should be judged on their skills and training and not their gender when it comes to employment and opportunity for advancement in any area of endeavor. And we, as a society, should never enable, ignore or defend predators or abusers, no matter how rich or famous or talented they are.

All these issues are logical and just but I can’t help but think that the ultimate goal of these and other movements headed up by women is to erase any difference there may exist between the sexes.

I would go one step further and suggest that there may be some that are hoping that the women’s movement will ultimately lead to a society where women dominate men. I have no idea of exactly how this would work but I am fairly confident that if dominance is the goal, women will eventually be guilted of the same kind of cruel and unjust actions that abusive men have made who sought the same kind of power.

In today’s society it seems that men are encouraged to become more like women and women are demanding to be treated more like men. In addition to this, young people are told that they can explore every shade of gender identity until they find a sexual personification that they feel comfortable with. And we wonder why, according to Psychology Today, the suicide rate among young adults (millennials) has tripled since the 1950’s. And suicide is the second most cause of death among college students.

In answer to this worrying trend and confusion over what is male and female the Bible makes a clear and defining statement: “God created man in His own image, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). There are only two sexes, they are different and they are meant to be different. As the French say concerning men and women, “vivre la différence!” (long live the difference).

Since I began this lesson referring mainly to women, I’d like to focus on the female gender in defining some of the important characteristics that defines, not just a women, but what defines a Godly women. You see, there is nothing wrong with a women who desires political and economic opportunity, and refuses to be victimized by some abuser. These are all well and good – it’s just that these goals belong to the world and are appreciated only here below.

What I desire for women is that they aim higher, for goals that are above, that belong to the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of darkness here below. For this reason, I’d like to share with you the portrait of an ideal woman designed by God and revealed some 3,000 years ago in Solomon’s book of Proverbs. In this passage, Solomon indicates some of the qualities possessed by the ideal women who is pleasing to God.

Description of an Ideal Woman – Proverbs 31:10-31

At the end of the book of Proverbs there is a beautiful acrostic poem extolling the virtues of the ideal woman. Acrostic poems are those where each line of poetry begins with subsequent letters of the alphabet. In this poem the writer begins his description by saying one thing about the virtuous woman – She is rare.

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.

Not every woman is like this, he says; just like not every piece of jewelry is precious – pearls are precious because they are rare and hard to find (all jewelry shines but not all are valuable).

A virtuous woman (inner strength) is hard to find, even harder to find than precious Jewels.

What makes her so valuable? – vs.11-12

11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

The writer summarizes her value in describing her relationship to her husband – she is trustworthy. The author tells us that the innate quality that this woman possesses is her trustworthiness. Not just to her husband but as an essential quality that she has as a person (with or without a husband, she is trustworthy).

When you have found a woman like this, you have found a precious stone.

Outward Signs of Inward Qualities – vs. 13-24

In the following verses the author goes on to describe the outward signs that reveal that precious inward quality of trustworthiness.

 She is a good manager and hard worker

13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.

The author gives several examples of her hard work and good management.

  • 13 – Cheerful in her work. She doesn’t complain or see her work as a burden.
  • 14 – She uses imagination in preparing food and is a wise shopper, careful with her money.
  • 15 – Manages her responsibilities well in her home. She is “on top” of the situation concerning her affairs.
  • 16; 24 – She has good business sense and knows how to turn a profit. Without sacrificing her home, she is able to use her business talents to the advantage of her home. She doesn’t ruin her home with outside work She builds it up.
  • 17-19 – She is not afraid of hard work and does not waste her time at home. This is a woman who knows the difference between leisure and laziness. She demonstrates that a well-managed home is a profitable enterprise. She understands that “time” is “money” even for the woman who is at home and uses her time at home profitably. A well-managed home is like a second income.
  • 21-23 – By her work at home she contributes to her family’s and her husband’s reputation in the community. Her children are clean, well fed and mannered, as is her husband and this is a reflection of their home, of which she is the manager.

If marriage is a partnership the woman that the author describes here is a good partner to have. So in describing the outward signs that point to the inward quality of the ideal woman the author begins by describing the things that make her a good manger and hard worker.

Good Character and Reputation – vs. 25-27

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

The second outward sign that reveals this trustworthiness is her good character and reputation within her community. Says 4 things about her character:

  • 25 – Kind and generous. James tells us that benevolence to the poor and homeless is the sign of true piety (James 1: 27). She is truly a spiritual woman with a Godly character. She has confidence. She is not afraid of the future (near or far) because her faith and good works cover her with honor and power. She is a person who is at ease in her conscience because her heart and hands are busy doing what is right. She is not guilt ridden or depressed because she is busy giving herself away to others she loves.
  • 26 – She is wise. Her tongue is not for gossip but rather for edification. This is one of my own mother’s qualities and one I have also found in my wife. Both never use their words to destroy always to build others up beginning with myself and our children and then others. This is wisdom from above and the woman of the poem demonstrates that she has this.
  • 27 – She is concerned, but her first and primary concern is her home and family. It is not that she isn’t concerned with the problems of her society (She does help the poor etc.) but the concerns of her home are first. When we take care of our own home first there are usually less problems in the world. She is aware of the needs of her family and the community and concerned about fulfilling them using all of her skills and qualities refined through years of service and practice.

Paul says in I Corinthians 11:3 that the man is the head of woman and consequently the head of the home but Lemuel, the writer of this material, balances out this picture by showing us that the woman is the heart of the home. When the head and the heart are in union with Christ as the Lord of the home, what a wonderful place that home is.

The Rewards of the Ideal Woman – vs. 28-31

In the last few verses the author describes the rewards awaiting such a person and clear signs that she is a virtuous woman. She has this trustworthiness demonstrated by Good stewardship of her home and a Godly character and these bring her rewards:

  1. Her family praises her

28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”

Her children are thankful that they have a mother like her – what a reward for a mother, grateful children. Her husband sees her as the best of all women. Suggest his absolute fidelity and devotion.

  1. Her community praises her

Her neighbors, friends and community see her as a woman of value and character.

In the end the author summarizes the true essence of the value of this person.

30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.

Her motivating factors are not beauty or charm (social acclaim) She is a person that fears (respects /obeys) the Lord – this is what motivates her. Her desire to work well, to serve others, to develop a good character are inspired by her basic faith and desire to obey God, who wants all of his daughters to become women of value.

Summary

Notice some of the things that were not mentioned here:

  1. Her looks (skin, hair, weight, height, figure)
  2. Her independence (Not even a question for her)
  3. Her knowledge / education

These were not mentioned not because they are not in themselves important but rather because they did not make her more valuable one way or another.

Notice however what was mentioned as important:

  1. Her work concerning her responsibility towards her husband, family, community (N.T. times = church)
  2. Her attitude of kindness and wisdom
  3. Her confidence and lack of guilt
  4. Her reward of praise from the three groups that she serves: Family / Community

And of course God Himself praises her because she serves Him and He wrote this poem in her honor.

Exhortation

We have extremes in recognizing woman in or society. Either we have a day that honors only those women that have children (Mother’s Day) or the various organizations that promote those women who see themselves as feminists.

I want to encourage those women who work hard in raising children but I want to include all those women who are striving to become women of valor in our society, regardless of their status. – and who are these women in our day?

Women who are resisting the pressure from the Media and society to work only on the outward beauty but through patient obedience to Jesus Christ are creating a beautiful inward person.

Women who, in a thousand ways, every day serve their husbands and / or families, church and school and community and do so with a smile, sincerity and diligence.

Women whose strongest desire is not to be free and independent but rather desire to be useful, kind, and generous to those who are in need.

Women who are keeping themselves pure and ready for the return of Jesus Christ.

For these women, whether they are married or widowed or single; with or without children – I pray that God will bless you as true women of valor. I also pray that as the precious jewels that you are, you will shine forth among all others and receive the reward of praise that you so richly deserve.

Invitation

For those women who want to become the virtuous women spoken of here:

First step is to give your life to Jesus in repentance and baptism. In so doing you become pure again, no matter what you’ve done and special in Gods sight.

If you’ve gone away from Him and not been the kind of woman God wants you to be, repent and come back to him for forgiveness and restoration.

Proverbs 31 Woman (3).jpg

Giving Thanks for Every Name of God

It’s easier for me to be thankful for some of God’s names and attributes more than others. It’s effortless for me to rejoice in God’s attributes of love and faithfulness. I savor His forgiveness and provision. It’s easy for me to be thankful He is my Savior and Healer.

However, I don’t delight as easily in some of God’s other characteristics. How can I understand a God whose nature is incomprehensible? Where is the joy in descriptions of God the Father as a Consuming Fire and Jesus as a Man of Sorrows? And I struggle to be thankful that God is a holy and jealous God.

All That He Is

But being selective about which names and attributes we praise God for produces a problem. In effect, we create our own god by worshiping the attributes we want Him to have instead of worshiping all that He is.

For example, some focus only on God’s characteristics of love and mercy. They don’t want to think about His holiness, righteousness, and judgment. Problem is, they end up with an anything-goes god who tolerates sin.

Others may focus on God’s holiness and judgment to the exclusion of all His other characteristics. They create a fire-and-brimstone god who is unloving, unmerciful, and uncompassionate.

God is love and He is holy. He is merciful and He is just. He is righteous and He is compassionate. He is all these things and more. To truly know Him, we must learn all that He is—not just a few characteristics that appeal to who we want Him to be.

Think of the facets of a diamond that combine to reflect its brilliance. The names and attributes of God combine in a similar way to reveal the transcendence of His nature and the glory of His ways.

So, let’s spend a few minutes addressing several names and attributes that don’t seem to generate as much of our attention . . .

“I AM”

I decided to look in my Bible for every place where God says “I AM.” Before I show you what I found, I want to warn you that it’s a long and impressive list. If you’re like me, you have a tendency to gloss over information when it comes to you in bulk, but let me encourage you to take your time. Read and re-read. Think about all the things God says about himself with the simple introduction, “I AM.”

I AM . . . your shield (Gen. 15:1-3).
I AM . . . God Almighty (Gen. 17:135:11).
I AM . . . compassionate (Ex. 22:27).
I AM . . . holy (Lev. 11:44).
I AM . . . your portion and your inheritance (Num. 18:20).
I AM . . . your salvation (Ps. 35:3).
I AM . . . with you (Isa. 41:1043:5Jer. 1:19,15:20Hag. 1:132:4Matt. 28:20).
I AM . . . the Lord, besides me there is no salvation (Isa. 43:11).
I AM . . . the first and the last (Isa. 44:6Rev. 1:17).
I AM . . . he who comforts (Isa. 5:12).
I AM . . . merciful (Jer. 3:12).
I AM . . . a father (Jer. 31:9).
I AM . . . their inheritance (Ezek. 44:28).
I AM . . . gentle and lowly of heart (Matt. 11:29).
I AM . . . the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Matt. 22:32).
I AM . . . the Christ (Mark 14:61-63).
I AM . . . the bread of life (John 6:48).
I AM . . . the light of the world (John 8:12).
I AM . . . not of this world (John 8:24).
I AM . . . the Good Shepherd (John 10:1).
I AM . . . the door (John 10:9).
I AM . . . the son of God (John 10:36).
I AM . . . the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).
I AM . . . teacher and lord (John 13:13).
I AM . . . the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:1).
I AM . . . the true vine (John 15:1).
I AM . . . the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8).
I AM . . . alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18).
I AM . . . coming soon (Rev. 3:11).
I AM . . . the bright morning star (Rev. 22:16).
I AM . . . the LORD your God (this one is stated so many times throughout the Bible that I lost count).

An impressive list, isn’t it?

God called Moses to go to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh release God’s people from slavery. Moses wrestles with the idea of such a monumental task and finally asks, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Ex. 3:13).

Before Moses goes to the most powerful man in the world, he wants to know the name of the God who sends him. Seems reasonable to me.

God answers Moses’ question this way, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14).

Then, He repeats Himself, but doesn’t offer Moses much clarity.

“And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you'” (Ex. 3:14).

There isn’t an English teacher in the world that wouldn’t mark all over that sentence with her red pen.

Imagine the same sentence in a different context. You are introduced to a new visitor at church. You say, “Hi, my name is Erin. What’s your name?”

“I am . . . ” is their reply.

I am who? I am what? Simply leaving it at “I am” seems like bad grammar and bad manners.

But that’s what God said when Moses asked His name.

“I AM WHO I AM.” “I AM has sent me.”

Don’t you imagine that Moses was perched on the very edge of his seat? Waiting for more information. He knew he would be pressed by Pharaoh and by the people he was called to free for more information. I am who? I am what? But “I AM” seemed to be all the information God was going to give at that moment.

Fortunately for all of us, it’s not all He ever said on the subject.

So why didn’t God just dictate it to Moses so that Moses could pass it along to Pharaoh?

Why leave the dots unconnected?

Because we learn the names of God best when we see for ourselves who He is, not when we simply hear about Him.

The answer to Moses’ question, “What is his name?” would be given to Pharaoh soon enough. The purpose of the plagues God sent upon Egypt was to put the power and character of God on full display.

Sooner or later, we all mumble Moses’ question under our breath, “Who are you, God?” We follow it up with “How will you prove who you are in my life?” We’ve got the benefit of a hard copy of His answer in the Word. From Genesis to Revelation the Lord speaks often of who He is. But the proof is also in the pudding, isn’t it? If you will take a minute to reflect on your own life you will see that His descriptions of Himself are spot on. I know He’s been everything on that list in my own life (compassionate, salvation, merciful . . . ) Who has He been in yours?

Certainly, the qualities of God are vast and impressive, but they become even more so when we get serious about who we really are.

Who are you?

It’s a simple question that almost always has a complex answer. If I asked you, “Who are you?” I bet you’d start with the good stuff (we all do). You might tell me about your beautiful family or your great job or all the ways you volunteer in your church or community. We like to polish our identity up to a high shine, but that’s not the whole story is it?

David has a way of writing with a brand of brutal honesty that I am drawn to in the Psalms. He finishes the sentence I am . . . in a way that checks my spirit. Here’s what he wrote.

I am . . . fleeting (Ps. 39:4).
I am . . . poor and needy (Ps. 86:1109:22).
I am . . . languishing (Ps. 6:2).
I am . . . lonely and afflicted (Ps. 25:16).
I am . . . afraid (Ps. 56:3).
I am . . . afflicted and in pain (Ps. 69:29).
I am . . . helpless (Ps. 88:15).

Are you ready for a confession? I am all of those things, too. As important as my life seems to me, the Bible describes it like a vapor (James 4:14). That’s what David meant when he called himself “fleeting.” I often find myself needy, lonely, afraid, and in pain, just like David did. I am helpless in the face of most of the problems I face. I can’t change my own heart, mold myself into Christ’s image, or keep all that scares me at bay.

While the news about who we are at our core is bad, the news about who God is couldn’t get any better.

And that’s not the worst of it. In Psalm 51:4, David described a personal attribute that I’d like to gloss over.

I am a sinner

Paul answered the “I am . . .” question by describing himself as the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Some days it feels like I’m giving him a run for his money.

When we line the reality of who we are with the beauty of who God is, our heart can choose from one of two options.

  1. We can wilt under the weight of our failings, and settle in with the feeling that we will never measure up.
  2. We can let the beauty of the gospel—that a God so big and powerful and good would extend grace and love toward us despite the fact that we are so desperately undeserving—make up for our slack. We can spend our days in gratitude instead of defeat because God is big, and we are small, and He loves us anyway.

From time to time it does us good to peel back the good stuff of who we are and smell the gunk underneath. But don’t dwell there. While the news about who we are at our core is bad, the news about who God is even better.

In light of what God’s done for you, how would you finish the sentence “I am . . .”?

Leave a comment below.

Christianity and Judaism: What’s the Difference?

Do you know the differences between these two similar faiths?

What defines a Christian as opposed to a Jewish person? What are the differences between them? Do they have anything in common? What are their beliefs? Where did they originate from? Do they believe in Jesus, the Son of God?

I can go on forever with questions as to the differences and commonalities between to two religions. But instead, I’ll let you decide. Read on and at the end, you tell me what you think about Judaism vs. Christianity. Christianity & Judaism (8)

Of all the world’s unique religions, Christianity and Judaism bear, perhaps, the most similarity. This is because they come from the same beginnings, with both religions having similar conceptions of the nature of God, recognizing some of the same sacred texts, and having many of the same basic beliefs concerning the creation of the world, as well as ideas about heaven, hell, and the necessity of atonement for sin.

Without Judaism, in fact, we would not have Christianity—they share the same root. The Jewish people were one of the first to engage in the worship of a single God who was not only all-powerful and all-knowing, but also perfectly just, loving, and good. This set God apart from pagan deities, who had many of the same flaws as human beings. The God of Judaism and the God of Christianity are the certainly the same being, and both Christianity and Judaism began with the covenantal relationship between God and Abraham, and the subsequent spread of these beliefs through the next generations.

The differences, though, in the stories of these two world religions begin to appear in the Bible that each uses. Each of these faiths has a different version of scripture, with Judaism only recognizing the Old Testament—the Hebrew Scriptures—as the inspired word of God. They know these books as the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. This part of the Bible documents the history, culture, and theology of the Jewish people, but goes no further.

It is here the split from Judaism to Christianity occurs. The Jews believed that God would, one day, send a powerful messenger—the Messiah—to deliver Israel from oppressors and bring in a new era of peace, and even today, believe that this is an event that has yet to occur. For Christians, that promised Messiah came in the form of Jesus Christ—the central difference Christianity and Judaism.

Judaism does not accept Christ as the Son of God, or as the chosen Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. Jews regard Jesus as an excellent teacher, and at most, a prophet. This is, at times, a great source of contention between these two similar faiths as Jews accuse Christians of corrupting the image of the one, true God, and Christians accuse Jews of dismissing the very Son of God.

Christianity began with the teachings of Christ. After the death of Jesus on the cross, His disciples went out into the world, establishing churches. It wasn’t long before this splintered sect of Judaism began to take on its own character, becoming an entirely separate religion, with Christianity teaching that the only path to God—and thus, to heaven—lies in accepting Jesus Christ as one’s personal savior. This is reiterated throughout the New Testament and is of central importance for every Christian denomination.

As a result of this disbelief in Christ as an aspect of God, Judaism differs from Christianity in that it considers God to be perfectly “one,” rather than existing in the Trinity—the idea that the one God also exists as God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jews often see the Christian Trinity as being inherently polytheistic, in fact.

Aside from these main differences, there are also traditions, ceremonies, and norms which are unique to each faith. While examining the enormous scope of Jewish customs is beyond the scope of this article, Judaism has its own unique holidays such a Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, and Passover, and has its own unique clothing, symbols, and festivals. Worship practices, too, are different, with Jews attending synagogues or temples, which are often the centers of Jewish communities, social activity, and charity work. Religious leaders, in Judaism, are called Rabbis, while Christian religious leaders are often called priests or ministers.

In general, the Christian traditions can seem less complex because, in the Christian tradition, Christ abolished the need for things like dietary laws, feast days, and many other religious norms that are still practiced in Judaism. But despite this, there is no equal in Judaism for Christianity’s multitude of denominations and variance of beliefs. Both religions, in their own ways, are startlingly complex.
These two faiths also differ in the ultimate goal of life: Judaism focuses on living a good life through right conduct as prescribed in the Mosaic Covenant, while Christians focus more on being good through correct beliefs, as illustrated by Christ.

Christians are much more focused on spreading those beliefs and readily accept new converts. Jesus commands Christians to “make disciples of all nations,” going out into the world and spreading the Word of God, and so, for many Christians, this is an incredibly important part of religious life.

Judaism, on the other hand, is not a proselytizing religion, and accept converts only after they expend a great amount of effort studying Jewish laws and customs for several years. This is a very involved process, with those wishing to become a Jew undertaking a rigorous period of supervised work. Since Jews believe that an individual does not need to be a Jew in order to come to God, they see little need to convert non-Jews.

Interestingly, there is an offshoot of Judaism that combines both faiths—this is Messianic Judaism. This is a movement that combines ideas from both faiths, merging Jewish tradition with the idea that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, and that both the Old and New Testaments are authoritative and inspired by God. Salvation, for Messianic Jews, is attained through the acceptance of Christ. Messianic Jews retain their Jewish lifestyle, culture, and identities, and continue to celebrate their own festivals and feast days, but do so in a way that honors Christ.

Despite the differences, however, these two religions are more alike than not, and share a rich history of interactions with God, as well as a long list of challenges, failures, and triumphs. Both faiths, when followed closely, help inform their adherents’ morality and provide a framework in which people can be moral and good.

Together, these two religions change lives just as much as they have changed history.

Let Him Who Boasts Boast in the Lord!

Hatred as the Echo of Love

I hope you will agree with me that in order to love deeply, there are things you must deeply hate. You could think of examples yourself. To love children deeply you must hate any mistreatment or neglect that destroys them. If you love clear-headed kindness and respect, you have to hate alcoholism and drug addiction. If you love freedom, you have to hate slavery and totalitarianism.

The reason I start with this observation is because I am about to tell you something God hates, and I know that the word hate by itself has a negative and unattractive ring to it. But I want you to realize from the very outset that God’s hatred is the reflex of his love.

The only reason anybody should hate anything is because it replaces or ruins something beautiful and wonderful. Hatred should always stand in the service of love. If you hate anything, it should be because you love something more. So, when I tell you that God hates something, I want you to hear that hatred as the echo of His love. He hates what He hates because it replaces or ruins something beautiful.

God Hates Human Pride

More than anything else in the world, God hates human pride.

  • Proverbs 6:16–17(NKJV) says, 16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood,
    18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
  • In Psalm 101:5(NKJV) David speaks for God and says, Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him I will destroy; The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.
  • Proverbs 16:5 (NKJV), “Everyone proud in heartis an abomination to the Lord;
    Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”
  • Isaiah 2:11 (NKJV), The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
  • Jeremiah 50:31 (NKJV), 31 “Behold, I amagainst you, O most haughty one!” says the Lord God of hosts; “For your day has come, The time that I will punish you.
  • Jesus said in Luke 16:15 (NKJV), 15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
  • And in Acts 12:23 (NKJV) it says that 23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

Pride as the Root Problem in the Corinthian Church

God hates human pride. And this is the root problem in the church at Corinth. Let’s take a quick survey of the letters to Corinth to see if this is so, and also to see just what pride is. Ask these two questions as we go: is pride the root problem at Corinth, and what actually is pride?

Is Pride the Root Problem at Corinth?

  • 1 Corinthians 1:29 — “29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
  • 1 Corinthians 1:31 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
  • 1 Corinthians 3:7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:21 21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours:
  • 1 Corinthians 4:6— ” . . . that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
  • 1 Corinthians 4:18 — “18 Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you.”
  • 1 Corinthians 5:2 — “And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.”
  • 1 Corinthians 8:1 — “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — “Love suffers long andis kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed updoes not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there          are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:9 9 “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, . . . .”
  • 2 Corinthians 3:5 5 “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, . . . .”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:7 7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 9 “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

It is not hard to see that the root problem in the church at Corinth is pride. And it is not hard to see either what that pride is.

What Is Pride?

  • It is boasting in self and not the Lord.
  • It is taking credit ourselves for what God alone can do.
  • It is relying on self and not God.
  • It is feeling sufficiency in our own strength and not in God’s.
  • It is the disinclination to admit that we are mere earthen vessels so that another gets the glory.
  • It is the unwillingness to admit weaknesses that may accent the power of Christ.

What God Loves That Makes Him Hate Pride

What’s the beautiful thing that is replaced or ruined by pride? What does God love so much that he must hate pride with all his might? The answer is plain from all these texts.

  • He loves the heart that boasts in the Lord.
  • He loves the heart that gives Him credit for what He alone can do.
  • He loves the heart that relies on His power.
  • He loves the heart that wants Him to get the glory in all things and that wants the power of His Son to shine in our weakness.

And if you have caught on to the essence of Christian Hedonism, you will know that when God delights in this, He delights in the deepest, most satisfying human experience possible.

Because:

  • We were made to boast in God.
  • We were made to give Him credit for all good.
  • We were made to rely on His power.
  • We were made to magnify His glory and His all sufficiency in our weakness.

This is the source of all ultimate joy and satisfaction. If God were to delight in anything less than our boasting in Him, He would be an idolater and He would be a killjoy. Pride diverts our capacity for exultation from the galaxies of God’s glory to the gutters of our puny achievements. It is a decorated dead end street.

Therefore, God hates pride. And we should hate in ourselves what God hates in us, and wield the sword of the Spirit as best we can to slay this dragon in our souls – PRIDE.

Five Steps in Paul’s Combat Against Pride

So, what I want to do is take you with me through Paul’s thought process in 1 Corinthians 1:18–31. It comes to a climax in verse 31 with the words, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” So really what we are asking is, how does Paul guide a person from being proud and self-reliant into being a person who exults in God and not self?

May that happen for all of us as we follow the Word of God.

I see at least five steps in Paul’s thought in these verses.

  1. Recognize What We All Want to Boast In

The first step is the basic fact of experience that humans want something to boast in, but not God.

Verse 22:  22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;

“Signs” are the display of power and “wisdom” is the display of intelligence. So, the underlying point is: some people get their strokes through power and others get their strokes through intelligence. It might be your own power or intelligence, or it might belong to someone you can associate with (as was the case here in Corinth).

It might be a World Series ball team in your city that you boast about, or it might be your alma mater, or the company you work for, or a friend, or even a religion, or a church. Pride can boast in itself directly or it can boast in itself indirectly by association. So, two absolutely incompetent ballplayers may brag about the ball team in their city as though they had anything to do with making the team good.

I think God created man with a deep desire to boast in something great, but sin came into the world and made every one of us hate to boast in God. So, we seek for displays of power and displays of intelligence and we make these our gods. It might be the power of a tractor pull, or a rocket booster, or a motorcycle, or biceps that look like grapefruits, or (if you are a woman) the power of a shapely figure. Or it might be an A-average in school, or an advanced degree, or a published article, or a merit scholarship, or investment savvy, or the ability to win at Trivial Pursuit.

The Greeks craved eloquent displays of intelligence and the Jews wanted amazing displays of power. One man says, Show me something great with your mind, and another says, Show me something great with your body. But no one ever says (apart from the Spirit; 1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.), Show me God. Sin has blinded us.

  1. Affirm God’s Superiority Over All Else

So, the second step in Paul’s thought is to affirm what everyone denies, namely, the superiority of God over all the power and wisdom of the world.

Verse 25:  25 “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

In other words, it is a great tragedy when your quest for power and wisdom stops short of God. Because God is a treasure of power and a treasure of wisdom infinitely greater than any of the things that excite you in this world.

Paul wants to stamp this truth on us so deeply that he risks some dangerous language about God, doesn’t he? He says that when God is as foolish as He can be, He is still smarter than all the wisdom of men. And when God is as weak as He can be, He is still stronger than all the power that man can unleash.

When God stoops to hold a child on His lap, He also holds the subatomic particles of that child’s flesh in existence by the power of His thought. And when He stooped to let Himself be mocked and beaten and crucified and stabbed, He destroyed the power of Satan over His people, He covered the sins of millions of sinners, and He vindicated the glory of His name.

How foolish for us to seek wisdom and power in the world and not in God when the weakness of God is stronger than any power in the world and the foolishness of God is wiser than any wisdom in the world!

  1. Describe How God Deals with Human Pride

So, the third step in Paul’s thought is to describe how God deals with man’s love for human intelligence and power. It is stated in verse 19 and in verse 21.

  • Verse 19: 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
  • Verse 21: 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

He Blockades the Way of Self-Reliance and Pride

Here’s the way I would put this in my own words: In His wisdom God decided to blockade all the roads that men are building to heaven by their own power and intelligence, and to put in their place one narrow gate and one hard road, namely, the Calvary road and the gate of the cross.

There are two ways that God destroys the wisdom of the wise and frustrates the cleverness of the clever.

  1. He blockades their self-reliant quest for God—that’s what the first half of verse 21 means: “In the wisdom of God the world did not know God through wisdom.”
  2. He preaches Christ crucified as the only way to God. This destroys the wisdom of the wise and frustrates the cleverness of the clever because it is so humiliating to cast yourself on the accomplishments of a bloody redeemer.

Look at verse 30: 30 But of Him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—

He Opens Only One Way to Glory: The Cross

You can easily see why the cross is the end of the line for human pride. Picture a well-respected American businessman, a banker, lawyer, doctor, well dressed, well groomed, being taken out the gate of the city to the garbage dump and being stood in front of a post with a naked man hanging by the nails driven through his wrists, covered with blood, gasping for his last breaths, and being told, “This, sir, is wisdom and righteousness and holiness and redemption. Will you kneel down here and cast yourself on him for mercy?”

In other words, God has chosen a way of salvation that devastates human pride. “That! You want me to bow down before that! You think I need that! Don’t you see how I am dressed! Have you seen the car I drive! Don’t you know where I work! Don’t you know how much money I make! And you think I need that heap of bloody flesh! What do you think I am, a dog? A worm?”

23 “. . .  but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks [Gentiles] foolishness, . . . .” (verse 23). 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (verse 18).

So, in His wisdom God cuts off the way of pride and frustrates man’s reliance on human power and human wisdom. And then He opens a way to glory and to God that proud man cannot stand, namely, the way of the cross.

Why? Is it because He hates man? No. It is because He hates pride. When God blockades the road of pride, he blockades the road to destruction. And when He routes you onto the Calvary Road of brokenness and humility and faith, He routes you to glory and to God—and in the presence of God is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11 11 “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”)

  1. Explains God’s General Choice of People

Therefore, the fourth step in Paul’s thought here is a kind of warning: there are not many powerful or shrewd people who respond to the saving word of the cross.

Verse 20: 20 “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”

Verse 26–28: 26 “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, . . .”

In other words, not only has God blockaded the pathways of pride and opened the way of the cross, but He is also opening the hearts of many foolish and weak and low and despised people along with a few upper-class people, in order to put to shame those who boast in power and wisdom and class and achievement.

Why? This brings us to our last step.

  1. Declares the Purpose of God in Acting Accordingly

It is stated negatively in verse 29 and positively in verse 31.

  • Verse 29: 29 “. . . . that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
  • Verse 31: 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

The purpose of God in the creation of man and the salvation of sinners is that we might boast in HIM. This is God’s will for you today. God is speaking in these words very clearly. And what He is saying is this: turn this very moment from all boasting in yourself. Don’t seek your pleasure any more in your own wisdom, or your own strength, or your own looks, or your own achievements. Look to Christ crucified and see what becomes of it all.

Paul said in Galatians 6:14, 14 “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

So, I call you to come to Christ and die — and to live. And the promise of God is this: there is no greater life, no greater joy than to boast in Him!

God, I call upon your name. This country has fallen into turmoil due to the election of one man. This is wrong. All eyes are on President Elect Trump instead of focusing on you and seeking your wisdom and strength as to how to deal with this situation. There is rioting in the streets instead of prayer, there is discord and discontent among peoples of this country instead of a cohesive and unified focus on You and what You want, the country is divided and your word explicitly tells us that – 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (Mark 3:25 (NKJV)). So, what to do? We as a people, a nation seek your guidance during these troubled times. Help restore peace to our streets and communities, help bring our leadership together under one God, one nation. You put into office who You felt would do the best job. Please help this nation understand that and to abide by Your decision and wisdom and not their own. I thank you for the privilege of praying for peace and prosperity under our new leadership. I thank you dear Jesus for dyeing on the cross in order to restore us back to God, giving us an avenue, a gateway to God and all that He was, is and will be. Thank You. In Your precious Son’s name I pray, Amen.

‘An eye for an eye’?”

The concept of “an eye for eye,” sometimes called jus talionis or lex talionis, is part of the Mosaic Law used in the Israelites’ justice system. The principle is that the punishment must fit the crime and there should be a just penalty for evil actions: “If there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21:23–25). Justice should be equitable; excessive harshness and excessive leniency should be avoided.

Exodus 21:23-25 (NKJV)
23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

We have no indication that the law of “an eye for an eye” was followed literally; there is never a biblical account of an Israelite being maimed as a result of this law. Also, before this particular law was given, God had already established a judicial system to hear cases and determine penalties (Exodus 18:13–26)—a system that would be unnecessary if God had intended a literal “eye for an eye” penalty. Although capital crimes were repaid with execution in ancient Israel, on the basis of multiple witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6), most other crimes were repaid with payment in goods—if you injured a man’s hand so that he could not work, you compensated that man for his lost wages.

Exodus 18 (NKJV)

Jethro’s Advice

18 And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people—that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back, 3 with her two sons, of whom the name of one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land”)[a] 4 and the name of the other was Eliezer[b] (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”); 5 and Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God. 6 Now he had said to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.”

7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and kissed him. And they asked each other about their well-being, and they went into the tent. 8 And Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. 9 Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 And Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.” 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took[c] a burnt offering and other sacrifices to offer to God. And Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?”

15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.
16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another;
and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. 19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26 So they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves.

27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way to his own land.

Footnotes:
a. Exodus 18:3 Compare Exodus 2:22
b. Exodus 18:4 Literally My God Is Help
c. Exodus 18:12 Following Masoretic Text and Septuagint; Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate read offered.

Exodus 2:22 (NKJV)
22 And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom,[a] for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”

Footnotes:
a. Exodus 2:22 Literally Stranger There

Deuteronomy 17:6 (NKJV)
6 Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.

Besides Exodus 21, the law of “an eye for an eye” is mentioned twice in the Old Testament (Leviticus 24:20;Deuteronomy 19:21). Each time, the phrase is used in the context of a case being judged before a civil authority such as a judge. “An eye for an eye” was thus intended to be a guiding principle for lawgivers and judges; it was never to be used to justify vigilantism or settling grievances personally.

Exodus 21 (NKJV)

The Law Concerning Servants

21 “Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: 2 If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. 3 If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.5 But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

7 “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. 9 And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. 10 If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. 11 And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.

The Law Concerning Violence

12 “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. 13 However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.

14 “But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.

15 “And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

16 “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.

17 “And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

18 “If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to his bed, 19 if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted. He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed.

20 “And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. 21 Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.

22 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

26 “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye. 27 And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.
Animal Control Laws

28 “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted. 29 But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him. 31 Whether it has gored a son or gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him. 32 If the ox gores a male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

33 “And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner, but the dead animal shall be his.

35 “If one man’s ox hurts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the money from it; and the dead ox they shall also divide. 36 Or if it was known that the ox tended to thrust in time past, and its owner has not kept it confined, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall be his own.

Leviticus 24:10-23 (NKJV)

The Penalty for Blasphemy

10 Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. 11 And the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) 12 Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the Lord might be shown to them.

13 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.

15 “Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death.

17 ‘Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death. 18 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal.

19 ‘If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him—20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him. 21 And whoever kills an animal shall restore it; but whoever kills a man shall be put to death. 22 You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God.’”

23 Then Moses spoke to the children of Israel; and they took outside the camp him
who had cursed, and stoned him with stones. So the children of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Deuteronomy 19 (NKJV)

Three Cities of Refuge

19 “When the Lord your God has cut off the nations whose land the Lord your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses, 2 you shall separate three cities for yourself in the midst of your land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess. 3 You shall prepare roads for yourself, and divide into three parts the territory of your land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, that any manslayer may flee there.

4 “And this is the case of the manslayer who flees there, that he may live: Whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past— 5 as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he shall flee to one of these cities and live; 6 lest the avenger of blood, while his anger is hot, pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and kill him, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated the victim in time past. 7 Therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall separate three cities for yourself.’

8 “Now if the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as He swore to your fathers, and gives you the land which He promised to give to your fathers, 9 and if you keep all these commandments and do them, which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and to walk always in His ways, then you shall add three more cities for yourself besides these three, 10 lest innocent blood be shed in the midst of your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and thus guilt of bloodshed be upon you.

11 “But if anyone hates his neighbor, lies in wait for him, rises against him and strikes him mortally, so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities, 12 then the elders of his city shall send and bring him from there, and deliver him over to the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. 13 Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with you.

Property Boundaries

14 “You shall not remove your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.

The Law Concerning Witnesses

15 “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. 16 If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, 17 then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. 18 And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, 19 then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. 20 And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit
such evil among you.21 Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth
for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

In the New Testament, it seems the Pharisees and scribes had taken the “eye for an eye” principle and applied it to everyday personal relationships. They taught that seeking personal revenge was acceptable. If someone punched you, you could punch him back; if someone insulted you, he was fair game for your insults. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day ignored the judicial basis of the giving of that law.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus counters the common teaching of personal retaliation: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you . . .”
(Matthew 5:38–39).

Matthew 5:38-39 (NKJV)

Go the Second Mile

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

Footnotes:
a. Matthew 5:38 Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21

Exodus 21:24 (NKJV)
24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Leviticus 24:20 (NKJV)
20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.

Deuteronomy 19:21 (NKJV)
21 Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Jesus then proceeds to reveal God’s heart concerning interpersonal relationships: “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:39–42).

Matthew 5:38-42 (NKJV)

Go the Second Mile

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Footnotes:

a. Matthew 5:38 Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21

In giving this “new” command, Jesus is not nullifying the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17).

Matthew 5:17 (NKJV)

Christ Fulfills the Law

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

Rather, He is separating the responsibility of the government (to punish evildoers justly) from the responsibility we all have on a personal level before God to love our enemies. We should not seek retribution for personal slights. We are to ignore personal insults (the meaning of “turn the other cheek”). Christians are to be willing to give more of their material goods, time, and labor than required, even if the demands upon us are unjust. We should loan to those who want to borrow, love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (verses 43–48). Enforcing “an eye for an eye” is the magistrate’s job; forgiving our enemies is ours. We see this played out today every time a victim stands up in court to publicly forgive a convicted criminal—the forgiveness is personal and real, but the judge still justly demands that the sentence be carried out.

Jesus’ limiting of the “eye for an eye” principle in no way prohibits self-defense or the forceful protection of the innocent from harm. The actions of duly appointed agents of the government, such as police officers and the military, to protect citizens and preserve the peace are not in question. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek applies to personal relationships, not judicial policy. The principle of “an eye for an eye” is meant as a judicial policy, not as a rule for interpersonal relationships. The believer in Christ is guided by Jesus’ words to forgive. The Christian is radically different from those who follow the natural inclination to respond in kind.

Take for example Jesus’ instructions to us to “turn the other cheek?”

The entire section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which this verse is found can be understood as one where Jesus actually serves to elevate the importance of following Israel’s moral law beyond the letter to the spirit of the law. Much of the material therein complements the nature of His coming characterized by mercy, sacrificial love, and longsuffering toward sinners while at the same time affirming the “last is first” principle upon which the kingdom of God is based. For instance, we are told to go the extra mile for someone who abuses us and to pray for enemies instead of resisting them. All of this can be generally summarized by saying we need to be pure inside and out and should be as accommodating as possible for the sake of a lost world.

To “turn the other cheek,” does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in mortal danger. Like the principle of the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth in Matthew 5:38, turning the other cheek refers to personal retaliation, not criminal offenses or acts of military aggression. Clearly, Jesus did not mean to negate all God’s laws and injunctions protecting us against violent crime or invading armies. Rather, Jesus is speaking here of the principle of non-retaliation to affronts against our own dignity, as well as lawsuits to gain one’s personal assets (v. 40), infringements on one’s liberty (v. 41), and violations of property rights (v. 42). He was calling for a full surrender of all personal rights.

Matthew 5:40-42 (NKJV)
40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Turning the other cheek means not to return insult for insult in retaliation, which is what most people expect and how worldly people act. Responding to hatred with love just might grab someone’s attention and afford us a chance to share the gospel. When we respond in a manner that is unnatural, it displays the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus was the perfect example because He was silent before His accusers and did not call down revenge from heaven on those who crucified Him.

Matthew 5:38-42 (NKJV)

Go the Second Mile

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Footnotes:
a. Matthew 5:38 Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21

Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV)

Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[b] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren [c] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[d] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Footnotes:
a. Matthew 5:43 Compare Leviticus 19:18
b. Matthew 5:44 NU-Text omits three clauses from this verse, leaving, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
c. Matthew 5:47 M-Text reads friends.
d. Matthew 5:47 NU-Text reads Gentiles.

Jesus on Money

Jesus had some strong words about money. Many Christians find his teaching hard to accept. Here are some examples from his challenging teachings.

Woe to the Rich

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus set out his core teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Luke records the version he gave after he had descended to the plain and called the twelve disciples. He covered money in this teaching.

Looking at his disciples, he said:
Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep
(Luke 6:20,21,24,25).

This is fairly straightforward. Jesus had coming to turn the world upside down. Those who have plenty already will be disappointed. Mary had prophesied the same thing before Jesus was born.

He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:53).

Those who are poor will be satisfied and made comfortable.

These prophecies will not be fulfilled by force or through a revolution. They will be fulfilled voluntarily through giving and sharing. They were fulfilled by the early church, but they are not so often fulfilled in the modern world. This is a challenge. If the gospel is working effectively, the poor and hungry should be lifted up and be satisfied.

Seek the Kingdom

Christians should have a different attitude to wealth. We are not to worry about our life and basic things such as what to eat and drink.

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? …. O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them (Matt 6:25,31,32).

For most of Jesus listeners, the daily battle for survival was totally real. Most of their day would be devoted to finding something to eat. Getting new clothing was an ongoing struggle. Jesus teaching was a totally radical outlook on life. How could they stop worrying about food, when starvation was often only a few hours away?

Jesus suggested a totally different approach.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt 6:33,34).

This message was very clear to Jesus listeners. Most were totally worried about what they would eat tomorrow. By going out to listen to Jesus, they had probably missed an opportunity to earn tomorrow’s food. The idea that they could stop worrying about tomorrow by focusing on the kingdom was absurd.

However, the people who followed Jesus in Acts 2 and 4 saw this become a reality.

There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:34)

This was not the result of gold dust falling from the sky.

They shared everything they had (Acts 4:32)

 Believers no longer had to worry about what they would eat tomorrow.

Most modern Christians do not have to worry about what they will eat tomorrow. We tend to assume that Jesus teaching means that people who seek God’s kingdom will prosper. That is not what he meant at all.

New King

People who follow Jesus have a new King. This is important because a king owns all the property within his Kingdom. He will assign some property to his followers, but they will only hold it while they remain in his favour. People who opposed the king could have their property confiscated without compensation. The name of this practice is “eminent domain”.

When Christians decide to “seek the kingdom”, all their possessions become the property of their new king. Giving a tenth of what they own is not an option. Everything they own now belongs to Jesus, and must be used as he directs. This produced the change of thinking recorded in Acts 2 (cf Luke 12:22).

No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they shared everything they had (Acts 4:32)

This was not unusual behaviour, but the natural outworking of the Kingdom. Nor was this joint ownership of property, but an acknowledgment that their possessions now belonged to Jesus.

For modern Christians, seeking first the Kingdom means surrendering all our income and wealth to the Holy Spirit and using it as he directs. If he tells us to sell our property and give it away, that is what we must do. It no longer belongs to us, but to our king. If the Holy Spirit tells us to share our possessions, then we have not option. From reading Acts, it seems that the Holy Spirit likes telling people to share, so we should not be surprised if that is what he asks us to do.

Counting the Cost

Jesus warned his listeners to count the cost before choosing to follow him. A king who goes into battle without working out if he has enough troops to win is stupid. Jesus illustrated this choice with a reference to money and wealth.

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned (Luke 14:33-34)?

The cost we have to count is real. To be a disciple of Jesus we must give up all our possessions. The Greek work for “give up” is “apossetai”. It means “renounce” or “say goodbye”. Those who follow Jesus must say goodbye to their possessions. They might still be close by, but they no longer belong to the believer. They belong to Jesus, so the Holy Spirit can use them as he chooses.

That changes our questions. We should not ask, “Can I buy a new television?” Rather we should be asking the Holy Spirit, “What do you want to do the money in the bank account that has my name on it?” “What do you want to do with the wealth that used to belong to me?” If we asked these questions, we might be surprised at what the Sprit tells us to do. If we don’t ask these questions, we will be like salt that has lost its flavor. If we are not willing to say goodbye to our possessions, we cannot expect to influence our culture.

The Rich Young Ruler

One person who was unwilling to say goodbye to his wealth was the rich young ruler. He had asked Jesus what he needed to do to obtain eternal life. When Jesus told him to keep the commandments, he said he had kept them all since he was a boy.

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property (Luke 18:22-23).

This man was very rich. The only way you could get rich in Jesus time was to collude with Herod or with the Romans, so the young man was lying when he said he had kept all the commandments. He was living on wealth that had been stolen from its owners. The young man was a ruler. To retain this position, he would have had to collude with the violence of the Roman political and military system.

Riches and rulers go together. For example, Mary prophesied:

He has brought down rulers from their thrones.
but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:54,55).

When rulers fall, the rich suffer, because their riches came from their links with the rulers. That was true in Jesus time, and is often true today.

Mathew records that the young ruler owned much property. The word used for possession is “ktema”, which is not the word generally used for possessions in the New Testament (uparxis). I have wondered why Matthew used a different word for the rich young ruler. I found a possible answer in the Lexicon of Ardnt and Gingrich (B218). They quote a reference which uses this word to mean “acquire in reward for wickedness”. The wealth that this man controlled was probably the rewards of wickedness. He could not retain the fruits of unrighteousness and follow Jesus. We too must get rid of all wealth that is the fruit of unrighteousness behaviour, if we are serious about following Jesus.

Owning Property

Many Christians respond to Jesus teaching by asking, “Can a Christian own property?” The New Testament answer is “No”. Christians cannot own property. The reason we cannot own property is that we have a king. When we commit to Jesus, all our property belongs to him. We cannot own property, because we and everything we hold belongs to him.

Many Christians ask a different question. “Do I have to sell everything I own?” This question does not make sense, because a Christian does not own anything. Everything we owned transferred to Jesus when we surrendered to him. We cannot sell what we do not own.

A different question is more relevant. “Can a Christian hold property”. The answer is yes. We can manage Jesus property on His behalf. We can act as His steward. The key is a shift in attitude. We no longer own property, so we cannot “claim our possessions as our own”. They belong to Jesus, so we must use them as the Holy Spirit directs. That changes everything.

The Holy Spirit will tell some people to sell their property. He told Barnabas to sell his property (Acts 436-37). Barnabas obeyed and it opened up a wonderful ministry as an apostle to Asia Minor. I am sure he had no regrets.

The Holy Spirit may tell other people to use their property for a particular purpose. He told some women to use their property to support Jesus.

Joanna the wife of Cuza Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means (Luke 8:3).

These women held their property as stewards, but the Holy Spirit prompted them to use it to support Jesus. In the same way, The Holy Spirit told Joseph of Arimathea to pay for Jesus to be buried (Matt27:57-58).

The answer to every question about property is simple. Jesus ons it all. He may allow us to hold some of his property as stewards, but we cannot call our it own. Good stewards must use his property as the Holy Spirit directs. The answer to all questions about property is to obey the Holy Spirit.

The Tough One

Jesus understood the human heart.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34).

Humans always focus on the place where our treasure is kept. If our treasure is savings in a bank, our focus will be on work and the bank. Jesus does not want his people to be distracted, so we must store our treasure in heaven.

There are two reasons why people store up wealth. One reason that people store wealth is so they can sit back and enjoy life. The context of Jesus teaching about treasure is the parable of Rich Fool. His farms produced a great crop, so he built new barns to store his crop. He said to himself.

You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry (Luke 12:19).

Jesus called the rich man a fool, because the very day that he said these words, he would die. Storing up wealth, so we can take life easy and party is not an option for God’s people. The word for “laid up” is used to describe hoarding. Jesus put this challenge another way when he said,

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke18:15).

A Christian cannot have a good life by eating and drinking and being merry. We find peace by serving Jesus. We must be careful that greed for possessions does not distract us from serving him. Those who have taken on a spirit of greed might need to give away their possessions to break this spirit.

The second reason that people store up wealth is to provide security for the future. We store wealth for a rainy day. We save money, so we can provide for ourselves, if we are sick. We fill a purse, so we can retire at the age of sixty-five. All these actions are done to take care of tomorrow. Jesus ruled them out, when he told us to trust God for the future.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt 6:34).

Storing wealth for security into the future is pointless, as no earthly store is safe. If thieves do not steal it, corrupt bankers will steal it, or monetary inflation will slowly eat it away. Wealth can never provide security in an uncertain world.

Jesus did not pretend that the future will be free of problems. He knows that we will face trials, but he tells us to prepare by storing up treasures in heaven.

Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven where no thief comes near and no moth destroys (Luke 12:33).

True security comes from treasure in heaven.

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out (Luke 12:33).

The best way to shift wealth to heaven is to give to the poor.

Unacceptable Teaching

Jesus teaching about security does not make sense in the modern world. Our security is based on treasure on earth. We have superannuation funds for our retirement. We have insurance to protect us against the risk of crisis. We keep a nest egg in the bank for use in an emergency. Not only are these things treasure on earth, but they tie up a resources that could be used for God’s work.

Jesus says that we should not need these things, but we would not feel secure without them.

The reason for this dilemma is that we have not understood what Jesus was saying. He gave the reason why we should not need treasure on earth for our security, why we should not be afraid.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32)

The reason that we should not be afraid is that God has given us the kingdom. The reason that we do not need treasure on earth is that God has given us the kingdom. The reason that we should not need insurance and superannuation is that God has given us the kingdom.

The early church had received the kingdom. The kingdom they received was manifested through giving and sharing.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:32-33).

These Christians had said goodbye to their property. They had stopped referring to property they held as their own. They were one in unity and love. The Holy Spirit was present with them. Giving and sharing became normal. The result was “no needy persons among them”. They no longer needed life insurance or superannuation, because sharing had made them redundant.

Better Solution

Caring and sharing is the best solution to the problem of security. Resources that were previously tied up in personal security accounts were no longer needed, because individuals trusted the body of Christ instead. The gospel of the kingdom had transformed their lives so much that they felt secure in the love of the Christians around them.

Modern Christians focus on Jesus teaching about treasure in heaven and feel uneasy. The reason is that we have missed the point. We focus on not worrying about tomorrow, and find it too hard. Jesus’ main point was that we have the kingdom. People with the kingdom do not need storehouses on earth.

The Kingdom comes first. Obeying Jesus teaching about wealth is not practical in the modern world because we do not have the Kingdom. We are not “all together in the same place” (Acts 2:44) (Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common.) We still consider our property our own. We do not give to everyone who has need. We do not have the Kingdom, so of course we need insurance and superannuation and money in the bank.

The solution is to “Seek first the Kingdom of God”. When we get serious about the Kingdom, we will sell our property and move close to the other Christians that we are connected with. Once we are together in one place, we will be able to love one another by sharing and caring for each other. When sharing and caring are normal, we will find that we do not need insurance or a nest egg in the bank. Instead, of storing money in case to provide for ourselves in a day of trouble, we will be saving to help others in their day of trouble. Treasure on earth will be irrelevant, because we have the treasure of the Kingdom.

Understanding the Problem

Before applying the New Testament teaching on money, we must understand the nature of the problem we are attempting to solve. The problems with our culture are very different from those faced by the people in Jesus time. In New Testament times, most people already lived in close community. Shopkeepers had their homes and shops on the same street. Trades people tended to live close to people with the same trade. Many people still lived in villages. Lack of community was not the core problem. Being together was easy.

The problem that really made the people miserable was that most land had been accumulated into large estates. The Romans and Herod handed land out to the people who were loyal to them. This land was often confiscated from innocent and ordinary people. As land was the main source of capital in those times, people who lost their land faced persistent poverty.

The other way to gain wealth was to get your nose in the trough of the various temple scams. That option was reserved for those with the right connections. A pilgrimage to the temple made most people worse off. Even those who were poor would have to buy a couple of pigeons. The temple system robbed the ordinary people and did not provide any economic support.

Permanent employment was rare, so large numbers of landless people faced a hand-to-mouth existence by getting casual work whenever they could. In Jesus parable of the Vineyard workers, so people only got work for a few hours a day (Matt 20:1-8). That was a normal situation. People spent their time standing in the market place hoping some work might turn up. What a precarious existence. No wonder the vineyard owner decided to be generous.

The shrewd steward is another example. Without a job, his choices were sparse.

My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg (Luke 16:3).

The commentators tend to say that he was lazy or proud, but he was actually being very realistic. If he could not get work as a day laborer, he would have to beg.

The actions taken by the early church were an attempt to deal with this problem of persistent poverty and economic insecurity.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need (Acts 2:44-45).

They believers sold land to reverse the accumulation of property and to relieve the widespread poverty.

The Modern Problem

Our modern problem is different. Uneven distribution of wealth is still serious, but it is not the “show stopper” it was in Jesus time. Most people in the Western world have escaped subsistence and own some property.

The big problem eating the heart out of our modern culture is the collapse of community. Industrialisation, globalisation and urbanisation have eliminated the links between people that once held society together. Family members can travel all over the world to live and work. People and families live in isolation.

The collapse of community is greatest in modern cities, where migration and urbanisation have broken down traditional community relationships. Social mobility prevents stable relationships from developing and family life is breaking down. People become cogs in the corporate machine and life is often characterised by loneliness and personal insecurity.

Modern suburban culture creates barriers to communication and encourages individualism. As communities are breaking down and fear is rising, high fences are going up between houses isolating people from each other. This isolation means that most people do not belong to the community where they live.

This isolation and dislocation of urban society has been accompanied by the aggregation and accumulation of political power to the modern state. We now face the bizarre situation where needs are concentrated in individuals, but power and money is concentrated at the national level. This leaves families and individuals powerless before a faceless government.

To restore to cohesion of our societies, real community will have to restored to our societies, but it is not clear who will do it. Politicians have an inbuilt tendency to push power and money to the top, which will weaken society.

Isolated Christians

The church should be strengthening the foundations of society, but this is not happening. Western society has been shaped by the automobile and the church has gone along for the ride. Whereas the early Christians were “all together in one place”, modern Christians drive to church, just as they drive to work and to shop. The church is almost as socially fragmented as the rest of society. This is sad, because Christians are supposed to be experts on fellowship and loving one another. We should be strengthening local communities.

The collapse of community and our fragmented lifestyle prevents us from living out Jesus teaching on money. We have to build up treasures in superannuation and insurance schemes, because we are not part of Christian communities that will support us in time of trouble. We do not have relationships with Christians committed to providing financial support to each other. Isolated Christians have no choice but to fend for themselves by storing up treasure on earth. The most urgent need in our society is the restoration of local community.

Different Order

Acts 2 provides a solution to our isolation. The early church was altogether in one place, so they sold their possessions and property. In the modern world, the antidote is the same, but the order is the other way around. Our problem is that suburban property prevents us from being together. The solution is

Selling their property and possessions (Acts 2:45).

Once Christians are willing to sell their properties so they will be able to move closer to the other Christians that they relate to.

All the believers were in one place (Acts 2:44)

Our ultimate goal is to love each other, as Jesus loved us. We can only do that if we are Ltogether.

Some of those who sell their houses to move closer to other Christians will be selling down. This will release a surplus that can be used to provide financial support Christians who lack resources.

They were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need (v44).

When Christians live closer to each other, serious sharing becomes a practical alternative. Community life will be restored to our neighborhoods, when Christians sell their houses and buy houses together to live in one place.

This radical change will not happen by accident. Locality-based apostles working street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood can change our societies from the bottom up. The process is described in Apostolic Way.

The Shrewd Steward

The parable of the Shrewd Steward contains important teaching on money, but it is often misunderstood, because people assume that the rich man in the parable represents God.

There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.”

The manager said to himself, “What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to Beg-I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.”

So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” “Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,” he replied. The manager told him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.”

Then he asked the second, “And how much do you owe?” “A thousand bushels of wheat,” he replied. He told him, “Take your bill and make it eight hundred.”

The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly (Luke 16:1-8).

In Jesus time, the easiest way to could get rich was through theft or political collusion. When Moses led the children of Israel into Canaan, the land was divided evenly among the families, but by Romans times, that had all changed. Most of the land had been accumulated into large estates. The Romans handed out land to the people who were loyal to them. Herod did the same. This land was often confiscated from innocent and ordinary people.

Some of the people who lost their land were forced into a miserable life as tenant farmers. In return for the use of the land, they would have to give the rich owner, a proportion of their crops. The land owner held all the power in this relationship, so they could demand a large share of the crops. If the crop was good, the land owner would get most of it. If the crop was bad, the land owner would still take their due, and the tenant farmer would be left to starve. If the tenant could not produce enough to meet the land owners share, the balance would be added as a debt against the next year’s production.

This setup worked in the favour of the land owner. The tenant carried all of the risk, but got very little in return. The land owner gained a good return, but carried very little risk. He could easily replace a troublesome tenant farmer with another, because the countryside was full of landless peasants. The only risk for the owner was that he might fall out of favour with the political powers and have his land confiscated. This is why the Sadducees and the Herodians were so afraid of upsetting the Romans. They were big land owners with a lot to lose.

Wicked Wealth

Jesus listeners would know that the rich man in the parable had accumulated land by political collusion. This could not be God. The rich man was too cowardly to deal with his tenants, so he employed a tough steward to do his dirty work. The steward’s task was to squeeze as much as possible out of the rich man’s tenants. The wheat and olive oil owed by the other men would be unpaid rent and debts from the previous year. The bills referred to in the parable had been written by the steward. The steward probably knew that the amounts owed were unfair, but his job depended on his getting as much as possible for his employer.

The rich man treated the steward badly. He had done deals that favored his employer, but when he heard rumor against the steward, he acted on it without giving the steward a chance to explain. He terminated the steward’s position and demanded a full account (he did not know what he was owed). When the steward changed the bills, the rich man praised his behaviour.

He had gained his wealth by unscrupulously, so he respected the unscrupulous behaviour of his steward. One crook recognised another.

The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly (Luke 16:8).

The rich man and the steward were dishonest men. That is why the rich man cannot represent God.

Making Friends

Jesus explained the meaning of the parable. His first point was that the people of the world handle worldly people better than Christians do.

For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light (Luke 16:8).

This is a challenging word. The people of the Spirit should be experts at dealing with worldly people.

Jesus then described what we should do with unrighteous mammon.

I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home (Luke 16:9).

The first thing to note is that the usual translation of these verses is misleading, as the last three words are turned into a reference to everlasting life (eternal home). The word translated “everlasting” is “aionos”. It can mean “eternal”, but in the previous verse, it is the word translated as “their generation”, literally “sons of the age”. Jesus is talking about how Christians deal with worldly people, so this is not a reference to eternal life, but to the worldly generation. The context is making friends with the current generation, not eternal life. A more consistent translation of the verse would be as follows.

I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails, you will be received into the homes of this worldly generation.

When Jesus sent out the seventy-two a couple of chapters earlier, he told them to take no money, but stay with a person of peace (Luke 10:1-7). A man who had accumulated wealth like this rich man would not be able to go and stay in another person’s home, because he would be run out of town. Jesus is saying the Christians who deal with their unrighteous wealth wisely will be welcome in the homes of the worldly people of their generation.

Righteous and Unrighteous Wealth

Jesus speaks of unrighteous mammon. Mammon is a Syriac word for money and the idol of wealth. The wealth of the rich man was unrighteous mammon, because it had been gained by unrighteous means. The corollary of this is that there must be righteous wealth as well. Wealth that is earned by working hard to meet the needs of other people is righteous wealth. Any honestly earned money that is saved is righteous wealth. Any capital goods that have been paid with honestly saved money are righteous wealth.

In Jesus time, there was not much righteous wealth, because the only way to obtain wealth was to do deals with political and religious powers. There is plenty of unrighteous wealth in the modern world too, but it is possible to gain wealth righteously as well. People who work hard for their wages can gain righteous wealth. The owners of businesses that provide reliable goods and services that people need can gain righteous wealth.

Righteous wealth is not an obstacle to the gospel. Unrighteous wealth creates hostility, so it hinders the gospel. It can distract a Christian from God.

Leaving Unrighteous Mammon

Jesus warned that unrighteous mammon can prevent us from serving God.

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Luke 16:13).

We are servants of God. We cannot serve God and mammon. This creates a problem for wealthy people who become Christians. If their wealth has been gained righteously, it should not have a hold on them. If they are the owners of wealth that has been gained unrighteously, they have a serious problem, because they will be partly controlled by the spirit of mammon.

A new Christian is required to repent from all “dead works” (Heb 6:1). Repentance means turning around and going in a new direction. The old unrighteous life must be left behind. This means that the owners of unrighteous mammon must turn from their unrighteous wealth and leave it behind.

When rich people Christians repent and follow Jesus, they need to get rid of their unrighteous wealth. They cannot be servants of unrighteous mammon and a servant of Jesus.

Identifying Unrighteous Wealth

How do we distinguish righteous from unrighteous wealth? The key is in the way it was acquired. Unrighteous wealth will have been obtained through deception, theft, manipulation or dishonesty. In Jesus time, it was often acquired through collusion with the political and religious powers. That problem has not changed, but the form will be different. Today the government will often give a group of people a monopoly power over an aspect of the economy that enables them to become wealthy.

Most unrighteous wealth will be obvious. If it is not obvious, we can leave it to the Holy Spirit. He will convict the new Christian, if his wealth is unrighteous and needs to be “got shot of”. We can trust the Spirit to do this task. Christian elders must not get into the business of forcing new Christians to give away their wealth, whether it unrighteous or not. (The Ananias and Saphira incident probably occurred because people were coming under inappropriate pressure to give wealth away (Acts 5:1-10)).

Repenting from Unrighteous Wealth

To repent is to turn and leave something behind. There are four ways to repent from unrighteous wealth.

 1. Restore Capital

The best way to deal with unrighteous wealth is to return the capital to the people from whom it was extorted. The shrewd steward is a good example. He had previously squeezed the rich man’s tenants hard by enforcing exorbitant rents that made their lives miserable. He put things right by letting the tenants change their written tenancy agreements to a more reasonable rental. By halving the payment to 500 bushels of wheat, the steward made the tenants wheat farming economic. By halving the payment of olive oil to 400 gallons, the steward was making the farming of the olive grove economic for the tenant farmer.

The best option for the repentant owner of unrighteous wealth is to return some wealth to the people that were de-capitalized when the unrighteous wealth was acquired from them. If the asset cannot be returned, the rent should be reduced. This has the effect of re-capitalizing the strugglers.

  1. Make Restitution 

If the unrighteous wealth has been stolen from innocent people, the repentant owner should make fourfold restitution.

If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep (Ex 22:1).

Zachhaeus the tax collector promised Jesus that he would fulfil this command.

Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold (Luke 19:8).

He promised to make restitution for everything that was stolen. He could not identify all the people that he had stolen from, so he gave half his possessions to the poor as an alternative.

  1. Give to the Poor

Sometimes the new Christian will not be able to return their unrighteous wealth to the people from whom it was acquired. The owners may have gone away, or died, or simply be unknown.

 In this situation, the unrighteous wealth should be given away to the poor and needy.

Jesus challenged the rich young ruler to give all his wealth away, because it was unrighteous wealth that had been acquired by unrighteousness.

Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven (Luke 18:22).

The book of Acts records examples of new Christians selling their unrighteous wealth and giving it to the poor.

Sometimes the repentant rich person will give the money away themselves. In most situations, they will work with deacons they trust. Deacons will have relationships with a many people in need, so they can help the person give their unrighteous wealth to deserving people.

Deacons will provide advice to new Christians. They will know about needs that could be met. They will handle money that is entrusted to them, but they must not tell new Christians what to do

  1. Even Up Capital

The reason for the uneven distribution of wealth in the modern world is that capital is unevenly distributed. Yet Paul says that equality is an important goal.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality (2 Cor 8:13)

This is a dilemma. Everyone thinks equality is a good idea, but no one knows how it can be achieved. Robin Hood tried to achieve it, by robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Socialists try and achieve it by taxing the rich and giving benefits to the poor. Neither of these methods has worked.

The Christian answer to the dilemma of equality in an unequal world is radical sharing, particularly sharing of capital. Those who have plenty of capital should give to those who don’t have much. This was Jesus solution to the problems cause by inequality of capital.

Sell your possessions and give to the poor (Luke 12;33)

Sometimes people will give food and clothing to the poor, but in many situations, providing the poor with capital (land, fishing boats, nets, tools) will help them more.

When helping people to give away unrighteous wealth, deacons should channel gifts of capital to poor people who have the capability to use it responsibly to be more productive. They would need to training in conserving capital and using it wisely. Transferring capital to the poor by giving and sharing will move the world closer to equality.

Christians should not hand out capital carelessly, as this would lead to serious waste. They should train up potential recipients, so they know how to care for capital and not dissipate it in pointless consumption.

Poverty and Work

When dealing with unrighteous wealth, there are several traps that must be avoided. The person who gives away all their unrighteous wealth might end up in poverty. The Christians around them will have to ensure that they have financial support. This will be quite humbling for the new Christian. They will go from a position of power and independence to a place of dependence on others. This will be had to deal with, but will be good for their character.

In the past, they have will have gained wealth by manipulation and control. They need to be taught how to earn their living by honest work.

He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need (Eph 4:28).

Making this change will be very difficult, so the new Christian will need strong support from Christian elders and friends.

Whoever is faithful with very little is faithful with much, and whoever is unrighteous with very little will also be unrighteous with much. (Luke 16:10)

If the person has been unrighteous with much, they will need to learn to be faithful with a little for a while.

Common Temptation

A common temptation is for the new Christian to say, “I will hang onto my unrighteous wealth, but I will use it for God’s purpose”. Christian leaders will often agree with this temptation, because they have some works that need financial support. This temptation is wrong for two reasons.

  1. The gospels say that unrighteous wealth should be given to the poor. This is just because the wealth was taken from the poor. The gospels never say that unrighteous wealth should be used to support Christian ministries. Support for Christian ministries should come through relationships, not through channeling unrighteous wealth.
  1. Unrighteous wealth is not neutral. It carries a spirit of greed and avarice. The new Christian needs to get free from these spirits that have controlled their lives. If they hang onto their unrighteous wealth, they will remain vulnerable to those spirits. They will be caught in an endless power struggle between their new master and their old master.

The unrighteous wealth is of no value to God, but it is can be a big burden for a new Christian. They must deal with it, before they can receive the true gifts that Jesus has for them. Some of the listeners could not accept Jesus teaching and it cost them.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus (Luke 16:14).

Refusing to deal with unrighteous wealth is dangerous.

Belongs to Someone Else 

Parallelism is a poetic form that is common in Hebrew poetry. An idea is repeated in a slightly different form with the same message. Jesus used this method when interpreting the parable of the Shrewd Steward.

Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

And if you have not been faithful with another man’s wealth,
who will give you what is your own (Luke 16:11-12)?

The message of these two verses is the same. If we have not been faithful with unrighteous wealth, God will not trust us with true wealth.

The important thing is how Jesus described unrighteous wealth. In verse 11, he called it “unrighteous mammon”. In verse 12, he referred to it as “another man’s wealth”. Jesus is saying that “unrighteous wealth” really belongs to another person. The person with unrighteous wealth actually controls something that belongs to someone else.

The only faithful solution is to return that wealth to that other person. Often the “other person” will be unknown. However, if the other person has lost his wealth, he will most likely be poor. Therefore, the second best solution is to return the unrighteous wealth to the poor. This might not hit the right person, but at least it would go to “another person” who may have lost their wealth to someone else.

Capital is Important

When Deacons are assisting new Christian to give away their unrighteous wealth, they must be careful that they do not de-capitalize the Christian community. Deacons must understand the importance of capital. Capital goods are important, because they make humans more productive. Capital and trade are the keys to escaping subsistence (see Capital for more on this topic).

The Jerusalem Church

When the Holy Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost, land was the main form of capital in Jerusalem. Many people responded to the preaching of the apostles by selling their land and using the money to support those in need.

For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need (Acts 4:34-35).

This was an amazing transition.

There were good reasons for Christians in Jerusalem to sell their capital goods.

  1. Many of Jesus disciples had heard him prophesy that Jerusalem would be destroyed.

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down (Luke 21:5-6).

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you Look, your house is left to you desolate (Matt 23:37-38).

Jesus had given a set of signs that would warn when this was about to happen. Jerusalem would be surrounded by the Roman armies and totally destroyed. This prophecy was fulfilled in AD70.

The believers in Jerusalem understood that once the prophecy was fulfilled, property in the city and its surrounds would be worthless. It made sense for them to sell their property while it still had value. This is the reason why, so many Christians in Jerusalem sold their property.

  1. The rich people who had become Christians had gained their wealth through their place in the Roman political system. It was unrighteous wealth. These people had chosen a new King: Jesus. They could not retain land and property that represented loyalty to King Herod or Caesar, so they sold it. They would probably have lost their property anyway, once their new loyalty became clear.
  1. Some of the new Christians had obtained their wealth illegally.

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36-37).

Barnabas was a Levite and Levites were not entitled to own land in Israel (Num 26:62). When he came to faith in Jesus, the illegal ownership of land would have weighed on his conscious. He probably could not return the land to its rightful owner (Lev 25:13), so he sold the land and gave the money to the apostles for distribution to those in need.

  1. The word used for possessions in Acts 2:45, 4:34 and Acts 5:1 is “ktema” or “ktetor” This is not the word generally used for possessions in the New Testament (uparxis). These nouns are derived from the verb “ktaomai”. It means “acquire” or “gain control over”. It refers to property that has been acquired, not bought. “Ktema” refers to unrighteous wealth that has been acquired by wickedness. The property sold by Christians like Barnabas and Ananias may have been acquired as a reward for wickedness.
  1. Much of the land in New Testament Israel was owned by absentee landlords. Some of these might have come Back to Jerusalem for the Passover and received the gospel. Barnabas lived in Cyprus, but he owned land near Jerusalem. Many of these absentee landlords would have sold their land when they received the gospel.

In each of these circumstances, the decision to sell the property was wise and good. However, the widespread sale of property created a problem for the Jerusalem. Selling capital goods and consuming the money is useful in the short term, but in the long term it leads to poverty. Without capital goods to make them more productive, people are forced into subsistence living.

De-capitalism 

The church in Jerusalem de-capitalized quickly by the rapid sale of land and property. This

produced an unintended consequence for the large numbers of Christians who had sold their property, but decided to continue living in Jerusalem. They remained in poverty until the city was eventually destroyed. By getting rid of their capital, but remaining in the city, they had consigned themselves to poverty.

Some of the Christians in Jerusalem may have misunderstood the timing of Jesus prophecy. He had given clear signs that would warn when the collapse of the city was close (Luke 21:7-24). This meant that that the disciples did not need to rush to sell their properties. They could wait until the destruction of the city was closer. The poverty in Jerusalem might have been the result of too many Christians selling their property too soon.

When Deacons are assisting new Christians to give away their unrighteous wealth, they must be careful that they do not de-capitalize the Christian community.

Hold Capital Lightly

Nothing in this world is certain. We never know what the future will bring. The capital of Christians can be taken from them at any time. If Christians work hard and consume frugally, they will gradually build up their capital. This may cause the enemies of the gospel to become envious. If persecution takes hold, their righteous wealth might be confiscated. If this happens, Christians should rejoice that they are able to share in the sufferings of Jesus.

You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions (Heb 10:34).

The Christians referred to in this letter had lost their property. They rejoiced because they knew that God had given them the kingdom.

All our property belongs to Jesus, so if it is confiscated, he is the only one who has the right to be upset. We have not lost anything, so we cannot complain. We still have the Kingdom of God, so we have riches far beyond what we deserve. We can rejoice in the privilege of being part of the Kingdom.