Monday, March 26, 2012

"I" Trouble


But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? (Luke 12:20)

We may at times wonder at the rampant egocentrism prevalent in our society.  We cannot escape the onslaught of advertizing over the airwaves and in the press assailing us with enticements to purchase this or that because: you owe it to yourself; you deserve it; it is all about you.  And there is no need to worry if you cannot afford it, you can always charge it or get it now, pay no interest for one year and after that year you can begin repayment.  The undisclosed truth, however, is that while they try to convince you that you deserve “it,” the ulterior motive is that they deserve your money.

Although the prevailing narcissism that seems so rampant today is nothing new.  Jesus confronted it in His day and He told a parable to illustrate the futility of such wrongheadedness.  Luke records this parable in his gospel (Luke12:16-21).  In a nutshell, a rich man has an unexpected windfall and contemplates investing in larger barn to store the overabundance of the harvest.  He dreams of a long leisurely retirement.  What is conspicuous in this narrative is the number of times the personal pronouns “I” and “my” and are used in this story.  He perceived all things to be in his possession and under his control, and that included his soul:  “I will say to my soul …” (v. 19). 

God called him a fool.  “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).  He may not have verbalized that sentiment, but he demonstrated with his life.  He considered all things his which truly belong to God.  “For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof” (1 Corinthians 10:26).   God called him a fool, and Jesus said, “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (v. 21). 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Unequal Gifts, Equal Responsibility

Inequality: John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett 
sketch Britain's obsession with social class in 1966 on the 
Frost Report. Photograph: BBC/PA/PA 

… to each man according to his several ability … (Matthew 25:15)

This portion of Scripture comes from one of several “Kingdom Parables” spoken by Jesus and recorded by Matthew (Matthew 25:14-30).  Although this parable has in view the coming kingdom of Christ, it offers a practical application to our pre-kingdom lives.

In the parable, Christ is portrayed as a man of considerable wealth, perhaps a landowner.  Luke describes him as a “nobleman” (Luke19:12).  At any rate, his servants address him as “Lord” (Matthew 25:20, 22, 24).  The landowner is leaving for a long journey.  Luke describes that the purpose for the journey is so that he may receive a kingdom (Luke 19:12), and it is not difficult to see that Jesus is foretelling His ascension into heaven to later return to claim His kingdom.

In Matthew’s account, the landowner has three servants.  The Greek word translated as “servant” is doúlous and literally means “slave,” and in this case it would imply a slave who is a steward or manager of his master’s possessions as Joseph was in the house of Potiphar (Genesis 39). The landowner divided his wealth among the three servants giving different amounts to each.  To the first he gave five talents, to the second two talents, and to the third one talent.  One talent was about the equivalent of 6000 denarii, and a denarii was equivalent to one day’s wages.  All things considered, even the smallest amount was a great sum of money; one talent would equal more than 16 years’ wages.  But the lord gave “to each according to his several ability” (our text).  “Several” in Greek is idíous meaning “own” or “self;” so, he distributed his wealth to each according to his individual ability.

Upon his return, the first two servants had doubled what their lord had given them, but the third did nothing with his and returned to his master only that which had been given to him initially.  This displeased the master and he cast out the “unprofitable servant” (v. 30).

Excluding the eschatological aspect of this parable, the lesson for us is this:  God gives each of us gifts.  They are not all the same gifts or even the same amount of gifts (1 Corinthians 12).  But whether our gifts be great or small, we are equally responsible to use our “several” gifts to profit the Kingdom.  When Christ returns, He will call us to account, and we do not want to be counted as "unprofitable."  Until then we must heed His words, “Occupy till He comes” (Luke 19:13). 

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Days of Noah


But as the days of No’-e were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matthew 24:37)

In these troubled times we often find ourselves anxiously “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).  As we observe the rapid decline in our society and try to “discern the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3), we can almost sense the “whole creation” groan and travail in pain; “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:22-23).

Jesus said that the time of His coming would be as in the days of Noah.  So we ask: what were they days of Noah like?  Genesis 6:5 says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  Has our society degenerated to the point that “every imagination” of the heart of man is nothing but evil always, or does some semblance of virtue still remain?  As an eyewitness to the events of Noah’s day, Jesus says that “they were eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage until the day that No’-e entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came and took them all away” (vv. 38-39).  In other words, they were conducting life as usual.  Even though they had “Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) warning them of the coming flood, they chose to remain in a clueless state so that they “knew not until the flood came and took them all away” (v. 39). 

Without much effort, it is not difficult to see that we are living in such times today.  Perhaps the only reason that some semblance of virtue remains is due to the restraining power of the Holy Spirit through the Bride of Christ on earth.  Take that away, and the full fury of hell will be unleashed on earth.  “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (v. 42).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Climbing Down to the Top


But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. (Matthew 19:30)

Scriptures present many paradoxes, such as the one above, which seem completely absurd to the world at large, but yet, in God’s economy, they make perfect sense.  The world with its evolutionary mindset would attempt to convince us that the survival of the fittest dictates that we must scratch and claw our way to the top regardless of the victims we leave behind in our wake.  “I’m number one” is the mantra of the modern day success story.  Jesus’ path to success took quite the opposite direction:  he who would be “first shall be last; and the last shall be first” (our verse).

Jesus never deviated from His message.  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).  “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth … But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20).  “Therefore take no thought, saying what shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? … But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31, 33).  “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).  “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew18:4).  “[W]hosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:26-27). 

Jesus was not one of those teachers that taught:  “Do as I say, not as I do.”  He set the example for us to follow.  On the eve of His crucifixion Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples, and taking the place of the lowliest servant of the household, “He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself … and began to wash the disciples’ feet” (John 13:4-5).   His greatest example by far was His condescension to humanity.  “Christ Jesus … being in the form of God … made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and made himself in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, eve the death of the cross” (Philippians 2: 5-8).  In God’s economy, the way to the top is to seek the bottom.  “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew16:26).