Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 9 August 2022:
The readings in Judges for yesterday and today address two essential attributes of a disciple of Christ: discipline and humility:
Today’s focus is Humility:
Judges 8:23 — “Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.’”
Gideon had a false humility which is a common character flaw of which the Bible warns against gravely. He said he didn’t want to be king yet he names his son “son of a king” — his words did not match his true heart, motives, and actions. Most shockingly, he uses some of the gold he was given to make for himself an ephod (Judges 8:27) which was only to be worn by the high priest — the God-appointed leader. His approbation lust (desire for recognition, praise and attention — Matthew 23:5) turned into power lust and materialism (Isaiah 14:13-14; 1 Timothy 6:10). Gideon used God’s gifts to make himself rich and famous. His pride and greed would literally destroy His family, about which we will soon read. One key message we can’t miss in the Bible is that we are not heroes but mere sinners. ALL glory and honor go to God. We have important lessons to learn from Gideon who was uniquely empowered by God and was incredibly successful, up to the point where he thought himself worthy of honor; then the house of cards fell.
How many fortunate people have you seen name things after themselves – buildings, hospitals, foundations, institutions, even churches? How about us? How have we used the blessings God has bestowed upon us? Have we sought to gain comfort and status for ourselves, or have we sought to use what God has given us for His glory and honor?
Today, examine your humility. What is Christ-like humility? Are you humble? Are you ‘proud’ of your humility? Humility is the product of a true appreciation of who God is and of our total dependence on His mercy and grace. Humility is a product of Spirit-empowered love. Humility results in selflessness and is revealed in how we treat others and how we respond to situations. Too often, like Gideon, we speak and act humbly (for personal approval or for the approval of others — self-righteousness) when we are not truly humble at heart, when our actual motives are prideful. Consider your humility today. Will you value God and others today more than yourself and totally surrender yourself to love? Deep down inside, do you want people to adore appreciate and honor you or Jesus?
- Matthew 5:3 — Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Psalm 18:27 — For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.
- Ephesians 2:8-9 — For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
- John 3:30 — He must increase, but I must decrease.
- Proverbs 16:18-19 — Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.
- James 4:6 — But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
- Psalm 25:9 — He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
- Psalm 34:2 — My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.
- James 4:10 — Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
- Matthew 18:4 — Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
- Matthew 23:12 — Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
- 1 Peter 5:6 — Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you….
- Colossians 3:12-14 — Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
- Ephesians 4:1, 2 — I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Luke 12:1-3 – “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”
The word “hypocrite” literally means “actor.” The Pharisees acted more righteous than they really were. Hidden sins will always grow and transform your life, and they aren’t really hidden anyway because God sees them all. It is important that we don’t “act” good outwardly while harboring sinful thoughts inwardly. We must confess the truth of our hearts. Jesus, once again, warned His followers not to act godly but rather to be godly from the heart.
Luke 12:4-7 — Don’t worry about what others think about you, only what God thinks about you.
Luke 12:13-15 — “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Most of what we worry about and fight about has nothing to do with what God wants us to be thinking about. God doesn’t want us building our personal kingdoms on earth, He wants us seeking the Kingdom of God. His goal for our lives is to be transformed into the image of His Son Jesus, having the character of Christ. He can take care of the resources you need. Often, people ask God to help them with matters that have nothing to do with His will, to take their side in meaningless struggles. God is not our servant, we are His.
Luke 12:18-21 – I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.
This rich fool was following the typical retirement plan most people, middle-class and up, are following today: save up so you can retire at a reasonable age, enjoy life, and depend on no one. The fool’s plan was condemned by God. Today’s readings further reveal the difference between how God thinks and how we think – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9) But what does God say? “’Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20. 21) What is Jesus’ retirement advice:
“I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:22-34)
Have we replaced fidelity to God for the American dream?
Luke 12:21, 34 — So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God…. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
What a person truly treasures will define how they respond to everything else, to every other person, and to every circumstance. People guard and defend their treasure. They seek to find their security, joy, and hope in their treasure, and they are motivated by their treasure. They judge everything else based on how it effects their treasure – What threatens treasure is perceived as bad, and what promotes treasure is considered good. A person’s treasure defines his or her heart; and the heart defines the person’s outlook and guides the person’s decisions about everything. A person’s treasure is that person’s ultimate core value, what that person cares about more than anything else. A person’s treasure becomes the foundation of his or her life and sets the course of their life. If you know what a person’s true treasure is, you can predict how they will respond to any situation.
- Luke 12:32 — Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
- Matthew 7:24-27 — “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
- Jonah 2:8 — Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.
Jesus warns that if your treasure is anything other than God, you are placing your hope in something which is always in doubt and which will never last; you are building your house on shifting sands, rather than the immovable rock of Jesus. If your treasure is anything other than Jesus, your treasure is an idol — a lifeless, powerless, substitute for God in your life which can never bring you love, joy, peace, contentment, or security. When your treasure is unpredictable, unsustainable, or subject to change, so is your love, joy, peace, contentment, and security. You can tell whose treasure is really God and not an idol by how they respond to circumstances around them. If their treasure is in the unsearchable, immovable riches of Jesus, nothing can shake them, and they radiate a serenity which surpassed human understanding. On the other hand, the person who trusts in what is uncertain becomes a victim to circumstances.
- 1 Corinthians 15:58 — Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
- Psalm 112:6 — For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.
- Psalm 16:8 — I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Where is your treasure really? About what (or whom) do you care the most? Do you place your trust and hope in an idol? In our day and age, idols are not usually carved images but rather things God intended for good that we have prioritized over God, thereby turning blessings into curses. Career, family, even ministry can become destructive idols when we make them our true treasures rather than God. When the gifts of God become our gods (our core value and the greatest influence in our lives), we develop unhealthy, destructive relationships with the gifts, with the Giver, and with everything else.
Today when Jesus teaches about foolish treasures, he uses money as the example and describes the anxiety (or fear) this idolatry naturally produces, concluding with, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The person who trusts and hopes in money (finances) has good reason to have anxiety and fear – all hope can be gone tomorrow. And what does this false hope, instability, and fear do to a person’s ability to love. Of course, money can’t love you back, but beyond that, when money is a person’s treasure, God and other people are seen as either assets or liabilities, partners or competitors, benefactors or threats. So, ‘love’ becomes contractual, subjective, and always in doubt. When the economy tanks, God is viewed as unloving or uncaring; when the kids break something valuable, they are treated as criminals; and when charities ask for money, they are viewed as undeserving or unprofitable drains on productivity. Ultimately, since people are generally risk averse and since all riches fade inevitably, God and people will be primarily viewed as threats to a person’s money idol – “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) When Jesus asks, “Why are you anxious?” He knows the answer. Money is a god without love, without power, without hope. These things are only found in Christ. “There is no fear in love.” (1 John 4:18) It takes faith (assurance) which can only be found in Jesus to love, to give, and to forgive with true joy and no fear.
How could Jesus wash the feet of those who He knew would betray Him and abandon Him? The Bible tells us that His unshakable love and forgiveness rested on His confidence in the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Father – “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3-5)
While Jesus uses money today to talk about the foolishness of treasuring and trusting something over God, we must remember that many things can become foolish treasures and idols in our lives, robbing us of the blessings God intended these things to be in our lives. Consider, for example, the “dedicated family man” who makes family his idol: Family becomes his identity, his measure of success, his security, his place for validation, his source of strength, his meaning for life, and his hope. Everything else is judged as good or bad based on its perceived impact on the family. If a person is perceived to be a threat to the family, that person treated poorly. Even God is judged based on what happens to the family. When the family suffers, God’s love and sovereignty is questioned. When the family becomes an idol, the family man turns to them for love that can only come from God (God is love), so the man takes love but has nothing to really give the family – the family suffers. If the family falls apart, the family-centered man’s entire world falls apart, and the family man has no place to turn. On the other hand, the God-centered family man, the man resting on the firm foundation of Jesus, the man connected to the Source of Love and Life as a branch is connected to a vine, offers stability and hope to His family, becomes a source of love to His family, bears fruit in His family, leads them along the path of Light and Life, and experiences the fullness of joy with His family through the inevitable trials of life.
When Jesus is your treasure, you have the right perspective on everything else, you can experience the fullness of joy in life regardless of circumstances, and you can be a light to others.
Luke 12:32, 33 — “Fear not…. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.”
Why do Christians act like Jesus meant this figuratively? This chapter reveals how serious He was.
Fear prevents you from being generous and giving your possessions to others. It takes faith to please God.
Jesus explains that we are to make the most of today and live with a sense of immediacy: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes…. Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions…. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating…. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:37-48) God gives us resources, talents, and opportunities to serve Him, not ourselves. The Bible says that we are to work to take care of ourselves and others, but it doesn’t say exactly how much we should save up for contingency (except for the 10% that goes to the church storehouse), but it has much to say about radical giving. For example, not long ago we read, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you. (Proverbs 3:27, 28) This verse also describes God’s intent for us to live interdependently rather than independently. However, much of our financial planning is based on independence, which robs us all of corporate power. Specifically, the Bible says that the church has a responsibility to take care of the elderly, widows, orphans, and the needy. Also, the Bible says we are to support those who dedicate themselves faithfully to full-time church work. When the church is unfaithful in these responsibilities, people are denied God’s common grace, a lack of trust and unity grows in the church, workers go un-resourced and struggle needlessly, and full-time church workers are tempted to act like the neglected Levite in Judges who sold his ministry to Micah in order to make a living. Independent living breeds selfishness, sin, and weakness.
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)
After Jesus gave the parable of the rich fool, he then told his disciples not to be like the pagans who focus their thoughts and efforts on taking care of their basic needs and comforts – where to live, what to wear, what to eat/drink, etc. Rather, he told them to have faith that God would provide for them and to seek His Kingdom, to focus all of their thoughts and energies on the Kingdom. He told them that their hearts would either be focused on God’s Kingdom or the world. Jesus said this another way in Matthew, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matt 6:24)
Jesus told his disciples not to worry about tomorrow but rather to do good to those in need today. Rather than storing up in barns, Jesus told his disciples to sell what they already had in order to take care of the poor. Did he really mean it? I think he did. Isn’t that crazy? In man’s economy, it is; but in God’s economy, it isn’t. Consider how we use our resources today. Most Americans are overweight. We have an abundance of everything and yet are in debt. Yet, so many in my community are in need. Is it time for radical obedience?
Luke 12:35 — Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning….
Jesus expected us to act as if He were returning at any minute. How should Jesus’ call for readiness change how we handle our possessions and how we treat others?
Luke 12:47-48 – And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Those who know God’s word and don’t obey it are held more accountable than those who do not know God’s word.
Luke 12:51 — Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
Another statement of Jesus’ rarely quoted.
Nothing divides a room more than the name Jesus. You will either choose Him as your Lord and Savior and follow Him or you won’t.
Luke 12:56 — You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
How do you interpret current times? Is the Holy Spirit revealing to you through God’s word what cannot be understood through human observation? People who merely act religious really have no spiritual power and do not know what God is really doing or saying. Don’t be fooled by the self-centered Bible reciter.
Luke 12:58 – …settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison.
Get right with God now.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 August 22: Have the faith and fearlessness to give radically today. (Luke 12:32, 33) When you give, have the courage to proclaim the Name of Jesus. (Luke 12:51) As an act of worship and as a good steward, dedicate to God your T.O.T.A.L. L.I.F.E. – time, opportunities, talents, assets, leisure, labor, influence, finances, and expertise. Pray that God will give you a heart that keeps Him your true treasure.