Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 27 January 2023:
2 Chronicles 25:2 — And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart.
Obedience that doesn’t come from a whole heart is disobedience. The First Commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before me,” and The Greatest Commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Apparent obedience that is not really inspired by genuine reverence and love for the Almighty is artificial and short-lived. This is why Jesus said things like, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27, 28) In this example, hidden lust reveals a heart that doesn’t revere and love God enough to care about what He cares about, to desire what He desires. That is were sin starts, in the heart. Jesus was tempted in the desert, externally by Satan, not internally from His heart – He remained without sin. External temptations don’t cause us to sin; our hearts cause us to sin. “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:11)
2 Chronicles 25:7, 8 — But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the Lord is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.”
Once again, the Bible warns about partnering with ungodly people and putting your trust in worldly powers rather than in God. Amaziah had already hired the Israelites but then listened to God’s word and sent them home, losing his investment but ultimately winning the battle. However, the Israelite warriors plundered Judah’s cities on the way home, killing thousands. Amaziah and his people still suffered consequences for not obeying God in the first place. Working with the ungodly doesn’t ‘work’ for God. What consequences do God’s people face today in compromise with the world? It is tempting to partner with unbelievers rather than relying on God. It takes courage to resist pressures to compromise holiness and join with the world; it takes faith to rely on God.
2 Chronicles 25:14-16 – After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them, making offerings to them. Therefore the LORD was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.”
A true prophet is compelled to speak the truth against sin, regardless the audience and regardless the consequences.
God sends His messengers to warn sinners to repent. We are Christ’s Ambassadors, proclaiming to others, whether they want to hear it or not, His message of repentance and forgiveness.
Those who follow sin unrepentantly will often respond violently to God’s word.
2 Chronicles 25:16 — But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.
One of the most repeated themes throughout the Bible is that pride comes before the fall. Uzziah was blessed by God but soon began to take credit for God’s work, trust in his own power, and pursue his own desires rather than God’s will. So many others in the Bible did something along these lines with devastating consequences. Be very careful that you don’t grow prideful in your successes. Give all glory and credit to God. Never lift yourself up before others.
Matthew 20:15 – Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?
How quickly we lose perspective of our utter depravity, our total dependency on God’s mercy and grace. In our pride, we tend to think God owes us something, we take grace for granted, and start to view it as an entitlement rather than a blessing. In our pride and ingratitude, we start to compare ourselves to others (Matthew 20:24-28) and compare what God has given us to what God has given others. We start to complain about fairness as if we could bear what we fairly deserve from God.
Today, Jesus tells a parable about day laborers who complain about receiving equal pay for different hours. The early hires were satisfied with what they were to receive until they compared their wages with those who had done less. Only then did they somehow feel mistreated rather than being grateful in their poor state that they had received anything at all. Rather than being happy for the good fortune of others they resented it. Would these workers have complained if the master (representing God) had given them more than what had been agreed upon? Of course not; they would have rejoiced in their unmerited blessing. Yet, they couldn’t stand the thought of someone else getting an unmerited blessing; so, with a denarius in their hand, they “grumbled” at the master.
Envy, which is resentment over God giving others something he didn’t give you, and bitterness, emanate from a prideful, self-righteous heart that has lost touch with the reality of grace and assumes some sort of merit. This spirit robs people of peace, joy, and contentment and eventually destroys. Jesus will make this point several times in our readings this year, repeating it in different ways because we really need to hear it. Honestly, how do you feel when others easily obtain what you worked so hard to get? How does your response reveal what you think about yourself and about God?
- Philippians 2:3 — Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
- Galatians 6:3-5 — For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
- Romans 12:15 — Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
- Romans 12:3 — For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
- 1 Corinthians 4:7 — For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
- Romans 14:4 — Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
- Luke 17:10 — So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
Today’s parable is a wonderful message about grace which should bring hope to all. In Jesus’ time (as is still the case in many places today) – day laborers gathered on street corners early in the morning to compete for limited jobs. They were hired early so employers could get a full day out of them. People were hired based on their perceived value. In today’s story, after hiring day laborers early in the morning, the master goes back out to the streets four more times throughout the day to hire more workers. Those who remained on the streets had no doubt felt the sting of rejection and the burden of shame. In the eyes of others and compared to others, they simply were not good enough. However, on the eleventh hour, the master goes to the few who represented the bottom of the barrel and said, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ To these few who were now just standing there, the master communicates value. And much to the dismay of others, the master considers them of equal value to all others.
God’s grace is a gift that can’t be earned; it’s not based on any merit of our own. There can be no boasting or comparison in God’s grace. It is never too late to receive God’s grace, and God administers His grace to all who are willing to “go into the vineyard too” (Matthew 20:7) — “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15:1) All the laborers received more than they deserved and all that they needed. If you have received God’s grace, display God’s grace to others, pray that others will receive God’s grace, and rejoice with those who do.
- Matthew 20:16 — So the last will be first, and the first last.
Matthew 20:20-28 – … She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” …
Parents want the very best for their children, but a parent’s ambition for their children can set the wrong example for them and get them in trouble.
Matthew 20:22 — Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”
Jesus knew the answer to the question He asked. He knew His disciples far better than they knew themselves. Full of self-confidence (at least at that moment), they had a much higher opinion of themselves than they should have. They wanted more than they could handle. Jesus will eventually use His disciples in a mighty way, but they still had much growing to do, and the Father will accomplish His will on His timing. You might be asking God for many things you are not ready to receive or that you should not receive. God knows your condition and situation and has a great plan for you. Trust Him and be grateful that He gives you what is best for you and not simply what you are asking for. As you grow in Christ, more and more of what you are asking for is what God desires for you. The small child might be frustrated with eggs for breakfast rather than candy, but the adolescent child desires and appreciates the eggs mom makes.
Matthew 20:23 – He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
The Bible points out how two entities, equal in worthiness and value may not be equal in responsibility and authority. The Father and Jesus are equally God and are “One,” but Jesus submitted to the Father’s authority. This is a good model for marriage and family. A father, mother, and children have equal value in God’s eyes, but not equal authorities and responsibilities. Many wrongfully struggle to accept authority and responsibility as they should, while others have trouble submitting to authority. God expects and commands us to do both gratefully and as if serving Him directly in our earthly relationships.
Matthew 20:24 – And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.
Jealousy hurts relationships tremendously. Avoid it at all cost.
Matthew 20:26-28 – It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
There is a lot of talk these days about servant leadership, but Jesus’ definition of servant leadership is radical, being a slave (v27) to others and surrendering all of your personal interests (giving up your life) to others, literally not just figuratively. What rights, honors, respect, privileges, titles, etc do you think you deserve as a leader? What respect does a slave receive? Funny, but most of the people reading books on “servant leadership” are hoping to develop the traits needed to be more respected, to get promoted, and to get paid more. The true servant leader may not be recognized by anyone, quietly serving and influencing without praise, honor, or fanfare.
Matthew 20:32-33 – And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”
God knows what you want, but He expects you to ask. Relationships are built on continuous communication and interaction. If God, at the beginning of our lives, or even at the beginning of the year, gave us everything we needed, we would not seek Him, know Him, or grow closer to Him. We would simply go along our merry way. God wants to teach to not just seek blessings but to seek experiential love with the Source of all blessings who is not just a blessing dispenser but our loving Father who counts every hair on our heads. Are you seeking blessings or a close relationship with God Himself?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 27 January 2023: Considering today’s readings, recommit to living in God’s grace by loving God more and more and loving others more and more, having peace and giving peace. Be grateful for and content with all God has bestowed upon you, and rejoice when He pours His grace and blessings upon others who also don’t deserve it.
- Philippians 2:3 — Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
- Matthew 27:18 — For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.
- 1 Corinthians 13:4 — Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast….
- Galatians 5:26 — Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
- 1 John 4:12, 16 — No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.