My momma always said, “Life was like a box of Chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Forrest Gump 1994” Let’s face it chocolate is delectable, and delightfully pleasing until you bite into one and find something inside you could care less for. Some of you may be different but if I don’t like what’s inside I won’t eat it. If it’s bad enough I look for something to drink behind it to get the taste out of my mouth. I know it’s a bit extreme but its only candy right? What about the beautiful homes or buildings we go in to only to find that the toilets are dirty. Do you use the bathroom or wait until you get home or some other place where you feel more comfortable? In terms of one another, physical beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Thankfully, in God’s eye we are all beautiful and God couldn’t be more pleased when we take the time to care for ourselves and the things God has blessed us with. Again, in terms of relationship with each other and things, are we not disappointed when we unwrap the gift and don’t like what we find inside? I believe that when we neglect the gift of the spirit force that God has placed within us God becomes very disappointed and he will spit us out or simply stop using us altogether. Funny thing though, whenever I sit down with the same box of chocolates I work hard to remember the chocolates I enjoyed and I don’t always remember which one had the filling I despised. Moreover, a dirty toilet doesn’t always keep me from returning to a place I thought was overall a very nice place to visit. I just hope that the bathroom is clean. The good news is that when we care for the good of the spirit within (confess, repent, reconcile and forgive), God forgets our past experiences and will always give us another chance to be everything plus more of what He always intended us to be.
Haggai 1:1-15 These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house. Then the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?… Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? Says the Lord of hosts. Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses.
Matthew 23:27-39 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.
Psalm 31 Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege. I had said in my alarm, ‘I am driven far from your sight.’ But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help.
There is a distinct difference between humiliation and humility. Humiliation is a sense of shame brought on us either by someone else or occasionally our self. Humility is a choice we make that reflects our acceptance of who we are at the core and quiet confidence in the guidance of a spirit greater than the self. We’re all familiar with the poverty to wealth stories and the greatest of these is the birth of Our Lord and Savior, born in the most humble of circumstances. Yet the manifestation of his life embodies a kind of wealth that everyone before and after, young and old, rich and poor can only achieve if they believe. It is the peace in the knowledge that God reigns over all. Christ knew this from the very beginning and I believe it is why he walked among us in the way that he did. He didn’t need the earthly royalty, prestige, or favor because his anointing came from God. So too does our anointing come from God without regard to circumstance. So, there is no shame in walking the way of the Gospel because in it there is room for error (on our part), forgiveness and growth.
Matthew 23:1-12 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat… They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; They do all their deeds to be seen by others… They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi… All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Our enemies can be found in many places, some high, some low and occasionally within our self.
What is good? Jesus himself admits that there is only one who is good. Anyone can keep the commandments but if we wish to be perfect all we have to do is sell every thing we have and give the money to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven but you will be broke as a doorknob. What’s a rich person to do: your money or your life? Well Comedian Jack Benny had to think about it, the rich man in Matthew’s Gospel had to think about, and if the truth is to be told we have to think about too. Certainly, the rich man went away wondering if perfection was worth the cost. Perhaps those of us who have no money have less to wonder about but if our primary focus is on financial provision we too risk traveling a journey that follows the money instead of life. Today, we could choose to become religious monks but I don’t believe this is necessarily what Jesus had in mind. I believe Jesus’ extreme recommendation is a wake up call to draw our attention to the relationship we have with money. There is no doubt that money is important in that it allows us to have what we need in this physical life. However, the lack of money should not hinder the greater importance of our spiritual life, our relationship with God, who is the great provider of all things, and ultimately our eternal life. If we are able to do this, surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Matthew 19:13-22 …what do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Philippians 4:11-13 … for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
The Pharisees tested Jesus about whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-27), but it was Paul’s Roman citizenship that enabled him to escape a plot to kill him by his own people (Acts 23:23-35). Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees over taxes reminds me of discretionary income, the money I get to keep for my family after all the bills have been paid. If my pay increases my taxes increase. But my discretionary income never seems to increase proportionately. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t seem just, that one has to make a tremendous amount of money in order for tax payments not to affect a way of living. Perhaps the Pharisees were looking for ways to keep some discretionary income. For the Christian, it is possible to participate in the world and not fall victim to it by seeking ways to circumvent the system. The laws which make for a civil society apply to everyone even the righteous. By giving to the authorities what rightfully belongs to them enables us to function freely within that society (even an unjust one) as Paul did. The good news is that what we owe for the functioning of that civil society, God doesn’t need from us. Given that it all belongs to God anyway the only thing left is the self; the heart, mind and soul made in his image. The self is the one thing that any of us can give to God and to one another, regardless of our level of ability to pay in a physical society in which we are all expected participate.
Mark 12:13-27 Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.
Romans 13:7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Acts 23:23-35 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, but when I had learned that he was a Roman citizen, I came with the guard and rescued him.
Psalm 128 Happy is everyone who fears the Lord; who walks in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.
Was there ever a point in your life when you felt like you’ve lost everything? Then perhaps you might understand how the rich man felt when Jesus merely suggested he sell everything he owned and give the money to the poor. I believe that possessions don’t define who we are, but rather how we treat one another. Having the ability to give something away and actually giving it away are two entirely different things. Jesus however, seems to be saying that the rich man is defined by his possessions if he is not willing to let them go in order to have what he asked for, which is eternal life. In addition having so many possessions must have given him pleasure because he was shocked and grieved at having to give them away. I believe what the rich man failed to see was that his possessions weren’t serving him well because they left him still seeking to inherit eternal life. Thus his possessions had given him pleasure but not peace (assurance of resurrection). It is possible that our attachment to things will hinder our peace with God. It is the peace in knowing that there will be times when we have to let things go and assurance (believe) that God will provide what we need. In this way our journey embraces eternal living as we strive towards eternal life.
Mark 10:17-31 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Romans 14:17-19 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.
Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved