*Sorry, no audio.
Tattoos & Human Branding
I don’t have any tattoos, but I know lots of people who do – and a few that don’t have one yet but want one. As far as the Bible goes, there’s no problem with getting or having a tattoo, so long as it’s not done in as part of a pagan religious ceremony (Lev 19:28) or done in a prideful way, to show off and attract attention to your body (1 Peter 3:3-4). If you can do it in a tasteful, humble way, is profitable and helpful, that honours your body as God’s temple, and is an act of worship that brings glory Him glory, then go for it! (Eph 5:4 Col 3:8; 1 Cor 6:19-20; 10:23, 31)
As funny as some of these are, I want to take a minute to use it as an illustration. All of the people we saw in those pictures made the choice – however misguided that choice may have been – to go and get their bodies marked, but human branding has been around for a long time.
People would brand their slaves as their own property, brand thieves, brawlers or other undesirables with letters on their skin marking their crime. The practice even occurs a few times in the Bible. God marked Cain so people wouldn’t kill him (Gen 4). Ezekiel had a vision of men dressed in linen walking through a town destined for destruction marking the people who lamented their sins so they would not be destroyed (Exe 9:4). In Revelation it speaks of two different marks, those marked by God for salvation and those who take the Mark of the Beast (Rev 7:3; 13:16-17). Paul speaks of the scars on his body, from beatings, stonings and lashings as marks that point to his faith in Jesus (Gal 6:17). And it was seeing the marks in His hands side that brought doubting Thomas to faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 20:27).
The marks of Jesus are often called the “Stigmata”, from which we get the term “stigma”. Last week we spent some time looking at a biblical view of depression. It was by no means comprehensive, but I think we covered some of the basics, and I hope it was helpful to you. I was surprised how much feedback from last week’s message, both locally and after I posted it on the internet. I got hits and messages from all over North America. I even received an email from someone in Mexico.
The comment I heard repeated most often, including from my new friend in Monterey, revolved around stigma. Multiple people thanked me for simply not making them feel badly about struggling with depression or mental illness. Being a person suffering from mental illness like depression is bad enough, more than a few Christians I know have recently admitted some bad stories about letting people at church know about their struggles, and then having that knowledge used against them.
They come to their friend, their church, their family, to share a small part of one of their deepest struggles – that for a long time they have been in a daily battle against their own brain, that has made them feel anxious, sad, fearful, hopeless, and like an utter failure – and instead of getting love, acceptance, support, and prayer – they get stigmatized, branded, tattooed with a label. Most often in the church, that label is “Lazy” or “Faithless”.
Instead of coming alongside this person and patiently bearing their burdens with them, they accuse them of not having enough faith, not praying enough, not reading the bible enough, not understanding enough theology, not worshipping enough. They throw out quick answers like, “Have you done your devos? Reading the Bible and praying always cheers me right up!” or “You should listen to more worship music.” or “You need to stop drinking coffee, you’re your vitamins and do some exercise, and then you’d be happy.”
The implication to those quick answers is that the person’s problem is their fault – as though this was something they chose, or there’s something they are not doing that if they would just do, then their sickness would go away. That’s a ridiculous notion that we would never apply to any other sickness, would we?
I don’t intend to repeat last week’s message about the importance of realizing that they are suffering from a mental illness, meaning that they are literally sick, and that part of their body is broken (their brain chemistry) and outside of their control. And I don’t intend to try to convince you how bad it is by telling you a bunch of horror stories from my life or anyone else’s – please just believe me that however bad you think it is to be clinically depressed or suffer from mental illness, the reality is that it’s probably worse. But after hearing from more than a few people relate stories of how much pain they have been caused by people in the church, and saying that they are literally afraid of telling other Christians about their struggles, I feel there’s a couple topics we need to cover.
People Usually Fear / Hate Sickness
Today I want to talk about how God uses sickness and suffering for our good and His glory. Essentially, what we’re talking about is a building a theology of sickness.
People who are sick are often treated very badly by their fellow man. Maybe it comes from our inherent fear of death, so we distance ourselves physically and emotionally from anyone who is suffering. Maybe it comes from our belief that all suffering and sickness is bad, and therefore we need to avoid it at all costs. Maybe it comes from thinking that anyone who is sick or suffering is being punished by God, or has lost faith, and therefore we need to stay away while God deals with them. Whatever the case, being sick, whether with a mental or physical illness, has often come with stigma – they are marked as outsiders and shunned.
Even though the Old Testament is full of commands to care for the poor and be merciful to the suffering (Deut 15:11; Micah 6:8), and they did have medicine and physicians (Job 13:4; 1 Chron 16:12; Jer 6:22) it was often believed that anyone with any kind of handicap, from birth defects to blindness to leprosy to the flu to losing life or limb in an accident, was being punished by God for their sins, and was therefore shunned from the community.
From ancient times until today one way that societies have dealt with their weak and sick is to lock them away, forget them, or simply kill them – and this is on both ends of the spectrum. In some ancient cultures, if a baby had any kind of defect at all, it was policy to leave it out in the open until it died so that it’s weakness wouldn’t impact the family or the nation. In some cultures today girls are seen as weaker than boys, so they murder baby girls in favour of having more boys.
Since we have the technology to look inside the uterus before the baby is born doctors can diagnose all kinds issues a baby might have. Most of these issues are non-life threatening and are very treatable, but often end in abortion. For example, the rate of Downs Syndrome children has rapidly declined these days, not because there are less of them, but because they are murdered before they are ever born.
In the proudly liberal United Kingdom, famous for their open-mindedness and tolerance, they have a law that says you can abort a “disabled child” up to the day it’s born. Because the term “disabled” isn’t defined well, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of women have aborted their baby because it had a cleft lip. Why? Because people hate, shun, stigmatize, and reject sickness.
And we do it on the other end of the spectrum too as we take the sick and the elderly, push them out of our society, remove them from our media, lock them away in homes to forget about them, charge them enormous fees to care for them, and then, when they are rejected and alone, and feel like a burden to everyone around them, the lawmakers, doctors and insurance companies offer them euthanasia (Greek for or “The Good Death”). Like Coke, Pepsi or Nike, they find a young, pretty spokesmodels like Brittany Maynard to be their advocate and make suicide seem like a wonderful thing that everyone should consider, and then do what they can to eliminate other options.
One recent example of this comes from the story of Stephanie Packer, a mother of four who lives in California which recently legalized doctor assisted suicide. She has an auto immune disease that forms scar tissue on her lungs which makes it hard to breathe. She was told she wouldn’t live until age 32, but she’s already a year past that. She’s been in treatment for a long time, but when her doctors switched her expensive chemotherapy drugs, her insurance company informed her that they refused to pay for them. She then asked if they would cover the cost of the drugs that would put her to death. They said yes, and that it would only cost her $1.20. The same thing happened to a 64-year-old woman in Oregon who was given the choice between paying for a $4000/month drug to help her get better, or a $50 drug that would kill her.
Humanity hates and fears weakness, sickness, and death, and we will do everything we can to remove it from our minds, hearts, homes, and country. Christians need to be better, but too often we’re not. Instead, we, in our own ways, mark those who are sick, hurting, or weak, as undesirable outcasts that need to be treated by specialists, and only hang out with people who are strong, helpful, and that contribute to our wellbeing.
Think about it. I’ve heard so many times that people want friends that will help them grow, a church where they will be fed, spouses and partners and friends that will strengthen them – but they never, ever, ever mean someone that is sick or hurting. They always mean that they want to find someone who is strong, smart, and healthy, that will build them up. They never meant that they want to be surrounded by people that are sick, weak, afraid, confused, struggling, and in constant need.
But let me tell you the God’s honest truth. The place your faith will grow most, where you will be challenged most, where you will be tried, tested and refined most – is among the lust, hurting, and sick.
I hear Christians ask all the time about how they grow more spiritual, get closer to God, deepen their prayer life, learn more about the faith, be more dependent on scripture, hear the Holy Spirit, and become more like Jesus – and that’s a good thing. But the answer isn’t just “read your bible, pray every day”, avoid bad things, and you’ll grow, grow, grow. No, what will really, truly cause you to become desperate for the presence of God is to come face to face with weakness.
Sickness as a Gift
The Bible says that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6) and one way we become more humble, and thereby gain more grace, is to be faced with sickness – in ourselves or someone else.
- Physical, emotional and mental weakness will stop you in your tracks and force you to evaluate your life and faith.
- Whether you are the one who is ill or the one facing the illness, it will test the strength of your marriage, your friendships, and the bonds of your church and family.
- It will require you to admit you have problems and that you need help, opening up your heart to the ability not only to admit physical and mental problems but ultimately spiritual ones.
- It will force you to stop depending on yourself and humbly accept the help of God and others.
- It will force you to see your own weakness, and even your own mortality, and realize your time on earth is short.
- And it gives others an opportunity to care for you, thereby helping them grow.
- It will cause you to talk to God in ways you never have before– whether in anger, sadness, fear, or faith.
When you or someone you love is in pain your prayers get a lot less general. Gone are your prayers for a nice meal, a happy life, and to bless everyone around you –because now you realize what it means to come to God and say:
“Father in heaven. Hallowed be your name.
Bring your kingdom soon, because I hate this world full of sin and death.
May your will be done, because I am utterly at a loss for what to do.
Give me this day my daily bread, because I am weak, tired, and all of my energy is spent – I need a miracle of provision from you if I’m going to make it through this day.
Forgive me my sins, because I realize now how worldly I have been and how much I have sinned against others who just needed my love and comfort. How I wish I had been more merciful to them, because I could use their mercy now!
Help me to forgive those who have sinned against me, because people are saying and doing so many stupid, selfish things to me and the one I love, and I don’t need any more bitterness in my heart, God. I don’t have the time or energy to argue. I just need to find a place to know your life.
God, lead me not into temptation – because I’m tempted to give up, tempted to quit, tempted to go to evil places for a moment’s comfort, tempted to lash out at the one I’m supposed to be caring for and the ones that are caring for me, tempted to push people away, tempted to stop worshipping, stop praying, stop asking for help. God I’m so very tempted.
I need you to deliver me from evil, because all the time I can feel the presence of the evil one around me, and as I battle this illness on so many fronts – I need your spiritual protection so there’s at least one battle I don’t need to fight because you are doing it for me. Protect me, God.
I recognize yours is the kingdom, and I am but a humble citizen.
I recognize that yours is the power, because I feel so powerless.
And yours is the glory, so help me to somehow bring you glory in this as you make me more fit for your kingdom.
Forever and ever, even now, even in this time, even as terrible as this feels today – amen, so be it, I relent, I give it all to you.”
In Sickness You Meet Jesus
To my fellow Christians, I remind you that it is when you are face to face with the weak, the sick, and the poor – which includes those who suffer with depression – that you are closest to Jesus, and have the greatest opportunity to bless him. Turn with me to Matthew 25:31-46 and consider the words of Jesus:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
We will not be saved because of our compassion and mercy towards those brothers and sisters who are hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned, but we will do it because we are saved. Listen carefully: Your understanding of your salvation and all that Jesus has done for you is demonstrated in how you treat those around you, especially those who are difficult – like the sick, the poor, the estranged, or your enemies.
A Christian understands from what they have been delivered. They know that in the eyes of a perfect God they were deplorable, wretched, sinners, enemies of God. Before we are saved by Jesus, the Bible says we have all the attraction and benefit of a rotten, stinking, enemy corpse (Isaiah 64:6; Eph 2:1-3). Humanity became sick with sin and succumbed to it completely. Jesus didn’t come to meet us in hospital room, or our deathbed, he came to our grave. We have the smell of death and rotten deeds all about us – as unattractive as possible – and yet, though there was not anything good about us, God sent His only Son to take the punishment for our sin so we could be reborn as one of His people (John 3:16; Eph 2:4-5).
He stepped into a land of madness, sickness, death, betrayal, and hatred – a world completely bent away from Him – and stayed out of love. We insulted Him, He healed our wounds. We hated Him, and He exercised our demons. We broke every law He gave us, used the body He gave us for sin, rejected the prophets He sent us, corrupted the Word He spoke to us. He wept over us, prayed for us, fed us, calmed our storms, took the cross for us, sent us His Holy Spirit, and invited us to be part of His family. And even though we continue to get it wrong, sin like crazy, spit in his face, refuse to listen, obey, pray or do what He asks, even though we keep erecting idols in our hearts – He keeps walking with us, forgiving us, helping us, sitting with us, weeping with us, mourning with us, and reminding us of why we can still have hope.
We are never more like Jesus, and we never see Jesus more, than when we are serving, helping, and loving people who are suffering – and that includes people who are facing depression and mental illness.
Next week I hope to give some practical tools, but I that’s where I want to leave it this week. But let me challenge you to some reflection:
First, is there anyone in your life that you have stigmatized, marked as an untouchable because they are too weak, sick, sad, or frustrating? Has God called you to serve someone, visit them, feed them, help them, welcome them, clothe them, but you have said no, because like the pagan world around you, you don’t want to, are too lazy, too afraid to be touched by weakness, sickness and death? I beg you to repent. Ask forgiveness of those you have marked as outcasts because of your own selfishness, fear and sin, and then go and be Jesus to them – and meet Jesus in them.
And second, to those who have been marked by sin, who bear the scars of depression, anxiety, sickness and pain. I challenge you to change your perspective on your suffering to see that you are not being punished, and God has not left you. You have been given to your church and your family as a gift by which we are able to see Jesus. You have been given something that forces you to grow closer to Jesus, to depend more on Him, and to have a greater faith than many people will ever experience – if you allow it to drive you to Jesus and not from Him.
Consider how you can say the words of 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, which have been echoed by so many faithful believers throughout the centuries: “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Why Canada Needs ARPA (Special Guest: Andre Schutten of the Association for Reformed Political Action) (Carnivore Theology: Ep. 81)
We talk politics, porn, education, abortion, families, Trinity Western, and more as we get politically active with ARPA’s Andre Schutten.
Here’s the link to the Abortion Episodes with Mike Schouten we promised:
How Can You Help Carnivore Theology?
1. Pray for us!
3. Record a question in your voice on our SpeakPipe page! (We love this the most!)
5. Buy some cool stuff from our new Merch Store! (And check out our friend Kim’s amazing art while you’re there!)
Abortion is a controversial, but incredibly important topic. Did you know that Canada is the only country in the western world without abortion legislation? This is the second of a two-part series where we are talking with Mike Schouten, Campaign Director of weneedaLAW.ca who’s mission is to build a groundswell of support from across Canada for abortion legislation.
How Can You Help Carnivore Theology?
1. Pray for us!
4. Share www.CarnivoreTheology.com with your friends. Sharing is caring!
5. Give financially: If you’d like to help us with our productiong costs, send us a financial gift through PayPal by clicking here. (We are not a registered charity, so you won’t get a tax receipt — but you will have the good feelings that come with helping out a friend!)
Abortion is a controversial, but incredibly important topic. Did you know that Canada is the only country in the western world without abortion legislation? This is the first of a two part series where we are talking with Mike Schouten, Campaign Director of weneedaLAW.ca who’s mission is to build a groundswell of support from across Canada for abortion legislation.
*** Plus, we announce our “Like and Share” contest winners! ***
How Can You Help Carnivore Theology?
1. Pray for us!
4. Share www.CarnivoreTheology.com with your friends. Sharing is caring!
5. Give financially: If you’d like to help us with our productiong costs, send us a financial gift through PayPal by clicking here. (We are not a registered charity, so you won’t get a tax receipt — but you will have the good feelings that come with helping out a friend!)
The 16th episode of “Carnivore Theology”.
Are Christians Allowed to Get Angry?
Biblically, how angry is a Christian allowed to get? Can a Christian argue with another believer or non-believer? Did Jesus ever yell and argue? And what does this all have to do with Star Wars?!?
And here’s the link to the behind-the-scenes YouTube video.
As Always, We Want Your Feedback
Please give it a listen and then give let us know what you think in comments section below, by e-mailing me, commenting on our Facebook page, or on Twitter! It would be great if you’d rate us on iTunes too! We’d also really appreciate if you’d pass them around to your friends. Sharing is caring!
“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-16)
This is a great passage of scripture, and I think it really shows how seriously Jesus takes ministry to children. Usually, when this passage is preached, the emphasis is on verse 15 where Jesus says, “…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” which is an important point –but I don’t want to park there today. Instead, I want to look a little further back.
Children In Bible Times
Let’s start at verse 13. “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.”
It was a custom for parents to bring their children to Rabbi’s and holy men to ask to bless them, so it wasn’t totally strange that they would be doing this. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, was in his final days of teaching. They were on crowd-control. They were tired from the journey, worried about what would happen when they got there, and were probably trying to give Jesus some space to do more important things. They had a lot on their mind, and so did Jesus. So it only makes sense that they would try to only let the most important people, the sick, the local leaders, the ones that needed Jesus most, through.
After all, these were only kids, people 12 and under. Children weren’t treated very well in ancient society. It wasn’t as bad among the Jews, but the treatment of children was very bad among the pagan nations. Evil. They were, essentially, non-persons – property of their fathers or their slave-masters. In Roman culture,
“…an infant could be abandoned without penalty or social stigma for many reasons, including an anomalous appearance, being an illegitimate child or grandchild or a child of infidelity, family poverty, parental conflict or being one of too many children.” (source)
This was normal then, so the disciples weren’t being offensive to the crowd. Everyone would have understood that kids weren’t as important as adults. Everyone would have realized the disciples were doing the right thing in letting the important people come first. Everyone unerstood why the disciples “rebuked” the parents who were wasting Jesus’ time.
But there was someone there that didn’t agree with what the disciples were doing.
Jesus was Indignant
“But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them…”
A fascinating word pops up there to describe what was going on in Jesus heart and mind when He sees his disciples rebuking the people who were trying to bring their children to Him… “Indignant”. It’s the Greek word “AGANEKTEO” which is a very descriptive word.
Its the word used to describe how the Pharisees felt when Jesus rode into town on the donkey and they heard the crowds crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matt 21:15), They were “Indignant”. It’s the word used of the disciples when they saw James and John ask to be Jesus’ top-disciples (Matt 26:8). It’s the word used of the ruler of the synagogue who saw Jesus heal the man on the Sabbath (Luke 13:14).
The Greek version of the Old Testament uses the word to describe how the brothers of Dinah felt when their sister was seduced and defiled. They were “indignant and very angry” (Gen 34:7). And it’s used over and over to describe God’s feelings toward unrepentant, stubborn hearts:
“But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.” (Jer 10:10)
It’s a powerful word, full of emotion, and here’s it’s used to describe how Jesus feels about people who get between Him and the children who want to come to Him. I hope you get an appreciation for that word. You can’t read these words of Jesus in a grandfatherly voice that says, “Oh, it’s ok. Let them come to me…” No, these are words of rebuke! “Peter, James, John, all the rest of you — GET OUT OF THEIR WAY and LET THE CHILDREN COME TO ME. DO NOT HINDER THEM…”
Jesus didn’t see these kids as less important than the adults around them. He didn’t see them as less significant than the leaders, parents or disciples. No, He saw them as exactly the kind of people that He had come to be with. They were weak, helpless, dependent and in need of a saviour, a defender, a redeemer and friend. And as he look at them He saw a group of people who were coming to him with pure intentions, just longing to be with Him, to discover Him, to know Him, to be blessed by Him. They didn’t want a show, they wanted the One who was there. These parents just wanted the touch of Jesus in on their children’s lives. These children just wanted to be around Jesus.
And then He saw His own disciples getting in their way and rebuking them for coming, it enraged Him.
And what did these kids see? They saw Jesus look square at his disciples and rebuke them for not letting them come to him. This could have been the first time in their lives that they were treated as the highest priority. These adults were getting yelled at because they were telling the kids to go away. I can just imagine the looks on the 10 and 12 year old boys that had been rebuked just that morning for breaking a dish or not doing their chores. Now they’re looking at each other, eyes wide and mouths open as they watch Jesus tear a strip off these adults for getting in their way. That probably made their day.
Children as a Commodity
We can criticize ancient cultures for how poorly they treated children, but it’s not much better today, is it? A lot of people still treat children as commodities and excess baggage. They are drains on our finances. They are problems to be eliminated. They are property to be shown off or discarded when they are inconvenient.
In Canada 100,000 lives lost to abortion every year. About 25,000 babies were murdered in Ontario last year – and the government, your taxes – paid for it. No, we’re not talking about the extreme cases of rape and incest, or the women or baby has health problems – that only accounts for about 7%. Let me give you the top reasons for why women have abortions – and this is from an abortion advocacy group!
“Relationship Issues” – Her parents and/or the man who impregnated her doesn’t want her to keep it. This isn’t condemning the woman, but more often the man. He finds out she’s pregnant, dumps her and runs, or says he’ll leave her if she has a baby.
Another reason is “Financial and Practical reasons”. In other words, I can’t afford a baby, so it’s better to kill it. According to one sight I read 21% of women said they aborted because they couldn’t afford a baby. Just to be clear, that’s over 20,000 babies a year, murdered because they would be too expensive. 16% said they aborted because “their life would change too much”, 8% said “they have all the children they want”. These children aren’t seen as babies, but commodities. If we want it, then it’s a celebration with parties and balloons. If we don’t then it’s just dispose of it.
Another popular reason is that the woman isn’t “ready to provide for and meet the physical and emotional needs of a child.” Especially if the child has some sort of special needs. In their deranged minds, these men and woman think, “I’m not ready for responsibility. I won’t do a good job with this kid. I’m not ready for this level of commitment. I’m still living my own life and this will mess me up. And since I’m not ready – it’s better for the child if I kill it in advance.”
CBC reported this week that deadbeat parents – 97% of which are dad’s – owe 3.7 billion dollars in support payments for their kids. So not only are these men running away from the women and children before they’re born, but even after! They can’t even be bothered to send the most minimal, financial help– even after the courts of ordered them to. Reminds me of 1 Timothy 5:8,
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
If you don’t take care of your family – including your kids, you’re worse than a pagan. No Christian should ever be a deadbeat mom or dad.
But this is happening every day. Dad’s abandon their women and children, and mom’s killing their babies – not for health reasons or because of incest and rape – but because they don’t want the baby to affect their lifestyle. The height of selfishness and pride meted out on helpless children. These people idolize their life so much that they are willing to give the blood sacrifice of their own babies to the god of their lifestyle.
It’s no different than the Israelites who saught to appease the false god Molech who demanded that they take their newborn babies, place them on the arms of the carved idol, and watch them burn to death. (Lev 18:21) Let me read to you a description :
“It is believed that idols of Molech were giant metal statues of a man with a bull’s head. Each image had a hole in the abdomen and possibly outstretched forearms that made a kind of ramp to the hole. A fire was lit in or around the statue. Babies were placed in the statue’s arms or in the hole. When a couple sacrificed their firstborn, they believed that Molech would ensure financial prosperity for the family and future children.” (source 1, source 2)
It’s the same, isn’t it? Sacrificing babies so that the parents can have more money for themselves and perhaps their future children.
This is what made the worship of Molech so reprehensible to God, and such a danger to the Israelites. They are warned in the law not to do this (Lev 18:21) and are commanded to destroy anything that has to do with Molech. Over and over the Israelites and their kings fell into the worship of Molech – but why?
Because some people are able to overlook the preciousness of their baby when it means they have to make personal or financial sacrifice. For some terrible reason there are people choose money, comfort, and lifestyle over the life of their child. (Click to tweet this quote)
The dads who abandon their children so they can live free from responsibilities are worshippers of Molech. The women who kill their children because they don’t want to change their lifestyle are worshippers of Molech. The parents who choose their work, their toys, their retirement savings, their vacations, over having children are worshippers of Molech.
Jesus prioritizes children and gives them high value. Demons are the ones who tell us that kids aren’t important – or are less important than we are.
Just Kids? Not to Jesus
“And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (vs 16)
Every kid that came, in succession, was held, hugged, and blessed. Jesus was ministering to these kids.
“He took them into his arms.”
This wasn’t just a formal dedication ceremony. How many times have you heard the word “just” used to describe ministry to children and youth? It’s just Sunday School. It’s just the youth group. The adults have gathered for worship – what are we going to do with the kids? Who cares as long as their quiet and not interrupting the sermon, right? After all, they’re just kids. It’s not like they’re important, right?
They don’t tithe. They don’t sit on the leadership boards. They don’t contribute to the potluck. They interrupt. They ask dumb questions. They’re noisy and need to be removed. They’re annoying and need to be distracted. Just get them out of here so the important adults can have their time with Jesus.
But what did Jesus do? He angrily rebuked the adults with that attitude, told them to get out of the way, brought each child into His arms, prayed for them, blessed them, laid His hands on them, and loved them. One by one He ministered to them and showed them how high of a priority they are to him. They weren’t in the way. Not at all.
Within a few verses Jesus will be walking into Jerusalem. The Triumphal Entry is in the next chapter. Did Jesus have a lot on His mind? You bet! Did He have places to be? Absolutely! Did Jesus stop everything to show love to the kids, and teach us that children are a huge priority to Him? Definitely.
God Loves Kids
Why did He stop? Not only to teach us something. He stopped because Jesus is God and God loves kids.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3)
“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6)
When Jesus saw these kids, He saw a reward, a gift, and a blessing from Heaven. Children and grandchildren are not a burden, they are a gift! Hearing a woman is pregnant is never, ever bad news. (Click to tweet this quote)
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16)
Do you see the delicacy and intimacy with which God is involved in the design of every single baby? God knows every single one of those kids from the atomic level up. He knows every thought, every dream, every fear, every joy, every tear.
It was an absolute joy for Jesus to wrap His arms around these children because He knew that God had specially created every single one of them to be exactly who they were. They were special creations, and Jesus took great joy in them.
Don’t Mess with Jesus’ Kids
And with that in mind, I want to turn somewhere else to look at Jesus’ attitude toward kids.
“And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.’” (Mark 9:33-37)
Now skip to verse 42. Nowhere in the narrative does it say that Jesus has moved. This is the same conversation. Presumably, it could be a little baby, cradled in in his arms, or a little toddler sitting on his lap… and Jesus looks from the child to the crowd around Him and says,
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)
In the account of this story in Matthew 18, in the next verse Jesus says,
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matthew 18:7)
How serious does Jesus take the ministry to children? He says that it would be better that we would die than to cause a child to turn from God. There are massive, eternal consequences waiting for people who cause children to fall away from faith, who teach them falsehood, or who tempt them to sin. Woe to anyone who leads a child away from Jesus.
Only a few verses later in Matthew 18, the same child still cradled in Jesus arms, we read Him saying,
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones.” (Matthew 18:10a)
To “Despise” means “to look down on”, “think little of”, “disrespect”, or “take lightly”.
Can you see Jesus looking at this little baby or a toddler, stroking his little cheek, and looking directly at the people around Him and saying in a very serious tone, “Don’t take the ministry and care of these children lightly, because God doesn’t. Don’t disrespect these kids. Don’t look down on children, no matter how small.” And then He tells them why.
Keep reading in verse 10,
“For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
This isn’t just a verse about guardian angels, it’s a threat. These aren’t fat little cherubs that float around baby-cribs. These are the divine armies of God, terrible in power and terrifying to all who see them. God assigns these special guards to look over His little ones and no one gets away with anything when it comes to them. God gets a full report of everything everyone does or says to that baby, that toddler, that child.
And then He tells a story we’re all very familiar with.
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:12-14)
Does that shed new light on this story? The picture Jesus paints is one of a shepherd who searches high and low for his lost sheep and then celebrates when he finds it. But God isn’t looking for lost sheep, is He? No… He’s saying, “This is how I guard these little ones. Even more than a good shepherd loves the littlest lamb, I love these children. I don’t want any of them to fall away from me. I have my eye on all of them. Each of them has an angel to protect them. I love them with a jealous, passionate love. So. Don’t. Mess. With. Them!”
Now, go back in your mind to our first story where the disciples are rebuking the parents and children for coming to Jesus. Can you see why He was so angry? Someone is messing with His kids.
Our God Given Responsibility to Children
And the bad news is that people are really messing children today. Deadbeat dads, abortive moms, abusive parents, divorcing spouses, neglectful churches. This is a terrible time to be a kid. Judgment is coming on those who mess with or don’t look after the children of this world, but in the meantime they have been given to us, God’s church, as a joy and a responsibility. And not just our own biological children! Taking care of fatherless children is a major theme in scripture. Let me close with a few scriptures to remind us of our responsibilities to kids.
In the Garden of Eden, in Genesis 1:28, God blessed Adam and Eve and then said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion…” Having children was our first job, taking care of the world our second. I can’t see how that has changed. Those of us who have the ability also have the responsibility to have kids, by the command of God.
Canada has one of the worst birth rates in the world! We don’t even want kids! What a moral bankruptcy that has come upon us that having kids would be seen as such a terrible thing.
And when we have those kids, we have a responsibility to teach them. To the Israelites God said in Deuteronomy 6:4-9,
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
God commands parents to make sure their children are absolutely saturated with the reason for their existence—to “love the LORD [their] God with all [their] heart and with all [their] soul and with all [their] might.” Everywhere they go, in their daily conversation with mom and dad, in their education and hobbies and decisions – written on the very walls of their homes – is the reminder that they exist by the will and for the pleasure of God. They don’t exist as an extension of us, parents. They’re not little you’s and me’s. They are created in God’s image.
Proverbs 22:6 says,
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
That’s tells us that we need to be consistent, for their whole young lives. We don’t have the right to get exasperated and give up on guiding and training the child. And it means we don’t leave it to others either. God gave those kids to us, and so it’s our job to train them up. If we leave it to the world to do it, then the world will certainly train them to be worldly. If we give them to the pagans to train, they will become pagans.
It also means that we believe that we need to be diligent. We’re can’t just turn them loose to figure themselves out. “I’ll let them decide for themselves what religion, or gender, or whatever they want to be” isn’t an option. If we want them to grow up to be good, strong,, studious, hard-working, faithful, men and women of Christian character, then we need to train them up in the way they should go! That means that we guide them along that way.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
This means that when we parent – and by extension when we grandparent or minister to children — we do it with abundant love, grace, sensitivity and care.
Without a doubt, we are to take their life and rearing seriously, and to guide them diligently. We have been given the right and privilege of being the “fountains of domestic authority” but that doesn’t give us license to let our passions run away with us so we make their lives miserable. We don’t over-indulge them and let them become sinful, spoiled pigs, but we don’t make their life miserable either. We pour out love and grace, living with a good temper and reasonable expectations.
I know we’ve covered a lot today, but if you take away anything, please remember how much Jesus loves children, and so we are to love them too. They are a priority to Him, so they are important to us. They are a blessing, a joy and a responsibility that we have been given. So let us embrace them, hold them in our arms, bless them, and thank God for them.
We are saved by Grace. We cannot know God, be forgiven, get to heaven, or be saved from our sin, unless God is willing to give us grace.
Graceless Amazing Grace
The song Amazing Grace says, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” Now listen to this article I found online:
“In recent years, the words of the hymn have been changed in some religious publications to downplay a sense of imposed self-loathing by its singers. The second line,’That saved a wretch like me!’ has been rewritten as ‘That saved and strengthened me’, ‘that saved a soul like me’, or ‘that saved and set me free’…. Part of the reason for this change has been the altered interpretations of what wretchedness and grace means. Newton’s Calvinistic view of redemption and divine grace formed his perspective that he considered himself a sinner so vile that he was unable to change his life or be redeemed without God’s help. Yet his lyrical subtlety… leaves the hymn’s meaning open to a variety of Christian and non-Christian interpretations. “Wretch” also represents a period in Newton’s life when he saw himself outcast and miserable, as he was when he was enslaved in Sierra Leone; his own arrogance was matched by how far he had fallen in his life.”
No it doesn’t! I’m guessing that John Newton would lose his mind after reading something like that! Actually, yes, he did believe that he was “a sinner so vile that he was unable to change his life or be redeemed without God’s help”! That’s why it’s called “AMAZING GRACE”! He didn’t deserve it. He had no power, no ability, no good, no righteousness, no positivity, no merit, and could not have be redeemed except for the GRACE – the undeserved favour of God who gave His Son Jesus Christ as an atoning sacrifice for His sins! That’s the whole point of the song!
He was lost and blind – he had no way of knowing his own plight, no way of finding his way out, no way of seeing clearly – but now, because of God’s grace, he had been found and his eyes were opened! It was God’s grace that showed him that relieved his fears – not his own strength. It was God’s grace that brought him through many dangers, toils and snares – not his own intellegence. He knew that one day, “the earth will dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine”… it will be the end, nothing more to be done, everything utterly destroyed – except for those who are saved by God’s Grace. What makes this so Amazing is that God didn’t have to do any of it. John knew that all of the blessings, the protection, the renewal wasn’t something John deserved, but that God did out of His love. And it blew John Newton’s mind! What. Amazing. Grace!
Grace Cannot Be Achieved
I hope you have experienced this, because it is the fuel by which we live. It is the motivation for our good deeds, our worship, our sacrifice, our evangelism, our fellowship, our church, and any forgiveness we give to others. Once we realize the weight, the depth, the depravity of our wretchedness, we begin to understand enormity of the grace of God and the cost of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross!
I want to read a bit more of the article because it talks about the reason that people don’t like to sing the word “wretch”:
“The communal understanding of redemption and human self-worth has changed since Newton’s time. Since the 1970s, self-help books, psychology, and some modern expressions of Christianity have viewed this disparity in terms of grace being an innate quality within all people who must be inspired or strong enough to find it: something to achieve. In contrast to Newton’s vision of wretchedness as his willful sin and distance from God, wretchedness has instead come to mean an obstacle of physical, social, or spiritual nature to overcome in order to achieve a state of grace, happiness, or contentment…. The secular popularity of “Amazing Grace” is due to the absence of any mention about God in the lyrics until the fourth verse…, and that the song represents the ability of humanity to transform itself instead of a transformation taking place at the hands of God.”
That’s simply ridiculous! The song definitely, DEFINITELY, does not say that transformation is in the hands of humanity! The song says that before God’s Grace we are “wretched, lost, blind, and afraid”. The grace and power we need to be saved, changed, transformed, cleansed, and holy, cannot come within. We do not have the capacity.
Take a broken, addicted, strung out junkie off the streets, poke out his eyes, and drop him into the middle of a jungle. Then tell him to figure out a way to heal himself, feed himself, get healthy, grow new eyes, and find his way out of the jungle – alone. That’s what these fools are singing. It’s utter nonsense.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, in the Bible, says that every human being is a sinner by nature, and by choice. Our sins carry the penalty of death – physical death, and spiritual death. The bible says:
- “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12)
- “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)
- “…dead in our trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)
Let me revise what I said before. Take a broken, addicted, strung out junkie off the streets, poke out his eyes… SHOOT HIM DEAD… and drop him into the middle of the jungle. Then tell him to heal himself and find a way out.
Romans 3:10-20 gives us a picture of what God sees when He looks at humanity:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
And the problem with being dead is that means you cannot do anything any more. Until we are made alive by Christ, we are essentially lifeless zombies, alive in body, but dead in spirit, only able to do things that God sees as disgusting. That’s why our good deeds, charitable works, positive vibes, striving for goodness, worldly gain, moral behaviour – all these things that people do to earn God’s favour, merit, and grace – all the things they believe will give them credit with God so that He owes them a place in heaven – carry no meaning with God before we are saved by His grace. He wants nothing from anyone who doesn’t come in the name of Jesus Christ His Son.
So not only are these people wrong in changing the song by saying that salvation is in the hands of humanity, but they are also wrong because they say you can do good things in order to earn grace. For them, grace is available to those who earn it. You’ve heard it before – “God helps those who help themselves.” Garbage! Grace, by its very nature – by definition – cannot be earned. If it is earned, then it is a payment, not grace! Grace is “undeserved”.
People want to be able to say that they did something to achieve their own salvation. They want to be proud of themselves for what they’ve done. They conquered, climbed, outwitted, outplayed, outlasted… and God was so impressed that He opened up heaven to them. James 4:9 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Despite what most of the world believes, God is not up in heaven with a scorecard, or a tally sheet, weighing the good and bad things in the life of all humans. He does not say that if you have more good than bad then you get to come to heaven and have a good life. Also, unlike some religions and what almost every movie or tv show about angels claims, there is no the magic-salvation trump card… like martyring yourself, giving away lots of money, helping someone, or anything else… that makes it so God owes you one and He has to let you into His presence! Nothing could possibly be further from the truth according to Scripture! We are saved by grace.
Grace is “one of the distinctive features of the religion of the Bible. No other system of religious thought, past or present, contains an emphasis on divine grace comparable to that of the Bible.” (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible.)
- “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
- “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…” (Colossians 1:21-22 NIV)
- “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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.” (Ephesians 2:4-9)
We need to understand our wretchedness, and how much we don’t deserve what we have been given by Jesus, before we can understand the love and grace of God.
How This Ties to Psalm 15
Now, lets go back to Psalm 15: “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?”
These traits that we have been going through are a picture of what a life looks like after God has gotten a hold of it, not before. This is what a life looks like after God has taken a sinner, who could not save themselves, who loved sin and self more than God, who worshipped created things rather than creator, who made themselves enemies of God, and – even though they don’t deserve it one little bit –showed them their sin, brought them back from the dead, and then accepts them on the basis of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as payment for all of their sin. This is the picture of a person who understands wretchedness and grace.
Anyone who believes and accepts this is given a new nature that no longer loves sin, but hates it. Yes, they still fight with their old nature, old habits, temptations, and the world… but they have a new perspective, and new desires, that they’ve never had before. They are now a member of the body of Christ, part of God’s family. They desire to love as they have been loved, serve as they have been served, and worship and obey the one that created and saved them. That desire and the knowledge of the grace of God, helps is be people of Integrity.
It helps us be Truthful. Why? Because Jesus always tells us the truth.
It helps us be Loving. Why? Because “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and as we come to Him to be filled with love, it overflows and spills on those around us.
It helps reject vile things and Honouring the faithful. Why? Because God has given us eyes to see right from wrong and has given us honour when we had no honour.
It helps us be Trustworthy. Why? We don’t let people down because God never lets us down.
Use Wealth Well
And the final trait, which we are looking at today, is that a Christian uses their money and possessions in a Godly way. One “…who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent.” (vs 5)
I took time to go through the gospel again this morning because I believe it is the the key motivation to using our wealth well. We see our money and possessions much differently when we realize how much grace we have received from God. Without an understanding of our wretchedness, and our grace, there is no way we can be generous, because we will think that all we have is ours. We’ll think that we earned it. That it belongs to us. That we control it. That we get to decide what happens to it. That we get to keep it, sell it or destroy it if we want to, because it’s ours! Knowing our own wretchedness, and experiencing the grace of God gives us a radically different perspective.
A person who understands the grace and generosity of God looks at their money and stuff and says, “None of this is mine. It’s all God’s.”
I know what my heart is like. I know that, if left to myself, I would be selfish with this and it would cause me and others harm. I would worship it, and become addicted to it. I would use it for my own pleasure and to hurt those I don’t like. I would stack it up in great piles, and sit back and look at it and think of how wonderful I am, how powerful I am, how rich I am, how self-sufficient I am.
Or, if I didn’t have enough, I would look at the emptiness of my pockets, and I would despair, and sell out, and do any number of things just to get some. I am thankful that this is God’s and not mine. Were it not for my knowledge that God is the great provider and that I deserve nothing, I would be jealous of those who have more than me or feel pride for being better than those who have less. And if I did give some away, it would be so I would feel better, so I would get the credit, so I could show everyone how wonderful I am.
Don’t Use Wealth to Take Advantage
There are two parts to this verse. One “…who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent.”
They are two sides of the same coin. First, is that a believer lends their money [which also includes their things] without “interest”. In other words, if you are a “have”, then don’t take advantage of the “have nots”. But it is more than that. It also means that we are generous.
The Law of Moses said that in a time of crisis, a Jew could lend money or things to another Jew, but wasn’t allowed to charge interest. It was a way to make sure that the poor weren’t taken advantage of. A believer deals generously and fairly with all people, and never uses their wealth as an unfair advantage.
Wealth is not a bad thing, and there are many times in the Bible that God blesses people with great wealth. A poor person is not more holy than a rich person. This is all about the heart. What the Bible does warn about is how difficult having wealth makes it for a person to be in a right relationship with God. Jesus Himself says in Mark 10:23, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” He also says in Luke 16:13, “No servant 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.”
Money and stuff can be very distracting to a person’s spiritual life and relationship with God, if the heart isn’t kept in check. But that doesn’t mean that a wealthy person cannot be a believer. It simply means that they will be exposed to different temptations than a poorer person would be. For example, they will find having total dependence on God harder. They may have a hard time practicing the discipline of patience because they can just go out and get what they want when they want it.
God Commands us to Be Generous
God is extremely concerned about the poor, and how the poor are treated. This is where generosity kicks in. It’s not just about not using your wealth to take advantage, but being proactive in helping those in need. Being Generous was commanded in the Law. Deuteronomy 15:7-8 said:
“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.”
That wasn’t a suggestion, or a pithy thought – it was the law.
Not being a cheapskate was in the Law too:
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 23:22)
What God was teaching the people of Israel was that, to be a worshipper of His, meant to be generous. When he looked at the nation of Israel in Isaiah 58:6-7 he saw that they were doing all the right religious acts, like fasting, praying, and keeping the special days… but acting religious wasn’t what God wanted. Being religious is no substitute for being godly.
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful” (Matthew 5:7), and “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) . He told the parable of the Good Samaritan where a man generously helps out another man, even though they were enemies, and then said, “go and do likewise.” And very importantly in Luke 6:38 He said:
“…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
If you are one of the wealthy, which some of you are compared to others in Canada, and all of us are compared to others in the world, then Jesus commands us to be generous. Remember, I’m not talking about your tithe here. This is over and above your tithe. What we’re talking about is Generosity. My guess is that if you are not tithing, then you’re probably not generous either, and money and stuff is your idol and you need to repent. Jesus says generosity isn’t a single action – a one-time thing you do to feel good – it’s a lifestyle.
The other part of this verse is says we are to “not accept a bribe against the innocent.” Here we see the others side. This is speaking to those who are not burdened with the problem of having too much wealth. This is for those who don’t believe they have enough. The temptation for the rich is to be selfish or to use their money in a sinful way that hurts people. The temptation for the poor is to… be selfish or try to get money in a sinful way that hurts people.
A poorer person may be tempted to do something shady or illegal so they can or get paid – even if it means doing something that harms someone else. A believer values people over money and stuff, because God values people over money and stuff, and would never trade a possession for a person.
Examples of Selfishness
People do this in big ways and little ways all the time. Believers too. Here’s some examples of ways that we are selfish, and maybe we don’t even recognize it:
Not Tipping: They don’t tip their server, even though they know she’s on minimum wage and essentially lives off of their tips. There’s lots of excuses, but think about it: not tipping is basically trading that little bit of money in your pocket, for the dignity, worth and work of a person who served you. It’s only a few bucks to you, but if it’s repeated over and over by many people, that server won’t make enough.
I’ve had friends that have worked in restaurants as servers and they said that they hated working Sunday afternoons because that’s when the Christians would come in after service. They always had the most complaints, cause the most problems, and tipped the least.
Selling Junk: Another way to be selfish is to junky or overpriced products. Have you ever sold something to a garage sale or online that you knew didn’t work right? Have you built a reputation for doing good work, but started to slip because you wanted to make a little more? That’s selfishness.
So is trying to get people locked into a multi-level-marketing thing so you can make some cash off of them. When you know it’s just a scam, but you convince them to invest anyway because you want the money – and trade your friendship and reputation for some money – you are being selfish.
Prizing Possessions: Some people have valued possessions that they rank above people. No one can touch it, hold it, play with it, or even see it… because that possession is more valuable then the person who wants to look at it. And if that thing ever got broke, they punish the person, hate the person, scream at the person who did it. That trading card, that tv, that porcelain plate, that watch, that china cabinet, that car, that boat, that ipod, that dog or cat, that dvd collection, that craft, that shirt, that piece of memorobelia… is NOT worth more than your relationship with any human beings. Can you have something special and take care of it? Sure… but where does it rank in your heart?
Trade Health for Wealth: Another way to be selfish is to your health – or your family’s health – so you will have more. This is the person that want’s more stuff, a better vacation, a new car, a bigger house, more toys – and to do it, they make their spouse and kids eat poor quality food, not buy vitamins, not get a gym membership – etc. They trade health for wealth.
Selling products that are addictive (tobacco and drugs for example), is a form of selfishness. It elevates your gain over people’s health and wellbeing. You are using them for money.
Trade Family for Wealth: Other people will trade having more money for their family members. It’s too costly to keep that family member in their own home because of the lifestyle change, the extra equipment, and someone might have to work less (or stop working) and that means less money and less time. So they put their family member into a government home somewhere, or in a cheap place doesn’t take care of them, because they want to use their money for other things. That is a terrible sin. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Abortion is an example of this selfishness. Put aside the very small percentage of babies conceived in rape and incest, and you’re left with the vast majority of babies who are murdered because they would be an inconvenient expense to the mother or father (usually the mother). They murder their baby so they can have more freedom, more money, keep their job, keep their status, keep their career, their lifestyle – they trade their baby, a precious gift given by God, for worldly wealth. It’s sickening.
Trade People for Wealth: Some people will trade other people (or their very selves) — their bodies, their sexuality, their morality, their psychological and emotional health, their future, or someone else’s future for money. They will do horrible, evil, soul scaring things, for the sake of gaining wealth.
Slavery, human trafficking, making, using and buying pornography, are all forms of selfishness. Trading a person’s dignity – someone else’s or your own – for financial gain is demonic. You, and they, are created in God’s image and have great worth (Gen 1:26) and deserve your love and respect. To sell yourself or another to sin, to trade your very heart for wealth, is so very wrong.
God has NEVER EVER condoned racial, man-stealing, slavery or human trafficking – He hates it. Exodus 21:16 says,
“Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found sin possession of him, shall be put to death.”
Paul, in the New Testament, condemns “Enslavers” and kidnappers. To do so is to commit the worst form of theft. God can provide. Selling yourself or selling someone else is never the way to freedom.
Jesus Wouldn’t Trade You for Anything
So the application here is simple. Just like the rich, even the poorest of the poor can be selfish and sin in pursuit of money and possessions.
God desires that we live our lives and our wealth in the light of the Amazing Grace of God, and His boundless generosity. Is there anything that Jesus has not given for us? He offered His own life for our sake.
Romans 8:31-32 says:
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Is there any limit to His grace and generosity? No! He is a good Father, infinitely wealthy, and used His resources to create us, redeem us, and continues to help us. He gave us His Son. He values us very highly, and so we are to value ourselves and others highly. Which means we live a generous and unselfish lifestyle.
Consider this. At His temptation Jesus, Satan offered Jesus a lot of things in exchange for our souls – but there was nothing that he could give that Jesus would trade for us. Satan offered Him every kingdom of the world if He would choose to not go to the cross and suffer for us. “Here’s the whole world! All you have to do is not die for these ungrateful, sinful, wretches.” But there was no amount of wealth that would buy Him off. He loved us. He traded His life for ours.
In the same way, we are to prioritize people, and will never take anything from anyone if it means that it will hurt someone else. Let us live our life in the light of God’s Amazing, Generous, Abundant Grace!