Archive for October, 2017
“And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager’” (Luke 16:2).
Having seen the Pharisees, who are described as lovers of money (v.14), scoff at the teachings of Jesus in regard to handling finances, I am drawn with a greater urgency to understand this distinctive biblical approach to stewardship that pleases God and displeases men. The starting place is an awareness of a personal accounting that must be given related to the handling of the resources the Father has entrusted to our care. This is best accomplished when we understand ownership; that it is his and not ours.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets’” (Matthew 23:29-30).
Israel had a pattern of revering prophets of the past, while disregarding the prophetic voices of the present. By claiming they would not have done as their fathers, these purveyors of religion indict themselves, for they are persecuting, accusing, and will, ultimately, put to death the promised Prophet of God—Jesus Christ. We must be guarded against a religious heritage of the past that seeks to drown out the voice of the Spirit today.
“and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Did you notice the cause and effect? ”He will” and “there will.” Because of what God has done, and is doing, there will be an effect that is vastly different from anything we have ever known before. All the pain and heartache associated with this life will ultimately give way to an eternal life where these things are no more.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:25,28).
Performance based religion concerns itself with “doing.” It’s a preoccupation of doing enough good things and not doing enough bad things that it leaves you feeling good about yourself; maybe, even, a bit entitled and deserving of God’s favor. The motivation for this type of religion is an image of God driven by fear; that he is the divine police officer waiting for you to mess up so he can make your life miserable. The life of faith, however, is driven by love; a love that has no fear (1 John 4:18). Those who live their faith and serve out of love will far exceed the achievements and kingdom contributions of those living with the paralyzing fear of messing up.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:13,15).
The hypocrisy of the religious establishment, evident in its proselyting, is filled with tragic irony. That is, while willing to go to great lengths to see itself replicated in others, their religious zeal actually becomes a stumbling block to those desiring the kingdom life God offers. The result for both is a fate far worse.
“Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am” (Psalm 39:4).
To be mindful of what happens at the end of our days has a profound impact on how we live this day. Life is too short and too valuable to be spent on petty pursuits and grudges. We all have a beginning and an ending. What ultimately matters is what we do with the time in between.
“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:23-24).
Religious people seem to differentiate themselves on the basis of matters that just don’t matter. They tend to espouse some special nuanced knowledge and arrogantly flaunt secret revelations withheld from the rest of us seeking to walk by faith. A major conflict with Jesus in dealing with these religious types isn’t that they did too much but, rather, their doing of too little that mattered. They do that which makes them look respectable in the eyes of men, but offers to others nothing of lasting benefit or impact.
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah. And He left them and went away” (Matthew 14:4).
Being familiar with the contentious relationship he shared with the Pharisees and Sadducees, it doesn’t take much imagination to understand why Jesus walked away; he knew that their closed minds could not be changed, that they were more interested in fighting for the maintenance of their familiar, comfortable, and empowering religious structures. These two groups embody what is, perhaps, the worst attribute of a people, supposedly, devoted to the things of God—an unteachable spirit. A faith not interested in being stretched and challenged is but another counterfeit item on the shelf of worldwide religious expression.
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 14:4).
Such strong words demand our attention. To seek a sign from a God is the characteristic of those who are evil, and whose allegiances cannot be trusted. Yet, how often we hear others ascribe some type of elite spiritual status to those who use the language of “seeking a sign from God” or “laying a fleece before God.” In light of what Jesus says regarding them, we would do well to check our admiration at the door and ask ourselves why we are so gullible. Religion needs props for its belief, while faith marches forward into the unknown in the hope of the resurrection.
“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).
What a unique testimony of faith. While we have the testimony of scripture as a record of what God has done and can do, Abraham had no such luxury nor any prior knowledge of God’s saving power. His was a journey into the unknown. If life takes you only to those places that are safe, manageable, and predictable then where is your faith taking you?