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March 30th, 2017

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God… Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:3-4,8, NIV)

The church’s obligation to care for the neglected widows was not greater than the family’s obligation. We have responsibility to our parents and our grandparents, to provide for them.

There are some people in this world - and so far as I can tell they exist in every nation on earth - who are always looking for a way to make others pay for what they should pay for. They are users, manipulators, stingy, and greedy. When there is something that they should pay they first try to find a way for someone else to pay for it. They look for a way out of every responsibility and obligation.

They may appear simply as being careful with money, but something else is going on in their hearts. Many people are careful with money while remaining honest and responsible. There is nothing morally wrong with driving a hard bargain, with seeking to get the most for your money. But there is something wrong in shirking responsibility, of being blatantly dishonest and selfish.

Our attitude toward all that we spend - whether it is money or energy or any commodity - should be marked by faith in God and obedience to His command.

Faith in God motivates us to give to the things of God. It is marked by gratitude and expectation of God’s future blessings. We work and we give and we spend in faith that all of this comes from God. In faith we do not need to live in fear or insecurity. We can trust God in all things. While not being foolishly optimistic, or blatantly irresponsible, we can live and share and enjoy life.

Obedience is also an expression of our faith, and it should be heart-felt and not done begrudgingly. We should be grateful for our parents, recognizing the sacrifices they made for us and repay them in kind. We should be happy to do so.

We should also give to the support of the Lord’s work, the church, in gratitude, “For the Lord loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Our fears should not dominate our thoughts, rather we should exercise faith in God in all circumstances.

Suppose the whole economy collapsed and every investment you made was lost. What would your faith be in? What or who would you turn to for help? First, the Christian would turn to God and pray, looking for His hand. Secondly, we would look to see what we could do with our own resources that remained - our abilities, opportunities, etc. Thirdly, we would look to our family and perhaps to our friends.

So if that terrible day would come, how would you rather face it? With a God who rewards faithfulness? With a heart that is confidence in its own ability? With family and friends with whom we have shared life’s blessings? Or do you think you would be better to face this all alone?

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. We will trust in Him and give Him the first fruit of our earnings. We will look for His provision and believe that He can enable us to work and support ourselves. We will be generous with family and friends and trust that, as the Scripture says, “A generous man will prosper, whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25).

1 Timothy, Christian Giving , , , ,

Friendship with the World

March 1st, 2017

You are like unfaithful wives, flirting with the glamour of this world, and never realising that to be the world’s lover means becoming the enemy of God! Anyone who deliberately chooses to love the world is thereby making himself God’s enemy. (James 4:4 Phillips Translation)

Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamour of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die. (1 John 2:15-17 Phillips Translation)

This is the first day of the season of Lent. If Lent has any practical meaning to the church of Jesus Christ today, it is in the area of confronting the worldliness that creeps into our souls.

So, let me ask you: Are you worldly? Are your values and goals in life different from the man on the street who does not know Christ, or are they the same? This is a very important question for those who know Christ are to live a different kind of life, and the difference is that we can never be comfortable with the values of the world. Our values as God’s children are higher, nobler, and better.

We are commanded to be perfect just as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48). We are called to love the world with the love of redemption, just as God loves the world and sent the Christ to redeem us from sin. But we are commanded not to love the ways or values of the world, for to do so puts us in conflict with God.

In the church we are becoming increasingly worldly. If we were to ask the average Christian who he admires and what he admires about them, the answers would probably come down to the amount of money they make, the power they wield, the pleasures they partake in, or the popularity they enjoy. In that way, we are no different from the world that admires people for the same reasons. The lusts of the flesh and of the eyes, and the pride of life have captured our hearts too often and too deeply.

There may be reason to admire someone who works hard, who has earned his success or has mastered a skill. We may admire them not from the worldly perspective but from the perspective of Christian morality - admiring the quality of the person without lusting after the worldly rewards they enjoy. But too often we just want the rewards - we want the crown but not the cross.

This sets us up against the values and the work of God. Many Christians now play the lottery, hoping they will win. The traditional view of Christian ethics says that gambling is wrong for two reasons: First, because you might lose and that would be bad; second, because you might win and that would be worse. You would then be tempted to think that that is the way to succeed in life, to just cast it all on luck and not on anything more profound.

The good old Protestant Work Ethic held to the idea that once a man becomes a Christian he then owed it to God and to himself and his family, and to his fellowman to work hard, honestly, and sincerely as an expression of his faith. Proverbs 18:12 says, “One who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” As the Apostle Paul wrote:

…Give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Eph. 4:27-28 ESV)

For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thes. 3:11-12 ESV)

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.(Col. 3:23-24 ESV)

So there is a Christian duty to work, to work sincerely and honestly, trusting in the Lord. And by so doing we help society in general. We are also to share with others the salary we receive - this especially relates to tithing to the church, giving a tenth of our income to enable the work of God to go on and the church of Jesus Christ to be built up.

And the tithe or the lack of it reveals how worldly we are. The person who professes to be a Christian yet is unwilling to give a tenth of his income to the work of the Lord reveals that his values are no different than the world’s values.

So, let me end as I began by asking if you are worldly. How are you different from those around you who do not know Christ? Are you more grateful, more joyful, more compassionate, more honest, more holy? Or are you just like them?

Christian Giving, Lenten Devotionals (Fastenzeit) , , ,