Christianity 201

February 22, 2021

Reaping Where You Did Not Sow

Titus 1:7

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.
(NIV)

dollar signNot wanting to overstate this, but in the past year we’ve watched as people who were stewards of ministry organizations, including those responsible for the finances of those same organizations, have proved themselves to be less than good stewards of what well-meaning donors had entrusted to them. Some have shown themselves, in their other endeavors to be “pursuing dishonest gain.”

This should not be. The ESV version of today’s verse says, “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain.

In a world of capitalism, there is a sense in which person “A” is exploiting person “B” by way of their possession of a scarce resource or a unique talent. My plumber or electrician (both Christians who have been very fair with us over the years) have skills and abilities that I do not have and the KJV scripture reminds us that “the workman is worthy of his hire.” (NIV/NLT: deserves his/their wages/pay.)

When found out, we sometimes expect God will just step in and seize control of the situation, but sometimes he allows things to go unchecked. One of the more interesting articles here at C201 is a 2014 one called “Why Did Jesus Allow Judas to Manage the Petty Cash?” Matt Perlman wrote,

Why did Jesus let Judas carry the money bag during his ministry, knowing in his omniscience that he was stealing from it (John 12:6)? One blogger humorously points out “one is tempted to offer the Lord some consulting on good stewardship.”

But then goes further,

…If it’s surprising that Jesus would have let Judas carry the money bag, it should be even more shocking that he let Judas be an apostle at all. For the task of going out and preaching the gospel, which Judas participated in, is even more significant than carrying the moneybag.

(Now you want to read the whole article, right?)

While we’re reminiscing about previous articles, a 2013 article from (re)Versing Verses which we called “Two Different Measures” looked at this verse:

You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 25:15 NIV

and noted:

The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him [Proverbs 11:1]. This is a matter of integrity, and often it’s so easy to gain a little here and there that we tend to do it naturally and think of it as harmless. It isn’t harmless though. It harms your integrity. The Lord frowns on it. It incurs the Lord’s wrath – For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly [Deu 25:16]. Let us learn to be honest and have integrity in small things and big things alike.

How do I know if my “gain” is “unjust”? A page at Knowing Jesus provides some scriptures to help us make the call. (They have 12 key verses, I added #3 and #7)

  1. It has come about through violence. “So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors.” Prov. 1.19
  2. It is achieved through misrepresentation and lies. “The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue Is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.” Prov 21.6
  3. It is accomplished through trickery and deception. “The LORD detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.” Prov 11.1
  4. It exploits the poor. “He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself Or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” Prov 22.16
  5. It exploits done by others. “As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid, So is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly; In the midst of his days it will forsake him, And in the end he will be a fool.” Jeremiah 17.11
  6. It involves not properly paying staff or contractors. “Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness and his upper rooms without justice, Who uses his neighbor’s services without pay and does not give him his wages” Jeremiah 22.13 also “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord” James 5.4
  7. There are underlying, unjust motives. “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” Prov. 16.2

I think the word “pursues” is not to be overlooked in this phrase as well. See resources on this at OpenBible.info.

  1. It exhausts you. “Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. Prov. 23.4
  2. There is never contentment. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
  3. It can cost you your soul. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8.36 also Luke 18.25 “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
  4. It may cause you to neglect the poor. “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.” Prov. 28.27
  5. It will divide your loyalties. “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.” Prov 16.13
  6. Achieving it may be elusive or temporary. “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Luke 12 18-20
  7. It can leave you miserable. “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Rev. 3:17

Growing up in the church founded by Dr. Oswald J. Smith, people were encouraged to invest their money, time and talents in world missions with this motto,

You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.

In other words, you can invest it in the Kingdom of God (“where moth and rust do not corrupt“) and where it lasts.

Someone else also shared with me that

The main thing that Bible teaching has against money is that it perishes with use.

A 2015 C201 post, “Proverbs on Poverty…and Riches” contained a number of scriptures on this (unfortunately without references) and ended with this one:

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

So while we may have determined we have not pursued dishonest gain, we need to be careful we haven’t become caught up in pursuing gain itself.

December 7, 2020

Favoritism Forbidden

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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NIV.James.2.1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

I’ve seen it at Christian concerts and apparently it’s become increasingly common in celebrity-driven megachurches: VIP sections for the well-heeled or well-known.

Just as the author of a Christian book might seek the endorsements of Christian authors or pastors to include on the inside page of their latest title, I suppose in some respects having the rich and the famous on the front row might be seen as an endorsement of the church or pastor. It lends credibility to the message.

The problem there is that the message of Jesus is powerful and authoritative. It requires no additional endorsement. Besides, if it contains what my friends in the South call “a heapin’ helpin'” of scripture* then we have this promise:

TPT.Hebrews.4.12 For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, and it pierces more sharply than a two-edged sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts.

Jesus didn’t need the endorsement of key leaders, in fact, he seemed to go out of his way to discourage their future attendance (unless, of course, they took his message to heart.) James continues,

NIV.James.2.5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

But of course, this isn’t a passage about seeking endorsement or credibility, it’s a passage about showing favoritism. The guy with the expensive wardrobe and his like are being given the best seats in the house. Remember, this is before the era of ticketed concerts, or, as we’ve seen in the last decade, ticketed arena events featuring rock star preachers. The people James has in view aren’t getting their front row reclining seats on the basis of a huge donation — it doesn’t say key donors — though perhaps on the basis of a donation hoped for.

It’s a simple case of putting one person above another.

That’s just wrong.


*I don’t actually have friends in the South, and according to a popular search engine, nobody has ever said that phrase before. However, it’s still a good rule in preaching to include more that’s Bible and less that’s you.

July 6, 2019

A Personal Study and Service Outline on Favoritism

A year ago we introduced you to a site containing liturgical readings with an unusual name, The Peanut Gallery. Art Chartier is a retired pastor who lives in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Although we usually post at 5:30 PM, EST, I know many of you read this in the morning, for which it was written.

You are strongly encouraged to read the posts here at C201 on their original sites. For this, click the header below.

James 2:1-13 ~ Faith and Favoritism

Saturday Morning

+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Opening:  (A Collect for Sabbath Rest – Saturday)

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and set aside a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared to meet you in worship, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
__________

Reading from the Book of James 2:1-13 (NLT)

A Warning against Prejudice

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.

So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
__________

Morning Reflection:

Faith and Favoritism

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ
if you favor some people over others?

–  James 2:1 –

In today’s reading, James comes right to the point: Showing personal favoritism is inconsistent for Christians who worship the glorious Lord Jesus Christ. The example offered is preferential seating of the rich and powerful at Christian gatherings.

In regard to the poor:

+ God has chosen the believing poor to be rich in faith.
+ The believing poor will inherit the Kingdom of God.

In regard to the rich:

+ The unbelieving rich oppress the poor.
+ The unbelieving rich slander Jesus Christ.

The problem of showing favoritism in Christian assemblies is that it treats people exactly opposite to the way God treats them.

Questions for consideration:

  • Can you think of examples where the rich and powerful have been given preferential treatment at Christian gatherings? Please explain.
  • Can you think of examples of people who expect preferential treatment at Christian assemblies? Please explain.
  • Does focusing a church’s ministry on one segment of the population, e.g. youth, or community leaders, amount to showing them preferential treatment? Please explain.
  • Can you think of people in your Christian assembly who are marginalized, e.g. poor, sick, or elderly? How can you show them courtesy and compassion? Please explain.

__________

Morning Prayer:

Prayer for the Poor and Powerless:

Heavenly Father: We pray especially today for the poor and powerless whom you hold close to your heart. Open our hearts to receive them as you do – rich in faith, though poor in worldly status. Fill us with compassion for the very young, the old, the disabled, the stranger – that we might honor them with our friendship and express our concern for them with acts of kindness and love. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

__________

“All the Poor and Powerless” – All Sons & Daughters

__________

Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

June 1, 2013

Two Different Measures

As we begin a new month, before we start today, I just want to say how absolutely amazed I am at the people who are blogging Bible study and devotional material on a regular basis. We’ve featured at least a couple of hundred by now, though we probably only see a very small tip of the iceberg; but clearly God is working in the lives of many people in many ways. Though the readership of some may be very small, there is no way — and I say this from personal experience — you can accurately measure what it’s doing for them to be posting material like this each day.

Today’s feature comes from a blog with a creative name re-Ver(sing) Verses; and appeared under the title Deuteronomy 25:15. Click the link to read at source, and again, you’re encouraged to explore the rest of the blog. Also, I need to add that when we feature the writing of others, we usually leave it to you to click through and see any related graphics or pictures, but I had to include this one.  Zec, the author, follows this format each day with a brief, analysis, conclusion and sometimes other sections.

Deuteronomy 25 15

You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.Deuteronomy 25:15 | NIV | Other Versions | Context

Brief

Deuteronomy 25 continues a long string of laws that have been put in place for this new people after they had escaped from captive in Egypt. In particular, Deuteronomy 25 looks into laws dealing with criminals [Deu 25:1-3], a law on animals/tools of labor [Deu 25:4], laws on family [Deu 25:5-12], and laws on justice [Deu 25:13-19]. Zoning in onto the laws on justice, there were two laws stated in this chapter – one on general justice [Deu 25:13-16]; and the other a promise of justice against the Amalekites [Deu 25:17-19]. Focusing on the law on general justice, we shall examine some common tools of the trade – weights and measures as we look into how important it is for us to lead our lives with integrity so that we can enjoy our lives to the fullest in God.

Analysis

accurate and honest weights – Back in those times they use scales and weights to weigh a lot of things – Leviticus tells us about ephahs and hins [Lev 19:36], ephahs a measure of all things dry [Exo 16:36], like corn; hin a measure of all things liquid, like oil or wine [Exo 30:24]. When you do business with somebody else, and you’re selling corn, it is easy for you to cheat a few grams off every buyer for per 100g that you sell. Your hands move so fast to weigh it and sweep them into a bag that your buyers will never find out. Or your weighs and your scales could be weighted, and your buyers would never know – they won’t usually have any means to measure it at home, and even if they do, they usually won’t bother measuring what they bought.

accurate and honest measures – And there are some things that are sold not by weight but by length, like cloth. Recently I had to buy some cloth for an exhibition, and I was trying very hard to keep my eyes on the ruler, but the seller measured it so fast that I wouldn’t be able to tell if he did give me exactly 5 yards, or if I only got a length closer to four-and-a-half yards at the end of it. I’m sure they sold cloth back in the old days, but even till today these inaccurate measures and dishonest weights still exist.

What does the Bible say about them? The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him [Proverbs 11:1]. This is a matter of integrity, and often it’s so easy to gain a little here and there that we tend to do it naturally and think of it as harmless. It isn’t harmless though. It harms your integrity. The Lord frowns on it. It incurs the Lord’s wrath – For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly [Deu 25:16]. Let us learn to be honest and have integrity in small things and big things alike.

Symbolically

Bias and deviation – we often hold some kind of prejudice against certain people, and some kind of bias for others. It is easy to be quick to judge somebody just by his race, his size, his face – it is easy for us to have double standards – we often have two different measures in our house [Deu 25:14]. But no – honest weights and accurate measures – let us measure a man for his own worth, and let us weigh a character not with a prefixed weight. Let us not judge, for who are we to judge? Let us accept those of low positions. A man who has integrity has no space in his heart for bias and deviation.

so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you – This is a promise. A promise from God, a promise to be fulfilled by God. Who says we cannot enjoy our lives in the grace of the Lord? In the context of this verse this promise is a huge one – to live long in the promised land – land of milk and honey, a great and fruitful land. Back in those days, people had longer lifespans that we do today, and the promise of a lengthy lifespan is a great one to enjoy. Compare the blessing of longevity for honest people to the curse for the dishonest people – the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days

[Psalm 55:23]. When we talk about blessings of longevity, one other instance comes into mind – Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you [Exo 20:12,Deu 5:16|Article]. This is a great blessing that comes after we’ve fulfilled important duties of what God expects of us.

Conclusion

I had to step aside from myself as I studied this verse, for, who am I kidding? I am certainly by far not the most upright person, especially when it comes to little things. I often find my integrity lacking when it comes to little, little things. It is hard to always be gracious and magnanimous all the time – traits which are often demanded by integrity – especially so when you’re short on money or you’re in a hurry. It’s hard to be rooted to the ground, it’s hard not to jump at a fantastic opportunity, albeit a dubious one. It’s hard to call a wrong as a wrong and a right as a right, especially when you might have much to lose.

We must, though. We must. The Bible didn’t say, ‘you should’ or ‘you ought to’. We must – because if we do not, we will incur God’s wrath knowingly. Sometimes what constitutes as right is a blurry picture. Let us steer clear of the grey areas that we so often pounce at, and instead, build our characters based on integrity. If it is right, let us call it as right. If it is wrong, let us call it as wrong and seek to better ourselves next time. It’s hard, but certainly possible.

With God’s grace, let us have honest and accurate weights and measures.


Here’s another post from the same blog, where Zec tackles a tough passage, Matthew 15: 27.