Tag Archives: Greed

Hand in Hand

Have you ever felt resentful or a sense of reluctant obligation when they pass the offering plate?  Yeah, me too.  But that’s because us knuckle-headed humans don’t understand how an offering works.  First read this:

And He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”  (Luke 21:1-4)

How could her meager offering be worth “more?”  Apparently, the value of an offering is not measured in dollars and cents.  Makes sense (no pun intended) when you remember that God doesn’t need money.  Offerings are not about raising money for God.  So what is the reason for an offering?  The widow’s offering was “more” because her trust was greater.  With her copper coins, she was saying, “Father, this is all I have but I love you and trust You to provide.”

Offerings were set up by God as a tangible way to experience a relationship with Him based on thankfulness and trust.  That is why the offerings were to come from the first part of each harvest.  Thankfulness and trust.  See that? 

A friend of mine is an expert builder of houses.  One day, as I was trying, unsuccessfully, to tear out a soffit to remodel my kitchen, he happened to stop by.  He watched in silent amusement as I continued to get my butt kicked.  Then he asked, “Would you give me your hammer and let me work with you?”  I knew he was good and I was ready for help.  I gave him (offered him) the hammer and watched in amazement as, with a few expert strokes, he made real progress.

Offerings are like that.  God holds out His hand, not as a beggar or a bill collector, but with a smile on His face, asking, “Hey, you want to work together with me?  Got a hammer I could use?” 

Offerings are opportunities to strengthen our relationship with our loving Father, the relationship based on thankfulness and trust.  And it is a real thrill to join Him in what He is doing, working hand in hand.

Happy + Thanks + Giving Part 2

What do many rich guys have in common with toddlers?  You can find out in this continuation of the Thanksgiving message posted last time (See Happy + Thanks + Giving).

Have a great Thanksgiving Day tomorrow.  I’ll post the conclusion to this message on Friday.

Happy + Thanks + Giving – Part 1

One of the candidates for president implied he would make a good president because he has made a lot of money.  Is that really true?  Rich guys might be shrewd, but are they wise?  Not always.  God thinks some of them are fools.  Why?  Jesus explained it in His parable about a rich fool.  Here is a Thanksgiving message about that parable.

  • Couple of Notes:
    This audio message is split into three parts, which I’ll post on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  • The parable is found in Luke 12, beginning in verse 13.
  • When you hear me say “Remember this guy?” I’m referring to a picture I originally projected.  The picture showed a man who, as a result of persecution, was living with his family, out in the desert wilderness, with  only a few meager possessions.

Here’s the first part:

Finding the Holy Grail

Victor Borge used to hold out his wrist watch and say, “You like this watch?  My father gave it to me on his deathbed. (Then a perfectly timed pause…) Twenty five bucks!”  Hilarious, because who would try to weasel money from his son when he is just about to die?  Just as incomprehensible to us is the question James and John asked Jesus after He told them He was just about to die.  No, wait a minute… they didn’t ask Him, they got their Mother to do it!  Probably thought she could manipulate Jesus better…

” Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:20-21)

Are you kidding me?  Jesus had just told them He would be flogged and crucified and they are angling for the best seats?  It doesn’t make sense.  As Jesus points out, they really didn’t understand  what He had just told them.  They must have thought He was using symbolic terms when He said those things about being tortured and killed.  Jesus doesn’t criticize them for asking, but turns their insensitivity and ambition into an important lesson:

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”” (Matthew 20:22-23)

Jesus is going to be King, He is going to rule over a “Kingdom.”  But His path to that position for Him leads through the “cup” of suffering and sacrifice.  And absolute submission to the will of His Father.  Those who follow Jesus must understand that path and be prepared for that dynamic.  It’s not that all Christians will be crucified, or even all of the apostles (although most of them were tortured to death).  It is that following Jesus flips the idea of what it means to be influential.  

It’s not prestige and privilege, it’s humility and service.  That is the “cup,” the real Holy Grail of Jesus.  It is ironic how many stories have been written about how people, obsessed by greed, expended such effort to find the Holy Grail.  But the real “cup” of Jesus is right here to be taken up by anyone.  That is, anyone who first turns away from his own greed and ambition.

Chew on that…  More to come…

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Inspect the Fruit

Perhaps Joel Osteen and Kenneth Copeland don’t know Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…” (Matthew 6:19).  Maybe they don’t believe it, or somehow think it doesn’t apply to them.  But they are not the only ones who have failed to take Jesus seriously.  All their followers also ignore the seriousness of Jesus’ teaching – specifically these warnings:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  (Matthew 7:15)

Jesus knew there would always be con-artists who would take advantage of the gullible.  That’s why He said “Watch out!”   But how can we know who is legit and who is a fake?  Jesus said to look to see their fruit:

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.   (Matthew 7:16-18)

Just as apples naturally grow from apple trees, multimillion dollar mansions appear for a person who serves money and not God (Matthew 6:24).  Luxury automobiles, jets and expensive clothing naturally the one with an overblown ego.  Deceit and corruption are the natural fruit of a life more characterized by greed than charity.  Jesus says “Don’t be fooled!”  This kind of discernment does not contradict Jesus’ command, “Do not judge.” (Matthew 7:1)   We are not told to look down on these people, or presume to condemn them to Hell.  We are told to recognize that they are bad apples and watch out for them.

The most obvious “bad fruit” from these “false prophets” is that they disregard Jesus’ warning about what happens to such people:

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 7:19)

If they don’t believe those words of Jesus, why should you believe anything they tell you about Jesus?  Don’t be fooled!  Check the fruit!

 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:20)

Don’t Settle for Stuff

A very loving, generous and wealthy man invites you to come live with him as though you were a member of his family.  If you take him up on his offer, you can occupy one of the homes on his country estate, eat his food, and use his stuff.  You can ride his horses, race his ATV’s, swim in his pool, sail his boats; it’s all available to you.  Why?  Just because he loves you like a natural child.  He wants to wrap you into his family.

I know, I know, it’s not likely, but just humor me for a few lines here.

 You take him up on his offer and move in.  For awhile it is wonderful, but eventually you become discontent.  You would like different food, a faster ATV, more expensive horses.  And you really would like to own a few of these things.  Or a lot of them…    So, you watch for opportunities to steal from this man.  You are not caught – at least he doesn’t say anything about  your theft – but now you don’t really like to see him anymore.  It makes you feel bad to be with him. But you love your stuff.  It makes you feel superior.  You go to town and brag about how much you have.  Now others are envious of you and that makes you proud.   

Who would do such a thing?  Anyone, John says, who becomes dissatisfied with what he has and obsessed with getting more and better stuff.  Anyone, says John, who forgets the love and generosity of God who blessed him with everything he ever had – including life itself.  Anyone, says John, who thinks better stuff makes him more important.  Here’s how he said it:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.  (1 John 2:15-16)

When someone ignores the One Who invited him (or her) to live in His “estate” and focuses instead on getting better stuff, he loses his love for his Father.  He trades in his relationship with his loving Father for a bunch of stuff.  That may sound like no big deal, until you realize that he also has traded in life for death.  John says:

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17)

There’s a story in Genesis about a guy named Esau, who gave up his birthright as the firstborn son so he could have something to eat (Genesis 25:34).  He could have had it all forever, but he exchanged his place in his father’s family for a temporary helping of stuff.  Dumb.  Don’t settle for stuff instead of life.  Jesus taught this principle with these words:

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”  (John 6:27)

For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:33)

Don’t settle for stuff.

What Kind of Termites Anger God?

If that question doesn’t make sense, go back one post and read “On the Other Hand, God Really is Angry“.  When termites threatened to destroy my house, I exterminated them.  In Isaiah 5, God explains that He is going to eradicate the “termites” that threaten to destroy His garden.  He doesn’t use termites as a metaphor but, rather, a vineyard that does not produce good fruit because of people wrecking the place.  What kind of behavior does wreck the vineyard, so to speak?  What kind of termites does God see?  Before we answer that, have a look at verse 7, to see what “good fruit” looks like to the eyes of God:

And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.  (Isaiah 5:7)

What does God desire for this world?  Justice and righteousness.  Not what we think of as justice, but perfect justice.  A world where a person’s position and wealth does not change what rules apply to him or her.  A world where corruption of any kind is non-existent.  A world full of people who intuitively do the right thing in a harmonious way.  (For more on righteousness, see “Jamming in God’s Band.”)  God desires a world in which there is no bloodshed – none.

But if that was all He said, it would resemble a vacuous speech at a beauty pageant (“I want world peace!”).   Specifically, what kind of human behavior does God see as termites?  He gave Isaiah several specific examples, beginning in verse 8.  These are representative examples of things people were doing in that time that wrecked God’s vineyard.  Many of these sound pretty contemporary.  Let’s just consider the first one:

Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.  (Isaiah 5:8)

When God sees wealthy people gobbling up vast tracts of land for themselves, building themselves house after house, not because they need a place to live but just because they have the money to do it, God sees termites.  Think about it:  God designed the Earth as a perfect garden and invited humans to live in it and enjoy it.  Whose garden is it?  How is it that some of the guests in God’s garden think they should fence off hundreds of thousands of acres, saying to everybody else, “Keep out! This is mine?”  It is not that God is opposed to holding property in a family in trust and passing it along.  What God sees as termites is the people who greedily attempt to own and control much more than they could ever need and who wind up isolating themselves from everyone else in the process.

I could be wrong about this, but I believe God sees termites when He looks down on how much of this country is “owned” by so few – not because they need to but simply because they can.  I think God sees termites in places where huge conglomerates make it impossible to make a go of a family farm.  It’s not just agriculture; I see similar things going on with the decline of “Mom and Pop” stores and restaurants, too.  I’ll bet that there are aspects of the forces behind enormous conglomerate corporations that God sees as termites.  Just sayin’

Of course the argument for those who do such things is that they do it to be successful.  Listen to what God says will be the outcome:

The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing: “Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants. A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath of wine, a  homer of seed only an ephah of grain.”  (Isaiah 5:9-10)  (Note: the words, bath, homer, and ephah, all refer to an extremely paltrey amount for such big places.)

God says, “What you think is success will lead to utter ruin.  Mark My words!”  Why?  Termites!  Living like that wrecks the place.  That’s not the way God designed for the world to work.

That’s just the first example.  Next time we will go further