Follow the Leader

27 Jul

LeaderCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that we have hope that is found in Jesus Christ. We must be diligent to be good messengers and listen to those around us who have walked where we walk. We have reverence and trust in God and therefore follow His words even when we don’t understand. This morning, we’ll look at one incredibly important concept.

In Pro. 13:20 Solomon says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Solomon starts off with a proven principle. “He who walks with wise men will be wise.” This seems so obvious, but so neglected. Smart people hang out with smart people. Wise people hang out with wise people. Godly people hang out with godly people. I recently had a revelation. Too many of us have a cry wolf attitude in the wrong things of life. One of our children comes down with a fever or other symptom and we frantically search WebMD to diagnose the mystery ailment. We post on Facebook for all our self taught doctor friends to weigh in with their diagnosis and recommended course of action and then we go to the doctor and tell him how to treat the child. Our car makes a funny noise and we immediately take it to the mechanic. Our child expresses an interest in a sport and we buy them the best equipment and get them into a program. Someone posts about an issue they’re having and we comment about what they should do. We’ve got the answer for everyone else. Something happens in our personal life or we go through some kind of trial and we isolate ourselves from those that can provide us what we need. My experience is that church participation is a barometer for our spiritual temperature.

If you want to be encouraged, walk with people that are encouraging. If you want to know more about Jesus Christ, walk with people that know Him. I know I’ve said it before, but we seem to be much more willing to stick out difficult situations in every other aspect of our lives except our walk with Christ. The littlest thing sets us off. Love that is supposed be unconditional has limits. Grace that is expected on a personal level is withheld from others. For some reason we are very hesitant to try and restore relationships with one another in a church setting, but have little difficulty doing this in other settings. If and when we’re approached in a loving manner, we immediately go on the defensive and don’t even consider the love a person has for us or the courage it takes to confront an issue head on. Then we blame God and quit.

1 Jo. 3:18, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” That is what Solomon is saying. It’s not enough to speak truth or believe truth. That’s good, but it cannot stop there. The truth must be a critical element of who we are inside. The truth provides demostrative evidence that we belong to Jesus. Col. 1:10 says, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” We often listen to the nonsense from society that issues the edict that no one is to judge. Paul says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”  (Gal. 6:1) The idea that we are prohibited to tell people the truth so we don’t come across judgmental is nonsensical and the people that make such claims, well, they just don’t know the Bible. I encourage you to take a look at Eph. 5:11-15. Paul gives us something very important for us to do. This comes also with other cautions because stopping at saying something is wrong does not meet the intent of what Paul is telling us to do. Jesus asked the question in Matt. 7:3: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Jesus is pointing out that sometimes we can be very critical of others and miss something that is in our own lives. He’s not saying you’re forbidden from pointing out the speck, but first you need to evaluate your own life. That does not mean perfection. That’s what people often say though. When some issue is pointed out, the first thing out of their mouth is a laundry list of things that are wrong with us. We need to be receptive to the correction that comes from other seasoned, experienced, and mature believers. We must be more flexible in the church, more willing to allow Christ to change us, but there it is again. I’m thinking that some folks that profess to be believers don’t want anyone in their business because they don’t want to grow, they don’t want to learn, they don’t want to be more like Christ because they are not followers of Christ. You cannot be a follower of Christ without a relationship with Him. Just because someone comes to church doesn’t make them a believer. We must make discipleship an intentional aspect of our lives. We must be willing to be discipled and to make disciples. We must be a fellowship where love and acceptance is infused into us by the Spirit of God.

If you want to be wise, walk with wise people, but Solomon says the opposite is also true. “But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Are you wondering why I don’t skip over this stuff? How many different ways is Solomon going to say it? That’s a valid question so we have to ask ourselves, why? Why does Solomon take up so much space saying the same thing over and over? Let’s change up the question. If you’re a spouse, how many times do you tell your other half the same thing? If you’re a parent, how many times do you tell your child the same thing? If you’re a manager or supervisor, how many times do you tell your people the same thing over and over again? If you’re a teacher, how many times do you tell your students the same thing over and over? If you’re a coach, how many times do you tell the team the same thing over and over again? You tell them until they get it. That’s what God is doing through Solomon. He’s reminding us of things we should know, but fail to put into practice on a consistent basis. If you hang with people that do not share your beliefs, values, and ethics, there is a far better chance that you will alter your standards because of them rather than vice versa. Paul emphatically states, Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Cor. 15:33) When your best pal is a biblical fool, you will likely become foolish. Remember Solomon defines a fool as someone that has the right answer yet does not follow it. Harm will come. Solomon is talking guarantees. Be careful who you spend time with. Of course God wants you to share the truth with people that are far from Him. There’s a difference between having a meal with someone and being their best friend. One of the most challenging things experienced after salvation is making a break from those people that do not hold the same values.

We need to hang with people that will challenge us to soar higher, to walk closer to God, to be more like Christ. If you want to be more like Christ which is God’s desire for us, you need to walk along side of people that have the same goals. You need to be actively engaged in the walk of faith.

There is Hope

20 Jul

HopeCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that it’s better if our kids listened to us. Having good, compliant, respectful kids makes parenting look easy. We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover though because looks can be deceiving. Just because you’re wealthy by the world’s standards means nothing. Money has nothing to do with wealth in God’s economy, but it is better to work hard to obtain what you do have than it is to be handed it. This morning, we’ll see some principles you probably have heard of, but maybe didn’t know came from God.

I encourage you to read Pro. 13:12-19 so we understand where Solomon is coming from.

Solomon opens up with something you probably have experienced. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Everyone has hopes and dreams. Society often dictates these hopes and dreams. Get an education, get married, have kids, have a great job that fulfills you, build that dream home or what is now being called the forever home. Even in the church, we have fallen into the marks of success of defined by society. When those hopes and dreams go unrealized, sometimes we’re defined as failures or at the very least, we feel like failures. To put it into something we can readily understand, think about the promotion you feel was deserved that you didn’t get. Think about the test that you studied so hard for and came up short. Think about the mortgage you applied for that you didn’t get. Think about the ungodly decisions that have come at the hands of our elected leadership.

Solomon is talking about something far more important. The Bible goes beyond those ever changing marks of achievement where you were taught to work hard to achieve what you want. We’ve already learned that this is a good virtue to have, but there is something even more important that leads to this work ethic. As we move through this passage, we’ll see that it has to do with something Solomon has hammered on and that’s character. It’s far more important to develop virtuous character which is borne out of diligent examination of the Scriptures, seeking and listening to wise counsel, and engaging in a lifestyle of Christian community. The biblical outcome of that life long process is a maturing, growing, loving, kind, Christ like individual that lives each day passionately and zealously pursuing Christ in authenticity. Notice I said lifelong process. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. There are too many people in the church that give up or give in. Some folks are unwilling to stick it out. They’ve prayed for weeks and God hasn’t answered. They’ve been serving God for months and don’t see the fruit of their labor. Our fast paced society filled with “I want it now” people are unwilling to persevere for the long haul. Over the years here at C4, we’ve seen many people come and go. Folks have transferred or moved away, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people that are gifted or talented to serve in particular ways, but don’t want to get involved to build something for God. People want to get in on what’s exciting and happening and growing, but it seems like they don’t want to do the work necessary to make it so. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, real ministry is hard work. When our hopes are in things of the world, they can easily be crushed to smithereens. “But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” We’ll see this conclusion is solidified later in v. 19. Think of those desires that are fulfilled and the feeling that you have. Joy, gratitude, peace, confidence, trust, and of course, hope. This comes from knowing who God is and His unchanging character.

In the next verse, Solomon says you don’t have to like it. “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it.” I think of people that ignore good, solid biblical guidance. This is not so much a perception issue as it is a defining issue. We are experiencing this in ways that are quite shocking. Anytime we quote the Bible in reference to almost any type of behavior we are labeled hate mongers, intolerant, judgmental, unloving, and unkind. Solomon is talking about a willingness to place yourself under the authority of the written Word of God. Just because someone doesn’t like the Bible, understand it, believe it, or follow it, doesn’t mean it’s not applicable. You can despise the law, but you still have to follow it. You can really hate stopping completely at a stop sign, but when you violate the law and get caught, you will be in debt to it. That’s the reality for lost people. People can disagree and hate the Bible, but it doesn’t make it less applicable to them. Even if they don’t know everything in it, they’re still accountable to it and so are we as believers. For us, “The one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” This isn’t a terrified type of deal. This is reverence, respect, a willingness to trust that God knows what is going on, that He knows the best way for us to live, that He knows what’s what. Do you find it hard to do that?

Let me give you some perspective. You’re sick and go to the doctor and you trust that doctor to provide you with the medical care necessary to make you feel better. Your car breaks down and you go to the mechanic and trust him to correctly identify the problem and fix it. You trust the school teachers to adequately prepare your children to gain and understand the principles necessary to be productive members of society. You trust the bank to take care of the money you put there on deposit. So it’s not really a matter of trust because I just established that we are pretty free with our trust. Sure you might get a second opinion or you might send your child to a different school, but the bottom line is you’re still trusting. The one who may not understand the whys or the hows or the details of the Bible, but trusts in the unseen power of the One and only true God, well he will be rewarded. Don’t look for a check in the mail or anything you might actually put your hands on though. That may not be how God chooses to reward you. The for sure thing is eternity. What I’d recommend is that you put at least the same trust in the Creator of all things as you do your family practitioner, your kid’s teacher, or the bank that holds your money. Always default to God loves and cares more for you than any other living creature on this planet.

I encourage you to commit Jer. 29:11 to memory: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Paul brings it home by saying, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)

Back in Proverbs, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life.” Fountain is also translated spring which gives us the idea of a never ending source and that’s what Solomon is saying here. You’ll never be able to reach the bottom of the wisdom found in God’s Word. The water continues to flow and never runs out. Through God’s Word, we know Him more intimately. We can better understand His character and His purposes for us. We understand how to deal with the obstacles and challenges of life. His Word provides the road map, “To turn aside from the snares of death.” When you are diligent to study God’s Word, when you are diligent to walk with Christ, when you are diligent to worship God in spirit and in truth, when you are diligent to engage in Christian community, when you are diligent in your walk with Christ, you’re able to recognize the traps being set for us by Satan. Some common traps we’re faced with. I’m too far gone for God to forgive me. God will not use me. Nobody likes me or cares about me. It’s my life and my body. What I do in private is no one’s business. No one will know. I’m as good as the next guy. Solomon says, “Good understanding produces favor.” All those traps are recognized when we are engaged in the fundamental principles of the faith. You may think you’re too far gone, but 1 Jo. 1:9 reminds that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  You may think God won’t use you, but be like Isaiah when he said, “Here am I, send me.” We may conclude that people don’t care about us, but we go back to the truth in 1 Pet. 5:7 that tells us to cast, “All your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” The common thread in most of the traps Satan sets is he gets us to focus on ourselves. When we have the understanding that Solomon encourages, we can recognize and address the issues. Good understanding is built on the foundation of God’s Word and in the context with which it is written.

The opposite way is just that. “The way of the treacherous is hard.” This is another understatement. He’s not talking about difficulty here as in hard to do or understand. He’s talking about overall pain and suffering involved in the way of the treacherous. Sin is slavery. Slavery is awful. And he does not necessarily mean right now. We need to think eternally rather than in the here and now. “Every prudent man acts with knowledge.” He’s cautious, not reckless. He does not get involved in things he does not know about or in things that are not his concern. “A fool displays folly.” Again, opposite of the person that acts with wisdom. The next verse is a reference to the olden days, but has a very modern application. “A wicked messenger falls into adversity, but a faithful envoy brings healing.”

We need to remind ourselves that we haven’t always had the conveniences we enjoy today. We have people alive today that have always had the internet, have always had instantaneous communication, have always had the ability to get information right now. You talk to someone that has lived four decades and they didn’t always have cable TV, cell phones, or computers. You talk to someone five decades old and they didn’t always have color TV and their telephone was attached to a wall and their number had letters in it. You talk to someone six decades old and they were only beginning to watch coast to coast live news. Messengers were sent on foot or horseback to hand carry the news back in Solomon’s day. So let’s bring this verse to 2015. If we only shared the judgment of God, or the bad news, we’re doing everyone a disservice. This also applies to half truths, scriptural misrepresentation, gossip, and just plain old lies. I saw this humorously depicted when one of my Facebook friends posted a quote. “The trouble with quotes on the internet is you never know if they are genuine.” (Abraham Lincoln) Solomon closes in vs. 18-19.

There is hope. If you receive instruction from Scripture, you will be better off. If you don’t pay attention to those people around you that are wiser, older, and more experienced, you’ll find yourself on the impoverished side of life. Solomon is not necessarily talking about poverty, but that may happen too. He’s more concerned with how we live our lives; with how we behave, with how we interact with others so that they may know the hope we have in Christ.

Looks can be Deceiving

13 Jul

LooksYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time in Proverbs we learned that we should use God’s Word as a compass for our lives. We should allow the perfect Word of God to guide us on the path of righteousness. We’re to work hard and not be lazy, something you’ll hear over and over again from Solomon. If you are anxious, your heart is weighed down. We combat these feelings of heaviness with the truths and comforts found in God’s Word. This morning, we have three very pointed topics Solomon wants us to understand.

Take the time to read Pro. 13:1-11 for yourself to understand the context.

Solomon’s first principle is that good listening leads to good parenting. For most of us, if our children listened to what we told them and followed that guidance, they would be far better off. As parents, if we followed the guidance of Scripture, we’d be better off too. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a good or bad person, if the kids would learn from our mistakes, missteps, and miscues, they’d at least know better. You can talk to career criminals and they will typically tell you they don’t want their kids to grow up to be like them. Solomon hits this on the head when he says, “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Parents who truly love their children discipline them. The word here means correction and we must assume that there was instruction at some point that the child did not adhere to and as a result, there must be consequences. There are children that are wonderfully compliant; there are children that are terribly rebellious. There are parents that are wonderfully godly and there are parents that are awful. I think it’s very likely that each of us fits into all the categories at various times and there are an almost infinite number of combinations too. Even kids can exercise the wisdom Solomon talks about if they would just listen to their parents. Early in their little lives, kids learn by being told no. The kid reaches for the glass on the table. The little one gets close to the stairs. As they get older and are able to understand more, actual instruction takes place, expectations are laid out, goals are established. Scoffers don’t listen, they want to do things on their own, they don’t want correction, they don’t want input. Remember way back in Pro. 1:22, “How long, O naïve ones, will you love being simple minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” This is not a good characteristic. There are some wonderful, godly parents that have children that rebel, that choose the wrong path, that stray from a life of faith. There are also horribly uninvolved parents that have children grow up to be wonderful, godly people. The grace of God is the great cycle breaker. Lay aside all those things the world says are marks of achievement and be the person God wants you to be. No matter your upbringing or where you came from, you can be the person God designed you to be. That is success in God’s eyes.

Not every kid in Scripture listened to his parents. Not every kid in Scripture had good parents. Some well intentioned people will tell you that when a kid messes up, it’s always the parent’s fault. There must be something in the family’s closets that led to the crime, the pregnancy, the rebellion, the bad grades, the drugs, etc. The truth is, sometimes kids make bad choices that lead to bad consequences. No matter how much love is demonstrated, no matter how much prayer and fasting is done, no matter how involved the parents are, sometimes kids exercise that free will in ways that are contrary to God’s principles. The wise son listens to the parents and the scoffer does not. Good things come out the mouths of the righteous Solomon says in v. 2, “but the desire of the treacherous is violence.” In keeping with the speaking theme from the last chapter, “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Remember, sometimes the wisest thing to do is to remain silent. How many lives are hurt because we don’t control our tongue? We cannot excuse hurtful words by declaring it’s the truth. Truth can be used as a weapon and we must guard against that. I am in no way saying do not tell the truth, but check your heart first and then be loving and kind as the truth is told.

Verse 4 seems out of place in this passage, but it really goes hand in hand with v. 2. The fruit of a man’s mouth in v. 2 are his words and because of that, “The soul of the diligent is made fat.” We saw the importance of diligence in chapter 12 as it relates to a work ethic and now as it relates to the soul. When you exercise diligence in your spiritual walk, your soul gets fat. This is a good thing. Your soul is fed and properly nourished. On the other hand, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing” is a parallel to, “The desire of the treacherous is violence.” Even the longing of the sluggard is unfulfilled.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like it when people lie to me. People lie for many reasons: to protect themselves or others, they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, etc. “A righteous man hates falsehood.” And “Righteousness guards the one whose way is blameless.” These are two principles to live by. Two principles that will keep the wise person from trouble. Part of following God is hating what God hates and loving what God loves. And you’ve heard that sometimes Christians are better known for what we are against than what we are for. Sometimes the love of God in our lives is not as evident when we focus on what we hate. The truth is that God hates all sin not just the ones that are in the news. It’s okay to take a stand and I encourage you to stand when it’s appropriate to stand and fight when it’s appropriate to fight. The righteousness of Christ is what we need to use to filter our thoughts and actions. Falsehood isn’t just lying. It’s deception, it’s cover up, it’s bad business practice, it’s everything that is contrary to what is good, and right, and pure. It should be a common thing for righteous people to hate lying, but anyone is susceptible to falsehood. Pastors have been fired for plagiarizing sermons, ministry leaders have embezzled funds from their organizations, church leaders have done unspeakable things.

The, “wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully.” And “wickedness subverts the sinner.” Now these are some pretty harsh descriptions. We know what wicked is. Solomon has gone to great lengths to describe and characterize wickedness. “Acts disgustingly” literally means cause a stench or stir up a foul odor. Solomon continues to go to new depths to describe the overall awfulness of the wicked. Wicked people prefer falsehood, it is who they are. The best way to understand, “Wickedness subverts the sinner” is that the wicked will bring shame to other people and to themselves. They will cause disgrace to come to people that were foolish enough to trust or associate with them. If you hang out with thieves, you’ll probably be considered a thief. If you hang out with druggies, you’ll likely be considered a druggie. If you hang out with people who are wicked, others will conclude you are wicked. There in lies the great dilemma for Christians.

To help us understand what Solomon is saying, let me remind you of what Jude says. Jude 23 says, “And on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” These folks are in the most danger of eternal punishment. Jude says have mercy on them even though they are engaged in sin. No matter what, we demonstrate the mercies of God that are renewed each and every day in our lives. We exercise mercy to those that are deeply entrenched in sin, but we do it with fear knowing that there by the grace of God go I. We tread carefully, “hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Some think this is an illusion to Zech. 3:3 referring to Joshua, “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.” The word “filthy” here refers to excrement. Joshua was not actually wearing dirty clothes. Jude is referring to the ceremonial cleanliness requirements of the high priest. The idea is that if you are ceremonially clean and you touch something unclean, you then become unclean. You cannot transfer cleanliness. Jude is saying when you show mercy to that person in sin, be careful that they do not contaminate you. The flesh Jude mentions refers to sin. Be careful that the mercy you demonstrate is not twisted into acceptance of sin. You can see how easily it is to be drawn to compromise, especially if you don’t know the standard of truth.

Solomon talks about the illusion of wealth next. Take a look at vs. 7-11. This passage is broken into three points. In vs. 7-8, we are told don’t judge a book by its cover. People do a lot to appear to be something they are not. What motivates them, I can only imagine. Perhaps pride, perhaps something else. Earthly riches do not equate to God’s riches and vice versa. There was the rich man in Luke 12:21 that was not rich toward God. We’re also reminded of the one in 2 Cor. 6:10 that had nothing yet possessed all things. Wealth is relative. In 9-10 we are reminded that the light of Christ should shine brightly in our lives regardless of the circumstances. Insolence means disrespectful. This verse is also translated, pride only breeds quarrels. You know this is true. This is the person that refuses to listen to the insight, wisdom, or counsel of another. Wise people know they don’t know everything and are not afraid to get some outside assistance. Verse 11 presents us with an idea we have seen before. If you work hard, you can get stuff and keep it. If you get stuff by deceitful, unethical, or illegal means, it will be taken from you. This also conveys the idea of easy wealth – wealth that was obtained without working. Think inheritance or the lottery. Wealth not earned is often quickly lost.

When you consider all that Solomon has said in these 11 verses, it can seem pretty overwhelming. If you have parents, listen to them. Learn from them so you don’t make the same mistakes they did. Even if you have made terrible decisions in the past, there is no where you can go where the grace of God cannot reach you. Allow Jesus Christ to cleanse you from all unrighteousness and make you new. When that grace covers you, it changes your life, your attitudes, your desires and your outlook on life. That’s just four things that demonstrate you are new in Christ.

Independently Dependent

6 Jul

FreedomTake a listen to the podcast here.

We’ll take a break from Proverbs this week to honor Independence Day. America celebrated its 239th birthday yesterday. In some ways, that’s a very long time. When compared with the history of other nations, it’s just a drop in the bucket. We celebrated yesterday with a parade, great festival food, cooking out, swimming, having a good time with family and friends and capped it all off with a great fireworks display. We celebrate freedom, but it was not always this way.

In his famous Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln said, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” It was not independence that motivated early Americans, but individual rights. People living in the colonies in those early years were British Americans; citizens of Great Britain. Their main concern was the British Parliament imposed taxes on them to pay for the French and Indian War (7 Years War). There was the Molasses Act, the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, Townshend Act, the Tea Act and others. The Colonists called them the Intolerable Acts. Effectively, everything that was bought or sold, imported or exported had a tax placed on it or was regulated. These excess taxes led to the famous phrase, “Taxation without representation” and later “Taxation without representation leads to tyranny.” The Colonists had no representation in the British Parliament. They had no voice, no influence, and no input. The British government would do what they wanted regardless of the will of the people or what those people believed. This led to the Battle at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 when, “The shot heard ‘round the world” was fired from the North Bridge.  Hundreds of Colonists gave their lives to regain these rights. It was during this time of conflict that Patrick Henry, a politician from Virginia gave a speech before the Virginia Provincial Convention. Here is how he concluded it:

“The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable – and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come. It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to declare absolute freedom from England. On July 4th, the final wording was ratified and signed by the 56 members of the Continental Congress representing the 13 colonies. The United States of America was born out of a desire to be free from the tyranny of a repressive government bent on controlling its citizens. Abraham Lincoln said, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

What is freedom? Freedom is often misunderstood in America. We speak of being free, but are we really free? Some define freedom as the ability to do what you want to do. In the first amendment to our constitution, we speak of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the press and the mostly forgotten freedom to petition the government to redress wrongs. This was something the colonists were not able to do with King George. Even with these freedom guaranteed by our constitution, are we really free? Many would respond by saying yes, we are free. Yet with our so called freedom, we also have restrictions. These restrictions are known as laws. Every civil society has laws and our founding fathers were not attempting to exercise undue restraints on our freedom. The Bill of Rights guarantees individual freedoms, but even these individual freedoms are restricted. Your individual freedoms cannot trample on the individual freedoms of another. Our laws are designed to protect people and give us the ability to live among one another in relative peace. We are free, but if you choose to exercise the broadest definition of freedom and ignore the measures we have in place to maintain good order and discipline, there is an entire segment of government established to ensure that what freedom you do enjoy will be taken away.

Although we live in the greatest country on the planet, Americans may never know true freedom. In the pledge of allegiance, we speak of liberty and justice for all.  America’s freedom was won by the spilled blood of our fighting men and women. But there can never really be liberty apart from the One who is able to guarantee our complete freedom. Some will use their freedom to reject God which does not bring freedom. Some will use their freedom to denounce the activities of the very people that bought their freedom. We celebrate our independence, yet most Americans remain slaves to sin. We have seen recently that many are enslaved by their past. We must move from the throne of tyranny to the throne of grace. As Christians, our freedom was won by the spilled blood of Jesus Christ. In Jo. 8:36 Jesus said, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” So what of this Christian freedom? Some would argue that this freedom in Christ gives us the liberty to do as we please, to live our lives in any way that we see fit. 1 Pet. 2:16, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.”At the core of our Christian freedom is complete obedience to God and His Son. It is an awesome responsibility to carry the truth found in Christ. It is a privilege to share in God’s plan to reach humanity with the only real truth that will free men from the oppression of sin. Instead of hoping that someone will share the truth of our freedom with others, we must offer our service to the King just like the prophet Isaiah did when he said, “Here am I, send me.”

Many Christians are content to sit back and watch others to do the work while they enjoy the benefits of that work. Thomas Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” It has been said that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. We say we love God and we love Jesus, but does it stop at that? If we are truly Christians, we must carry the Gospel message with us, telling others what will bring true freedom. Living and spreading the Gospel is sometimes tiring, sometimes lonely, sometimes stressful, but is always worth it. Is. 40:31 says, “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

We have a responsibility. As a nation, we have the responsibility to stand up to nations that do not have freedom. We have a responsibility to stand up to tyrannical, oppressive leaders to promote the freedoms we enjoy in America. Our freedom in Christ is far more important than the freedom we enjoy as Americans. We have freedom from the control and bondage of sin. We can live our lives wholly committed and sold out to the freedom and liberty found in Christ. This is our responsibility; our duty; our privilege. Is. 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” We have the keys that can unlock the prison doors of people’s lives that will allow them to be truly free. Many Christians use this Christian liberty to do nothing. As with our American freedom, there are some content to let others to carry on freedom’s work. Some will even criticize how that work is done, but don’t want to get into the fight for Christ themselves. We must fight for freedom! We must join shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, hand in hand to carry this truth to whoever we can! 2 Cor. 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

True liberty and true freedom will never be found in a government or in a country. True freedom can only come through the finished work of God in His One and only Son Jesus Christ. Our responsibility is to share this truth with others, to live out this truth in our daily lives, to be committed to the truth found in Christ. Ja. 1:25 says, “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” As Americans we celebrate our independence, but as a child of God, I declare my total and complete dependence on God and His Son Jesus Christ and I can boldly say, free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I am free at last.

Righteousness as a Compass

29 Jun

CompassYou can check out the live version here.

Last week we looked at a fool’s life. The fool thinks he’s right and doesn’t listen to anyone around him. He’s immediately known when things don’t go his way because his anger betrays him. Even if he can control himself, his words readily identify him as a fool. Don’t be a liar, tell the truth and that truth comes from God because His Word is truth. This morning, Solomon continues providing direction for our lives.

Pro. 12:23-28 says, A prudent man conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims folly. The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor. Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad. The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. A lazy man does not roast his prey, but the precious possession of a man is diligence. In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.”

Solomon kicks this passage off with an opening salvo of some pretty common sense type stuff. Just because you know something doesn’t mean you are obligated to share that knowledge with every breathing human you come in to contact with. “A prudent man conceals knowledge.” That doesn’t mean cover up or deceit. It means just because you know something, you don’t have to share it. If you have the knowledge and wisdom, it’s okay to wait to be asked. I can admit that I have a problem doing this. I have spent a lifetime filling my brain with great and wonderful things that I want to share with you. It’s best to wait for that knowledge to be sought than it is to go around telling everyone what you know. One the other hand, “But the heart of the fool proclaims folly.” This principle applies if you’re in a seminar, conference, small groups, classroom, or meeting. When I read this verse, my mind is drawn to Bible study. Kay Arthur has said that Bible study often becomes an arena where we share our common ignorance. There is a time in Bible study to share what people think, but that comes after a thorough examination of the Scriptures. Have you ever sat in a classroom and the teacher says, today we’re going to look at nuclear fission. What do you think about that? What does that mean to you? Of course not, that’s not how it works. Too many people think things that are contrary to Scripture because they didn’t take the time to consult what it says. That’s what the fool does. He says what he thinks without any careful consideration. We established last week that you can’t trust your heart of stone. What’s really sad is that the fool doesn’t know he’s being a fool and won’t listen to the wisdom of others. In Eccl. 10:3 Solomon said, “Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool.” Everyone else knows it.

A principle that is lacking is found next when Solomon says, “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor.” The idea is that we should be diligent in all aspects of our lives. That diligence applies to our relationships, our studies if we’re in school, our jobs, and our walk of faith and everything that entails. What reputation do you have when it comes to your life? Have you ever heard the saying your reputation precedes you? You will become known by who you actually are rather than what you want to become. If you’re not willing to put forth the effort required in whatever you choose to do, you will end up answering to those that are diligent. This is another indictment on lazy people. We’re not talking a lazy day, but a lifestyle of laziness.

While laziness might plague some folks, the next one is going to resonate with many.“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down.” Wow is there truth in that. One of the hardest things I do on a regular basis is care for people that don’t care. How can you minister to people that do not want to be ministered to? How can you shepherd people that don’t want a shepherd? How can you teach to people that do not want to be taught? How can you encourage people that want to remain discouraged? The short answer is you can’t. For me, the most difficult thing to determine is when to follow the words of Jesus, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” (Matt. 10:14) That doesn’t mean you pretend they’re dead, but you give them over to the Holy Spirit. Understand the ground with which you’re working. Notice Solomon is not declaring anxiety to be wrong, misguided or sinful. Anxiety is an emotion and as with other emotions, they are given by God. Solomon doesn’t leave you hanging, but gives you the cure. “A good word makes it glad.” You are often afforded the opportunity to employ this principle. Someone comes to you with something that is weighing that person down or you’re weighed down. Remember v. 18 says, “The tongue of the wise brings healing.” This healing is found in God and His Word. “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” (Ps. 94:19) The reminders of Scripture about who God is provide the hope for us to trust in Him.

In Matt. 11:28-30, Jesus gave us this very powerful metaphor: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” This yoke gives us the picture of being physically connected to Christ. The metaphor stems from the practice of training young oxen to work the fields. A training yoke was placed on them and they worked alongside the older more experienced oxen. They were physically connected. Where the more experienced older ox went, so did the ox in training. Too often we try to plow the fields of life alone, but we were never ordained to be alone. We are never called upon to go it by ourselves. We are never faced with aloneness or isolation because Jesus is physically connected to us. The idea Jesus is presenting is that we learn from Him because we are tied to Him. We are connected to Him. He shares in our triumphs, our joys, and our celebrations, and He also shares in our pain, suffering, and trials. We sometimes forget that. In your darkest hour, He is the Light. In your moment of greatest need, He is there.

Good fences may make good neighbors, but in v. 26 Solomon gives us a better principle. “The righteous is a guide to his neighbor.” This is consistent with other verses. There is no stopping the righteous man because he is following Christ. The righteous are righteous because of Christ and that always comes out. It should be evident in our day to day lives and other people will recognize it in you. It’s awesome to be righteous because of the righteousness of Christ. It’s even more awesome when we use that righteousness as a tool to show other people Jesus. In direct opposition to the righteousness of Christ, “But the way of the wicked leads them astray.” The wicked continue doing wicked things. They are of no help to someone seeking truth, seeking righteousness, seeking the things in life Christ wants us to experience. “Lead them astray” literally means cause to wander. This is intentional. I’m not talking about someone who had pure motives, but ends up giving wrong or bad guidance. I’m certain I have done that. The wicked are intentional about their wickedness. They are on the path of destruction and will take anyone foolish enough to go with them. We combat this with the righteousness of Christ.

Another character trait Solomon seems to hammer is that of laziness. “A lazy man does not roast his prey.” The exact meaning of roast is difficult to determine, but the principle seems clear. This guy is so lazy that if he does hunt, he doesn’t want to take the time to cook what he caught. “But the precious possession of a man is diligence.” I find it interesting that people place so much value on things that really don’t matter. To Solomon, this character trait matters. Of diligence, he says it’s precious – it is something of great value. Diligence is careful and persistent work or effort. It’s used numerous times in Scripture and we’ve seen it several times in Proverbs. Isaiah cried out, “At night my soul longs for You, indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently.” (Is. 26:9) Paul said, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) This is a work ethic. It is a way of life. I’ve often heard people say very positively about others, “He’s a hard worker.” It’s a complement. Who wants to be characterized as lazy? Laziness is still generally considered an unacceptable character trait.

Solomon brings it home by saying, “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” We look forward to many things in this life: births, marriages, graduations, anniversaries, retirement, Christmas. As Christians, we look forward to eternity. There is no real death because the end of our physical life allows us to pass through the gates of eternity to enjoy face time with God and His only Son. That’s the path of righteousness. That’s the way of righteousness. It is the way of Jesus.

When we act like Christ and talk like Christ, there are people that will be drawn to us and people that will be opposed to us. As a passionate follower of Christ, some people will throw you in the same category as every so-called Christian that they think act hypocritically, unkindly, unloving, ungodly or whatever else to use as justification to hate us that could cause anxiousness within us. We face the same pressures of life others face and that could bring anxiousness. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7) Give due diligence to your walk of faith. Before I go out and try and fix everyone else, I need to make sure I am walking with Christ every moment of everyday. When we passionately live for Christ, people may not like us or approve of us, but we can rest easy knowing that we are in the center of God’s will.

A Fool’s Life

22 Jun

FoolYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon gave us some great patterns contrasting the wicked to the righteous. The wicked have hidden agendas and motives. The behavior exhibited by the righteous and the wicked provides evidence of what’s in the heart. Righteous men want what is good and the wicked want what is evil. This morning, Solomon hits the fool squarely in the face

I hope you’ll take the time to look up and read Pro. 12:15-22. It’ll help set the context for what you’ll read.

Solomon begins with the understatement of understatements. When you think about this first verse, you immediate think of someone in your past or someone that currently gives you fits. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” This is so true. You know it because you’ve dealt with people like this. What keeps this guy from becoming wise? He think he’s right about everything. He doesn’t ask anyone for advice, doesn’t research anything, thinks he knows more than Google, fails exams and concludes the teacher doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t think he’s right or have a hunch he’s right – he’s confident he’s right and it doesn’t matter what anyone says because he’s not asking. He determines the path that is right and it can have very broad applications. So how are the fool and the wise different? “But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” The wise person knows and understands he doesn’t know everything. He knows he can learn from someone else. He’s not afraid to ask for help or guidance or advice and he’s selective about who he asks. It can be incredibly frustrating when these two types of people get together in a meeting or collaborate on a project. The fool typically just begins something. The wise person wants to chat about it, wants to brainstorm, wants input from others, wants to evaluate past successes and failures, wants to consider people’s strengths and weaknesses. The fool says, “That’s a waste of time, I’m doing _______.” The fool determines he’s right, the wise seeks the guidance of others to ensure the best decision is made. Obviously, the application for this is very broad. As I have said, we can be foolish from time to time or we can make a foolish decision. But those are, or should be, single points in time and are not how our life is characterized

Be sure the truth will find you out. It’s tough to keep who you really are under wraps. It takes a lot of effort to pretend or play a role. The wise man has the ability to control himself and does, but the fool lacks this character trait. “A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent man conceals dishonor.” When the fool gets angry, regardless of the reason, everyone else knows it. The fool’s anger controls him – he is the ranter, he is the one that flies off the handle, he is the one that others will be embarrassed for him. Does anger have a place in the life of a Christian? The wisest answer is, it depends. People will quickly be reminded of Jesus in the temple driving out people with whips and overturning tables and use that as justification to be angry. Eph. 4:26 says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin.” There are some circumstances in which anger is an acceptable emotion, but we should be slow to anger as James says in 1:19 of his book because, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Anger is an emotion and emotion comes from God

There are things in this world that will, and should anger us, but the difference is that anger does not control the wise man. Think about the times we get angry. Our kids don’t listen or don’t perform as we think they should. We get slow service in the restaurant or the fast food place gets our order wrong. A friend doesn’t text or message back. We don’t get that promotion. Our car breaks down or our house needs to be repaired. We drop our cell phone or tablet and the screen shatters. Our internet runs slow or the cable goes out. Someone in church doesn’t speak to us. The pastor says something in a message and we think he’s talking about us

In the famous temple scene where Jesus used a whip and overturned tables, He wasn’t angry for the reason we think. When you study the passage in context, Jesus says, It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robber’s den.” “It is written” refers back to Is. 56:7. Isaiah is sharing the vision of foreigners and outcasts joining themselves to the Lord and ministering to Him, and serving Him at His house. As Jesus approached the temple, He saw the court of the Gentiles overrun with merchants that had set up tables to buy and sell. Yes, there was price gouging and improper business practices, but that was only part of the issue. There was literally no room for the foreigners and outcasts to get to God in the temple. “The mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised about the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.” (Is. 2:2) The ultimate place of worship at the time – a place where God’s people could meet with God – had been turned into an outdoor shopping mall and the religious leaders of the day let it happen. Jesus was angry because what He saw was not the worship that Isaiah saw and He had enough.

That’s hardly the same as us blasting the clerk because the gas pump won’t start. At some point, the pretending will stop and the real you will come out. I have done and said things in my Christian walk that I am ashamed of, embarrassed at, and horrified by. I can honestly say those times are getting fewer and farther between. Things that used to bother me don’t bother me any longer and there are things that I never thought of that are at the forefront of my mind. I am growing, and learning, and being transformed by Christ – present tense – into what He wants me to be. I wanted to spend time here because I am increasingly concerned with Christians that dismiss their behavior or the behavior of other Christians because they use an overall justification model called “I have an anger problem.” I made that model up. I don’t find anger problems in Scripture. We don’t accept when someone lies to us and says I have a truth problem. We don’t accept when someone steals from us and says I have a theft problem. We don’t accept when someone spreads rumors about us and says I have a gossiping problem. We need to accept responsibility for our ungodly behavior and take the steps necessary to restore fellowship with God and one another. I am also growing weary of Christians that have a falling out and do nothing to reconcile with one another.

What Solomon says about behavior moves to the spoken word. Let me read the remainder of our verses today because the theme is the same. (Read 17-22). Let me hit the highlights of what Solomon writes. “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness is deceit.” This not a shocker and we need to make sure we use love when speaking the truth (Eph. 4:15). The truth can hurt, but when it is bathed in love, the resulting sting is eased. Remember when you’re told what is right, best, better, wise, or smart and you refuse to listen, Solomon says you’re stupid. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the people that are so easily offended these days are often the most offensive and hard headed people around. Thinking back to Pro. 6:19, a false witness that speaks lies is on the list of seven things the Lord hates. “A false witness, deceit.” Plain and simple and in direct contrast to the truth speaker. “Rashly” in verse 18 means acting or behaving without careful consideration. When you don’t consider your words, they become weapons that pierce to the core. Think about it this way, in the hands of the wrong person, a scalpel can become an instrument of destruction or death, but in the hands of a skilled surgeon, that same scalpel can facilitate the removal of disease, repair broken bones, ease pain and suffering and leave little evidence behind. The words of the wise edify, lift up, and encourage. When in the right hands, they can also bring healing. “Truthful lips will be established forever.” Truth is truth. It is not relative, it is not changing, it is not dependent upon the source. If truth is spoken, it remains the truth regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the people involved, regardless of any variables encountered. Even though we are in the world with all its changing values and standards, we are not of the world. Jesus set the standard in Jo. 17:17 for truth as He was praying to His father, “Your Word is truth.” Since God is unchanging, it makes sense that His Word is also unchanging.

“But a lying tongue is only for a moment.” Those liars out there or those that tell lies, it’s only fleeting because the truth always comes out. Typically, all you have to do to find out if someone is lying is continue talking to them. The seat of deceit is the heart. You hear people today saying things like trust your heart or follow your heart to find the course of action or direction you should take. Jeremiah the prophet reminds us that, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Your heart will lie to you because that’s where deceit finds its home. So we need a new heart. Ez. 36:26 says, Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” You can be new in your heart, your thoughts, and your actions. Jesus can make a whole new you if you’ll only let Him. One final thought. You’re probably going to have trouble with v. 21 when Solomon says, “No harm befalls the righteous.” Righteous people are harmed all the time: car accidents, they fall victim to crime, they get sick, their kids rebel, they have challenging relationships, and they suffer persecution. Is that what Solomon is talking about? Your first thought might be people that suffer from these kinds of harm aren’t righteous. We know from Rom. 5 that God allows trials to build our perseverance which leads to proven character which leads to hope. Solomon is saying that even when harm comes, whether it be in the form of suffering, persecution, sickness or whatever, that those troubles allowed by God will not cause us to lose hope. Our focus is on God. We are God centered. We understand that God works in us and through us to bring glory to Him.

The fool’s life is not a life we should envy. If people look at you and conclude you are a fool, step back and ask yourself why. Do you think you’re always right and don’t want to listen to guidance. Are you prone to anger? Do you words bear witness that you are a child of the King?

Thoughts Lead to Deeds

15 Jun

ThoughtsYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon reminded us that we should be on a lifelong journey in our pursuit to know Christ. Our learning never ends and he said we should be loving instruction. We don’t dismiss instructions from people that are godlier than we are, that are more experienced than we are, that are more like Christ than we are. This morning, we’ll discover additional characteristics of the righteous and the wicked and look at the speech of each.

I encourage you to take the time and read Pro. 12:5-14 so you understand where Solomon is coming from.

Verses 5-7 contain the familiar patter we’ve seen Solomon use before. He speaks of the righteous, wicked, wicked, righteous, wicked, and righteous. “The thoughts of the righteous are just.” You know this because he said it in 11:23. In Ps. 119:15 David said, “I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.” That’s a good principle to live by. If you’ve ever wondered how to clear your mind, this is one way to do it. For many of us, if we could get a handle on our thoughts, we’d be free from many of the issues that seem to plague us. An issue marinates in our mind and it grows because we continue to think about it. Oftentimes, there is a small issue, but is allowed to grow big and strong and it festers. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Phil. 4:8) The thoughts of the righteous, those that belong to Christ, are just and fair. The righteous give the benefit of the doubt. Don’t you just hate it when someone thinks the worst of you? That’s something that the wicked do. “But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood.” Notice in the previous verse, Solomon talked about thoughts and now those thoughts give way to words. I cannot emphasize strongly enough just how important our words are. The wicked are deceitful; there are often hidden agendas or motives. What you see or hear may not be what you get. The words of the wicked are full of lies, slander, false accusations, and half-truths which put people’s lives in danger. In a practical application, I think of the false teaching out there about who God is. God is love and patience and all the things that go along with the idea that God approves of all people and it doesn’t matter how one thinks or acts because God is love. People that have no idea who God really is are defining who God is and other people are being led astray. People are acting wickedly and may not even know it. I think Solomon is talking more along the lines of people that do know what they’re doing and are intentional about it.

“But the mouth of the upright will deliver them. The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.” Our speech should define who we belong to. As I have often said, it is a primary indicator of who has our heart. Our words should reflect the love of Christ in all circumstances. Our speech often denies who we belong to and is a primary indicator of our relationship with Christ. We should take the advice of James and be quick to hear and slow to speak, and slow to anger. (Ja. 1:19) Even though the wicked may prosper in the short run, or at least seem to prosper, they will be overthrown and will be no more. The house of the righteous will stand because it’s built on the foundation that is Jesus Christ. That’s why it’s righteous.

Solomon now addresses the area of respect. I would venture that most people would like to be respected. We want to be treated and spoken to respectfully. What’s funny is that even when we don’t treat people respectfully, we still want the respect we believe we deserve. “A man will be praised according to his insight.” Praised means approval or admiration. Insight means understanding. Insight can also be translated – you guessed it – wisdom. This is a guy that lives by wisdom; that provides practical evidence of a life that is guided by wisdom. This is a smart guy, well mannered, stately, honorable, and all the other adjectives you can come up with for a man held in high regard because of who has his heart rather than any office or position of authority he might hold. Listen to how David is described: “So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.” (1 Sam. 18:5) This is a man that is recognized and appreciated because of the wisdom that exudes from his being. David wasn’t just pleasing to his friends; he was pleasing to all the people – the common folk and to the servants. It says a lot about a man when the servants have high regard for you. To put it in a modern context, think of the supervisor employee relationships. David was a man of honor and integrity. Instead of being respected, “But one of perverse mind will be despised.”  Perverse here means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave badly. We are living in a day according to Is. 5:20 where evil is being called good and good is being called evil, but there still remains behavior that is generally viewed as acceptable or generally viewed as wrong.

Solomon now provides us with a series of one liners. “Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant than he who honors himself and lacks bread.” This is an interesting collection of words so let me rephrase it. It’s better to work hard, be considered average and have someone to help you around the house than it is to pretend you’re something you are not and have nothing to eat. Another way to say it is it’s better to be unknown and be able to afford a servant than it is to pretend to be rich, but can’t even eat. “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” This is for all the animal lovers out there. Animals were an important part of life back in Solomon’s day. They provided the power to work the land, to make flour from grain, to mill corn, provide milk, provide transportation as well as a number of other uses. The righteous man recognizes their importance and takes care of the animals to make sure they have what they need not just to survive, but to prosper. On the other hand, the compassion of the wicked is cruel. Even when they are trying to emulate some good qualities, they fall short.

“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.” If you work your land, you’ll always have food to eat. This applies even if you’re not a farmer. If you’re willing to work hard, you’ll have food to eat. Pursue worthless things is also translated chase fantasies. All kinds of things are coming to mind. I’m sure people back in the day made fun of people like Eli Whitney, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and the Wright brothers. There is a difference between having a vision and being visionary. Chasing a fantasy is telling the judges that you can sing when you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. “The wicked man desires the booty of evil men, but the root of the righteous yields fruit.” Wicked people want what other wicked people have. Pirates steal from other pirates. Drug dealers steal from other drug dealers. The righteous are planted in good soil rooted in Jesus Christ. When you’re a healthy plant rooted in good soil, you can’t help but produce fruit.

The next ten verses or so deal specifically with the speech of the wicked and the speech of the righteous. “An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous will escape from trouble.” Proverbs has a lot to say about getting trapped. We saw this first back in 6:2 and in context Solomon was talking about debt – making promises to repay what could not be repaid. Now he’s talking about talking too much. It could be slanderous speech, gossip, speaking out of turn, or having an opinion about anything and everything and then making sure everyone knows that opinion. We see that on Facebook all the time. Matthew Henry refers to this as cutting one’s own throat with his tongue. Ps. 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” The righteous are delivered by the wisdom of their speech and that wisdom comes from God. “A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words, and the deeds of a man’s hands will return to him.” Sticks and stones the saying goes, but I think that’s way off the mark. We cannot overestimate the power of words. With our words we have the power to edify or tear down. The power to lift up or lash out. The power to encourage or the power to deflate. The tongue is just like the rudder that controls the direction of a ship: even though it’s very small, it can change the course of that big vessel pretty quickly. Think of a time you used words that picked someone up, that encouraged them, that gave them the hope they needed to go on, or the words you used to help them resolve some conflict. The righteous man uses his words for good and is deeply satisfied. When you work for the Lord, the Lord will reward you, but that’s not why we serve Him. All the good you do for the Kingdom is doing something. Keep working and allow God to work things out. The good you do for the Kingdom does not go unnoticed.

Thoughts often lead to deeds. When you can control your thoughts, life is easier. There are always challenges, but God gives you what you need to be an over comer when you need it. Don’t waste your time chasing fantasies. The righteous continue to do what is righteous and the wicked continue to do what is wicked. Use your words to encourage and edify rather than tear down.

Lifelong Learning

8 Jun

LearningYou can check out the podcast Lifelong Learning.

Last week Solomon reminded us of the folly in trusting in the world’s riches and we found out that when we think globally about our finances, we are rich. He referred to the troubler in the house that will have no inheritance. We also saw the wonderful reminder of just how far reaching the impact of a righteous person is – both to his household and the community. This morning, we’ll see some familiar principles that just make plain sense.

In our passage today Solomon writes, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. A good man will obtain favor from the Lord, but He will condemn a man who devises evil. A man will not be established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will not be moved. An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.” (Pro. 12:1-4)

Education is a lifelong pursuit. In America, we have systems in place to ensure our children are educated with the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Education is so important, there are laws that require parents to have their kids in school. Our government funds public school through taxes in order to educate our kids. Other countries in the world are not so fortunate – the mid-central area of Africa is the world’s worst for education. Research shows that kids who are not educated are at a higher risk for substance abuse, gang activity, and criminal activity. Kids who aren’t educated are also, “more likely to have health issues, experience mental health disorders, and be incarcerated. Why the background? To help us understand the practical application of what Solomon says here. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge.” The word translated discipline means instruction. Rom. 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Everything in Scripture is valuable. It is through the Scriptures that we get to know God better; that we get to know Christ better and understand how the Holy Spirit functions in conjunction with the Father and the Son.

A hunger for God’s Word can be developed and I am an example of that. In the beginning of my walk with Christ, no one that I can remember told me I needed to study God’s Word. Maybe someone did, but I didn’t get it. That’s just one reason why it is so important to have godly people in your life. We have these mentor type of people in nearly every facet of life including school, sports, clubs, and jobs. For some reason, in our walk of faith which is the most import aspect of life we will ever engage in, we prefer to go it alone, to figure it out by ourselves, to neglect it, to dismiss the importance of our faith, or be content with where we are. If our faith were like our other endeavors, we’d be sent back a grade, benched, kicked out of the club, or fired. Why do I keep coming back to the same thing? Because we’re not identifying who our enemy is. We think it’s other people, parents, teachers, bosses and the real enemy prowls around looking for people to destroy. When we deemphasize the importance of the written Word, we fall neatly into his trap. I was unknowingly trapped by Satan until I finally figured out what God was trying to tell me. I sometimes wonder how long He had been telling me and if others around me had told me the same thing, would I have gotten it sooner? It doesn’t matter because I can’t get that time back. What’s important is that you learn from my mistake and don’t repeat what I did. In this area, God’s desire is the same for all of us. You don’t have to be a vocational pastor or engage in vocational ministry to benefit from the principles of Scripture – they are for all people! 1 Pet. 2:2, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” Matt. 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Solomon is telling us that we should have an attitude that expresses a longing, a deep desire to get into the Word. Think of the moment in time when you were physically more hungry or thirsty than you had even been. All you could think about was food. You couldn’t wait to get that meal. That is the natural, physical desire for nourishment; the exact same desire we should have for the spiritual nourishment that sustains us in our walk of faith.

In direct opposition to this Solomon says, “But he who hates reproof is stupid.” Anyone that can have their mistakes corrected, that can broaden their horizons, can learn the better or best way, the right way, the wisest way and yet refuses to learn these things is stupid. Hey Solomon, tell us what you really think. Stupid means lacking intelligence or common sense. Think about how you may have attempted to instruct someone and they refused to listen to you. Think of the person that attempts to put together that toy or piece of furniture, or hang that ceiling fan, but won’t look at the instructions. Think of the person that attempts to repair to a car and there are pieces left over. You try to correct it and they get all bent out and refuse to listen. They’re stupid. Come on, you might be thinking, that’s different. Let me put it in Solomon’s context. I think of all the people that I have had dealings with in a ministry or Bible context that refuse the instructions found in Scripture. They have less experience, less knowledge, less education, less time on this earth, less everything associated with walking by faith, but will not listen to good, solid, biblical guidance. They’re stupid. Harsh you say? Look at the stakes involved. A broken car versus eternity. Overly dramatic? That’s part of Satan’s plan to downplay the importance of walking a life of passionate authenticity for Christ. It does matter what and how we think and it matters what our life looks like.

This segues nicely into the next principle. Solomon then says, “A good man will obtain favor from the Lord.” Don’t confuse this with earning salvation. A good man here is someone that remains good no matter the circumstances. His thoughts are good; his heart is pure; he is in tune with God. The world may be against him, but he remains steadfast in God’s arms. This is the glass half full person, this is the silver lining person, this is the person that continues to keep the mission of this life at the forefront of his mind. Our walk of faith takes no breaks, there is no vacation, there are no off days. The good man seeks to passionately follow Christ all the time, but He will condemn a man who devises evil.”   It’s a straight forward contrast with no deep, hidden meaning. This person cannot be good because he is plotting and planning what is not godly. “A man will not be established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will not be moved.” This is a neat and tidy restatement of the previous verse. The root of any goodness we have is God. In order to grow big and strong for God, we must be planted in good, fertile soil. We are mighty because of God. He infuses Himself in us. Regardless of how strong the wind blows, we are held firmly by the roots that are planted in God and in His Word.

Here’s another vivid word picture. “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.” Who wears crowns? Royalty wear crowns and this presents us with the idea that men are the kings of their castle. So what is an excellent wife? Every man in here has an idea of what an excellent wife might look and act like. To save us from ourselves, let’s make sure we define excellence from God’s perspective. Excellent here means extremely good or outstanding. That probably comes as no surprise to you. It also means virtuous. Virtuous means having high moral standards. Remember the morally ugly woman of 11:22? The excellent woman is not morally ugly. Ruth is one of the most wonderful pictures of godliness in Scripture. She is called a woman of excellence in Ruth 3:11. This woman of virtue is not just loving, godly, and morally pure, she is a crown to her husband. This is symbolic of the crown or wreath that grooms often wore at their wedding. The woman of virtue finishes off the man. The opposite is also true. “But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.”   Shame here means act shamefully. That’s any type of behavior that could be shameful. Gossip, short tempered, arrogant, conceited, immoral, lazy, etc. Before you women get all antsy on me and call me a caveman and a chauvinist, there are abundant principles regarding the behavior of godly women in Scripture. I am not in favor of restricting the vote of women, or not allowing women to walk alone in public, have a job, drive, or any of those things that we might define as antiquated. Let me be clear, while Scripture calls women the weaker vessel, that does not mean women are not as smart, not as valuable, not as wise, not as knowledgeable, etc. as men. That’s not Solomon’s point here. He is simply saying that a wonderful, godly woman is like putting a crown on her husband’s head. Our wives can and often make us as men look very good. Our wives are often called our better half. When that half causes shame in our lives, it’s like a rottenness that destroys from the inside out.

Part of the lifelong learning we pursue, is a change in our behavior to mimic Christ. He transforms us to look more and more like Him. All of us can change. We should all desire to change to become more and more like Christ.

Household Troubles

1 Jun

TroubleYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time we were together, Solomon provided some vivid word pictures about beauty. It is far more important to have the inner beauty of God than external beauty. We learned that the desire of godly people is only good. Godly people rejoice in the good fortune of others. We also saw the comparison of the greedy to the giving. This morning, we’ll continue down the road of generosity and riches to see where it takes us.

Pro. 11:28-31 says, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls. If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!”

This is a beautiful segue from our last message. Solomon compared greedy to generous and he reminds us, “He who trusts in riches will fall.” (Pro. 11:28) Rich is a relative term that we typically associate with the ultra-wealthy. According to the Social Security Administration, the average income of an American is about $44,000 a year. That seemed a bit high, so I lowered the income to $25,000 a year and checked globalrichlist.com to determine what rich is on a global scale. If you make $25,000 a year, you are in the top 2% of the richest people in the world. The point is that riches are fleeting; they can disappear in an instant. People that brag about how much money they have are in a dangerous place. In 1 Tim. 6:17 Paul said, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies  us with all things to enjoy.” If you’re hope is in your job, your investments, your 401k, or any other financial type account, at some point, you’ll find yourself lacking. Of course it’s nice to have money, but that’s not where our hope lies. In this congregation, I doubt anyone is putting their hope of eternity in their finances. For the most part, I know you, I know your families, I know where you live, and what you do for a living. While this idea may not apply to anyone here, you probably cross paths with people that have this type of thinking. It’s always about the money. It seems like every conversation you have with them is about money. They tell you how much everything costs or what things are worth. They track the rise and fall of the stock market, they want their kids to have the best education so they have the best job. Maybe they talk about retiring at 40 or 50. Life is more than money.

Think of the hope you can offer someone that is hung up on money, but that doesn’t mean the conversation will be an easy one. Jesus said, “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 19:24) All the financial and material blessings you have on this earth will be left behind. The idea is the rich may not see a need for Jesus because they have what this world offers. When you stand before the Lord, riches will fail you. “But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” Maybe you’ve heard this type of analogy before. In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Ps. 1:3, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Righteousness causes us to flourish. Flourish means to develop in a healthy or vigorous manner. When riches fail, righteousness remains. No one can take that away because we are grafted into Christ and the more we grow, the more we look like Jesus.

What looks like a shift in topics is not. Solomon speaks of the household. “He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.” These represent extremes in the home. There are a couple of different schools of thought on this verse. When you take the whole passage as one, which is the most accurate way to do it, you get the idea that there is a person that causes trouble in the house. You might quickly conclude that person is a child. I don’t really think Solomon is talking about children because there are other parts of Proverbs that we have seen already that deal with kids and there are others that we will see later that talk about kids. It seems that Solomon is talking about mismanagement in the home. Solomon is talking about the head of the household that does not take care of those under his authority – particularly servants. They don’t have adequate food, shelter, or any of the others things you would expect in a home. So who’s in charge of the home? The man, the husband, the father. If the leader of the home is consumed with riches and getting ahead in this world, that will lead to other less than desirable traits. Have you ever encountered someone that is like this? He totally neglects his family for the pursuit of riches. He’s not involved at all in leading the family. He can’t tell you what grade the kids are in, doesn’t know their activities, he really doesn’t know anything that is happening in the home. It seems that most scholars lean to this interpretation.

The troubler of his own house inherits the wind. At least he gets something right? Think about this for a second in the time in which this was written. Wind was useless, it was noisy, it kicked up dirt and sand, and was overall unpleasant. Now you get the idea. If it’s your responsibility to take care of the household and if you don’t, your inheritance is worthless. In fact not just that, but the fool becomes servant to the wise. Wisdom always wins out. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” This is more than just a nice verse. Think of the metaphor. The seed of one fruit can generate a tree that will produce fruit over the life of that tree. Remember, Solomon is still comparing wise to foolish, godliness to wickedness, good to evil. In light of those comparisons, the benefits of a righteous person cannot be underestimated. The overall good that person infuses into life are immeasurable. Where I live, we have a lot of citrus trees. When you consider the fruit produced by a healthy tree, you typically have more fruit than one family can consume. The righteousness produced by that godly individual not only benefits that person’s family, but provides spiritual nourishment to those around him.

The second part of that verse has been the subject of some controversy among Hebrew Bible scholars. Since I am not an expert in the Hebrew language, I am limited in how far I can understand this. The phrase, “wins souls” is translated to kill where it’s used in other places in Scripture. In fact, the Revised Standard Version read, “But lawlessness takes away lives.” The New Revised Standard Version and the Holman Christian Standard reads, “But violence takes lives away.” The Message reads, “A violent life destroys souls.” When we consider the comparisons in these verses and read the verse to say, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, but violence takes lives away,” it seems to make more sense. We’ve seen patterns in Solomon’s writings to this point so it makes sense to interpret it this way. What’s the point? According to 2 Tim. 2:15, we are to rightly divide the word of truth. Solomon has been making a great case to support the principle that leading a life of wickedness, evil, deception, and ungodliness leads to death while leading a life of godliness and wisdom leads to life. So if you want to read there is wisdom in saving souls – that’s a good principle to live by. I would even suggest it’s a principle we’re commanded to follow in Matt. 28:19-20 as the primary mission of the church. If you think that’s too much info, change your thinking. Don’t fall into the trap that you just don’t need to know all that. Remember what Ravi Zacharias said, we have people that “know[s] less and less of why they believe what they believe.”

Finally, Solomon says, “If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how more the wicked and the sinner!” Since we’re still in comparison mode, it’s fair to say that there are often times God gives us what we deserve. Heb. 12:6 reminds us that God disciplines us not just to correct unacceptable behavior, but also because He loves us. It’s the same reason you discipline your children. Many times, He chooses not to give what us we deserve and that’s called mercy. Solomon is saying that if God chooses to hold us accountable and we have examples of this in Adam, Moses, and David among a whole host of other regular people we see in Scripture, He will also hold the wicked accountable. Peter says it this way, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17)

The wicked will not get a free pass. Solomon has gone to great lengths to teach us about wisdom. He’s taken the time to compare godliness and wickedness: greed and generosity. We are challenged over and over again to live a life that glorifies God. Are we going to accept the challenge and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, or are we going to believe the lie that God doesn’t care how we live as long as we’re sincere.

Lipstick on a Pig

18 May

lipstick-on-a-pigYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us that our lifestyle does impact the community we live in. As the behavior and thinking of people move away from God, the impact in the community or society is evident. God does not declare that it’s progressive thinking or tolerance, it is simply ungodly. We combat this with a lifestyle that demonstrates the power of God in our lives that is evident by our love for one another and for others. This morning, Solomon provides us some vivid word pictures as he continues telling us how to live for God.

In Pro. 11:22-27 Solomon says, As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.  The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is wrath. There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it. He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.”

Solomon kicks this passage off with our first and perhaps most vivid word picture. “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a woman who lacks discretion.” I love this verse because it’s so true. Solomon is talking about beauty and this is another way of saying that beauty is more than skin deep. It’s much more important to have inner beauty, but that’s not what the world says. That’s why you see so many beauty enhancing products. That’s why you see products that claim to be age defying. Our society is so desperate to look good on the outside that we forget what God looks at. 1 Pet. 3:3, “Your adornment must not be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses.” Are you thinking this is a crazy analogy? Gen. 24 tells us the story of Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant prayed a very specific prayer so that he would know that God had sent just the right girl for Isaac. He ends up in Mesopotamia and comes upon a spring where he could water his camels and see his very specific prayer played out. A beautiful young girl named Rebekah walks up and Abraham’s servant says to her, “‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him’; and I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her wrists.” (Gen. 24:47) This was a practice in the days of the patriarchs to signify a marriage or a wife.

Think of putting a ring on a pig’s snout. Pigs represented what was unclean, dirty, forbidden, they represented a threat to agriculture, they were overall useless. Dogs and pigs are often considered along the same lines. The behavior of these two animals reveals who they really are. 2 Pet. 2:2 says, “It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” It is nonsensical to put a ring on a pig’s snout. It’s equally nonsensical to look only at the external beauty of a woman and that’s what Solomon is saying here. You can dress up a pig and put lipstick on it, but it’s still a pig. A woman can be gorgeous on the outside and look horrible on the inside. In this context discretion means moral perception. So put it all together, a beautiful woman that lacks discretion is ethically bankrupt, is valueless, and morally ugly. Now, that is a word picture.

Here’s another comparison. Verse 23 reminds us, “The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.” Again, Solomon paints with a broad brush. All of us can have unrighteous desires from time to time, but Solomon is telling us that the overall desires of the righteous are good. You want good things for people; you want them to get that new car, that promotion, that new house, to have children or adopt a child, or to find the spouse they long for. You don’t want them to endure pain or suffering and your heart breaks when theirs breaks. That is the thought pattern of the righteous. You don’t have the attitude of judgment; they can’t afford that car or house. They wouldn’t be very good parents. That’s the way the wicked think. The righteous want what’s good for people, the wicked want what is bad and they really want wrath. Wrath is generally attributed to God’s judgment and that’s accurate here too. They don’t want God’s discipline which is designed for our growth and demonstrates God’s love for us; they want God to exercise judgment to satisfy their own twisted desires, they want God to remove those that stand in the way of what they want.

Here is something I want you to think about. Have you noticed how divisive it is has gotten today, even among believers? Have you ever heard anyone affiliated with the church at large say that as Christians we just need to love everyone like God does and we need to accept people where they are? The church, at least the American church, is no longer doctrinally and theologically sound, but is bent toward feeling and emotion. Ravi Zacharias said it this way,

“We manufacture feelings in our churches. We manufacture emotions in our churches. Feelings have come unhinged from the mind and unbelief. Feelings are a powerful thing, but they should follow belief, not create belief. In our churches this whole move towards this emotional celebratory stunts that was born in doctrinal vacuum where the person knows less and less of why they believe what they believe but more and more of how ecstatic they are because of it has been a dangerous amputation that has taken place.” (The Truth Project)

The real issue that divides people is the Word of God. Are we going to believe what the Word says, or are we going to allow people that claim a relationship with God to define the Bible as outdated, irrelevant, intolerant, and simply not essential for life? Everyone here can likely think of a divisive issue that is in the news today and probably has had a conversation about it this week. This all plays nicely into Satan’s schemes to shift the focus away from the truth that will set people free and that will lead authentic believers into a passionate, zealous pursuit of Christ where there is no giving up or giving in.

Solomon now makes some direct comparisons with two character traits that are in direct opposition to one another. Vs. 26-27 tells us, “He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it. He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.” There has been much talk regarding finances and there will be much more before we finish this study. One of the predominate reasons Solomon brings it up is that money is necessary. God promises to provide for us and for most people, working at a job to earn wages is the process by which is happens. Even when we go way back, although actual currency may not have be exchanged, bartering of goods and services were necessary to ensure people had what was needed to sustain life. We do have examples of God supernaturally providing for the physical needs of people. In Ex. 16, God provided manna and quail for the Israelites as they wandered. 1 Ki. 17 tell us of Elijah and the cruse of oil and jar of flour that did not run out. In Matt. 15, we see Jesus feeding 4000 with just seven loaves a few fish. We see the principle of working all the way back to the garden when God gave the mandate to Adam and Eve to take care of it in Gen. 2. I have given you this background to help you understand the importance of working in order to be generous, but it is not a prerequisite. In God’s economy, you will not be able to out give God, but it’s not a competition. People who think if they give, then they will lack have not tested God. Solomon says when you give, you increase all the more. When generosity is demonstrated, more will be given.

Look at the disclaimer in v. 24, “Withholds what is justly due.” The issue here really revolves around hoarding. When you refuse to give or even sell what you have, v. 26 says, “The people will curse him.” I think of fictional characters like Mr. Scrooge and Mr. Potter. They had lots of wealth, but they were hated by the people. They were hated because they refused to share their abundant wealth. These folks were known for their shady business dealings, but let me be clear. I’m not in favor of Robin Hood tactics. We’re talking about generosity from a godly perspective. God expects us to share when we have bounty to those in need and when we’re in need, God will provide through the generosity of others. Sometimes though, the opposite happens. People who have relied on the generosity of others often fail to exercise the same generosity when they have more than they need. Those who are generous tend to continue to have more than they need and they continue to give it away. Most of us are born with a sense of self-preservation – it’s our sin nature. Generosity comes supernaturally and those that exercise this Christ like characteristic will be prosperous according to v. 26. It means to be successful or flourish, especially financially. The more generous you are, the more prosperous you will be. Again, we’re talking generally.

Finally Solomon says, “He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.” Just by trying to find good, by searching to do what is good for others and for yourself will find favor with God. Nothing is said of achieving it, but God takes pleasure in you looking for good. On the other hand, if you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.

If you are righteous, you’re going to want what’s good for everyone. You’ll go looking for it and that is pleasing to God. If you withhold what is rightly due someone, the people will not be happy. We’re to be generous, not greedy. We’ll check this topic of generosity in greater detail next time.

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