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Monday, July 6, 2020

To Share Good News (Matthew 10:1-32)

Sunday, July 5, 2020

 Matthew 10:1-23 – Calvary Chapel Dayton (Beavercreek), Ohio; non ...

Watch here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tv4QS34cu2I&t=7s

            The word ‘Gospel’ literally is “good news.” We need good news. 

            Chaos reigns.  Have you seen what’s happening in Seattle?  CHOP – the capitol hill organized protest – has marched, night after night to the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct. The standoffs with police have resulted in “officers using tear gas, flashbangs, and pepper spray to disperse hundreds of people demanding change.”[i] Maybe the crowds feel like quiet, peaceful protests don’t get results. People are frustrated.  Maybe good officers who have never exhibited prejudice or bias in their work now feel tired, persecuted, and maybe a little scared.  However you see it, you hear “tear gas, flashbangs, and pepper spray,” and you know things have gone crazy.  We need calm in the face of the storm. 

Most of us are unaffected by events in Seattle, but we deal with different disruptions in our own lives here.  The Gospel is reassurance that God, not chaos, rules the world.  The gospel is the best news for our time.  For racial healing, for political polarization, for identity politics, for hedonistic materialism; the promise that Jesus is Lord is the word of healing that delivers us from every modern threat. 

            What was so good about Jesus’ words and actions in Matthew?  Matthew 9:5: Jesus reassures a paralyzed man.  “Your sins are forgiven,” he tells the man.  An offended group of scribes whisper to each other that Jesus is a blasphemer.  Only God can forgive sins.  Jesus heals the man of his paralysis (9:6-7), and thus establishes his divine authority to forgive.  Then in chapter 10, he imparts the power to heal to the 12 disciples.  They travel throughout Galilee, healing diseases as he did. 

            Why did Jesus use heal illnesses?  This was Galilee in 30 AD.  They didn’t have hospitals; no 9-1-1 service.  A common sickness easily treated today could end in death in that day.  Why heal and give the disciples the power to heal?  Society needed it.  Why not grant disciples that power today?  Our needs are different.  What wonderful things did Jesus do that we need today? 

            In Matthew 9:33, crowds are amazed when they see Jesus drive a demon out of a man.  In chapter 10, he granted the disciples the power to cast out demons and then sent them to go do it and they did!  I am not here to debate the existence of demons.  Matthew 9 says Jesus drove evil spirits out of people, freeing them from bondage to Satan.  Matthew 10 says he empowered his disciples to repeat this work. 

To me, the interesting question is what does Jesus need to drive out of us?  Defensiveness?  Self-righteous outrage?  Unwillingness to be generous toward neighbors holding views different than our own?  For us a pressing question is what are the things Jesus is calling the church to drive out?  In Galilee, 30 AD, exorcisms were good news because demons possession was a real problem.  In our community, the year 2020, exorcizing hate speech, racism, impatience, outrage culture, and identity politics is good news because all of these evils set us at one another’s throats and prevent us from giving each other the love God commands we give. 

The parallels from Jesus’ actions in Matthew 9 to his disciples repeat of those actions in chapter 10 indicate the direction his movement took.  The disciples didn’t just watch Jesus, learn miracle-working as a skill, and then employ that skill.  They went because he sent them.  They acted in power that he gave them.  The did exactly what he instructed them to do. 

This commission to go out to the world repeats to every generation of believers who commit to following Jesus.  In Matthew 10:5-15, we hear something that sounds unwelcome and odd to our ears; the restriction that this announcing of and enactment of good news is for Israel and Israel only.  It’s an unwelcome limit from our point of view, but only if we isolate Matthew 10.  If we see it as a part of the larger story, we are free to fast forward to the last chapter.  In 10:23, Jesus says, “You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”  Then comes the crucifixion. Then Jesus is dead in the ground, and the dream seemingly dead, the good news ended.   

Then, in Matthew 28, his followers discover the empty tomb and meet the risen Lord.  The promise from 10:23 is fulfilled.  Jesus has come.  Now, he doesn’t say anything about keeping this good news of the Kingdom to Israel.  He says just opposite.  “Go and make disciples of all nations” (28:9).

That commission continues from generation to generation.  We today are to do our part in making disciples of all nations.  The beginning of our proclamation is “Jesus is Lord.”  It’s a Christian’s core confession.  Jesus is Lord.  In him, the kingdom of God has come near.  A definition of the Kingdom is “the rule of God.”  So the good news is that in Jesus we have forgiveness of sin, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to remove whatever blocks the way and prevents someone from living under the rule of God.  We go out, tell good news, specifically that Jesus is Lord, and we help people we meet live under the rule of God. 

Something I thought about, reading and re-reading this account of Jesus sending his followers throughout Galilee.  Galilee was not the most important part of Israel.  Israel was one of the weaker areas of the Roman Empire.  The real action was in the great ancient cities – Alexandria, Athens, Corinth, and especially Rome. 

Moreover, the disciples Jesus selected to carry out the work were average people.  Several were fishermen.  One was a tax collector, a dubious profession in the first century.  Another, Judas, was not a tax collector, but behaved as dishonestly as people expected tax collectors would.  Simon the Zealot had been attached to a violent revolutionary group.  Have we seen any violent revolutionaries in the news lately?  Think about your own feelings as you watch someone you assume to be a part of Antifa.  You watch him on the new toss a Molotov cocktail in the direction of the police.  Jesus called that guy – the 30 AD version of that Antifa guy - to be a disciple; Simon the Zealot.  The 12 were not remarkable or particularly likeable.  Furthermore, after this mission in Matthew 10 we continue reading until we get to chapters 26 and 27.  Jesus is betrayed, arrested, beaten, denied, and crucified. 

So, through average people in a backwater section of a poor, occupied nation, Jesus thought he was going to bring good news to the world; news of forgiveness of sins, salvation, and God’s rule.  His master plan seemed to hit a snag the moment he died in the most shameful of ways, on a Roman cross.  Sure, the resurrection was awesome, but then what?

For three hundred years after the resurrection, Christians in the Empire were a powerless, oft persecuted minority.  Never mind asking how the faith spread.  The bigger question is how did the Jesus movement even survive?  It did and then in the 4th century, Emperor Constantine came to faith.  The empire was baptized.  The Jesus movement was coopted by those power and the gospel subsequently watered down.  In spite of the initial weakness, and then the corruption under Constantine, the way of Jesus spread in all directions until there were Christians all over the globe.  Jesus sent his followers out and the word did not come back empty.

So, what about today? We’ve touched on the fact that we are every bit as sent by the same Jesus as the original 12 disciples were sent.  Some of our tasks will be different than theirs because the needs of the world in 2020 are not the same at the needs of 30 AD.  As an expression of who Jesus is, we fight racism, we band together in the face of disease and divisiveness and identity politics.  We care for the natural world, God’s glorious creation.  In all these specific manifestations of good news, we repeat the core message: Jesus is Lord.  In him the Kingdom of God has come near.  The kingdom is the rule of God. 

What does sharing good news look like for us?  We live in Rome.  In Jesus’ day, the greatest human power was the Roman Empire.  The United States of America is bigger and more powerful than Rome ever could have hoped to be.  Being in the belly of the beast, we see the reduction of God’s church.  Churches of all stripes are in dramatic decline in Europe and church attendance in America is dwindling.  In the West, the seat of human power, Christianity is shrinking.  In the global South – across Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin American evangelical movements, and throughout Asia – among poor, politically powerless people the church is exploding with growth. 

OK.  We recognize we’re at the heart of a power-obsessed, self-serving, God-ignoring culture.  Our community needs good news just as much as Galilee did when Jesus sent his disciples there in Matthew 10.  So, we go.  We are sent with good news to Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Pittsboro, Hillsboro, and Durham.

We go because we have news.  Jesus is Lord, and people around us don’t know that.  New is only new when people share it. 

We go because the world needs this message.  People are lonely and need love, so they turn to porn.  We help them meet God, the giver of perfect, healing, endless real love.  People are empty, so they turn to alcohol and drugs, or become addicted to destructive websites and fallacious online relationships, they become slaves to television or the internet.  We show them Jesus and the Holy Spirit fills their emptiness.  We don’t go to save America.  We don’t save anyone. Jesus is the Savior.  We are witnesses.  We go to help lonely people in empty lives see what we’ve seen and experience what we’ve felt.

We go because Jesus sends us.  To walk the way of Jesus is to obey his commands, receive his power, and bless people.  Or, as we say at Hillside, we follow Jesus, love others, and share hope.  We go because that’s who we are, disciples on mission.

AMEN


Monday, June 29, 2020

Identified with Christ


Of Random Acts of Kindness and Social Media — Steemit 

         To be identified with Christ is to embody specific attributes.  The New Testament enumerates many of these traits in “virtue lists” found throughout.  For instance: 2 Timothy 2:24-25.  “The Lord’s servant must be … kind to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, [and] correcting opponents with gentleness.  The Christian does not have the option of withholding kindness or opposing others harshly.  Kindness and gentleness are mandated by the word.

          Of course, we see people claiming the title ‘Christian’ lash out in judgment, villainizing those who disagree with them.  Such behavior disregards the New Testament these very Christians would herald as the “word of God.”  Those guilty of withholding kindness and gentleness clearly are not actually connected to Jesus, who gently welcomed the tax collector, the prostitute, the physically disabled, and the morally corrupt.  Why did Jesus treat his opponents so differently that those today, who claim to be his followers?

          Similarly, look to 1 Peter 3:9: “all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and humble mind.”  Again, the label ‘Christian’ inherently calls for full submission to the dictates of the word.  Christians don’t have the option of being unsympathetic, arrogant, or rough.  To speak and act in a bullying, abrasive manner is to reject the Bible’s authority. 

          Numerous other virtue lists round out the picture of one who truly follows Jesus.  For better understanding, begin reading in Matthew chapter 1 and keep at it through Revelation chapter 22. 

          Christians in America stand at a five-way (at least) intersection where divergent COVID-19 responses, reckoning with generational & structural racism, bipolar presidential politics, instant feedback on social media, and one’s personal identity all collide.  In this maelstrom of words and assaults, what is the Christian’s posture?  We know from the virtue lists: when attacked or offended, we are to be humble, kind, gentle, and sympathetic.

          Consider the specific arena of Facebook.  Is Jesus defiantly posting memes to assert his rights?  Well, he never asserts his rights in the Bible, so why would he do so on Facebook?  And if he wouldn’t why do his followers?  To act in a way differently than Jesus, indicates the individual isn’t really following him. 

          Zero in on the example of someone who feels offended, hurt, or scared.  Does one respond to someone else by defending one’s own right to say or do or post what made the other feel offended, hurt, or scared?  If so, that one isn’t communicating in the way Jesus did, and thus is not a ‘little Christ,’ even if he or she claims the moniker ‘Christian.’  A black person feels threatened or hurt; the white person tells the black person not to make a deal out of it; or, not to see race in everything; or, to get over it and move on.  Obviously that white person is not walking in the way of Jesus and thus is not ‘Christian’ regardless of his or her claims. 

          To the black person who feels wounded, Jesus says, “I proclaim release to the captives” (Luke 4:18b); and, “I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28); and, “my peace I give to you; do not let your hearts be troubled” (Jn. 14:27).   Jesus welcomes all who are broken, all who are repentant, and all who seek truth.  Jesus will give success to the white or Asian or black person who strives to embody kindness, gentleness, welcome, and the other virtues.  He will guide the lost and fill the hungry.  Christians don’t need to be super saints; they only need to die to self and live in Christ.

          Christians embodying Christ will affect the community; working through His church, Jesus will bring change to the way people interact.  But that won’t happen when Christians are more caught up in defending their identities and asserting their rights than in exhibiting his holy gentleness and kindness.  When Christians, on Facebook and other platforms, act as combatively as anyone else in society, they actively suppress the positive force of the Gospel.  Christians acting like the world instead of like Christ hurt the world as much as anything.

          Christian reader, does the Bible have authority?  Are Christians bound to live by the word?  Do Christians understand that choosing to walk in the way of Christ means one chooses to relate to others gently, humbly, kindly, and sympathetically, even when those others are obnoxiously confrontational?  To find out if Christians understand these things, look at their Facebook posts and Tweets. Look for Christ in what people express in their social media communications.  Holding Facebook up to the virtue lists will reveal who is identified with Christ.

The Hard Road Before Us (Matthew 7:13-27)




Sunday, June 28, 2020

Scripture for the Day | Petros Baptist Church




            “You cannot serve God and wealth” we hear Jesus say in Matthew 6 (v.24), as he confronts us.  His disciples had followed him to a mountain top.  In this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents the extremes of discipleship, a calling out of the world.  When we turn our eyes on him and set our hearts on following him, he then teaches the extent of what the call entails.  Love your enemies.  When attacked, turn the other cheek.  Pray for those who persecute you.  Shine your light, your faith, as a city on a hill, a beacon drawing the world to God.

            Now as we come to the final teaching of this sermon, Jesus hits us with stark contrasts.  Much like last week’s emphasis that we must choose God or money as our master, in this final portion, he offers overlapping metaphors of choosing this or that. 

            “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.  For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (v.13-14).  Jesus doesn’t try very hard to sell it.  I once heard a therapist in session say to her struggling client with compassion in her voice, “How can we make your life easier?”  It was as lovely an intro to therapy as I have ever heard.  Who wouldn’t want life to be easier?

            Then along comes Jesus.  He’s not making it easy. To hear him, we have to climb a mountain.    Then he tells us to take the hard road and enter through the narrow gate.  I want the easy road.  I want life to be comfortable, manageable, and stress-free.  He doesn’t really promise any of that.  He says, “Don’t worry.”  But in the same talk he tells us to turn the other cheek and be ready for another blow.  He tells us to depend on God, not money.  And now, we are to intentionally step onto the hard road.  Who does that?

            We do because we trust Jesus and we need Jesus.  But as we do, I offer a two-part warning.  Don’t look over in order to keep track of who is on that easy road headed for the wide gate.  We will drive ourselves crazy if we become envious of neighbors and friends who appear to disregard Jesus and at the same time live happier, easier, more prosperous lives.  Don’t compare your life as a disciple to the lives of people around who aren’t following Jesus.  First, if you pull back the curtain, you’ll surely find that they have deep pain you don’t know about.  Second, if their money, trips, and stuff seem more fulfilling than the Jesus you know in your heart, your probably need to get to him better. 

            The other side of this warning against comparing our lives when we’ve chosen the hard road Jesus lays before us to the lives of people uninterested in Jesus is a warning against pseudo-martyr smugness.  I say ‘pseudo-martyr’ because when we feel ourselves to be superior to people not with Jesus, we want everyone to see that we’ve taken the hard road.  We want to be noticed for our devotion.  Such an attitude corrupts our souls. 

            The closer we get to Jesus, the greater our joy.  It’s a joy we want to share.  We grow close to him through daily disciplines – prayer, Bible reading, quiet times.  We grow close to him when we gather with other Christians, even virtually, and worship together.  We grow close to him when we live in a way that forces us to trust him.  Paradoxically, the weaker we become, the more we are filled with his strength.  The more we share the hurt felt by poor, persecuted people, the more we feel his loving comfort in us.  This kind of joy and love grows in us as we share it.  As we help people see Jesus, we grow close to him, we feel him lift our burdens, and we find ourselves laughing with Heaven’s delight at every step we take on the hard road.

            When we walk that road focused on Jesus, we don’t want to be anywhere else.  When we unsteadily stumble along, constantly looking to the wide, easy roads on either side of us, we find it very hard to move at all. 

            Nick Wellenda has walked a tightrope across the Grand Canyon, between sky scrapers in Chicago, and across the Niagra Falls.  With my fear of heights, I can’t imagine such feats.  In one video, he’s wearing a camara, and we see the angle he sees as he glances toward his feet perilously stepping over a city street hundreds of meters below him.  I got dizzy looking at the video and I was sitting in the comfort of my office.  Wellenda says, “As I was walking along Niagra Falls, there was raging water all around me, mist rising up, and roaring, violent waters beneath me.  But instead of focusing on the problems all around me, I focused on the end.”  Then Wellenda says, “It’s similar to our walk with Christ.  Not all things are easy, but with God all things are possible.”

            We may not be suspended high above waters that would kills us, but we see perils all around.  If our focus is on the problems, the stress, the temptations, and the pain, we’ll soon wander off the hard road bound for the narrow gate, and we’ll be away from the God we need so much.  We need to attend to the traumas and distractions that would upend our lives, but we do this by keeping our focus on Jesus.  In every life circumstance, we stay connect to Jesus, we grow in our relationship with Him, and depend on him more and more.  To follow with our eyes constantly on him, is to stay on the disciple’s path, the hard road.   It is to love the unlovable, help those who need it, and spread joy.  And when we live that way, we discover, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we have helped others find their way to the narrow gate that leads to life in joyous relationship with God the Father. 

            It requires keeping our eyes on Jesus.  Bonhoeffer says,  “If we worry about the dangers that beset us, if we gaze at the road instead of him, … we are already astray.”[i]  He goes on to point out that whereas in Matthew Jesus tells us to walk the hard way and enter by the narrow gate, in John, we hear Jesus tell us he himself is the gate (John 10), and he himself is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14). 

Whether we are thinking about how to react to a global pandemic, or we are struggling with the politics of how our society responds to a pandemic, or we get into conflict with neighbors because their response or their politics are different than our own; in all these scenarios, we keep our eyes on Jesus and he gives joy even as we walk the hard road.  Whether we are opposing racism, or fighting for justice for the poor and the oppressed and the left out, or we yearn for peace in the midst of a politically toxic presidential election cycle; in any of these conversations, we keep our eyes on Jesus and remember that he determines how we treat others and he tells us who we are!  For the disciple, Jesus is in everything – every friendship, every ideology, every activity.

Besides the hard road v. easy road, Jesus offers other contrasts.  Good trees – people who follow his teachings and strive to obey God, bear good fruit; fruit that embodies the mercy and compassion taught in the Sermon on the Mount.  Bad trees – people that serve themselves at the expense of others; the greedy, the racist, the wealthy, the violent bear bad fruit.  They advance themselves, but not God’s agenda.

In addition to likening the disciple life to roads, gates, and trees, he talks about the work of building.  Those who obey Jesus by showing compassion, and giving grace and forgiveness build on solid foundation.  They survive the storms of life.  Those who disregard Jesus live on shifting sand.  Life’s storms so upset these folks they forget who they are.  Pandemics, violent protests, and presidential politics are storms that change souls not tethered to the rock.  We build our lives on the rock, Jesus, and we are his, come what may.

This laser-like focus on Jesus does not mean we have turned our backs on the world; just the opposite.  Next week, we’ll begin a two-part series from Matthew on Jesus’ mission mandate in which we are, in his name, sent into the world.  We go with our eyes on him, determined to help others with their needs and to help them find their way to him. 

The world is everyone who lives apart from God in this time before the end of history and final judgment.[ii]  The world is the tower of Babel run amuck.  The world believes all the lies that if you have enough stuff, if you get your adrenalin fix satisfied, if your team wins or you win, if you have a huge house, and your physical cravings are satiated, then you’ll be happy and happiness is the ultimate end.

When we follow Jesus, we offer the world a better story.  Yes, our story involves hard roads and narrow gates, but on that hard road we discover joy that stays through rainy days.  Jesus is with us right in the middle of the raging storm.  We have as much happiness as the world can offer, but it is different, deeper, and lasting.  It is not dependent on circumstance, and can even grow in the midst of turmoil because our Lord rises above the storm and bring us with Him. 

Hear this better story, the Jesus story; learn it, choose it, tell it, live it.  It is the road that leads to life and it stand open before us.

AMEN



[i] D. Bonhoeffer (1963), The Cost of Discipleship, MacMillan Publishing Company (New York), p.212.
[ii] S. Hauerwas (2006), Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Matthew, Brazos Press (Grand Rapids), p.87.

Monday, June 22, 2020

"This or That" (Matthew 16:19-24



How Can You Store Up Treasure in Heaven? - Pastor Rick's Daily Hope



Sunday, June 21, 2020



            “We are confronted by an either/or” in Christianity.[i]  If our lives are lived according to New Testament teaching, if we desire to walk in the way of Jesus, we must choose this, and reject that.  It’s clear and decisively obvious.

            Some teaching are not as black and white. In Mark 9:40, Jesus says, “Whoever is not against us is for us,” and in Matthew 12:30, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” Matthew 5:20, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Yet in Luke 23, one of the criminals on one of the crosses next to Jesus admits he deserves his fate.  He is guilty.  Jesus promises him, whose righteousness certainly does not exceed the scribes’ that he will be with Jesus in paradise that very day (Luke 23:41, 43).  The Bible contains nuance and mystery. We spend our lives interpreting it.

            Matthew 6:19-24 is not one of those contradiction passages hard to understand.  Jesus’ words here are clear.  The difficulty of Matthew 6:19-24 is we have to deal with it. “Do not store up treasures on earth; … store up treasures in heaven. … Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth”.

            Jesus does not mean slaves have to love cruel overlords.  Every black slave during the first centuries of American history up to the Civil War was a victim of kidnapping, and every white person who perpetuated the institution perpetuated crimes against humanity akin to genocide.  Jesus promised liberation to people in chains (Luke 4:18).  Yet, he also declares all of us are slaves to something.  If we soften the term to “servant,” we gain nothing and miss what Jesus is really saying.  You and I and every person will serve God as master or serve money as master. 

            Does Jesus have the right to do that?  America is a land of choices.  How many fast food places are there?  You could get your burger at Burger King, your fries at MacDonald’s, and your milk shake at Chik-Fil-A.  Jesus may be Lord, but are we willing to submit to this bipolar set of options he’s foisted on us?  Must we agree that it’s either Jesus or money?  Must we adopt that mindsight to be Christians? 

We like the idea of choosing how we worship.   I told I guy I had just met I was a pastor.  He brought our entire conversation to a grinding halt by saying, “I follow God in my own way.”  What does that even mean?  When Bill Bradley opposed Al Gore in the Democratic primaries in 2000, he was asked about his religion.  He put a hard stop to the question.  “That’s personal, he said.”  Jesus has no use for self-made religion or unexpressed faith.  If we want to follow him, sometimes we have to come to grips with polar opposite choices.  “You cannot serve God and wealth.”

If we accept Jesus’ authority to impose the “either/or” on us, then we have to respond.  Our response is not seen in statements we write.  Our response is how we live, and especially in how we think about money and use money. 

Some very wealthy Christians attempt an end run around Jesus’ extreme teaching by insisting their priority is faith and love, and their riches serve faith and love.  In some cases, it’s true.  Read Luke 8:3. Among Jesus’ followers were a group of affluent women who underwrote Jesus’ ministry out of their own funds.  The reason they could give the money to Jesus is they had it.  In our own church’ story, God has blessed us with an anonymous donor or donors.  In the past 7 months we have received two separate significant financial gifts.  We’ve also been able to refinance our building with the North Carolina Baptist Foundation.  The reason?  Wealthy Christians donate to the foundation and make their work possible.  We received big gifts is because someone had money and wanted to give it. 

The serving God v. serving money dichotomy is not as simple as declaring wealth evil. But, as Hauerwas writes, “Jesus is very clear.  Wealth is a problem.”[ii]  Too often, people have a lot of money or come into a lot of money and their lives begin to shift.  The money starts determining how they make life decisions, instead of existing to bring glory to God.  Preservation of their wealth, not discipleship, shapes their lives.  When that happens, their service to God is made subject to the whims of the true master: the wealth itself.  Often, driven to hold onto their riches, wealthy Christians exhibit anemic discipleship in which Jesus is hardly seen. 

            If we’re reading the Sermon on the Mount then we’re taking discipleship seriously.  This sermon is for disciples of Jesus.  If we take discipleship seriously, then we have to face up to the confrontation.  Jesus has put it before us, right in our faces.  Will it be this or that?  Will I be a slave to God, or will I be owned by money?

            We’ve said yes, Jesus has the right to confront us with this either/or.  We’ve agreed that in the face of this either/or, we have to respond and our response is evident in our daily lives.  How do we submit to Jesus as our overlord?

            I knew two different women who went through seasons of real poverty.  In both cases from month to month, they weren’t sure how the bills would be paid.  The first thing both women did when receiving their small paychecks was to tithe,  10% to their church.  They trusted God to cover them that month.

            Whatever your economic circumstance, are your trusting God in it?  Wealthy disciples of Jesus should be giving a lot more than 10%.  All Christians, whether giving time, money, attention, or talent must find ways to be extravagantly generous; Zacchaeus, the short tax collector Jesus saved, offered to repay everyone he’d cheated 4 times the amount (Luke 19:8).  He had gotten rich cheating a lot of people.  We find ways we can be that generous.  We structure our lives so that there are areas where we have to trust God to make it day-to-day, week-to-week. 

Both of my friends eventually saw their circumstances greatly improve.  It wasn’t like those health-and-wealth charlatans who promise God will give a miracle in the form of financial windfalls.  Rather, my friends worked hard, lived faithfully, and trusted God.  We have to restructure our lives so that we can see how we trust him daily.  I can’t be more precise with your individual life because this kind of lived faith varies in what it looks like from person to person.  Do an honest assessment.  Is there any area of life where God isn’t first?  That area of life must be reordered so that the master is in His rightful place.

Finally, depending on God and seeking ways to be extravagantly generous, we see with eyes of love.  That’s the best way to understand verses 22-23, “if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”  Seeing with eyes of love, we notice people who are hurting and we help them.  Seeing with eyes of love, we recognize where God is at work in the world.  We encourage those involved in God’s good work and we join in it.  Through this seeing and the help and encouragement we give based on what we see, we store up treasures in heaven

Yes, we are confronted by this or that.  Jesus requires extreme commitment of us.  It’s worth giving it.  It’s contrary to our society’s values, but we reject money and wealth as masters over us; we reject money and wealth as organizing principles that determine how our lives are structured.  We reduce money and wealth’s power.  Money is a tool to be used.  God is our Lord and we live our lives for his glory.

AMEN 



[i] D. Bonhoeffer (1963), The Cost of Discipleship, MacMillan Publishing Company (New York), p.196.
[ii] S. Hauerwas (2006), Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Matthew, Brazos Press (Grand Rapids), p.80.