God Won't Be Bought

Today’s reading is Luke 21.

I simply do not think it is a coincidence that the poor widow is exalted as an example right after Jesus belittled the scribes for devouring widows’ houses. The Law was clear; the mistreatment of widows was an abomination (see Exodus 22:22-24). Isaiah 1: 12-17 is profoundly parallel to Luke 20:45-21:4. As in Isaiah’s day, the scribes were trampling God’s courts. Their long prayers were an abomination because they did not correct oppression or plead the widow’s cause. As Isaiah went on to do in his book, Luke goes on in the rest of this chapter to describe the judgment that will now be coming upon Israel. Perhaps it is a mere coincidence, but the word translated “greater” in Luke 20:47 is from the same family as the word “abundance” in Luke 21:4. That is, those who gave out of their abundance would still receive the more abundant condemnation. Their abundant gifts will not change that one iota. God will not be bought. God will not be bartered with. God wants all of us. We can’t pick and choose the bits we want to give to Him. We can’t pay Him off to make up for it. We can’t “do church” right enough to make up for lacking love, compassion, and justice. Of course, we must also recognize it goes the other way. We can’t “do mercy” enough to make up for worshiping God falsely either. The point here is not that one is better than the other. The point is if we try to pick and choose, we’ll never be able to drop enough money in the plate to buy God’s favor. God won’t be bartered with. God won’t be bought. We must render to God all that is His, and that is all that is us.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 21.

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A Good Living OR a Good Life

Today’s reading is Luke 21.

Most of us spend our lives trying to earn a good living. However, Jesus highlights the widow who hardly has any living at all as the epitome of all His teaching. In Luke 12:15, Jesus pointed out that life does not consist of possessions. In Luke 19:18-23, the one we call the rich, young ruler had a good living, but he walked away from true life. Here, a poor widow shows that she was focused on real life. She was willing to sacrifice her life so she could have real life. The point, of course, is not that simply being poor qualifies anyone for the kingdom. Neither is the point that being wealthy excludes anyone from the kingdom. However, we do learn that the idea that material goods are not the indicator of God’s approval. If God blesses you with a good living, that’s cool. Use it to glorify Him and serve your brothers and sisters. But don’t waste your years chasing a good living, invest your time pursing a good life. And through Jesus Christ find what is life indeed.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 21.

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A True Example

Today’s reading is Luke 21.

You know what would be super cool? To be Jesus’s ultimate example. Think about it. How would you like it if Jesus called His disciples together, pointed at you, and said, “You know all this stuff I’ve been talking about for the past three years? That person right there, that person is getting it right. That person is what I’ve been talking about.” Wouldn’t that be cool? That actually happened. Luke recorded it, but I’ve overlooked it most of my life because it is just four verses, the person isn’t even named, and I always thought it was just written to teach us about how to give into the collection. I’m talking about the unnamed widow who put two little coins into the temple treasury. Really, I encourage you to reread all of Luke and see if you can’t see how so much of what Jesus taught culminates in the example of this widow. Even in this immediate context she is set up as a contrast not merely to the rich that are likely looking down on her paltry contribution, but as a contrast to the scribes from the end of the previous chapter. You would think that men who spend their days copying and teaching God’s law would stand out as the ultimate examples. No. They are pretenders who look spiritual but actually defraud widows. As Luke records it, almost as soon as Jesus highlights this about the scribes he sees a literal widow who isn’t defrauding others. She isn’t taking from the less fortunate. Rather, she is defrauding herself in order to support the temple. As Jesus had said to the brothers arguing about an inheritance, life isn’t made up of possessions. Now we see a woman who really believes that. Wow! I want to be more like her.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 21.

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No Pretending

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

It broke my heart. I had become friends with a couple of baristas years ago in Texas. They had invited me to their coffee shop/diner. They often gave me steep discounts. I would try to talk to them about the gospel, Jesus, the church. They were always nice to me. I think they liked me, but they always stiff-armed on the spiritual conversations. I remember one conversation though. They didn’t say it quite this politely, but one of the ladies said one day, “You know how you can tell a business owner is going to take advantage of you?” “How?” I replied. “If he’s got a fish or a cross on his business card.” In other words, business owners who make their Christianity part of their marketing are probably out to make a buck, not save your soul. I’m sure her statement was painting with way too broad of a brush. But it does get at Jesus’s point at the end of Luke 20. God doesn’t like pretending. Christianity isn’t a game. It isn’t a business strategy or a marketing ploy. Jesus Christ intends to change lives down at the heart level and then outward to the behavior that loves God and loves your neighbor. It doesn’t matter how often you go to church, how you dress up when you are there, or how actively you participate, if you are taking advantage of people, you’re just pretending. If you aren’t going to really follow Jesus, don’t pretend.

Monday’s reading is Luke 21.

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On Questions and Answers

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

There are lots of questions out there. Many of them are good. Some of them…not so much. I know I have to learn from the Sadducees’ question about the resurrection. I need to hear its warning against my own arrogance. We need to ask questions. We need to be free to ask questions. But when I am not careful, I can develop an arrogance around my questions. Sometimes I come up with questions that I can’t seem to answer. They flummox me to no end. Sometimes I’ll share the questions with others, and they aren’t sure they know the answers either. Herein lies the arrogance. I start to assume that because I don’t know the answer, there must not be one. Then the real danger sets in. Someone actually comes along and answers it, but I can’t accept their answer because I’ve already bought into my own arrogance that the question has no answer. Usually, I am invested in the lack of answer because it leaves me free to pursue something I want or avoid something I don’t want. Jesus’s interaction with the Sadducees teaches me that just because I couldn’t figure out the answer to a question, doesn’t mean there is no answer. When someone does answer it, providing Word of God evidence, it’s time for me to humble myself and let the answer change my life.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 20.

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Render to God

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Certainly, Jesus’s statement does authorize paying taxes. However, if we make this statement about taxes or political involvement, we’ve completely missed the point. Further, Jesus wasn’t giving budgeting advice. Jesus was not saying give God His 10% first (or whatever percent you want to label it), give Caesar his pound of flesh, then you can do whatever else you want with the rest of your money. You know what is Caesar’s because it has Caesar’s likeness on it. You know what is God’s because it has God’s likeness on it. God’s likeness isn’t inscribed on a coin, in metal, or on a wooden statue. It is inscribed on you and me. We are created in the image of God. I don’t render to God what is His by devoting a percentage of my income to Him. I render to God by giving 100% of myself to Him. If I do that, then I’ll answer questions about taxes (and any other topic) properly. That is Jesus’s point.

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

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Surely Not!

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants is a bit of an outlier among the parables. Unlike most of the parables, the people hearing this one seemed to know exactly what Jesus meant by it. Well, perhaps not exactly. They didn’t know that “my beloved son” meant Jesus was in fact God’s Son. But they did know Jesus was claiming the Jews were going to be judged, destroyed, and the vineyard would be given to others. Of course, the only others were the Gentiles. The Jews simply couldn’t fathom this. It didn’t fit within their worldview that God would behave like this. After all, this is the God who loves and chose the Jewish nation to be His own special people. This is the God who lovingly cleared the vineyard, planted the vineyard, watered the vineyard of His special people (see Isaiah 27:2-11). How could this loving vineyard owner judge his vineyard and the tenants so harshly? “Surely not!” the Jews cry. If this were a modern movie, Jesus would have responded, “Yes, and don’t call me Surely.” Please, understand. There is a modern parallel to this. More and more people who even claim to be Christian just can’t wrap their mind around a loving God who will give people up to their rejection of Him. To these it is anathema and unfathomable that God would judge anyone permanently and irreversibly, casting them out of His presence into the outer darkness, away from Him, which is the torturous existence we call hell. “Surely not!” we cry. But please be aware, if we reject God’s attempts to draw us close to Him, He will give us up to our rejection. And we will discover that living in our rejection of God is more horrific than we can possibly imagine.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 20.

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