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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Repent

Today’s reading is Luke 19.

Jesus continues to meet real life representatives of His story about the Pharisee and the tax collector. Last week, He met the rich ruler, a Pharisee if there ever was one. Then he met the blind beggar, who like the little children was hindered from calling out to Jesus by the crowds, and who like the tax collector of Jesus’s story simply begged for mercy. And now, Jesus meets an actual tax collector. This meeting gives us some insight to the justification of the tax collector in the story. Justification doesn’t come simply by saying the right words in a prayer. That prayer was the manifestation of a penitent heart, just as Zacchaeus’s reaction to Jesus was. The rich ruler walked away sad from Jesus. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, received Jesus joyfully and responded to His teaching. He repented. He restored fourfold to all those he had swindled (as tax collectors were wont to do in those days), however, beyond that he gave half of all he had to the poor. In the account of Zacchaeus, the people call him a sinner. But he was just like the tax collector in the story. He didn’t need others to call him a sinner. He knew exactly who he was, but he also knew exactly who Jesus was. Jesus was offering mercy. Zacchaeus understood. What response could there be but repentance, turning his life over to Jesus. This is what the justification of Jesus’s story looks like.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 19.

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A Case Study in Stewardship

Today’s reading is Luke 16.

Earlier in the week we saw Jesus’s three point sermon on stewardship. Now we see a case study of stewardship. Jesus’s earlier parable encouraged the sons of light to be as shrewd in their preparations for the future as the sons of this world are. Now we see an example of a son of light who was not shrewd enough. The rich man was shrewd enough to think and act like a son of the world. He had used his finances shrewdly enough to be prepared to live in this world. However, he had not behaved as a son of light should. He had not made friends by means of his unrighteous wealth so that he could be welcomed into eternal dwellings. He had left Lazarus on his very own doorstep, poor, destitute, hungry. In eternity, he begged for mercy from Lazarus, but he had been unwilling to give any mercy to Lazarus while on this earth. The rich man was not welcomed by Lazarus into eternal dwellings, but even worse, he wasn’t even able to receive the least service of hospitality from Lazarus. In life, there was nothing but a gateway between the rich man and Lazarus. In eternity, there was a gulf too wide to cross. The rich man wouldn’t be bothered to help Lazarus in life. In eternity, even if Lazarus wanted to bestow mercy on the rich man, he couldn’t. I know we are wont to make this story of Lazarus and the rich man about a response to Jesus and being baptized. However, whether this story is a parable or an account of real events (as some suggest), it was about people before turning to Jesus was even a possibility. This is about being a shrewd, faithful, loyal steward. The rich man was not. Jesus is placing an exclamation point on His sermon about stewardship. We need to see it. Israel didn’t listen when Moses and the Prophets said to love God and love your neighbor. Will we listen when the one who rose from the dead said so?

Monday’s reading is Luke 17.

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Counting the Cost

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

If we want to be Jesus’s disciple, we must count the cost. We don’t want to be like the fellow who starts to build a house, couldn’t actually afford it, and leaves a half finished monument to his poor planning. The cost? Renouncing everything. Isn’t it interesting that the cost is not paying everything? Even when the fellow we often call the rich, young ruler came to Jesus, Jesus didn’t say, “Sell all you have and give it to Judas my treasurer.” Jesus was no cult leader trying to get rich off the backs of gullible followers. However, this isn’t just about money. This whole teaching was actually based on Jesus’s claim that before we come to Him, we must hate our father, mother, wife, children, siblings, and even our own life. We are giving our allegiance to Jesus. We must be ready to renounce everything, including our family, our livelihood, anything we believe makes up our life right now in our service to Him. In other words, Jesus is to become our life. Renouncing doesn’t mean getting rid of everything. It means renouncing our claim on everything and everything’s claim on us. What is ours becomes His to be disposed of, dispersed, distributed, deposited, destroyed, defended as Jesus sees fit. Am I really willing to hand everything over to Jesus? Is there something in my life that if Jesus asked me to give it up, I’d say, “No.” If so, I need to keep counting. Don’t answer that question thinking, “Well, yes, there are some things I’d never give up, but Jesus would never ask me to give those up.” He may not. But He may. Is Jesus more important to you than anything else? Your reputation, your mother, your house, your spouse, your car, your business, your father, your acclaim, your children, your job, your pleasures, your pursuits, your goals, your desires, your identity, your money, your sexuality, your savings, your trophies, your retirement. We live in a culture that says no one has the right to ask this of us. In fact, no one does…except one. Our Creator, our Savior, our King. The good news is knowing that Jesus only asks of us what is best for us eternally. Understand, this is not really a question of whether you will renounce everything. You will. You already do. There is something in your life that holds sway over everything that might be considered important to you. There is something for which you will sacrifice everything no matter how painful or traumatic. It is different for each of us. Jesus says make it Him. Have you counted the cost?

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Are You Poor Enough?

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

What is going on with those three people who decided not to come to the feast? The first had purchased a field, the second five yoke of oxen, and the third had recently married. These are men of means. The first two obviously have material wealth. The third doesn’t seem to fit for us, however, if he was able to pay the dowry for his wife, he could take care of himself. And that is exactly the point. These men were willing to avoid the feast because if they didn’t go, they would still eat (at least they thought they would). They could take care of themselves. On the other hand, the poor, crippled, blind, and lame knew if they didn’t show up, they might not get to eat at all. What an upside down kingdom this story represents. For most enterprises, we have to ask, “Are you rich enough to join?” For Christ’s kingdom, we have to ask, “Are you poor enough?” That is, do you realize that you cannot take care of yourself? Do you realize that apart from Jesus Christ you are completely and utterly lost? Do you realize if you do not make it to His feast, you won’t make it at all? Jesus is inviting you. Are you poor enough to show up?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 14.

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