Beware of entitlement

“And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ” – Luke‬ ‭17:7-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

http://bible.com/114/luk.17.7-10.nkjv

“Humble service in the body of Christ”

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” – ‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:3-8‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Humility is a disposition in which I constantly remind myself of who God is and how I disappear in comparison to Him.

Leadership advice

“‘But you are not to be called “Rabbi”, for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth “father”, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Matthew‬ ‭23:8-12‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Jesus’s picture of leadership stands in stark contrast to worldly models of leadership that often promotes “brand” or “self” (unfortunately this has become the norm in modern society’s obsession with fame). In essence, a Godly leader intentionally puts God first in everything so that God gets the honour in all circumstances because He is the only One deserving of such honour. We can’t achieve anything of worth without Him enabling us. May God help us to have an honest and proper view of ourselves.

Living in a time of entitlement

“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” – ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:1‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Why did Jesus only take Peter, James and John with him up the mountain? Wouldn’t the other disciples also have benefited from being part of the transfiguration experience? Was it unfair to only let a few benefit? In today’s culture of entitlement and self-glorification, it may seem an unjust call from Jesus.

However, the Holy Spirit immediately reminded me of Paul’s image of the church as the body of Christ. We are all members of the body but we have different functions within the body. This means that we will not all have the same experiences and it is not reasonable to expect all of us to enjoy the same opportunities. May God give us the willingness to submit to His lordship and trust that He knows what experiences will help us become more like Christ.

The problem of fame

One of the most important values propogated by the media today is fame or self glorification. This is the complete opposite of what the Bible teaches. Jesus says “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew‬ ‭23:12‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬)

In Acts we read of Paul’s conversion. An important roleplayer in that account is Ananias. God gives him the “dangerous” job of praying for the man who has been persecuting the church fervently. Ananias decides to trust God despite his own misgivings and so become part of commissioning one of the most influential evangelists in history.

Interestingly, we don’t hear much of Ananias again. You wonder what might have happened if Ananias lived today. Would someone have published the memoirs of Ananias? Or perhaps produced a film of his life and highlighted his “significant” contribution to launching an influential man into his career?

A society built on Scriptural principles don’t look like that. This account illustrates the image Paul later uses to describe the church so well. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. … Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:12, 15-27‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬)

Not everyone could be a Paul. Someone had to be an Ananias, a person who listened to God and faithfully carried out God’s desires in order to release someone else to fulfil God’s calling for her or his life in God’s Kingdom for the glory of God and the expansion of His Kingdom.

Genesis 43

I don’t know about you but I cannot wait to read the next chapter. It is so exciting . . . perhaps it is because I know how the story will end . . . 🙂

There are probably many comments one can make about this chapter. What struck me this time were two things: Joseph’s brothers were still not taking responsibility for what they had done to him, and as a consequence they were in a very difficult situation; Joseph’s steward’s words to them, “It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.”

Joseph’s brothers: when we act deceptively towards someone else, or we don’t publicly acknowledge our sin against someone else, it often leaves us in a far worse situation. Consequently, we need to keep on lying and deceiving to keep ourselves ‘innocent’. When the truth comes out, we often hurt the people we love deeply. May the Lord help us to be humble so that we immediately acknowledge to others when we have sinned against them. It hurts far less, and it causes far less damage to our relationships than trying to hide what we have done.

Joseph’s steward: ‘This is the first clear reference in the story to the theme of divine providence – that God works through the human actions to do his will.’ (Source: NETBible) Some people find this ‘method’ of God a little disconcerting but He uses it nonetheless. We have a choice: we either accept it as one of many methods that God uses to instruct us as well as use us to bless others, or we reject it and miss getting to know our magnificent Creator. How do you choose?

Genesis 13

Verse 1 acts as a bridge between chapters 12 and 13. What would humankind do without God’s grace? Despite the fact that Abram was not necessarily ‘in God’s will’ by choosing to go to Egypt without God’s explicit direction, and then engaged in the questionable deception of Pharaoh and his family, God, in His grace, blessed him with earthly possessions. To me it reinforces the idea that God abhors sin, but He loves the sinner. Of course it doesn’t mean that we have a license to sin. As the apostle Paul puts it, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

When Abram arrives back at the place he lived before he left for Egypt, the Bible tells us that he calls ‘on the name of the Lord’. For the rest of the chapter it is clear that he has adjusted his focus away from his own plans to what God would want him to do. I believe this can be seen in Abram’s humility: when Abram and Lot have to part ways because their flocks were too large for the available resources, Abram, possibly the older of the two (I stand to be corrected on that one), allows Lot to choose first. It can also be seen in his attitude of worship: the chapter ends with Abram building an altar to the Lord when he relocates to Mamre.

It is exciting to put your life in God’s hands. Despite the fact that Lot seems to have made the best short term, and possibly long term, decision for him and his flocks, God promises Abram that He is giving him (Abram) not only an enormous piece of land, but that his descendants will be so many that it would be hard to count them. What makes the latter promise even more extraordinary is that Abram doesn’t have any children at this point, and he is already quite advanced in years. It is exciting to see how God has fulfilled His promises to Abram in the chapters and books to come.

In context with the rest of Genesis, there is another application that can be drawn from this chapter. The author writes in Genesis 13 that “the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD“. Lot might have chosen what looks great physically, i.e. “well watered, like the garden of the LORD“, but spiritually the area was a wasteland. The NETBible makes two interesting comments about these two passages:

  • The text is saying these were no ordinary sinners; they were wicked sinners, the type that cause pain for others. Then to this phrase is added “against the Lord,” stressing their violation of the laws of heaven and their culpability. Finally, to this is added מְאֹד (mÿod, “exceedingly,” translated here as “extremely”).
  • The narrative places emphasis on what Lot saw so that the reader can appreciate how it aroused his desire for the best land. It makes allusion to the garden of the Lord and to the land of Egypt for comparison. Just as the tree in the garden of Eden had awakened Eve’s desire, so the fertile valley attracted Lot. And just as certain memories of Egypt would cause the Israelites to want to turn back and abandon the trek to the promised land, so Lot headed for the good life.

May the Lord guard us against choosing a way forward that might look great from a material perspective, but spiritually it is no good. We will see in future chapters that Lot’s decision has some serious repercussions for his family.