against greed

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Luke 12:15

Jesus’s words here are followed by what is called, “The Parable of the Rich Fool.” But it’s assumed in our society that a lot of money is good, so that for many people careers are successful more or less depending on how much money is made.

Jesus warns against that. We have to consider all of Scripture as well. Wisdom books tells us it’s good to avoid debt, to not try to hit the jackpot but save little by little, to work hard. And we’re told that money itself is not the sin, but the love of money. That those who are rich should be generous with their wealth. And that helping the poor is a priority to God.

It seems like just to make a living one gets sucked into a vortex predicated on profit. Wall Street lives on that, it’s all about profit. God’s provision for many of us will involve being a participant in that. It’s the way of the world, but we live in the world, and there’s surely no escape for most of us. That means minimum wage jobs for too many, or wages not much better, sometimes for long work hours, and with next to no benefits, dependent on whatever government might provide, or government and volunteer services.

What Jews lived in during Jesus’s day was probably not much better. Roman taxation, not to mention occupation, along with the greed that all too characterized religious leaders made life hard for many. So it’s not like we can expect to find something better in what Scripture calls “the world” as in the world’s system. It seems like it will always be a struggle. In the society in which I live, the rich seem to be getting richer, arguably and I think often plausibly at the expense of the poor. Supposedly the rich will take care of the poor through jobs made and fair wages. Yet the gap between the rich and the poor increases.

What does this have to do with Scripture, or the passage above? We need to understand the times in which we live, so that in light of what God tells us, we will know what to do. That’s an ongoing project, needing all who are interested. As for me, I’m more dependent myself on those who would want to work through that. But I think it’s plain enough for us to see through what many see as the dream to aspire to, looking up to those who seem to be doing well in living it.

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Luke 12:13-21

 

 

PTSD and words

The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12:18

I recently heard a veteran being asked if he thought all veterans have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). His answer was something like, to one degree or another, yes, and that it’s one thing to think of war, and quite another to actually be in a combat situation.

We have often wounded others with our words. Hopefully we’ve helped others heal through words as well. We’ve all been on the giving and receiving end of not helping, in fact harming, but hopefully on the giving and receiving end of words which are helpful and healing.

We have to be careful, because it can be not just what we say which can hurt, but what we don’t say. We can fail to provide the timely, needed word of encouragement. And we can be just as expressive non-verbally as verbally. Sometimes a silence is indicative of a slow burn. Our attitude can speak volumes, good or bad. It’s not without merit when people say that so-and-so has an attitude.

Given in the right spirit, carefully said, correction can be helpful, and not correcting unhelpful.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Proverbs 27:6

It’s the heart that matters. As Jesus said:

…the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Luke 6:45b

So if we’re to do well with our words, we’ll have to watch our heart.

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23

It is best to measure one words carefully. And in so doing, one might find it’s best to be silent.

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,
and discerning if they hold their tongues.

Proverbs 17:28

…many words mark the speech of a fool.

Ecclesiastes 5:3b

Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues.

Proverbs 10:19

We have to be careful today, because there’s a war of words in our culture. It would be easy just to retreat and not say a word, or get into the never ending volley of words. Of course, see social media. Instead we need to prayerfully consider when we might speak up, and just what we might say. For the gospel, first and foremost, and also for what is good, right, and just. In and through Jesus.

 

 

 

 

where wisdom begins and ends

Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning
and even among fools she lets herself be known.

Proverbs 14:33

It’s a struggle to find, live, and remain in wisdom. Lasting wisdom begins with “the fear of God” (Proverbs 9:10). So it’s relational, beginning with God, and then impacting others. But it has to find residence in our hearts. That means our inherent foolishness has to be owned up to, checked, and ultimately scrapped. Which is why it’s best for us to be slow to try to impose ourselves in any way on anyone else. We best make sure we’re in line first before we can even imagine that we can help anyone else. As we read elsewhere, when we judge others, we do the same things (Romans 2). It’s not like what we’re seeing isn’t a real problem. But wisdom reminds us that the best thing we can do is pray. And be slow, even reticent to do anything else.

Wisdom is given to us from God, into our hearts, first and foremost, so that we might change. It’s not so that we can impose our wisdom on others. It’s to receive God’s wisdom for ourselves, our own lives. As we do that, it’s our lives which can speak volumes to others. And that includes those caught up in foolishness, which of course none of us are above falling into. And like the text above tells us, even to fools. It’s how we live, but that starts from the heart. It must settle into our hearts in a way which impacts our lives. The book of Proverbs along with the rest of Scripture will help us understand what that means. It’s ongoing, never ending in this life. But it is something we need to deliberately pursue and be engaged in. Always for change in ourselves. And through that change, hopefully others will find their way into the same wisdom. In and through Jesus.

the danger and folly of human anger

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James 1:19-21

Moses’s story in Scripture is fascinating. He did seem to have an anger issue. Though at a certain point it seems to have abated, or wasn’t a factor. He had killed an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave, and had to escape from Egypt. Then he was forty years in the wilderness before God appeared to him in the burning bush, and called him to go back to Egypt because God was about to rescue his people. In Numbers 12, Moses is called the most humble man on earth, not the meekest, though being humble is not far removed from meekness. Moses displays some anger; he broke the stone tablets when seeing the Israelites worshiping the golden calf. But by and large it seems like anger is not something which characterizes him. Until near the end, when in anger he strikes the rock, after God had told him to speak to that rock, the water coming for the Israelite community, but Moses himself barred from entering the Promised Land because of his disobedience of God’s command.

I think I’m much more helpful to myself and others when I largely avoid anger altogether. In this life there’s plenty of things to get angry about. We probably get angry about this and that throughout the day, small burst of anger, like when people sit at green lights probably glued to their phones. Or when machines are not running well at work. We might dismiss such anger as not only insignificant, but all well and good, or at least okay, no problem. But we might be missing the opportunity to discipline ourselves to avoid the more serious and consequential outbursts, which could bring harm to others, damage relationships, or just put us on a trek where we really aren’t seeing straight.

Nowadays in the United States it’s easy for people to get upset and uptight about this or that, usually this and that, with all that is happening in the political realm along with the deep division. As servants of Christ and the gospel, we as God’s people need to be different. We need to be meek as in gently depending on God, not self-assertive (see NET Bible footnote on Numbers 12:3). Anger means we’re taking the bull by the horns either in action or attitude. We think we have it. Refusing such because we’re trusting in God, not in ourselves, and realizing that we are limited is the route of wisdom.

Human anger does more harm than whatever good might be accomplished. When we are angry, we’re not to let the sun go down on it, in other words we’re never to harbor anger (Ephesians). In James’s words, we’re to be slow to anger. So it’s not like we’re to avoid it altogether. But it seems to me that it ought to be rare, so that we do well to sidestep it as much as possible. Vengeance is God’s, not our own. We’re to continue to love, even our enemies.

I find that when I speak out of the deepest convictions on matter with great urgency, too much anger is too often mixed into that. And it’s neither helpful for myself, nor the one I’m talking to. Rather, I could say much the same thing, but in a quiet, humble tone, which is nevertheless firm in seeking to stand for truth. But is dependent on God, and humble toward others in a kind of interdependent give and take.

Interestingly, though Jesus did get angry in driving out the merchants out of the temple, by and large I see the trait of restraint marked in his life. Being God as well as human, whatever anger he did have was purely righteous. Yet in exchanges with the religious leaders in John’s gospel account, I find time and again that he is most restrained, and probably so because he was so dependent on the Father. I do hesitate to point to Jesus, because even though he is the one we’re to follow, and we’re being changed into his likeness, Jesus as God has complete self-control in perfect wisdom. I doubt that we can ever say that about ourselves in this life, except when the Spirit markedly is taking over in a given situation, so as to practically carry us through.

At any rate, this is a lesson I am trying to learn and cement into my life. Beginning how I react to this and that, the small and larger things. In and through Jesus.

wisdom has its reward, but lacking wisdom has its consequences

32 “Now then, my children, listen to me;
    blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
    do not disregard it.
34 Blessed are those who listen to me,
    watching daily at my doors,
    waiting at my doorway.
35 For those who find me find life
    and receive favor from the LORD.
36 But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
    all who hate me love death.”

Proverbs 8

In Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified as a woman who has been called Lady Wisdom. Proverbs is perhaps the book for application of wisdom to life. In fact wisdom in part, from that book, means or involves skillful living.

But to ignore wisdom is to be foolish, to descend into foolishness. There seems to be both a special wisdom which comes with the fear of God (reverence and awe) at its beginning, as well as a general wisdom given to all humankind. Both as gifts from God. And both can be spurned. Sin can move people in that direction, but there’s also a common grace which can help humans, who are made in God’s image live more by wisdom.

Wisdom calls out to us our entire lives, helping us avoid our own foolish propensities, which we think will save us, but actually are quite destructive. And again Proverbs is the book to go to, to read (or listen to), and it’s good to read it slowly, and all the way through. And not only read it, but be committed to live by the wisdom God gives us, in and through Jesus.

 

the need for civil discourse

Does not wisdom call out?
    Does not understanding raise her voice?

….Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
    I open my lips to speak what is right.

Proverbs 8:1,6

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of a special kind of wisdom that God wants to give. I take that in the sense of reverence and awe, and because of Jesus, not cowering fear. But there is also a general wisdom given to all humankind from God. So that when wisdom speaks, it can speak from just about any source. Maybe even from the devil, if you would backmask that.

And the funny thing is that all of that wisdom is a gift from God. So that we need to have ears to discern, but in the first place listen.

But a big part of wisdom is to see through the deceptive, foolish allure of sin, and to ferret out both deception and foolishness, that which isn’t wise. And let’s all face it, we all carry a mix of wisdom and foolishness. I’m not saying we’re out and out fools, although scripture says there are such people. Let God be the judge of who. But we can be downright foolish and obtuse. Just the realization of that can help us to be quiet and listen, and only offer humbly any thoughts which might be helpful, but otherwise to be still.

In this day and age, and surely not unlike any other, but maybe given all the media outlets and ability to publish one’s thoughts anonymously, we need like no other time to measure words, first our own words, and then the words of others. We need civil discourse, which means a commitment to listen well, ask questions, listen some more, and offer carefully, with openness to correction and refinement, whatever we might have to say.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t stand by some principles or truths, such as the need for justice for all, the end never justifies the means, etc., etc. And as Christians, we do so with an eye and heart ever ready to be a witness in life and in word to the good news in Jesus.

Love is to mark us in all we do. And what we’re to model in all of this. Love listens, makes its appeal, and accepts the outcome, including inevitable differences all of us will have.

Something needed today in our society which should always be what we in Jesus strive for in all of our interactions. In and through him.

wisdom not natural

Like any other virtue, wisdom is something which has to be acquired over time. Add to that, one can do, or not do something which shows varying levels of wisdom. While there can be a wisdom learned that is rooted in human thinking and philosophy, Biblical wisdom begins with the fear of God. The fear includes a reverential awe, and also a sense that we do not trifle with God. God is god of grace and a father to us in Jesus, but he works this wisdom in us, as part of his salvation to us in Jesus.

A couple of markers we need to stand on. The first thing we need to do is pray. As a rule we should never act immediately, and certainly never in haste, which itself in such situations lacks wisdom (again as a rule, with possible exceptions). It is a good rule to at least sit on something overnight. The longer we can deliberate, the better. And it is always good to seek counsel from wise people we know, people who are godly, and have been around the block quite a few times. In other words who may be a mite older than us. And the bigger the decision that needs to be made, the more we need to look to others.

What is not natural to us, needs to become second nature. We incline toward what is actually foolishness, though we think it is wise. Or at least we see ourselves as wise in our own eyes. Those who do bring trouble on themselves and others. At the same time no one of us should think we’re above folly. We ever need to look to God for wisdom. Grace and truth will always accompany that wisdom, through Jesus. God helps those who in their folly look to him not to get out of trouble, but to learn a new way, the way of life from God.

Wisdom includes a grace from God which helps us understand our weakness, and why we did what we did. In a sense it can put a good construction on it. Our action which may not the best, can have good in it. At the same time we need to be open to where what is not good is exposed. Whether it be pride, fear, lack of faith so that we failed to look to God and his promise, etc.

God will help us as we keep looking to him. And keep learning his ways for us in Jesus. Together in Jesus for the good of the world.