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Life

We All Get to Choose

“You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

– Bob Dylan

Every day we wake up with choices to make. Hundreds if not thousands of them. Some easy. Some hard. And we get through the day by making choices.

It’s easy to forget this and play the victim. I was reminded of (reproved by?) this at a homeschool conference I attended with my wife a few weeks ago. The lecturer reminded us parent-educators in the room to use words like “choice, choose, chose” with our kids. Kids aren’t only or mainly victims. “You have a choice to make here.” Naturally, she followed, you must use the word “consequence.” Choice necessitates consequence.

Some people like to turn choice into an academic, theological debate. Do we have free will or not? That’s really a category mistake. Choice not an intellectual issue as much as it is a worship issue. A heart issue.

When I wake up in the morning, I’m going to choose whether to get out of bed or hit the snooze. I’m going to choose to pray or not. I’m going to choose to be cheerful or grumpy when the kids wake up. And on and on.

All these choices are built on one foundational choice. Will I chose to love and obey Jesus or something else? It’s the simplest and hardest question to ask and answer everyday.

This is real, raw life. It’s not academic theology. Choice doesn’t deal in the head, but the gut. It gets after what we want. For the Christian, we know that we must love and obey Jesus. We just don’t always want to.

Dylan said it best: “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

Whom will it be?

Categories
Theology

Proverbs: Wisdom in Stewardship

Part 4 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

The essence of wisdom is understanding action-consequence.  Perhaps in our lives we see this most clearly with stewardship.  When you hear the word stewardship, you probably think of money.  But we might say that stewardship extends into every facet of our life since everything is a gift from God.  Therefore, if we have wisdom in stewardship, we will be on our way to a godly and satisfied life.

We all know the fable of the ant and the grasshopper.  Aesop (620-560 BC) wrote this story.  Solomon lived some 400 years before Aesop, yet wrote about hard work in the same way: “The ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer” (Prov. 30:25).  Further, “He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (10:5).

If we want to provide for ourselves, our loved ones, and the poor and marginalized, then there must be planning and hard work.  Money, food, and shelter don’t just appear like vapor in the clouds.  We must be strategic planners and workers in order to steward our resources and energy well.  Solomon gives the warning: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (24:34).

This isn’t contradictory to Jesus’ command to not worry, however.  Worry is an internal feeling of anxiousness rooted in a  lack of faith in God.  Planning is rooted in faith that God will sovereignly provide through hard, sanctified work.  After all, hard work is commanded by and pleases God (see 2 Thess. 3:10).

Proverbs also teaches us about something called “putting up security” for a neighbor.  This means that one person offer to pay someone else’s debt if he defaults (fails to pay the debt).  This is foolish according to Solomon. In Proverbs 6,:1-5 Solomon tells his son that he will spend his whole life climbing out of the whole he created for himself.  Elsewhere he writes, “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm, but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure” (11:15).  “One who lacks sense gives a pledge and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor” (17:18).  “Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts” (22:26).

This doesn’t mean that loaning large amounts of money is always morally wrong.  We must be liberal in our giving to the kingdom, just like the Macedonians (2 Cor. 8:1-5).  However, giving large sums of money to people who have continually been poor stewards of their finances and lifestyle will not make up for their foolishness.

Finally, let’s look at that heavenly Proverbs 31 woman.  Verse 16 says, “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.”  This shows us two things: 1) We must be good stewards of business and/or family decisions, and 2) We must be good stewards of our abilities or talents because they too are gifts from the Most High.  This woman made quality decisions and actions for her family that pleased God, her husband, and her kids.

You will never be a wise enough steward, but there’s hope, redemption, and transformation in Christ.  So as I ask myself, I ask you: Where do you need to become a better steward?

Categories
Life

Proverbs: Wisdom in Reproof

Part 3 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

I was on a mission trip in the summer of 2006 and I left my beautiful metallic blue 1994 Mercury Tracer at home with my family. When I returned, to my chagrin, I found out that the “Blue Beast” had shock and strut problems. The damage was estimated at $1,200. The car wasn’t worth that much. It was time to buy a new car.

My parent’s neighbor advised me to buy a Chevy Lumina we test drove. It was an older model. It was white with burgundy cloth interior. It was shaped like an elongated box. It didn’t have a CD player. The windows were manual. It smelled like moth balls inside. “But, it will last forever,” he told me. I didn’t care. I didn’t listen. I bought a 1998 Mazda 626, and two years and thousands of dollars of upkeep and repairs later, the Mazda I paid $4,600 had a worn out transmission and was ready to be sold for a measly $1,000.

Looking back on this situation, I think Proverbs 12:1 provides a good commentary:

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

The truth is that in our life there are thousands of decisions to be made. These decisions make life difficult. Most of these decisions are very practical, such as: “What job do I take?” “Who should I marry?” “Should I relocate or not?” “What church should I attend?” “Who should my friends be?” “How much can we afford for vacation?” and so on.

We also have character and personality issues that cause life to be hard. We are either too passive or too aggressive. We are too extroverted or too introverted. We are too humorous or too serious. We don’t listen well and we talk too much. We get greedy, envious, jealous, bitter, malicious, lustful, lazy, arrogant, unforgiving, and self-righteous. The list never ends.

The only way we can deal with making hard decisions and growing in holiness is to subject ourselves to wise reproof. This happens in two ways. First, we come under the authority of Scripture. Proverbs 13:13 says, “Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.” Second, we need to come under the counsel of wise men and women. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

The Scripture submission may not be hard for you. But what about a person who rebukes you or even offers loving advice? They come to you and say, “I am here to offer reproof, correction, and guidance.” Your first reaction is not normally, “Why thank you! Get out the rod, I need a good rebuking!” But Solomon tells us, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (19:20). I have not been a great example in this, but the Lord is teaching me. In order for us to develop as Christians and people, we need to listen to older, wiser, trusted people.

Finally, Solomon has a few words for those who offer rebuke and correction. He writes, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you” (Prov. 9:8-9). He means that people who repeatedly make foolish decisions and ruin their life won’t listen, so don’t waste your time with them. Remember that Jesus even said, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matt. 7:6).