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Life Theology

Oh to be a Giver Like This

If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them…Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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Theology

Jesus isn’t a Genie to Do Your Bidding

I picked up this flier from a pastor near the local orphanage I volunteer at in Pretoria.  Evidently, Jesus is dishing out miracles next week in Mamelodi.

Power Hour

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It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t link this video about the prosperity gospel.

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Life

Proverbs: Wisdom in Righteousness

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

Over the last seven weeks, we’ve talked about Christ as the God’s wisdom and about wisdom in reproof, stewardship, friendship, and speech.  We could say so much about this wonderful book, but let’s top of our journey through Proverbs with wisdom in righteousness.

We could also call this “Wisdom in Wisdom” (but that would confuse people).  Righteousness is wisdom.  Wisdom is righteousness.  Righteousness in Proverbs is different than righteousness in Romans, however.  Proverbs’ righteousness is practical obedience to God’s word.  It is the righteousness we do that arises from the righteousness we are given. We are made righteous through Christ’s death, and are thus compelled by his love to practice it in our daily living.

Solomon often speaks of the benefits of righteous living.  We need to get one thing straight, otherwise we will have a warped view of God: righteous living does not always equate to reward, benefits, success, or security.  Righteousness is not a lamp that we can rub the right way so God will come to do our bidding.  In fact, the Bible shows that righteousness can lead to trial and suffering.  The fact is that Solomon doesn’t give us formulas like, “Give to the poor and you’ll be blessed.”  Rather, he gives us general principles that we should, by the Spirit, strive to live out.  If benefits do come, they are a blood-bought gift from Calvary, and we should praise God for them.

Solomon says, “Whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster” (1:33).  This means that whoever listens to wisdom and obeys will be secure spiritually.  There will be spiritual joy and peace even when the cancer grows, a parent dies, or your wife has a miscarriage.

Chapter 8 is all about the blessings of wisdom (and righteousness!).  Righteous words lead people to knowledge and understanding.  Righteous words lead people to wisdom which is better than jewels (vv. 8-11).  Solomon tells his sons that “whoever finds [wisdom] finds life and obtains favor from the LORD” (v. 35).

A truly abundant life doesn’t consist of how much money we have or how big our house is.  Proverbs 11:4 reminds us, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”  John Piper has written, “There are no U-Hauls attached to hearses.”  Money and possessions won’t do anyone good before God on judgment day.  But a righteous life, by God’s grace, will.

“Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die.  Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight” (11:19-20).  Idols of status, praise of man, sex, food, money, technology, education, marriage, children, and so many others will kill us!  Idols are often good things that turn into ultimate things.  When this happens, we are doomed.  How much longer will we continue to pursue evil instead of being steady in righteousness?

This is just the fringe of verses on wisdom in righteous and wisdom from Proverbs.  Solomon gives us the bottom line in his final word of Ecclesiastes.  He says, “The end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13).  By the Spirit, let’s put to death our pursuit of foolishness and evil.  By the Spirit, because of imputed righteousness, let’s pursue Jesus, our great and only wisdom and righteousness.

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Life

Jesus and John and Kate Plus Eight

This is a good article from Christianity Today  on the popular TV show John and Kate Plus Eight.

Here’s an excerpt:

When the first few episodes revealed the earning potential of this “everyday family,” Jon & Kate Plus Eight became a brand name that was packaged and sold. And many Christians were happy to comply by opening up their wallets and their fellowship halls. When the network and the couple were not satisfied with the money generated through high ratings and book sales, the Gosselin home was filled with product placements and the children were filmed for long hours each week. All the while many (though not all) evangelicals watched with undiscerning eyes. Somewhere along the line we, like Jon and Kate, seemed to forget the warnings of 1 Timothy 6:9-10:

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. (NRSV)

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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?