Show offs

Luke 20:45-21:4

Beware of religious show offs. That’s not exactly how Jesus put it. That’s just how I interpret it.

We’ve all probably known a few before. They’ve been with us forever. We read of God’s anger against them in many Old Testament passages. They were there with Jesus and some may sit close to you in worship every week.

But why do we need to beware of them?

Jesus spoke to his disciples loud enough for everyone to hear. So, this is something he wanted everyone to understand. Chances are, he affirmed what people already knew. I mean, you can tell when someone has that kind of holier-than-thou attitude, right? They’re not usually quiet or reserved about it. They not only want the respect and acknowledgement for who they are and what they’ve done, they let you know it.

Again, what’s the danger?

Can’t we let people be who they are? I think so. But Jesus is talking about religious leaders. These were people who had direct influence over the religious life of other people. And they used that position to benefit themselves. To upkeep a particular way of life and power structure. The argument should be made they also kept others in their place. So, even if it’s far less than ideal, I’m okay with giving people space to be who and what they are. We all need to experience God’s grace as we are today. But we cannot let leaders abuse or take advantage of others. What I’m less comfortable with is allowing leadership to carry on with such a posture.

This is where we need to beware most.

Religious show offs do not make faithful shepherds. They’re too preoccupied by what they’re getting out of the service. Whether we like to admit it or not, we follow leaders. Where these leaders take us is not where God wants us to be.

What is admirable is how you treat the poor. The attitude you have about them. The way you interact with those with far less than you. Faithful leaders do not put up with or endure relationships with the poor among them. They cherish them. In their leading, they step over the societal lines that demean their humanity. That’s where Jesus went.

That’s where I want to go, too.

Stay blessed…john

The small guy

Amos 7:1-6

Humility isn’t always a virtue humanity carries well. We know how limited our knowledge of the cosmos is. At least on paper we do. We may marvel at the wonders of the world, but that doesn’t keep us from thinking more of ourselves than we should. 

Throw in religion and things get real strange. Surely, someone who knows their position before Almighty God could never think more of themselves, right? “Hold my communion cup,” he says! 

Paul’s admonition in Romans 12 is to not think more of ourselves than we ought. That’s comforting because it tells me Christians have had this problem for a long time. Now, don’t disparage yourself. You are a child of God, after all! But, also, what’s wrong with us!

So, what did Paul have in mind when he wrote that?

Let’s look to The Message for help. Here’s how that’s translated: it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

That’s helpful. 

I could fool myself into thinking I don’t think too much of myself. But I can’t hide from how I focus too much on myself and what I do for God. We love building our religious reputations. And we don’t mind if everyone else knows it. Lord, help us.

The prophet Amos saw of vision of locusts. He knew this to be a sign of God’s judgment upon the people of God. The locusts would come on the “latter growth.” So, this was it for the people. They would have nothing. Amos responds to God. He responds the same way after receiving another judgment vision. He asks, “How can Jacob stand? He is so small!”

Jacob is a petulant people. Many of them have thought too much of themselves. Way too much. But the prophet wanted God to remember the truth about them. They are so small. 

God’s people do well to remember the same.

Stay blessed…john

Condescending God

Isaiah 57:14-21

To be condescending is not a virtue. It is a negative way of interacting with others. I wish more people knew it when they were doing it. But we all know when it’s happening to us. When another person thinks a great deal of themselves they may speak down to you. To your culture or to your way of life. Their position or possessions confuse both their true worth and yours. It’s not a comfortable feeling.

In the strict sense of the word, though, God is condescending. And we are grateful!

It’s not that the Lord holds a haughty attitude over us. There’s no need for that. After all, this is the God of all Creation. We become more aware of the awesomeness of God as we mature in our faith. So, the Divine does not need to prove anything to us. But God has always desired to dwell among us.

To understand God’s presence we must be humble. How can we be anything else but humble before a holy God? Especially if we understand what the Lord has done. Humility helps us understand God’s condescension. 

God cons, or togethers with us. Dios con nosotros. Let’s not lose sight of what that entails. God is the “high and lofty one” (Isaiah 57:15). Because of God’s very nature, to con with us, God must descend. The Lord descends to us so that we can know God’s presence.

And how important is that?

Wesleyan Christians are familiar with some of John Wesley’s final words. On his deathbed, he said, “Best of all is God is with us.” He dedicated much of his life organizing a spiritual movement that would last several hundred years. The best of it all wasn’t the number of people he led or the amount of money he raised. It wasn’t the books he wrote or the reformation he inspired. New buildings and new ministries weren’t the best of anything.

What mattered most is what every believer knows can’t be taken from them. We can always sing surely the presence of the Lord is in this place. God’s condescending is our great joy.

Stay blessed…john