Series on the Mount
Give It Up
October 7, 2007
If you son or daughter asks you for a loaf of bread, give it up. If they ask you for a fish, give it up. If you, though you are evil, give it up for your own flesh and blood, how much more will your heavenly Father, who has already given up so much through his son Jesus, give to you.
As mentioned last week, the couple of verses before this and these verse are all about God. They are about how completely and totally good our God is. God is All-Good! And that is what we are going to examine a little more closely. Turn to Matthew 7:9.
Speaking of giving good gifts… After being away on business, a man thought it would be nice to bring his wife a little gift. “How about some perfume?” he asked the cosmetics clerk.
She showed him a bottle costing $50.00. “That’s a bit much,” he said, so she returned with a smaller bottle for $30.00. “That’s still quite a bit,” he complained. Growing annoyed, the clerk brought out a tiny $15.00 bottle. “You know,” he said, “What I mean is that I’d like to see something really cheap.” The clerk handed him a mirror.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Now I don’t know if you noticed this about the verse from last week but God desires out questions. Ask and you will receive. Sure, this is about asking in prayer. Asking for God to reveal His will. Asking for the strength to carry it out. But these are questions. It is ok to question God—if you are truly seeking. Sometimes people question God and other people not to seek answers but to judge and accuse them. But if you want to know, ask God. This communicates enormously about the goodness of God. God is so good that God wants to help us even when we get it wrong about what we need to help us or simply don’t understand what will truly be best.
God is All-Good...
God is All-Good. Completely totally good!!! He is holy. He wholly or completely other than what we are. He created everything! I mean everything. From the smallest subatomic particle to deepest, darkest black hole. He is totally, awesomely good! That is His character and His nature. If we can’t trust anything else, we can trust that God is good. When ceasers and kings and presidents and politicians and governments and institutions fail us, we can trust in the goodness of God. When our community turns their back on us because we are following Jesus, we can trust in God. When our health fails, we can trust in God. When our money runs out, we can trust in God. When the stock market crashes and when it soars, we trust in the goodness of God to provide. When we are persecuted, we can trust in God. When we are slandered, we can trust in God. When we are insulted, we can…??? Trust in God!! When we are hungry, we can… Trust in God. When we hunger and thirst for more righteousness then we can find in this world, we can… Trust in God. He is God. He is Good!
But you know what else? Not only is God All-Good, we are not.
God is All-Good... we are not.
“Though you are evil.” Now this is not about beating ourselves up. It is about comparing ourselves not other people, which we so like to do. It is about comparing ourselves to God in which there is NO COMPARISON. He is holy, we are not. Most of us think of ourselves as pretty good people. But compared to God who is All-Good. We aren’t even close. So why are we judging others?? Especially when we need to judge ourselves!
There was a quote that I have used before that says, “When his divinity meets our depravity, it is a beautiful collision.” When all that we are, meets all that we could be, it is wonderful. It is amazing. It doesn’t mean that everything is fixed and I’m perfect. It doesn’t mean that I can become a new creation. I get a taste of what love, His love, can truly do to me and help me become.
Confused about life? Well, I can’t guarantee that you will get all the answers. Not even if you study the Bible hard and long enough. Sorry it doesn’t happen that way. But I do know the One who is All-Good, All-Knowing, All-Wise, All-Powerful. There is nothing God can’t do. There is no problem that He can’t solve. There is no situation that He can’t guide me through. Do I still get confused? You bet. But I have a rock, an anchor, that I can hold onto in the midst of the storms and in the midst of the trials and in the midst of my confusion that I trust will get me through even when I may not make it through unscathed in this life. I know that there is much more that awaits me and much more than I can imagine and while I want to join God in the work of creating a new culture and community here and now, I also now that there are levels of existence that I don’t get and can’t see and can’t understand. Part of this is what the Bible calls eternity. These are the treasures that I store up in heaven. They show my love for Jesus and my desire to serve him even though I don’t deserve it.
There is no better gift to receive than to get a glimpse of our Holy God. It is terrifying yet electrifying. Jesus is indicating here about the true relationship in terms of our nature, full of sin and brokenness, compared to God’s nature of All-Goodness.
All good gifts come from God.
A mother was preparing pancakes for sons, Kevin who is 5, and Ryan who is 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson so she said: “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, "Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait." Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Hey Ryan, you be Jesus."
Here is where we have a huge disconnect. Not many of us have kids asking for a loaf of bread or a fish, which were basic staples of life. Our kids want candy, cookies, and sweets. “Can I have?” or “Can we get?” Or “I’m hungry.” Or if our kids are really being assertive and maybe rude, “I want McDonald’s.”
When we give good gifts, we think of Christmas. There is a lady that my Dad knows who literally spends well over $500 on her child (that is one child) for Christmas. She doesn’t make a lot of money. She is an hourly employee in a service industry job. Translation: She makes at best a little of minimum wage. Lots of debt. Lots of charge debt but she gives her kid an abundance of gifts. Let’s face we disconnect with this passage here because most of us have the ability whether through savings or through credit to give some pretty extravagant gifts to one another, especially our kids or grandkids. It is hard to imagine getting gifts from our heavenly Father better than what we can give to others or even give to ourselves.
And since we work hard and live so affluently as part of the American Empire, when prices rise or we lose our jobs or another company makes a “run for the border” or gas prices hit $3.00 a gallon, most of us don’t consider God. He may be a peripheral idea. Out here on the edges of consciousness but it the economy or one of the political parties or whatever that either gets the blame or the credit. After 9/11, we were told to get back at the terrorists who destroyed the twin towers (a symbol in their minds of American prosperity) to keep spending out money. I’ll say that again, “Keep spending our money.”
James 1:17 says Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
Sometimes I wonder how good all the abundance that we have is. “Life is good,” we say. Yet suicide, despair, depression, and addictions have all reached record levels. The disciples in Jesus’ day would probably think they were literally in heaven if they could have been whisked away to Giant Eagle. Here the question goes from “Can I have some bread?” to “What kind of bread should I choose?” Maybe we have been lulled to sleep or crippled by our prosperity. Maybe our prosperity is not as something as it is a curse. Or perhaps we just aren’t giving God enough credit for the abundance that we have. Too many other factors come into play: raises, inflation, lowering the prime rate. Recently the stock market plummeted after hitting another record high and who saved the day? The empire! They lowered one insignificant rate but resulted in millions of dollars that would have been spent on interest to be used for spending. The empire saved us!!
Meanwhile nothing really changed for most of us. People, people who work hard, are still losing their houses while politicians debate how to best fix the situation. The children of working poor suffer because some can’t afford health insurance. The lower interest (not the prime rate) was supposed to free up millions of dollars according to CNN. Who’s millions? The stock market rebounded. I didn’t suddenly have a few extra dollars to spend. That particular rate didn’t affect me. How about any of you? Most likely it helped those who already had millions anyway.
Here’s the thing. None of this makes a lot of difference in God’s scheme of things. What Jesus was reminding us in the Sermon on the Mount was how living for God and living under God and following the ways of God’s Kingdom as Jesus taught us (loving others while teaching people to do the same, praying for your enemies, doing good to others, giving to the poor, just giving to others to be a blessing to them, seeking out God’s ways, not judging others but judging ourselves), all these things teach us to live lives different from what the Empire expects and from what our culture expects even from what some of the Christian culture expects. It is a radical way of living.
God from the very beginning in the Garden desired humans to join with Him in creating a world of self-giving not selfishness. His work throughout history is the story of calling humans to return to Him to live an alternative way from the culture in order to transform our lives and transform the lives of people around and create a different culture. Jesus calls us to imagine what it would be like if people didn’t judge one another especially with different standards but instead we sought his guidance to judge ourselves even when we don’t deserve it. Especially when we are nothing like this Holy God who created us. Perhaps then we can forgive others as we are forgiven (not usually an easy thing by the way). Perhaps we can instead of judging others truly help them by letting God use our weakness so that His good gifts of grace, strength, and love would be shown.
This story of God is your story, my story, our story. It is a journey of seeking God, seeking the Kingdom, seeking His righteousness. All these other things are insignificant compared to the transformation that could take place if we imagine new community of grace and mercy. All these wonderful, good gifts that we buy and sell, are really not important in God’s Kingdom. There are much greater treasures in the Kingdom than a new Dodge Ram truck or a plasma TV or latest Nike Shox Elite Basketball shoe or the latest Barbie DVD or Halo 3 or lifetime membership with free meals to Jenny Craig or a check for a million dollars (tax free).
I know those are some great stuff. And it is really hard to look past those tangible awesome things to see that following the ways of Jesus offers rewards that surpass our wildest imaginations. Because the greatest gift of all is Jesus himself. That may sound cliché. But I believe it with all my being. Once you get glimpse (and I mean just a glimpse) of God and see yourself in this holy light, there is nothing like it.
We all are on the journey. The question is not where you are compared to others (that is judging). They question is what is God saying to you is the next step that you need to take. All of us, have a next step to take. If we don’t, then this implies that we have arrived. That’s something that I have yet to see in person. What is that next step and are you willing to take it? If something is holding you back, then give it up.