Grace over Greed

Another true confession. For many years I was not particularly inclined toward helpfulness, but my wife, Peggy, was. “Let’s stay behind and help clean up,” she would say. “I don’t want to stay behind and help clean up,” I would reply, strongly preferring to protect my time. Then we’d stay behind and clean up (or whatever else “helpfulness” entailed in the moment). People don’t change people, per se, but our lives do influence others over time, and somewhere along life’s path, I’ve actually come to enjoy helping out (most of the time). If it is possible for one to receive the gift of helps through marriage, it’s happened to me.

To a crowd of thousands, Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed . . . ”1 Greed is an insatiable, selfish desire for something—having and hoarding, yet always wanting more. We think of in monetary terms, and indeed it often presents that way, but Jesus’ caution against “all kinds of greed” calls us to broaden our category for it. For me, it means being on guard against hoarding my personal time to the point of not being obedient to God or helpful to people. And I think greed can just as easily surface in other forms—leisure, power, or attention, for instance, or even spiritual gifts. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these, but Jesus says “Watch out!” lest we amass in perpetual discontentment and consume to excess, alone.

Then how does generosity spring from us who are naturally disposed to selfishness? In a word, freedom. “Freely you have received; freely give,”2 said Jesus to His disciples. We live in an inexhaustible supply God’s liberating grace. Of our monetary means, then, we give “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”3 And we share from our spiritual gifts no less lavishly; the apostle Paul exhorts us, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”4

Peter wrote, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms . . . so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”5 Our gifts serve ultimately for His glory, and as He transforms us over time, our greed gladly gives way to His good.

Father, lead us today, that we would be good stewards of the gifts we might otherwise stockpile. Be glorified in our giving. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Luke 12:15
2 Matthew 10:8
3 2 Corinthians 9:7
4 Romans 12:6-8 ESV
5 1 Peter 4:10-11


Comfort, Compassion and Care

Duane has been a friend since childhood. While our paths have diverged and converged over the years, we have always been there for each other. So when my mother passed away, Duane reached out in compassion and care. I told him that I was a “lock-down” kind of guy, that my tears flow inwardly, but seldom outwardly. Having suffered the loss of loved ones himself, he understood my situation. “Don’t be afraid to hurt,” he urged me. Duane was right: he himself had needed this advice in the past, and now he shared it with me, for I indeed feared the experience of pain.

Through the years, I’ve noticed we hold most compassion for those now incurring the kinds of trials we ourselves once suffered or still are. Personally, my compassion for people in discouraging circumstances is far greater if I have experienced them as well. My heart goes out to children who have lost a father, to adults accompanying a parent down the rugged road of cancer, and to employees who have suffered injustice in the workplace. Why? Because I’ve suffered these hurts, too.

In the mercy of God, pain breeds compassion and suffering grows care. Wrote Paul to Corinthian believers, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”1 God is spirit2, so He is able to assure us inwardly with His invisible yet knowable presence. He works through us, as well, to comfort others through outward expressions of care and support. Isn’t it amazing that God would honor us in this humble, helpful way? But He does! In fact, walking others through their difficulties helps us to heal from our own. This is a “God thing.”

So what does this mean for us? When we hurt, we can know that good will come from it. Though we would prefer not to travel the path of pain at all, we know from the past that God will use our pain to comfort someone else today or in days still to come. Then we should not underestimate the comfort we give others, for we are God’s lifeline to them, conduits of His care. Compassion is His nature, and He calls us to go and comfort others. This is what Duane did, and I am forever grateful.

Father of compassion, God of all comfort, point me to people who suffer as I have suffered, and grace me to be your vessel of comfort to them. Thank you for the humbling honor of blessing others as you, through others, have blessed me. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4
2 John 4:24


Seeds of Life

True confession: For many years, I sensed a certain futility to life, even though living it as a believer in Christ Jesus. So we are born, raised to be aspirational, toil to “make a living,” raise our children to be aspirational, and then we die. And so it goes, generation after generation. But as I sat beside my step-father’s deathbed during his final hours, I sensed something completely different: it was as if watching a seed dying, waiting to fall to the ground and spring forth into something far greater, unimaginably glorious, and unfading in splendor. Baptized into Christ in his later years, his faith evidenced itself in growing humility, grace and peace. God had done a marvelous work in him, and now He was working through this dying man to grow me up a bit in faith, hope, and understanding.

The apostle Paul taught that, without Christ, we are, in a way, dead men walking: “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world.”1 “At that time you were separate from Christ,” he explained, “without hope and without God in the world.”2 People across generations and cultures sense not only a life beyond this one, but also the existence of an Authority over it, for we strive to earn a place in a world still to come, yet not knowing how. We are, in this sense, “held in slavery by [our] fear of death.”3 But praise God for bringing hope to our hopelessness and closing the gap that stood between us, for Paul continues, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”4 For the believer, separation from God is already a thing of the past, and our life in Christ is now and forever new.

Then what can we say about life that blooms where death once reigned?

Eternal life is a gift of divine love, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”—John 3:16

Everlasting life begins the moment we entrust our soul to God through faith in His Son, who said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged, but has crossed over from death to life.”—John 5:24

We enter into life as a people forgiven: “When you were dead in your sins . . . God made you alive in Christ. He forgave us all our sins.”—Colossians 2:13

We live with fresh purpose, “He Himself brought our sins in His body up on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.”—1 Peter 2:24 NASB

These verses are words of truth; they are seeds of life. God, grant us the humility to receive them, the strength to trust them, and the honor to plant them. Amen.

1 Ephesians 2:1-2 ESV
2 Ephesians 2:12
3 Hebrews 2:15
4 Ephesians 2:13