In Jesus’ Words: God and Money (Matthew 22:17-21)

“Tell us, what do You think.  Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  Perceiving their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, hypocrites?  Show Me the coin used for the tax.”

So they brought Him a denarius. “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them.  “Caesar’s,” they said to Him.

Then He said to them, “Therefore, give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  (Matthew 22:17-21)

Jesus seems to get a little sassy here.  After all, he had just spent a lot of time with the Pharisees telling them parables about themselves and they still didn’t get it.  Instead they were spending their time plotting how to trap and kill him.  I’m sure Jesus knew their true intentions when they asked this question, but again, Jesus’ answers could not be defeated.

Jesus challenged the things of the day, but he was not political and he did not seek to change world structures, only the hearts of mankind.

When he spoke of giving to God the things that are God’s, I was reminded of these words from Dr. K.P. Johannan, missionary and author of “Revolution in World Missions”, written in 1986.  K.P. confirms in today’s world what Jesus was saying to us.  Jesus’ words were not only to the Pharisees but to us as well.  I hope we do not miss the point.

“Americans are more than just unaware of their affluence – they almost seem to despise it at times.  When I came to America, I stared in amazement at how they treated their beautiful clothes and shoes.  This nation routinely takes its astonishing wealth for granted.

How can two so different economies coexist simultaneously on the earth?  I was alarmed at how misplaced are the spiritual values of most western believers.  It appeared to me that for the most part they had absorbed the same humanistic and materialistic values that dominated the secular culture.  Through their abundance, it was as if they were trying to escape from a guilt they had not yet defined.

They were simply incapable of understanding the enormous needs overseas.  I sometimes cannot freely order food when traveling in the U.S. – I look at the costs and carelessness and realize how far that amount of money would go in India or Philippines.  Suddenly I am not quite as hungry as before.

Is it God’s fault people are going hungry?  No, God has provided enough money in the highly developed nations to feed the rest.  Here are people of privilege and great affluence and more free to act on the Great Commission than any other nation in history.  Yet, they didn’t comprehend this.”

Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter. – Francis Chan

In Jesus’ Words: Tale of two sons (Matthew 21:28-32)

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Which one of these is right?  A person who is disagreeable and untrustworthy but eventually does the right thing, or someone who is polite and respectable but does not do what they say?

This is the question Jesus presented to the religious Pharisees in his parable of the two sons.  But once again the religious leaders were unable to trick Jesus or fully answer his questions, and it infuriated them.

~ Matthew 21:28-32  Parable of Two Sons ~

“But what do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go, work in the vineyard today.’

 “He answered, ‘I don’t want to!’ Yet later he changed his mind and went.  Then the man went to the other and said the same thing.

“‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go.

 “Which of the two did his father’s will?”

“The first,” they said.

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you!  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him. Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him, but you, when you saw it, didn’t even change your minds then and believe him.”

In this story, both sons had the same father (God).  The first son represented the despised sinners of the day – prostitutes, adulterers and thieves.  Many of these people were attracted to Jesus.  He offered them hope and redemption, and they repented.  The second son represented the religious leaders of the day.  They loved their world and power more than their faith or finding the truth.  They spoke well, but did not back up their words with actions.

This is a recurring theme with Jesus, where he says sinners will enter the kingdom of heaven before the religious hypocrites.  Imagine… a heaven full of repentful sinners.  And for all those Pharisees and others who worked so hard for their status, where did it get them in the end?

The prophet Haggai also spoke of a similar situation to the Jewish people in 520 BC.

The Lord of Hosts says, “Consider your ways!”
You have sown much, and bring in little;
You eat, but do not have enough;
You drink, but you are not filled with drink;
You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!”
– from the book of Haggai, chapter 1

How often do we find ourselves in this situation today?  We are keeping up appearances and working hard, but it is toward the wrong things and it gets us nowhere.  Jesus is urging us instead to do God’s will, which is simply seeking the heart of God and His truth.  It’s as simple as that.  It is not being showy or working extra hard.  It is putting others first over our own selfish motives.  It is desiring the truth and being sincere in our heart.  These are things each of us can do every day, and in the end, we will be better off for it.

In Jesus’ Words: You know not what you ask (Matthew 20:20-28)

james-and-johnThen the mother of Zebedee’s sons approached Jesus with her sons. She knelt down to ask Him for something. “What do you want?” Jesus asked her.

“Promise,” she said to Him, “that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and the other on Your left, in Your kingdom.”

But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you’re asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”

“We are able,” they said to Him.

He told them, “You will indeed drink My cup. But to sit at My right and left is not Mine to give; instead, it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

When the 10 disciples heard this, they became indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”
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Here was a mom who loved her two boys and was full of pride for them.  Sounds familiar for today.  We all want the best for our children.  But instead of Jesus getting mad at her or her sons, He answers them differently.  This is the crux of Jesus’ ministry.  He responds differently, and in a way that could not be challenged.  This passage was not written to chastise James and John, but it shows just how effective Jesus’ answer was.  Jesus was about to be killed and they knew it.  They were trying to secure their place.  But soon everything would change for these two sons.

James and John were known as the sons of Zebebee or often called the sons of Thunder by Jesus himself.  They were the second and third disciples chosen after Peter, and were part of Jesus’ close circle.  James was the first disciple to be martyred after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and John was exiled and wrote Revelations.  That is a far change in behavior from their mother’s initial request.

So what changed?  It might possibly have been changed by Jesus’ reaction to their request: You don’t know what you ask.  He didn’t rebuke or criticize them.  Instead, He gathered them all together and taught them what they did not know.

I hope I remember this story the next time I am prone to respond in anger.  It’s a hard thing to do, but who knows what rippling affect my own actions could have on the future.

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In Jesus’ Words: Children are a Blessing (Matthew 19:13-15)

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As a mom, and especially on this recent Mother’s Day, there are no more comforting words to hear than these spoken from Jesus:

~ Matthew 19:13-15  Jesus Blesses the Children ~

Then children were brought to Jesus so He might put His hands on them and pray. But the disciples rebuked them.  Then Jesus said, “Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to Me, because the kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this.”  After putting His hands on them, He went on from there.

Children are a blessing in so many ways.  Whether you have children of your own or have a chance to interact with children in other ways, I cannot think of anything more precious.  Children teach us what is important in life.  They see things through a different lens than us adults.

Children are a promise of renewal.  Even though we have sadness in the world, there is something about seeing a new baby that washes over us like a wave of hope.  Jesus makes all things new and Heaven makes all things fair.  From Jesus’ own words, “Heaven is made up of children and people like this.”  Heaven is a joyous place, for the children.

One of the most important things we can do in this life is to take care of the children, teach them, show them kindness, and let them come to Jesus.  Children are naturally attracted to Jesus.  They are fresh from God.  And a mom praying for her child is a force that can change the world.feet with waves cropped

In Jesus’ Words: Where two or three are gathered in My name (Matthew 18:15-20)

wedding-prayerThe couple didn’t want to see each other before their wedding, but they wanted to pray together. (Image source: K.D. Burke Photography. Article from The Blaze, June 15, 2013)

Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

Wouldn’t you like to have Jesus as a guest at your wedding?  Some people say they don’t believe in organized religion or the control of a church.  Some people prefer to worship Jesus from the privacy of their homes, but are not comfortable attending a church or Bible study.  However, there is something very wonderful that happens when believers come together in prayer, in worship, and in celebration.  It is like an invisible strength.  It is an indescribable power, like a boundary of protection.  To the outside world, it may not look like much, but to the spiritual world, it is the most powerful thing.  Jesus said He is there among you.  And where you have gathered with two or more in His name, God has intervened.  You have fought off more demons than you know.  You have aided in more answered prayers than you know.  You have changed the world.

As difficult as this world may be at times, can you imagine how much worse it would be without our prayers?  Christians may not be feared by man but are feared by demons.

~ Matthew 18:15-20  Jesus’ advice to the church ~

“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.

Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

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