Facing Sin in Fellow Believers

Sin in Fellow Believers

Sin comes at us in several different ways and how we should react is different based on how it comes. These ways are: in ourselves, in the world, and in fellow believers. Each one brings its own challenges and difficulties and must be handled in different ways.

In Fellow Believers

1 Corinthians 5 reminds us how to deal with sin in the world, but the point of that passage is to talk about how to deal with sin in the body of believers. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are putting ourselves to a spiritual death through belief in His death and resurrection. As a part of that, we become enslaved to righteous living through commitment to obeying Him.

This is our choice. It’s not forced and, as long as we keep our belief in Jesus as our Savior, we don’t lose our salvation for messing up (I know, there’s a lot of theological points around this topic that not all people will agree with that. It’s where I stand though, so please don’t destroy me in your need to present your opinions as right.) That being said, Paul expects the people who claim allegiance to Jesus to follow certain lifestyle choices to living uprightly and honestly (Romans 6:1-2).

In chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians, Paul is dealing with a situation where someone is claiming to be a follower of Christ, but is happily living a sin-filled lifestyle. Paul doesn’t take it well. He says, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one.”

Paul isn’t the only one who feels strongly about hypocrisy. Jesus himself was very harsh on the Pharisees for their overly-pious version of hypocrisy. One example of many is from Matthew 23:15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

This sounds great in light passing of the topic. Sure, hypocrisy is bad and we shouldn’t hang out with Christians who say one thing and do another. This can be a much more sensitive and hurt-filled matter when we’re dealing with a loved one or friend in our life who is in this situation. We must handle it with wisdom, first going to them in love and concern, as spelled out in Galatians 6:1-2.

The other thing we must keep in mind in this situation is that this is not talking about every time we make mistakes. We’d all be kicked out at some point if that were the issue.

Habitual sins are ones that we fall into over and over and struggle to break. They are strongholds that we must fight against repeatedly till we can learn to truly hand them over to God and let Him fully defeat it. It takes strength and courage to fight a battle over and over, when you feel like you should be able to just “be good” like everyone else. Habitual sins and hypocrisy are not the same thing.

The difference between them is that being a Christian doesn’t mean getting everything right all the time. It means, knowing you’re a sinner and relying on the grace of Christ, both of which require us to be honest about our sin and what we’re fighting. Real hypocrisy is when a person is choosing a sin that the person knows is wrong, has been talked to by friends and church leaders about how it’s wrong, and still lives that way. They do all this while claiming they have a close relationship with Christ and are His devoted follower.

Hypocrisy says, I know what’s right and what’s wrong and I’m going to do what’s wrong while still claiming I’m right and ok. Hypocrisy is the ultimate level of denial because if you’re not doing anything wrong, you can’t ever start getting it right. Hypocrisy is the dead end of spiritual arrogance. As long as you’re in that place, you are dying spiritually and probably aren’t aware of it.

Hypocrisy is serious, but so is all sin. As we face each and every form of it, we can be grateful that God provided us the guidelines to help us understand how to respond appropriately and in love no matter what.

Facing Sin in the World

Sin in the World

Sin comes at us in several different ways and how we should react is different based on how it comes. These ways are: in ourselves, in the world, and in fellow believers. Each one brings its own challenges and difficulties and must be handled in different ways.

In the World

The world is full of sin: unapologetic, wayward sin. As Christians who have experienced the morning of sin in our hearts, the repentance of sin in our self, and the ongoing process of finding and removing sin in our lives, we can easily forget that the sin in the world hasn’t met it’s Maker yet. The people are in a range of states that goes from never having experienced God to fully aware and choosing to reject His voice.

Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 5 about how to handle sin in the world. He’s dealing with a sin issue in the church at Corinth and he’s talking about how to address it within the body. First, he reminds them of this, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). In other words, the world is bad and you can’t get away from it.

He goes on later to say, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.” Our job is to reach out the fallen and lost and offer them an example of the beauty of salvation through Christ. We can’t judge them for living in sin when they are under full sway of the law of death, as Paul talks about in Romans 6:20.

Sin is harmful, both to the ones doing it and everyone around them. There are times in our lives when we set boundaries for ourselves and our families to keep the harmful effects of sin away. For example, we may limit the movies we see or the music we listen to. Setting protective boundaries is different that judging the world and trying to make everyone look and act like you even if they don’t claim Jesus as their Savior.

We know that sin will be defeated by God in the end. The Bible says that all will bow and confess that Jesus is the Lord, but we don’t know when. Until then, we wait patiently as the sin around us ripens and prepares for the judgement that the Lord will bring on it.

Facing Sin in Ourselves

Sin In Ourselves

Sin comes at us in several different ways and how we should react is different based on how it comes. These ways are: in ourselves, in the world, and in fellow believers. Each one brings its own challenges and difficulties and must be handled in different ways.

In Ourselves

The first way that we need to face sin is in ourselves. It can be in our hearts and focus and it can cause us to bring distraction to our relationship with God and harm to our relationships with others. It’s bad news and it has to be dealt with. Jesus gives us the intensity of how we should be dealing with it in Matthew 18 “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.” (v. 18). Personally, I don’t read this as an invitation to self-harm, although there have been many in history that have used this verse that way, unfortunately. Instead, it’s setting a passion level that shows full commitment to obedience to the Lord and His commands.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:23 ESV

Proverbs tells us that we should watch our heart because the flow of our life, the springs of our life come out of that source. If we are seeing sin in our choices, words, or actions, we need to stop and see where in our heart the issue is coming from. When you see something is wrong, are you willing to give it up no matter how much it hurts? This is the question we have to ask in order to be able to deal with sin our own heart.

This idea is root of the message that Jesus gives in Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” We can’t see clearly how to help and love others if we’re not honest and passionate about dealing with sin in ourselves.

God wants us to be committed to Him and to choose to obey His commandments. After all, our salvation is a free gift; our response to that gift is to live in such a way that we show our belief in Him and our love for Him and each other. How we responds to the sin that’s revealed in our life shows where our hearts truly are. Are we committed to Him that we will remove sin no matter the cost? Are we willing to stop judging others and look at ourselves only when we talk about living right?

I am truly and fully convinced that all the pleasures and gain that we sacrifice in this life will be worth it when we meet Christ. In addition, removing our sin is often form of protection for this life as well. Double bonus! If this is an area that you find yourself lethargic about, consider praying that God will give you a love of living only for Him and the strength to face whatever needs to be removed in your life.

Fret Not Over Evil Doers - Psalm 37:7

Trust in His Long-Term Plan

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. – Psalm 37:1-6 ESV


When we read an inspirational scriptures, we can often imagine the passage in glowing and pretty images. We feel warm and fuzzy over what it says, but we don’t’ stop to think about how the passage would look in real life if we lived it out. Psalm 37 is one of these that has beautiful, true, and inspiring promises. However, if we pick out only those phrases, we don’t see the true image that’s being painted of what we are stepping into.

Truth 1: There are evildoers, and we must let them be. This passage is about letting the Lord fight our battles and believing in His long-term plan. It’s about how we’re supposed to live in the midst of bad people. We sometimes act like, as Christians, it’s our job to get rid of the bad people or at least convince them their bad and try to make them stop doing bad things. Psalm 37 is saying that there are evil people in the world, and we’re not to get worked up about it, but to let the Lord deal with them in his way and His time.

Truth 2: Our righteousness is to be highlighted by God, not us or our friends. Our righteousness isn’t defined by what group of people we associate with or how good we’ve followed a list of rules. We are to wait on the Lord to acknowledge our righteousness, not ourselves. He will bring it about, after we are patient. Note, it says, after we wait on Him; He doesn’t say it will happen right when we want it, or when it will make us look good to other people, or anything else that is based on our desires and expectations. It’s His work to do and it will be done in His time and His ways. Our job is to wait.

Truth 3: Belief first. We often want God to answer our prayers or give us blessing and then we’ll believe Him. We don’t say that outright, of course. Our minds are a lot more nuanced and complicated than that. This passage highlights how important it is to put our belief in God first, before we demand proof or blessing or protection. Our hearts must be in Him and held there as circumstances change. We will face temptation after temptation to remove our faith and hold onto something more tangible and immediate.

God promises us wonderful things, but the path to those blessings is one of patience in the face of evil, wait for acknowledgement from Him alone, and choosing to believe no matter whether circumstances make you look crazy or not. This is a slightly less rosy picture than just believing for happy blessings. However, if we can keep this image in our mind, we will stay closer to God during the less rosy times. Otherwise our happy image of how things should be collides with the truth of our reality and we feel disillusioned or let down.

Life isn’t pretty or easy, but God will come through in the end. Don’t let the selfishness and harm that comes from the evil in the world stop our eyes from seeking the Lord. We must remember to not worry or be jealous of their success or fear that God has forgotten to deal with them. God is the boss and He will bring about His justice in the perfect time.

Steadfast - Proverbs 4:20, 22, 26


I wish sometimes that writer of the old, old parts of scripture could be alive today and tell us how their passages of scripture would be written today. Proverbs 4:20-27 is one of those passages. Since I don’t have their input, I like to rephrase it as I understand it to help me find ways to apply these truths to my life.


My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. – Proverbs 4:20

My child, study the word intently; absorb what it says and choose to fill your ears with the truth of the words.


Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. – Proverbs 4:21

Don’t let distracting media take your eyes off the beauty of God’s word; keep it fresh and bubbling up inside, ready to be called on at a moment’s notice.


For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. – Proverbs 4:22

The joy of being alive can be felt deeper and more intensely by those who understand the beauty that God has placed in His Word. It brings refreshment to the mind and relaxation to the body.


Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:23

Protect your thoughts and be aware of your self-talk, because the flow of your life is determined by your internal dialogue and focus.


Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. – Proverbs 4:24

Don’t lie. Don’t gossip and don’t trick or manipulate. Ever.


Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. – Proverbs 4:25

Don’t let comparisons distract your or consumerism entice you. Look at what God’s given you and stay focused on the work He’s laid out in front of you.


Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. – Proverbs 4:26

Don’t live by accident. We weren’t put here to be pushed around mindlessly. Instead, think about who God made you to be and what work He’s asked you to right now. Think about your choices and live in such a way that you can become your best self through each and every choice you make.


Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. – Proverbs 4:27

It’s easy to feel that you made a mistake in your life choices or that you shouldn’t have chosen something that you did. Unless it’s a sin that you’re needing to turn away from, don’t give up on what you have. The choice you made is the choice you made. Walk it all the way out and see what God can do with everything you bring to Him.


God says His burden is light and His yoke I easy. Many days, I feel that. Some days I don’t. Temptation can easily come in and put a weight on us that we struggle under. But, we know who God is and He tells us how to live our lives. As we choose to believe in Him and accept His words, the burdens of this world begin to fall away.

This passage reminds me of the choice that is in walking with Him. I choose to walk with Him even when circumstances call me to doubt. I choose to keep my eyes on Him and live ethically even when immorality would be more fun or easier. I keep His Word near to me so I can learn more about Him every day.

Christ’s Righteousness

Sometimes we say to God, “OK, God, I’ve been forgiven by you in this moment, so you just tell me exactly what to do and how to live from this moment on so I never have to do anything wrong again. That way, I won’t sin again.” This is a problem, not because we don’t want to sin, that’s a good desire, but because we don’t trust in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We’re saying, if I just do all the correct behaviors, I will not sin again. We’re not to trust our own righteousness, meaning, we’re not to try to maintain our relationship with God through the avoidance of sin. Instead, we’re to trust the righteousness of Jesus Christ, knowing that we are washed clean of sin through Him.

Sometimes, when I’ve been discussing this with people who are more in the first camp than the second, their response is, “So you’re saying it’s OK to sin because Jesus will forgive you?” No, of course not. Nothing about accepting the righteousness of Christ is about making it OK to sin. If your heart is in such a place that hearing that you have been made righteous by Christ makes you want to break all the rules or live selfishly, I want to ask you to question your heart. Why does hearing that make you think it’s ok to do what you want when you want? Perhaps, you think of Christianity/religion as a way to force ethical behaviors. As in, if you don’t’ have a rule or a community that defines certain things as wrong, there’s no possible way that you could live by that rule. This once again points back to a complete lack of faith. We’ve been given the Holy Spirit as a guide and a comforter. If you are so out of tune with the Holy Spirit that you don’t trust any part of yourself to behave if someone isn’t punishing you for bad behavior, you might seriously want to consider a spiritual tune up. Practice listening to Him and accepting His input, not demanding rules and oversight.

The next piece of this response is the confusion of forgiveness with ignorance of problems. God doesn’t forgive you because He overlooks your issues or turns a blind eye to your mistakes. That’s not forgiveness and it certainly isn’t mercy. We often think in terms of discipline for our children. When we overlook mistakes, we often just let things slide. We offer mercy by not completing the justice part of the equation. God never ever does that.

God’s mercy is fully aware of our sin. He can see and knows our sin and darkness and selfishness. He doesn’t just wink at problems. He is in a fix-it mission with the focus being our hearts. God is also a just God. He doesn’t allow sin in His presence, which is why He can’t just close His eyes to it. For us to be in His presence, we must have atoned and dealt with our sin.

Jesus Christ is where God’s mercy and His justice collide. He hasn’t provided a way for God to ignore your sin; He’s provided a way for God to eliminate your sin. It’s gone, thrown away and never seen again. It’s been atoned for by blood sacrifice and removed.

Your forgiveness in Christ is full and complete. What might be incomplete is your acceptance of God’s forgiveness. God offers it fully and completely, but not unconditionally. You must believe on the name of Jesus and let His righteousness define you instead of your own. Repentance is not a 12 step program to help eliminate bad behaviors. It’s not even a process of admitting to God that you have problems (He already knows that). It’s about letting go of your own personal need to be good and letting God’s complete righteousness fill you.

Rejoicing at what the Lord Says - Nehemiah 8:12

Hearing, Believing, and Changing

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. … And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” … And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. – Nehemiah 8:1, 9-10, 12 ESV

Nehemiah was a prophet who lived in the time that the Babylonian exile ended. At the time that the exiles were returning to Jerusalem, he had been in the court of the king in Babylon. But, when he heard that Jerusalem was destroyed and walls in ruins, he gave up his high position and went back to help rebuild the city. Part of what Nehemiah did for the people was to teach them about the Law of Moses. Over the seventy years of captivity and exile, the habits and traditions around keeping the law had fallen away.

In Nehemiah chapter 8, we see the effect that the renewing of the laws and traditions had on the people. Ezra the scribe was asked to read the Law of Moses to the people. As they heard it being read, clearly and so they could understand it, the people started weeping. Nehemiah and the Levites reminded them that this is a time of joy, not weeping. They said, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” (v. 9). In verse 12, it explains a little more what the people were going through, “And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions [to the poor] and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.”

I love this story! Everything is here that shows us what we need to do to make changes happen and stick in our lives is here. These parts are

  • Knowledge and Understanding
  • Connection
  • Supporting leadership
  • Willingness to obey

The first part has two elements to it: knowledge and understanding. The people weren’t being rebellious or defiant; they simply didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing. Nehemiah doesn’t try to correct behavior first thing. He knows that they have to know the truth of God and be taught it. It might seem like splitting hairs to say that knowledge and understanding are different, but the nuance of them is captured in the part that says, “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.” (v.8 NIV). They didn’t just put the words out there and tell the people to start a Bible study if they didn’t understand it. They explained it in such a way that they understood what they heard. They now had the knowledge of the law and the understanding of it as well.

The second piece of this is connection. Religion is an abstract concept. It is an idea that we can’t always define quickly and easily. These abstract concepts include things like: there’s a powerful being who is intelligent and loving, but invisible and intangible, and ideas like love, mercy and justice. Even if the intangible is acknowledged, it can be difficult to apply this knowledge to our lives, or, said another way, to care about it. To take all these things and believe that they are real and important enough to be willing to change our lives for is a huge step of faith.

This step of faith can only happen when something connects us with the truth that’s in the knowledge we’ve gained. Knowledge alone isn’t enough, in most cases, to change a person or commit their steps to a path that will cost them personally with no earthly gain in site. That kind of belief is found only in the presence of the Lord. Only when we accept the words of understanding and allow them to connect us to His Spirit. This is why the people wept, because they were so overwhelmed with the Spirit that they felt the connection to Him deeply and personally.

The next piece of this story is the supportive leadership shown by Nehemiah and the Levites. All of Israel is gathered here and is crying. I imagine that some of the Levites were a bit overwhelmed by the people’s response. Thousands of people crying would be intimidating! Fortunately, Nehemiah knew what was happening and knew how to support the people as the Spirit was working in them.

He offered them a day to celebrate the goodness of God while they absorbed the love and knowledge they’d gained. He sent them home, telling them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (v. 10). The first time you feel the moving of the Spirt, you might not know how to handle it. Nehemiah is given them the opportunity to enjoy the moment and to have a good meal (eat the fat) and make sure the poor in the group can enjoy a good meal as well.

The final part of this is the willingness to obey. In the next section of chapter 8 and 9, Nehemiah and the other leaders and priests start implementing what they’ve been reading in the Law, right away, no wasted time! The people celebrate and rejoice in this and join in wholeheartedly.

When we’ve been brought into a new understanding of God’s truth, we need to be willing to step into obedience as well, without hesitation and with wholehearted devotion. This is the only way we can see the true change in us: hear it, understand it, celebrate it (leaders support it), and do it.

Unified in God - Psalm 133:1,3

Life Forevermore, Unified with God

A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. – Psalm 133:1-3 ESV

David reminds us in Psalm 133 of the joy of being unified with others around us. I love the imagery he uses of the flowing, dropping over our heads. It’s a gift that’s poured out over us abundantly enough to drop off us and envelop us. David reminds at the end of the Psalm that it’s the blessing of God, and it’s life forever more. With this kind of promise, it seems like it would be a good idea to understand more about the unity he’s telling us about.

Unity on any subject is pleasing. Whether it’s simply joining a club of people who are doing what you like to do, or convincing someone to agree with you, having the same ideas and focus and priorities as those around you feels good. However, the kind of unity that David is talking about here isn’t about discussing ideas or actions until we all get a consensus or agreement. The kind of agreement we need to have for the blessings of life are talked more about by Jesus and Paul.

In Ephesians 4, Apostle Paul has just wrapped up talking about the beauty and the mystery of the revealed good news of life through Christ. After reminding them of that gift, he goes on to talk about living and walking the unity of the good news. He reminds them to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” going on to say, “there is one body and one Spirit …one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

From this we learn that the unity we’re going for is not a unity of humans, but a unity with the divine. We are seeking unity through an awareness and knowledge of the Spirit. It’s not about seeing whose idea gains the most agreement with other people. It’s about learning to become one with the Divine Presence that is in all who believe in the name of Christ.

This is confirmed by Jesus himself. In the last days of his life, Jesus prayed a prayer for all who would believe in His name (that’s us!), set down in John 17:20-26. He asked for one thing for us. It wasn’t a prayer for blessing or protection or anything like we’d probably ask for. Instead, he asks for this, “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”

As he’s about to leave his disciples to trouble, persecution, and murder, that’s what’s important to Jesus. He wants each of them to become one with God as he himself was one. That’s a big important thing to remember.

As I go back to the imagery of unity being poured over our heads and I combine that with the belief that unity comes from our relationship with Holy Spirit, I can see that our life evermore that David celebrated in Psalm 133 is the life that comes from a deep personal relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Don’t spend one more day seeking unity with another human; seek God! Then, as we all are unified in the one and only God, we will end up being brought together in a much deeper, more lasting unity than simply agreement can bring.

Grateful in all Things - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Tainted Gratitude

And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” – Esther 5:11-13 ESV

In the story of Esther, the villain is a man named Haman. His selfishness and ambition have him fighting against anyone he doesn’t like; his ultimate nemesis being Queen Esther’s uncle, Mordecai. After Mordecai doesn’t bow or defer to him in anyway, Haman goes home to pout to his friends and his wife.

Haman starts listing all the great things in his life: money, large family, and promotions in the royal court. If the story stopped there, it would almost sound like Haman is doing a wonderful job of practicing gratitude. Isn’t that what we’re told to do when we’re struggling with a problem or perspective issue? We’re supposed to stop and count our blessings and keep things in perspective. Haman, however, is a very evil man. All this focus on his blessings only leads him to hate Mordecai more and agree to his wife’s awful plan to kill him. Why does him listing blessing foreshadow murder when we’re told it’s helpful for us?

Gratitude isn’t about focusing on what you have, purely for the sake of recognizing how awesome you have it. It’s not about listing what you’ve accomplished or how the world sees you. All those things still keep you at the center of your own attention. It is easy to use our view of our blessings, even the ones we fully give God credit for, and then to use that to be about us. We make it about what we’ve accomplished, or how hard we worked, or what we did for those people, or how much we’ve earned what we have.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV

Gratitude is supposed to be about a perspective shift to focusing less on yourself and more on God. It should be about seeing God in all our circumstances and blessing him for who He is. 1 Chronicles 16:34 says, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” Give thanks why? Because God is good. Not because I accomplished good things, and not because I’m comfortable and not because I have more blessings that most of the world.

Haman’s listing of his accomplishments was to add fuel to the fire that he deserved the homage he wanted from Mordecai. He wasn’t being grateful, he was puffing up his own ego. His own sense of self had poisoned his perspective to the point that he didn’t even have a shred of real gratitude left in him.

Most of us, of course, aren’t that depraved or selfish. We don’t use our blessings to bloat our sense of self-worth. However, just because we aren’t as extreme as Haman doesn’t mean that we always have pure motivations in pondering our blessings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I live in a wonderful home with hot, running water and live only minutes from several well-stocked groceries stores. I’m thankful for His abundance, but I don’t want my comfort to be the ultimate source of my gratitude. I want my knowledge of God to prompt awe and love and gratefulness because I know Him and who He is brings me to my knees with heart overflowing with gratitude. Then all the blessings in the world will become more and more beautiful and my heart will become more and more aligned with Him.


God Approves Your Work - Ecclesiastes 9:7

Work with What You Have

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ – Matthew 25:21 ESV

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? … For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ – Matthew 25:24-26, 29-30 ESV

In this crazy world of people telling you what you should do and how you should live and manipulating you out of your money, we sometimes want to throw in the towel and say that nothing matters. We can lose track of what’s important in our work when we think that how other people treat us or react to us impacts what we should be doing. Your work matters and you should be doing it to the best of your abilities, no matter what.

In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus gives us an example of three people who were given things to be responsible for, as they had ability to do. The first two were faithful and worked hard, took risks, and, as a result, they had more to give back than what they started with. They are the good and faithful servants. The final servant protected what he had and gave back only what he’d been given. He was cast out as a disobedient servant.

There are four things we can pull from this parable. First, what we have has been given to us based on our ability. God isn’t going to ask you to be a brain surgeon and then not give you the intelligence to handle the job. We’re also not given everything equally. God gave out as He saw fit, not as would make sense to us. We need to accept what we have as a gift and a responsibility.

Second, we have to take risks and work hard. The first two servants invested the money and made more. Any type of investment, whether it be simply interested based loaning or market trading or business investing, all of these things take risk. There might be ups and downs, but we have to keep believing in the gifts and abilities we have and we have to keep working hard.

Third, staying as you are is an act of disobedience. Money is what is used in the parable as an example, but money isn’t the only things that we’ve been given to take care of and grow. We have many talents and responsibilities that we have to take care of and learn to improve at. It can be anything from taking care of our families to leadership abilities or business growth. Whatever it is that we have, we must use and improve or we are being bad stewards of our gifts.

Finally, the fourth thing we can learn is that God won’t always spell out in a step by step direction what we’re supposed to be doing. In the parable, the landowner gives these talents to the stewards because he is going away for a while. God never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5), of course, that’s not what the parable is saying. It’s saying that we are able to do what we need to do without constant guidance. Part of accepting the work that God has called us to do requires us to believe that we have everything we need to accomplish it, including the abilities to complete our work.

Ecclesiastes 9 talks about the toil that each one of us has before us to do. In verse 9 it says about this, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” God wants us to work hard and what He’s given us. Don’t spend time worrying about your lot in life or the things that you wish you had or didn’t have to deal with. Pray about finding you “merry heart” in regard to what you’re doing and learn to enjoy the moment in your life as you work every day to be who He made you to be.