My Wish for All

December 22, 2017

My generation had a wish book, the glossy, colored pages of the Sears-Roebuck toy catalog. Its arrival marked a season of dreaming about what you wanted. It was a time of making your wishes known. It was a time of eager anticipation.

My childhood desires have faded, but not my wonder, anticipation, and joy. I was never meant to stay in childhood; I was meant to mature to learn lessons from the gifts I received. The adults in my life found joy in giving. I was to learn from them to follow the words of Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). As I grew older, I realized that for some the wish book was a hollow dream. That this season of the year could bring sadness as well as joy. It could unfortunately illustrate greed as well as exemplify generosity.

My adult desire is to be generous. In my gift giving for family, I have also learned to give to others. In this desire to go beyond my immediate circle, I’ve found the greater joy. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

My adult desire is also to appreciate and enjoy time with family. My family has many traditions that we have developed over the years. Traditions have a way of growing. You do something once, that’s nice. You do it a second time because you enjoyed it before, and you soon find yourself with a yearly tradition. But they function as ways of making lasting memories. My desire for everyone is to make memories with your family. The joy of family need not be expensive. Simple things can bring families together. The years fly by, but our memories are precious, and those memories are a part of the life of joy.

My adult desire is to know Jesus and to make him known to others. And here is the rub: the New Testament teaches us about the birth of Jesus and its importance. Without the incarnation, there could be no atonement. Yet, the New Testament never commands a celebration of Jesus’ birth, which is not likely to have been on December 25th, but does command a weekly celebration of his death and resurrection in the Lord’s Supper. If people feel pain by this season of the year, it is not from what Jesus or the New Testament teaches. They are the unintended consequences of human efforts.

The polls indicate that a majority of Americans celebrate Christmas now as a cultural holiday. Two-thirds believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, compared with 73% in 2014. 75% believe he was laid in a manger (down from 81%). Belief in the wise men guided by a star and bringing presents has also declined. (And for those who take the Bible seriously, the arrival of the wise men was likely months after Jesus’ birth, and not on the night of the shepherds’ visit.) Only 57% believe that all of these things actually happened.*

My wish for all is to know the blessings of generosity, family, and most of all Jesus. But we must go beyond the cultural trappings to the Jesus revealed in the New Testament. There are reasons for belief even if polls show a decline. For those who seek him, he can be found. And when he is found, he is Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14, 19:16) which is not a seasonal occupation. With Jesus as the Lord of my daily life, I find an unfading joy: joy in giving, joy in family, but most of all, joy in Jesus Christ, my Lord.

*http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/18/5-facts-about-christmas-in-america/

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The Good Eye or the Bad Eye?

January 20, 2017

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22–23, NKJV)

Jesus’ discourse on the good eye or the bad eye occurs between his section on treasuring up treasures in heaven versus treasuring up treasure on earth and the danger of serving two masters — God or Mammon (Money).

What does Jesus mean by a good or bad eye? One idea in our translations is the idea of health: “healthy/bad” ESV, “clear/bad” NASB, and “healthy/unhealthy” NIV (but note the NIV’s footnote1). But is Jesus merely telling us that we have light with healthy eyes and darkness with unhealthy ones?

A helpful place to start is the fact that the bad eye in several places in scripture refers to the greedy person. In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the first hired grumble that the workers who have not borne the burden of the day also receive a denarius. The owner replies: “Or is your eye evil because I am good?” (Matthew 20:15b Note the footnotes in the ESV, NASB and the more literal translation of the NKJV.)

In the Old Testament, we find several places where the bad eye refers to stingy or greedy person.

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy (literally, evil eye); do not desire his delicacies, (Proverbs 23:6, ESV see footnote)

A stingy man (literally, man of evil eye) hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him. (Proverbs 28:22, ESV see footnote)

On the other hand, the person with a good eye is generous.

Whoever has a bountiful (literally, good) eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. (Proverbs 22:9, ESV see footnote)

The good in this description of the eye in Matthew 6:22 refers “to being motivated by singleness of purpose so as to be open and aboveboard, single, without guile, sincere, straightforward.”2 This may connect to the person who serves one master, God.

Certainly, if we have a healthy eye we will have light in our life. But the contrast of light and darkness in scripture is often moral. We inwardly will be very different people if we look at life with generosity versus greed. Which kind of eye do you want to have: the good eye or the bad eye?

1The footnotes on healthy and unhealthy state: “The Greek for healthy here implies generous. The Greek for unhealthy here implies stingy.”

2BDAG, s.v. ἁπλοῦς, p. 104


Wallets that Never Wear Out

June 21, 2013

Wallets, billfolds, purses – we probably all have one. They are the place where we put our money, credit cards, driver’s license and ID cards. They are necessary things that take a tremendous amount of wear and tear.

Wallets wear out. I can remember the transfer from a worn out one to a new one. The old wallet’s leather was worn and discolored. It had never quite recovered from the amusement park water ride. Emptied it looked kind of like a shed snake’s skin – still having some of the shape of its former occupants, but looking very lifeless.

But worse that wearing out – money disappears from them at blinding speed. I’m reminded of Proverbs 23:5: “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (NIV).

How would you like a wallet that never wears out? It’s a special wallet that never loses its contents. Is it some special new super cowhide with SuperGlue inside? No, this special offer isn’t found on the shopping channel, but from Jesus himself.

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:29-34, NIV

It’s a paradox. What I give as a Christian is what I truly get to keep. What I accumulate for myself will ultimately go to another, “naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart” (Job 1:21). Thomas Fuller states another paradox, “Riches enlarge rather than satisfy appetites.” Somewhere along the way, I must learn that satisfaction and contentment come from another source than more things. As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Do I have an eternal wallet or simply one that will wear out?