Since 2006 the folks at Gallup have been measuring America’s levels of anger, stress, and worry. I bet you can guess what I’m about to say. Our levels in all three categories are rising. We are not happy. When it comes to stress, Americans scored 20 points higher than the global average.
With so much going on in the news and with so much demand on our lives, it’s not surprising to hear that Americans are amongst the most stressed-out people in the world. We could probably each give some very good reasons as to why we are so worried. And when it comes to anger, we all feel a little on edge. Such a reaction from stressed out, worried people is not surprising. If anger, worry, and stress have become so natural in our culture, is it even reasonable to think we can be happy?
This week I am sharing 5 ways to stay happy all day. In my last post I introduced the topic and shared the first way; rejoice and repeat. With this post, I want to continue to explore Philippians 4:4-7 and share the second way we stay happy all day. To stay happy you have to a good reason for a happy reaction.
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Way #2 – The Right Reasons Lead to the Right Reactions
In Philippians 4:4 Paul instructed us to rejoice and repeat it. In Philippians 4:5 he calls on us to give reasons for such rejoicing. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” Some translations of the verse read, “Let your gentleness be known to all. The Lord is at hand.”
When you come across a verse in an English translation of the Bible in which you have two completely unrelated words like “reasonable” and “gentle” you wonder, “So, which is it?” Instead of the answer being one or the other, the answer is probably both.
Sometimes words are lost in translation. The seeming discrepancy simply means that we don’t quite have a word that captures the meaning of the original language. The jest of the word is that you exhibit a gentleness that is more than just a personality trait. You are gentle for good reason. You have learned some things. You believe some things. Your reactions are not a response to the situation, but a response to solid, foundational, Biblical reasons that undergird your joy.
Don’t Be a Happy Idiot
The Bible calls us to reasonable rejoicing. We reject any notion that the Bible would call us to be happy idiots. By happy idiot, I mean that person who is sappy and disconnected from reality. The Bible speaks to true human emotions like sorrow and discouragement. The Bible never endorses any behavior in which we would pretend that something bad is good. We are not to be out of touch with the situation, but we can have a much different reaction. To simply be “gentle” for the sake of gentleness is unreasonable. To pretend to be happy makes you look like an idiot.
A Great Reason
Instead of worry, stress, or anger overcoming us, we rest our joy on a very solid reason, “The Lord is at hand (Phil. 4:5b).” In every circumstance of life, the Lord is near. God is not aloof, uninterested, or disconnected. He has not forgotten me nor has He distanced Himself from me. The Lord is at hand.
His Word is available. His Spirit is personal. His promises are faithful.
When the Lord is your first reason to rejoice, joy is always available. You can rest assured that if the Lord has prepared “this” for you then He has prepared you for “this.”
You’re not to be a happy idiot. You always have a reason to rejoice. This reason governs your reactions. If you want reasons to stay happy all day, take some time to study God’s Word and write down reasons God has given us to rejoice. One of the foremost reasons we can rejoice is because of salvation. God reconciles the sinner to Himself through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ – and even Heaven rejoices (Luke 15:10)! What are some of the other reasons that the Bible gives us as reasons to rejoice?
Bible Study Questions:
Read Psalm 126. Pay particular attention to verse 11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
What emotions are expressed in Psalm 126?
In the beginning of the passage, David makes a statement that would lead us to believe that he is experiencing some sort of turmoil. What are the truths/reasons he cites throughout the passage that give him encouragement and joy?
What are the promises to be believed?
What are the commands to be obeyed (hint: there may not be a stated command in the passage, but there may be one that is implied or understood)?
What are the principles to be applied?
If you are looking for a book to help you bring about a better pace to your life, check out my book #TheWalk. One question answered every day will help you accomplish your greatest goals; not by doing more, but by doing less. Are you ready for #TheWalk?
Studies show that we are struggling to stay happy. Why is this? One reason is because we have a negativity bias. But, the Bible also reveals that much of the anxiety that we suffer is due to unrealistic expectations placed on self, others, and on things to provide us with joy.
In this message I share with you several ways to guarantee a good day.
What if I were to tell you that joy is always available? Are you interested in knowing more? I am. If you are reading this post, that must mean that you are as well.
I am starving for joy. I’ll admit that I have not been very happy. I walked through quite a streak of stresses and difficult circumstances over the past 3-4 years and it got the best of me. I’ve been waiting on the next bad thing to happen rather than shaping something good. So I started searching for joy. I found it. In Psalm 16 David shares 5 places where joy is always available.
Joy is always available in God
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
Joy is a reaction. Joy is a response. There always has to be a reason for joy. You can’t fake it.
Joy is not like love in that we can love someone who is not easily lovable. Jesus commands us to love our enemies. But when it comes to joy, you can’t take joy in something that isn’t joyful. Taking joy in something that isn’t joyful is sinful. The Bible uses words like envy, jealousy, covetousness, and drunkenness to describe the misguided notion that a person can find satisfying joy in joyless things.
Joy is Not an Option
What’s even more interesting is that joy is not an option. The Bible speaks of joy about 430 times. The Bible uses the word “rejoice” about 230 times. Did you know that the Bible commands us to rejoice and be glad more than it commands any other thing? That means that just as it is a sin to take a human life, it is a sin not to be happy! That’s a problem if I can’t find joy.
So what makes you happy? Family. Food. Friends. Money. Sports. We all have a shortlist of things that make us happy. But there’s another problem. Those things are not always available or affordable. Then what?
You’re fine with your shortlist as long as there is someone at the top of the list that is always available to give you joy. So David secures his joy. He declares that the Lord is his Lord and that he will find no good apart from God.
David does not share his circumstances, but if you know anything of his life you know that he is a man who seemed to surf the highs and lows of difficult situations. Declaring that he seeks refuge in God indicates that there is no joy in his current circumstances and so he turns to the faithful reservoir of joy. God. And that is wise. Since God commands joy He is always available for joy. Seeing that the Bible so often mentions joy, we can take conclude that God is concerned for our joy.
And David is not disappointed. In verse 16 he shares what he has found. “In your (God) presence there is fullness of joy.” That word full means satisfied, saturated. It means that the supply has not been exhausted but that you simply don’t have the capacity for more.
For those who name the name of the Lord, there can be no one else on the top of our list of things that make us happy than God. God commands us to take joy in Him. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” If He commands it, He is available for it. Being the most excellent being in existence He will never fail to give us a reason for joy.
Joy is Always Available in God’s People (vv. 3-4)
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
It is no surprise to hear that God is the source of infinite joy. But as a human, I need more than words on paper. I want to see Him, feel Him, and hear Him. I want to experience God.
One of the great doctrines of the Bible is that the church is the Body of Christ. God has chosen to minister His graces to His people through His church. Basically Jesus died for our sins. Rose from the grave. Ascended into Heaven. Gave us His Spirit and essentially said, now you be me on earth. No pressure!
And David has found this to be true. Not only does he have an excellent God, but David has found some of God’s excellent people. The excellent ones are the people who have been affected and infected by God’s joy so much so that David not only finds pleasure in God, but he delights in God’s excellent ones.
Immediately we raise an objection. Some of the meanest people I have ever met have been in church.
The Bible has something to say about this as well.
The Ugly Side of Church
Not all people who claim to be God’s people are God’s people. Unfortunately within the church, there are false teachers (2 Peter 2:1) and fake Christians (Matthew 7:15-23). These people are definite joy killers. They bear no spiritual fruit (Gal. 5:22-24). They exhibit no evidence they are indwelt by God’s spirit. They share no witness of Jesus. The Bible says they are there. Identify them, but don’t make decisions based on them. The fact that you can draw no joy from them and that they seek to distract you and destroy your joy should be no surprise to you. These are not God’s excellent ones.
Not everything that is claimed to be of God is from God. Another unfortunate reality of church is that even sincerely saved, spiritually indwelt, regenerate people can exhibit spiritual immaturity. This is true of all of us from time to time. If we are not careful, we get caught up in gossip, accusation, deception, unfaithfulness, and anger. In response to this, we should renounce it and approve what is excellent (Titus 3:8-11). In short, we should seek to quickly end expressions of immaturity and approve joy (1 Peter 2:1-3). It’s especially true that when you are seeking joy in a turbulent time that it is wise to adopt David’s approach to ungodly people and ungodly things in 16:4. I smell blood, and I’m not going to go there! It’s false. It is not of God and it only ends in sorrow. And who needs more of that? Not me!
While it is true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, don’t fail to look around and find God’s excellent ones. These are most often the people who are not vocal. Often they are not noticeable, but they are excellent. They will pray for you, encourage you, and impart godly wisdom. Since God is an ever-present source of joy, you can take comfort in knowing that there will always be people who have been affected and infected by His joy who will be a delight to you.
Joy is Always Available in God’s Ways (vv. 5-6)
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Have you ever wondered “why?” Of course you have. What’s even more painful is when we find no joy in our circumstances and we seem to get no answer from our ever-present God of endless joy. THAT – I do not enjoy!
But notice that joy may be frustrated, but it is not lost. The cup in the Bible is a metaphor for fate. Jesus referred to this in his conversation with God in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If possible let this cup pass from me (Matthew 26:39a).” And then comes that beautiful statement of our Savior’s surrender, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
There is no way we could plumb the depths of the reasons for Christ’s surrender, but one of them is certainly cited here in Psalm 16. Notice the language. The Lord does not just give us the cup. God gives us Himself. He is our chosen portion and our cup. The Lord holds our lot. The fact that He holds our “lot” basically means that our fate is not simply left to chance. There is joy in knowing that God’s choices are providential and purposeful. Even more amazing is that we have Him! This is why the Bible speaks so often of the paradox of joy that God’s people find in the midst of sorrow (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5, Psalm 30:1-5). It can be said, because God is our cup and our portion that our suffering is not pointless, nor is it joyless.
The Lines in Pleasant Places
But what does the Bible mean here about the lines falling in pleasant places? This is a reference back to God’s distribution of the promised land to Israel as their inheritance. It is as if he is walking around within the boundaries of his inheritance and finding wonderful things. It is like a man who has just been given land exploring it for the first time and he likes what he sees with every step he takes.
What is interesting about Israel’s inheritance is that it was possessed in obedience. I think this sense of boundaries, or commands is also encapsulated in the word “lines.”
So let’s put it all together. Sometimes you don’t like your circumstances, but you cannot change them. When you don’t like your circumstances you may not think much of God’s commands because you don’t want to do them. But Psalm 16:5-6 tells you that there is joy always available here. How so?
The Journey and the Job
Journey in the command. As the picture of the verse indicates, walk around, take a look. The command may not look like much when you take a look at it, but journey in it. You will find some pleasant places in it. You will find some unexpected beauty there. In God’s commands, there is no regret. There are no foolish mistakes. When certain things DON’T happen, certain things WON’T happen! Think about it! Take joy in the journey of waking rightly with the Lord.
Work the command. Just like Israel had to work the land you have to work the command. It will bear fruit! You will find the joy of God’s preservation in the command. You will experience the bounty of God’s blessing in His commands. Don’t negotiate it, shortcut it, or question it. Just do what God says to do! His ways are not your ways and His thoughts are not your thoughts. He’s God. You and I are not! Work His plan. Do His commands. You reap what you sow! “Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy (Psalm 126:5)!” Work it! There is joy within the boundaries of God’s commands. You will never be truly happy until you are concerned with being holy.
Joy is Always Available in God’s Word (vv. 7-8)
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
I don’t know about you, but I do my worst thinking at night. Sleepless nights are filled with voices. It is at night that my mind replays every criticism, rehearses every doubt, and exaggerates every fear. But David does not hear cursing, he hears the voice of blessing in the night. David has found that joy is always available in God’s Word.
The passage is instructive to us about our approach to God’s Word. If you want to hear the voice of God bring you joy and drown out your critics in the middle of the night then God’s Word must be taken 1) as counsel 2) as instruction 3) to heart. God’s Word is not intended only to be read. The intention of God’s Word is for it to be obeyed. Furthermore, if it is to change me, it must be within me. Psalm 16:7 reflects David’s commitment to Scripture meditation and memorization reflected in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”
And notice that his experience in God’s Word helps him to find that God is not only always before him, but that God is at his right hand. The result is that he will not be shaken.
There is joy in knowing that there is not a single thing you can go through that God is not already there. He is ever before you. God’s Word is filled with stories, prayers, illustrations, and wisdom for every circumstance of life.
There is always joy in knowing that God is always available at your right hand. What does this mean? It is a nod to the ancient warrior who carried his shield in his left hand. This means that his right side is most exposed. Every warrior knows that the person beside you is critical to you. His shield was the cover for your right side! Let His Word be your counsel and His presence be your defense. There is joy always available in God’s Word!
Imagine going to be tonight and instead of hearing criticism, you hear Psalm 16. Take God’s word to heart in meditation and memorization. It will not be long until you do your BEST thinking at night!
Joy is Always Available in God’s Salvation (vv. 9-11)
There is nothing more miserable than not knowing where you will spend eternity. I remember what it was like not knowing. Doubt is crippling. I remember what it was like to be lost.
But did you know that of the 430 plus times the Bible mentions joy, that it mentions most the joy that is found in salvation? There is nothing that can bring a person more joy than knowing God, defying death, and having hope in the resurrection.
David found joy in knowing that the grave was not his end. As humans, we need something to look forward to. David looked forward to leaving behind a life in which we experience only the first-fruits of joy at best and entering into God’s presence where there is endless pleasure and fullness of joy.
If joy is always available in God, in God’s people, in God’s word, in God’s ways, and in God’s salvation and you meet a person who says, “I have no reason for joy,” that is a person who is in Hell already. For a human, created by God and commanded to enjoy God, to have no reason for joy, he is already experiencing the tragedy of Hell minus the flames.
If that is you, I would point you to Christ! Repent of sin. Turn to Jesus today! Today is the day of salvation. JOY IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE!
Dogs and cats reach maturity in about one year. Most species of songbirds leave the nest in 3 weeks. A lion is considered to be a fully-grown adult at age 3.
If you have children, you’ve probably figured out by now, this may take awhile!
And it should take a while to raise a human. While animal maturity is generally measured by height or sexual capability, there is a lot more involved in teaching a person how to be an image of God. While the lioness teaches her cub how to find food, your job as a parent should involve a little more than finding a burger for Bubba. God has entrusted you to not just tell your child about sex, but to teach them sexuality. You are not just trying to see how tall your son will be as a man, but you are to teach him how to be a godly man. Your objective as a parent should be to just find your kid a scholarship but to release them into the world as a mature image of God.
The Bible has a lot to say about parenting. This is no surprise since raising a mature image of God is such a critical responsibility. There’s a million ways to slice this, and most will do it much better than I, but when it comes to the basics of Biblical parenting, think 3D!
The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6,
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
At the outset I need to say about this verse, this is a Proverb, not a promise. A Proverb is a general observation about life. It does not guarantee a result, but it gives you guidance toward wise ways of dealing with things. The formula for a proverb is this is what works, but there are exceptions. In this case, the exception is seen in a passage like Deuteronomy 2118-21. The indication there is that this child departed when he got older. The fact that his parents did train him in the way he should go is what makes the Deuteronomy 21 scenario so tragic. This is not a child brought up in neglect or abuse. This child is a rebel.
Rebellion is a tragic possibility in the parent/child relationship, but this does not negate the parental responsibility to “train the child in the way he should go.” What does that mean? Two things are critical for development. Train = an environment of reinforcement. In the way he should go = content. As a parent, develop means that your home is going to be one of consistent content.
Train Up a Child – An Environment of Reinforcement
The idea of training in this passage is the idea of reinforcement. Training is the environment of the home. It is an intentional, nurtured culture that offers a consistent pattern of opportunity to help the child grow in maturity.
A child is not just told to mind, a child must be trained to obey. A child cannot simply be told to share, they must be trained to be generous.
Much like a trainer at a gym sets goals for the athletes he trains, the parents have in mind the values and core beliefs that will be reinforced in the home. The trainer sets up his gym so that his athletes can make consistent gains through repetition. Is your home set up for consistent gains?
Have you taken time as a parent to think through the core values and beliefs of your home? If you were asked by someone to list them, could you? If you can list them, could you give examples of how those core values and beliefs are being reinforced with your children?
As they say, you inspect what you expect. Parenting is takes intentionality and kids need reinforcement. If you tell your child, “I’m only going to tell you this once” then it must NOT be important!
Revisit your values. Reinforce them over and over. Be consistent as a parent. Be willing to say it over and over again, each time training your child how to behave and why good behavior is a blessing.
In the Way He Should Go – Content
Training involves content. What is the content of your home? The primary content that is being reinforced in your home, does it come from television, social media, or video games; or does it come from conversation and interaction with you as a parent? As a parent, you can’t farm out content. You are the gatekeeper of the content of the home.
I recently listened to a podcast that told the story of a young girl who kept asking her father questions. Being a busy man, he told his daughter to write down her questions and he would answer them later. At 9 years old, the girl returned to her father 50 deep, meaningful questions like, “What is love?”, “Is there life after death?”, “What is the purpose of life?” Heavy stuff for a third grader! Three years later, dad is STILL trying to answer her questions!
As the podcast continues, you find out that the little girl wasn’t as concerned about having her questions answered, as she was about getting her father’s attention. Her father was always on his computer. The reason she wrote down so many questions was because she wanted conversation, interaction – CONTENT.
Parental Advisory, Don’t Over-Parent
In our culture we have not only a propensity to “under-parent” by putting a device in our kid’s hand and sending them off to fend for themselves, but also to “over-parent.” By “over-parent” I mean that the reinforced expectations of training are too much, they are overbearing, they are impossible.
The word “train” that is translated here in the Bible implies that you do not raise the child to be what you want them to become, but that you raise the child to be what God wants them to become. In this instance, train means that you are paying attention to your child’s giftedness, talent, and interests. You see their inclinations and you adjust your training accordingly. Parenting is not cloning, it is development.
I work with a high school football team as chaplain. From time to time I stop by practice through the week to connect with the players and encourage them during the tough grind of game preparation. As a pastor, I always enjoy watching the coaches as I am interested in how they lead, motivate, and develop student athletes.
Most of the men on the coaching staff were great high school and/or college athletes. One of my favorite coaches I have ever worked with was a quarterback at NC State. He was a young guy and an extremely gifted athlete. At the time he was working with our team there were not five bodies we could tie together that would even come close to accomplishing what he was able to do as a high school quarterback. But what I loved about him was that he NEVER compared the kids to himself. He very seldom used the word “I.” He was not trying to produce another version of himself, but he was trying to push the kids to become the best version of themselves as men and as athletes.
Parenting is not Cloning
Parenting is not cloning, it is development. Too many kids fail to launch because they feel like they have failed long before they even got to the starting line. Because they are different than their parents or may have made some choices that their parents would not have made, they have been made to feel as if they failed.
Another scenario I see too often is a parent trying to make up for his own disappointments and failures through his or her kids. While every parent wants his or her child to learn from their mistakes, your kid is not your best chance at a state championship, or a better job than yours, or even a better life than yours. You can’t live vicariously through your kids and think that sets them up for success. It only pigeon holes them for a pathway to failure.
Development means that you are helping your child find their God-given calling. As a parent, you are God’s steward to help train, develop, and reinforce the critical content that will help them fulfill God’s call in their lives.
In my own home, I have two daughters. Though we raise them reinforcing the same Biblical, core values and beliefs, we realize that they are very different people with distinct personalities. My eldest daughter is a leader. My youngest daughter is an artist. Daughter #1 got a kayak for her birthday. Daughter #2 got a guitar for Christmas. One daughter doesn’t want to be talked to before 9am while the other can’t get enough hugs.
Know your kids and tailor your content.
Taking Steps Toward Development
As a parent, think reinforcement and content. Reinforcement, sit down and write out the core values of your home. Evaluate your consistency in reinforcing these things. Is it working? Is your child getting the message? Are they beginning to demonstrate those desired values in their behavior? Why or why not? Are there things in your life that make that message inconsistent that need to be reprioritized?
As far as content, are you acting as the gatekeeper of your home or are you farming out parenting to a device, television, or video game system? Is your child getting attention and conversation from you? Are you paying attention to their bends, gifts, talents or are you just trying to make them another you? Are you seeking God’s direction for their lives?
Between emotion and action, Jesus issues four corrective commands. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” – Luke 6:27-28 Those commands seem unreasonable and impractical especially when we have such cursing, abusive, hateful enemies. Does Jesus really expect us to respond to such horrible people with redemptive action? The answer is, Yes. Not only does he expect it, but one character in the Bible exemplifies it, Joseph.
In my previous post, we looked at how Joseph loved his family despite them becoming his enemy. How did Joseph exemplify the other corrective commands of Jesus?
Do Good to Those Who Hate You
Joseph did good even when life was bad. Joseph’s brothers sold him. He served his master well and God gave him favor (Genesis 39:3-6).
Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of rape. Potiphar put Joseph in prison. Even there he did well and the Lord gave him favor (Gen. 39:21-23).
“Where” Joseph was never changed who Joseph was. He did well because the Lord is good. Joseph’s actions became a testimony to everyone around him. We can learn from his example. When you respond with bad, it does no good!
Bless Those Who Curse You
Joseph’s brothers conspired against him. Blessing and cursing; both are about words. Words hurt.
Our natural emotional response to cursing is to curse back. In Genesis 45, Joseph had the opportunity to get physical and verbal revenge on his brothers. At one time they determined his fate in a pit, now Joseph had the opportunity to determine their fate from the palace. What sort of words would Joseph choose, blessing or cursing?
Joseph chose blessing. If you read Genesis 45:4-14 you will find that Joseph directs his brother’s attention to what God has done. He then promises to bless them and provide from them out of the abundance of Egypt. Notice the last line of this paragraph full of blessings.
“After that his brothers talked with him.”
How many of us in our time of hurt would welcome a productive conversation? Imagine having a conversation in which wrongs are confessed, the hurt is expressed, and apologies are exchanged. That sort of reconciliation only comes through redemption. A conversation like that does not come about through revenge. Cursing for cursing does not cure the hurt.
Pray for Those Who Abuse You
The Bible doesn’t record Joseph’s prayers, but make no mistake, Joseph prayed. The integrity of his character, the strength of his witness through trial, and the favor God gave him only comes through prayer. Joseph never wavered from God’s will. He interpreted dreams through the wisdom of God. When the moment of redemption came, the emotions were overwhelming. I’m sure the hurt resurfaced. But rather than revenge Joseph chose redemption. A choice like that only comes as the product of prayer.
As for you! But God!
The climax of Joseph’s story comes in Genesis 50:20. Jacob, the father of these lost boys brothers has died. Now that dad is gone, will Joseph finally get revenge? Absolutely not. He explains:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today.
Somewhere between angry emotion and destructive action is something only Christ can do in you.
So how do we tap into this redemptive response only Christ can give?
Know Christ as Lord and Savior. Through repentance and faith, we enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9,10, 13). We don’t need a situation change as much as we need a nature change. The Bible teaches that when we repent of sin and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior that He places His Holy Spirit inside of us (2 Cor. 1:22). The fruits of our new nature will begin to emerge (Gal. 5:22-24).
Renew your mind. After giving his discourse on such a great salvation, Paul turns his attention to life application in Romans 12:1-2. Our new life in Jesus calls for us to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed into Christ. That transformation comes only through “renewal of the mind.” Renewal of the mind means that we unlearn those habits and patterns of reaction to emotion that conform to the ways of the world. We then learn Biblical, Christ-honoring patterns of behavior as part of the transformation of salvation.
Feed and foster new life from the graces of the church and spiritual discipline. Part of discipleship is discipline. Seek to establish daily habits of Bible reading, prayer, service, and worship. Your church becomes a critical ally in the transformation process. God uses the church to minister His graces of forgiveness, conviction, grace, mercy, and love to His people. Prayer is a conversation with God. Sometimes in prayer, you feel as if you are only speaking to Him. You will be amazed at how God uses His church to speak back to you.
We will all have cursing, hateful, abusive enemies. When people take destructive action against us we are flooded with negative emotion. Our natural reaction is to return destruction for destruction. But Jesus is our in-between. He is our corrective thought. In a sin cursed world He has chosen to call his people to be the conduits of redemption. Unnatural? Yes. Supernatural? Absolutely. But by following Christ we introduce into the fabric of a fallen story something that will save many people alive. Think about it. Had Joseph chosen destructive action and destroyed his brothers the seed of the Savior would have been lost. What salvation could Christ bring from you if you choose redemptive response rather than destructive action?
In my previous post, we began to listen in as Jesus draws our attention toward a widowed woman in the treasury who gave all she had to live on. Our obvious question is as to how could she afford to give all? From this story in Mark 12:41 we are looking at three ways people calculate giving. With this post, we examine the first of the three, “because of” giving. In “because of” giving there is an emotion we are missing.
“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed OUT OF their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Giving is Emotional Before it is Financial
When it comes to giving, people make an emotional decision before they make a financial one. They consider motive before amount. Giving comes from the heart before it comes from the hand.
As Jesus is people watching opposite the temple treasury, I’m certain there are as many motives to giving as there are people giving. So let’s ask the question, why do people give?
3 Types of Givers
Some people are cause givers. They will give if they feel that they are giving to a worthy cause. Is their giving going to help children? Will their money be used to find a cure for a disease? Is there someone in need or something of need that giving will benefit? The cause giver is usually not a consistent giver, but they will rise up when they feel that what they give will make a difference.
Some people are connection givers. Connection givers won’t give unless they are involved. The connection giver usually starts out as a passive bystander who may appreciate the cause, but they are for all practical purposes an outsider. Somehow they get involved. Now from the inside, they see the need so they give. The connection giver eventually becomes a champion of the cause, who ironically enough, can’t believe that there aren’t more people giving to this.
The reluctant giver may not give at first, but eventually, he or she will give out of compulsion. This person is moved to generosity because they feel guilty. They would feel worse for not giving than they feel the financial loss of giving.
Facebook Figured it Out
Facebook has done a brilliant job to tapping into the emotions of giving. They have intertwined the cause, necessary connection, and compulsion of giving. Have you ever seen the post that says, “This year for my birthday I am giving to . . .?” And then you, as a gift to them, are encouraged to join in the worthy birthday cause. The connection is with your friend. The compulsion comes as you see a list of everyone else who has given to the cause – and your name is NOT on the list! How could you? The truth is that you haven’t bought this person a present for their birthday in years, maybe not ever! But due to the cause, connection, and under compulsion you make the emotional decision to give.
Giving is emotional before it is financial! Mark Zuckerberg got you!
The Missing Emotion of “Because of” Giving
However you slice the emotion, we are still left to wonder. Why would she give all? What was the widow woman’s motive?
If giving is emotional before it is financial we have to ask, what was she feeling? What kind of emotion must you be experiencing that moves you to give all? Is it joy? The Bible presents her in a sad situation, but is she happy? If so, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be that happy, that joyful? What emotion is it that moves her so much to think that her two nearly worthless coins are better in the treasury than they are with me?
Whatever her emotion, it is the antithesis of our approach. We believe that the greater emotion comes in having rather than in giving. As a result, we make emotional decisions to buy things that do not turn out to be sound financial decisions. We think it would make us happy to have it. And true, for a time, we are happy with it. But in time, we have forgotten it. And then, we are emotionally motivated to find the next thing we think will make us happy. We are never satisfied. Emotional spending never works.
Question her emotion.
Whatever it is we feel we have to have, I think we would all agree. Compared to her, we have more, but we are not motivated. What is that emotion she feels? What is the emotion we are missing by not giving all?
When the Bible encourages us to give all we’ve got, maybe there is a happiness, a joy, an emotion in letting go that is much greater than simply being a consumer. Perhaps there is something liberating in giving that is greater than any experience we have ever had in spending.
Maybe she has something we don’t.
Maybe in calling us to give all, God wants us to have something that only comes through giving.
Next post – “Out of” Giving
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The Bible says to give all you’ve got. How can anyone possibly afford to give all?
“And he (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.”
Jesus sits down across from the treasury area of the Temple and watches as people walk up and put money into the offering box. The treasury was located in a large outer courtyard of the Temple. The courtyard was lined with massive stone columns. Within the courtyard stood four giant lampstands that were lit during the Feast of Tabernacles. They were so large and stood so high on the temple mount that they could be seen all over Jerusalem. It would be in this place, before these flames that Jesus would proclaim, “I am the light of the world” in John 8.
Behind the walls of the treasury were storehouses that held the wealth of the Temple. The offerings brought to the treasury would be placed in one of 13 golden coffers that were attached to the wall. Each of them were shaped like a trumpet. No doubt the area must have sounded much like a toll booth or a row of turnstiles at the subway station as people passed by dropping in their coins.
The treasury was a busy, noisy place. And there sits Jesus, people watching.
The Creator is People Watching
The Bible says of Jesus in John 1:3, “That all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
It is this Jesus that is sitting and watching the activity of the treasury that has crafted the most spectacular elements of our universe. The galaxy in which we reside is called the Milky Way. It is estimated that there may be as many as 250 billion stars in the Milky Way. Jesus made all of them.
If a quarter were used to represent the size of our solar system, the Milky Way would be the size of the landmass of the United States of America in comparison. Our galaxy is a huge place. He made all of it.
And there sits the creator watching people put money into the treasury.
“Many rich people put in large sums.”
Imagine the sound the rich people make as they give! It would be much like it is when you collect change for a year, put it into some sort of bucket and take it to that thing in the grocery store that turns coin into cash. Imagine the attention it garners when the rich put in large sums. But there is no reaction from the Lord of all creation.
The Woman Jesus Noticed
“And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.”
It is obvious as a widow that she has lost her husband. But note also what the Bible does not say. There is no one else accompanying her. There is no son, no daughter. She is alone in the world. Understanding the social constructs of her day there is only one word used to describe where a woman like that ends up. She is poor.
She walks up and puts in two small copper coins. No doubt they make the least noise of the day. Mark, the writer of this gospel, pulls out his calculator and helps us do the math on her offering. Her two coins are worth a penny. It would take 64 Roman pennies to add up to a day’s wage of a menial, entry level laborer. In other words, she is about 120 coins short of her offering being worth anything.
And think of the money in the storehouses behind the wall. What is her offering in comparison to all that is in there? Furthermore, compared to the many rich people who were in line ahead of her, what is this? These two small copper coins are hardly enough for bread.
An Example of Disciple
But she dropped in her coins and the creator saw her. And now, he responds. He calls together his disciples and directs their attention toward her. Imagine this moment. He raises his hand in her direction, pointing her out from amongst the crowd. This is the hand that fashioned Adam from the dust. Now the hands of the creator are directing all eyes to be on her.
Jesus then begins to talk about her. This is the mouth that said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. He spoke creation into existence. Now he speaks about her. Mark has told us that here offering was worth about a penny. The creator recalculates it again. And with his words, he reveals a new equation for everything.
And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Those final six words after the comma are critical to the calculation. “All she had to live on.”
Her offering was so small no one noticed it, but so large that only God could calculate it correctly.
Our Struggle with Giving All
We all appreciate this story. It is simple. The story is admirable. It is beautiful. We read it in much the same way as we would take in a masterful work of art. As much as we appreciate it, we could never do it.
We struggle with it. Give all? We know good and well that is what our Savior is getting at. He is making an example of her. She is now the topic of his teaching. To give all is admirable, but who can afford to give all?
Just in case you doubt Jesus’ expectation there is another story that demonstrates the point in Mark 10. An eager young man approaches Jesus. The Bible describes him as rich and powerful. He is well recognized in his community. He asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Let’s cut to the chase. Jesus answers, “God sell all that you have and give it to the poor.” The Bible says that the man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.
The word “sorrowful” is a perfect description of how this story ultimately makes us feel. What the woman did was wonderful, but it is not practical. And when we realize that this is the standard Jesus raises for us, it give us that disappointed feeling – I think “sorrowful” is the word!
Why So Sorrowful?
But why so sorrowful? Maybe it is the sorrow of losing something you love. There is attachment and detachment. You can’t imagine life without all you have.
Maybe it sorrow born out of fear. If I give all, what will I have left to live on? How do I handle life if I have nothing left? Is Jesus pointing us to homelessness? Are we going to have to go hungry if we are to follow Him?
Maybe it is the sorrow of feeling inadequate. You already worry enough about money. You struggle with generosity. You’re OK with giving if you’ve got it, but ALL? Isn’t ALL a little much?
Giving is good, but I can’t possibly afford ALL.
This story is beautiful but if this is what Jesus is asking of us, it makes us sorrowful. But whatever your response, you can’t ignore one feature of it. Look across the way. There is the creator teaching and talking about her. Here is the one who has told us to make our entire lives about telling people about him, but he is telling us about her.
Furthermore we can’t ignore the most glaring truth of the story. We have no excuse. You and I say we can’t afford all, but somehow she did.
How can we afford to give all? Let’s break down this story and talk about how we can afford all. When it comes to giving, there are three ways we calculate what we can afford.