Obsolete

 

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It’s amazing how quickly technology becomes obsolete. Our culture seems to build obselecence into everythign it creates. Have you ever felt that way as you read through the Old Testament? One of the challenges we face as Christians is how to approach the Old Testament law, especially the social expectations God had for the Jews in the wilderness and even in the Promised Land. On the one hand we don’t want to say it’s outdated and irrelevant, but on the other hand we can’t figure out how it fits into modern life. The often-ignored book of Leviticus is a prime example. If none of this applies to us today, then why read it? In fact, why even have it in the latest versions of the Bible?

The answer is that the rules taught the people about God. He revealed himself through the law. You get to know him in it. His personality and preferences are revealed. You can’t help but see that he is a God of fairness, order, dignity, modesty, generosity, justice, and compassion. The acute revelation of his glory (Exodus 34:6-7) is diffused through all the various laws he institutes. His own character is bound up in the regulations.

By reading from books like Leviticus on a regular basis you get a good feel for how God teaches the people to exercise faith in him and trust his character. It takes faith to punish an evildoer in your own family when he is the main breadwinner. It takes faith to let your field go fallow every seven years. It takes faith to go to the priest and let him determine if your leprosy is terminal or not. It takes faith to sell yourself into slavery for an agreed upon price, believing that God will make sure you aren’t abused. It takes faith to dedicate the tenth animal to pass under your staff even if all the tenth ones are really healthy and strong.

Instead of looking at the actual letter of the law in the Old Testament, we can look at the spirit of the law, and the character of the lawgiver. By doing so you get a better appreciation for the kindness of God and his faithful provision for all who place their hope in him. That hasn’t changed.

Divine Fairness

stacks of moneyThe minimum wage has been in the news again recently. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, everyone agrees that workers should get what the employer promised. Jesus tells a story that illustrates the divine sense of fairness. In Matthew 20 a man hires workers from town to harvest his vineyard. At 6:00am he finds a ready work force that agrees to pick for the usual daily wage. After that more men are chosen at 9:00am, noon, 3:00pm, and 5:00pm. All were told to expect fair compensation. By 6:00pm the workday was over, and the men who had just been there for an hour get the same amount as a man would normally expect for a full day. The original group of workers, knowing how much the late arrivals got, assumed they were in store for a major bonus. However everyone gets the same amount, and when they complain, they are told that they got exactly what they agreed to work for. The point of the story is that God never short changes anyone, and is free to bless as he sees fit. The take away should be a sense of peace that God always does what is right. We are not the best judges of what we are worth, or what others are doing with the days God has allotted to them. Instead we need to focus on doing our own work to the best of our ability, confident that our impressions of fairness may not be perfect.

The Weak

atlasPaul is not shy when it comes humbling the proud. He tells the church at Corinth, known for their wealth and giftedness, to essentially get over themselves. He reminds them (and by direct extension, us) that “not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Paul wasn’t much for elevating the self-esteem.

The church is full of people that the world considers ignoble. This often includes the pastor, elders, deacons, and most everyone else. Unfortunately there appears to be a movement to rid the church of it’s portraits of grace.

The prevailing logic in churches large and small is that shepherds should include a clause in their rider that excludes them from ever having to deal with weak people. The author of this post makes some good points, but the following statement I completely disagree with. He calls shepherds “hirelings” if: “You can only fool the needy people, hurting people, and lonely people. The leaders, strong and young men and women with godly ambition, never enter the front door, and if they do they don’t even pump the brakes on their way out the back door.” That’s just stupid.

Let’s be honest, needy, hurting, lonely people are what make up a considerable chunk of most real churches, and have to be dealt with by a real shepherd. This is not a license for laziness, but it makes no sense to suggest that strong churches will be immediately vacated by the weak. In fact, the self-sufficient and self assured were found in churches like Laodicea, except not anymore because Jesus wiped them out.

So what does the Bible say? 1 Thessalonians 5:14 is a good place to start. I admit that idle, fainthearted, or weak people are time consuming and often yield disappointing results, but with the exception of false-professing weeds, are also part of the body of Christ. Treating them as second-class kingdom citizens is wrong.

Notice how in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 the solution is in the imperatives linked to the adjectives. The good church (Paul addresses the brothers here, not just pastors) will admonish, encourage, and help. This is the work of the ministry, and this is how we use our gifts to edify the body.

Election apparently favors the weak. They cannot become the center of our ministry vortex, and they can’t become the focus of all our attention, but we can instruct each other in how to minister to our own church and keep the corporate health on an upward climb.