Posts Tagged With: work

2 Timothy 2: There Is Work to Do

Soldier.  Athlete.  Farmer.  Workman.  Servant.

These are the five sorts of people Paul calls Timothy to become like (2:3, 5, 6, 15, 24).  Why?  What do these roles have in common? What is Paul trying to say?

Paul tells us some of his point.  Soldiers are called to suffer for a higher calling (2:3).  Athletes have a strict code of conduct by which they must compete (2:5).  At harvest time, farmers get paid back for their hard work (2:6).  Workmen “carve out” straight paths from the wilderness (2:15).  Servants do the will of their master and do not compromise his interests (2:23-24).  But even more basic than that is this: all of these five have work to do.  They are fundamentally laborers, and can’t get off track lest they shirk their responsibilities.

In particular there are a handful of things Paul tells his “worker” Timothy to avoid:

  • Stir away from “civilian activities,” that is purely frivolous pursuits that do not advance the kingdom (2:4)
  • Avoid quarrels and disputes that don’t accomplish anything (2:14, 23)
  • Flee from anything that would leave one ashamed and dishonored (2:15, 21)
  • Resist the urge to run one’s mouth in pointless gossip (2:16)
  • Run away from the wicked gratification of youthful passions (2:19, 22)

There is simply too much to do.  There is no time to get off track.  Get back to work.

What did you notice in this chapter?  

Categories: 2 Timothy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

2 Corinthians 9: A Vision of Abundance

“There is only so much” or “There is enough to go around” — which do you tend to believe?

“The early bird gets the worm” or “There is enough to share” — which one tends to describe how you see material resources?

“Get your’s while you can” or “It is a blessing to share” — which is it?

The American worldview certainly holds that there is a limited number of resources and we are in competition with each other to get those.  Of course, that belief shapes our perceptions and then we accept it to be unquestionably true.  And if we count our needs in millions and billions of dollars, maybe this view is true.  But when we think realistically, isn’t there more than enough to go around?

Walter Brueggemann, a favorite author of mine, calls this belief the “myth of scarcity.”  Americans seem to believe it, but so did many in Israel in the Old Testament.  That is why the rich got richer and the poor poorer and the prophets railed against social injustice.  The prophetic imagination of seers like Micah dared Israel (and us still today) to believe that we lived in abundance.

He will judge between many peoples
    and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.
Every man will sit under his own vine
    and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
    for the Lord Almighty has spoken. (Micah 4:3-4)

Hoarding is not necessary, because each can have his own.  Brother does not need to compete with brother because we both can have more than enough.  Jesus feed five thousand and there was still twelve baskets of bread to spare.

It is this same vision that guides Paul in today’s passage.

Someone who sows sparingly will reap sparingly as well.  Someone who sows generously will reap generously.  Everyone should do [give] as they have determined in their heart, not in a gloomy spirit or simply because they have to, since “God loves a cheerful giver.” And God is well able to lavish all his grace [gifts, including material resources] upon you, so that in every matter and in every way you will have enough of everything, and may be lavish in all your own good works, Just as the Bible says: “They spread their favors wide, they gave to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” The one who supplies “seed to be sown and bread to eat” will supply and increase your seed and multiply the yield of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way in all single-hearted goodness, which is working through us to produce thanksgiving to God.  The service of this ministry will not only supply what God’s people so badly need, but it will also overflow with many thanksgivings to God. (9:6-12)

As the Corinthians get ready to receive Paul who will be looking for the contribution they had previously promised to give to the famine relief efforts in Jerusalem (9:1-5), Paul exhorts them to view this with a vision of abundance, not the myth of scarcity.  So too for us.  Anytime we are called upon to give to provide for those who are under-resourced at the time (notice that this passage is not talking about giving to meet the budget of the church) we will need the same perspective.  We can be “cheerful givers” because the anxiety of competing for the same dollar does not need to rule our hearts.  God is able to pour down blessings on us in such a lavish way that we will have everything we need (of course, “need” and “want” are two different words).  We can also be cheerful givers when we acknowledge the result of unselfish living: “thanksgiving to God.” The myth of scarcity makes us turn others into competition and weigh the perceived right others have to our money.  A vision of abundance makes it easier to melt our selfish hearts and uncurl our greedy fingers, and that is when praise and thanksgiving are born.  

Today is Labor Day in America, a day we celebrate the worker, the most important cog in the machine of capitalism.  Ironically, we celebrate the day by not working (and I am super cool with that!)  We work to provide for ourselves and for others.  Instead of turning this procurement of resources into a competition, can we dare to trust that God will provide all that is needed and that he might be using us to provide for others for a time?

When have you been surprised by how abundant God’s material blessings truly are?

Categories: 2 Corinthians | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Luke 8: How Is Your Heart-Soil?

Earlier this week I was looking back through an old journal of mine (before I was willing to share my writing with others) from 2006.  Interestingly, I found that on this very date six years ago I was meditating on the Parable of the Sower from today’s passage.  I share here now what I wrote six years ago.

How did these soils get this way?  The simple answer is that each soil had an owner that created its condition, and in this parable the owner clearly is not God.

The “pathway” heart-soil has become hardened by the actions and choices of the owner and others.  Pathways are picked by an owner as soil that will purposely be trampled upon and rendered incapable of sustaining a crop.  Then these paths are worn through repeated use.  The owner directs others to use that same pathway, and trespassers will even use a path if available.  Habitual sin, misuse of our bodies and souls with others, and even unwanted abuse harden our hearts so that we will not listen to God’s word of truth.  We chose to use what was created to be pure and fruitful in degrading and harmful ways or — in one of those hard to rectify speeches of the Lord — others are allowed to snatch away from us, through abuse, the hope and love and truth we so desperately need.

The “rocky” heart-soil has not been prepared for the long growing season.  Whether from laziness or a desire to see an immediate result from his plantings, the farmer has failed to dig out the rocks that will stunt the growth of his immature plants, causing them to wither in the hot, dry summer months.  These plants are simply unable to reach the deep reservoirs of water below the rocks.  When we move too quickly from one spiritual high to another, trading an emotional high for the disciplines and experiences that really mature faith in the dry heat of suffering and divine silence, we produce heart-soil in which the fledgling sprouts of faith will also quickly wither.  In today’s world, our greatest obstacle to the deep reservoir of Spirit-water is our hunger for immediate gratification.  We are content to soak up the jolt of a worship experience but refuse to learn to control one’s anger.

The owner of the “thorny” heart-soil has also failed to prepare his land for successful growth.  The owner did not pull up the faster-growing, hardier thorns, allowing them to compete with the more tender grain shoots; this owner has simply tried to sow a new crop amongst existing plants.  Given that the thorns are identified as “worries” but also “riches and pleasures” it would seem that some of these thorns have intentionally been left to live alongside the grain shoots.  Both grain and thorns receive rain, nutrients, and sunlight, allowing competition to arise, but the thorns thrive.  When we fail to uproot the attitudes, desires, and behaviors contrary to the Way of Christ attempting only to add Christ to an already hardy life of worry, excess, and selfishness, our immature faith will flounder under the competition.  The Spirit will not live in a divided heart.

The owner of the “good, pure” heart-soil has prepared his plot with wisdom, effort, and patience.  He has removed the rocks and thorns, and loosened any packed soil before planting.  He tucked the seed into the soil away from the birds.  His plants will find moisture and room to grow deep.  His plants will remain free from competition.  We enrich our heart-soil for bountiful growth when we break the bonds of habitual sin; when we use our bodies and souls as they were intended; when we avoid abuse (to the degree we can); when we realize crop preparation is a time-intensive, long-term endeavor; when we patiently foster disciplines that feed our faith and cherish faith-stretching experiences; when we replace worry with trust; and when we uproot a life of selfish ambition and carnal gratification.

Which heart-soil is yours?

Categories: Luke | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Acts 18: Working for the Kingdom

Everybody’s working for the weekend/everybody wants a little romance/everbody’s goin’ off the deep end/everybody needs a second chance. 

Remember those lyrics from the ’80s Canadian rock group Loverboy?  Are we going through the week working for the weekend?

Actually, I think Paul was, at least when he was in Corinth.

Paul comes to Corinth and meets up with Aquila and Priscilla, two tentmakers from Rome. Paul quickly takes up with them because this is his trade too.  Paul spends eighteen months in Corinth (18:11) and it appears he supported himself (along with some support from the Thessalonians) during that time making tents.

Then on “every sabbath” Paul would go to the synagogue to share with “great energy” the gospel that “the messiah really was Jesus” (18:4-5).  Paul strikes me as the kind of person who is always talking about Jesus no matter where he is, but it seems that for the better part of a year and a half Paul did most of his ministry on the weekend.  Paul did the best he could and he worked hard at ministry with the time he had.

What struck me today is that Paul didn’t feel bad about the tent-making work he had to do the other six days in order to make his sabbath ministry possible.  Maybe sometimes we feel like our jobs take away from the time we could spend doing ministry in a world that needs Jesus.  Interestingly, Paul himself didn’t feel that way.

In 2 Corinthians 11:7-9, a snippet from a letter written to the very church we are reading about in this section, Paul talks about how his tent-making work was part of his mission, not separate from it.  It didn’t subtract from his ministry, it enabled it.  Therefore, he was working as hard for the Kingdom each day when he made tents as he did on the Sabbaths sharing the gospel.

This might give us an even greater appreciation for the work God has blessed us with, regardless of occupation.

What did you see anew in this chapter? 

Categories: Acts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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