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July 2022

Being Rich Toward God

Jesus quite often speaks against the wealthy people. To be fair to the rich, Jesus’ indictment is not against their person or wealth, but directed towards their lack of generosity. In our Gospel Reading today, Jesus mentions the judgement of the rich person, “the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). However, being generous is just half of the story. The other half and more important part is being “rich toward God” or being in a state of spiritual wealth with the God of the universe. If we look back at this “Parable of the Rich Fool,” the parable came about because Jesus is addressing the selfishness of the person asking the question. Read again Luke 12:13-21, and one can see that the person’s view of inheritance is on the human level. He forgot to see that family inheritance comes from a covenant with the Lord. God is in control of our family affairs, and so we set our minds on God—submitting to the Almighty Creator-Savior.

An apt reminder comes from our New Testament Lectionary Reading from Colossians 3:1-11. It says: “Keep your minds fixed on God; think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2 GNB, NLT).

Pray To Receive The Spirit Of God

Isn’t it ridiculous that we are asking God for earthly things or even miracles in our lives when all we really need is his very own presence? Dr. Luke reminds us from our Lectionary Gospel Reading for this third week of July that God the Father is ready to give us his Spirit. Jesus states: “If you then… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). 

So, here is a question for you: Are you asking God to be with you or are you still “trying hard” asking God for earthly goods or self-serving miracles? Go ahead and pray to receive the Spirit of God in your life. Read again Luke 11:1-13, and you will see that our Father in heaven is ready to send his Spirit into your life, if you only ask.

One Love Moving In Unity

The love of God, neighbor, and self is one love moving in unity. Jesus said in Mark 12:29-31, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:30-31. NLT). Henri Nouwen says that we see this unity “when we direct our whole being toward God, [then] we will find our neighbor and ourselves right in the heart of God” (Sabbatical Journey. 1998:179). 

Nouwen continues on saying “prayer heals. Not just the answer to prayer. When we give up our competition with God and offer God every part of our heart, holding back nothing at all, we come to know God’s love for us and discover how safe we are in his embrace.” We will find the joy of living and the peace that is undefinable “even though God might guide our life in a different direction from our desires” (The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey. 1988:120).

Let us live our lives in Jesus. Paul says: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus] and through him to reconcile to himself all things” (Colossians 1:19-20a. NIV).

Looking With God’s Love

God is calling us in his love. This is a truth that is very simple that even children get it. We see people and treat our friends based on the Father’s love for them. However, in practice, most of us do not start this way. Our human tendency is to view other people according to their responses to God’s love. Let me explain.

God is the Father who calls us out of his love. He calls everyone to connect with his heart for all people and nations. He calls everyone to participate in his compassion for the world. This is God’s compassionate call. Jesus models for us this way of looking at people through God’s heart for the world. When Jesus faced rejection, he still continued seeing God’s love in the persons who rejected him. In Mark 10:21, a Rich Man approached him with questions about eternal life. The text says Jesus “looked at him with love.” Even though later, we read that this man rejected Jesus and walked away in great sadness. Jesus saw God’s love in his life. This was Jesus way. When he was with a Samaritan woman, with a Roman Centurion, with a Syrian mother, among the Jewish religious leaders, with a leper, or an impulsive fisherman, Jesus saw the Father’s love in their hearts and minds. Jesus is viewing the people around him with the Father’s compassionate call.

What does this mean for us today? One way of applying this is by putting a stop to our tendencies to focus on results, on giving priority to only those who are repentant. Many of our reports are on big numbers, on stories of flashy miracles, or on physical healing and spectacular events. We tend to see God’s love as only defined by people’s response to the call for repentance. We forget that God is calling everyone to his love, even the ones who reject him.

So, let us focus on seeing God’s love in people, even if there are no results. Even if a person rejects God, we still should love them. Results are good. Miracles and healing are wonderful. But these are not our goal in missions work. Our goal is to worship God by seeing his love in people’s hearts and lives. Let us celebrate God by seeing and hearing his compassionate call for everyone. 

Switching Questions

A very smart man, learned in the ways of the Law, one time came to Jesus with a question. At the end of their conversation, Jesus said: “Go and do likewise.” Here in this encounter, Jesus is telling a learned man to go and love one’s neighbor. Read Luke 10:25-37, and you will see the (parable) story of the Good Samaritan. Here we see Jesus doing a switcheero of questions—changing the person’s eternal-life question to the question of identity. This expert in the law came with a question on the merits of receiving eternal life. But Jesus knew what he needed. So, Jesus introduced the parable and admonished this person to change his question. The question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” must now became “Who is my neighbor?” This question of a search for identity will allow the person to see God’s love for people and thus give him more opportunities to practice the law of love, the new commandment that Jesus shares with everyone. The switching of questions becomes an open door to a life of love.

Joel Green states that the parable itself is framed with questions concerning the identification of “neighbor.” Whereas Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Plain had eliminated the lines that might be drawn between one’s “friends” and one’s “enemies,” this legal expert hopes to reintroduce this distinction. He does so by inquiring, “Who is my neighbor?”—not so much to determine to whom he must show love, but so as to calculate the identity of those to whom he need not show love. By the end of the story, Jesus has transformed the focus of the original question; in fact, Jesus’ apparent attempt to answer the lawyer’s question turns out to be a negation of that question’s premise. Neighbor love knows no boundaries. (Gospel of Luke. 1997:426)

Here are some questions for you: Did Jesus ever change your questions? Have you been stuck in the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” What would happen to your Christian faith when you ask the question: “Who is my neighbor?” What is your switcheero-story?