We’ve all heard the term “life’s not fair.” We see others receiving accolades for doing very little while we work hard and our efforts go unnoticed. This is especially true in the workplace. I can remember entering a new job with the State of Arkansas in the month of April many years ago. The beginning of the fiscal year came only a few months later, and with it came the approved increases in salaries. Each person received the same percentage increase in their paycheck. I remember some of my peers voiced their dissatisfaction in the system. They said, “Those who were just hired received the same increase as those who have worked all year long, and that’s not fair!”
There is a very familiar verse in Malachi. God tells us in verse 10 to “test me.” There is no other place in the entire Bible where we have been invited to put God to the test! So, what are the conditions of this test? The criteria of this invitation relates to the giving of tithes, and how much they are.
To begin, God tells the people through the prophet Malachi to bring in a tithe, a tenth, of their produce to the temple so “there may be food in my house.” Then if we follow this request, God says, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
There are two important aspects to these few verses where we as humans may think, “That’s not fair!” God does tell everyone to bring in the same amount to the temple – a tenth. A tenth of a hundred dollars is ten, a tenth of a thousand dollars is a hundred, and a tenth of twenty cents is two pennies. We do not all make or produce equal amounts; therefore we cannot all give the same amount. I think we can all agree some people have more than others, but the same formula applies equally.
But what about the blessings God promises? God said He would open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings. He didn’t say if you’ve given more, you’re going to get more blessings. Nor did He say if you’ve given less, you will receive less. God does not say He will open the “floodgates” to different degrees for different people. God blesses all equally, according to His goodness and mercy.
God is a merciful God. In all truthfulness, we don’t deserve anything from God other than death. But He loves us so much and has covered us with His grace. By accepting His Son as our Savior, we all receive eternal life –not in part but in FULL! Let’s praise God for His wonderful goodness, and what He has in store for us in eternity, for all His children equally!
Admit it! There’s not a single one of us who hasn’t dreamed about being a kid again. We were carefree. Our only concerns were getting homework done, and trying not to get caught if we were doing something wrong. Politics was not something we cared about. We didn’t watch the news, gas prices and 401k’s were foreign. Yes, when we were kids our few responsibilities were the trash, helping with the dishes, and feeding the dogs. Life was good as a kid. But on second thought, was it?
If we wanted to go somewhere, we had to rely on a parent to take us, for example, the movies. Then we had to ask for money for the tickets, and were only given so much. We had to choose between a big popcorn or maybe a giant box of thin mints. We could only watch pre-approved movies, and heaven help us if we got caught sneaking into a theater we weren’t supposed to be in. If you grew up in a small town and you did anything wrong, your parents knew about it before you got home!!! Being a kid maybe wasn’t as glamorous as we would like to think or remember.
Israelite children didn’t have it easy either. There were specific roles they had to play in the household and in the fields. They had absolutely no rights. The children couldn’t even eat with their father. They had to eat in the kitchen with the women of the house. To say they had to depend on their parents for everything in their lives is an understatement.
The disciples still did not get what Jesus was trying to teach them at this point in His ministry. Earlier Jesus told the disciples for the first time He was going to die and be resurrected on the third day. Peter rebukes Him, and Jesus fires right back telling Peter his concerns were not on spiritual matters, but on earthly ones. He then told them they must be willing to be called a criminal by society, pick up their cross and follow Him.
After this, they began to argue among themselves. They asked Jesus who among them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Boy, were they competitive! Jesus summons a small child to stand with Him in the middle of a crowd – a place where no child would be allowed! He told them they had to rely on Him for all things spiritual, just as the child had to rely on its parents for its very life!
We tie our wagon to many leaders in the modern church, preferring one pastor over another or one denomination over another. In the end we will stand before our Savior, and no earthly person can stand with us. Jesus will raise us up to a wonderful inheritance. But first we must be like a child now, and completely rely on Him and His provisions.
Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states, “Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.” If something is moving, then it will keep its path unless an outside force changes the path. And matter at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force (which lends a whole new perspective to Sunday football watching!). The whole idea is this: it takes a force to make matter move or change paths. Without it, nothing changes.
What causes us to move or change paths, which leads me to the title of this article, “What’s Your Motivation?” People are motivated by different things- money, recognition, achievement, etc., but people are not motivated equally by the same thing.
Take for example money. Money can have both an intrinsic and an extrinsic motivational factor. In other words, some want to acquire money simply for the large bank account, while others want to acquire money for what it can buy, or a means to something else. Motivation is complicated because of the diversity in the equation – the human factor.
Can motivation come from outside of us? It certainly can. Take for example the apostles preaching the risen Christ. While they were largely uneducated, after the Holy Spirit had come upon them, they spoke with complete knowledge of the law and the prophets which amazed everyone who heard them. This was the outside force.
Many people were converted, first in Jerusalem and then outward from the city. This conversion continued to threaten the ruling class in the Jewish faith. The Sadducees were becoming increasing jealous of the message the Apostles were teaching, and had them arrested and thrown in jail. After escaping, they were found preaching in the temple courts. When they were brought before the high council, they spoke boldly, greatly angering the court who wanted to put them to death. But it was one who stood up and spoke.
This man was Gamaliel. He was a teacher of the law, probably heard the 12-year-old Jesus teaching in the temple courts, and was a close friend to Nicodemus. He reminded them if their motivation were of themselves, this movement would fade. But if their motivation were from God, to fight against them would mean the High Council would be fighting against God himself!
What’s your motivation? From where does it originate? If you have selfish desires, they may give temporary satisfaction yet fade with time. But if your motivation is of God, He will give you the words and strength to stand and speak the truth boldly, with compassion, and with grace. In reality, God will use you as He did the apostles to bless others and build up His kingdom.
Consider being motivated by an outside force this week that goes way beyond our human comprehension. If it is from God, no one will be able to stop it!
Lately we have all seen commercials on the television and heard them on the radio about debt forgiveness. I’m not exactly sure how it works, as thankfully I haven’t been in need of such services. What sticks in my mind are the testimonials. Those using the program speak of “great weights being lifted from their shoulders” and a “new lease on life” as their financial worries have been reduced or eliminated.
We all have been through pains and hurts in our lives. Face it, people just don’t treat other people like they should. As a result, we carry hurts we shouldn’t, and in some cases we carry anger with us as well. Those are enormously heavy things to carry around and can weigh our daily lives down. Much like putting a heavy weight belt on an elite runner, our abilities to perform and have a greater positive attitude is inhibited – all from the anger and hurts we’ve wrapped our hearts in.
In His sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave some very clear instructions to make our daily lives “lighter.” In Luke 6: 37, 38 Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you.” Jesus was telling those gathered around Him that day how to live lighter lives, in very simple terms. But notice one thing: the actions required by Jesus originates with the ones who have control – us, not with the ones who have hurt us!
We can’t carry hurts and pains around, waiting on those who caused them to come ask for forgiveness. If that was the prescription, imagine the weight we would be adding to our lives daily waiting for them to come to us!! No, Jesus said it is up to us to lighten our loads by throwing off all of this by not judging, not condemning, giving, and certainly forgiving.
Lighten your load this week by removing the weight belts we’ve placed around our hearts and give yourself a new lease on life. Easier said than done? Absolutely. We can’t do it by ourselves. Absolutely not! Turn to the One who gave us the prescription. He stands ready to help us to forgive others, in the way He has forgiven us!! Christ is in the debt forgiveness business for those willing to accept Him.
It was this time of year when I was a young boy when hope flowed more so than the rest of the year. The Christmas catalogs began to populate the mailbox, and the hardware store began to put up decorations in the store windows. Even the little town where I spent much of my childhood began to put decorations on the lamp poles lining main street. It was a sign of the fast-approaching holidays and all the celebrations and parades to come.
I remember one Christmas season vividly. Christmas day had come and gone, and the family was standing in the airport. The mood of the family matched the cold, rainy, and dreary weather outside. My father was about to board a plane for his first deployment to Viet Nam. As the oldest son, he pulled me aside away from my siblings and charged me with taking care of my mother , my brother and sister. It was a heavy responsibility for a ten-year-old boy. But my father whispered words to me that I’ll never forget; he said, “I’ll be back son.” They rang in my ears day after day, week after week, and month after month until his return a year later. His words gave a young man hope.
It seems there are very few sources of hope these days, with all the turmoil in our nation and even around the world. We recently celebrated Veterans Day, a day in which pride and admiration abound to those who are and have served. But we need a sense of hope daily in our lives.
Pets sit patiently in windows, waiting on the return of their owners. And when they see the car pull into the driveway or hear their voice, excitement fills their entire bodies! They even have hope in an event; one over which they have no control. We can take a big lesson from our pets.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, scripture says two men in white appeared beside the apostles. The apostles stood and watched as Jesus rose from the earth and disappeared into the clouds, no doubt with the mouths wide open! These two men asked them a very pointed question – “”Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.'”
After all they had been through in recent weeks and months, their hearts had to filled with hope. They had been on a roller coaster of emotions, but they stood there witnessing a physical act of their Savior ascending into the clouds. The words of these two angels gave them hope.
Jesus is coming soon. His words should give us all hope, a hope in glory. Revelation 22:20 Jesus said, “Yes, I am coming soon.” We need to prepare daily for this promise to be fulfilled!