Archive for February, 2012

The Excuse Maker

The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.

Proverbs 20:4

The sluggard and the slothful man are mentioned many times in the book of Proverbs.  They both mean “lazy.”  There are many warnings about being lazy in the Bible, and not just in Proverbs.  This verse gives us some insight into the lazy man’s thinking, and that insight can help us avoid his way and his end if we will heed it.

“The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold.”  Being from the midwest, I am well acquainted with plowing and harvesting.  Plowing is done during the spring, and there are times that it is still a little cold outside.  But that is no excuse to not get things done.  What we see from this verse is that the sluggard is an excuse maker.  It might be the cold one day.  It might be too hot the next day.  It might be too rainy or windy or dry the days after that.  The excuse maker is a sluggard.  The excuse maker is lazy.  He doesn’t want to do something and so he finds any excuse available to get out of it.

It has been said that “if you have a good excuse, don’t use it.”  That would be a good piece of advice by which to live.  This Proverb gives us the end of the lazy excuse maker: “…therefore shall he beg in harvest and have nothing.”  The lazy excuse maker is eventually going to have to pay.  Eventually, there will be no more excuses to be made.

Excuses are usually used to either get us out of doing something or keep us out of trouble.  Neither of those things will be good for us.  The point of this verse is this: you can always find an excuse.  But you should not always use an excuse, or you will end up “begging in harvest.”

A Higher Way, Part VIII

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:48

The conclusion of this chapter and this matter of “a higher way” is found in verse 48.  Here we see the ultimate expression of living on a higher level than the law.  The law tells us “an eye for an eye,” and Jesus tells us to “turn the other cheek.”  The law tells us to fulfill our duties, and Jesus tells us to go far beyond our duties.  The law tells us to love our neighbour and hate our enemy.  Jesus tells us to love both our neighbour and our enemy.

These are all hard things.  They are all things that are not natural to man.  They are all going to require a higher power to assist us.  They all are going to require our submission to Jesus Christ, Who Himself is the perfect embodiment of all of these virtues.  He gave the commands, and He will give the help to see them through.  In the last verse of the chapter, we have the summary of the whole philosophy.

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

That’s all we have to do – be perfect.  Obviously, while we inhabit these temples of flesh and bone, we are never going to be perfect.  Our old flesh nature is going to fight us every step of the way.  Perfection is not something we will achieve.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t our goal.

Our goal should be to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  We should never want to sin.  We should want to do the right thing in every single situation that we encounter.  Instead of discouraging us, this thought should spur us on to even greater levels of living for the Lord.

We all have work to do.  We all have areas in which we can improve.  None of us is perfect.  And as long as this command to “Be ye therefore perfect” is still in the Bible, we all have work to do.

A Higher Way, Part VII

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?  do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?  do not even the publicans so?

Matthew 5:46-47

These verses are a continuation of the passage dealing with the “higher way” that we find in Christ Jesus.  These verses are about loving and being kind to our fellow man.  Loving the people that love us is easy.  That is human nature.  Even animals will love a person who shows them kindness.  It doesn’t take a “higher way” to love someone who loves you.

Jesus says here that the publicans do the same.  The publicans were known as some of the crookedest people of the day.  They were not liked, they were not respected and they usually spent their time trying to cheat and steal from the people.  But even they would love someone who loved them.

The passage goes on to say “…if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?”  And again, “…do not even the publicans so?”  If we are kind only to those in our “circle of friends,” how is that different from anybody else?  If we won’t go out of our way to show kindness and love to those who don’t deserve it, how is that showing forth the righteousness of Christ in our lives?

The whole point of these verses is to get us to understand that, through Jesus, we can live on a higher plane.  We can do things that don’t seem right to our flesh.  We can love those who hate us.  We can do those who use us and despise us.  We can pray for our enemies.  We can do all of those things to others because Jesus Himself did them all for us.

Let us think about that the next time we don’t want to be kind to our enemy.  Jesus died for us while we were His enemies.  “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

Hear Ye The Master’s Call (Hymn)

Hear Ye the Master’s Call
S.C. Kirk

Hear ye the Master’s call, “Give Me thy best!”
For, be it great or small, that is His test.
Do then the best you can, not for reward,
Not for the praise of men, but for the Lord.

Every work for Jesus will be blest,
But He asks from everyone his best.
Our talents may be few, these may be small,
But unto Him is due our best, our all.

Wait not for men to laud, heed not their slight;
Winning the smile of God brings its delight!
Aiding the good and true ne’er goes unblessed,
All that we think or do, be it the best.


Night soon comes on apace, day hastens by;
Workman and work must face testing on high.
Oh, may we in that day find rest, sweet rest,
Which God has promised those who do their best.


I have seen this hymn titled “Our Best,” but found it in a hymnal under “Hear Ye the Master’s Call.”  Whatever the official title is, it’s a great hymn.  Any song or hymn that encourages us to “do our best” is a good one.  When you think about it, that’s really all we can do – our best.  And that is what God wants and expects out of us.  It is so vitally important to remember that, whatever our abilities and talents, every work for Him will be blessed.  It is also important to remember that “night soon comes…” We only have a short time to do something for the Lord – let’s get busy!

A Higher Way, Part VI

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Matthew 5:43-44

To me, this verse is at the crux of the “higher way” that Jesus Christ brought to us.  “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy…”  That part of the verse we can all relate to.  We can all love our neighbour and we can all hate our enemies.  Sometimes our neighbours might get slightly annoying, but we still love them.  Our enemies on the other hand, well, it’s easy to hate them.

That is the way it had been.  But when Jesus came, all things changed.  His higher righteousness tells us to “love your enemies.”  That’s not part of our human nature.  It tells us to “bless them that curse you.”  That is not natural to us.  It tells us to “do good to them that hate you.”  That is not an easy thing to do.  It tells us to “pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”  Our flesh is going to have a hard time with that one.  All of those things are nearly impossible to our flesh nature.

But things that are impossible to us are not at all impossible with God.  As long as we follow Him, He will help us.  He will give us that higher righteousness that can love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for those that despitefully use us.

The next time we find ourselves confronted with one who curses us and hates us, let us remember these verses.  We are to love them and do good to them.  If we need help with that, let us remember the One Who can make it possible.

A Higher Way, Part V

Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Matthew 5:42

We looked yesterday at one specific application of this verse, but today, I would like to take a broader look at the truth contained in it.  The verse is all about generosity.  There is a fake “generosity” that gives in hopes of receiving.  This is true generosity that gives, hoping for nothing in return.

Generosity is not part of human nature.  Human nature is to get as much as possible and keep as much of that as possible.  Giving doesn’t make sense to the natural man, which is why we need the help of One greater than us.

“Give to him that asketh of thee…”  We are supposed to give to people.  It’s that simple.  If someone asks something of us, we are to do our best to give them what they require.  It may not be convenient for us.  It may not be financially beneficial.  But it is an example of generosity.

“…and from his that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”  Financial planners all tell us “don’t loan money to ____.”  And, if we look at everything from the standpoint of dollars and cents, it would make sense to never loan money to ____.”  However, if we were to follow the advice of the Lord, we would look to Proverbs 19:17, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”  That is an interesting promise – the poor person who asks for something is a bad credit risk.  There is a good chance that he will not “pay again.”  But how good of a “credit risk” is the Lord Himself?  It is said that he that gives to the poor “lendeth unto the LORD.”  That is incredible.

Would we be willing to “lend unto the Lord?”  We have been told just how to do that.  “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

A Higher Way, Part IV

Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Matthew 5:42

Whenever I read this verse, I can’t help but think about seeing beggars on the street.  I know that this is not the only application, but that’s the one that always comes to my mind.  Whenever we are in a “big city,” my wife and I will see people who others would call “bums”, “drifters”, “winos,” etc.  You know the type.  They are there, sitting on the sidewalk, dressed in not much more than rags, usually dirty, and usually with some kind of a cup for money.  Since I don’t live in an area like that, it’s always kind of shocking to see people living that way.

It might not be right, but we always give them money.  I know; some people might say that “they’ll just use it for booze or drugs.”  And that might be true.  But whenever I see someone like that, I think of a couple of things:

First, I think of the old quote: “But for the grace of God, there go I.”  The only reason that I am not lying in the street somewhere is the grace of God.  It is certainly not because of anything that I have done.  When I see a man lying in rags on the street, I don’t think “what a bum,” I think “but for the grace of God, there go I.”

Second, I think of verses like this.  “Give to him that asketh of thee…”  The beggar on the street is “asking of me.”  According to this verse, I should not turn him away.  Maybe I am not applying this verse correctly, but we are commanded to give over and over again.  I know that there is only so much we can give and only so many people we can give to, but we are commanded to be generous.

I applied this verse a little more specifically today than I usually do.  Tomorrow, we will look at the general principle a little more in depth.

A Higher Way, Part III

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Matthew 5:41-42

As we continue to look at these hard-to-follow verses dealing Jesus’ higher level of righteousness, we come to the “go the extra mile” verse.  I always find it interesting when I find the root of a common phrase in the Bible.  It is interesting just how much God’s Word has influenced our entire society, even down to the language we use.

I do not know how true this is, but I have read that, in the Roman Empire, private citizens could be conscripted into “postal” service.  They could be “compelled” to carry whatever was needing delivered for a mile.  This was obviously a hassle and an inconvenience for those thus conscripted.  It would be like coming out of your house to run an errand and being forced to deliver all the mail on your street before you could go on.  People didn’t like doing this, and likely complied with a less than perfect attitude.  However, in light of this being an annoyance and a great inconvenience, Jesus again told His followers to follow a higher way.

The “law” would say to go the mile that you are compelled.  At that point, you have done your duty and are free from the responsibility.  But Jesus says to go further.  If you are compelled for one mile, go two (and do it with a good attitude).  If someone asks you to do something, do more than is technically required.

How often have we been “compelled” to do something annoying or inconvenient, and have fulfilled our duty but nothing more?  How often have we really “gone the extra mile?”  The next time we are inconvenienced by someone, let us remember the words of our Lord and let us consider His exhortation to “go the extra mile.”

A Higher Way, Part II

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

Matthew 5:40

This verse continues with Jesus’ theme of a higher righteousness.  This is a tough verse.  It goes against our ingrained human nature.  Human nature is to fight for our possessions and what we own.  We are especially prone to fight for our own interests when  they are being threatened by a lawsuit.

The hardest part about this verse is the fact that it doesn’t say anything about whether or not this is a legitimate lawsuit.  The person in the verse might have been falsely accused of something (can you think of the most famous example of Someone being falsely accused?).  The person might have been accused of something of which he was guilty.  We don’t know.  All we have is the instruction to “let him have thy cloke also.”

I do not profess to understand all about this verse and how it relates to modern lawsuits and the like.  But I do believe that a definite application can be made dealing with us, our possessions and our attitude toward those possessions.

The verse says that, when demanded to give up a possession, we should be willing to give up more than was demanded. Our possessions should not control us.  They should not define us to such an extent that our testimony or witness is hindered by them.  They should not have such a hold on us that we are not readily willing to sacrifice them for the cause of Christ.

While this is a tough verse to follow, it does shed some light on a couple of important principles: meekness and generosity are good things and are becoming to the gospel.  Greed and vengeance are not.

A Higher Way, Part I

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:38-39

To me, the last verses of Matthew 5 are some of the hardest verses in the entire Bible to live.  But they are also, in my opinion, some of the most important for living our day to day lives.  There is a hymn entitled “Higher Ground,” and this passage reminds me of it: “…my prayer, my aim is higher ground.”  This entire chapter is about the fact that Jesus is bringing a higher righteousness than that of even the Pharisees.  Part of that higher righteousness is living above the law.  Following the letter of the law is one thing, but following the spirit of the law with your heart is another.

Verses 38 and 39 are the classic “turn the other cheek” verses.  The law said “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”  Jesus said that, instead of seeking revenge, we should be “turning the other cheek.”  We are to meekly and patiently submit to indignity.

Jesus was, of course, our greatest example of this spirit.  On His way to the cross, He suffered every indignity imaginable.  They lied about Him.  They hit Him.  They mocked Him.  They beat Him.  They whipped Him.  They spat upon Him.  They continued to mock Him until the very end.  He could have called on the Angels to destroy them.  He could simply have spoken and destroyed them.  But, He endured it all; meekly and patiently He endured it all.  He even went so far as to pray for His tormentors.

Jesus Christ had a higher righteousness.  That higher righteousness is available to us.  Are we living in that higher way?