Search

The Bible Blotter

Turning the Bible Into Behavior

Tag

Bible Study

Christianity: Stupid Is As Stupid Does

stupid isEven people who have never seen Forrest Gump have heard the expression, “Stupid is as stupid does.” It’s the way Forrest’s momma teaches his that real stupidity is not in intellect or how others judge you. Stupid people are reveled through their stupid behavior. People who DO smart things ARE smart people. People who do stupid things…well, you get the idea. And that concept is not unique to stupidity. It’s a truism of many facets of life. If you want to know about the character of a person, look at his actions. His behavior will out the truth. Smart people are those who DO smart things. Careful people are those who practice safety and care. Friendly people are those who behave as friends. In his first letter, John says it’s no different with spirituality and righteousness.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3)

I think John would have us understand a few things here:

  • We ARE family!

It’s an amazing thing to think about. In a world where people are striving for connection, where we settle for the superficial “friends” of social media, we are invited into a community of faith that becomes our family. God welcomes us with open arms and says, “There is a place here for you.” But that means something more than just a place to belong.

  • Family begins to look and sound like each other.

One of the funniest parts about belonging to a community is that we take on the look and speech of that community. Each family will have its own peculiar lexicon that develops over the course of time and shared experiences. I remember one time my family went to Wendy’s for a meal. While my mom was in line, my younger brother (maybe 6 years old?), my dad, and I went to the corner table. My brother was climbing over and under the tables and came up suddenly and hit his head on the bottom of the table. Trying to communicate what happened, he cried, “I boomped my head!” Naturally we thought this slip was funny, and it became part of the family lexicon. 30 years later we will still say to each other, “I boomped my head (or arm, foot, etc.) when we get injured.

I read a fascinating article a while back (and if I ever find it again I’ll hyperlink it) that stated we sound like the 5 most important people in our social circles. That is to say, take the 5 people you spend the most time with, the people who have the most influence in your life, and you will find your dress and speech patterns are an amalgamation of those 5 people.

she's the devilThis is no different spiritually. Our spiritual family is supposed to change the way we look and sound. God’s family is supposed to do godly things. We turn our backs on ungodly behavior. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, righteous is as righteous does. We are called to turn our backs on ungodly behavior. We’re either part of God’s family or part of the devil’s family.

  • Finally, being part of God’s family is about MORE than personal righteousness – it includes taking care of each other.

The Bible is quite clear that we cannot be right with God if we are not actively loving and caring for humanity. If God is love, we cannot hate people and still maintain personal righteousness. There’s a unique spiritual blend – genuine righteousness means loving God AND loving each other. Any less is bogus spirituality. It’s a sham.

Think about your life. Have you actively been pursuing righteousness? Does your behavior identify you as part of God’s family? Do your actions towards others show that you are a child of God? If not, where do you need to change? How do your actions and speech need to change to reflect belonging to His family?

Excuse Me, But Your Real Character Is Showing

The things you choose to do reflect your character. It is that simple. In fact, you don’t need any fancy-shmancy personality test. The cheapest personality test in the world is on both sides of your nose. Yup, it’s your eyes. If you want to know about a person’s character and personality, watch what they do, because what you do reflects who you are.

We find an easy illustration of this in the person of Jesus. We see that he took time to be around outcasts and misfits and take care of their needs. His behavior reveals that he is compassionate. We see that he went undeservedly to the cross so that we would not have to. His behavior reveals that he is self-giving and self-sacrificing. The hard part comes when we start honestly looking at our own character. People can see your character by the things they see you do. That could be good or bad, depending on what your character is like. If you want to improve your character, improve your actions.

There’s a biblical story that illustrates this principle. You can read it in 1 Samuel 25. Abigail is the wife of Nabal, a wealthy oaf who lived in Maon, sheep-rearing country (though described as wilderness). She and her husband are total contrasts to each other – completely mismatched. She is a woman of beauty and good sense. He is not. The Hebrew word nabal, often translated as “fool,” designates not a harmless simpleton, but rather a vicious, materialistic, and egocentric misfit. Other passages present the nabal as an embarrassment to his father (Prov. 17:21), a glutton (Prov. 30:22), a hoarder (Jer. 17:11), and even an atheist (Ps 14:1; 53:1).BiffThink of it like Biff from Back to the Future.

Most significant for our story today is Isaiah 32:6, in which the refusal to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, precisely the sin of Nabal in 1 Samuel 25:6, is listed among the characteristics of a nabal. The story-teller wants us to know from the start what this guy is like.

I think we all know or have known people who’s actions really reveal their character. Now, we already know what Nabal’s character is like – the story tells us. But we see that his actions match up to the description of his character. His character is described the way it is because of his actions.

In the biblical story, as David and his men are traveling the countryside, he and his men come across Nabal’s men and David looks after them. Later on, David asks Nabal to repay the favor by showing hospitality in food and drink. David’s offer to Nabal seems to be negation with invitation into covenant. David is on the run from King Saul, who is trying to hunt down David in order to kill him. David may be trying to win support and provisions from several local farmers with his assistance and protection. Nabal refuses.

David’s claim that he has earned a share in Nabal’s provisions because he guarded the latter’s men and flocks is, in fact, a challenge to Nabal’s political authority, another way of saying that Nabal, despite his wealth and his marriage, does not control Judah or even his immediate territory. Nabal recognizes David’s words for what they are, the words of a servant breaking away from his master. Not to know David or even Jesse is to refuse them diplomatic recognition. In short, Nabal declares from the start his refusal to see in David anything other than a thief, thug, and rebel. Ironically, Nabal says David is a disloyal servant, but he’s setting up the behavior of his own servants who break away, telling their mistress of her husband’s stupidity and ethical emptiness.

When David hears what Nabal said he sort of flies off the handle. “Strap on your swords! No man in the house is to remain alive!” David’s response to Nabal is rooted in the categories of shame and honor. Nabal has shamed David rather than treat him with honor. The only way for David to regain his honor and remove the shame is to take it by force. Abigail realizes that her husband’s insult to David puts the whole household in jeopardy, so she takes it upon herself to take gifts and rations to David and his men.

The structure of her plea to David consists of two tiers. First, Abigail assures David that the vengeance of YHWH will visit Nabal if only David restrains himself from usurping the divine prerogative, and she offers the present as a token of her confidence in the Tightness of David’s cause (vv 25-27). Next she speaks of YHWH’s commitment to his chosen servant, one that vouchsafes to him a security which should enable him to overlook this temporary irritation, which must in no case impede David’s ascent to the throne. David sees the wisdom of her argument and backs down from his attack.

When Abigail returns home, Nabal is celebrating like a king. Here’s an interesting thing – Abigail has just affirmed that David is the God-anointed one who will take the throne. But back at the ranch, Nabal is the one acting like a king. It’s a classic conflict between wisdom and foolishness. Wisdom is realizing what God is doing and getting behind it. Foolishness is puffing yourself up and thinking you’re hot stuff.

Abigail is the personification of wisdom. Nabal is the personification of foolishness. So she waits until he has sobered up to tell him what happened with David. And when she tells him about her encounter, he has some sort of stroke or attack and becomes like stone. Ten days later, Yahweh takes his life.

It seems strange that David acts so quickly to take Abigail for a wife. There are probably political motivations that underlie the scene. To marry the wife or concubine of a ruler was to make a bid for his status and power. This was the story of Oedipus Rex. Oedipus kills the king on the road. Later on, he marries the king’s wife and takes the throne. This was true even as late as Shakespeare’s day. The whole set up of Hamlet is that Hamlet’s father, the king, is killed by Hamlet’s uncle, who then marries Hamlet’s mother and becomes king. David marries Abigail and secures her a new social position and estate. But he also gets something out of the marriage. Nabal was a Calebite, a necessary part of being ruler in Hebron. David’s marriage to Nabal’s wife was the pivotal move in his ascent to kingship at Hebron. David takes over Nabal’s land, his possessions, and his right to lead in Nabal’s place. Abigail is a fantastic prize that set’s David up for his future kingship.

The David of chapter 25 is a man who kills for a grudge. The episode with Abigail and Nabal is the very first revelation of evil in David’s character. He can kill. This time he stops short. But the cloud that chapter 25 raises continues to darken our perception of David’s character. By the time we get to 2 Samuel we find David killing an innocent and righteous man just to take the man’s wife!

The end of the story notes that Abigail is not the only woman married to David. In fact, David has another wife, Ahinoam. Only one other person in the Hebrew Bible bears her name, and she, amazingly enough, is a contemporary of David’s. In fact, her husband is King Saul (1 Sam 14:50)! Could it be that David swaggered into Hebron with the wife of a Calebite chieftain on one arm and that of the Israelite king on the other? A remark of Nathan’s to David suggests that there was but one Ahinoam, wife of Saul, then of David, “I gave you the household of your lord and the wives of your lord in your bosom, and I gave you the Houses of Israel and Judah. A little longer, and I would have given you more like these” (2 Sam 12:8). Nathan alludes to David’s marriage to Saul’s wives, as if it were well-known. The suspicion grows that v.43 and v.44 are connected by more than a similarity in subject matter. Saul’s action in v.44 is a quid pro quo to David’s in v.43. He deprived David of Michal when David asserted his right to the throne through marriage with Ahinoam.

The story of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 precedes the story of David and Bathsheba chronologically, and in some ways it is a mirror image of it. First of all, Bathsheba’s husband Uriah is a good man while Abigail’s is quite repulsive and evil. Despite Uriah’s goodness, Bathsheba apparently does nothing (or can’t do anything) to save him. Abigail, on the other hand, resorts to elaborate measures to save her husband. Secondly, the story of Bathsheba capitalizes on illicit sex. This is completely absent in the Abigail story. Although David is obviously attracted to Abigail, as witnessed by the speed with which he married her when she becomes widowed, there is no hint of any unseemly behavior between the two, although there are opportunities. Finally, in the Bathsheba story David commits murder because of a woman. In the Abigail story David, as he himself recognizes, David refrains from committing murder because of a woman.

We are the sum total of all that we do, i.e. what we do is who we are. Abigail reveals herself to be wise and virtuous. Nabal reveals himself to be an evil, spiteful man. David reveals himself to be a man with a short fuse who is easily moved by a woman. But we are no different. Our own actions reveal our character. This is true because as adults we make deliberate choices in our actions. Therefore, our actions describe our inner selves, what sacrifices we’re willing to make, what evil we’re willing to carry out or tolerate. Our actions are the blueprint of our character.  blueprint-964629_1920

We need seriously to ask what we want our character to look like. Then we need to make sure that our actions reflect the character we say we want. What actions are we doing to reveal that character? It’s time to take serious account of our character; what it is and what we want it to be. And then, after taking account, we need to make sure our actions line up.

God’s Big Ten: Christian Hoarders

This is it, we’ve come down to the very end of our study through the 10 commandments. This is sort of the summary commandment that wraps up all of the other commandments.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Covet simply means to yearn to possess; to crave. But not simply to desire something. You can be greedy without necessarily coveting. To be greedy is to want more and more and flea-market-851970_1920more. But to covet means to look at what someone else has and to say, “That should be mine! I should have what he has.” It looks a lot like hoarding. No matter what we have it’s never enough.

Coveting means yearning for other people’s stuff. Our society trains us to desire stuff. If someone else has it why don’t we? Yes, we are trained to desire what others have – it’s the beast we call advertising. Many times we don’t even realize how pervasive marketing is in our minds. Here are some famous slogans that have stuck around for quite a time. Can you place them?

  1. Just Do It!
  2. Finger Lickin’ Good
  3. Snap Crackle Pop!
  4. Don’t Leave Home Without It
  5. Plop Plop Fizz Fizz Oh What a Relief it is!

We hear these slogans and our brains automatically start thinking about the products. By the time a child reaches adulthood they say the individual has been inundated by over a billion advertisements. One of the best examples I’ve seen to illustrate coveting comes from a group of fruits and veggies. Welcome to the Stuff-Mart:

 

We are systematically trained to believe that things bring happiness but this is a false belief. Think about when you were a kid – what was that thing you just HAD to have? What was it?

DON’T BE CRAVING THE THINGS YOU SEE OTHER PEOPLE HAVE!

Coveting gets us into trouble. Sometimes it leads to stealing. Someone else has it – we want it – so we take it. Sometimes it leads to debt. We covet what someone else has so we go and get one NOW even if we can’t afford it. It’s been said that delayed gratification is the sign of maturity. The mature person makes a plan and works towards something. Kids want it when? NOW!

Many of today’s purchases are tomorrow’s load to the dump. How can something so classic-car-574869_1920precious become so worthless? It really makes us stop and ask, “What is really valuable to me?” Because you put your money where your heart is. If your heart is in stuff, your bank records will bear it out

MATTHEW 6:19-21 ~  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

In the Big 10 we’re not to desire what others have – to keep up with the Joneses. It’s about learning to be content with what we have and where we are. Society says, “If he has it and you don’t, work to get what he’s got.” God says there’s a different way.

So What’s the Antidote? – CONTENTMENT

It’s not the American way. We always want more. We always want better. We always want bigger. Being satisfied where you are with what you have – that’s not the American way! The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

He doesn’t say that he asked God and then contentment came immediately. He says he LEARNED to be content. It makes it seem that it was a process. And many times it can take us a LONG time to learn a lesson. Paul never says how long it took. He never says how many rough and troubled times he had to go through. He simply says it is something he had to learn.

This is a guy who had been beaten, shipwrecked, starved, bitten by snakes…the list goes on and on! Yet he has learned to be content. Why can’t I be content with what I have? Why can’t I be happy for you when you have better? I’m happy with what I’ve got until someone walks in with more/better/etc. How do we learn to be content?

Stop comparing yourself with others. Everyone wants to be happy. We want happiness so much that it’s part of our national history. We’re ENTITLED to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I’m fine with my single serving of ice cream until I see my friend walk in with half a gallon. Why can’t I have what he has? Instead of looking at what God has given me I look at what God has given you and begin to compare. But the Bible tells us that Christ is enough. And if Christ is all we need there is NO need to compare with others.

So here are some practical tips for dealing with how we handle comparison and contentment:

  1. Receive what we have as a gift from God
  2. Examine things before you make a purchase
    • Do I really need this?
    • Will it bring lasting or temporary joy?
    • What else could I do with this money?
  3. Practice de-accumulation – most of us struggle with letting go of things. Try to give away one thing a day.

This is not about being legalistic and living a life without possessions. It’s about saying, “I don’t want to serve STUFF anymore – I want to serve Jesus.”

Can Jesus be enough for you?

 Questions for Reflection

  • What do I covet?
  • Do I accumulate things because I have a problem with greed?
  • Am I willing to live a life pursuing simplicity?

God’s Big Ten: Christian Thieves

burglar-308858_1280Now let’s talk about thieves. Not just any thieves, but Christian thieves. It’s the next simple guideline in the Ten Commandments – just another single sentence.

You shall not steal.

You would think this should be simple, like the commandment against adultery. You would THINK that this isn’t something that needs to be stated. It seems like a no-brainer that we should not take thinks that don’t belong to us. Even so, here it is. And it’s not just here. The New Testament is just as plain about stealing.

While some of us may admit to stealing things (perhaps a paperclip here or there?), most would probably not admit to being a thief. Like everything else Jesus tries to tell us, it’s not just about behavior but about our heart and motivation that underlie all wrongful behavior. There are several ways to steal, but we need to come up with a working definition of stealing, something like this:

Intentionally depriving someone else of something of value to which he/she is entitled.

So I’m going to assume that, at some point of your life, everyone reading this has taken something that is not rightfully yours to take. I once read somewhere that there are different types of stealing. Let’s look at some different ways we engage in stealing.

~ Removing something that doesn’t belong to you

This could be something as small as a candy bar to something as large as robbing a bank. In the Old Testament, there’s a story of God leading Israel through fight after fight. When they get to one city, God tells them not to take any plunder from the city – NOTHING. They are to leave it all. Yet there was this one guy – Achan – who saw all this stuff sitting there and figured he would snag some of it for himself. He disobeyed God’s direct command and stole the loot and had to pay a steep price for disobeying God.

Sometimes we remove things that don’t rightfully belong to us.

~ Withholding something that should rightfully go to someone else.

For example, if you lie on your time card at work, you are withholding hours from your employer that you are being paid for. That’s stealing. Or if you withhold your kid’s birthday money from grandma because “he’s not mature enough yet,” it’s STILL stealing.

~ Using your words to manipulate others for your own benefit.

I lump cheating or other manipulation. Have you ever been the victim of a con man? I hands-966492_1920have. They can be pretty slick. Sometimes they talk so fact and move so quickly you have no idea what’s going on until they are LONG gone. Long story short, I ended up on a road side in Italy holding a ratty old jacket that somehow I ended up paying $50 for. He used his words to manipulate me. HE STOLE FROM ME!

Using your words to manipulate someone to get what you want is stealing. We can even include slander and gossip, because that steals credibility and character from the people we attach.

Proverbs 26:20 ~ Without wood, fire goes out; without a gossip, conflict dies down.

And then there’s:

Titus 3 ~ Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people

~ Relying on others generosity rather than working for it.

pygmy-sloth-62869_1280This is to be a sloth, a bum – a mooch! Letting others take care of us without doing anything to earn it (basically your average teenager). The Apostle Paul says:

1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 ~ But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more, 11 to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 12 so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.

And also:

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 ~ 10 In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.” 11 For we hear that there are some among you who walk irresponsibly, not working at all, but interfering with the work of others. 12 Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ that quietly working, they may eat their own food.

Even the Bible says that it’s not cool to live only off of the kindness of others. It’s a form of theft. Finally, we’ve got:

~ Holding back your time, talent, & treasure from God can amount to spiritual stealing.

We ALL have something we can give to God, the church, the community, and the world. The question is, are we utilizing the gifts God has given us or are we hoarding it for ourselves? Peter writes in his first letter:

Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10 ~)

Its all about intentionally depriving someone of something of value to which they are rightfully entitled. So What? It all comes down to this: How we treat others and How we trust God. If we really sought to treat people well, we would never take away from them. If we actually trusted God we would never have to steal.

If we fully trust God to be the King of our lives and to provide for all our needs, we would never take anything. It’s when we take our eyes off of God and focus on ourselves that we decide to take things that don’t belong to us – we try to take care of ourselves by our own means.

We don’t have to lie on our taxes. We don’t have to rob banks. We don’t have to be slothful and rely on others to take care of us.

The Bible says, “Do not steal.” This covers ALL forms of theft.

And this isn’t who God wants us to be.

Questions for Reflection
– What have you taken that doesn’t belong to you?
– How does your thievery relate to your trust in God to provide?

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: