Open those hands, Miser.

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give and only suffers want” (Proverbs 11:24).  The Proverbs are an interesting part of the Scripture.  They contain many sayings that bring comfort, some that bring instruction and others that bring warning.  

Most cultures have their own sets of proverbs.  Indeed, some of those we find in Scripture, we can find in the wisdom texts of other religions.  Even C.S. Lewis made a study of them publishing a kind of anthology in his book, The Abolition of Man.  Still, proverbs are general statements of how things work in the world.  

It’s too long a discussion for this devotion, for sure, but proverbs point to the natural outworking of creation governed by God through His providence.  From my home study I can see trees in the process of spring blooms and hear birds making their song.  One particular very large bush this year happens to be the home of a very active red bird.  Why do these things happen?  Because it’s Spring and in Spring God directs creation to do its Spring-thing.

Back to the text.  It is the natural order of things that for one who gives freely, he finds himself amply supplied.  While, at the same time, the miser experiences want.  We might point to some rich-and-famous person who gives nothing but takes always and think, “Well, the proverb isn’t working there.”  Material wealth can be a mask for all manner of other more devastating poverties.  

We are looking to Holy Week in a few days.  Surely an example of One who gave freely.  Did He grow richer as a result?  Absolutely.  Paul says so in Philippians 2:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Beloved, the general drift of this world is that as we give, we will be given.  But also, that if we take and keep, we will be in want.  We need not fear generosity: of money, of time, of tears, of efforts.  By wiring this dynamic into creation, the Creator wanted to see a generous creation of interlocking giving and receiving.  The Proverbs tell us this dynamic hasn’t been erased by the Fall.  

Be generous with your lives not just for the reward but because of the beauty it will create.    

Heaven soon,

Pastor Gabe

Temperance

“When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite” (Proverbs 23:1-2).  Temperance.  It’s an older word and generally means “self-control” or “restraint.”  That’s the point of this proverb: it is a wonderful and dangerous place: eating in the midst of a ruler.  Aggressive handling of a fork or a slurping action at the cup will cause your return invitation to be lost.

I’ve been on Twitter today and I was struck by an overall sense of danger.  The danger presented to me was in the form of “You have GOT to say something about that!”  And that.  And that.  And that, that, that, that and that.  They all seemed so inviting; they all seemed ripe for the witty picking or the acerbic comment or the fileting note.  They begged me or, as Khan says about Admiral Kirk, “he tasks me and I shall have him!” 

If I printed out each Tweet that I wanted to address at 9:00 this morning, I would probably not finish answering them by close-of-business.  And, upon waking tomorrow, there would be just as many as today.  Now, this isn’t a justification for inaction or silence.  Those things are needed in our culture; this place is a soup-sandwich. 

However, it proves to me again what I’ve been thinking for some time: or culture is like the dam of a large reservoir has broken.  It rushes here and there.  It soaks and inundates everything.  It creates stinking still water and threatening rips.  And, once it has finished its “deluginous” work (just made up that word), everything will be affected.

Everything but what was never moved in the first place: the church.  Beloved, now more than ever, a hearty understanding of the Bible’s plotline (creation, fall, redemption and consummation) is crucial.  You will get lost without it.  You will get dragged under without it.  You will have no answers to our culture without it.  Read your copy of God’s word.  Take time to pray through the Lord’s Prayer.  Come to Bible study and Sunday school.  Take notes during the sermon.  Eat the Supper faithfully.  

These will equip you, ground you, encourage and help you.  The Spirit will see to it (Isaiah 55:8-11).

Heaven soon, Pastor Gabe

Do you want wisdom? Get the church.

“The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.  Prize her highly and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her” (Proverbs 4:7-8).  It’s a funny piece of advice, isn’t it?  The beginning of wisdom is to get it.  In the Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a woman: alluring, satisfying, exalting, serving and rewarding.

Wisdom sounds very lovely in the proverbs.  It makes sense that we would be exhorted to find her and keep her. There’s a difference between wisdom and knowledge.  It isn’t that they are totally different; more like siblings.  Knowledge is easy and it is everywhere.  In fact, it has been a hailed and steadfast commitment of our culture to educate for decades.  Our culture finds a lack of education as the root of all evil.  I’m not so sure.

It isn’t too far off to suggest we are a culture steeped in education but we are also rich in confusion, chaos and sin.  With so much access to so much knowledge, shouldn’t we be better off?  Perhaps no one is making the connection but our problem seems more to be that we lack wisdom than we lack knowledge.  Once again, they are siblings so to have one you get the other—eventually.

Getting wisdom is different than getting knowledge, at least in this way: wisdom is like a time-release capsule whose impact is received slowly.  This makes it less a “prize” in our eyes than the immediacy of knowledge.  The young are smart but not terribly wise.  The old are wise and may or may not be smart.  Knowledge leads to seeing but wisdom leads to understanding.  Wouldn’t you rather understand than simply see?

Wisdom cannot be obtained without relationships.  Knowledge can come over YouTube but not wisdom.  Personifying wisdom as a woman to be sought hints at this aspect.  Beloved, we could say with Scripture, the beginning of wisdom is this: get the church.  The church is the Bride of Christ and she is an essential companion if we are to be wise.  In her midst are saints who have traveled roads you and I will one day pass.  Saints whose scars tell us stories that we must hear.  Saints whose vision and understanding makes our knowledge seem stale.  Yes, beloved, if you want wisdom, get the church.

Heaven soon,

Pastor Gabe