So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have~ 2nd Peter 1:12
This morning I thoughtlessly picked up the phone without checking the caller ID. My folly resulted in a long conversation with a telemarketer who was selling solar panels. The passionate young lady on the other end of the phone assured me that if I were willing to make a (crazy huge) investment today I was guaranteed to get my money back, with interest, in no time at all.
All it took was a few pointed questions and some quick arithmetic to establish that the math simply did not add up. In reality it would take at least two decades for the “investment” to pay off. I politely declined her offer, disengaged from the conversation and made a solemn vow before God to never pick up the phone again without first checking the caller ID.
Telemarketers are not the only ones who mislead with questionable claims and half-truths. In the interest of keeping things honest and real I am going to discuss three teachings that have been taken out of context, are frequently misapplied, or are simply being lived out the wrong way more often than not.
From Matthew 7:1—Do not judge or you too will be judged~ NIV
This verse has been stripped of its context and twisted into a firm warning about making judgment calls concerning the ethical appropriateness of other folk’s life choices. A cursory look at the immediate context supports the notion that Jesus never intended his teaching on judgment to be used as a weapon against those who use the Bible as a guideline for acceptable moral conduct.
Later in the same passage, Jesus assumes His followers will make occasional moral judgments concerning the behavior of others. Matthew 7:1 is meant to remind us that God alone discerns the inner workings of each individual human heart. Because of His unique perspective, God alone is worthy and able to make the final call on who ultimately deserves heaven or hell, judgment or mercy.
Luke 12:34, says: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
For generations Christians have rightly understood this verse to mean that our passion for an issue or person is often in direct correlation to how much money we have invested in the situation or person. Most Christians do care for others and are generally eager to help in emergencies, so we write checks because we have been taught that every crisis and problem can be solved with a generous donation. The result is that our spiritual instincts have been dulled and we give blindly without thinking or praying. We forget that without God’s involvement and blessing, our efforts will be fruitless.
There is nothing wrong with having a big heart. The instinct to give is noble, but money is not a panacea and will not solve every human need. If money is not given wisely and disbursed thoughtfully it can actually compound human need and create more problems than it solves. Jesus never intended money to become a substitute for prayer and human connection. Some of the most pressing problems in our world today (militant Islam, racism, poverty, Christian persecution, escalating immorality) are spiritual in nature and will only be solved through prayer, fasting and carefully planned action.
I have come to think that many of the problems Christians struggle with today have been born out of a wrong understanding of our relationship to God. In Exodus 3:14 God tells Moses He is I AM. The moniker was meant to be more than a means of identifying Himself; it was a profound theological proclamation.
I AM communicates deep truth about the significance and completeness of God as a being and the place He is to occupy in our lives. He is the center of all things whether we recognize it or not, and most of the time we don’t. We have distorted I AM into WE ARE and tend to live as we are the center of all things and God is simply our benevolent helper when we feel we need one.
Nothing is going to change in this world until we get back to a God-and-others approach to life and ministry. Only when we realize that ministry is about glorifying God and helping others—and that everything we do must point to Him—can we truly make a difference.