Today's Devotional from Grace in the Workplace
Thursday, January 31 2019
Verse of the Day
I said, “I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, While the wicked are before me.” [Psalm 39:1 – NKJV]
In the old days public libraries were dark, musty, quiet places—so quiet, in fact, that you could hear a pin drop. Just in case you didn’t get the message about proper library decorum, there were signs posted everywhere that read “Quiet Please!” And if you transgressed and your voice rose above a whisper, you got the evil eye and a word of warning from the librarian. After all, “quiet, please” is really just a polite euphemism for “shut up!”
It’s one thing to be loud and quite another to be rude and offensive. We are all too prone to let our tongues get out of control. We say rude, thoughtless, hurtful things to others far too often. And it happens in all kinds of situations, even when we are trying our hardest to be on our best behavior. Most of the time our excuse is “we just can’t help it.” We shoot off our mouths at home, at work, at church, on the golf course, at the grocery store; in fact just about everywhere we go.
King David gives us great advice. We need to restrain our mouths with muzzles. Now that’s a thought! Just imagine what life would be like at work, at home, and everywhere in between if we were actually civil and kind to one another! Pray to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for His insight and guidance in controlling your tongue. A word to the wise: if we’re not talking, then we’re listening, and that’s certainly a good habit to get into. It’s really about humility. Pray that there will be less of us and more of others today!
Wednesday, January 30 2019
Verse of the Day
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” [Revelation 11:15 – NKJV]
I love music, all kinds of music…rock ’n’ roll, classical, blues, Broadway musicals, etc. But my absolute favorite composition of all time is Handel’s Messiah. The reason isn’t just the music. Although it’s magnificent and moving to one’s core, it’s the words that really get me. And why shouldn’t they? Handel did an inspired job of picking Biblical passages that best describe the story of Jesus, the Messiah. It is truly a glorious work; full of passages from God’s Word all of which point to and glorify Jesus.
Perhaps the best known piece from the Messiah is the Hallelujah Chorus. The custom of standing for the Hallelujah chorus is based on the belief that King George II was so moved that he stood up in approval at the London premiere in 1743 (although there is no evidence that he did so). Regardless, it is somewhat ironic that at the end of the Hallelujah Chorus most people assume that the performance is over and break into applause (a big no-no for a classical audience). But as you know, there is more to come in Revelation. So Handel continues the story of Jesus right up to the end (or should I say the beginning of life everlasting?!?!).
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain! Hallelujah and amen!
Tuesday, January 29 2019
Verse of the Day
If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” [John 14:7 – NIV]
Many ask, “What’s God the Father really like?” In the Old Testament we see a well-woven tapestry that depicts a close, personal, and constant relationship between God and His People. Many Old Testament figures walked and talked with God: Adam and Eve (before the Fall from Grace), Enoch, Noah (who God chose to continue man’s presence on earth after the Flood), Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Samuel, David, and many other prophets and kings. And let’s not forget that the Israelites, His Chosen People, had a close, personal relationship with Him, too. They saw His miracles (as well as His judgment), His presence (as represented by fire and smoke), and occasionally heard His voice. But, after the remnant returned from Babylon, God seems to have disappeared.
In the New Testament, we get occasional signs that God still speaks to His people, most notably when Jesus was being baptized (see Matthew 3:17: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”). As the New Testament times draw to a close, God no longer makes Himself known to His People, at least in an audible or visible way. There are reasons for this disappearance; the principle one being that, after His death, Jesus sent a Wise Counselor to us. Now, thanks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we Believers have the Spirit of God with us 24/7!
But, just as in Jesus’s day when the disciples wanted to know the Father, we too have an insatiable curiosity to know more about our Heavenly Daddy. We wonder, “What is God really like?” Well, in today’s passage, Jesus has the answer for us: if you want to know God the Father, get to know His Son. How do you do this? One of the best ways is to read the Word. The more you learn about Jesus, the more you will get to know God the Father.
Monday, January 28 2019
Verse of the Day
Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, The Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light; I will see His righteousness. [Micah 7:8-9 – NKJV]
It’s just a question of time. We all fall short; we all miss the mark. None of us are capable of living a sinless life. The Apostle Paul says it best in Romans 3: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But God in His infinite love and mercy provides us with a bridge, a pathway to redemption—His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Today’s passage from Micah reminds us about the attitude that we should have when we do fall into sin. Instead of being forlorn, bitter, and doubtful when we sin, we need to be confident in our God. Thanks to Jesus, “He will bring [us] forth into the light.” Please don’t misunderstand; we need to be vigilant in our battle against sin, but when we do stray, we can take comfort in the fact that we have a loving and forgiving God. This fact is made abundantly clear in 1 John 1:8-9 where we find the very direct promise of God’s forgiveness which should give us confidence as we confess our sins when we fail. Thank you, Jesus!
Friday, January 25 2019
Verse of the Day
Fear God and keep His commandments… [Ecclesiastes 12:13 – NKJV]
King Solomon started off strong in his walk with the Lord, but eventually he lost his way. His downward spiral was attributable to the two things he railed against the most in Proverbs: women and money. Like many in the secular world today, he found life to be empty, meaningless, pointless, and futile; eventually he hit rock bottom. Later in life he “rediscovered” God. Solomon chronicles his life experiences in the book of Ecclesiastes.
Today’s passage provides the answer to Solomon’s search for meaning and purpose in life: “Fear God and keep His commandments.” Ecclesiastes is a very profound book; it speaks to Believers and non-believers alike.
It’s a powerful message for the non-believer because Solomon walked in his/her shoes. If you are trying to find meaning in life by climbing the corporate ladder in a search for wealth and power; by buying a mansion in a gated community or a Ferrari for your garage, or hanging with the “in crowd” to elevate your social standing, you will no doubt become disillusioned, discouraged, and depressed. You will find life meaningless and without purpose. For a non-believer the only way to really discover the meaning of life is to “discover” God. A relationship with Jesus Christ is the key to a full and complete life. After all, our purpose in life is to worship and glorify (and enjoy!) the Lord our God.
Much as we hate to admit it, we Believers also go through times of disillusionment and depression. We occasionally see life as meaningless and futile. The book of Ecclesiastes is a great reminder for us that our lives have meaning and purpose only if we “fear God and keep His commandments.”
Thursday, January 24 2019
Verse of the Day
And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” [Genesis 11:4 – NKJV]
We have always been fascinated with the heights of buildings, skyscrapers that touch the heavens. This fixation with reaching into the sky has been part of all religions for centuries as mankind tries to connect with their gods. When the Israelites wandered away from the Lord their God, they worshipped the gods of the pagans in the “high places.” Clearly getting closer to the stars has meaning when trying to reach a higher power.
In today’s passage we see the futility of mankind after the Flood as they disobey God and build a tower to reach into Heaven. Ironically, the tower was probably only about seven stories tall, but that’s not the point. God disrupted their plans, confused their language, and the Tower of Babel was no more. But what about today?
Skyscrapers have been a part of our landscape for more than a century. There are good reasons for their existence: limitations on land use, the cost of land, economies of scale, etc. Most of these factors have to do with how our cities have developed, but that is certainly not the only reason that man seems to be so fascinated with the heights of these modern-day behemoths. There is always a competition going on, isn’t there? Who has the tallest building? New York? Chicago? Los Angeles? In the old days it was the Empire State Building and the Sears Tower. Then, we had the World Trade Center, which was tragically destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001. Today there are the competitors from other counties, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and China. What’s up with all of this? Is man still fixated with trying to reach into the heavens? I think the answer is an emphatic “yes!”
Don’t you know that God is looking down on us and wondering why we don’t get it? We just never seem to learn, do we?
Wednesday, January 23 2019
Verse of the Day
“If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” [John 14:7 – NIV]
What is the Father like? If you want to know Him intimately, learn His ways; get to know Jesus. Read about Jesus our Lord and Savior in the New Testament and you will see God. You will learn His likes and dislikes; how He treats His people; what’s really important to Him and what’s not; and on and on. You will also learn that God has emotions. He is not some cold, distant god; He is not an automaton. Our God has feelings. He loves and hates; He gets angry. After all, He is God and He has a right to. He is righteous and holy, but even thought He is set apart He has a real love for His children and wants to be with us.
You might be surprised to learn that God has a sense of humor. In fact, as you get to know Him better you will learn that you can really identify with God in many ways. Getting to know Him is like getting to know an earthly friend. So, start getting to know Him today! He wants to have a close, intimate relationship with you. Read His Word; it’s the best way to learn more about Him. If you know Jesus, you will know the Father!
Tuesday, January 22 2019
Verse of the Day
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you… [Matthew 5:44 – NKJV]
“Love your enemies” has to be the most difficult of all of Jesus’ commandments for us to understand, much less obey. As we grow in our faith, we start to get where Jesus is coming from, but it’s difficult to put the concept into practice. After all, there are people who just rub us the wrong way and a few whom we just can’t stand. This is the kind of love that requires a total transformation of our hearts. We have to learn to love fully and completely.
In Luke 10:29, a lawyer asks Jesus “[W]ho is my neighbor?” Jesus responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Jesus is teaching us that everyone is our neighbor, including our enemies. When we grasp what Jesus is saying and take it to heart, a concept that was once nonsensical to us becomes clear. The command to love our enemies is really a corollary to loving your neighbor. So, like the Good Samaritan, let’s show mercy and compassion to everyone we meet.
Friday, January 18 2019
Verse of the Day
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. [Romans 1:28 – NIV]
Paul certainly hit the nail on the head in Romans. He really tells it like it is. The evil one may be able to portray the secular world as an attractive and desirable alternative to following God’s ways, but appealing to our base instincts really is self-defeating in the end. As we grow up, we are brainwashed into believing that the world has so much to offer us, but does it? On closer examination, it’s really an evil, vile, detestable place; dark and evil.
The tragedy is that as Paul says, the lost “know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” They really need to hear the Good News! Let’s make sure that we share Jesus with all we meet today!
Thursday, January 17 2019
Verse of the Day
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” [Colossians 3:23 – NIV]
We are inundated nowadays with the view that our “exercise of religion” is limited to worship services on Sunday and that our religious beliefs and convictions have no relevance or place in our lives on the other days of the week. Don’t allow yourselves to be brainwashed into believing that your faith has no place at home, at work, or anywhere else that you may find yourself during the week.
The secular world is waging war on religion, especially Christianity. Of course, despite what you may hear on cable news or read in the newspapers, this is not exactly breaking news. It’s been going on for years; sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes not. It’s important, in fact critical, for Believers to resist this message.
As today’s passage reminds us, we work for God. He’s our Boss. So don’t leave your Bible at home when you go to work, but take His Word with you. Every aspect of your life, the decisions you make, your relationships, how you behave—all of it is based on your relationship with God. We don’t have two sets of rules in life. God’s Word is the only thing that matters in our lives. His rules are the ones that we should live by every day of the week!
Wednesday, January 16 2019
Verse of the Day
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. [Matthew 6:33-34 – NIV]
Businesses in America are always going through changes. There are mergers, acquisitions, downsizings, and other realignments. Many of you are facing a “life-changing” event. Some of you are losing your jobs. Some of you are moving forward with different companies. And others are virtually unaffected.
For those that are facing change, God has one thing to say to you: He will provide. You can take comfort in His Word. Trust in Him and He will provide. Change in corporate America is not an uncommon thing. Acquisitions are really not a bad thing, and you will be amazed at the future that is in store for you. Just wait for six months or so and you’ll see. And for those of you who are losing your jobs, believe me, God will provide new opportunities for you. Who knows? You may find your dream job, but regardless, He will provide.
The key is to trust and obey. Remember—don’t worry about tomorrow!
Tuesday, January 15 2019
Verse of the Day
“…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” [Luke 14:13-14 –NIV]
Although I was never a party animal, I have always enjoyed getting together with friends and having a good time. Sharon and I have occasional dinner parties, but we’ve never hosted a banquet; however, it does sound like a fun thing to do so maybe I’ll give it a shot someday.
Turning to today’s passage, the fact that I’m not ready to open our home to hundreds of people doesn’t mean that I get a pass from helping the poor and needy. At first blush, it would seem that Jesus’ point wasn’t merely the venue in which we meet the needs of the poor; it was about the nature or condition of our hearts as we reach out to them. Are we servants? Are we ready to do our part to help those less fortunate? Most of us can answer yes to these questions. We serve in homeless shelters, food pantries, soup kitchens, and we give financially to help the poor, but there is something more about this passage that bears mentioning.
The setting or location of the banquet in today’s passage really is significant; in fact it’s the key to the passage, and here’s why: When we volunteer at a homeless shelter we spend a few hours on a weekend helping some poor, down-and-out people get back on their feet. We share the Good News with them, we talk and laugh and sometimes we cry, but then we leave and return to our comfortable, cozy homes. What does that say about how we really feel about the poor and needy? Turn now to the banquet. When you throw a banquet you usually do so to honor the quests. You invite them into your home, you entertain them and feed them, and you show them honor and respect. I think that is what Jesus is saying here. It’s not enough to just care for the poor; it’s how you do it. Do you really care for those around you? Do you treat them with honor and respect? That’s the type of behavior that will ensure that you get “repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Thanks be to Jesus for showing us the Way! He is the Truth and the Light!
Monday, January 14 2019
Verse pf the Day
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… [Philippians 3:20 – NASB]
In the 1950s, we were fascinated by aliens from outer space zooming across the night sky in flying saucers. More recently, our focus has shifted to “illegal” aliens from south of the border. By labeling someone as an alien, all we are doing is saying they don’t belong or are foreign. An alien is someone who is different from us (whoever “us” may be).
As Christ Followers, we, too, are aliens. This may be a bit perplexing at first, but as the Apostle Paul tells us in today’s passage from Philippians, we are citizens of Heaven, and, as such, we are merely temporary residents of this world. But just because we are aliens doesn’t mean that we are to isolate ourselves from the world. We are not hermits. While we wait for God to call us home, we are to be engaged in the world around us sharing the Good News with the lost of the world. So let’s make a difference for Jesus today.
Friday, January 11 2019
Verse of the Day
Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” [Matthew 9:10-13 – NKJV]
The Pharisees were Jesus’s favorite target because they just didn’t get the point. They had deluded themselves (probably with a lot of help from Satan) into believing that it was enough just to keep the Law while forgetting why they were doing so. The purpose of the Law was to provide a means of covering sin so that God’s people could have a relationship with Him. The Law was about God, and when you take God out of the equation it becomes meaningless. The Pharisees had long forgotten the purpose of the Law. They were far more concerned with themselves than they were with God.
Then, Jesus entered the picture. I just love His response to the Pharisees in today’s passage, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” The Pharisees just didn’t get it; Jesus “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” The message of salvation needs to be shared with everyone.
When we hear Jesus railing against the Pharisees we have a tendency to get all worked up about the righteous around us today, those who have placed religiosity above all else. You know, those who are too “churchy,” too full of themselves. We never focus inward, but we should. Don’t all of us have a tendency to think that we get it, that we are following the program? Guard against this kind of attitude. We are just as susceptible to falling into the trap of thinking that we are special and others aren’t. Who are your neighbors? Are there people that you shun? Do you share God’s Word with those who need to hear it or only those who already have? Again, who is your neighbor?
Thursday, January 10 2019
Verse of the Day
“…let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.” [Exodus 25:8-9 – NKJV]
We have an intuitive nature that allows us to devise strategies to get things done. Some of us are better at planning than others, but it is an attribute that can be learned and developed. It’s a key part of your skill set at work. Every employer values employees who can strategize and plan; after all, that’s how we get things done in life, isn’t it? And here’s a comforting thought: No matter the level of your “planning IQ” there is hope for you. All you have to do is read the greatest book on management and business ever written, the Bible.
As today’s passage tells us, God is a planner; in fact, He is the Master Planner! He has an ultimate Plan for mankind which is revealed in His Word, a plan for each of us, and a myriad of other plans that thread their way throughout space and time.
If you want to learn more about planning, read the Bible. Focus on how God gets things done. There are tasks that God reserves for Himself like Creation and there are projects that He uses His people to accomplish like building the Tabernacle. Regardless, there is much for us to learn.
Wednesday, January 09 2019
Verse of the Day
Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” [John 11:47-48 – NIV]
The audacity! The people were beginning to believe in Jesus. Just imagine what would happen to the religious rulers of the day if belief in Jesus got out of control? They were concerned about the Romans taking away “our temple and our nation.” Funny, I thought it was God’s temple and God’s nation, but then what do I know? When the institution of religion becomes more important than its objective—worshiping and glorifying the Lord our God—then we’ve strayed way off course. God had absolutely nothing to do with the religious practices of the day. And that is exactly the point of so many of Jesus’s parables.
The old adage “The more things change the more they stay the same” is no doubt true. Things don’t change much, do they? The tendency to look out for “number one” is as prevalent today as it was in Jesus’s day. We are just as concerned about “turf” as the Sanhedrin was. What’s “ours is ours” and we’re going to fight to keep it to the bitter end. What kind of attitude is this? It’s certainly not one that we need in our lives. What’s ours is really God’s and we are His stewards. If we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves then we will use what God has given us to bring glory to Him. Let’s make sure that we look out for the real Number One, Jesus Christ! Make Him first in your life today.
Tuesday, January 08 2019
Verse of the Day
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. [Isaiah 53:5 – NKJV]
Like all adages, there is a certain amount of truth in the saying “time heals all wounds.” If you wait long enough in life, things generally take care of themselves. So, cuts, bruises, colds, and broken bones heal over time. Of course there are exceptions, like cancer, pneumonia, and strokes, but as mankind progresses, it’s likely that there will be a cure for almost everything that ails us. There is only one disease that we cannot conquer by ourselves—sin.
Yes, sin is a disease that eventually leads to death, but there is hope; there is a cure. Today’s passage from Isaiah tells us the answer, “… by His stripes we are healed.” Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He died on the Cross for our sins and overcame the grave to give us the opportunity for an everlasting life with Him. There is power in the blood of Jesus.
Monday, January 07 2019
Verse of the Day
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. [John 3:16 – NKJV]
First let’s clarify what I mean by leverage. I am not using the term in the financial sense (i.e., the degree or extent to which a business or investor is using borrowed money), nor am I using it in the engineering sense (as in using a fulcrum as a means of moving a heavy object). What I mean by leverage is the use of information about a person to affect, shape, or influence their behavior. Leverage is most commonly associated with business, politics, and other high-stakes activities, but we often see it employed in everyday life, too. Whether we know it or not, we often use what we know about others to influence them. The application of leverage raises connotations of a bad or evil motive or intent; however, that is not always the case. I’d like to submit that God uses leverage in His Plan for us; to save us and bring us into a loving relationship with Him.
God knows each of us intimately. He is constantly at work to bring about our salvation by using people, events, and other forces to affect and influence our behavior and ultimately our receptiveness to His Son, Jesus. As the Apostle Paul tells us, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” He brings all the leverage at His disposal to bring us into a right relationship with Him. And the fun part is that He knows beforehand exactly how we will react!
Of course there are countervailing forces at work. The evil one uses our prideful, self-centered nature to twist our minds and hearts so that we resist God and His Word. The secular world is actively involved in tearing down, demeaning, demonizing, ridiculing, and humiliating Christianity and Believers, but we know that God will prevail! We love Him because He first loved us. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”
Friday, January 04 2019
Verse of the Day
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” [Matthew 2:1-2 – NKJV]
The three wise men mentioned in today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew were members of the intellectual elite of their day. Isn’t it ironic that these learned men traveled a great distance to worship Jesus, while today our intellectuals are more interested in denying that Jesus is the Son of God? Modern-day elitists make light of and even ridicule Christianity, while the wise men of Jesus’ day knew something that the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious elite of the day, refused to acknowledge—that Jesus was the King of the Jews, the Messiah!
Many believe that intellect is an impediment to faith, but it just ain’t so! As the Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Romans, God’s existence can clearly be seen in His creation and therefore no one has an excuse for not believing in Him, not even the intellectual elite. Once we understand Who is really in charge, the strongest organ in the body, the heart, takes over and controls the mind. That’s what faith is all about.
Thursday, January 03 2019
Verse of the Day
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” [John 1:29 – NKJV]
In these devotionals I make fairly frequent reference to my background as a rock ’n’ roll guy, so hopefully you’ll forgive me for yet another shout-out to the Hollies and their 1964 hit “Just One Look.” It just seems so apropos. I think that it fits to a “T” the scene that unfolds before us in today’s passage. Picture Jesus walking towards His cousin, John the Baptist; John glances up and immediately recognizes Him as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Just one look, that’s all it took, yeah!
I don’t think we need to trouble ourselves with questions like “How did John recognize Jesus” and so on. If we let our brains spin out of control we can come up with many layers to this onion. But, it’s obvious that John was divinely inspired and God had given him insight into Jesus’ identity. After all, John the Baptist was sent ahead of Jesus to announce His coming. So John knew full well who and what Jesus was. He was (and is) the Christ, the Son of God.
What about you? Do you know Him? Can you state with certainty that He is your Lord and Savior? Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away your sins and mine! All honor and glory goes to You, Lord Jesus!
Wednesday, January 02 2019
Verse of the Day
When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin. If he cannot afford a lamb, he is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the Lord as a penalty for his sin – one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. … If, however, he cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, he is to bring as an offering for his sin a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. [Leviticus 5:5-7, 11 – NIV 1984]
The concept of fairness is getting a lot of press nowadays. When we were growing up, we learned the ways of the world and the worldly concept of what is fair (and conversely, what’s not) was ingrained in our psyches. But what is fair from a secular perspective and what is fair in God’s eyes are often diametrically opposed to one another. When those of the secular world look at God’s Word, they are often shocked by many of the things that God considers to be just and right. We as Believers have to “unlearn” much of what we were taught over the years as we study God’s ways. Humans are fixated on fairness, while God is the epitome of truth and justice. He is everything that is just, right, true, and holy. In the end, God’s justice prevails because it focuses on and reflects His majesty and glory. It really is all about Him!
Today’s passage from Leviticus is interesting because conceptually it is one of the few in the Bible with which the secular world could agree. The situation involves certain types of sin offerings where a person does not respond when he/she is a witness and could give testimony, touches something ceremonially unclean, touches human uncleanliness, or takes an oath carelessly. This is the only offering which takes into account the offender’s ability to “pay” and makes adjustments accordingly. There is no such reprieve based on circumstances and ability for the other offerings.
Contrast this with the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), which is perhaps one of the most unfair results in the Bible from a human perspective. In this parable, Jesus describes a landowner who hires workers for his vineyard throughout the day—beginning at dawn and again at 9 a.m., at noon, at 3 p.m., and finally at 5 p.m. When it came time to settle up with the workers, the landowner pays the ones he hired at 5 p.m. the same amount he’d agreed to pay the ones that he’d hired at dawn. In fact he paid all the workers the exact same amount without taking into account the fact that many had worked less than the others. Those that started earlier in the day were appalled that those that started much later (3 p.m. and 5 p.m.) got paid the same as they did. When they complained, the landowner said, “Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? Take what is yours and go. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my business? Are you jealous because I’m generous?” (Matthew 20:13-15.) The point Jesus is making is that the length of time which a Believer knows and believes in Him has no bearing on his salvation. The parable stands for the proposition that a concern about rewards based on merit, as opposed to the grace of God, has no place in His Kingdom.
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)