March 19, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on March 15, 2013.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Envy”

Psalm 37:1-2, 35-36

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;  2for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away . . . 35I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,  36but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. 

This may be hyperbole, but it seems to me that nothing can shipwreck our faith quite like envy.  Envy is different from other sins in that while other sins offer the potential for some kind of satisfaction (e.g. gluttony, pride, anger and lust), envy brings nothing but emptiness and pain (this is not meant to be a justification of other sins!).   Envy robs us of our contentment and satisfaction in God.  Indeed, a life filled with envy is the opposite of a life filled with Godly joy and gratitude.

How much more so when the objects of our envy are people who do not follow Jesus?  This is not a hypothetical scenario by the way.  Envy can manifest in a number of ways, beyond naked desire.  Some of us who scorn or react contemptuously toward “evil” may really be struggling with envy. 

However, David’s solution to envy was not to point out its folly or danger, but to point to the bigger picture.  When we are envious of others, it is almost always because we have lost our focus on the bigger picture of who God is and who we are in Christ.

Are you struggling with envy?  Do you wonder why “wicked” people are succeeding around you?  Does the Christian life seem overly difficult with too many sacrifices required?  Ask God today to help you see the bigger picture.  

Prayer: Father, I confess that worldly standards of success, achievement and acquisitions sometimes distract me from my desire for You.  I find myself comparing myself to others, and in those times, I lose the joy and contentment that I know You want for me.  I thank You for Your love and salvation.  Help me to remember that I am to seek treasures in heaven and not treasures on this earth.  Help me to remember all the blessings You have abundantly poured out upon me.  In Jesus’s name, I pray.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Jeremiah 5


Lunch Break Study

In Luke 12:13, Jesus encounters a man who has fallen into the trap of envying his brother.  His brother’s inheritance had become a source of discontent and was poisoning his heart against his brother.  His desire for wealth had become more important than his relationship with his brother.  Talk about misplaced priorities and perspective!  

Jesus counters with a parable that showed the foolishness of such thinking.  There are more important things than money, wealth or success.  We can’t take these things with us beyond the grave.  But our treasure in heaven will last forever.  

Read Luke 12:13-21 (NIV): Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” 

Questions to Consider

  1. How does Jesus describe the method by which this man became successful (verse 16)?  What does this tell us about success?
  2. Why does God call this remarkably successful man a “fool”?
  3. What does it mean to be “rich toward God” (c.f. Luke 12:31-33)?

Notes

  1. Jesus says, “The ground of a certain rich man produced a great crop.”  While this rich man seems to think that he has engineered his own success, we can tell from Jesus’s language that this crop came by the grace of God.  God created the land and everything on it.  Everything we have is by the grace of God.
  2. While the rich man in Jesus’s parable would have been considered a success by this world, God calls him a fool because his investment horizon was far too short.  Instead of investing in (and for) eternity, he had invested in things that would not last.  The reality is that while we may have some fifty, sixty, seventy years in this life, we will have billions upon billions upon billions of years after this life with God.  Wise people have a proper investment horizon! 
  3. Immediately following the parable of the rich fool, Jesus explains that his followers do not have to worry for they have a Father in heaven who knows what they need and will provide for them.  Instead, they are to “seek God’s kingdom” (verse 31) and “sell [their] possessions and give to the poor” (verse 33).  These summary statements tell us that a life “rich to God” means investing the resources God has given to us in kingdom projects.  Using our resources only on ourselves is foolish short-term thinking.  Using our resources so that God’s will would be done in our communities and among our neighbors is wise long-term thinking.

Evening Reflection

Where is your focus these days?  Are you able to see the bigger picture?  As you journal tonight, confess the ways that you are focusing upon yourself rather than upon God.  If you have been envious of someone, confess that envy to God and ask for his provision and perspective.

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