Key verse: Deuteronomy 15:2
Big idea: God's covenant overrides all of our other relationships.
Jim Collins, renowned business author, wrote: "Good is the enemy of great." People rarely set out to be mediocre, but they often settle by stopping before they reach their real goal. Goals are hard because they require trade-offs: saying yes to one person or task requires saying no to another. We only have so much time, and we only have so much attention. If we have to choose between two good things how can we distinguish the good from the great? The answer, I think, is purpose. A company with a clearly defined strategy is much more likely to succeed, an athlete training toward a record will excel, and so on.
But ultimately, each of these goals must be evaluated in light of the master purpose of your life. The resources devoted to any relationship or task all depend on how it supports that ultimate goal. Deuteronomy 15 introduces some laws that are bad for business: every seven years, all debts were forgiven and slaves were released. It was bad enough for the aspiring banker that Israelites were not allowed to charge each other interest, but now lending was not just a break-even proposition. If they had not paid it back before the year of release, it would be a loss. And God forbade anyone from refusing to lend to their brother because the year of release was at hand. Generosity and forgiveness were literally the Law. How is it possible to sacrifice the repayment you are entitled to or the service you have paid for?
God's answer in Deuteronomy 15 is that our relationship with Him overrides all other relationships. We treat our brothers and sisters with generosity and kindness because God has given the same things to us. We who have been strangers and exiles in the world should treat the weak and vulnerable with the same grace that God has shown us. Following these regulations might sacrifice profit or comfort but our relationship with God is truly "the bottom line." We can pursue many other good goals, but only our walk with the LORD is great.
Discussion idea: When you are choosing a job, a spouse, a sport to play, or a college, how does the supremacy of your walk with God affect your decisions?
Prayer focus: Lord, help me to make You the center of my life, and bring everything else into place around you.
Key Verse: Luke 13:34
Big Idea: When our hearts are hard, the Son of Man’s is broken.
In Luke 13, Jesus’ conflict with the religious leaders begins to escalate. He compares them to a fruitless fig tree that is ready to be cut down, heals a woman on the sabbath day, and warns that the apparent outsiders will eat at the table with Abraham, while the insiders will be cast out. The heat was rising, but Christ did not respond to the warning that His life was in danger. This is why He came. So He went to the Holy City where so many prophets had been betrayed before and cried over Jerusalem with a broken heart. Like a hen shelters her chicks beneath her wings, Jesus said that He had tried to pull the people into safety and security, yet they rejected Him time after time. He warned them that they were out of time, and would not see Him again until they were ready to receive Him (Psalm 118:26).
I look at that and wonder about myself as a pastor. Do I walk boldly into the place where people are hurting? Am I broken or indignant when people do not respond the way I think they ought to? I am afraid that too often, when people throw rocks and criticism like it's their profession, I am a long way from the loving posture of a mother hen. The patience of Jesus is incredible, yet there are still consequences for being outside of His shelter. They are left desolate: a fig tree ready to be uprooted by God. Even this rejection is not final, at least on a national level. One day, they will say: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The door has closed for this generation, but a future generation will see Jesus for who He is. Jesus was truly the Christ, the Messiah of Israel, and while His own generation rejected Him all the way to the cross, one day the people will return to Him, when the fullness of the Gentiles have been saved (Romans 11:25).
In our own lives, we can be reassured of God’s patient love. For most of us, we hear His loving call and break His heart many times before we respond. But, eventually, we have our last chance. The people we minister to may reject and harden their hearts, but our responsibility is to be faithful to extend the gospel message for as long as they will hear it. If it costs us personally, we are no better than our Lord.
Discussion Idea: What does it mean to be patient? Does patience mean that someone is never punished for their mistakes?
Prayer Focus: Thank God for a specific instance where He was patient with you.