Key verse: Deuteronomy 24:19
Big idea: Covenant blessings do not belong to us.
Deuteronomy 24 describes an important part of Israelite law called gleaning. When a farmer harvested their field, it was forbidden to go to the very corners of the property or to go back and collect places that had been missed before. These edges of the fields belonged to the poor, the widow, and the foreigner, who had no land of their own. The farmer owned the land, had tilled it, planted it, and watered it, but God commanded that the fruits of their labor belonged to someone else. When the harvest was completed, the indigent could go behind and "glean" the remainder. It provided for their basic needs while preserving the dignity of work. But how was it just for God to take the products of the land from the one who owned it and had worked it to give to someone else?
The biblical explanation was that landowner was a misnomer: the land belonged to God. All of it. The worker lifted the hoe with the arms that God had given him, planted his crops in God's earth, let it soak up God's water, and the crops grew with God's sunshine. The blessings belonged to God and He graciously blessed us with them, but that does not make them ours. So when God instructed the Israelites to tithe every year, He was not taking 10% of their possessions but allowing them to keep 90% of what belonged to Him. So to give them the bulk of the land and then give the corners of His property to the poor, God was reminding them about who really owned it all.
This is a good lesson for us too. We may take the credit for the blessings that God has given us, but He alone deserves the glory. If our strength and our time belong to God, then however he asks us to use those resources is His business. If He makes us a steward of His money, then we are obligated to use it in the way that pleases its real Owner.
Discussion idea: What is some blessing in your life that you are tempted to claim ownership of? How could you redirect it for God's glory?
Prayer focus: Lord, remind me that all of the resources in my life are your blessings, and help me to use them for Your glory.
Key Verse: Luke 14:11
Big Idea: The humble are exalted by the Son of Man.
Have you ever seen someone waving at you, smiled, and waved back, only to find out they were waving at someone else? There is a particular kind of embarrassment that comes from thinking we are more important than we are and getting cut down to size. When it is some small social slip up, like a wave, we get over it quickly, but it still reveals something important about our hearts.
The first parable Jesus told in today’s chapter was hardly a parable at all. He saw the way that the people at the dinner party were competing for the honorable position, and gave them a very simple instruction: “Knock it off.” It is better, Jesus taught them, to put yourself in a low position and get invited to come up higher, than to put yourself in a top position and get knocked down a few pegs. When I was thirteen, my Dad captured the idea: “I would pat you on the back if you would get your hand out of the way.”
This is good advice for us in every arena. Don’t tell other people how great you are: be humble and let someone else lift you up. Jesus connects this to a fundamental theological principle: God will lift up the humble, and oppose the proud (Proverbs 29:23; James 4:6). Yet for something so obvious, Christians in ministry seem particularly vulnerable to missing it. There is no better example of this than Jesus Himself, who came and associated with the people who were rejected and mistreated. He humbled Himself, all the way to dying on a cross between two thieves. But because He humbled Himself, our Heavenly Father raised Him up again, seated Him back in His rightful place in the throne of Heaven, and gave Him dominion over all things. He is our example.
When we try and fight our own way to the top, we are working against the only King’s will and plan. Instead, if we trust Him and admit our own weakness, we are given freely what we could never take. The same one who was exalted for humbling Himself exalts us too.
Discussion idea: Why is pride such a powerful enemy? How can you be humble with your friends, following the example of Jesus?
Prayer focus: Thank God for humbling Himself to rescue you from your sin. Ask God to help you see the areas in your own life where humility is needed, and for help seeing Him clearly enough to put yourself into perspective.
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