Job was holistic in his commitment
In addition to wealth and justice, Job was known for his purity. He’s the one who said “I have made a covenant with my eyes,” isn’t he?
In Job 29, he says that he wears righteousness and justice. They are always with him. They are the closest thing to his body at all times. He has full integrity with his commitment to the vulnerable–integrity that extends even into the private areas of his life.
But how does someone become that complete?
Job was action-oriented in his commitment to the poor
Yesterday I wrote about how Job was known for his commitment to the poor and vulnerable more than he was known for his wealth–a point that, for me, was lost until last weekend.
In reading over this passage the last few days, I’ve been impressed by the action-orientation of Job’s commitment. He rescued and assisted people. Not only that, but he was close enough to hear their cries, blessings, and songs.
There’s been a lot of political advocacy in Jesus’ name, and I’ve often been drawn into it. However, the most important lesson Job might be teaching me–a lesson exemplified even better by Christ himself–is the primacy of doing justice over convincing others to do it. Personal action over advocacy.
The commitment that made Job famous
“When I went to the gate of the city and took my seat in the public square, the young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet; the chief men refrained from speaking and covered their mouths with their hands; the voices of the nobles were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths. Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me, because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist him. The man who was dying blessed me; I made the widow’s heart sing. I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.” -Job 29:7-17
Job was famous in his time, and he still is in ours. I suspect that today, for most people, Job’s name is synonymous with wealth; until this weekend, that would have been my first thought whenever I heard his name. Yet that is not what he was most known for in his lifetime. Until this weekend’s sermon, which came from Job 29, I had never quite realized how committed Job was to working for the poor and the vulnerable, or that he attributed his reputation to that commitment. Based on this chapter, the respect he enjoyed was due not to his wealth, but to his work for these people.
That really makes sense. There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you meet a powerful person devoted to helping the powerless. Lots of people talk and write fervently about helping the vulnerable–how many of us devote that same energy into actually helping?
Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. -Proverbs 4:23
One of my good friends tells me he doesn’t preach on something until he has had the chance to practice it for at least a month. He makes sure he only speaks passionately about what he really knows.
That has been such a good lesson for me. I tend to be affected by new ideas very easily, and I want to speak out about them, or write about them, as soon as I can. But my friend’s lesson goes so deep. Not only does it keep him from piling heavier loads on the people who hear him than he himself is able to bear, like Jesus once accused some religious leaders of doing, but it also protects his heart.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
The Metanoia Model
The fruit of a Sabbath afternoon flow-of-consciousness. Enjoy!
What do you think? Comment below!
It’s more important to love God today than tomorrow.
“’Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ’You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” –Mark 12:32-33
Yesterday I identified, more clearly than before, my own personal tendency to love God more with my future plans than with my current life. I realized that I am more in love with God in my dreams than when I am awake.
I have often found myself occupied with determining the most powerful way I can serve God in the future—how I could plant churches or start programs or give my life for people—but alarmingly unconcerned about the implications of loving God today. It makes me think of the parable of the sower in Mark 4: “but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Who knew the “other things” could include plans for future service?
So right now, I’m trying to change my perspective. Instead of worrying about how my convictions right now should shape my future life, I’ll be thinking and praying about how my convictions right now should shape my life right now. I’ll still look to the future to prepare for things—I still love to dream—but I’m going to try to love God right now, first.
Two thoughts from White’s Acts of the Apostles.
“Before ascending to heaven, Christ gave His disciples their commission. He told them that they were to be the executors of the will in which He bequeathed to the world the treasures of eternal life.” -Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles p. 27
In chapter three of Acts of the Apostles, Ellen White has just given me a new way of understanding our commission: “to be the executors of the will in which He bequeathed to the world the treasures of eternal life.” Suddenly, the whole task seems quite a bit simpler. An executor doesn’t own the inheritance, or decide who gets it, or have any say in what the inheritance actually is. The primary thing an executor is responsible for is seeing that everyone identified in the will is notified and receives their portion of the deceased’s estate.
I’m excited about this because, first of all, it’s just good news. The core of the message Christ wanted us to give is that everyone has an inheritance in Christ. He came so that everybody could live eternally. That’s what he wanted to leave with the world. And that’s the main thing we’ve got to tell people. Jesus wants you to live forever. Probably, the times Christians are accused of hate come from the times we have not given that message a central place in our preaching.
Second, the role Jesus gave us has the potential to be a lot of fun. The executor of a will is responsible for contacting all of the heirs and letting them know what they have coming. I’ve never done this, and certainly the joy of it has to be dampened by the fact that the person being contacted was probably very close, in some way, to the deceased. So I have some other examples: in Cambodia, people don’t use the postal system much–it’s not very accessible. So when anyone has a wedding, they and their friends have to hand deliver every invitation. Or, as I discovered on my recent trip home, everyone has something to send to, or has something they want to get from , the US. So they send it by person. And sure, maybe tracking people down every time there’s a wedding or every time you go to the US doesn’t make your life easier, but it is awesome to be the person giving the gift or the invitation. You paid nothing for the gift yourself, but you get all the joy and good feelings of being the one that gives it and seeing the expression on the face of the recipient. And that’s what we get to do. We get to let people know that they can have eternal life if they want it.
Don’t let compassion fatigue happen to you.
“If you have… any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” -Philippians 2:1-2
Sometimes I might sound harsh. I have been. Sometimes it seems that harshness is pervasive. Sometimes it seems unremarkable–necessary. But Paul and Timothy woke me up this morning.
Who would think that in Philippians, that uncompromising epistle that includes statements like “to live is Christ and to die is gain” and “whatever was to my profit I now consider loss,” the hardest thing for me to do would be sharing something? And sharing serious things, like a mind, a love, a spirit, and a purpose? And because of tenderness and compassion?
Really, it’s completely in line with what the rest of the letter describes.
In Philippians, tenderness and compassion (and encouragement and comfort and fellowship) are influential. These are the things, as gifts of the Spirit, through which the authors give up anything.
Once, at the end of a year of conference planning, I heard someone mention compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is the indifference, the harshness, that can hit you when you see too many terrible things without any encouragement. It can relate to a single issue you’ve focused on, or to life as a whole. It can make the work you were once ready to die for mean nothing to you.
Since bad things make good news, and since news is so accessible, I think more people on this planet are closer to compassion fatigue than ever before–including Christians.
The only way we can be united is if we keep our compassion healthy. The only way to keep our compassion healthy is to spend more time focused on our source of encouragement than the source of our problems. As the church, both for our health, and our productivity, we have to focus more than ever before on Jesus, his grace, and what the Holy Spirit is doing.
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” -Philippians 1:2
Why church membership matters.
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” -Ephesians 4:25
Sometimes people don’t like the word “member”. It sounds like it comes from a club or something. It sounds exclusive and shallow.
But “member” actually means something pretty crazy. It means a part of the body. And this concept has been around since the very beginning of church history.
So instead of disparaging the word, I think it’s better if we start trying to live up to the word. Maybe, instead of changing the word we use, we should say it with more intention and integrity.
This means a few things:
1. Since body parts don’t just jump around from body to body, I can’t just jump around from fellowship to fellowship. This runs deeper than just the place I visit once a week. This affects where I let my job take me, how often I move, how much I travel, and the way I spend my free time day by day. A body exists 24/7, not one day a week.
2. Since I need to commit to my church like a body part, it matters that the local fellowship has the tools to hold me accountable—which means transferring my membership to them. Otherwise, church discipline loses its power, and no one holds me accountable. My membership has been at the Willits SDA Church (which I really, really love), in California, since I was baptized. But I haven’t lived there for 10 years. Who knows what I’ve been up to? I do keep in touch with folks from Willits, but how can they really hold me to any standard? This is my bad—I should have transferred my membership long ago. I’ll be working on that.
3. Since the body is all connected, we’ve got to be honest with each other. On a person-to-person basis, with the local fellowship to which we’re bound. My church doesn’t only hold me accountable—I take responsibility for them in return. And honesty definitely makes things more intimate—like a body.
Commit to your church for more than once a week. Tie yourselves in locally, officially. Be honest with each other. Be a member.
Christ will establish you.
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” -2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Living in Christ involves deliberate action. The comfort of knowing Jesus does not satisfy you with human goodness—it moves you. Like a rope and a harness give a new climber the comfort to scale 80 feet of sheer plywood, so life in Christ gives a new believer comfort to reach new places in character, generosity, and service. If Christian life inspires you to action that anyone could logically justify outside of Christ, is your belief really in your Creator?
If you believe in Christ, and find your comfort in Christ, he will establish you in good works and words. Establishment involves time and scale: it is the beginning of a long-term entity with a far reach. And establishment is the definition of our present lives for anyone who believes. We are being prepared—established—for a time and scale without end.
So what good work or word do you know God wants to establish you in? And what short-term fear is stopping you from it? What comfort do you have in Christ?
Don’t let your shortsighted fear blind you to Jesus’ comfort, and in the end keep you from being established for life—all of life.