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“And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to their own ability, and immediately he went on a journey.” Matthew 25:15
I must admit that for years I have read this parable wrongly. I read it through the lens of equity: the talents were unequal. My faulty vision created illusions that missed the point and mis-appropriated blame.
But one day, one phrase was the only thing I saw in this verse: “according to their own ability”. That phrase is the peg the whole parable hangs on; and in the blink of an eye, my understanding of the parable drastically changed! And I saw myself in the third servant.
The master knew his servants and their capability. Though each had equal worth, each did not have equal capacity. The gift (talent) was according to the ability of each and, therefore, the gift (and the master) was fair.
Though it is not stated, each gift carried with it responsibility: the servants were to invest the gift. The return on investment was to be in proportion to what was invested; they were not responsible for a return that was greater than their investment. In short, the return was according to the invested gift and the gift was according to capacity.
We know how the story goes. The master gives the talents and goes on his way, leaving his servants to manage what he had entrusted to them. Two performed exactly as he knew they were capable of doing; but the third didn’t. He “…dug in the ground and hid his lord’s money.” (verse 18)
We could think of all sorts of psychological reasons for what he did; but the master goes right to the heart of the matter: “…you wicked and lazy servant….” Character is the issue here, not capacity. The third servant lacked responsibility (lazy) and integrity (wicked:blamed his master). He had the capacity to invest but not the character to do so.
And this is where I see myself. My capacity is God’s parameter that defines the territory I am to own and occupy. (See blog “Own and Occupy”.) Within that parameter are gifts/talents I am to develop and invest. The question that begs to be answered is “How am I doing with that?” If I am honest, when I focus on what I don’t have (See blog”Own and Occupy”.), then I am not using/developing/investing what I do have. In short, I am burying my talent.
Pondering that has made me ask myself: am I lazy? Again if I’m honest, I would have to answer yes. It’s hard (and scary) work to assume responsibility for that which is my territory. To take risks in developing the gifting/talent I’ve been given. To explore that territory with creativity and energy and faith. It’s much easier to cop out with “I don’t have that gifting or ability or personality or energy or resource or…whatever.”
That realization has stopped me dead in my tracks. My character is exposed! The problem is me; and I must deal with it before God if I am to own and occupy ‘my garden’. For you see, I too want to hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant…”. My character, not my capacity, will determine that.
I wonder if a ‘character assessment day’ might be a worth-while investment? Get back to me if you have such a day.
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“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat….’” Genesis 2:15-17
What am I responsible for? What is the territory I am to own and occupy? That is the question that runs around in my head these days. It is there because I have just finished reading Boundaries by Cloud/Townsend. It’s a book that sat on our bookshelf for years and years, unread because I really didn’t have a problem with establishing boundaries. But as I read, I realized that boundaries are more than setting limits to keep something/someone out. Boundaries are parameters that define who I am and what I’m about.
With that in mind, I return to the first boundary established by God for mankind. It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. It was a parameter that reminded Adam and Eve who they were (They were not God; see blog post “What is your tree?”) and what they were about (Their territory.) The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was God’s territory; the rest of the Garden was theirs. They were to own it and occupy it. Tend to it and cultivate it. The Garden was their responsibility. It was here they were to represent and reflect their Creator, doing so with all the creativity, intelligence and ability God had invested in them at creation.
But the serpent implied it wasn’t enough. And so, Adam and Eve lost their way; they ignored what was theirs to own and occupy and reached for that which didn’t belong to them.
I wonder if their problem isn’t my problem as well? That I, too, don’t own and occupy that which is mine but reach for that which doesn’t belong to me? Someone else’s fame or success or possessions or lifestyle or spirituality or gifting or blessing or personality or…. You name it and more-than-likely I want it.
Seeking to occupy territory that is not my own is a bad idea. It never works. I strive but don’t achieve. I hope but it doesn’t happen.
So, I ask myself: what am I responsible for? I know intuitively that it is me - who I am and what I’m about. It’s inclusive of my body, soul and spirit. I am ‘my garden’ and I am to own and occupy all of it. Take responsibility for that which is ‘me’.
To do that with integrity, I need to be settled with God’s creation of me: my capacities, strengths, weaknesses; in that acceptance lies my inner peace and my ability to own and occupy ‘my garden’.
But that is another truth, another Scripture, another blog. ’Own and occupy’ is enough for now. We’ll continue the journey; but until then, I’d love your input and interaction.
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“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’ ” Luke 2:10, 11.
God continues His communique to His chosen people. For 400 years, He had been silent. Not a word between the end of Malachi and the beginning of Matthew; but the fullness of time had come and He begins to speak. First to Zacharias, then to Mary, then to Joseph and now to the shepherds. To all four, He speaks a message of hope that challenges them to believe the impossible. You see, the impossible was what was needed if hope was to happen, if their future was to look different than their past and present.
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“Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?’ ” Matthew 19:27.
Peter’s question is a spin-off from Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler. He had heard the standard from Jesus’ own lips: total commitment. He sizes the twelve up…and they measure up. They had done what He commanded…they are living the call. They had left their fishing nets and their professions. They are 24/7 in His journey. They aren’t perfect…but they are following. In view of that, “what shall we have?”
The question is somewhat bothersome. It seems so…well, works-orientated and self-centered. Not much different than the rich young ruler in attitude and mind-set. It sounds like tit-for-tat, doesn’t it? We’ve done this…what are You going to do?
Yet, it’s a legitimate question. Investment is to yield return. Sowing is to yield harvest. Asking is to yield receiving. Obedience is to yield reward. Cause is to yield effect. It’s God’s universal law of order…a reflection of His character. He is neither arbitrary in His nature nor random in His rule. He is a God of sequence…reason…balance.
The quandary for Peter is this: If the riches of the rich young ruler didn’t yield eternal life and we (who are not rich) have left all to follow You, what assurance do we have that there will be a yield…that eternal life is ours?
It’s a question that has to do with the character of God: is He fair? Is He equitable? It trails what went on with the rich young ruler and it prefaces a parable Jesus will tell to verify God’s justice.
It all centers around the issue of eternal life: who qualifies? Well, no one does…because none of us can meet God’s holy requirements. We’re all on a level playing field. Our riches can’t buy it. Our good works can’t earn it. Yet eternal life can be ours…because of His mercy. God is fair.
“…We have left all and followed You. What shall we have?” Well…thrones, houses, lands, family and eternal life! I find it interesting that Jesus did not rebuke Peter for the question, but validates it by giving an answer. It’s directive for the disciples but inclusive of every follower of all times. It is futuristic yet immediate. It speaks to the eternal yet encapsulates the temporal. It’s intangible yet tangible. It’s hope of reward that begins in the here-and-now world…a down payment of things to come. It is not “pie in the sky”…a “carrot before your nose”. Commitment will yield a harvest that begins now and carries on into eternity.
The “now” yield will be plentiful…it’s a hundredfold. What you have given up for Jesus’ sake will be given back beyond what you can ask or think. It is not tit-for-tat…God giving back in proportion to what you’ve given. No, His reward for your following is beyond what you deserve…grace that isn’t stingy and miserly. It’s that mercy again. God is fair.
I get all of that; but I have pondered for weeks now the last verse in this chapter of Matthew 19, verse 30: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” It seems so…well, out there. I can understand it in the context of the parable that followed…but I can’t get my head around it in the context of what went before.
The conclusion I have drawn is this: as God is fair in His bestowal of eternal life and as He is fair in rewarding those who have followed Him, so He is fair regardless of the tenure of that following. Those who have followed all their life (“But many who are first…”) will have no more advantage than those who have followed on their deathbed (…and the last first”). Eternal life is eternal life. That reward will be the same, no matter the jurisdiction and journey of the following. That reward is not founded on man’s work of following but on God’s character of mercy. He is fair.
However, I wonder if we don’t question the fairness of God as we walk this journey called life? You know, you’re a faithful employee and work really hard but the promotion goes to someone else…you’re diligent in your studies but a classmate crams at the last minute and pulls off top grades…you scrimp to pay your bills but you have a friend who “everything he touches turns to gold”.
This “is God fair” question has been (and can continue to be) something I’ve grappled with it in the journey of Christian ministry. It often seems that my efforts, energy, devotion yields a limited harvest…that I believe for so much but deliver so little. I watch others achieve things I’ve dreamed of but have never seen materialize…and they seem to do it so easily. I look at my skill set and find it doesn’t match my dreams…that I don’t have the gifting for the things I long to achieve in ministry. And I come up thinking and feeling God is not fair.
But then, I go back to who God is: He is just…He is righteous…He is merciful. He never makes a mistake…He never calls to something He doesn’t equip for. His ways are perfect, past finding out. He looks for faithfulness not success. He rewards…not because of my efforts but because that is His character. He is “the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6.
And then I remember His “here and now” rewards: cabins we’ve enjoyed that were someone else’s cabin, time-shares that belonged to another but given to us for a needed get-away, the houses we’ve lived in that defied our “pocket book”, the friends who became family, the “life of faith” that has allowed us to witness God’s financial resources all these years. And I know, in the midst of my doubt, that God is fair.
I have sowed…a harvest will come. That’s God’s law of order. He is fair…and faithful.
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“But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ ” Matthew 19:26.
We like this verse, don’t we? It seems to offers us a blank check for whatever impossible situation we’re facing. It magnifies the greatness of our God and, in so doing, sizes-down our impossibility. It’s true, nothing is impossible with God; but that truth (in the context of this verse) has a specific focal point in view. It’s all about eternal life…and who qualifies.
Jesus had just offered it to the rich young ruler…but he turned it down because of his great riches. Believe it or not, that was not peculiar to this young man; so Jesus begins to teach truth to the 12 disciples looking on…for they have their own form of riches. Things they trust in to find favor with God. And so do we. More on that in a moment.
Jesus says, in explanation of the ruler’s rejection, that it is hard for a rich man to find eternal life; it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. And since that is impossible, so much harder is it for a rich man to enter heaven.
The standard disturbs the disciples. They get the message and so respond in despair: “Who then can be saved?” Matthew 19:25. And that is just the point. Sinful man cannot meet God’s standards for acceptance. To seek to do so with riches or good works or anything else we throw into the mix is arrogance…a failure to grasp the thoroughness of our depravity and the holiness of our God.
And yet, don’t we do that? Use our riches (those things we consider valuable) to curry divine favor? I find my own “riches” can be pretty sanctimonious. Oh, they are good in themselves; but if I feel ‘I’m ok with God’ because of them, then I’ve become a self- righteousness snob. And just what are my ‘riches’? Oh, such things as reading my Bible…devotion to prayer…investing in others…doing right and being right in the process. When I find myself there, it isn’t long before I find myself striving to please God in order to be accepted and approved by Him. I’m appalled…that self-work is an issue in me. I know self-work will never please God…but I also know how impossible it is to rid me of its tyranny because that is who I am. Self-work is my default.
There have been times in my life when God decides to zero in on this bent. Not by rebuking me for it but by allowing me to experience the futility of it. Years ago was such a time. We had lived in very difficult circumstances for a very long time, and nothing we did seemed to change that. I tried to do all the right ‘stuff’, dot my “i’s and cross my ‘t’s” and follow every rabbit trail of good works I knew. But nothing worked…nothing gave. I had hit a wall…and God seemed distant and unavailable. In fact, God seemed impossible to please…and that is just where He wanted me. You see, I must approach God on the basis of who He is…not who I am. I will never be good enough to please Him…that is my impossibility. But because He is mercy and grace, He can embrace me with love and acceptance…that is His possibility. His mercy alone is the basis for relationship that goes on into eternal life…and that is what the rich young ruler missed.
Does that mean that we don’t live to please God? Of course not! But pleasing Him is delight…not duty. It is the natural response to His mercy and grace…the reflection of the love relationship we share. As I am expanded in who God is, I will be expanded in my response of good works…and that will please my God. Yes, it’s His possibility in my impossibility. Being there is eternal life lived in time.
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“…But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments…. Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow Me.’” Matthew 19:17, 21.
Say that again, Jesus. Are You saying what I think You’re saying…that I can earn my way to heaven? That if I do the right stuff, I’ll get my ‘entrance pass’? That’s what it sounds like, doesn’t it? But contrary to perception, the question raised in this challenge to the rich, young ruler is not one of ‘doing’ but one of ‘being’.
The heart of the conversation centered around ‘treasure’: what it was and where it was. Treasure, for this rich young ruler, was his material possessions…his tangible assets…his temporal wealth that allowed him to live his chosen lifestyle. It was ‘here and now’ treasure…the kind you can feel and touch…can draw from or stockpile…have control over.
The interesting thing about the conversation is that Jesus does not discredit having treasure; He just says that for it to have value, it must go beyond the temporal…our life-span. It must go before us into the eternal…waiting for us to collect when we leave the temporal realm and enter the eternal domain.
Jesus touched on this matter of treasure in His Sermon on the Mount: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven….For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21. The problem is not the treasure…but the heart. For the rich young ruler, his heart was not in the eternal…even though he lived a religious life. His heart was not into his religion…but into his wealth. That was his god.
But he was totally oblivious. He said he had kept the Law from his youth; but his adherence was ‘lip service’…genuine though it be. External conformity …never internal reality.The problem was not with his ‘doing’ (keeping the Law) but rather with his ‘be-ing’: he was at heart an idolater. His ‘be-ing’ found its sustenance and its purpose in the material, not the spiritual.
And while he felt a void within and wanted assurance of eternal life, it was just another acquisition…another piece of wealth added to his treasure trove. His quest for eternal life really centered around self: having his felt needs met. Jesus’ challenge that day was to deny self.
It was a clarifying moment…his heart was exposed. He wasn’t this squeaky clean guy who had kept the Law perfectly…he hadn’t even kept the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3.
It could have been a redemptive moment…it should have made him turn to God for mercy. The Law and this custom-crafted challenge was meant to take him there. And had he gone there, he would have experienced grace…God giving him something he had not earned. But instead he turned away sorrowful.
I’m reminded of the Prodigal Son in the pigsty. Luke 15:17 and 18 says: “But when he came to himself, he said…’I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.’ “ Self-realization is understanding our sinner hood…that the core of our being has nothing good to offer God. It’s the first step in the journey of finding eternal life. Without realizing our awfulness, we’ll never experience saving grace…because we’ll always be offering God our good works in an effort to fill the emptiness inside. What we do at the point of self-realization is crucial to where we end up: saved by grace or tyrannized by self works?
So, I am challenged by this encounter between Jesus and the rich young ruler: what and where is my treasure? When God exposes my heart, which way do I turn? How much of my life is characterized by ‘doing’ in an effort to gain something from God I want/need? How much of ‘grace’ do I understand? I can so easily be that rich young ruler!
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“…but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” Daniel 11:32b
There are times in life when you have to “stand up and be counted”…when you have to break the norm of the culture around you or the norm of your own personality…when you have to go against the status quo. Those times challenge your fears and test your mettle…solidify you in who you are or change you into who God created you to be.
My first encounter with that challenge came as a new believer right out of high school. I became convicted about the need of “saying grace” at mealtimes for my food. No big deal…except that my step-father hated anything that smacked of church, God, religion. Becoming a Christian was one thing…but bringing my Christian faith into our home through the simple witness of saying grace at mealtimes was a direct challenge to his ‘head of the house’ status.
But I knew I had to do it…had to give some sort of witness to my personal relationship with God. ”Saying grace” was the starting point of doing that. So, one day with fear and trembling, I bowed my head and silently thanked God for my food. Well, you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife…the silence was deafening…my heart was pounding. But…I broke through the godless culture of our home and the fears of my human heart.
I’ve gotten older and grown in faith…yet every time I meet one of those moments, the feelings are always the same. The moment seems to demand a spirituality that is greater than I possess…a giftedness that is not in my ‘toolbox’.The moment highlights my ‘deficiencies’ and rightly challenges my fears.
And I think that is just how God wants it to be! It is not our cleverness…our skill set..our driven-ness…our strength of character that is adequate for the crucial moments of life. No, it is “God in us” who is to meet those moments with grace and power. And so, He designs our crucial moments to push us past our self-dependency to God-sufficiency.
He did it often with the saints of old: Moses, a broken man watching sheep on the backside of the desert…yet God called him to a mission greater than his natural capabilities and experience. Gideon threshed wheat in a winepress because of fear…yet God called him “mighty man of valor” when He commissioned him to deliver Israel from the Medianites. Esther, though queen, had no access to the King unless summoned…yet God called her to violate protocol to plead her nation’s case. Mary was confined by the social rules of acceptable behavior…yet her disregard of those rules to anoint Jesus for burial received commendation that lasts to this very day.
So, I wonder…what norm might God be calling us to break? What status quo that needs to be challenged? What fears that are bigger than our faith? What demands that are outside our ‘gift mix’? What challenges that require a courage we don’t possess?
These are our crucial moments…that point in time that defines who we are. Really…they are God’s moments to make us more than who we are. To forge us into who we are going to be.
Daniel 11:32b gives us the key for facing whatever it is that is so much bigger than who we are: “…but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” Know. A word that includes heart and head. Warm, close, knowledgable relationship which enables you and me to trust God and discern what He is doing. The ‘knowing’ isn’t a quantitative knowing, as if it pertains to ‘how much’ you know. But a qualitative knowing, as it pertains to caliber of relationship. The interesting thing about this kind of knowing is that it doesn’t depend on length of knowing but transparency in knowing. An aged saint or a brand-new believer can equally “know their God”.
So, what is your crucial moment? And what do you know of your God that will make you strong for that challenge? Stand up and be counted…you never know what God has in mind!
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“Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.’” Matthew 4: 19.
Such a simple verse…straightforward…uncomplicated. Yet, it has dimensions that take us past our surface understanding.
Jesus is just starting His ministry journey. He has lived 30 years being what God had called Him to be; now He is beginning to do what God had called Him to do. He’s on His way to the Cross; but before He ascends that final hill, He has people to heal…a message to proclaim…religiosity to rebuke…sin to expose…and leaders to raise up who will carry on His work. Peter and Andrew qualify.
He approaches them in the midst of their secular jobs: casting nets to catch fish. It’s their livelihood. But it’s also their life…their heritage. They are fishermen. Plain and simple. They’ve known nothing different…after all, they live in a seaside community, the town of Capernaum. From boyhood, they’ve been schooled in the art of fishing; and so, Jesus finds them doing what they do best: casting nets to catch fish that will feed their families and satisfy their sense of purpose.
Into the midst of that toil and routine, Jesus steps up with a clarion call: follow Me. He isn’t calling them to change vocations…though that will happen; He is calling them to become all that God had created them to be. Their secular profession was a reflection of a greater capacity. Peter and Andrew were men who labored for a catch; God’s destiny was that the “catch” be men…not fish. That was their capacity…their calling. The realization of that would come only as they left the secular and followed the One who saw their potential and called them to fulfill that.
I wonder if our secular vocations are more than ‘how we pay our bills and put food on the table’? They are that, indeed; but could it be they reflect a capacity in us that is greater than the secular? ”Untapped potential” that is significant to God’s Kingdom? Skills in the secular which are transferrable to Kingdom purposes? Could it be that the professions we have chosen, the jobs we hold are mirror images of something more profound in us? Could it be, if we were to approach them from that viewpoint, we would discover our un-mined potential…our eternal significance?
The key is in the word “follow”. It is as we live under Jesus’ headship, we make profound discoveries: of Him and of ourselves. Peter and Andrew were called to leave the secular to follow Jesus. Others are called to follow Him in the midst of the secular. The issue is not the context of the following but the following.
I want to discover my significance; don’t you? So, how is the ‘following’ going?
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“But He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’ And she said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.’ Matthew 15:27.
The conversation is between Jesus, the Jew, and the Syro-Phoenician woman, a Gentile. He is in her territory…on her turf. But He is there “to take a break”…to find respite from the demanding ministry to the people of His calling. The Gospel of Mark tells us that “…He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden.” (Mark 7:24)
He finds on his doorstep a woman He is not called to minister to…a person outside the scope of His purpose…a Gentile invading His personal space. She has come with a need…and she won’t go away. Mark lets us know she’s bothersome with her persistence: “…and she kept asking Him…” An irritant which ‘got to’ the disciples; they urged Jesus to end the matter by sending her away. Not grant her request…just get rid of her through dismissal.
He could have done that…but instead, He engages her in conversation. But His words appear harsh, don’t they? Cold. Unfeeling. Jarring. Disconcerting. Lacking grace. Words so outside His character. But they were words that defined what He was about and to whom He was about. His mission was to the covenant people, the Jewish nation. A race God had called out with a promise: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:2,3. This people were His target audience…and she was outside that perimeter.
This woman’s response I find interesting. It’s loaded with self-assessment that is healthy and faith that is dynamic. She knew who she was…but also who He was. She’s marginalized…He’s merciful. She’s impotent…He’s all-powerful. She has no claim…He has no limit to His grace. She’s outside the covenant relationship…He’s Master of all.
Where did that faith come from? Well, believe it or not, it came from having a need that was so compelling it forced her to transparency…before Jesus and herself. Her need brought her to confession of soul and faith of spirit. Her need of a demon-possessed daughter sent her beyond her ethnic boundaries to ask for something that wasn’t rightfully hers. And in asking for Jesus’ help, she acknowledged the scope of His authority: all authority in heaven and in earth. Matthew 28:18. He had the ability to do what she was asking…and would do it. Not because He’s all-powerful…but because He’s merciful. She’s counting on who He is. She has no other base for her appeal.
The tipping point that brought her to worship and petition was the heart-wrenching condition of her precious daughter. Could she have gotten there without that? Probably not…for usually it is ‘need’ that pushes us past our barriers to something…Someone bigger than ourselves. So, ‘need’ is actually a vehicle God uses to bring us to glory: the majesty of His person that is greater than our need.
But tipping points can tip us away from Him as well. It all depends on our perspective. Do we see them as God’s gifts to us or as indictments of His love for us?
What is my tipping point…and which way am I tipping?
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying. ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Genesis 2:16, 17.
Speaking at women retreats is something I enjoy…once all the preparation is done! It’s the endless hours of study I always find inundating. And this last retreat was no different.
My assigned messages dealt with the basics of Christian faith: sin, redemption, transformation. Themes I knew well but which needed fresh study if I was to find once again their richness and relevancy.
It was in my study of sin that the above verse struck me differently this time ‘round’. Perhaps it was because of my journey with friends as they confront their struggles…perhaps it was because of my own journey with the cycle of struggle…perhaps it was because I was just ready to see it differently.
But whatever the reason, God’s placement of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden and His prohibition to eat of its fruit took on a different look that day. In my mind’s eye, it no longer stood as the litmus test of man’s allegiance and obedience…God’s tool to prove man’s love for Him.
No, I saw it as God’s icon of two eternal truths: man is human and man needs God in that humanness.
Adam and Eve’s human state was absolutely idyllic. They had it all: dominion of their world…a perfect environment…”up close and personal” communion with their Creator…unfettered relationship with each other…identity…value…meaning. Yep, they had everything…except the tree.
The tree. God’s ‘something’ He placed in their perfect world He declared “out of bounds”…off limits. ’Something’ that reminds them of their roots and their reality. It is God’s design, drafted because man is not all-sufficient in himself and not all-inclusive by himself. Perfect though he be, he is God’s creation (his roots)…he is not God (his reality).
In his lack, he needs his God. To bridge the gap of his deficiency…to be adequate where he is inadequate…to be greater than his shortfall. God designed that He stand between man and his lack. As man drew from Him what he needed, man would stay living out from his Life-source…the Well that waters his soul as well as the Breath that gives him life. Man is to find in his God what he needs to meet his limitation.
The plan was ingenious! But Satan thwarts the plan. He puts his spin on the tree, indicting the goodness of God in the process. And he baits with a lie: you will be like God. Interesting…the very truth God seeks to instill (They are not God.), Satan highlights as the core of his appeal. God speaks out of His truth (He alone is God) and Satan out of his shattered aspirations to be God. (Isaiah 14:12-14)
As I have pondered my changed perspective of the tree, I find it is changing my perspective of limitedness, as well as my response to limitedness. We all live with lack in one form or another….things that are out of bounds to us. Things we wish we had…things we think would complete our world. We wish we had a different job…a better home…a happier life…financial freedom…marriage…a better start in life…a different personality…a healthier childhood…a healthier physical body. To lack is to be human, but how do we perceive that lack and what is our response to it?
Is our lack God’s tree or something that can be changed by us? If it is the former, then we need to see it as God’s gift. His ‘something’ designed to root us in Him, allowing us to discover His all-sufficiency in our deficiency.
If it is the latter, then we need to make the changes necessary (either in character or conduct) to bridge our gap and fulfill what is lacking.
What is your tree?