Sunday, November 3, 2013

Family Business

Don’t judge so that you won’t be judged.
For in the way you judge - you’ll be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
… and behold, the log is in your own eye?

You hypocrite! 
First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Don’t give what is holy to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he won’t give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask him!

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7.1-12

What’s your family like?  Take a moment and think about your immediate family and consider how you might describe your family to someone who has met only you. 

When I was in the Navy my friends and I did this often.  Curt (from Delaware) told me about his family, his sister and his parents.  They seemed nice, but were nothing like my family.  Ed, another friend (from Northern CA) had parents who seemed to have been hippies and always provided he and his friends with the best pot when they came home for holidays – wow, was that different than my house!  So … what’s your family like?  Do you talk a lot, or are you a quiet group?  Were the older kids put “in charge” of the younger ones, or was no one allowed to be the boss except parents?  Do your folks tend to believe your teachers more than you, or vice versa?  Do you stick up for your family no matter what, or does your family loyalty have limits? Are your parents super protective, or do they give you lots of freedom?  Are they generous to you?  Were you taught to contribute to the family by doing chores or even giving money – or are children in your house perpetual recipients of their parents affection, money, attention and protection? 

These questions are important because our next section of the SOM is about family, and the family business.  Sadly, this section of Jesus’ sermon is perhaps taken out of context more often than any other scripture.  How often, for example, do you hear people say that “Christians are not supposed to judge”?  Or again, we read “Ask and it shall be given to you” as if it’s a promise that God has to give us everything we want (which is absurd) but still leads many to doubt God because they didn't get stuff they asked for. 

The first and most important thing for you to understand this section of the SOM is: context!
Again … know the context of this part of Jesus words, or you will miss his point. 

I’m encouraging you to focus on family because that is the context here.  This is about brothers and sisters and their dad.  Yahweh is the Creator and God of the universe – and He is our Father.  But He is only a Father to those who are His children – who have been begotten of God:
“But as many as received [Jesus], to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Don’t be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but don’t know where it comes from and where it’s going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
John 1:12-13 & 3:5-8
According to our Lord (and his best friend, John) Jesus gives people “the right to become children of God” by being born again (of water and Spirit).  This is not merely a ritual, it’s something that (when done according to the scripture) happens to fully committed disciples.  We (disciples) are the people who have given up everything to follow Jesus (Luke 14:25-35).  We have sold all our pearls to buy the one of great price, (Matt 13.44-46) and now have nothing (Phil 3.7-9) but God.  Then we’re born again through baptism, and are changed into new creatures:
Don’t you know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore we've been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.Romans 6:3-4
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he’s a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.2 Corinthians 5:17
Our change into “new” creatures means that we change completely.  Our nature is no longer like it used to be.  Like a caterpillar that changes into a butterfly … so we are metamorphosed into something very different than our old selves.  Or at least that’s the way it is understood in the New Testament.  [If you did not experience such a change in your very nature … maybe you should re-examine your “re-birth.”]

As these new kinds of creatures, we see the world differently than we used to.  We have given up our materialistic and worldly ways and have become part of God’s household. 

So what’s our new family like?  How do we behave now that we see God as our true Father, and now that other humans who have also left everything are now our brothers and sisters? 

These are the primary questions answered in the New Testament.  We talk about “church,” and sometimes even call it family – but we don’t act like that.  Most of us still put our earthly, physical family first - and other things come ahead of our relationship with God, too.  Jobs, sports teams, political and/or nationalistic ideas … these all seem to occupy more of our time, energy and thoughts than we expend in relationship with God, whom we claim is the One we love with ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength!  Can this claim be taken seriously?  Yesterday at 2:15 PM … was God and His business the foremost thought in your mind and heart?  Think about it.  Or pick any random moment throughout a typical week – is your constant thought based on fear and love of God as your Father?


Let me interrupt myself to tell you why these issues of ‘family’ are so important.  If you don’t understand these family matters first – you will never really understand this section of the SOM.  It’s just that simple.  “Ask and it shall be given to youis a completely different promise to those who are new creatures and have God as their first love and Father.  After all, we are the people who claim to believe “It’s more blessed to give than to receive(Acts 20.35).  If that’s true, then what does it mean that we can ask God for anything we want?  And what do we really want as new creatures? 

“Judge not” is different to Yahweh’s child, too.  We expect our (God’s) family to be different than others, don’t we?  Don’t we claim to live up to a higher standard than the world?  And do we really expect people in the world to behave like God’s kids? 

On the other hand … within our family – how can we judge one another (or not)?  Do we allow our brothers and sisters to do whatever they want and go unchallenged? 

You see … to understand Matthew 7.1-12 … we first must remember that Jesus was speaking to Jewish disciples.  The kingdom of God as a spiritual one had not yet been fully realized.  And just as the concept of “kingdom” was undergoing a revolution, so the concept of God as Father and His family and His business were also changing.  They were present at the revolution – we are those who have arrived 2,000 years later.  So … let’s first try – really try – to renew our minds and our understanding!  Think about what it means to be part of the family or household of God from Jesus’ perspective – THEN we will learn how to understand these passages. 

Household of God

A typical Jewish household in Jesus’ time would be different than ours.  For one thing, instead of only immediate family living in a house, it would also often include grandparents and kids and possibly aunts and uncles and (for the wealthy) servants and animals and all of those things.  Instead of one big house, there would often be something like a “compound,” which had small rooms for sleeping or storage or other purposes, and central gathering areas or common areas for cooking or eating or cleaning, etc. 

If you want to picture it in your mind, there are two examples that leap to my mind.  First is the movie Ben Hur.  The movie isn't about household life, but there are enough glimpses of it that it helps give a good idea of relationships (at least within a wealthy household).  The second example is in the New Testament, and it parallels our lives nicely.  Consider these two stories, and sort of “splice” them together in your mind: The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15.11-32) and the parable of the talents (Matthew 25.14-30).  If you think of your life this way, it makes sense.  Each of us is the prodigal who comes home, then the next day Dad leaves and puts us in charge of His household.  

This reminds us that not only is a household a family, but it’s also a business.  There are crops & livestock, or goods to be traded, or fish to be caught and sold … but the son grows in his father’s business and comes to be the patriarch himself someday.  So when the boy Jesus said he had to be “about my Father’s business,” that is just what he meant. 

As God’s children, we’re not merely spoiled little brats that curl up in Daddy’s lap and ask Him for things as if every day were Christmas and the God of heaven is a fat old jolly guy who checks for ‘naughty and nice’ but gives us stuff, anyway.  Our Father is an Fearsome, powerful God, mighty and to be feared.  He expects us to serve.  When we came home from the world of selfishness, we gave up everything and asked Him to take us in, and we said we’d spend our whole lives serving Him and working to expand and strengthen His kingdom, and take care of His sheep, and love His children. 

After all that … now consider what this section of the SOM is about. 

Homework Assignment

Before next time, here are some scriptures you should study.  Do some work and see if you can get a mental picture of God’s spiritual household, and how we are supposed to live and think about our Father and see how completely you can immerse yourself in the idea of “God’s household,” and who you are in God’s family.  Try not to let modern ideas of “church” and “religion” interfere – just focus on what it’s supposed to be like, now that you are a “new creature,” and different from your old self … and what it’s like to “live” in God’s household and work in the family business. 

Here are some scriptures to get you started.  There are lots of them, but it’s important that you take this assignment seriously (if you really want to understand the SOM and/or be what God intended for you). 

Study them slowly – and make them personal, and pray that God will open the eyes of your heart, and like a slow, soft rain … sink deeply into the soil of your soul. 

Out with the old, in with the new:

First, review the story of the prodigal son, and remember that YOU are the prodigal (Luke 15.11-32)

Next, look at these:

While he was still speaking to the crowds, behold, his mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to him. Someone said to him,
     “Behold, your mother and your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to you.”
But Jesus answered the one who was telling him and said,
     “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples he said,
     “Behold my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.” 
Matthew 12:46-50

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” 
Matthew 13:44-46

Now large crowds were going along with Him; and he turned and said to them,
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple!
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
     Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with 10,000 to encounter the one coming against him with 20,000? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
So then, none of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It’s useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Luke 14:25-35

Don’t you know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore we've been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:3-4

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he’s a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation
Galatians 6:14-15

In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self (which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit) and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which has been created in God in righteousness and holiness of the truth. 
Ephesians 4:22-24

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. 
Philippians 3:8-9

Don’t lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.
Colossians 3:9-10

If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God).  When Christ (who is our life) is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.
     But now:
…you also, put them all aside:
…anger…wrath…malice…slander…and abusive speech from your mouth.
Don’t lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him — a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
     So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved:
put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
     Beyond all these things:
(This is the perfect bond of unity)

     Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 
Colossians 3:1-17

God’s House – Household – Family - Business

Now review these passages about households.  We use words a bit differently than they did.  For them, “children” were like young slaves until they grew up.  You won't find a biblical father following his children to play a game, or a mother kissing “owies” or driving her children to school in their bubble-wrapped chariot.  Rather, you find a young David alone out in the field tending sheep and protecting them from lions and bears, too young to join his brothers in war.

And “house” didn't necessarily mean a building, but the household, the family and possessions.  It was a little socioeconomic group unto itself, and each person had a role, a function and a job to perform that contributed to the whole. Everyone carried his or her own load, and children were close in status to slaves and shared in serving the family.

These aren't necessarily teaching us about ancient households, but if you read them carefully you can see clues.  It’ll also help if you visit with a friend about these things and help each other to picture it in your mind. This will help you understand many things in the New Testament better.  As long as you see God’s household based on your family and your experiences … you’ll never be able to appreciate the differences and know how great it is to be a part of God’s awesome household.  It’s a better family than any church, business, team, club or family on earth! 

First, there are several stories in the Old Testament that are great stories, but also give clues to how a household works.  For example, you can see that Abraham traveled with his whole household to Canaan, and that it included extended family (like his nephew, Lot; and his father) Genesis 12-16.

Or consider the stories about Joseph (Genesis 37) and his being sold into slavery or David looking after his father’s sheep, or the rich fool and his fine wife (1 Sam 25.2-36).

Here are some examples from Jesus’ parables.  Remember, he didn't tell these to explain the household, for they already understood it.  But we can make inferences from these about the nature of God’s household:

Parable of the Landowner (God is owner, slaves are prophets, Jesus is Son) - Matthew 21:33-44
Parable of the Head Slave (warning to pastors) - Matthew 24:42-51
Parable of the talents (we are the slaves, God is the Master) - Matthew 25:14-30
Persistent friend & children - Luke 11:5-13
Parable of the clever accountant - Luke 16:1-13

Clues can be found in the stories about Peter and his household, too.  You can see that his extended family lived with him (including his mother in law) and that he ran a fishing business including his brother Andy and partners James & John. 

Once you have studied these and have a clear picture in your mind … then you’ll see more clearly what it means for our daily lives and our relationships with our brothers and sisters in God’s household, seeking first His business, partnerships with others and those who are enemies or competitors. 

May God bless your studies

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