Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Fool’s Hope

Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out:
“How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing & fools hate knowledge?  
Turn to my reproof!
Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.  

But he who listens to me shall live securely & will be at ease from the dread of evil.”
(Proverbs 1:20–23; 33)

Our culture is built on centuries of capitalism.  Capitalism is good for the world as a whole and for each nation that embraces it, for it provides opportunity and abundant rewards for the best and brightest.  Those who are even close to average in most respects can do very well just by hard work, and if you’re more clever or talented … then even an average amount of work will help you succeed materially.  And when that happens, “the rising tide floats all boats,” the saying is true. 

But capitalism can be cruel, too.  Those who have limitations must work extra hard to overcome them.  Our limiters can be fair or unfair … but they are real.  Physically or mentally disabled people, sick, lame, children and old folks are all limited.  So are minorities, short people and ugly people … each of whom has to work harder to get the same outcome. 

In the USA, our form of capitalism is based on the idea that we are also mostly “Christian.”  And so while we work hard, we also are instructed again and again to love and be charitable.  We leave the edges of our fields un-harvested for the poor, we “tithe” as a way to support those who serve God full time, and we take care of our elders.  These are lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures, but our Lord reinforced those teachings by explaining that God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” means being the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37). He asks us to “go the extra mile,” “give our cloak,” and even wash one another’s feet. 

And Jesus taught us to do these things, even to our enemies
He taught us to do them in private, so we don’t get glory for ourselves, but for God. 
Jesus also taught us to give based on need alone – not whether or not the recipient “deserves” it. 

That’s grace: “Unmerited favor” - forgiveness as love - it’s the “Good News,” or “Gospel” 

The good news is that none of us gets what we deserve, and out of recognition of this fact, we give to others just as Jesus set Himself as an example. 
Proverbs 18.2

The Good News

This article is about “the other side” of the Proverb about fools.  It’s the part where instead of laughing at us (as we deserve), Grandma Wisdom teaches us and gives us security and peace.  And that’s the “good news” for fools. 

The good news (or gospel) is different for different folks.  Since we are all sinners, the best part of the gospel is that we will not have to die the second death.  But there’s more to the gospel than heaven – there’s also promise for us on earth! 

They asked,
“Who can be saved?”  
Jesus responded,
“The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”
Peter said,
“Behold, we have left our own and followed you.”
And He said to them,
“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.”
(Luke 18:26–30)

Who can be rescued?  None of us can rescue ourselves, but God can do anything. 
Who deserves to be rescued?  None of us

And even though our greatest hope is in the life to come, Jesus said that one may even expect to “receive many times as much at this time.”  THAT is good news! 

It’s good news for disabled people, weak people, and stupid people because we have a Lord who is much more than merely a Lord (Boss or Master), he is also our savior, our rescuer, our care-giver. 

But it’s also good news for those of us who behave foolishly, who sin, and who deserve all the misery that comes our way: the good news is that we’re not getting what we deserve. 

I’m the fool who hasn't listened to G’ma Wisdom sometimes – but instead of hearing her laugh at me, I have another day to listen to her and try again.  That’s great news for me. 

I’m the prodigal who wandered away from God and didn't live responsibly and obediently like my older brother – the good news is that Father will welcome me home!  (Although my big brother is none too pleased, because he knows I don’t deserve another chance)

I’m the lazy man who wasted time. 
I’m the wasteful man who spent too much on myself.
I’m the fool who saved for retirement (Luke 12.15-21)
I’m the coward who buried his talent. 
I’m the self-righteous man who looked down on sinners

The good news is that even sinners, even fools, even lazy, condescending, wasteful, disobedient rotten people – get another chance!! 

If you woke up this morning and are reading this, you have another chance.  You’re not dead, and you’re not standing before the King on Judgment Day.  You can repent (change), and do better! 

Today God gives us another chance to be more forgiving
Today God gives us another chance to love more, give more, care more, work harder …
Today we have another chance. 
What will you do with it?

The fool’s hope

The fool’s hope is that if we’ll finally listen to Wisdom, she will teach us and we can live securely, at ease, and without fear:
“Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.  
But he who listens to me shall live securely & will be at ease from the dread of evil.”

The hope of the disobedient is that today you get another chance to listen, trust and obey – and then the storms of life will not destroy you (Matthew 7.24-25).

The hope of the proud is that you have another chance to humble yourselves and receive God’s blessings:

“…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you….
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
(1 Peter 5:5–10)

Some of us have been “blind, short-sighted, and neglectful.  We also can repent and renew our efforts to get back into the Lord’s Way, and so even we can have hope:

Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
(2 Peter 1:10–11)
[I testify that Peter’s words are true.  I have practiced those things and not stumbled.  I've also let them slip, and fallen on my face.  Thanks be to God for another day to try again!]

The sinner’s hope is that we can come back to the Good Shepherd, and that He will protect us from our enemies, feed us and love us and we need not fear even death. 

Because of God, I have another day and another chance

  • Because of God, I have no wants – I’m content 
  • Because of God, I feel constantly protected …
  • Because of God, I’m never stressed …
  • Because of God, I’m never alone …
  • Because of God, I’m never afraid … even facing death itself       (Psalm 23)

Most of us are fools, all of us are sinners, and we reap what we sow.  But it’s not over, yet – we still have a chance!  Every day is a day to change – to “repent” as it’s called in the Scriptures.  Get on your knees and ask God to wash you clean again, not because you deserve it, but because God WANTS you to.  And then start over and try again to do better. 

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that everyone everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
(Acts 17:30–31)

Today isn't just a day.  Today is another chance.  Take it. 

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way:
What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?
(2 Peter 3:9–11)

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