Reading Ramblings – September 1, 2019

Reading Ramblings

Date: Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – September 1, 2019

Texts: Proverbs 25:2-10; Psalm 131; Hebrews 13:1-17; Luke 14:1-14

Context: Humility is hardly a popular character trait in our society today. Everyone is promoted and encouraged as though they are the next Nobel Prize winner or Poet Laureate. Perhaps this contributes to skyrocketing levels of depression and suicides. Yet Scripture calls us repeatedly to humility. This is not a defeatist mindset, but rather a sober assessment of who we are. This assessment is grounded first and foremost in our relationship to our Creator, from which we should be freed from the pressure to aspire to worldly greatness. Some will attain the accolades of those around them and perhaps even from history itself, but these are very few, and whatever there is to gain is insignificant to the eternal crown of life we receive only from the grace of God the Father through God the Son.

Proverbs 25:2-10 – The book of Proverbs is attributed to King Solomon in the middle of his life and reign, the result of a wise king seeking to provide Godly wisdom to his people. This section has first to do with the king, who needs a court free of pandering and other foolishness (dross, v.4) which could pollute his wisdom. Rather, the king needs the best and most unselfish advisers and courtiers so that he can be guided well and the kingdom as a whole flourish. As such, people aspiring to greatness should consider the risks their ambitions might pose to others. Would they put themselves forward regardless of their lesser talents or abilities? A humble wisdom regarding our abilities is a blessing, something we should attain in part from those around us in Christ who we trust. While everyone should be encouraged to do and be their best, it is dangerous folly to encourage people to overreach their talents and abilities.

Psalm 131 – Where is our hope? Is it in ourselves or others? Or is it in God? Once again we are called in very blunt terms to be wise in assessing our abilities so we might not overreach ourselves. Ultimately, this extends to our relationship with God. The temptation to try and overreach ourselves, to answer where God has not spoken and inquire where God has not revealed himself can be overwhelming but, as with Job, fruitless. Rather than attempt to make ourselves equal with God (the primal sin of our ancestors!) we should trust in God even when we don’t understand what He is doing or why. This requires an active effort on our part – calming our aspirations or our ideas and preventing them from trespassing where they are not reliable and could be dangerous to ourselves and others.

Hebrews 13:1-17 – What we anticipate (the kingdom of God) our lives here and now should be guided by what we are destined for. The world behaves according to principles it derives for itself, but we as followers of Christ and heirs of an unshakable kingdom are to behave differently. We are to acknowledge everyone we come into contact with as created by God and redeemed in Jesus Christ, potential brothers and sisters in eternity. So we do not use one another for our own benefits but exalt and honor one another, even those who may be in difficult circumstances (the imprisoned). Furthermore, within the community of faithful we are to treat one another differently, seeking unity as well as maintaining good understanding of the Word we have been given, in order to resist dangerous false doctrines, and recognizing God has appointed leaders in order to assist us with this but whom we must take seriously our obedience to.

Luke 14:1-14 – The theme of humility established with the Old Testament and the psalm continues. The context is a Friday evening (Sabbath) dinner party where Jesus is an invited guest. But the environment is hardly hospitable – the entire occasion is organized to catch him in some false teaching or other practice they can discredit him for. Pretending to honor him, their intentions are dishonorable. As such, Jesus challenges them directly, first healing someone on the Sabbath and then confounding their efforts to criticize him before then can even articulate them. Their understanding of Sabbath would prevent them from doing good to a creature of God, though they would extend that healing indulgence to an animal rather than a person! Their doctrinal wisdom is hardly that, yet is the basis of a pride that puffs up their self-perceptions and prevents them from hearing and learning what Jesus has come to teach them.

Jesus exhorts his hearers to a humility that would enable them to see the children of God as God himself sees them, exhibiting grace and mercy to them rather than judgment. In such a situation our worldly distinctions of wealth or social equality mean nothing. Knowing who we are in Christ and what we will inherit at his return, we are free to share ourselves and our resources without expectation of repayment, in genuine love and care for one another and a frank humility that will not allow us to hold ourselves aloof or expect others to defer to our social standing. We think this is simple and that we do these things, but far more often we are influenced by societal and cultural assumptions and expectations.

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