"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Friday, February 18, 2011

Raising The Standard: Contentment Is Valuing God-given Relationships More Than Earthly Possessions

"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:18
From The Pages Of Scripture:
The axiom "Familiarity breeds contempt" is all too often true. We tend to take for granted those who are closest to us. Only when loved ones are gone is their importance to our lives recognized. It is then that we wish we could turn back and reclaim lost opportunities to express appreciation and deepen fellowship. Scripture reveals how one wise and perceptive person was able to avoid such regrets in a very important relationship. Who sacrificed a valuable possession for an important relationship, but was severely criticized for doing it by a greedy observer? Mary of Bethany.
How Is The Importance Of God-given Relationships Illustrated In Scripture?
The tension of an impending crisis filled the room as guests ate a meal. A few miles away, jealous rulers plotted the death of the group's leader. During the meal, one of the hosts did something very unexpected. Everyone at the table was amazed. Finally, one of the most respected dinner guests openly condemned the action as useless and out of place. The leader of the group quickly defended the host and tried to reason with the angry guest, whose warped mind failed to grasp the significance of the action. After the meal, the critic slipped away from that group and met with the hostile officials in the nearby city. He asked what they would pay him if he cooperated with their plan. They agreed on a price. As the disgruntled member of the group returned from that secret meeting, he might have congratulated himself for the shrewdness of his plan. He would do his part in the plot, collect the money, and then his leader could miraculously escape as he had done on previous occasions, or he would set up his kingdom as he had promised. Several days later, the conspiracy was carried out. The greedy critic did his part and collected his reward. But events did not turn out as he had planned. His leader was captured and condemned to die. It was then that the horror of what this angry man had just done penetrated his twisted mind. He grabbed the money which he had received and met again with the jealous leaders. He tried to explain that he was wrong and that he wanted to return the money in exchange for the life of his leader. They laughed at him and refused to talk any further about it. He flung the money to the floor and walked out into the darkness. Instead of perceiving a new light in the act which he had so severely criticized just six days earlier, he prepared a noose for his own neck. The action he condemned was the anointing of Jesus with very expensive ointment. The action demonstrated to everyone that the one who did it treasured the fellowship of Christ more than earthly possessions. What he had done demonstrated just the opposite. He traded fellowship with Christ for thirty pieces of silver and caused the name of Judas to be despised forever. She exchanged her treasure for deeper fellowship with Christ and caused the name of Mary of Bethany to be honored forever. [From John 12:1-8 and Matthew 26:3-16; 27:3-5]
Why Would The Lord Want Us To Remember Mary's Gift?
Mary of Bethany reminds us to guard our priorities. It is true that the Lord wants us to minister to those in need. He Himself set the example in compassion for the poor, the sick, the helpless, the widow, and the orphan. But Mary reminds us not to replace worship with works. There are times when it is appropriate to "waste" our abilities and possessions in grateful devotion to our Lord (See Matthew 26:8). Mary also teaches us to look beyond physical needs to man's spiritual needs. Food, clothes, and shelter are important, but a man's soul is more important. Mary recognized that the Lord's life, death, and resurrection was the real purpose of His earthly mission. He came to provide eternal life by dying for out sins. (See 1 Corinthians 15:11-4) This is the message that should accompany our acts of compassion.
What Did Mary's Action Cost Her?
Judas estimated the value of Mary's perfume at three hundred denarii, about a year's wage for a common laborer. (See John 12:5) It was probably imported from India in a sealed alabaster jar to conserve the perfume. Wealthy people broke the seal only for very special guests. Inexpensive olive oil mixed with fragrant spices was more commonly used. In that day the economic situation of an unmarried woman such as Mary was precarious. A woman depended on the financial support and physical protection of either her father or husband. It appears that Mary had neither. It is possible that this perfume was part of her bridal gift, or dowry, for some future husband. In any case, Mary demonstrated that her contentment and security were found in Christ.
Why Was Mary More Spiritually Perspective Than Others?
Spiritual perception is a by-product of faith which "...cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Mary listened to the words of Christ. (See Luke 10:39) Jesus had said, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down for myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again..." (John 10:17-18) Mary pondered these teachings and was beginning to understand that Jesus needed to die and rise again to atone for her sin. Jesus had just demonstrated His power over death in the miraculous resurrection of her brother. Mary recognized that He indeed had the power to take His life back from the dead. She understood more fully the meaning of the Lord's statement to Martha, "...I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die..." (John 11:25-26) Mary was the first to understand the significance of Christ's words and, knowing that His death was imminent, anointed His body for burial with the most precious substance she possessed.
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
The pack rat is a member of the wood rat family of which there are about twenty different species. The young, born in litters of two to six, weigh about one-half ounce. They are usually weaned by the third week and by the third month are ten times their birth weight. Adults are about eighteen inches long, half of that length belonging to its tail. Pack rats are amazingly well adapted to desert conditions. They are swift runners along logs, rocks and rafters and are excellent climbers. In addition to the ground nest, they often build secondary nests in nearby trees.
How Is The Unimportance Of Possessions Illustrated In The World Of Nature?
Balancing himself on his long tail, the pack rat violently lashed out at his mate. The female rat successfully repulsed the attack with sharp claws and a nasty bite. With his left ear severely damaged, the humiliated male darted from his nest to search for more solitary surroundings. Exploring for a more suitable home, the wounded rat discovered a vacant cactus and quickly began to establish his territorial presence. Satisfied with the progress on his new nest, the pack rat anxiously scouted the desert environment. A search for shiny trinkets and sparkling baubles to furnish his dwelling brought him to the broken-down porch of an old abandoned shack. When his twitching nose and whiskers sensed that no danger was present, the curious rat scampered across the rough pine floor. Behind a dusty pile of logs near the crumbling fireplace, a small string caught the pack rat's inquisitive eye. Nosing his way into an old leather pouch, the pack rat uncovered three gold nuggets. Delighted with his newfound treasure, the excited rat scurried back toward his nest, protectively carrying one of the nuggets between his teeth. Suddenly, a glimmer in the desert sand distracted the impulsive pack rat. The midday sun had brilliantly lit up a discarded gum wrapper. Fascinated by the silvery reflection, the pack rat gladly abandoned his gold in exchange for the shiny but worthless paper. His second trip from the shack was similarly sidetracked by the captivating movements of a colorful feather animated by the desert breeze. Once again the foolish pack rat swapped his nugget for a prize of lesser value. For the third time he entered the shack, scooped up the remaining nugget, and ran toward his nest. As he bounded along, his eyes constantly searched the horizon for other things more attractive than the one he was carrying. Suddenly he saw the most interesting object yet, s shiny key chain at the base of a large cactus. The pack rat was so absorbed in making his new exchange that he failed to notice a coyote crouching nearby. With the heavy key chain in his mouth he again started out for his nest. Seconds later he felt himself being thrown into the air. He lost the keys and came down into the jaws of a hungry coyote. His discontent caused him to lose his life in exchange for shiny trinkets.
The Characteristic Of The Pack Rat In Scripture:
The persistent obsession of the pack rat to collect bright, shiny things is an apt illustration of the nature of man.
"Surely every man walketh in a vain shew ... he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them." ~ Psalm 39:6
The pack rat's practice of exchanging one thing for another is exemplary of human conduct. We exchange time for money, and money for food, etc. Paul wisely exchanged temporal things in order to experience more of Christ (See Philippians 3:8). The pack rat's inability to live in harmony and its ultimate resorting to a solitary existence is an accurate commentary on anyone who would seek after wealth.
"He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live." ~ Proverbs 15:27
The destructive end of the featured pack rat is also predictive of the person who makes wealth his goal.
"But they that will be rich fall into ... many foolish and hurtful lusts ... For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." ~ 1 Timothy 6:9-10
The pack rat's lack of contentment with possessions illustrates Ecclesiastes 5:10, "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase..."

1 comment:

CJ said...

Is the art work purchaseable?