"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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Raising the Standard: Thriftiness Is Learning How To Live With Basic Provisions

"Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal and take the name of my God in vain." ~ Proverbs 30:8-9
Living Lessons On Thriftiness From The Pages Of Scripture:
Thriftiness involves learning to live on less. This does not mean just reducing a high standard of living. It means learning to be content with food and clothing. (See 1 Timothy 6:8.) Once, a man was offered great treasures if he would learn how to be content with he basics. The man, however, was unable to even attempt it. He possessed riches which to him seemed greater than the ones he would receive. He went away with great sorrow.
Who was the man that was unable to receive great treasures because he was absorbed in personal treasures which would soon be lost? The young rich ruler.
How is the Importance of Learning to Live with the Basics Illustrated in Scripture?
One day two rulers met together. The fact that their meeting was recorded in history is an indication of its importance. It turned out to have far reaching implications. Both rulers were young, came from wealthy backgrounds, and were aware of all the riches which were available to them. Both rulers had been trained in the Law of God and both had purposed to keep His commandments. Each one was aware of the importance of life after death, and uppermost in each of their minds at that moment was eternal life. There were also differences between these two rulers. One was older and more mature. The older ruler possessed far greater riches than the younger even imagined. The more mature ruler had a far greater grasp of God's Law and its true meaning. However, he was deeply impressed by the young ruler and desired to greatly increase his riches. In order to prepare the young ruler for the treasures that he would receive, he quoted several commandments. The young ruler quickly responded, "All of these commandments I have kept from my youth up." These commandments, however, are summed up by the following word, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart... and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Based on this, the older ruler gave him a perceptive test. Failing the test would reveal that he did not understand the basic principles upon which the Law or life were built. If he passed the test, he would immediately receive vast treasures which would make his present possessions seem insignificant by comparison. The test Jesus gave him was to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor, whom he had just implied he loved as himself. It is not hard to keep money for oneself. The rich young ruler understood the test and slowly walked away sorrowing. He had never learned the valuable secret of thriftiness which would allow him to be secure with basic provisions. [From Matthew 19:16-22]
What Was the Rich Young Ruler's Real Purpose in Coming to Jesus?
When the young man knelt before Jesus and asked, "...What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17), he was not acknowledging a need for salvation from sin. To him eternal life merely meant a life which experienced the full blessings of salvation. He was taught that the way to blessing was to please God by performing good works such as giving alms to the poor, reciting daily prayers, and fasting twice a week --- three methods taught by the religious leaders. (See Matthew 6:1-18.) The young man believed he was already in good standing with God because of his strict adherence to the letter of the Law as weakened by the rabbis. But he was not at peace. He wanted a special task which he could perform, possibly using his influence and resources, in order to receive his special blessing and standing before God. When the Philippian jailer fell down before Paul and Silas and asked, "...Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" he clearly recognized his need for salvation. Paul and Silas could immediately reply, "...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..." (Acts 16:30-31). But the rich young man had not yet recognized his great need and could not trust in Jesus while still trusting in his wealth. (See Matthew 6:24.)
Why Did Christ Ask the Ruler to Give Everything to the Poor?
The Lord gave the young man a very challenging assignment --- to give everything he owned to the poor. It was not uncommon for pious Jews to give away one-fifth of their income to the poor. The rich man would probably have given more than that to purchase the peace he lacked. But to give everything away would remove him from the wealthy class altogether. He would no longer have his luxuries, his servants, his friends, his security, or his power. Jesus knew that possessions owned this man and not the man his possessions. He was chained to the world system by his love of money, and the Lord knew the young man would struggle with money as long as he owned it. He needed to learn to trust in God alone.
Why Were the Disciples "Astonished Out of Measure" at Christ's Response?
After the young man sadly departed, Jesus told the disciples, "...How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" He went on, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:23, 25). The disciples thought the young man was an ideal candidate for the kingdom. Although they themselves had left all to follow Jesus, they still clung to the common opinion that the wealthy were looked upon more favorably by God. Were not the rich more blessed? Were they not able to give more alms and preform greater acts to earn God's favor? But Jesus said without ambiguity that is impossible for a man to earn favor with God through is wealth. Man cannot earn salvation. But God can reach out in grace and provide a way for him. The only requirement is a recognition of this fact and humble reception of it. These things are especially hard for the rich who are not accustomed to admitting the need or receiving help. But God can even change the heart of the rich.
Illustrated in the World of nature:
The alligator snapping turtle is the largest fresh water turtle found in North America. It often reaches weights of 150 to 200 pounds and lengths of more than four feet. Since these turtles do not stop growing, fifty year old "monster" snappers have been found that have weighed over 400 pounds. Alligator snapping turtles are not as aggressive as common snapping turtles. When disturbed in the water, they are more likely to sit passively with their mouths open. If disturbed out of water they strike only at objects the come very close to them. When picked up, their most common defense is to eject large amounts of liquid.
How is the Potential of Living With Less Illustrated in the World of Nature?
An eighty pound creature pushed his way through the tall grass like a massive armored tank. When he reached the edge of a small, secluded lake, he slowly stretched out his leathery neck and raised in like a large turret with two active periscopes. With no further introduction he plunged into the water and slid beneath its surface. His new world revealed a wide variety of potential meals: schools of fish, frogs, mussels, snails, and vegetation. Instead of immediately grabbing up a meal, the new monarch of the lake swam to the bottom and settled half-buried in the soft mud and underwater growth. He looked like a large rock. There he remained throughout the day except for brief trips to the surface to breathe. Soon a blue gill was attracted to something and swam straight for the camouflaged creature. A moment later it vanished. Two days later another small pan fish was curiously drawn to the rock like form --- it, too, disappeared. As the days grew shorter and the water colder, the submerged creature rarely needed to surface for air. He remained on the bottom of the lake. Over the next few weeks, his meals were spaced further and further apart. Rather than building up a store of food as other hibernating animals do, he ate less and less. He was in the process of cleansing his digestive system. Finally, he ate nothing at all. When his system was empty of all food, the great creature covered its entire with mud and began a fast which would last the entire winter. His discipline in not eating is extraordinary considering the amazing ability he has to easily catch food. The fish that were strangely attracted mouth were drawn there by a very effective lure. Whenever this creature was hungry, he simply opened his mouth. Suddenly, something that looked like a pink worm appeared. Slowly the worm wiggled back and forth. Its motion would catch the attention of a hungry fish. It would swim toward the lure and then --- snap! The water would swirl and the fish would disappear. The "worm" was actually a growth attached to the middle of the giant snapping turtle's tongue. By pulling down on one side of the tongue and then the other side, he could cause his built-in worm to wiggle. The action was so lifelike that it lured unsuspecting fish right into his open mouth. With this feeding ability, the alligator snapping turtle becomes and outstanding demonstration of the discipline of living with less.
The Characteristics of the Alligator Snapping Turtle in Scripture:
The alligator snapping turtle illustrates one of the essential disciplines that must be learned by every Christian who desires the spiritual rewards of living within basic provisions. The discipline is fasting. The alligator snapping turtle finds seclusion to engage in its fasting. Jesus promises that if we fast secretly, He will reward us openly. (See Matthew 6:18.) Esther and all her companions fasted for three days and God rewarded them with deliverance from their enemies. (See Esther 4:16.) Nehemiah fasted for several days and God rewarded him with direction and provision for accomplishing a great work. (See Nehemiah 1-2.) Extended fasting for the alligator snapping turtle marks a new season for its life. The same was true for Moses, Daniel, Christ, Paul and others. The alligator snapping turtle also illustrates the trap that food can be to Christians who do not conquer uncontrolled appetites. Just as the alligator snapping turtle ensnares unsuspecting victims with the bait of its dangling tongue, so Adam and Eve fell victim to their appetite. (See Genesis 3:6.) The mixed multitude in the wilderness learned the same hard lesson. "And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul" (Psalm 106:15).

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