Saturday, September 15, 2018

Better than or worse than?

Have you ever been accused of taking yourself too seriously? It could be you just cannot get past the bad habit of thinking of yourself as superior in some way, or deserving of more distinction than someone else for something you may have done. For some reason, you might find yourself getting a little pretentious, attempting over and over again to win someone's affections, or receive some kind of 'merit' by pushing your 'good deeds' as 'deserving' of some kind of notice. Since I could put myself in this boat on occasion, let me just say that it might not have occurred to any of us yet, but it could just be that those 'good deeds' we are counting on as getting us some kind of 'merit' with another are really what was reasonable in the first place - they weren't really all that 'above and beyond' actions on our part. There are times we push ourselves forward, demanding something more than we should, and it makes others uncomfortable. There are also times when we just get way too down on ourselves, not wanting to give ourselves any credit at all, and then others are always trying to encourage us to see ourselves differently. Either way, it isn't how God wants us to see ourselves - because it isn't the way he sees us if Christ dwells in us. He wants us to take him seriously - not ourselves!

How can I stand up before God and show proper respect to the high God? Should I bring an armload of offerings topped off with yearling calves? Would God be impressed with thousands of rams, with buckets and barrels of olive oil? Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child, my precious baby, to cancel my sin? But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously. (Micah 6:4-8 MSG)

The offerings were to be of the 'first-fruits' of the fields and flocks. The best of the best - so to speak. The farmer or rancher would wait all season to bring forth that crop or see the firstborn emerge from the flock or herd. The season just prior to the first of the crop may have been the leanest for them - making it especially significant that God asked for the first-fruits to be given to him. The farmer would have likely desired to partake of those first-fruits himself - because of the leanness of the times preceding their harvest or emergence. The reminder to the farmer or rancher was that all the 'yield' of the season was a direct blessing from God - a direct result of his work within their lives. To give back just a little of that increase really was just a way of showing God we knew exactly where the increase came from! The truth has always been that God desires our best - first. He has equally always made a way for us to give our best - first! He also makes a way for us to continually be our best - Christ.

In respect to the harvest or increase of the flocks, the idea is that of honoring not only God, but also each other with the increase. The increase isn't just for our own edification or enhancement. It is given to us because there will always be others who will benefit from what God has blessed us with in our lives. It matters not if the thing God brings as an increase in our lives is his grace or love - gift it! It doesn't matter if that increase is some form of knowledge or intelligence - use it to help others! The increase has always been about us giving, not about us being 'better than' or 'more blessed'. It has always been about us honoring God with the increase, and in turn honoring others with an outflow of that blessing. In this way, we are keeping our focus right - God is the one who gives the increase, he is also the one who wants us to use that increase to be a blessing in the lives of those around us.

Some may not have had much of a harvest or increase in their flocks or herds. The times may have been way too lean for their liking, making it harder and harder for them to find ways to be fed, clothed, and housed during those times. God never 'let them off the hook' when it came to the sacrifice - he required something. But...he made adjustments in what they could offer. If they didn't have a lamb, they could give a dove. If they didn't have oil, they could bring salt. They may not have found they had much to give, but God provided something they could bring - something that they could give. As is the case with us, we always have something to give of ourselves - regardless of how little or much it may be. We can always bless another is some way - it just may take a different form from time to time. 

None of us is 'more blessed' or 'better than' another - all of us who have Christ have it all! Circumstances may change our 'increase' in some way or another, but they never change who or what we are in Christ. We all have been created with a place for his Spirit to dwell - all have an equal chance to say "yes" to him. All have a similar 'framework' - born into sin, sinners at the core, and in need of a Savior. That puts all of us on a pretty even playing field, my friends. None is better than, or worse than - - - we are just the same! Just sayin!