As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” Matt 12:38-40
I want to sneer at the teachers of the law — so self righteous, so self important!
But am I really that different?
The teachers of the law found their importance and significance in doing religious things for God. I can be the same way. I mean, I don’t steal from widows, but I can seek glory for myself.
I want so badly to be great, and do great things. It’s like I’m always seeking to validate myself — that I’m talented, that I have worth, that I’m not a lazy, good for nothing. There’s this voice, that’s driving me on, “You’re not achieving enough. You need to do more.”
And I can satisfy this voice by doing, and giving to God.
Well, let me take that back. The voice is never satisfied. It tells me there’s always one thing I could have done better.
Until finally, in wretchedness, I get on my knees and cry out to God for peace, for validation.
And He reminds me that Christianity is more about receiving, than giving.
Wait! Doesn’t the Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receive?
Yes, but this doesn’t work it we give from an empty tank. Before we give, we need to open our hands and hearts and be filled by God.
Because God gives like a fire hose.
He is the one who forgives all your sins, the one who heals all your diseases, the one who rescues your life from the pit, the one who crowns you with mercy and compassion, the one who fills your life with blessings so that you become young again like an eagle. Ps 103:3-5
The Lord gives even to the undeserving: “(He) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matt. 5:45
Those of us who follow Jesus have yet more. We have righteousness, continual cleansing from sin. We have an advocate who is interceding for us and granting our prayer requests in his name. We have the Spirit to be our constant helper.
We live in a state of receiving. Day after day, moment after moment, we are given to far more than we can ever give.
And when I remember this, when I experience it, that restless voice is silenced. I give, but I do it with the recognition that it’s not about me, it’s about God. I serve, not out of need, but out of overflowing satisfaction.
I think that could be where the teachers of the law went wrong. They didn’t realize how much God was doing for them. And thus they had an unquenchable thirst for significance.
In the end, it really was a faith problem.
I tend to think of faith as belief in the existence of God and Jesus. And then I think there’s super faith, this muscle I need to build to believe that that God will do amazing things.
But maybe faith also is the simple acknowledgment that God is working all around us. Maybe faith is opening our eyes to what we already have, what we ARE receiving.
That is what the teachers of the law may have missed.
I can certainly miss it. But I am learning that it is vital to not miss it. The more I see what God is doing, the more I am empowered to do, and the more I have faith in what God can do.
As much as I love to serve, as much as I think Christian life is about service, for me, it will always be more blessed to receive from God, than to give.
What do you have that you did not receive? I Cor 4:7b