Tag Archives: James 1:17

Our Effort or God’s Gift: Where Does Money Come From?

2 May

My dad is a hard worker. He always has been and I expect that he always will be. He grew up with a traditional Protestant work ethic that demanded a day’s work for a day’s pay. And he firmly believes that good, honest work (even if it doesn’t pay much) is never beneath the dignity of a real man.

I watched him live out his beliefs on a daily basis, but at no time were they quite as impactful as that winter. Due to cutbacks, his good government job had come to an abrupt and unanticipated end. Unemployed and with mouths to feed, he did the only thing his sense of duty would allow: he took a minimum wage job. It wasn’t long before he was able to add a couple more and I watched as he faithfully showed up on time for each. He wasn’t getting much sleep, but he was supporting his family.

What stood out the most to me that winter, however, was that I never once heard Dad complain either about the odd hours he was working or about the low pay he received. To be honest, I can’t say as much for most of the folks I know. I, myself, have been known to complain about the disparity between the amount of work I put in and the amount that I get paid. Yet this highlights an important point: long hours and hard work don’t yield the same results for everyone.

A close examination of income disparity reveals a startling fact that there is very little connection between the amount of work (either hours in a shift or actual physical effort) a person performs and the number of zeroes on their paycheck. Nor is there a universal connection between the type of work we do and the income we receive. (If you don’t believe me, take a look at the difference between what your family doctor makes and what a missionary doctor gets paid.) Work, it seems, doesn’t create or, for that matter, guarantee cash flow. (If you still doubt me, just ask any stay-at-home mom!)

But if money isn’t the result of our efforts and education, where exactly does it come from? While an economist would argue that it originates with banks, the Bible would tell us that it’s a gift from God. Ecclesiastes 5:19 states that, “for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.” Moses explained Israel’s trials saying that they had been for an express purpose: “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:17–18) And the Apostle James reminds believers, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)

So what exactly does this mean for those who are busting their tails working odd shifts at odd hours for low pay just like my dad did that difficult winter? It means that they’re in the same boat as those with high wages and cushy 9-5 jobs. Who employs us, the hours we work, and the wage we are paid are, to a large degree, irrelevant. We are all recipients of God’s gift… and each of us, regardless of the magnitude of that blessing, is responsible for using it well.

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Job Security Part II

17 Jan

Last week, in Part I of our series, we explored why “job security” is more myth than reality. This week, we’ll begin taking a look at how to handle that reality… beginning with the recognition that nothing in this world is ever quite as secure as we like to fool ourselves into believing it is.  Families break up, the stock market falls, our car blows a tire, terrorists attack, friends come and go, and so do jobs.  The only real security for any of us is the kind that God offers through faith in His Son.

According to the Bible, this sort of security is eternal and totally exclusive of own efforts.  John 10:27-29 says, “My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.  No one will snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else.  So no one can take them from me.”  And in Romans 8:38,39 the apostle Paul declares, “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love.  Death can’t, and life can’t.  The angels can’t, and the demons can’t.  Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.  Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So how do we know if we have this kind of security?  To begin with, we need to understand that God created us with the desire to be close to us. As with most relationships, that closeness involves love and consideration. Unless you’re an eight-year-old child, you don’t hit someone with whom you hope to develop a good friendship. And unless you really don’t want a relationship with God, you don’t intentionally hurt Him either.

Unfortunately, instead of nurturing our relationship with God, each of us has chosen the route of that eight-year-old. Romans 3:23 states that, “…all have sinned; all fall short.” We’ve chosen to strike God rather than embrace Him. And as much as God would like each of us to be His friend, He isn’t going to force us to do something we don’t want to do.

Rejecting His friendship, however, also means rejecting all of the benefits of that friendship. James 1:17 tells us that, “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father.” (NLT) So in rejecting God, we’re also rejecting everything that’s good. This absence of good is known as “Hell” and the description the Bible gives of this place is not pretty. The Apostle John wrote, “I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne.  And the books were opened, including the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to the things written in the books, according to what they had done.  And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.”  (Revelation 20:12,15) This is eternal separation from God, beyond the reach of His friendship. And it’s a choice we make.

So what happens when we realize that we’ve made the wrong choice? Well, there’s good news… God didn’t quit wanting a relationship with us just because we didn’t want one with Him. In order to make reconciliation possible, He took on human flesh and died on a cross to pay the price that justice demanded. (This would be a bit like a person being convicted of assault… and someone else serving the prison sentence.) All we have to do is accept that gift. Ephesians 2:8,9 states that, “God saved you by his special favor when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

If we’ve accepted that gift, then we have the eternal security we talked about earlier.  Nothing that we or anyone else can do will ever change the fact that we’re Heaven bound!  This free gift, however, effects more than our eternal destination: it plays an important role in how we cope with the insecurities that we experience right here on earth.  Once our relationship with God has been restored, He offers us peace amidst turmoil, patience in the face of injustice, and satisfaction even when we’ve been wronged.  He offers us the grace to handle any situation we encounter either at home, at school, or in the workforce with the confidence and assurance that He is on our side.  And that is security at its best!

Just for the Fun of It

7 Aug

Read: Ecclesiastes 11:1-10

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

James 1:17 NASB

One of the greatest challenges faced by the House pages was that of opening (and sometimes closing) the heavy wooden doors which barred access to the House chambers.  With glass panes and brass fittings, the antique doors were beautiful to behold.  One tug on the polished handle, however, was enough to identify another important characteristic: they were also extremely heavy.  Moving them was a feat of strength and moving them fast enough to let someone in or out of the chambers required that this strength be applied at great speed.

It was standard practice to assign one or two pages to open these doors for Representatives as they passed through and it wasn’t long before an informal competition had developed.  Paying careful attention to the activities within the chambers, pages would do their best to anticipate when their services would be needed and fling wide the heavy doors before the Representatives ran face-first into them.  This not only gave the ornate porthole a bit of Star Trek flare, but it also prevented excessive medical bills on the part of our elected officials. Sadly, the same doors which allowed access to the chambers also barred any noise from exiting it.  Those who stood without could not hear the debate taking place inside and the result was that tending the doors was, for the most part, an exercise in tedium.

Part way through the session, we realized that there were a few Representatives within the chambers who faced a similar difficulty.  Aside from playing solitaire on their laptops, there was little to keep them entertained during the less important debates and any form of distraction (even if it was only visible through the glass panes of the doors) was welcome.  And so miming became a part of the pages’ regular activities.

We’d walk past the doors as though we were going down a flight of stairs or (when we could recruit others to join us) pass by as an Olympic rowing team.  The longer we were there, the more creative and refined the scenarios became and it wasn’t long before all those who were formerly the captives of boredom were having a great time.

Sadly, it’s so easy to get caught up in what we perceive to be the “important” things of life that we miss similar opportunities to enjoy ourselves.  Focused on duty or image, held captive by deadlines and responsibilities, we fail to take the time to simply stop and smell the roses.

Fortunately, God has provided each of us with plenty of opportunities to smell the roses, be a little silly, and enjoy a good laugh.  Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves, “What good is the gift of life if we aren’t taking the time to enjoy it?”

Challenge:  When was the last time you did something “just for the fun of it”?  God created us with a sense of humor and a need for rest and relaxation.  This week, set aside some time just to enjoy being alive.  Engage in a hobby, play a sport, or even watch a television show.  You may be surprised by the amount of good a little “fun” can do!

The Rummage Sale

22 May

Read: Matthew 25:14-30

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

James 1:17 NASB

A quick look around the nursery was sufficient to see that we had too much plant material on hand.  The season was nearing an end and, without enough room to plant the remaining trees and shrubs on our own lot or to successfully over winter them in the greenhouse, we had no choice but to begin marking down the product.

We placed each discounted plant in an area of the nursery marked with red tape, their new prices or the percentage discount prominently displayed on each one.  Many of the plants saw discounts far beyond half off (you’ve heard that saying: “If it ain’t half off, it ain’t on sale”).  It was not ideal, but we felt that we had little choice… and our customers did enjoy the newfound treasures!

I saw plenty of these healthy, but dilapidated-looking pieces of greenery come through the check stands with their $40 price tags crossed out and $5 scrawled in its place.  Anyone who knew what the nursery had originally paid for these plants would have been impressed by such discounts… but even this was insufficient to please a few rare customers.

I was working this “rummage sale” area one afternoon when a lady approached me.  “I want to speak to a manager about getting a discount on these.  They look a bit ragged.”

I quickly explained that it was for this very reason that they had already been marked down, but to no avail.  After failing to reach the manager about the possibility of an even deeper discount, I suggested that we speak with the assistant manager.

“I already talked to her,” my customer replied.  “She said no, so I want to talk with the manager.”

Sadly, when this could not be arranged, she left the store… without the plant in question.  It was an amazing price, but apparently, not amazing enough.

Unfortunately, oft times we as Christians behave in a similar manner.  Seeing the good gifts that God has already given us, the great deal offered at His expense, we seek even more.  While there is nothing wrong with doing so, we must keep in mind that what God has already offered is of phenomenal quality… even when it doesn’t come in the type of packages we expect!

To reject His gifts on the grounds that they aren’t exactly what we would have chosen for ourselves is foolish.  Instead, we must seek to take advantage of all that He offers us… and turn it again to His service!

Challenge:  Don’t let what you wish you had keep you from accepting God’s best for you.  Remember that all good things are a demonstration of His love and can be used in His service… even if they aren’t exactly what we’d hoped for!

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