Part 1. Do You Believe The Bible?
I’ll never forget when I lived overseas as a missionary and, like an oasis in a desert, the postman delivered a box of brownies sent from a college friend (which were stale by the time they got to me… but I definitely didn’t care). Ambrosia to the soul in a foreign land. Well she not only sent brownies, she included encouraging notes from several friends and, right there on the box, she stuck this verse:
“He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25.
I stared at that verse and blinked, stunned and amazed, “like a calf looking at a new gate” as we say in Texas. I was faced with the reality of that verse, because I was holding its proof in my hand. God was using these friends of mine to refresh me, just as I was giving my life away to serve people and refresh them. It kind of blew my mind; like the universe was folding in on itself.
(It was one of the many times when) I looked at my life against the Scriptures and thought, “this stuff is TRUE!” I still have those moments… and I love them.
It is true. All of it. Every word. His Word is so powerful that it can speak the spark of life into a stinking corpse and bring it right back to wholeness, whether the decaying skin wants it or not. His Word can create land where there was only water. It can heal blindness with mud cakes. It can uphold a nation though the people be stripped of their land and scattered across the globe for generations. His Word overcomes everything, every time, without fail and without breaking a sweat. The Word of God can have an entire life thrown at it and not only hold that life, but attach to it “every good thing” while removing every poison and offense. It is so perfectly true and so exhaustively abundant that it can unite a broken marriage, heal a dead child, throw demons into disarray, and rewrite history by something as outlandish as impregnating a virgin. All hail the Word of God.
I have not always had an easy time with the Bible. Some of it is challenging, and sometimes it seems to contradict itself. But a righteous man, as Tommy Nelson once taught me, is one who struggles with God’s Word, so we forge onward, knowing that, as Jesus said, “Your Word is Truth” (John 17:17. Easy memory verse there, people). Do you ever want to remove parts of God’s Word because they’re difficult to understand, or hard to follow, or violate your theology? I’ve certainly been there. But we want to eat His Word whole, like God told Ezekiel to do; when we do, we’ll find it sweet and satisfying all the way down.
Now… do you mind if I give you some challenging verses, and ask you some questions? I hope that’s okay.
1. Do not worry about your life, [about what to wear, or what you’ll eat, or your life and existence at all]… Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well. (Matthew 6:25-33)
Okay. We’ve heard this one a lot. It’s how you brush off worry and keep yourself focused on Him. I’m down with that. But… But… listen now. So… so, AFTER this is lived out… what happens when these things get added to you as well? Have you ever wondered that? What do you call that kind of person who’s had all their food and clothes and their whole existence added to them after seeking the Kingdom, and they don’t worry about provision anymore? Seriously, think of a person who has all their food and clothes provided for them, with no worry for their whole life (for us that would include housing, transportation, education, etc. etc.). How would you describe that person? And how would you feel about them? Would you think that maybe they’re presumptuous? Irresponsible? Foolish?
Put a pin in that for now. Let’s move on.
2. I have said to you, “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. (Leviticus 20:24)
Let’s try this again. God is making a promise here (to Israel… and, by extension, to us). Will He fulfill it? Of course He will. So… So… so what happens after you inherit land (you don’t buy it, you inherit it-it’s just given to you), and this land just flows with milk and honey of its own accord, producing abundance on its own, without labor, like the Garden of Eden? What do call a group of people who are separated into that kind of a situation, where there’s self-producing abundance and the necessity for labor is removed? Who are these lucky so-and-sos?
[Now put a pin in that, too.]
3. He becomes poor who deals with a slack hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. (Proverbs 10:4)
There is one who scatters and yet increases, but one who withholds more than is due surely comes to poverty. The liberal soul will be made fat, and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:24-25)
Wealth gotten in haste will be diminished, but he who gathers little by little will increase. (Proverbs 13:11)
Oh boy, there’s a bunch happening here. Okay, let’s try to follow these mini-stories to their conclusions, too. So wait: if you reap the Biblical fruit of diligence, WHAT does it make you? I mean, what does GOD say happens to someone who is not lazy but is industrious? And what’s the outcome of this one who gives liberally, not stingy? And what’s the description of the person who gathers little by little, not going for a winning lotto ticket but pursuing modest gains over time? What does the Bible say? What does our LORD and Master say happens after all this? What does that person look like, and what do we call that kind of person? (Hint: these proverbs spell it right out for us. AND: it’s the same answer as the questions I posed after the first two points. AND: it’s a word that probably gives the Bible people heebie jeebies. You ready? Here it is:)
It’s called BEING RICH.
Can I share my personal reaction to that word? Disgust. Repulsion. Sickly gross-out. It’s just where I came from: I really didn’t know any “rich” people growing up, and if I did know someone from afar, I assumed they either didn’t really love Jesus or were maybe working on it. But the assumption from my crew (and it wasn’t unique to us, just go hang around church a bit. They’ll insinuate that righteousness lives exclusively with the poor) was that if you’ve got ANY money left over you’re suspect: you don’t really love Jesus enough to give EVERYTHING away and “trust Him with your future.” (Writing that now makes me want to gag…) But my personal reaction the big, bolded statement above doesn’t make it untrue. It just means that I’m not yet in line with the story of the Scripture. (Shucks.)
I’m going to talk more about the above-a lot more-in part 2 and onward (if you can’t help yourself, sorry, the link will be here next week), but I want to restate before we proceed, for you and me both: the Bible is true. All of it… whether we believe it or not, and whether we like it or not. Whether we react with joy or fear or even disgust. I for one am betting my life on its reliability but, even if I didn’t-if I hated it and spent my life trying to tear it down-it would still be Truth. It will always be true, though man defile it, reject it, rebel against it, and try to discredit or destroy it. It will never change. But..! when we do believe it–all of it–it affects the lens with which we see the world. To cite him again, Tommy Nelson says that changing your worldview is the goal of the Bible (he’s a better scholar than me-by a large margin-so I’ll just defer), meaning that we all approach the Bible with adjustments needing to be made. Until we come into full agreement with the scriptures, we need editing. Significantly so. All our decisions, emotional reactions, relationships, and life decisions will be shaped by our relationship with His Word. So I’ll just let that simmer for now.
And sure, you can proceed to part 2 if you’re ready.