Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, or suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. Prov. 23:4-5
Dear heavenly Father, the last several years have felt like an economic yo-yo, in our culture. Some of us who thought we’d be retired in a couple of years are now thinking it’s ten, if at all. Some of us have lost jobs, even homes, or worse, our marriages. Others of us are holding tighter to our stuff than ever and are exerting great energy just to get more. And then some of us have “hit the lottery”—having experienced an economic upturn, turn around near-windfall story. Lord, teach us the wisdom of these two little verses.
Father, give us the perspective of the gospel to bear as we think about our relationship to “stuff.” Have we assumed the right to excess? Does a spirit of entitlement go unchecked in our hearts? Why did we think only first-century disciples of Jesus would ever actually have to pray for daily bread? Has abundance become our ”need”?
In our “iWorld” of new gadgets and cool widgets, help us remember that over half of the population on the earth exists on three of our American dollars, or less, a day. Father, help us, like your Word instructs, only to glance at riches, rather than setting our gaze on them.
Give us restraint, enjoyment and generosity. If we would wear ourselves out for anything, let it be for …
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 2 Cor. 8:1-5
Heavenly Father, we come before you today challenged by this picture of radical grace; and the timing couldn’t be better, as we enter the Christmas season. This one story alone underscores why we can never emphasize your grace too much. Grace is never to be counterbalanced with law, only multiplied with more grace. Indeed, through Jesus you continue to give us grace upon grace (John 1:16).
What an amazing story—the severely afflicted and extremely poor Christians of Macedonia became a model of radical generosity to the much wealthier believers in Corinth. They had so much joy, they gave sacrificially—beyond their means for the benefit of strangers. Not from guilt, not to get more for themselves, not to impress you or others; rather, they gave freely and joyfully—the quintessential model of cheerful giving (2 Cor. 9:7).
For the glory of Jesus and the advancing of your kingdom, we …
When they (the Magi) saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11
Dear Jesus, whether they were magicians, astronomers or astrologers… whether there were three, nine or seventeen of them, it makes absolutely no difference. The Magi were wise men and they show us the way of true wisdom, because they lead us to you, not to a library or a school of philosophers.
At Advent you became wisdom from God for us, Jesus—“that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). It’s great to have conundrum-solving and decision-making wisdom, but better-by-far to have the Wisdom that makes us right with God. The incarnation of Wisdom tops propositions of wisdom immeasurable times over. That’s why we boast only in you, Jesus, and not in ourselves and our so-called “wisdom.”
In fact, you’re the real seeker in the story of the Magi. Promises of your coming, an irrepressible calling, a providential star, a Spirit-generated joy…. how we praise you for drawing men and women to yourself from every period of history… every family of humanity… and every segment of society, including these Persian star-gazers and ourselves. Come Herod or high-water, those you’ve come to save will come to you, Jesus.
My prayer for this Advent season is quite simple. Jesus. Please reveal …
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33
Lord Jesus, this is one early morning I’d don’t feel alone, at all. From where I’m seated, I can already see streams of cars heading for the stores and malls and it’s only 4 in the morning. They call it Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving—a day when your words about “running after all these things” really come to life.
People are already pushing against doors… running up isles… grabbing for stuff… racing to the shortest checkout line… like famished people who haven’t eaten in weeks, with manners that would usually embarrass most grandmothers, except today, because the grandmothers are right there with them.
Jesus, I’m not sitting here smugly judging anyone, for there’s no one, by nature, more greedy or grabby than me. I thank you I live in a time and place of abundance. I thank you I’ve never had to be concerned about what I’ll eat, drink or wear. I even thank you that many people will enjoy fine savings and get real bargains today.
But on this Black Friday I’m especially grateful for Good Friday, and what you accomplished on that everything-changing day. These two Fridays couldn’t …