Ownership of the field of treasure

IMG_0114Matthew 13:44 The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and in his joy he went and sold all that he had and bought the field. 

The standard Christian teaching on this is that this man found the treasure of Salvation and realized how important it was, so he hid it and then went and bought the field so that he could have it.  There is nothing inherently wrong about this teaching, but it has some moralistic problems to it.  After all, Jesus focus was about sharing the love of God with others.  In this parable we see a man who is not planning to share at all…if he was, then he would go running to town with the treasure in his arms and shout to all about it, wouldn’t he?!!  Instead he hides it again, then goes and we presume deceptively purchases the field.  We see this kind of thing happen in the world over and over again…some person will find out some facts about some land that makes it more valuable…maybe some plans for the surrounding area that is unknown to the landowner and so they go and offer an outrageous sum of money (in the land owner’s eyes), but still far less than it will actually be worth if the plans known only to the buyer happen.  We call that “land speculation”…totally acceptable from a worldly standpoint, but rather an unChristian way of acting, right?!!  Morally, as Christians we would have problems with this action…especially if we are the ones who get taken advantage of in the land selling process.

An interesting thing I have learned from Dave LeBlanc’s recent teaching on this parable is that the idea of ownership of something means that you have to work at it for 3 years before you have ownership.  Ownership isn’t something that comes about by accident, just because you bought it.  In Jewish terms, which means in the terms that Jewish Rabbi Jesus is teaching to his Jewish Disciples…ownership is acquired not just with money, but you have to actually do something with it, and do something with it consistently for 3 years.  So if we take that idea and look at this parable again we can learn a few things:

1.)  The man was walking on land that was not owned by a family..it was deserted land…fallow land.  After all, if he found a treasure hidden in a field, it was probably buried in the first place and he found it from working the field with the intent to get ownership.  (We know that the land of Israel did not have a lot of forests, it’s fields are good for olives and wine, and wheat.)  So he was working the field and accidentally dug up a treasure, so he goes and reburies it and then since it is so valuable he must focus all of his wealth on acquiring it immediately.  He does this.

Yet, under the law of Torah, he doesn’t actually own it until he has worked it for three years, now according to what Dave is telling us about Rabbinical Judaism  it is not good enough to just buy the land with money, but to have to invest your time and energy into using it and bringing in a harvest…repeatedly.  In other words, Land speculation is not allowed.  You don’t just buy the land and say, “Look at me, I am wealthy I have all this land, but do nothing with it!”  In our terms, we would say, “use it or lose it”…this makes a lot of sense for people of Jesus’ time.  Land that lays fallow is not producing food.  Israel was a land that occasionally had years of famine…so it was important to produce all that it could in the good years.  After all, refrigeration, and freezing and canning as storage methods were not really around.  The main methods of food storage were probably dehydration, pickling, or fermentation.  According to the Old Testament there was a requirement of fallowness for land every 7 years….this was probably more about maintaining the nutrients and not exhausting the land by repeated growing of the same crop that would sap the same nutrients from the soil, so that the land was not worn out.  Spiritually, it was about relying on the Lord for your well being in times of scarcity..every 7 years there was a reminder to Israel about this.

IMG_1595Also under the laws in Leviticus the selling of the land was not to be permanent…so you may say it was more of a renting out for the use of the land and its crop.

2.) So we also learn a deeper meaning if we apply this idea of having to work for something to our salvation and what Jesus was saying about the Kingdom of heaven being like this treasure found in a field.  It was such a valuable treasure that the man was willing to immediately devote his entire wealth and life to attaining the rights to that treasure.

If we apply this idea to our salvation, the we can and should be believing that as Christians we are not actually obtaining that salvation simply by “saying a prayer” and going on about our normal lives.  If we do not plow the field of our salvation, or dig into our Bibles and take the word of the Lord into our hearts on a daily basis and apply it to how we are living out our daily lives, then we are as lost as the person who has never asked Jesus to come into our hearts.  That takes us to another parable, the parable of the seeds:

pexels-photo-280274.jpegLuke 8:4-15 New International Version (NIV)

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

“‘though seeing, they may not see;
    though hearing, they may not understand.’[a]

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 8:10 Isaiah 6:9

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The seed is the Word of God…there are many things that can happen to people who at first hear it, but do not focus on it and work at understanding it and drawing closer to God.  This links right in with the parable of the man who discovered the treasure in the field, except this man was someone who realized the value of God’s Word and was willing to give up everything else to obtain that value, which was greater than everything he owned already.  He completely gave himself to God heart and soul.  He trusted that God’s treasure was so great that no matter what he must not lose it because of allowing something else in his life to get in the way of it…in this man’s heart it is better to give up on everything else than to give up on God.

This goes along with Commandment #1:

Exodus 20:1-3 And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

Does this mean that we are to have nothing in our lives except God?  No, it means that God is to be the center of our lives…every action we take in our lives should be in order to draw closer to God and glorify God.

God has given us possessions to use in order to glorify him and draw closer to him and serve him with our lives.  God has put people in our lives so that we may both learn more about God with them and from them, and also help them to learn more about God and draw closer to God through us and how we love them the way that God loves them.

The point here, is that God is to be the most important…we do not all run out on mission trips to far away nations, we do not all go into the formal ministry of a church..we are all, however, to be lay ministers to others in how we treat them and work with them on God’s behalf in sharing our knowledge of who God is with them.  That is how we work the field…and take ownership of our Salvation through Jesus Christ.  We each, can and should do this every single day in our every day lives.  Most of the time we do this, in the very same place that we are already in, and in the very same job that we are already doing.  It doesn’t matter in God’s eyes if you are a house cleaner, or an architect, or some really wealthy influential business man or world leader…if you are a person who is in Christ you have your mission field right where your are…unless God calls you to go somewhere else and or do something else.

Don’t be misunderstanding here….God will not love you any more or any less no matter what you do and don’t do in your life.  However, if you are going to follow Jesus, which is what must be done to be saved, then that requires action on your part!  Jesus journeyed all the while that he was doing his three year ministry…he took action to bring about the Kingdom of God here on earth…he said his Kingdom is “within you” or “in your midst”.

Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, ‘Lo, it is here!’ or ‘Lo, it is there!’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.”
It is up to each of us to follow Jesus on our journey to Christian maturity…following requires movement!
Here is the link for David LeBlanc’s teaching on the parable of the field of treasure.

 

 

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In Whose Image are you?

g2698Genesis 1:27 (NIV) So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Read Matthew 22:15-22  (NIV)

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 22:17 A special tax levied on subject peoples, not on Roman citizens
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

This past Sunday during Worship our church Pastor presented these words of Jesus in Matthew 22:15-22 to us in a way that I had never had it presented and it really struck me as peculiar that all these years because of the way the world thinks about money being so important that it is usually presented as being about money.  This passage isn’t really about money at all…it is about belonging, or ownership!  It is about who is your Master?

As it was explained on Sunday to us, Jesus was being acknowledged as a Rabbi by these people.  We can read it right there in the text.  It was expected that a Rabbi when asked a question was going to answer it….it was unavoidable…that is why we read that they were trying to trap him.  I mean usually we would say, if he doesn’t answer then he can’t be trapped, right?!!!  Well, being a Rabbi he was required to answer any question that was put to him.

A little background given here is that these Pharisees were Jews and they actually disliked Rome and wanted them gone, but they were also generally the wealthy class and liked the power that they had…they felt that Jesus was a threat to their way of life.  The Herodians on the other hand were followers of Herod Antipas the son of Herod the Great. Herod Antipas and the Herodians all received their power from Rome, so they liked the Roman occupation of Israel.  They also didn’t care for Jesus’ because they thought he was going to move in and become an earthly king in Israel.  They thought he was a threat to their power also.

So in this instance, the Herodians and the Pharisees came together to try and get rid of Jesus by trapping him with his own words.  It seemed that when you read the question that there is no way that Jesus could say anything that was not going to be against Rome or against the Jewish Law.

However, what comes out of Jesus’ mouth is to ask for a coin and say:  “Whose image is on this coin?”  The answer he receives is “Caesar’s”.  So Jesus comes back with “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s!”

So we learn that since Caesar’s picture is on the coin that it originated with him, so he owns it!  That coin was minted by Caesar and controlled by Caesar, if he wants some of it back, then he has a right to take it back in taxes!  So that explains it from the money standpoint, but the other half of Jesus’ statement tells us what he is really meaning when he says to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is Gods.

I mean, look at this….God doesn’t print money, so it must not be talking about money, right?!

So the question becomes how to we give back to God what is God’s?

These are 4 things that my minster gave us as particular methods to give back to God (though there are certainly other additional methods also)

1.) When we worship Him (This causes us to move upward spiritually or to say it a bit differently we put our focus upon the Holiness of God)

2.) When we serve Him (This causes us to move outward spiritually, we put our focus on how we can do what God wants us to do with our lives and not on ourselves so much)

3.) When we are obedient, when we listen to the scriptures and give ourselves over to them even when it is not convenient or easy for us. (This moves us inward spiritually this is a real faith building thing because it allows us to learn to trust God by our obedience)

4.) When we devote ourselves to become more like Jesus. (This moves us onward spiritually and we have a closer very personal relationship with God and with others around us…it also has the very definite effect of allowing us to have the peace in our hearts that Jesus spoke of…the one that passes all understanding)

Being a Christian is about a journey not about being static and unmoving.  Jesus says to follow him by following his teaching.  If you are not moving you are probably not following, this means that your Christian walk has stalled.  When you are on a journey in order to get to the destination you have to keep moving forward.  Jesus wants us to follow him so that we can keep moving forward and closer to God…so that we can become mature in Christ.

Colossians 1:28  He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

As we continue and become more mature Christians we give back to God more and more of what he created….those made in his image…ourselves!

So….Christians…get a move on…continue your journey…give to God what is God’s!

IMG_0240
the girl on the right in this photo is about the image of the woman on the left in the other photo
Glenna and Essie and Ralph
The woman on the left in this photo is the Great Grandmother of the girl on the right in the other photo…only God could stamp people like this 3 generations apart!

Yahweh, Jehovah, I AM

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Commandment #3 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Exodus 3:13-15: Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, What is his name? Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.”  God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your fathers- The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.” This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.”

John 8:58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born I AM.”

Notes:  In Unger’s Bible dictionary it says that the word Jehovah is a misspelling of the word Yahweh which in Hebrew means “He causes to be or He exists, or He creates.”  This explains why God uses the term I AM to describe himself.  I AM is a short way to say that he exists and has always existed, that God is not a created being.  He is the Creator of Everything.  The tradition of the Hebrews was to not say God’s name out loud in conversation.  This tradition probably has a lot to do with the fact that God’s name is Holy, and that misusing God’s name was punishable by death.   After all, if you don’t say it out loud, then you cannot misuse it accidentally or on purpose.  Historians believe that this is what led to the mispronouncing of God’s name Yahweh (Yahway) as Jehovah.  Since it was never pronounced out loud, some forgot how to pronounce, and spell it.  Also as you can see in John 8:58 Jesus describes himself with the traditional title that God used for himself with Moses.

Exodus 20:7  You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Read Leviticus 24:10-23  The story of the Blasphemer.

10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them.

13 Then the Lord said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him.15 Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.

17 “‘Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death. 18 Anyone who takes the life of someone’s animal must make restitution—life for life. 19 Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. 21 Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death. 22 You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.’”

23 Then Moses spoke to the Israelites, and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The Israelites did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Reading this story of the blasphemer who was put to death and the indictment that God laid on him is very hard.  There are many things that are hard to understand, but if you realize that God is a Holy God, and that he was in the process of making the people of Israel into a group of people who were to be living examples of the character of God to others on earth…then it can be seen that a person who did not respect the God who was providing for them and caring for them could not be tolerated.
I know, you are probably saying that they could have just thrown him out of the camp, but again, if you think about the environment outside the camp…a dry and desert environment…wouldn’t throwing this person out be the same as sentencing them to death?  There was a reason why people traveled in caravans in those days.  There was no city, no civilization…just their camp.
At the same time, it is shown in verse 21 that God was not giving this instruction lightly…the value of human life is of the utmost importance.  God also did not want anyone to believe that there was a separate law for the native Israelite and the one who lived in Israel but had an Egyptian Father, so in verse 22 he reminds them that the law is for both the Israelite and the foreign born.  The same law.
We have a lot of conflicting beliefs over the death penalty as a punishment, but the Bible clearly had laws regarding this, and considered that someone who took God’s name lightly or ran down God’s name should be treated to that punishment.  The punishment of death was not lightly given…but for very grave offenses, such as adultery, murder, and blasphemy.
There should also be an understanding that God was applying these laws to those who lived within the boundaries of Israel and with the Israelite people.  The 10 commandments were given so that people could understand how to live with each other….to have respect for each other, and the land of Israel was a Theocracy, not a Democracy.  We Westerners, as a rule, have a hard time understanding what a Theocracy is, and how people can live in one.  That is because we believe that the individual freedoms of people are more important than our individual beliefs about God….in other words, we are generally more self centered, than God centered.
The peculiar thing here is that the Pharisees used this law to try and trap Jesus.  They found that despite all the scriptures about the Messiah, they were unable to believe that Jesus, who was identifying himself with God…could be that Messiah.  All they saw was blasphemy.
Luke 5:20-21  20When Jesus saw their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” 21But the scribes and Pharisees began to consider this and ask, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemy?  Who can forgive sins but God along?”
If we were a strict Theocracy then we would be having everything in our lives revolve around God, and all of our laws would be looking to make God centered decisions.
Personally, I am grateful that we do not live in such a strict society; because even a strict theocracy is governed by human beings who are incapable of making good judgements about people.  In the days of Moses, God was in direct and certain communication with Moses…there wasn’t any doubt about this within the confines of the Israelite people.  God was their rescuer and Moses was the leader that God had given to them. Moses, himself, was under the punishment of God for misrepresenting God’s character to his people.  He was banned from ever entering the promised land for doing that.
God is a loving God, but we cannot forget that he is a Righteous and Holy God who is not to be taken lightly.  Whether in speech or in action.  The good news is that he is a loving God who is just to forgive us whenever we ask for it sincerely….If you look back at that story we do not hear that the blasphemer of Mose’s time was asking for forgiveness at all…it is not made clear to us…but if we look at the pharisees…even thinking that Jesus was a blasphemer they picked up stones to stone him..John 8:59  At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. 
The seriousness with which the Jews took this law of God and the Holiness of God’s name into their hearts was still in effect in Jesus’ time which was thousands of years after Mose’s time. The thing is that Jesus was who he was saying he was, yet the Pharisees could not see it!  They were blinded by their own self-righteousness!