January 18, 2015

God’s way, not my way

Life seems much simpler if I can remember this: It is far better to obey the way of the Lord than to choose my own ideas, and while there are exceptions, most of the time I know which is which.

Jacob’s wives had trouble with this. The story begins when “Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!’ Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’” (Genesis 30:1–2)

The rest of the chapter reads like a low-grade soap opera. These women plotted to out-do each other in having children to supposedly earn the love of Jacob. In the process, their lives were filled with strife. God’s way is much more peaceful.

The next reading says, “For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12)  Solomon also said that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). He knew that wisdom from God held greater advantage to life than the foolishness of man. God’s way is much more protective.

Later, in the NT, Jesus was approached with a question about a woman who married a man with seven brothers. When this husband died, his brother married her (a custom in those days) and then that one died and so on. The question was: “After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. (Matthew 22:27–33) Jesus made it plain that God’s way makes more sense regarding this marriage issue, but also His way includes life after death. His way is much less complicated and much more rewarding than our reasoning.

Jesus sometimes stumped His questioners with questions. He also confronted their ways. He said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.” (Matthew 23:1–3) These scribes and Pharisees thought their preaching was God-pleasing. However, God’s way goes beyond knowing and telling the truth; His way lives the truth.

Jesus also challenged their neglect and hypocrisy concerning giving. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23–24) God’s way means caring about people as well as being generous. Giving is not about the size of our gift but the motivations of our hearts.

Jesus pushed even farther, this time about righteousness. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean . . . . For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25–28)

God’s way is about the heart, about having a generous spirit and unselfishness, about integrity and doing the His will with honest and pure motivations.

For me, putting on a show of righteousness is often easier, but it is not God’s way. He asks me to be real about who I am and be real in how I portray myself to Him and to others. God’s way cares about the way I am on the inside. When I sin or fail to live His way, I am not to fake it, or try to cover it, but be truthful about my failures.

God’s way is often difficult, but it leads to forgiveness and freedom.

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