Posts Tagged ‘being sacrificial’

Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 3 of 5)
Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field

How often do you hear it? I have done my part! I gave to United Way. I have done my part! I give my weekly $25 bucks to my church. I have done my part! I gave to the hurricane relief fund. I gave the homeless man $0.50 yesterday. We absolve ourselves of generosity by throwing a minimum of money at a situation. We complain about the poor. We complain about the crime in inner cities. We complain about gangs. We complain about it all. But, don’t raise our taxes and, boy, don’t ask me personally to do anything about it! Don’t ask me to give of my time to go into the inner city and help with the basic problem of crime and gangs – lack of education leading to lack of opportunities. Don’t ask me to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to social issues. I pay my taxes. I contribute to United Way. I give to a little bit to my church. All those things should be solving the problem. We complain about how all these problems are being solved by agencies and church organizations and we talk about how it could be done better, but don’t ask me to go do anything about it. We throw a minimum amount of money at the situations and think we have done our part.

Don’t ask me to go out of my way. Don’t ask me to get off the couch. Don’t ask me to give up my weekends. Don’t ask me to giving up my season tickets to Clemson football or the money I spend on tailgating and partying before and after the game. Don’t ask me to give up my boat. Don’t ask me to give up my Sunday afternoon on the lake. Don’t ask me to give downsize my mortgage and leave my gated community and my two story, four bedroom house. Don’t ask me to give up my big screen TV in every room. Don’t ask me to give up all my toys. I treasure these things and because I do, I can only do the minimum when it comes to generosity of my time, talents, and resources. I value all these things that entertain me and give me self-gratification that I value helping others on the outside of my property lines. I would rather have a house that is more than I can afford. I would rather have a car whose payment is just beyond what I can handle. I would rather have more clothes than I know what to do with. I would rather have more toys than I can play with in a lifetime. I would rather live off of 105% of what I make than actually care about what goes on in the world. I would rather just have my United Way deduction from my paycheck and give my extra 20-spot in my wallet to the church (when I have an extra 20-spot in my wallet when I check it at church on Sunday). Thank you. Just let my live in my cocoon of things and debt and I will do the minimum of generosity to the world around me, thank you, and I will feel good about myself, and pat myself on the back for having done so. Is this you and me?

God does not want us to checklist our way in this world. He does not want us to do the minimum and then wash our hands. He wants all of us. He wants us to be all-in when it comes to loving Him and therefore as a result loving people. He sees no heart in doing the minimum. He sees no love of Him in not being sacrificial when it comes to loving and caring for others more than ourselves. He sees us choosing to entertain ourselves with all the toys that we mortgage our paychecks away with and then we do and give as little as possible of our time, talents, and resources (when it does not interfere with the things that I think I deserve) but yet pat our back when we do just the very minimum. We volunteer at church functions and say we have made an impact on the community. We give $10 a week to our church but say we tithe. We give to the church when we have extra dollars but claim we help the church do what it does to impact the world around us. We volunteer when it does not interfere with Gamecock football or our kids baseball, basketball or football. We do the minimum. Is this you and me?

That was the thing that struck me when I read this passage/chapter of Ruth for the third of five reads through this morning – the way that Boaz went out of his way, even when he had already done the minimum expectation, to be generous to Ruth. Let’s read through Ruth 2:1-23 once again today:

2 Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

2 One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

4 While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.[a] 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.

19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.[b] That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

21 Then Ruth[c] said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

22 “Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

23 So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.

In this passage, we see that the characters in this book of Ruth are classic examples of good people in action. Boaz went far beyond the intent of the gleaner’s law in demonstrating his kindness and generosity. Not only did he let Ruth glean in his field, but also he told his workers to let some of the grain fall in her path on purpose. Out of his abundance he provided for the needy. How often do we go beyond the minimum requirement or accepted patterns of providing for those less fortunate than us? Boaz demonstrates to us that generosity should be a state of mind rather some checklist item of minimum behavior.

Boaz’s behavior here reminds me of what Jesus was trying to tell us in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. He spoke of the Ten Commandments there as if they were the minimum expected behavior not some high achievement that we should pat ourselves on the back for not violating or for upholding. Jesus said although the Commandments say that we should not murder, He said that we should not let things even get that far. If we have anger toward someone, go to them and resolve it and work it out with them where you are reconciled. Reconciliation requires forgiveness. Of adultery, the Commandment say do not do it. Jesus said that is a minimum of behavior. We should not even put ourselves in such positions. We must take even our adulterous thoughts captive and submit them to the Lord. Once we have lustful thoughts and water them and nurture them, they will grow into adultery. We therefore stand condemned when we allow such thoughts to stay in our mind even before it becomes the physical act of adultery. He goes onto to discuss other points of minimum behavior required by Mosaic law, but Jesus says that we need to go beyond the minimum requirements of the law not because we are checklist keepers but because we are lovers of God. We should do more than the minimum because we love God and as a result love to please Him. So many of us do the minimum so that we can impress people on the horizontal plane but don’t really buy into what we are doing because we are not trying to please God in the vertical plane.

Should we not love God and love others enough to come out of our mortgaged, self-contained worlds where we entertain ourselves and really make a difference for the world around us. Yes, we should be concerned with social justice as Christians. We should care enough about the lowly and downtrodden in this world to make a difference in their lives both in one-on-one situations and corporately as a part of the body of Christ. We should be concerned with the lowly because they too are created in the image of God and they do deserve the dignity of being loved by a follower of Jesus Christ. We should love them as God loves and be willing to do more than the minimum. It begins with prioritization. It begins with our finances. We should order our lives financially where we live off of less than we make. We should order our lives in this way so that we don’t have to break our backs just to keep our finances afloat. There is peace that comes with that and it also allows us to be generous financially. We should also place a priority on investing our time and our talents in those things that matter eternally. Let us pray about those things that we want to see change in our world and ask God to help us figure out where we can cut out time investment in things that do not matter eternally.

Let us pray for the eyes to see and the heart to desire to do more than the minimum. To do more than say, “I give to United Way!”

 

Amen and Amen.

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Numbers 31:25-54 (Part 1 of 2)

Division of the Plunder

Lost in all the huh-bub of the election is that (1) tomorrow is Veteran’s Day and (2) Thanksgiving is just two weeks away from today. We have been so busy running up to the election and all the who, what, when, where and why that we have almost forgotten these two important holidays and we cannot forget their significance to us. We will look at the significance of both these holidays in light of the passage, Numbers 31:25-54, over this and one more blog.

 

First, tomorrow, we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. It is the day on the calendar that we celebrate both our living and dead servicemen who have made the sacrifice to serve our country. Originally, it was a holiday to celebrate the peace that came with the ending of World War I. It was call Armistice Day back then. Armistice is an expensive word, a fancy word, for peace (or the lack of conflict). It is celebrated on November 11 each year because the cease-fire that ended World War I went into effect at 11pm on November 11, 1918. So, the cease-fire went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month so it is fitting that November 11th is Veterans Day. Over the years though Armistice Day, a celebration of the end of World War I, morphed into a celebration of our brave men and women who have served our country, some of who gave their life in that effort. It was President Reagan, in 1986, who said it best when he said,

 

“Veterans Day gives all Americans a special opportunity to pay tribute to all those men and women who throughout our history, have left their homes and loved ones to serve their country. Their willingness to give freely and unselfishly of themselves, even their lives, in defense of our democratic principles has given our great country the security we enjoy today. From Valley Forge to Vietnam, through war and peace, valiant patriotic Americans have answered the call, serving with honor and fidelity.”

 

Thus, tomorrow we give honor to those who have chosen not to pursue the safe course that most of us choose. These men and women have chosen to go into service to our country knowing that at a moment’s notice they could be placed in harm’s way. They serve to protect the interests of the United States and do not question whether those interests are right or not. They just serve their country and defend our way of life. They love their country and are willing to serve. They find it a higher calling. They are willing to be away from family and friends for extended periods of time to live a life of vigilance, honor, duty and fidelity – a way of life that is bound by these characterstics, a way of life that we should employ in the non-military world. These men and women are willing to give their lives for the brothers in arms and for our country. There is no more honorable way to die than in service of defending freedom.

 

It was the willingness to sacrifice time, talents, personal resources, and their very lives that we honor on Veterans Day (when we celebrate both living and dead soldiers – whereas on Memorial Day we celebrate only those who have died). I thought of that because of the willingness to give was what I thought of here when I read through this passage as follows:

 

25 The Lord said to Moses, 26 “You and Eleazar the priest and the family heads of the community are to count all the people and animals that were captured. 27 Divide the spoils equally between the soldiers who took part in the battle and the rest of the community. 28 From the soldiers who fought in the battle, set apart as tribute for the Lord one out of every five hundred, whether people, cattle, donkeys or sheep. 29 Take this tribute from their half share and give it to Eleazar the priest as the Lord’s part. 30 From the Israelites’ half, select one out of every fifty, whether people, cattle, donkeys, sheep or other animals. Give them to the Levites, who are responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.” 31 So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

32 The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 33 72,000 cattle, 34 61,000 donkeys 35 and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.

 

36 The half share of those who fought in the battle was:

 

337,500 sheep, 37 of which the tribute for the Lord was 675;

 

38 36,000 cattle, of which the tribute for the Lord was 72;

 

39 30,500 donkeys, of which the tribute for the Lord was 61;

 

40 16,000 people, of whom the tribute for the Lord was 32.

 

41 Moses gave the tribute to Eleazar the priest as the Lord’s part, as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

42 The half belonging to the Israelites, which Moses set apart from that of the fighting men— 43 the community’s half—was 337,500 sheep, 44 36,000 cattle, 45 30,500 donkeys 46 and 16,000 people. 47 From the Israelites’ half, Moses selected one out of every fifty people and animals, as the Lord commanded him, and gave them to the Levites, who were responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.

 

48 Then the officers who were over the units of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—went to Moses 49 and said to him, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing. 50 So we have brought as an offering to the Lord the gold articles each of us acquired—armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings and necklaces—to make atonement for ourselves before the Lord.”

 

51 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted from them the gold—all the crafted articles. 52 All the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds that Moses and Eleazar presented as a gift to the Lord weighed 16,750 shekels.[a] 53 Each soldier had taken plunder for himself. 54 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds and brought it into the tent of meeting as a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord.

 

Moses told the Israelites to give a portion of their war plunder to God. Another portion was to go to the people of who Israel who stayed behind. Similarly, the money we earn is not our own. Everything we possess comes directly from God because it is He who gives us the talents that we use to earn it. Thus, everything we own is the result of our ability to earn money and our ability to earn that money comes from the talents that God gave us. As a result, we should always give a share of what we earn back to God. It is a sign of thanksgiving to Him for giving us the abilities to provide for ourselves and for our families. Without God giving us our talents, that are unique to each of us, we would not be able to earn wages. Then, it is selfish and dishonoring to God not to obey His command and give a portion of it back to Him. Are you honoring God in this way?

 

Just as our military men are giving back to the country that they love by going full-on, all-in, in service to their country, so should we be willing to give back in the same way to God. Usually, to a man (or woman), each military persons says that they owe a debt of gratitude to their country so they sacrifice to serve her and are willing to defend her with their lives. What if we viewed our money in relationship to God in this way?

 

Most of tend to give only what we have left over to God rather than sacrifice our personal pleasure and give 10% or more of what we make to the Lord. We do not determine to live our lifes off on 90% or less of what we make so that we might honor God for giving us the abilities we use to earn money. What if our soldiers decided to give our country what was left over? I will serve our country when I have a little time left over in my time wallet. What if our soldiers decided to serve only when they had an extra 20 minutes in their time wallet just like how we tend to give to the Lord when we have an extra $20 bill in our money wallet?

 

Let us honor the Lord in the same way in which our fighting men and women of our military serve our country. They are being sacrificial by not choosing the easy way. They could live a life of pursuing selfish desires but, no, they live sacrificially in service to their country. They make time to serve the country that they love. They have made it a priority in their lives. In the same way, we should make giving to the Lord a priority in our lives. We should honor the God who gives us our talents. We should obey His command to give 10% or more of what we earn to the Lord. We need to learn the life of generosity rather than the life of selfishness. Our fighting soldiers give generously of their time, talents, and resources to serve our country and do so willingly. We should be giving to the Lord out of the joy of thankfulness for how He has given to us and blessed us with our talents. We should be giving to the Lord out of thankfulness for what He has done in us through our salvation in Jesus Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.