Tag Archives: envy

The Sermon, part 27: The False Ones

Read Matthew 7:15-23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:11-13 NRSV)

vaderandpalp“Beware of False prophets”, Jesus warns his disciples in the Gospel According to Matthew.” This is not a warning of outsiders coming into Christian circles to lead them astray, but of insiders. This is a warning that Jesus makes to his disciples regarding other Christians who call Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” but are only do so with their mouth and not with their deeds. Their words produce praises of Jesus, but their actions contradict and stand against the will of God as given through Jesus Christ.

Since I am in a huge Star Wars mood at the moment, I will liken Jesus’ warning to the first three episodes of the Star Wars franchise. Young Anakin Skywalker had such potential to be a powerful and just Jedi, as well as to be the one who restores the balance to the force and defeats the evil Sith. Yet, Anakin is seduced by the very evil that he is sworn to oppose. That evil, however, did not come in the form of evil. Instead, it came in the form of a kind and seemingly generous old Senator from the noble planet of Naboo.

Senator Palpatine was seemingly a patriot, a friend and ally of the Jedi, and someone who consistently stated he wanted to restore justice to the Republic. When he met young Anakin Skywalker, he acted as a grandfather like character and, behind the scenes, secretly mentored the young Jedi padawan. Unfortunately, behind his kindly words and seemingly sagely advice, lie the sinister and poisonous tongue of an evil and powerful sith Lord.

Over time, Palpatine gained the loyalty of Anakin Skywalker, and was able to lead him to the dark side of the force. Just as Palpatine was being revealed as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, what good was left in Anakin died and he became the Sith Lord Darth Vader. Together, they would topple the democratic Republic and establish the evil Galactic Empire, ruling the entire galaxy in complete and utter tyranny.

This tragedy is what Jesus is warning his disciples against; however, we need to pause before move to the final point. This particular passage troubles me; however, I do not dismiss it or pass it off as untrue or unimportant. It troubles me because the accusation of “False Prophet” gets weilded around Christianity like Darth Sidious weilded the world “Rebellion” and “Traitor”. It gets thrown out against other Christians who hold different theologies and doctrinal understandings but self-righteous and zealot Christians who think that their way of understanding is the ONLY and RIGHT way of understanding.

I can tell you that I have been called a false prophet, as have many Christian leaders out there. I don’t just mean modern Christians either. Paul was called a “false Apostle” by his Jewish-Christian brothers and sisters. Even Jesus was called a false prophet and false Messiah by some of the Jewish leaders who opposed him. Using the label “false prophet” in such away is not only counter to Jesus’ intent here, it also bears the kind of evil that we see in Sidious and Vader who accuse and destroy their opponents.

To throw this accusation out willy nilly because one doesn’t agree with another brother or sister in Christ, not only besmirches them, it also spiritually damages them and blasphemes the Holy Spirit working within them. That kind of blasphemy, according to Jesus, is the ONLY unforgiveable kind of sin because it goes beyond mere sin and enters the realm of evil. One no longer sees God as supreme, but places onself in the seat of God’s supremacy. Such a person is no longer aware of their own sin, but sees their sinfulness and sinful nature as just and righteous. Of course, not all who have been afraid of false prophets, or thrown that accusation around, are irredeemable. I believe no one is irredeemable; however, Jesus’ warning is rightfully strong, because once someone has crossed over that threshold, it is very hard to come back.

Thus, here is Jesus’ point. Not all who call themselves Christian are TRULY followers of Lord Jesus Christ. Only those who do the will of God are. This isn’t measured in one perfectly following the will of God; however, it is measured in their heart and in their overall fruit. Only God can judge the heart, but we can see evidence of the fruit. So, what kind of fruit does a Christian bear? That is simple: LOVE. Those who strive to love God, love neighbor, love enemies, and follow the golden rule, are the ones who are true followers. Those who claim to be Christian but bear the fruit of judgment, self-righteousness, bitterness, envy, hatred, resentfulness, and pride are the ones Christ is warning us against. Be warned and be self-aware.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Words are cheap, heart-driven actions are costly.” – Rev. Todd R. Lattig

PRAYER
Lord, steer me away from all who are false, and steer me away from being false. Amen.

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Envy

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“[Jesus] instructed [the twelve disciples] to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts.” (Mark 6:8 CEB)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

fieryEWORKS OF THE FLESH: Envy. If there was a universal vice, if there was a weakness that all people could claim in some fashion or the other, I think envy would have to be it. I don’t like to generalize, and perhaps there is someone out there who could claim never being envious of someone else, most of us have been envious of someone or of something at some point in our lives. I can remember growing up in a house that had no air conditioning and had no shower. All of my other friends had air conditioning and showers, but NOT MY HOUSE! I remember asking my parents why we couldn’t have a shower or an air conditioner and I remember them responding, “Be happy for what you do have.” Yes, I have experienced envy in the past and usually over things that were small and trivial. My mom was always keen on saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

While I didn’t like those sayings, the reason I didn’t like them was because they were true. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, the grass is always greener in someone else’s pasture, until you have what they have and then that grass seems to dry up and wilt. There is no end to this cycle. I want something until I have it and then I am not happy with what I have and I want something else. Every parent knows this cycle as their children have no doubt told them ALL of the things their friends have that they don’t have.

While that sort of behavior is expected in children, however, it is also found in the church. In fact, it is a work of the flesh that is prevalent in the church. Oh how we wish we were that church over their with the 10,000 person membership, raking in the millions upon millions of dollars per year! Oh, my, what we could do with all of those resources. Just think of the ministry that could be done if we had that big church campus, or that basketball court, or that hip pastor in the tight jeans, or if we had a jumbotron screen and a rocking praise band! These sentiments and more come from tons of congregations. What it implies is that, God blesses those people but has been rather cheap and stingy with us!

So let’s look at Jesus’ ministry. He started alone, picked up twelve disciples, then picked up hundreds…then thousands…of followers, then lost those followers, got arrested, was back to twelve disciples (two of whom either betrayed or denied him), and only one male disciple and a couple female disciples showed up at the foot of the cross. Jesus’ ministry was nothing to be envious of, there was no jumbotron, no cool and hip praise band, no steady cash flow, no mega church campus or anything else. His ministry was poor monetarily…but it was profoundly rich in many other ways. Remember, we are to model ourselves off of Christ, to not envy others as if we have nothing, and to be thankful for what we do have. And what is that? The Good News of God’s love for us through Jesus Christ our Lord. And that is all we, as the church, truly need! Now go and preach it!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.” – Paul of Tarsus in his letter to the church in Philippi (Philippians 4:12-13, CEB)

PRAYER
Lord, help to be content in all things so that I may glorify you through what I have. Amen.