The angel’s announcement was probably still ringing in Mary’s ears, along with the fears and unknowns. Was it even possible that a small-town teenager, and a virgin at that, could be carrying a divinely conceived Savior?
She remembered something else the angel had said.
"And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:36-37)
So Mary “went with haste” to see Elizabeth, about a 100-mile journey. She needed a friend — someone she could talk to, someone who would understand. Luke shares a glimpse of her arrival.
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:41-45)
Mary’s response to this knowing and loving welcome is called The Magnificat; it’s a beautiful, heartfelt song of praise. Luke writes that she stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, probably until the birth of Elizabeth’s son, John the Baptist, before she returned home to Nazareth.
We don’t know a lot about what happened during those three months, but we can draw some lessons for friendship from what we do see in this passage.
First, God showers love on us and fills our needs through friendships that reflect Him. He kindly provided Elizabeth to Mary and filled her with the Holy Spirit so she would instantly understand her young cousin and recognize the miracle she was carrying. The first book of John says, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). Elizabeth’s warm greeting had to be soul-filling and faith-affirming for Mary, and during the weeks that followed, the two women undoubtedly shared conversations that uplifted and encouraged them both. They were able to give one another love because they were close to ultimate source of love.
We also see two women of different generations, yet they were sharing similar experiences. Our similarities tie us with one another, but our diversity offers different vantage points. And wisdom isn’t exclusive to old age.
Another notable trait of their friendship is that Mary and Elizabeth mutually submitted to one another. Elizabeth’s posture was humility, while Mary demonstrated sacrifice as she traveled a long distance to serve, we can assume, her cousin in her last trimester even when she was facing her own trials. It’s a beautiful picture of what Peter shared, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5)
And finally, Mary and Elizabeth pointed each other to Jesus. They stepped outside of the gravity and excitement of the moment, and tuned in to the One whose glory they were witnessing, the One who would sustain them, and the One who was the point of it all.
As we consider these two friends, we must also face the reality that The Fall has woven a thread of sinfulness into our female friendships. Our inclination is to compete and compare. But when Jesus is invited into our relationships, it is an overflow of his love and grace that allows us to experience the gift of friendship that Mary and Elizabeth shared.
Dear Jesus, you are the point of it all. Surround us with women who will direct us to you. Show us how to be better friends, how to humble ourselves and how to love one another as you love us. We ask that you grant us wisdom as we navigate our relationships so that we will invest in those that will glorify you and set boundaries to guard us from others. May you be the love of our lives, for we will only find perfection in you. Amen.
The rooms are dark and dirty. The walls and floors are stripped bare. Let’s face it; she's a mess. But she’s a lot like us — a work in progress.
Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, “… we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (4:16).
These surroundings give us a picture of what we’re like when we surrender to Jesus: exposed and cold, dirty with sin. But he sees us in our transformed state: bright and clean, gloriously living a new life and especially designed for his purposes.
God promises us in Ezekiel, “I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (36:26b).” Theologians called this transformation “progressive sanctification,” meaning Jesus is actively working to set us apart for his sacred purposes and to make us holy. He is remaking us into his image and swapping our cheap, broken and tarnished tiaras for the "crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
This transformation is not instantaneous though. It’s a slow process of discovering and healing. Refining and renewing. It’s the tearing down of our old thoughts and the rebuilding of our hearts. As we sit here today, we are all under renovation.
Once this project starts, small changes will appear from day by day, and they will eventually accumulate to a complete transformation. The rooms will gleam and be welcoming, and the mess will morph into magnificence. So in the weeks and months to come, let this work in progress be a reminder of your own journey of sanctification.
“I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians:1:6).
Jesus, you make all things new, and to our benefit and for your glory, our faith is made strong in the process. We give this space to you today to use it for your purposes, and we pray that laughter, joy and learning will echo through the rooms and all who enters these doors will feel your love. We thank you for this space, Lord, and are humbled by this opportunity. Amen.
Several years ago in mid-December, I was on the phone with a friend after our kids had all gone to bed. We were leaning on each other, sharing the stressors of the season — what gifts hadn’t arrived, when we would be leaving to visit relatives, how the tree lights were malfunctioning.
We were talking as we completed the day’s tasks, and my friend’s voice was becoming more frantic,“I can’t find it. I’ve looked everywhere.”
“Find what?” I asked.
“I can’t find Jesus,” she answered, almost in tears. She was looking for the baby Jesus from her kids’ Little People nativity set.
Then I heard her gasp. “Oh my gosh. That’s it, I can’t find Jesus.”
It’s easy to lose sight of Jesus amidst all the hubbub of this season. Even with the best intentions of celebrating his birth, our Christmases never look like a Hallmark movie, and the challenges we’ve had over the last 11 months have a way of being magnified.
However, the first Christmas had its own complexities. A pregnant teenager named Mary and her fiancé Joseph arrived in Bethlehem to register for the census after about four hard days of travel. But their journey really began nine months before when an angel appeared to Mary and told her she would divinely conceive and give birth to the Son of God.
Just take a minute and consider how that conversation went with her parents. And with Joseph.
According to the custom at the time, the couple were contractually married but not ceremonially. Because Joseph knew the child was not his, he had resolved to quietly divorce Mary, which would have been quite scandalous at the time. But the angel visited Joseph too, so here they were in Bethlehem together.
Along with everyone and their brother apparently because the inn was full.
We know the story almost by heart, or we think we do. But take your imagination there and ponder the humanity. The young man panicked as his betrothed was giving birth — to the Messiah — and he could not give her a warm bed where she could labor. The teenage girl, away from her mother, aching with contractions on a bed of straw and bewildered as to how her Savior could be arriving under such circumstances.
And the swaddled baby whose crib was a feeding trough. And though our modern nativity sets depict the manger as made of wood, it was more likely carved from stone. Like the tomb out of which Jesus would walk 33 years later.
The miracle in the mess. Our hope arrived in havoc.
So when the grocery bills pile up, the table conversations turn tense, and maybe you can’t find the baby Jesus in your nativity set, look for the Prince of Peace, who overcame our broken and chaotic world and offers us this assurance:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. — Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus, happy birthday! Thank you for stepping into our mess and shining a light in the darkness. Forgive us when we lose sight of you and make much ado about nothing. Rather, help us accept your peace and grace as the greatest gifts. Amen.
Have you ever wondered if God was disappointed in you? The ESV Study Bible suggests that the church of Thessalonica may have wondered as much following unabated persecution and unexpected deaths among their own. Those men and women may have shared that same emptiness we have experienced sitting at a Thanksgiving table during a season of grief. But Paul, a man who knew persecution, imprisonment and hardship, encourages the disheartened Thessalonians with these words:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Those words are for us too. Jesus desires that I always know joy. The King of kings wants me to come to him in prayer continually throughout my day. And his longing for me is to give thanks in ALL of my circumstances. To be honest, that is all beyond my mortal capability.
So before we return to Paul’s letter, consider Luke 17:11-19:
On the way to Jerusalem [Jesus] was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Leprosy is an infectious disease that affects the skin and peripheral nerves, and in Jesus’ time on Earth, cases would advance to the point of disfigurement. Men and women showing any sign of skin disease were considered “unclean” and forced to live on the margins of the community. They could not return to their homes, their families or their work until a priest examined them and pronounced them “clean.”
So this group of ten had nothing to lose. Their desperate circumstances deposited them in the presence of Jesus, who responded to their plea as though they had already been healed. Along the road, as they obediently journeyed to see the priests, one of them stopped when he noticed the miracle.
His limbs were free from lesions; his face was whole again.
Luke, who was a physician, describes how the man rejoiced, and the outpouring of his gratitude sent him back to Jesus, who notes that this Samaritan’s faith made him well (Jesus’ reference to him as a foreigner is not disrespectful, but it is noteworthy; we just don’t have time to dig into that today).
What about the other nine? Undoubtedly, they celebrated their healing too. But gratitude isn’t a fleeting emotion; it is a posture. The one fell at the feet of the Son of God, while the nine went on their way — perhaps to complacency.
It’s true that often the miracles we seek don’t come on this side of eternity. We can find some comfort in that our circumstances are temporary. But more than that, the miracle we can rely on is the gift of faith in Christ to experience exactly what Paul shared with the Thessalonians.
Rejoice. Always. My joy is in Jesus because I trust that his sacrifice on the cross counted for me. And it counted for you too.
Pray. Without ceasing. When I cry out to Jesus, he responds.
Give thanks. In ALL circumstances. They may be desperate, but they will bring me closer to my Savior.
Consider a time when you were desperate. Did that circumstance draw you closer to God?
How do you pray? How can you spend more time in prayer?
David’s flight from Saul reads like a Netflix series with intrigue, escapes and drama: The dashing, young hero, unjustly chased by an insanely jealous king. But the danger was real, and so were both of these flawed men. The difference was while Saul was pursuing David, David was pursuing God.
The first book of Samuel (chapter 21) gives the account of David’s flight to Gath, where his notoriety preceded him and the servants of the king, Achish (Abimelech), recognized him as the region’s most wanted man. David, out of fear, pretended to be insane, causing Achish to dismiss him.
Grateful for the reprieve and the Lord’s protection over him, David wrote an outpouring of praise that we know as Psalm 34. You probably have heard one of these verses: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good” (verse 8).
Taste is an invitation to intimately and personally experience, most commonly food, which offers endless combinations of flavors and seasonings. Using this metaphor, David invites you to experience the Lord in the zillion different ways he manifests himself. And he testifies that the Lord is good.
But what exactly is good?
Our mortal minds often get stuck on the Now Good, defined by worldly provision and with the goal of personal comfort. We seek the Now Good in our circumstances. The focus is on ourselves.
Our day-to-day health is an illustration of how we frame the Now Good. If we are ill, we experience physical symptoms that range from annoying to painful. We look to medicine, a warm blanket and sleep to ease our discomfort. And if someone asks how we are, we might say, “Not good.”
While God sees us and cares for us in all of our circumstances, he invites us to experience Eternal Good, which is being in relationship with him and in his presence for all of eternity. Because we are sinful, Eternal Good must redeem us through our faith in Jesus, and the focus is on our Savior.
When God created the heavens and the earth, he declared them good (Genesis 1). But sin entered the world, creating chaos and havoc that has broken us.
Enter Jesus, who told us, in this world, we would have trouble, “but take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” Our troubles are temporary, as is our Now Good. Because our Now Good has an expiration date, Jesus is far more concerned for our Eternal Good. He is redeeming all our troubles and ourselves for his Father — using every ache and mistake, every fear, and every trauma for our Eternal Good. If we breathe in the aroma of his hope, taste his faithfulness and savor his delicious and pure love.
How are you personally experiencing Jesus today?
Do you believe that the Lord is good? Why or why not?
Day 1: Look at the Birds of the Air
Our day may have started with anxiousness just to get to this place, and all that was real. The arrangements, the hurry, the wait. Now that we have arrived, let’s take a long, deep breath and ponder Jesus’ words:
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? There do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ Or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. — Matthew 6:26-33
Jesus is not discounting the values of work and preparation, but what he is saying is that God knows we have real needs of clothing, shelter and food, and he will help us with those needs. But he wants our hearts first; he wants us to trust him.
So look at the birds of the air, how they soar through the sky, created just for this moment for you to ponder. Consider the wildflowers that speckle the landscape, each arrayed in colors and designs that tell of the Father’s creativity and beauty. Take in the lushness of the grassy fields, how each blade dances in the wind, joyously proclaiming the goodness of God.
We are of more infinitely more value than the birds, the flowers and the grass. May they remind us that we are precious to the Creator, and just as he provides for them, he will provide for us.
What is making you anxious right now? Why?
How are you more valuable than the birds, the flowers and the grass?
Jesus, I leave the source of my anxiety at your feet. I believe, but help me with my unbelief. I humbly ask for the gift of faith to trust that I am so precious to you that you bore my sin on the cross and to see myself the way that you do. Amen.
Day 2: I Lift My Eyes to the Hills
I lift my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121: 1-2
The hills of Western Kentucky are made of limestone, a sedimentary rock that was left behind by an ancient sea. It is rich in minerals and easily molded. It tells the story of the earth.
In some ways, we are like the limestone that is the foundation of these hills. We are not what we once were, and we have been hardened by time. We have been shaped by the past, but we are complex and in our new form can nurture new life and tell a story that has purpose.
But we need a Helper. We aren’t shaped into new creations without help from the One who created us. And we are in desperate need.
These hills that surround us may be silent but they still proclaim. As we lift our wondrous eyes to them, they are reminding us of the Creator who knows every rock that lies on their slopes, who carved out every cave for their animal inhabitants to shelter, and who fashioned every creek that channels life-giving water through their valleys. He commanded these hills to rise up, knowing that today, we would be here to marvel at them and to explore them.
And if our eternal God, who made heaven and earth, can do that, what more does he long to do for us? What story are we telling of what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do when we seek him?
Where does your help come from?
What is the Lord whispering to you when you lift your eyes to the hills?
Jesus, you are my Helper — all that I need can be found in you. You told us that even if we are silent, the stones would cry out to worship you. So why do I so easily forget who you are? You were there when the foundations of the earth were laid, yet you love me. You grieve every wound that has hurt me. You know my every thought and have seen me at my worst. Yet you sing over me with delight. You created me and fashioned every hair on my head. And you know the number of my days. Teach me to trust your sovereignty and your love so that I look to you for my help. Amen.
Day 3: I Am the Vine
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is throw away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. — John 15:4-6
Jesus was probably referring to a grapevine, as vineyards were common in that place and time. But we can observe all sorts of vegetation around us that also serve to instill his teaching.
“To abide” means to “continue to be in place for a significant amount of time.” The verb implies home. Jesus invites us into a relationship with him. Not a show of religious activity, but a personal and intimate relationship that is raw and worshipful, honest and devoted. He tells us to stay close, as close as a branch is to the vine. He asks us to live in his presence and to make his presence our home.
Earlier in the summer, the fields here were dotted with blackberry bushes, and the branches that carried the biggest, juiciest and most plentiful fruit tended to be those deep inside, protected and closest to the center of the bush.
When we remain connected to the Vine, we produce fruit that Paul describes as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
But we know from experience a branch that is cut will wither and die. Apart from him, we are in peril. As long as we draw breath, his invitation to a relationship stands. The sooner we accept, the sooner we will bear fruit.
What can you do to abide in Jesus?
Take a moment to reflect on one fruit of the Spirit listed above. How you experienced this fruit in yourself and others?
Jesus, teach me to abide in you and to be in relationship with you. In this moment, I never want to be apart. But my flesh is weak, and the enemy wants to cut me from you. Keep me close so that I can bear fruit of you. Amen.
God loves a good party — the kinda party that is filled with laughter and love, food and joy. He established seven feasts (Leviticus 23) for the Israelites to cherish on their calendar. Among those was Passover, a ceremonial meal that recounts how the blood of a sacrificial lamb protected them while they were slaves in Egypt from the death of the firstborn.
More than 12 centuries later, Jesus was celebrating Passover with his disciples when he tied that historical event to what he would do on the cross as the Lamb of God. He instructed the disciples to remember his sacrifice in taking bread and wine, which we now know as communion (Mark 14:22-23).
Celebrations remember because we forget. They mark beginnings, milestones and accomplishments so that we can revel in the hope and glory that flows from Jesus’ work in our lives. They allow us a moment to taste the sweetness of victory on the other side what was hard. And they bring us together.
God’s seven feasts offered the Israelites a steady rhythm of remembering and rest — in community. Yet he understands our individual journeys because he created the processes of learning, growing and healing. Paul tells us, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).” And until then, he writes, “Rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:6).”
Lord Jesus, thank you for allowing us to gather here together today to celebrate one another and to remember how far we’ve come. We thank you for every small step and giant leap, for you see them all. We ask for a blessing on the process, that we may draw from the well of your patience and your hope. What a good Father we have to give us these moments to remind us of his love and faithfulness and his joy in us. Thank you for the hospitality we are enjoying and the service of your followers who made this day possible. For you have been in every detail. Amen.
One of my favorite outdoor activities is paddle boarding. I am no expert and only have the opportunity occasionally, but I quickly learned that the body of water is the ever present factor in the experience.
On a quiet lake, paddle boarding is steady and relaxing, like a lazy summertime stroll. But on a river or in the ocean, the currents and the waves are forces to battle. The one and only time I attempted to paddle in the ocean, I struggled to get the board past the break. It was a downright ugly fight and probably even comical to bystanders on the beach. Once I finally made my way through, I still had contend with the constant swells and a couple of playful dolphins.
Then there is river paddle boarding, where the current can make the first half of the ride swift and easy. But on the return, when the direction has changed, paddling is much harder, more intentional, and the trip is much longer. It’s a lot like us living in this broken world, where the status quo requires little effort but any change is difficult and often a slow process.
Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The lies of conformity are cheap promises that keep us flowing with the current.
“Everybody does it.”
“I’m not hurting anyone.”
“I’ll start tomorrow.”
“I deserve it.”
These lies shape us into a norm that maybe is comfortable for a time but ultimately not at all “the abundant life” that Jesus talks about in John 10:10. The ESV Study Bible comments on this verse, “Jesus calls his followers, not to a dour, lifeless, miserable existence that squashes human potential, but to a rich, full, joyful life, one overflowing with meaningful activities under the personal favor and blessing of God and in continual fellowship with his people.”
To find that abundant life, we must be transformed. We must change, we must look completely different. And Paul tells us that transformation flows from renewing our minds. It’s a decision to change direction, to paddle against the current. And no, it’s not easy. It’s a test of our strength and our resolve. It takes time and focus and intention. And yes, sometimes it looks more like an ocean paddle that takes every ounce of determination that we can muster, and maybe we spend more time falling than we do paddle boarding.
But as we renew our minds and are able to begin discerning God’s good, abundant and perfect will for us, we eventually find that steady, quiet lake paddle, where we still must be mindful in our steering and exert a measure of our power — but we will find peace.
How is your life flowing with the current of the world today? How do you want to change direction?
Can you think of a time when you “paddled” against the current? How did that experience strengthen you?
What does Jesus’ “abundant life” look like for you?
Jesus, how good and perfect is your abundant life for us. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear so that we may discern the will of our Father, and give us faith to trust him. We ask that you renew our minds and grant us your supernatural strength as we change direction and paddle against the current of this broken world. We are tired of the cheap lies and empty promises. We want the goodness and perfect peace that you offer. Amen.
When I was a little girl, barely speaking, I was fascinated with a lamp on my parents’ nightstand. Its ceramic base depicted a scene that I can no longer describe, but I do still remember one detail about it.
I would point to the lamp and say, “Horsey!” My mother would respond, “No, that’s a lamp!” I would insist, “Horsey!” This exchange continued several times until one day, my mother looked closely at that lamp and there she saw what I did — a tiny brown horse, with minuscule brush strokes depicting its flowing mane and tail.
I think horses appeal to our little girl souls because they represent how God created us to be — courageous, strong, and beautiful.
In the Book of Job, God lays out to Job several marvels of his creation, including the horse (Job 39:19-20, 22a):
Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
… He laughs at fear and is not dismayed.
Compare his language to the ideal woman described in Proverbs 31:25:
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she laughs at the time to come.
As image bearers of God, maybe we are drawn to the way horses embody both power and gentleness. But that gentleness comes with training and trust.
A young horse must learn obedience and discipline and to focus on his master (or his mistress). His natural spiritedness and power is put under authority. The Old English verb for breaking in a horse was “to meek.”
And the Greek equivalent is “praus,” the word used by Jesus in Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Jesus wasn’t talking about the weak, as our current language would imply. Rather, he was referring to those who are strong in spirit but surrendered to him, those who avoid harshness because they know the love of the Savior, and those who know freedom from fear because their trust is in him.
Meekness, like gentleness, is strength under control. It is being exactly who God created us to be but willingly giving ourselves back to him. It is that intersection where we will “delight in abundant peace” (Psalm 37:11).
Are you spiritually like a wild young horse? Or have you given your loyalty to Jesus?
Do you think of yourself as courageous, strong and beautiful? Share a courageous act from your past, a time when you showed strength, or a moment when you were beautifully gentle.
Did you have a childhood fascination with horses? What encouraging words would you share with that little girl you once were?
Upon his succession to the throne of Israel, Solomon asked God for discernment and wisdom. God was pleased with his humility and not only granted this request but he also gave this son of David wealth and honor so that Solomon would have no equal among earthly kings.
About one thousand years later, Jesus lived in the small agricultural village of Nazareth, the stepson of a tradesman. Not exactly the same earthly experience as Solomon.
Two men, separated by a millennia and extremes of wealth. One a mortal man granted favor by God, the other the Son of God. Yet both warned us of the potential money has steal our freedom.
Proverbs 22:7, which is attributed to Solomon, says, “The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” The Message goes a step further and interprets this verse, “so don’t borrow and put yourself under their power.”
Ouch, Solomon. Must be nice to have enough to bankroll 12,000 horses, 700 wives and 300 concubines. But Solomon undoubtedly knew a few men who were indebted to him, and with his gift of wisdom, recognized the power that he had over them.
In contrast, the King of Kings, in his humanness, knew suffering and probably heard some difficult conversations about putting food on the table. Yet Jesus expounds on Solomon’s warning and tells us that we cannot serve two masters, “You cannot serve God and money.”
I use a leash when I walk my Labrador retriever, Mayfield, in our neighborhood. As her master, I know that the leash protects her from running into the street and keeps her going in the direction where I want to lead her.
Now if another master would put a second leash on her, which of us would be able to lead her? I would be pulling her one way and that second master would be pulling her another. She can only be lead on one leash by one master.
Jesus’ warning is much like Solomon’s in that money will readily master us — if we let it. Money can be an idol that consumes our thoughts, whether we are anxious about having enough or greedily chase after it and all the pleasures it can buy. How we view money reveals the condition of our hearts and who we trust more — God or ourselves.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavily Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” — Matthew 6:26
Hear that: You have value. Jesus continues,
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” — Matthew 6:31-33
Going back to Mayfield, I demonstrate my love for her by feeding her twice a day and ensuring she has water and that all her needs are met. Sometimes, when she is hungry, she asks me to feed her in her own doggie way. My timing isn’t necessarily hers. But Mayfield trusts me and knows I will provide for her.
We all have had months when money was tight, when we weren’t sure how all the bills would get paid. But here we are today — clothed and fed. Our heavenly Father knows our needs. Out of love for us, he may not necessarily give us what we want — or when we want it. He allows us to learn from the consequences of our actions, as a good dad does. But when we trust him and the provision of grace that he has given us through Jesus, he is faithful.
So when it comes to your money, which leash are you wearing? Are you wearing the leash that tethers you to the demanding, unfaithful master of money worries? Or have you found freedom from anxiousness when you allow the Good Master to lead you?