Guests: Jody Washburn and Mathilde Frey
Relevant Verses: Micah 6:6-8; Matt. 6:25-34; James 1:5-8
Leading question: Given all the distractions in our world, what practical steps can we take to help us keep a clear focus on Jesus’ mandate to care for the poor and disadvantaged?
Comment: This week’s lesson covers much ground that is familiar. Indeed a number of biblical passages that we have already discussed this quarter appear again. The point is to keep our focus clear.
Micah 6:6-8: Simply following the prophet’s words. The psychology of Micah 6:6-8 can be highly instructive for us: one cannot expect to pay an ever higher price to satisfy the divine demands. Even child sacrifice won’t do the trick. Note the big three in verse 8:
“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Matthew 6:25-34: The worry-free life. As difficult as it may seem, Jesus makes it clear that our efforts alone can never bring peace of mine. Yet his command is clear: “Don’t worry about tomorrow.”
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 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? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today (NRSV).
Question: What practical steps can we take to eliminate worry from our lives?
Note: Even though Scripture argues against the value of worry, we should be careful not to crush others or ourselves by working too hard (and worrying too much) to reach a worry-free existence.
A comparison between Paul’s counsel not to worry and the actual worry in his life should give us some kind of courage when we fall short of our ideals. Here is the striking comparison:
Philippians 4:6: “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God” (CEV).
2 Cor. 11.28 “Besides everything else, each day I am burdened down, worrying about all the churches” (CEV).
In short, Paul counsels us not to worry about anything, but then turns right around and tells us that he is burdened every day by his worrying about all the churches. So if you are a “natural” worrier, follow Paul’s counsel and pray about it!
James 1:5-8: The prayer God always answers: the prayer for Wisdom. If we read James 1 carefully, we will see that it is not a promise that God will answer all our prayers if we pray intensely. It is a declaration that God will always answer the prayer for Wisdom. So let’s keep up the praying!
5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6 But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 7, 8 for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.(NRSV)
2 Cor. 9:7: God loves generous people. The author of the official study guide is the world director for ADRA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency. He could not resist putting in a plug for generosity. This is one of the best biblical passages:
“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”(NRSV)
Question: What is the best way to nurture a generous spirit in ourselves and others?
Peacemaking: A call to peacemaking in a world where war is inevitable? The official study guide puts two biblical passages together that highlight the challenge of peacemaking:
Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (NRSV).
Mark 13:7: 7 “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come” (NRSV).
Question: How does a believer stay with the peacemaking task when wars are inevitable? Or does Jesus’ reference refer more to interpersonal and local situations?
Psalm 146: 5-9: A voice for the voiceless: The official study guide does a marvelous job of bringing together important passages of Scripture that highlight the need to be generous and helpful to “the least of these.” This psalm is one of the best:
Psalm 146:5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin (NRSV).
Question: What is the best way for Christians to keep the needs of a broken world uppermost in their thoughts and plans? Is it more a personal task or a communal one?