Three… Two… One and Only

Last Sunday (9th January) was known in some church traditions as Epiphany Sunday. This tradition celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings in Bethlehem to worship the child Jesus. You can read the entire account in Matthew 2, and although I won’t post the entire text in this post, I may refer to particular verses of interest.

If you do read the entire chapter, then there are a few points you might notice…

When?

First of all, despite the traditional nativity scene, it is unlikely the Magi arrived at the same time as the Shepherds and while the baby Jesus was in the manger. Epiphany is celebrated slightly after Christmas to denote that actually it isn’t really known how long afterwards they arrived.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry, and sent out and killed all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding countryside, from two years old and under, according to the exact time which he had learned from the wise men.

Matthew 2:16 (WEB)

Verse 16 suggests it could have been up to two years later that the men from the east arrived.

Who?

You are likely familiar with the Christmas carol entitled “Three Kings,” but is this biblically accurate?

For instance, does Matthew tell us that there were three of these so-called kings?

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Matthew 2:1-3

Verse one does not say “three” at all, but rather “some.” It is not clear from this how many Magi came along. Tradition has grown up that there were three of them because of the three gifts that they brought. There were other suggestions too, and I do not think you can know for certain. It may be that there were three leaders, but I put it to you that the text alone implies far more than three simple men on camels!

Verse three tells us that King Herod was troubled by their arrival, and we will explore why in a moment, but he was not alone in feeling troubled. Verse three also states that he was troubled and “all Jerusalem with him.” While Jerusalem would have been somewhat different to how we know it today, even then it would not have been too concerned by the arrival of three men. It is likely, in my mind at least, that they came with a rather large caravan and something notable to set the wheels of gossip turning.

Were they kings?

Again, the text makes no mention of these travellers from the east being royal. Rather they are described as wise men or Magi. The word “Magi” is where we get our word “magician” from, and when we think of them, we should picture the wise men and scholars as depicted in the book of Daniel. In fact, I once read that Daniel may have begun the very group of Magi who were looking for the signs in the heavens that would tell them when Messiah was to be born… but I am not sure if such a claim can be verified.

So not three kings then, nor kings at all. If you look at the text carefully, then there are two people named as “kings.”

  1. King Herod – mentioned in verse one
  2. King of the Jews, i.e. Jesus – mentioned in verse two

There were not three kings, but only two in reality. Or were there?

Why was King Herod so bothered by the birth of a baby in the little town of Bethlehem? (Bethlehem meaning House of Bread, in case it ever comes up!)

Herod was deeply troubled by this news because he was no king at all. He was not part of the Davidic line, and so had no birth right to the throne. Instead, he had been placed there by the Roman rule to govern the nation. He did some good things for the people, but was known for being somewhat paranoid and even had his wife and children murdered because he thought they threatened his position.

We see the depths of his wickedness as he has all the baby boys in the area killed as a way of trying to rid himself of this Boy King. See verse 16 above.

We started with three kings, then reduced that to only two, and now only One remains. The baby in the manger. Arguably the least kingly of them all.

Others may claim kingship, but there is but One true King. And His name is Jesus. He is the Son, and Eternal Word of God. He came to live on this earth with us, and was born as a vulnerable baby in a cave (most likely). He lived a perfect, sinless life and was betrayed, tortured and executed having committed no crime. Jesus did this to pay the penalty for our sin. He was buried (in another cave) but death could not hold Him. On the third day, He rose again to new life, appearing to His friends and disciples. He later ascended into heaven where He is now seated at the right hand of the Father. One day, He will return.

All who put their trust in Jesus need not pay the penalty for their own sin. They can rest of His mercy and accept that He has done it all for us.

Do not delay, make a choice for Him today.

Don’t Go That Way (Proverbs 1:10-19)

The next part of Proverbs chapter one turns rather dark. The narrator, King Solomon himself, now appears to talk directly to his child/son, and warns them of danger.

 My son, if sinners entice you,

    don’t consent.

11 If they say, “Come with us.

    Let’s lie in wait for blood.

    Let’s lurk secretly for the innocent without cause.

12 Let’s swallow them up alive like Sheol,

    and whole, like those who go down into the pit.

13 We’ll find all valuable wealth.

    We’ll fill our houses with plunder.

14 You shall cast your lot among us.

    We’ll all have one purse.”

15 My son, don’t walk on the path with them.

    Keep your foot from their path,

16 for their feet run to evil.

    They hurry to shed blood.

17 For the net is spread in vain in the sight of any bird;

18 but these lay in wait for their own blood.

    They lurk secretly for their own lives.

19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain.

    It takes away the life of its owners.

Proverbs 1:10-19 (WEB)

We will not go through each verse in turn, as they come together to paint a vivid picture. Verse 10 probably summarises this whole section, and I cannot really add to its wisdom with my own words.

My son, if sinners entice you, don’t consent. Proverbs 1:10 #Bible #Wisdom #Christianity

The thrust of this section is simply this: when you are tempted by sinners, don’t go that way!

Verse 11 and 12 go into some particulars about the kind of words or enticements they may use to trap you. On the face of them, they do not seem that appealing to anyone. Why lie in wait purely for the purposes of “blood”? You might associate this kind of talk with demonic sources, but not your everyday “sinner” right?

While such direct words may not be used, any temptation to lie in wait for an innocent victim boils down to such language. These are robbers who care little for life. The thrill of sin is addictive to them, and we must stay well clear of any such evil.

Verses 13 and 14 tell us the real purpose for their trap – money. They would kill the innocent for the sake of a few coins. They have not, so they take from others, not caring the harm they do in the process. Robbers of the time would prey on the unwary, exacting violence in the process. Are they all that different from modern day burglars? Such thieves break in, ransack people’s homes for financial gain, and do immeasurable harm to those on the receiving end. Heaven forbid the homeowner should run into such a burglar, who is likely to strike out in violence to get away with their crime.

Don’t go that way! Verse 15 echoes this cry. Do not walk on their path, nor even put your foot upon it. They run to evil, instead of away from it. Let us be known for our flight from wickedness, and not towards it.

Verse 17 is a little proverb in the midst of our narrative. Put simply, if the bird can see the net, it won’t fly into it. We might learn to look out for things that might entrap us, and steer well clear.

The end of our passage points out that the trap these evil ones set for the innocent will in fact close upon their own selves. They lay in wait for their own lives – how so? Because we serve a God of justice. While some believe they can escape justice in this life, they can never escape the justice of God. We will all stand before Him one day and give an account for our lives. Such evil people will not be able to justify their actions before our Righteous God.

If you have been mistreated, or were the victim of some wickedness in the past, it will be put right. Even if those who hurt you got away with it, they will never escape God’s judgement. When we stand before Him, we will know that all and every sin will be accounted for – either at the cross of Christ, or as the penalty for the wicked. God has not forgotten what happened to you.

To us all I say again, do not follow the evil path. If you are being enticed into iniquity, or spending time with the wrong crowd, it is time to make a change. It is better to be alone, than to be with those who would lead you into sin.

It is better to be alone, than to be with those who would lead you into #sin. #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

I leave you where we began with verse 10. Spend some time today just meditating on its truth. It may save your life!

My child, if sinners entice you,

    turn your back on them!

Proverbs 1:10 (NLT)

Listen to your Parents’ Wisdom (Proverbs 1:8-9)

Yesterday, I wrote a brief Introduction to Proverbs, and so today continue on with chapter one. The author turns their attention to the wisdom offered by parents, but is really an exhortation to gain wisdom. This continues the theme of chapter one, pointing out the numerous benefits of living wisely.

My child, listen when your father corrects you.

    Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.

9 What you learn from them will crown you with grace

    and be a chain of honor around your neck.

Proverbs 1:8-9 (NLT)

Verse 8 tells us to listen to our father’s correction, and not to neglect our mother’s instructions. This is fairly plain on the face of it, and good advice for the young (and not so young).

Correction

In my post last week – An Open Rebuke – we examined a particular proverb pointing out that being rebuked openly was preferable to hidden love. A rebuke is related to a correction, and put simply is a way for a superior to point out where we have gone wrong and set us straight.

We all need correction at times, and although it rarely feels like a blessing in that moment, it will do us good in the long run.

Emotions make correction hard to accept, but ultimately we must trust that one bringing correction to us has our best interest at heart. In this verse, the correction is being brought by a father, and it urges us to listen to what he is telling us.

Is it your experience that the father brings correction, while the mother instructs? I guess it is a bit of both. A turn of phrase from a few decades ago was the well-known – “Wait ‘til your father gets home!” So perhaps historically the father figure has brought the discipline.

How do we accept correction? Firstly, we must trust that the person wants what is best for us. Secondly, we should prayerfully consider what they say. Not all correction is trustworthy, and not all of it is accurate, so we should be a little discerning. Right or wrong however, if the person feels we need to address something in our lives, then we would be wise to reflect on that.

If the correction is justified, then we need to take steps to put it right. That may require an apology, or some other restitution depending on what has happened. It may simply mean adapting our behaviour going forwards. My view of correction is not to bash someone about what happened in the past, but rather to steer them towards better choices in the future.

My view of correction is not to bash someone about what happened in the past, but rather to steer them towards better choices in the future.

Instruction

Verse 8 tells us not to neglect our mother’s instruction. Instruction is simply to tell someone else what to do. This might be helping them do something new for the first time, or it might be to show them a better way to do things.

If we choose to ignore instructions, then chances are we will make mistakes.

Take a recipe. If you do not follow the steps or the method, you likely will not get the results promised. If you do not weigh out your ingredients, but instead just throw random amounts into the pan, it will not turn out as expected.

We tend to think of parental instruction as only applying to the young. While this is primarily the case, our parents help and advice can be invaluable throughout our lives. Many older people whose parents are no longer with them admit to missing their parents’ support in times of need.

I am acutely aware, when writing of parents, that not everyone reading this will have had a good relationship with theirs. Perhaps you never knew your parents, or perhaps they did not treat you all that well. Whatever the case, there are still lessons for us here.

Firstly, if you did not get on with your parents, or worse if they mistreated you, then there are still lessons you can learn. Try not to repeat their mistakes, and do not pass on what they gave to you. This can be hard to do, especially if you picked up on their bad habits when young. As an adult though, you can examine their lives and their interactions with you, and hopefully you can see some things you do not wish to repeat on your own children.

Secondly, not every parent has to be a blood relative. While this verse says “father” and “mother,” I do not think it a stretch to apply it to other older people who may hold a pseudo-parental role in our lives.

When I think back over my years in church, I can recall a number of elders who looked out for me, instructed me at times, and corrected me too. They were not “parents” but they were spiritual foster-parents of a sort. I am eternally grateful for those who have spoken into my life.

A Crown of Grace

To conclude this post, I just want to reflect for a moment on verse 9. It points out that for those who accept the instruction and correction of our parents (actual or otherwise), wisdom will become a crown of grace or a chain of honour.

In my mind’s eye, I picture a mayor wearing gold chains, or royalty with a golden crown atop their head.

When we accept the teaching of those who have gone before us, we can learn great wisdom, and such wisdom will be evident for all to see.

If there are people in your life right now who love you enough to instruct or correct you, tell them how much you appreciate them. It only takes a second to reach out today and share your gratitude.

He Never Fails

I really enjoyed reading this post, and the part about keeping our promises is very important.

I hope you enjoy reading it too.

What God says, He does. He is trustworthy. He does not act according to what we think or what we say to Him. God acts according to what He thinks and…

He Never Fails

Introduction to Proverbs

The wonderful book of Proverbs begins with its own introduction. The text sets out the purpose and goal of the book, and gives us a flavour of the benefits of reading and studying it.

Proverbs begins as follows:

These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.

2 Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,

    to help them understand the insights of the wise.

3 Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives,

    to help them do what is right, just, and fair.

4 These proverbs will give insight to the simple,

    knowledge and discernment to the young.

5 Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.

    Let those with understanding receive guidance

6 by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables,

    the words of the wise and their riddles.

7 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,

    but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Proverbs 1:1-7 (NLT)

The Author

Verse one tells us that the proverbs are primarily written by King Solomon, son of David. King David is the most famous king of Israel’s history, and his son Solomon is not far behind.

King Solomon was known for his great wisdom, and he acquired it from no worldly source.

Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.

1 Kings 3:9-10 (NLT)

Rather than ask for gold or silver, or fame and power, Solomon asks for understanding. He does this so that he might rule over God’s people well. God was pleased with this request, and granted it to him.

So the source of Solomon’s wisdom is from God, and therefore we would do well to heed the words we find in the book of Proverbs. Some of it may seem repetitive at times, but that is usually a way of helping us remember the truths contained there.

The Purpose

The purpose of the Proverbs is clearly set out in verse 2. The point of them is to teach wisdom, to help give understanding, and also to improve discipline.

Wisdom and knowledge differ. Knowing something can be helpful, but knowing how to apply it is called wisdom.

Wisdom and knowledge differ. Knowing something can be helpful, but knowing how to apply it is called wisdom.

Do you find yourself making many mistakes in life, or regretting choices you have made? Then there is a chance you lacked wisdom. I once heard it said that wisdom is making choices now, that you will be satisfied with later on.

Verse 3 is interesting to me, and begins by saying a further purpose of the proverbs is to help people live disciplined and successful lives. It then goes on to say that they aim to help one live a just, right and fair life. In the world’s eyes, these two parts of this one verse may seem contradictory. To the world, success means getting what you want, no matter the cost. The world’s way gives little care to what is right or fair, only the goal is important, and not how you get there.

Not so in God’s kingdom. In God’s eyes, success means we do indeed live a just, fair and right life. Even if the results are not fame or fortune, or whatever else the world deems successful, to God, living righteously is the way of wisdom.

Verse 4 gives two categories of people who might benefit from studying the proverbs. These are the “simple” and the “young.” Describing someone as “simple” is not exactly politically correct these days, but the point here is that you do not need to be a genius to succeed. Likewise, you do not need years of experience and be full of years to gain wisdom. If you are young, or have little academic prowess, then you are welcome here!

Verse 5 expands the potential audience from not just the young or simple, but to the wise and the understanding also. Let the wise become even wiser, and those who possess understanding add to it. Whether you consider yourself wise, or not so much, there is great benefit in studying these words.

This is done, as verse 6 tells us, by exploring the meaning of the proverbs. This suggests some effort on our part. We cannot just read the words and expect wisdom to just grow inside of us. Rather, we must apply our minds and stretch our mental muscles.

Many of the proverbs are short, bite-sized chunks which you can mull over throughout the day. Take one or two of these, write them out and ponder them whenever you have the chance. They cover a multitude of subjects, ranging from anger, to finances, to temptation and much more. Verse 6 uses the word riddle, and although it does not mean quite the same as what we might think of as a riddle, there is certainly much to test our brains with.

The final verse in our passage today is perhaps the perfect summation of all you hope to find in the book of Proverbs. Learning this one truth is perhaps the first step in acquiring true wisdom.

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,

    but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Proverbs 1:7 (NLT)

Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. This does not mean to be afraid of Him in the sense of terror, but rather to revere and respect Him. To not do so will only ever lead you away from wisdom, and not just because He is the source of all wisdom, but because without the Lord, you are on a path to destruction.

The first step for all of us in gaining wisdom is to give God His rightful place in our lives. He is the Master and Creator of the Universe, and we are mere created beings. The universe works and holds together because of God’s power and insight, and we cannot hope to tap that wisdom without first making sure God is first and foremost in our lives.

Can you say right now that He has that rightful place in your life and heart? If not, now is the time to act. Surrender to the Lord, give Him your life and ask Him to be in charge. He will not only direct your steps, but will save you from all of your sin. God does this through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. By placing your trust in Him and what He did at that cross all those years ago, you are setting yourself on the path to wisdom.

Verse 7 also gives us a glimpse of what will become a familiar format in the Proverbs. The writer contrasts one with another. Here, we see the comparison of the wise and the fool One seeks and fears the Lord, while the other despises understanding. Which will you choose to be?

If you wish to grow in wisdom, then you can ask of the giving God, as James instructs us to:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

James 1:5 (NLT)

As we dig into the depths of the wisdom in these pages, pray this prayer along with me.

Dear Lord and Father,

We thank You for the wisdom of Your Word. We pray that as we study the Scriptures, You will grant us wisdom, and help us to grow in understanding. May we use that newly gained insight to live fully for You, and to serve You and Your Kingdom on this  Earth.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen!

Preparing for Proverbs – Andy Brown

Just a reminder that from tomorrow we will start to look at the book of Proverbs. I look forward to studying it with you!

This coming Monday, I will be starting a new series on the book of Proverbs. it is an amazing book, with much to wrestle with. Throughout next week I will be sharing my thoughts on the first chapter, and felt I should give you a bit of a heads up in advance! If you have…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2022/01/06/preparing-for-proverbs/

Parable Surprises – Parable – Two Sons

Some helpful thoughts on this passage here. Hope you enjoy reading it this Sunday afternoon.

I got kids. This parable rings true. None of my kids were consistently like the second one, but occasionally… Let’s read the passage and think on …

Parable Surprises – Parable – Two Sons

Preparing for Proverbs

This coming Monday, I will be starting a new series on the book of Proverbs. it is an amazing book, with much to wrestle with.

Throughout next week I will be sharing my thoughts on the first chapter, and felt I should give you a bit of a heads up in advance!

If you have the time, do take a read through chapter 1 and note down any thoughts that you have about it. One of the points I will be making is that wisdom is not automatic.

#Wisdom is not automatic! It takes effort on our part. #Bible #Christianity

Pray about what you read, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Pray also for me as I write about this challenging set of Scriptures.

I do hope you enjoy reading the new series, and that it challenges you to seek after wisdom.

If the worlds way has not been working for you, try gods way of doing things… That is true wisdom!

God bless you!

Death By a Thousand Paper Cuts

I highly recommend Bruces blog and find his writing both challenging and stimulating.

I have not read this particular book referred to in this post, but have now added it to my reading list for the future. Do check out this post and a book if you have time, and let me know what you think!

J. Warner Wallace has stated that he became convinced of the truth of who Jesus was and in Christianity, over an extended period of time, wherein his…

Death By a Thousand Paper Cuts

Pure vs. OK

I sat down the other evening and put on the TV. There was some superhero movie on which I watched idly. After that, I went to bed and listened to a Christian podcast on the subject of marriage. These two seemingly unconnected things were brought together in my mind as the host of the podcast began to read from Philippians 4:8, which says:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

As I began to ponder that verse, I wondered if the movie I had been watching could be categorised in any of the descriptors Paul mentions here? Was it an “honourable” movie? Was it “lovely”? I got stuck when the word “pure” seemed to leap out at me. Was it “pure”?

The movie itself was ok… there was a bit of action, and no bad language as I recall. It wasn’t rated for adults (an “18” rating here in the UK) and was billed as family entertainment. As I say, it was ok…

But was it pure? No, I can’t say that it was. For however long I was watching it, I wasn’t fixing my thoughts on something pure, I was fixing them on something that was just plain “ok”.

Why on earth would any of us settle for ok, when we can have purity?

Why on earth would any of us settle for ok, when we can have purity?

One definition of purity is to “be free from anything which contaminates.” While this movie was not bad, it was hardly free from anything that contaminates.

I do not wish to be contaminated. I do not want to compromise the purity and holiness offered by the cleansing blood of Christ. I find myself challenged by a simple movie choice. Am I overthinking it? Perhaps I am. Yet if God is directing me away from such movies, then I will never find satisfaction in them.

I have a fairly demanding job at times, alongside helping to look after the children, manage the household and a whole host of other things. When I get to the end of the day, I am often tired and I guess like most of us, just want to flop into a chair and switch off for a while. As I approach my chair of an evening, the temptation of the TV remote is strong, requiring little effort. My Bible is not far away either, yet the thought of studying the scriptures when tired, seems like effort (I’m just being honest here!). Too often I take the easier road.

In my heart though, I know that spending time with the Lord is far more fruitful. Being tired is a weak excuse (if you pardon the pun).

Isaiah says this:

He gives power to the weak

    and strength to the powerless.

30 Even youths will become weak and tired,

    and young men will fall in exhaustion.

31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.

    They will soar high on wings like eagles.

They will run and not grow weary.

    They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)

God is the One who gives us strength. While even the young grow weary at times, those who trust in God will have new energy. At night, when we are exhausted, our bodies are refreshed and renewed as we spend time in His presence and enjoying His holy and pure Word.

God’s Word is pure. It is without taint. If you could sum up my calling in a few words, it would essentially be to encourage believers to fully engage with the Bible. The world has a multitude of entertainment offers; music, TV, streaming services, Internet, podcasts, and the list goes on. Yet so little of it could be called “pure.” Some of it may be ok, but why would we – born again, Spirit filled, children of the Most High God – want to dabble with something that is just “ok?”

God’s Word is pure:

Everything God says is pure; he is a shield for those who take refuge in him.

Proverbs 30:5 (ISV)

I know that the next time I sit down, I’m going to have that same struggle with the TV remote. Do pray for me that I make right choices. I want to look again at all of my entertainment choices and weigh them up against the benefits of studying the Word.

For balance, I am not saying you must read the Bible solely and nothing else. That, I think, would be too far and legalistic. There are many forms of entertainment out there, and it is possible to find decent material out there. For instance, there are now Christian TV streaming services which you may find far more wholesome than the mainstream options.

Ultimately, as disciples of Christ, we should be on the hunt for purity. We must hate sin in all its forms, and not tolerate watching it for sheer enjoyment. Indeed, if we devote ourselves to purity, such worldly entertainment will seem alien or even detestable.

How do we seek purity? As always, the Bible gives us a clear answer. And I will close this post with these words:

How can a young person stay pure?

    By obeying your word.

Psalm 119:9 (NLT)

The Berean Approach – Andy Brown (repost)

I don’t want you to just take my word for it… We take a little break from our current series on Psalm 103 to discuss something important. It is an immense privilege to share God’s Word with you through this blog, and I take that responsibility very seriously. But you, the reader, have a responsibility…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2018/04/12/the-berean-approach/

An Open Rebuke

An open rebuke

    is better than hidden love!

Proverbs 27:5

Generally speaking, and not wanting to assume, you probably are not all that keen on being rebuked… let alone having it done openly where others may overhear it!

At work, if we need to correct a member of staff about something, it is thought bad practice to do so in the open office where others may listen in. It does happen from time to time, and it is surprising how quiet an office can get when it does!

So, all in all, an open rebuke doesn’t sound all that fun. And yet, this proverb tells us it is preferable to hidden love. How so?

Firstly, what is a rebuke (open or otherwise)?

A rebuke is a stern reprimand. It is essentially to pull someone up on something in a not always so gentle manner. For me, what makes a rebuke tolerable or not is the heart behind it. If someone is trying to show me up, catch me out or just downright embarrass me, then I have little time for it. If, however, they are generally trying to help me, turn me away from some destructive behaviour or to improve my performance in some way, then I gladly accept it.

The “open” part might be harder to handle than the rebuke itself. We might be able to take a rebuke conducted privately where no one else can see. We certainly do not want others to see the mistakes we have made or to be aware of our faults and failings. Something about a public correction seems far worse than a private one… and could that simply be pride? We tend to portray a certain persona to the world around us, and rarely let our guard down except with close friends or loved ones. An open rebuke may allow others a glimpse beyond the veil of our external personality.

Given this, in what way is “hidden love” worse?

I am reminded of these verses from James’ letter.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:14-17 (NLT)

This situation is similar to hidden love. While the character here may bestow good wishes on this individual in need, they do nothing to actually help them. Hidden love, likewise, may make one feel warm and fuzzy, but does no good to the one being loved.

I may love my wife and children, but if I do not show that love at any point, then it is hidden.

Hidden love appears identical to “no love”.

Hidden love appears identical to “no love”.

At least if someone rebukes me, I know that they care. Someone who cares nothing for me will simply let me continue in error. But a friend will point out my fault, and help me get back on to the right road.

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.

Hebrews 12:5-6

These verses from Hebrews remind us that God’s love is not hidden, and that He rebukes and disciplines those He loves. Discipline is a sign of love, believe it or not. When I discipline my children, it is not because I am some mean ogre, but rather because I do not want them to engage with sin, danger or behaviour which will not set them up for a good life. While I take no pleasure in rebuking, it is more loving to point out the danger than to ignore it.

Imagine a person walking towards an open pit and not realising it is there. It is not loving for me to avoid telling them about it, for fear of rejection or how they might react. No, I tell them, “Look out!”

There are a number of ways we can apply this verse in our lives.

Firstly, do not be offended when someone tries to set you straight. For the most part, we must trust that people have our best intentions at heart. Take their rebuke to the Lord and see how He directs you. If it is a true rebuke, it will lead you to repentance and change. If it is not, you can move on and not waste your energy on offense.

Secondly, do not hide your love. If you care about someone, then show them! This is not about rebuking them left, right and centre, but love them in every way you can. Don’t just wish them well, as James points out, actually do something they can see or feel.

Lastly, is there anyone in your life whom you need to challenge? Make sure it is your place to do so. If some random stranger started rebuking me in a coffee shop, I probably won’t respond all that well! Why? Because they have no place or right to speak into my life. If my wife comes and points something out, then that is very different. She has more than earned the right to correct me, and I trust her to do so. We err when we think we have the right to tell anyone we like what we think.

Pray about it before you decide to confront. Let the Lord guide you carefully. He will show you if it is you who should do it, and the timing and the words you need. Humbly ask Him if you need the same message yourself first.

Thanks for reading!