Overturning the Wrong

Elias sat at his booth in the marketplace with great anticipation.  This was the best season of the year for business.  His family had owned this place right inside the front door of the market for years.  His father, and his grandfather had brought him up and taught him the way to help people with their offerings to the Lord.  They were shrewd merchants who knew exactly what was needed to make a good living. Elias had learned well.

He was a small man, standing 5’3” short and stocky.  His mustache rolled over his lips so it was hard to see the top one as he spoke with his rough, gravelly voice.  His eyes were bright and looked very honest as he would look out over the people coming into the marketplace.  He had a wife and three children to care for, so was hoping for a good day on this bright sunny morning.  On a normal day he would help over 500 people with their offerings, but this was no normal day.  It was only 10:00 AM and he had already sold 300 sheep and 200 pigeons to people who had imperfect offerings, or so he said.  In reality, he had tricked those people by telling them their offering was not pure enough for the sacrifice, and sold them one of his sheep.  But then once the people were out of sight, he would sell their lamb to an unsuspecting couple, calling it pure.  He did this all day long and made good money as a result.  His table sat with a large balance to weigh the money, which was much faster than counting it.  However, his weights were slightly altered in his favor, so he made a little extra money with his unjust weights also.  And being right inside the temple gates made him one of the first merchants people saw.

It was three days before the Passover, and Elias knew there would be throngs of people in Jerusalem for this blessed time of year.  He was daily in the temple, and business was always good.  But this year was different, and Elias knew this was going to be a boom for business.  He had heard the commotion the day before as a man named Jesus came into town bringing a huge throng of people. There must have been 10,000 who greeted him at the main gate.  They shouted Hosanna and laid palm branches before him.  It seemed they thought he was some kind of King.  Elias had heard stories of him healing people and teaching extraordinary lessons.  There was even a rumor going around that he had raised a man named Lazarus from the dead.  It seemed many were running after him, hoping he would set up some kind of kingdom.  Elias scoffed at the idea.  It was ludicrous.  But he knew all those people would eventually have to come and offer their burnt offerings to the Lord during Passover, and he was grinning ear to ear.

A young man walked up to his booth without a sacrifice, and Elias knew he would need one this day.

“How can I help you, young man.”  Elias softly said.

The young man looked excited.  “I need a pigeon for the offering today, sir”

Elias went over to his pigeon cage, opened the door and was about to take one out when a herd of people swarmed into the marketplace, led by a man with a white tunic on.  All the people were shouting “Jesus, Jesus” like he was something so special.  They were a wild bunch and the birds in the cage starting flying around like crazy, making it hard to get one out.  Jesus stood there, looking out over the marketplace and all the booths that were set up to sell sacrifices to the people.  People were buying and selling just like he was about to do.  It was an eerie scene; one he had never encountered before.  The whole crowd had stopped behind him, yelling his name and holding out their hands to him.  For a moment it seemed time stood still as Elias reached in to get one of the pigeons for his customer.  Before he could grab one, this man called Jesus walked up to his booth, picked it up and turned it over.  The balance and money went flying all over the ground.  Elias, shocked and furious turned to try and save things and the birds starting flying out of the cage.  There was no hope to recover them as they scattered far and wide.  He scrambled on the ground, looking for his money as others in the crowd started to pick it up and run off with it.

He heard the commotion as Jesus proceeded through the marketplace doing the same to every table. The noise was unbearable.  Merchants screaming at him to stop, people scurrying to try and get the money that fell to the ground, sheep running all over bleating as they were freed from their cages and pigeons everywhere, cooing and making a mess.  Total chaos took over the marketplace.  But above all the noise and ruckus I could hear Jesus shout out “It is written: my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”  How dare he make such an accusation, Elias thought.  Elias was helping people get what they needed to present an acceptable offering to God.  So, he made a little profit.  That was what fed his family.  Now He would have to try and find all his sheep and pigeons again – an impossible task.  His money was gone to the hoards that grabbed it off the ground.  What he thought was going to be a great day turned into a disaster.

I wonder how many of us need our lives overturned.  We are busy in the church doing what we have always done not realizing God has a bigger task for us.  We have become so tuned into our own little way that we don’t realize we have walked out of the will of God for our lives.  Sin has crept in and we have allowed it to, justifying our deeds by our seemingly righteous acts.  While we teach Sunday School, or lead worship, or serve on the church board, or lead the ladies’ group in the background we are satisfying our own selfish sinful desires.  No one around us knows what is going on beneath the service of our seemingly holy lives.  This was Elias.  This was me.

There was a time that I was so eaten up with pride that I could easily defy God and justify it in my own mind.  I served in many roles within the church and no one knew that sin knocked at the door on a daily basis, and that many days I let it in.  Elias sold lies on a regular basis, justifying it as providing for his family.  I lived a lie, justifying it by the good works I was doing.  There was no excuse for my behavior, but I gave plenty of excuses.  This went on for years and then was discovered.  After a period of repentance and renewal, I turned right back to it, as dog returns to his vomit.  5 more years of deceit went by before it was discovered again.  This time God overturned the tables in my life.  My marriage nearly ruined, fired from my job and rejected from my church, I went on a sabbatical that changed my life and set my course straight again.  God redeemed me once again through His overwhelming mercy and grace.

If you have sin inside the door of your life, don’t wait for Jesus to come and overturn the tables.  This can cause deep losses on your part.  Tackle the problem now.  Ask for forgiveness now.  Repent now.  Turn your own table.  You will thank yourself for it.  Because if Jesus comes in and overturns the wrong, you could lose everything, just as Elias did.

How Do You want to be Treated?

Matthew 7:12

7 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this fulfills the law and the prophets

We all know it.  The “Golden Rule” it is called.  It is known by cultures around the world, by Christian and non-Christian, by rich and poor, by big and small, by any race, sex or creed.  This rule has been heard over and over again.  Why is it that we have so much trouble understanding it?

Well, I can think of several reasons which I will share in this post.  I’ll bet you can some up with a few more on your own.  As I look at my own life and what I have witnessed and done myself, I can see so many ways that I fall flat on my face when it comes to this simple statement.  It’s not on purpose, mind you.  It’s a slip of the mental capacities, or it’s human nature, to just do what is best for me, not necessarily what is best for the other.  I challenge you to see if you fit any of these patterns I am going to share.

The first is the “me first” or privileged society we live in today.  It’s what I want ahead of all else.  It’s my morality that matters.  It’s my needs that trump yours.  I must do what I have set out to do, and I’m not concerned whether you can fit into my plans or not.  Have you heard that?  I just heard it yesterday from one of my daughters!  I hear it a lot.  Once we have set course in a certain direction, we are not going to turn back and try and help someone else.  This rule says to do what you would want someone to do for you, not what you want to do for them, or not for them.

We have one of our granddaughters living with us right now.  Her cousins came down for Christmas this weekend.  They spent the first night with us and had a blast.  The last night they were staying in another city about 40 miles away so they could swim and head home in the morning.  Our granddaughter wanted to go up swimming with them and needed a ride home if she did because I am not able to drive right now and my wife was working at a restaurant that night.  But they had made their plans ahead and were not willing to drive her home.  My lovely wife, who will do anything for her grandkids, drove up after work and picked her up.  I rode with her and as always was amazed with her grace.

Would my daughter have liked us to bring her daughter home if a similar situation arose?  We would have gladly done it.  We would have figured out a way or altered our plans slightly to make it happen.  But we would have done it, not because we would want the same, but because it is the right thing to do.  Help someone else out if they ask, even if I have to go out of my way.  Isn’t that what this rule says?

In our world today, we see this often.  People will not go out of their way to help someone else out.  They are stuck in their own little routines and heaven forbid someone should ask them to go out of their way to help.  They forget that they might need that favor returned someday.  When that day comes, they get mad because the other person won’t do what they would not do earlier.

The next thing is a simple thing called getting even.  Well, they did this to me, so I’m going to do it right back!  They gossiped about me, so I’m telling about them!  They didn’t help me out at work, so I won’t help them!  They didn’t wave at me so I’m going to snub my nose at them.  How many times have we heard this, or been guilty of this?  This is actually the exact opposite of the Golden Rule.  It is saying they did it to me, so I’m going to do it to them because I did not like it!  How backwards can it get?  Yet our society seems to run on this sentiment.

This was me just the other day.  I confess – I am guilty.  I had ordered some things from a local gal who does a masterful job at couponing.  She sells stuff out of her home that she has bought for pennies on the dollar and she is well below store prices.  She was out of town when I sent in my order and hadn’t seen it, so I sent it again.  She said she would get back with a price so I could write a check.  She did not, so I prompted her.  I got the price and asked her when I could come pick them up  or could she deliver them.  No response, for days.  I asked again, three weeks after the order was placed, I still did not have the goods so I bought them at a local store. 

My wife works with this gal at night, and she came home after I had bought them and said the gal was going to bring some stuff over because she felt bad.  I told her that I had already bought it and didn’t need it.  Then I said I would not order from her again.  Yes, this is poor customer service, and in the eyes of the world, I would be justified in not purchasing from her again.  But is this right?  Is this the way I would want to be treated, or am I working the reverse of the rule?

According to this verse, the right thing to do is forgive her and give her another chance.  I would want another chance if I messed up this bad!  I have been in sales for over 30 years and know what it is to make mistakes and be given another chance.  To be honest, it’s rare.  But it’s the right thing to do.  Remember our lesson on forgiveness?  That applies so strongly in this verse.  I would want to be forgiven my negligence.  I should certainly forgive hers.

Then there is revenge.  Christians should never take revenge into their own hands, but so often we want it so badly that we forget God told us vengeance was His, He would repay (Deuteronomy 32:3).  We forget that God says to not avenge ourselves but leave room for God’s wrath (Romans 12:19).  We want an immediate judgment!  We want that matter settled now, and we will do it ourselves.  After all, we are the ones who were wronged!

I can’t say I can give a good example of this one right off the top of my head, but you can all relate, I am sure. Someone does something bad to us, so we repay by doing something bad back.  Or someone says something hurtful and we fire right back.  My wife and I used to get into some of those types of arguments and no one ever wins.  One party or the other gets deeply hurt and in our case it was always my wife.  I can’t tell you how many times I fired back some off the cuff remark that I did not intend to say because she stirred my pot a bit.  I’ve become a  lot better at avoiding this, but it still creeps up every so often.  I just don’t want to hurt her with my words anymore, so I am so careful.  Revenge is never a good thing when we take it into our own hands.  My wife always says “They will reap what they sow” and this is so true!

The last thing that I will mention is pride,  I know I mention this a lot, but it is the major fault that keeps us going against the principles of God.  Pride will want to make us stay on top, stay ahead, get even, get revenge and get our way.  Pride will keep us from yielding to someone else’s need or to acknowledge someone made a mistake.  Pride will keep us from forgiving someone and give them another chance.  Pride needs to go and humility needs to rule and reign in our lives.

One last thought on this verse.  Have you ever thought about the fact that you can take this verse and turn it a little around to show how powerful it really is?  Do you realize that when you are gossiping about your neighbor, you are saying in effect it is alright if they gossip about you, according to this rule?  After all, whatever I want done for me, I do for them, right? If I don’t give them a ride when they need one, I am telling them they don’t need to give me a ride when I need one, right?  If I don’t help them, I don’t expect they should help me!  What we do for or to others is what we want done for or to us is another way of looking at this verse.

Do you want others to take revenge on you?  Take revenge on them!  Do you want others to not help you out?  Don’t help them out!  Do you want others to put you down behind your back?  Put them down behind their back!  Do you want others to steal your joy?  Steal their joy!  Do you want others to be angry with you?  Be angry with them!

Or, Do you want others to forgive you?  Forgive them!  Do you want others to be at peace with you?  Be at peace with them!  Do you want others to speak gently to you?  Speak gently to them!  Do you want others to help you?  Help them!  Do you want others to love you?  Love them!  Love them even if they don’t love you back.  Forgive them even if they don’t forgive you back.  Be at peace with them even if that peace is not returned.

Do to them as you want them to do to you.  So simple, yet so profound!

This is a repost from my God’s Maintenance Man Blog. If you would like to check out the rest of the study, please click HERE