YOU ARE YOUR OWN JUDGE
I have noticed, as I have walked and re-walked through the gospels with Jesus, that He was big on human responsibility. He never sanctioned the kind of prayers I often hear people pray – that God would do for us what He has already done, or given us the responsibility to do for ourselves. Jesus always honoured the gift of choice. How often He ratified the choices people made! Take the rich young ruler, for instance. Did He go running after the man to beg him to follow Him, or to make things easier for him? Not a chance! He simply let the man go. He had made his decision, and that was that!
How will we, as prospective disciples of Jesus, respond to His warning? How will we measure our response to His yoke? I am sure we have no desire to disqualify ourselves or to lose what we already have because we have not understood the kernel of His teaching. What I am about to share with you is, I hope, in essence what Jesus was getting at.
I have an acquaintance who works for a small private company. She has worked extremely hard to help the company prosper, bringing in huge amounts of money through sales and service. She recently resigned to take up a position in her husband’s business, much to the disappointment of the company owners – not because of her value as a person but because of the wealth she brought to the company. The husband of the husband-and-wife team has shown his disdain for her decision. Where once he was her “friend”, he is now distant and unfriendly.
I think that this reveals in a nutshell the difference between those who have “the evil eye” and those who have “the eye of light”. Jesus was adamant that He had come to serve, not to be served. He expects those who follow Him to have to same attitude towards other people as His. My friend was useful to her employers as long as she brought in the money. The bottom line is: they used her. Their relationship stood only until the crunch of her leaving hit their bank balance.
What came to my mind through this incident was something like this: Whether they are believers or not is irrelevant. They have been diminished by their reaction to her resignation. Something of what they had has been lost. They measured her worth in terms of money and business. They did not value her as a person and share in her anticipation of bringing prosperity to her family. In fact, they did not even reward her or any of the other staff members by a bonus at the end of the year. They became their own judges.
This leads me to the heart of Jesus’s yoke. If we have chosen to walk in the way of Yahweh, our lives will be characterised by selfless service. We will not use people for our own ends. We will serve people at our own expense. The more we serve, the more we will increase in knowledge and understanding of God’s ways. It’s this “reciprocal” thing again. When we give ourselves away, God gives back by multiplication!
The opposite is also true. When we use people for our own purposes; when we disregard them as people and use them as a means to enrich ourselves, we are diminished as people. We become more selfish and self-serving, less sensitive to the needs of others and dehumanised in our attitude to ourselves and other people.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Matt. 16: 24-26)
Another aspect of this principle is true. The shallow soil does not allow the seeds to produce roots to anchor the plant in all conditions so that it can mature and produce fruit. Shallow people trust in God as long as it is beneficial for them. As soon as tests or adversity come, they fall away because their faith in God is opportunistic.
These kind of people will also use rather than serve God just like they use rather than serve others. Is this not diagnostic of what kind of hearts shallow people have? When they are disillusioned with God because He doesn’t answer their prayers – in other words, He doesn’t do what they want – they give up their faith in Him and go back to their old life. Use or serve – this reveals the true nature of our hearts.
The soil adds nothing to the seed. It only provides the environment in which the seed grows. Whether the seed is able to reproduce itself or not depends on the nature of the soil. What is the purpose of the seed? It exists only to reproduce itself so that its fruit can nourish the eater and its seeds can continue the cycle of growth and reproduction in the hearts of other people.
As I pondered on this thought, it occurred to me that this is a picture of our lives. Our hearts are the soil into which the seed falls. Like the soil, we add nothing to the seed but, as it grows and reproduces in us, our spirits are nourished by its fruit. We in turn, continue to perpetuate the life of the seed by sowing it into the hearts of others. Their response will determine its effect on their lives and whether the seed it reproduces will continue to be passed on to others.
What we eventually become in our efforts to follow Jesus and become true disciples is entirely our responsibility. The Holy Spirit will not make the choices for us but He will give us grace and power to put into practice our decision to follow Jesus and to do what He instructs us to do. In the end, as we follow Him, we will become like our rabbi, maturing as we journey with Him, into true sons and daughters of God.
“Be careful how you hear,” Jesus warned. “You determine the measure of your own fruitfulness.”
Pray with me, then, the matchless prayer of David whom God called, “A man after my own heart.”
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth;
Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psa. 86:11)
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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