The Truth Principal

Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline, and understanding. Proverbs 23:23


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That’s Not Fair!

That’s not fair! Have you ever said that? If you are around children much, you hear it pretty regularly! My students tell me that it’s not fair when someone else is winning, or when someone cuts in front of you, or when someone gets something you don’t, or when someone gets a bigger piece of chocolate cake than you, or when you are not allowed to do something that you want to do, or when you get blamed for something someone else has done.

Following up from last month, when we learned about being an image-bearer and learning to conform to the image of Christ, who is “full of grace and truth”, we began looking at some of Jesus’ parables to get an idea of what grace looks like.

We can all relate to feeling something is not fair. Jesus knew we would when he told this story in Matthew 20:1-15 (NLT):

“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.

“At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing.  So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.

“At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’

“They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’

“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’

“That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first.  When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage.  When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’

“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’

I don’t know about you, but I quickly identify with the workers who were there all day. While it is true that they were paid a fair wage and received what they agreed to, it’s the inequity of the situation that makes it feel unfair. So we tried to look at it from another perspective. I asked my students to imagine that their dad didn’t have a job. (Some of the students gasped!) Not only was dad unemployed, but he went to a location where people would go hoping to find work. He was worried because he has a wife and children at home and there is no food in the refrigerator! (More gasps!) He needs to find work so he can feed his family. He has been looking all day, but finds nothing. Finally, near the end of the day, the vineyard owner finds him and puts him to work. At least he will have about an hour of pay. Maybe it will be enough to buy a little something to eat. Imagine his surprise when he is paid for the full day! Wouldn’t he have been leaping for joy? Maybe he rushed home to tell the family the wonderful generosity of the vineyard owner! “Look! Look what I got! he paid me a full day’s wage!” What a relief to be able to put food on the table! How do you feel about the fairness of the generous vineyard owner now? God is like that. He is that generous with us.

We also looked at the parable of the Unforgiving Servant from Matthew 18:23-35

We tried to imagine together what it would be like to owe someone millions of dollars. The debt was overwhelming and impossible to repay! The king was going to sell him and his family and all of their possessions to repay the debt. But when the servant pleaded with the king for mercy, the king had compassion. He didn’t follow through with the legal remedy for such a debt, nor did he set up a payment plan! Instead, he completely forgave the debt! Just like that! The debt was wiped out! Gone! Don’t you find it particularly disappointing to learn that immediately after being forgiven such a tremendous debt, the same servant sought out a fellow servant who owed him thousands and demanded immediate payment? When the servant asked for mercy, just as he had done, instead of being merciful, he threw him into prison.

We are like the unforgiving servant. We have been forgiven so much! We have been forgiven for everything we have ever done that offended God. God generously forgives us when we ask, even though we don’t deserve it. Yet quite often, we are stingy with forgiveness. When someone has offended us, we want them to jump through a few hoops and feel our pain before we relent and forgive them – if we do forgive them. Jesus makes it very clear how much this displeases God.  God requires us to forgive like He has forgiven us. In fact, when we pray the Lord’s prayer, we are committed to it, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us…”

So today we learned that grace is not fair. Grace is better than fair! It is generous! As we grow in our likeness of Jesus, people around us should find us quick to forgive and generous in grace.

“God dispenses gifts, not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God’s requirements for a perfect life. In the bottom-line realm of ungrace, some workers deserve more than others; in the realm of grace the word deserve does not even apply.”

p. 62 What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey
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Running, Homework, and the Gospel

Maybe these aren’t three things you would put together as having something in common, but this all came up this week and the parallels this Resurrection Sunday compel me to write!

Earlier this week, I was interviewing new families that have applied to enroll at our school for next year. We always discuss several particular policies and the truth behind them. One such policy is our “No Homework” policy. There are several reasons for this policy: 1) it usurps the parent’s authority in the child’s life to make decisions about how they will spend their time after they leave school for the day, 2) research shows that elementary children’s brains are academically done by 3:00 (they get brain fatigue and can’t push past it with any more academics) and 3) homework displaces things that are academically beneficial such as activity, family meal times, reading for pleasure, and sleep. It came up in our conversation how we seem to always think, as human beings, that if some is good, more is better, which is what often leads to the assumption that doing a little more math and worksheets will propel our students even faster. But quite the opposite is true. It causes brain fatigue and burn out. It saps children of their enjoyment of learning and does not provide enough down time to process what they have already learned that day. More is not better. Enough is as good as a feast!

That reminded me of running. (Doesn’t everything now days?) Whenever we start an exercise program, like running, it is typical to completely overdo. Although the training says to incrementally increase time and to run only 3-4 days a week with rest days in between, we tend to discount the experts and run too far the first day and/or run every day, thinking that will get us to our goals faster. Again, the opposite is true. More is not better. You are more likely to develop an injury because you are not giving your body time to heal and strengthen between runs. And because you are missing rest days, your body is fatigued and cannot perform as well.

All of that got me to thinking about the work Jesus did on the cross. Really! Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, once and for all, and the proof that it was paid was in the resurrection! There is NOTHING more that you or I need to do to make things right with God if we have accepted His gift of forgiveness through His Son. When you give yourself a regimen of good deeds to do to make up for your sin, aren’t you really saying that Jesus’s blood wasn’t enough? When you are unforgiving toward yourself and toward those who have offended you, aren’t you assuming that Jesus’s forgiveness isn’t enough? There is nothing you can add to what Christ did to make it better. More is not better. It was already perfect!

The good works we do now, as forgiven children, are not out of a sense of “owing a debt” because that debt has been paid! We do it out of our deep love and gratitude for what has been done for us! In homework terms, it’s the difference between “reading for pleasure” and reading to complete a reading log. One comes from intrinsic motivation, the enjoyment of the heart; the other is from a sense of duty, it is required.

Many years ago, our youngest daughter learned how to make coffee. One Saturday morning, she came quietly into our bedroom bringing my husband and I mugs of coffee in bed! What a lovely, sweet gesture! We enjoyed it so much, and she enjoyed the giving, because it was done out of a heart of love. This happened a few more times. One day, I heard my husband ask her to make him some coffee. Then another time he offered to pay her to make coffee. What happened? The coffee stopped. It was no longer a gift of love but an expectation, a debt, and the joy of doing it was gone.

Do you feel guilty about the sin in your life? Accept the free gift of forgiveness that comes through our resurrected Christ! Your debt has been paid! It’s finished! Accept the forgiveness and live a life of devotion to the One who has saved and redeemed you! Let your obedience to Him flow from a heart of love and gratitude, rather than a sense of duty and paying for past sins. There is nothing you can add to what Christ has done for you. Hebrews 10:18 says, “And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.” More is not better, because Christ was enough!

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.  Romans 5:1-2

Christ is risen!