Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 13:1-15:23, Luke 8:40-9:6, Psalm 71:1-24, Proverbs 12:5-7.
As I read through the text today, what stood out to me was that God has laid out a plan and command for two character traits to develop in the attitudes and actions of His people. I am one of His people because I have been grafted into the vine of His beloved, chosen ones. And you are too, if you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. And because we are His people, we can glean wisdom from His instructions, even though they were originally written for the Israelites.
And today’s instructions can be summed up in two commands. Be faithful to God and be generous to others. First, let’s look at the character trait of faithfulness. What does it mean to be faithful? Webster’s dictionary includes the following as a definition of faithfulness: steadfast in affection or allegiance, firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty, given with strong, binding assurance, and true to the facts and to a standard. Read over that description again and ask yourself, “Am I faithful to God?”
Can He trust me to choose Him with every decision, every detail of my life?
Many verses in the passage today as well as in previous chapters, talk about idolatry. When we think of idolatry, we often think of worshipping a golden calf. Of course, we would not bow down to a golden calf. But would we bow down to golden coins? Would be bow down to other’s opinions of ourselves? Would we bow down to the idol of our children, their sports, or even their well-being? I must confess, I am stepping on my own toes here. I have committed the sin of idolatry in each of those ways at times. But as I read through today’s passage, I am convicted of the seriousness of those offenses. I am convicted that I must closely guard my heart, my mind, and my motivations.
6 “Suppose someone secretly entices you—even your brother, your son or daughter, your beloved wife, or your closest friend—and says, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known. 7 They might suggest that you worship the gods of peoples who live nearby or who come from the ends of the earth. 8 But do not give in or listen. Have no pity, and do not spare or protect them.
We are to put God above our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters. We are to put God above our beloved spouse and our closest friend. Our God is a jealous God and wants and desires first place in our hearts. But after 25 years of marriage and 7 children, I am convinced that if I love God first, I will love my family better.
The next characteristic that we see instructed is that of generosity. We must be generous to God in our tithes and offerings, which is a lot like when my littlest children wrap up a gift that I gave them. I paid for it, it is technically mine, but when those little cuties hand it back to me as a gift, it is a great gift indeed. I love it, not because I need it, but because they gave it to me in love. And as we are generous first to the Lord, He multiplies that generosity to overflow to others. Today’s passage talks of forgiving debts, loaning to others, and helping the poor. One of the verses stopped me in my tracks.
4 “There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession.
There should be no poor among you? Really? Even Jesus said there will always be poor among us. But, the reality is that in our sphere of influence, as far as it depends on us, the poverty problem should be greatly reduced. Why? Because our God will greatly bless us. We are blessed to be a blessing. Blessings are a tricky thing. God is generous with us and expects us to be generous with others. But we can easily fall into the sin of idolatry when it comes to our blessings. What is the cure? The cure is the first quality we have discussed today. Faithfulness to God. If we are faithful to Him, if we put Him first, above all else, we will be more likely to have the quality of generosity. One will precede the other.
Today, let’s commit first to faithfulness to God. Let’s ask Him to point out any areas of idolatry in our lives. Then, let’s be open to His work in our lives, transforming and increasing the characteristic of generosity in our hearts.