Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: wickedness

Desperately wicked

Try to put yourself in the position of a slave owner in the antebellum south. a slave owner whose livelihood and position in society hinged on your ability to get the maximum amount of work out of your slaves at a minimum cost. You considered yourself to be a Christian, but, like everyone around you, you believed that these black-skinned creatures who worked in your fields were more like domestic livestock than human beings. Some even said that they had no souls. Therefore you were justified in driving them to work harder, whipping them if they could not or would not work, killing them if they rebelled or tried to escape. Could you be that person?

Or could you be a guard in a Nazi death camp? For years you have been bombarded with information in the media, in movies, in schools, books and pamphlets that revealed how Jews were the cause of all that had ever gone wrong in Germany. The future of Germany depended on ridding itself of such degraded people. Could you order them to do meaningless, repetitive tasks, beat them when they stumbled under the load, herd them into the gas ovens?

Maybe you could have been a member of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. The future of Cambodia depended on it becoming an egalitarian agricultural society. Could you have herded people out of the cities, young and old, men and women, healthy or sick, and forced them to march for days into the jungle, caring nothing for those who perished along the way?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9). Do we know the depravity of our heart? The people I have described were no different than you and me. Under the same circumstances we would have been capable of doing the same things, with never a twinge of conscience.

We would like to think otherwise, to think that we are better than that. We are not. Those were intelligent, civilized people, capable of showing much kindness in other areas of their life. But their hearts deceived them into believing that some people were not worthy of kindness, respect or compassion.

We are all good people until we are put to the test. The only thing that will make the outcome different when we are tested is to listen to the gentle prompts of the Holy Spirit of God.

Visit from a government auditor

One of my bookkeeping clients missed a few payments to the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency). Since the relevant financial records are stored on my computer I received a call from a lady at the CRA about two weeks ago  wanting to make an appointment for an audit. That visit took place two days ago.

The auditor had talked to my client, who explained the circumstances that caused him to get behind. He promised that he would be able to keep up to date with payments from now on and pay off the arrears if given enough time. When she came to see me, I was able to present her with all the relevant records and she was satisfied that all was in order and that we weren’t trying to conceal anything.

An upcoming visit from a CRA auditor sends shivers up some people’s spines. It doesn’t have to be a scary event if we are completely open, with nothing to hide. In this case, the lady and I spent a good part of the time visiting about our families and she left with the assurance that she had found everything in order.

One day, we are all going to be audited by the Ruler of the universe. If we are trying to cover something up it will be glaringly evident in that day. Wouldn’t it be best to allow Him to search our hearts today to see if there is anything that is not in order?

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

Missed opportunities

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Colossians 4:5-6

Like many other Christians, I read these verses and feel that I need to be much busier in the work of the Lord. So far, so good. The question is, however, what is it that I need to be busy doing? I can fill my time with doing good things, but how do I know that this is really what God wants me to do? Am I asking the Spirit to guide me in doing God’s will, or am I just busy?

The word translated time in these verses seems to have more the sense of opportunity. One Bible dictionary says that “redeeming the time” means “to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good.”

The passage in Colossians is addressing our witness to others. Perhaps it could be rephrased to say that we should be ready to act when the Spirit prompts us to do or say something for the Lord. Is there a danger that I may be so busy doing the things that I believe to be good and needful that when the Spirit speaks I cannot hear Him? Or that I am just too busy to interrupt the important thing I am doing to do the thing the Spirit tells me is more important? How many opportunities for service do I miss because I am too busy with something ele?

Or, to put it another way — am I so busy doing right things that I have no time to do what is right when the opportunity arises?

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable of a man travelling to a far country who gave his servants varying amounts of money to use for his benefit while he was gone. The money is expressed in talents — a talent of silver in Bible times was about 45kg. This has given rise to our English word talent, denoting a special ability. This is a misunderstanding of the parable. Each servant was given a number of talents, “according to his several ability.” Thus it was not abilities that were being handed out, but rather opportunities to use their abilities in their master’s service.

One servant thought he had no ability to profit by the opportunity given him and the master characterized his unwillingness to serve as wickedness. How many opportunities to serve do we miss because we think our Lord is asking something beyond our ability? Do I see it as wickedness when I am unwilling to do the small things that the Holy Spirit asks of me?

Salt of the earth

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13).

“Not only did the Hebrews make general use of salt in the food of both man and beast, but they used it in their religious services as an accompaniment to the various offerings presented on the altar. . . The meaning which the salt, with its power to strengthen food and preserve it from putrefaction and corruption, imparted to the sacrifice was the unbending truthfulness of that self-surrender to the Lord embodied in the sacrifice, by which all impurity and hypocrisy were repelled.” Unger’s Bible Dictionary

“Mankind, lying in ignorance and wickedness, were as a vast heap, ready to putrefy; but Christ sent forth his disciples, by their lives and doctrines to season it with knowledge and grace. If they are not such as they should be, they are as salt that has lost its savour. If a man can take up the profession of Christ, and yet remain graceless, no other doctrine, no other means, can make him profitable. Our light must shine, by doing such good works as men may see. What is between God and our souls, must be kept to ourselves; but that which is of itself open to the sight of men, we must study to make suitable to our profession, and praiseworthy. We must aim at the glory of God.” – Matthew Henry

According to this explanation, which I consider to be the right one, Jesus was referring to the use of salt as a preservative. It was the only substance in Bible times that could prevent food from putrefying. Jesus applied this metaphorically to Christians as the only ones who could preserve members of the society around them from going rotten, falling into sin and condemnation.

OK. So now, according to Matthew Henry’s metaphor, we have this great heap of humanity beginning to putrefy. Somewhere else, no doubt upwind, we have this heap of salt. How does this fit with Jesus’ parable? Is the salt doing any good if it is not applied where the problem exists?

It isn’t going to do any good to that putrefying mass either if we apply a little of the putrefaction to ourselves and to our message in an attempt to gain a hearing. The Bible tells us we need to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. If that means anything at all, it means that any hint of pride or a holier-than-thou attitude will cause our saltiness to lose its savour.

The truth is that we are just as prone to putrefaction as any other human and our saltiness is only the product of the grace of God in our lives as we submit ourselves to the leading of His Holy Spirit. Then in humility we can mingle with the people of the world and the salt within us will here and there bring purification and healing to others.

“Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another” (Mark 9:50).

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