Category Archives: Money

Beware Wolves in the Midst of Sheep (Luke 20)

Scripture reading – Luke 20

Putting today’s Scripture reading in its historical context, remember Jesus is ministering in the midst of the week He will be betrayed by Judas, face a mock trial, and be crucified.

We find Jesus teaching in the Temple in the introductory verses of Luke 20.  His antagonists, the religious leaders (“the chief priests and the scribes…with the elders”), came and confronted Him in the Temple (20:1). They demanded by whose authority He performed miracles and taught the people (20:1-2; Matthew 21:27-27; Mark 11:27-33).

Jesus, evidencing divine wisdom and discernment into the heart of man answered their question with a question: “I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: 4 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?”  (20:3b-4). Fearing the people, the leaders refused to answer (20:5-7). Then, Jesus responded, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (20:8).

Parable of the Wicked Tenants (20:9-19)

Jesus then turned from the hypocrites who masqueraded as devout religious men, and taught the people the Parable of the Vineyard (20:9-19; Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12).

The parable told the story of tenants [religious leaders] who labored in their master’s [God the Father’s] vineyard [Israel] while he was away. When the master sent his trusted servants [prophets] to collect the profits he was due from the vineyard, those who labored there refused. Those wicked men beat the servants, and sent them away. Finally, the master sent his own son and heir [picture of Jesus Christ] (20:13), and reasoned the tenants would surely pay his son respect and his due (20:13). The laborers [chief priests, Pharisees, and scribes], however, rose up and slew their master’s son (20:14-16).

Quoting Psalm 118:22, Jesus made it clear the application of the parable was that those who rejected the Son would themselves be rejected (20:17-18). The application was so obvious, the chief priests and scribes realized the parable described their own wicked designs against Jesus, and thus renewed their plot to kill Him (20:19-26).

A Question Concerning the Resurrection (20:27-38)

Over the years, I have had some ask me if the husband and wife relationship is bound in heaven. This is especially a concern to those who have, whether by death or divorce, had more than one husband or wife.  While I am convinced the saints of God will know one another in heaven, I am also convinced there will be no marriage in heaven. We read in Luke 20:35, “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world [heaven], and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage (20:35).

Jesus, having silenced the scribes by His answers and questions (20:39-40), turned to His audience, and warned His disciples, “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; 47  Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation”  (20:46-47).

Closing thoughts – The proud and pious often are the same in the world, and their presence is found as much in the church as it is in the realm of education and politics. As it was in Christ’s day, so it is today—there are many who burden others with a demand to be favored, often while they ravage the poor and vulnerable.

Remember: Reject Christ, and you will surely suffer His judgment one day. He who knows the hearts of men, will see past the religious veneer and every man will receive his due according to his works (Matthew 16:27).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Gifts of the Rich Paled in Comparison to the Widow’s Offering (Mark 12; Matthew 23)

Scripture reading – Mark 12; Matthew 23

The Synoptic Gospels

Continuing our chronological Scripture reading in the Gospels, we notice again the beauty of the Synoptic Gospels. Each writer complemented the others with his own remembrance or understanding of Christ’s miracles, teachings and conversations. Matthew, also known as Levi (who may have been of the tribe of Levi), wrote to the Jews of his day who had a knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures.

Mark’s gospel seems to have been written to a non-Jewish audience, as he puts forth effort to explain biblical practices and traditions. Most likely Mark was writing to a Roman audience. Luke, thought to be a Gentile by birth, addressed his gospel to a man whom he addressed as “most excellent Theophilus” (1:3). Scholars are generally in agreement that Luke’s audience was Greek-speaking. Finally, John’s Gospel, not one of the synoptics, was written to all men and women, and declared Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:16). Together, Matthew, Mark, and Luke give what might be described as a three-dimensional portrait of Christ’s life and ministry.

Our Scripture reading in Mark chapter 12, is parallel to what we have read in Matthew 21-22 and Luke 20. For instance, Mark recorded the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (12:1-12), which we have considered in Matthew 21:33-36 and Luke 20:9-19. The question posed by the Pharisees and Herodians regarding civil and religious authority is found in the synoptic gospels (Mark 12:13-17; Matthew 22:15-22; and Luke 20:20-26). There is also the challenge of the Sadducees concerning the resurrection in Mark 12:18-27 (as it was in Matthew 22:23-33 and Luke 20:27-38. Even the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” is reiterated in Mark 12:28-34 (Matthew 22:34-40 and Luke 10:25-37).

For our devotional, I invite you to direct your attention to a story known widely as “The Widow’s Mite,” but one I will subtitle: “A Portrait of Consecration” (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4). Remember, we are in the midst of Christ’s final week before the Cross.

Mark 12 – A Portrait of Giving

Mark wrote, “Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much” (12:41). The treasury of the Temple is believed to have been located in a large room known as the “Court of the Women.” Jesus sat and observed the rich bringing their offerings, and making a great fanfare of the size or amount of their gifts (Matthew 6:1-2). As He looked on, a poor widow came to the Temple to worship the LORD with her offering that was no more than “two mites, which make a farthing” (12:42).

Who was this widow? Why did one who gave so little, become an object lesson for giving one’s offering?

There are several items we might note concerning the widow. The obvious, she was alone, and described as a “poor widow” (12:42). Vulnerable, perhaps childless (or at least without one who cared to accompany her to the Temple), and lowly. Assuming the literal meaning of what it meant to be “poor,” she lived in an impoverished state. Perhaps with a haggard countenance, and in tattered robes she came to the Temple to cast into the treasury “two mites” (the smallest Jewish coin), which together was equal to a small brass coin known as a farthing(12:42).

Closing thoughts – You might wonder, “So what?” Herein is a wonderful truth: The widow’s offering was a great sacrifice in proportion to her means, and Christ looked upon her gift with admiration. She had given what she could not spare, while the rich gave out of their abundance (12:43-44). She “cast in all that she had, even all her living” (12:44). Giving up her right to use her two mites for her needs, she chose to trust God to provide. Think about it: For all eternity, the poor widow will be commended, not for the size of her gift, but for her faith and sincere devotion.

Lesson – When we give as the LORD would have us give, God’s heart is moved with compassion.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Last Week Before Golgotha (Matthew 21; Luke 19)

Scripture reading – Matthew 21; Luke 19

Our Scripture reading brings us to two pivotal chapters in the week leading up to the Cross. Luke 19 records Christ and His disciples passing through Jericho (Luke 19:1-27), and beginning His final journey to Jerusalem (Luke 19:28). The setting of Matthew 21 is what is traditionally referred to as Palm Sunday (although, many believe the day was most likely Monday).

Luke 19A Friend of Sinners

Luke 19 followed Jesus’ journey through Jericho, as He made His final journey to Jerusalem. Jericho, one of the oldest cities in the world, is located on an oasis in the desert, about ten miles northwest of the Dead Sea. It was in Jericho that Jesus providentially encountered a wealthy publican, a tax collector, named Zacchaeus, and demonstrated his love for sinners (19:1-10).

An Unexpected Guest for Supper (19:1-10)

Let’s step into the scene where Zacchaeus, a notorious sinner, came face-to-face with Jesus. In earlier devotions we have stated the disdain the Jewish people held for tax collectors (publicans). Employed to collect taxes for Rome, publicans were viewed as traitors of Israel. Men like Zacchaeus were infamous for cheating the people and skimming monies from taxes they collected. Publicans enriched themselves at the expense of their own people, and were named among the worst of sinners.

We read, “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (19:5). Of all the homes in Jericho, the home of a publican was the last place the people would have pictured Jesus dining. Nevertheless, He knew the heart of Zacchaeus, and was received into his home with rejoicing (19:6).

The people began to murmur among themselves, and were appalled Jesus would “be guest with a man that is a sinner” (19:7). Zacchaeus, however, was humbled and moved to repentance by the LORD’s love and compassion. His sorrow over his sins moved him to rise from the table, and proclaim, “Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (19:8). Genuinely repentant over his sins, Zacchaeus desired to make restitution of all he had wrongfully taken (19:8).

Closing thoughts – Jesus, seeing in Zacchaeus the fruit of sincere repentance, announced: “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of man [a Messianic title; Daniel 7:13] is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (19:9a–10).

Though a notorious sinner in the eyes of men, Zacchaeus placed his faith in Jesus Christ, and was saved from the condemnation of his sins. By birth he was a physical “son of Abraham.” By grace through faith, he became more than a “son of Abraham” (19:9-10), he became a child of God. Abraham and Zacchaeus were saved from the curse of sin because they believed God would place His righteousness to their account.

Romans 3:23–2423For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

 Matthew 21

Jesus and His disciples were coming near Jerusalem. As they passed through Bethphage, a village near the Mount of Olives, the LORD directed two disciples to go a nearby village (21:1), and find a colt He would ride as He approached Jerusalem (thus dramatically fulfilling the prophecy recorded in Zechariah 9:9). The news of Jesus’ approach spread through the city of Jerusalem, and “a very great multitude” (perhaps tens of thousands), poured out of the city to greet Him (21:7-8).

The scene was like the coronation of a king, as the people “cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (21:9). Because it was about the time of the Passover, people from all over the known world were gathered in Jerusalem, and some who did not know Jesus. Thus, we read there were some who asked, “Who is this? 11And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” (21:10-11).

Briefly, you will notice in Matthew 21 the rising tension between Jesus and His enemies (the priests and Pharisees). I believe it was on the next day, after His triumphant entry, when Christ entered the Temple, drove out the “moneychangers,” and condemned them saying, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (21:13).

Rebuking the hypocritical Pharisees, the LORD taught the people three parables. The Parable of Two Sons (21:28-32), the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (21:33-41), and the Builders’ Rejection of the Cornerstone (21:42-44). The Pharisees, and Israel as a people, were prophetically represented in the parables as rejecting Christ (which they would fulfill when Jesus would be led away to be crucified).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Parable of the Laborers and a Gracious Master (Matthew 20)

Scripture reading – Matthew 20

The story of the farmer who hired day laborers to work in his vineyard is among my favorite of the parables (20:1-16).  Jesus told the parable as He was making His final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem.  (19:1; 20:17).

Background of Matthew 20

The LORD, had traveled south along the eastern shore of the Jordan River, and encountered a man that Luke identified as a “rich young ruler” (Luke 18:18). Identified as a “ruler,” he was likely an influential leader in his local synagogue. The young ruler came and asked Jesus, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (19:16)

He boasted he had kept all the Commandments, but supposed there was a “good thing” he might do to have eternal life (19:20). Then, Jesus asked the man to give up the thing he loved most, his possessions: “Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor…and come follow me” (19:21). Matthew observed, “when the young man heard [i.e. and understood] that saying, he went away sorrowful [grieving; sad]: for he had great possessions [estate; property]” (19:22).

As the rich man turned and walked away, Jesus declared to His disciples, “a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (19:23).   Peter, often the spokesman for the disciples, inquired of Jesus, “Behold we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (19:27)

The Twelve had left everything and endured three years of sacrifice to follow Jesus.  They had forfeited their homes, families, and friends.  They had endured hardships and suffered mocking, scorn, and persecution.  All this left Peter wondering, “LORD we have been with you from the beginning, what is our reward?”  That question was the backdrop for the Parable of the Laborers (20:1-16) that serves as an illustration of God’s grace and justice.

The Parable of the Laborers (20:1-16)

The owner of a vineyard realized his harvest was greater than his family and servants could harvest in a timely manner.  In the parable (20:1-16), the farmer went into the village on five occasions, in the same day, to hire men to work in his vineyard.  The first workers were hired at the 6:00am shift (20:1-2) and agreed to work in the vineyard for a “penny a day” (actually one “denarii”, the daily salary of a Roman soldier and a large sum for a day laborer).  Four additional hires would follow that day: 9:00am, 12 Noon, 3:00pm and the final hire at 5:00pm. All were hired without a stated salary, but with the promise the owner of the vineyard would give them “whatsoever is right” (20:4, 7).

With 6:00pm marking the end of the workday, the owner directed his foreman to pay the laborers beginning with those who were hired at 5:00pm, meaning the last hour (20:8).  To their amazement, the ones who worked only one hour were paid the same wage (a penny or denarii) as those who labored all day beginning at the 6:00am hour.

Demonstrating the jealousy and covetousness that abides in the heart of sinful man, those men who negotiated a penny wage at 6:00am “supposed that they should have received more” (20:10).  Envious and resentful, the workers began murmuring and complaining against the owner of the vineyard, and accused him of being unjust. They protested they should have received more (20:11-12).

A Lesson in Grace and Salvation (20:13-16)

The owner (a picture of Christ) of the vineyard rebuked those who labored all day (a picture of the Twelve), and reminded them they had negotiated and agreed to what they were paid (20:13-14). Furthermore, it was the owner’s business, and not the workers, to choose the wage other laborers were paid (20:15).

Closing thoughts – Whether a sinner comes to Christ as a child or, like the penitent thief on the cross in his last hour, every believer is assured of heaven and eternal life (20:16). Why? Because every sinner is saved by a gift of God’s grace, and none can earn or merit salvation and forgiveness of sin. Whether you have known and served the LORD since childhood, or you came to trust Christ as Savior in the latter years of life, all mankind are saved on the same basis: God’s mercy and saving Grace (His favor that no works can merit).

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Titus 3:5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Where is your treasure? (Luke 12)

Scripture reading – Luke 12

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12. Once again, we are considering a passage that has been treasured by believers for two millennia, and one that provokes conviction in the hearts of sinners. Christ cautioned His disciples regarding things men ought to fear (12:1-12). We are to fear hypocrisy (12:1-3), but not fear those who persecute or threaten our life (12:4). We are to fear the LORD, for He has the authority “to cast into hell” (12:5), and He knows all things; “even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (12:7).

Beginning with Luke 12:13, the LORD addressed a sin that has been the malady of humanity since the fall of Adam and Eve—the sin of covetousness. When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-7), he proposed she consider the fruit of the tree God had forbidden, the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). Initially, Eve resisted the temptation; however, the more she considered the forbidden fruit, the more she pondered what the serpent (Satan) suggested were its benefits. She observed the fruit God forbade was “good for food,” was “pleasant to the eyes,” and had the prospect “to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Tragically, she coveted what God had forbidden, and “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened” (Genesis 3:6-7).

The sin of covetousness goes by many names and is expressed in many evil ways. Greed, lust, discontentment, “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), hoarding, and stinginess are but a few words that define a sin that has driven men to self-destruction, and eternal damnation. Consider a parable Jesus told that aptly defined the enslaving, damnable nature of covetousness. The appeal of a man at odds with his brother concerning an inheritance prompted the story of the rich fool. In the Jewish culture, the eldest brother had the right of inheritance, and the man who came to Jesus was most likely a young brother seeking a portion of his father’s estate (12:13-15).

The Parable of the “Rich Fool” (12:16-21)

Jesus told the story of a rich man whose “passion for possessions” could not be satisfied. Even when he was blessed, and his barns were filled and overflowing, he was not satisfied. So, the rich man determined to build greater barns, and boasted within himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” (12:19).

Sadly, the sum of the parable has been repeated and condemned by the LORD since the fall of man: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”(12:20)

What prompted this enduring illustration of covetousness?

It was the request of a man whose “passion for possessions” had taken precedence over the natural affection one brother should have for another. The man came to Jesus demanding, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (12:13).  The Law was clear regarding inheritance, yet this brother was discontented, and demanded his inheritance out of a heart of greed.

Jesus knew the heart of that man, and recognized in the brother’s request an inordinate affection for wealth and possessions. Rebuking the man for his demand that He act as a judge in a matter where the law had clearly spoken, Jesus warned: “Take heed [be quiet; i.e. listen], and beware of covetousness [i.e. greed; a desire or craving to have more]: for a man’s life consisteth [i.e. is defined by] not in the abundance [surplus; affluence] of the things which he possesseth” (12:15).

Closing lesson: A fool sets his affections on riches, and eventually finds himself a slave to them.

Luke 12:2121So is he [a fool] that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Where is your treasure?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Cry of the Oppressed (Nehemiah 5)

Scripture reading – Nehemiah 5

The task of rebuilding the walls and setting the gates had been an all-consuming mission for Nehemiah. Unfortunately, his effort to restore the walls of Jerusalem invited immense opposition from enemies who used it as an opportunity to openly mock, ridicule, and oppose him (Nehemiah 2:19; 4:1, 7-8).

In today’s Scripture, Nehemiah encountered a crisis caused by unprincipled men who abused their privilege – men who failed to show compassion, and failed to observe the laws God initiated regarding the poor.

Nehemiah 5

Poverty was prevalent in the land, and many borrowed to make ends meet (5:1-2). It came to Nehemiah’s attention that many had mortgaged their houses and fields to feed their families. Adding to their financial hardships was a tax assessment that was due the king on their lands and vineyards (5:4). Wealthy lenders, giving no regard to their brethren, began to foreclose on their debtors’ properties. Those unscrupulous men went so far as to enslave the sons and daughters of those who could not pay their debts (5:1-5).

Learning of the abuses, Nehemiah became indignant that the wealthy oppressed the poor and were breaking God’s Law (Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19-20; Leviticus 25:35-37). He publicly rebuked those men, and charged them with exacting “usury” (5:7-13). (The rich had charged exorbitant rates of interest, making it impossible for debtors to repay their creditors.)

Nehemiah reminded the wealthy he had authority to “exact of them money and corn,” yet, he had not exercised his right. He charged them, “leave off this usury” (5:10), and warned God would judge them harshly for oppressing the people. Fortunately, the crisis ended when the elders agreed to release the people of their debts, and restore all they had taken unlawfully (5:11-13).

Closing thoughts (5:14-19) – The concluding verses of today’s Scripture reading record that 12 years were passed since Nehemiah became governor of Judah, and began to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (5:14). Unlike the governors before him, Nehemiah had not taken advantage of his office. He refused to burden the people with the needs of his household, lest he sacrifice God’s blessings (5:15). Though he had authority to require the people provide food for his table (5:17), he had not done so “because of the fear of God” (5:15).

Nehemiah knew what it meant to fear, revere, and please God. He was confident the LORD honors those who faithfully labor and do His will. So, Nehemiah prayed, “Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people” (5:19).

Nehemiah is as a great model of servant leadership for all believers. In a world dominated by self-serving leaders, we would do well to remember God is judge, and we should fear and revere Him.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Stingy Soul, and A Virtuous Woman (Proverbs 11-12)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 11; Proverbs 12

We are continuing to mine for golden nuggets of spiritual truth in the Book of Proverbs. I encourage you to study and meditate on today’s Scripture reading, but time and space allow only a summary of three verses in Proverbs 11, and one verse in Proverbs 12.

Proverbs 11

“You Poor, Stingy Old Soul” (Proverbs 11:24-26)

Proverbs 11:24-26 challenges us with a familiar spiritual principle, “Sowing and Reaping” (Galatians 6:7).  To state that principle in a common analogy: We not only reap what we sow, we also reap in proportion to how much we sow!

Proverbs 11:24  “There is that scattereth [disperses], and yet increaseth [adds to; surpasses]; and there is that withholdeth [keeps back; refrain; reserves for oneself] more than is meet [right; upright; due], but it tendeth to poverty [want; need].”

Consider an illustration of that proverb. In springtime, a farmer has some very important decisions to make. He must decide the crops he will plant in light of the harvest he plans to reap. He also must consider how much he hopes to gather and store up for winter. In other words, he must determine the amount of seed to plant in order to reach his harvest goal.

By contrast, a foolish farmer might hoard seed, and fail to value the potential of life and multiplication represented in one seed (insects and mold are always a threat to seeds stored in bins). For a farmer to withhold, and reserve seed which has the potential of life does indeed tend to poverty!

What is the application for believers? A believer who hoards his talents and gifts, and fails to be a steward of God’s grace and blessings, is like a farmer who hoards seed.

Two arenas come to mind: Financial stewardship, and the stewardship of ministry, talents and opportunities. There are believers who hoard wealth, and are blind to their responsibility to invest in God’s work and ministry. Some leave a great inheritance to their children, but enter heaven as little more than spiritual paupers. What a tragedy: To have the means to be a blessing, but elect to withhold from the Lord, His church and servants “more than is meet” (11:24)!

Solomon continued his lesson on stewardship by stating a proverb that is full of promise (11:25).

Proverbs 11:25 – “The liberal [blessed; prosperous] soul [life; person; heart] shall be made fat [satisfied; prosperous]: and he that watereth [satisfy; fill; quench the thirst of another] shall be watered [rain; flow as water; moisten] also himself.”

Joy and satisfaction come to the man who is generous with what God has entrusted to him. Remember: God’s people are merely conduits of His blessings, and when we give the overflow of our lives to the LORD (our time, talents, and gifts), He promises we will never want.

Proverbs 11:26  He that withholdeth [keep back; deny] corn [grain; i.e., wheat], the people [nation; community] shall curse [blaspheme; pierce] him: but blessing [prosperity] shall be upon the head [chief; top; ruler] of him that selleth [buy and sell grain] it.”

I have often wondered why men and women of wealth wait until their deaths to be a blessing to others. Why withhold a blessing when it is in your ability to give? Why hoard more than you need, when you have it in your power to be a blessing? Why watch your church and other ministries struggle, when you have been blessed with the means to be a source of joy and satisfaction?

Warning: A stingy soul will be cursed!
Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Proverbs 12

Womanhood Extols the Best, and the Worst of Human Character (Proverbs 12:4)

Proverbs 12:4 – “A virtuous woman [morally pure; good] is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones [like a cancer to the bones].”

The Scriptures address various kinds of women throughout its pages.  From Eve, the mother of humanity who entertained the beauty of forbidden fruit (Genesis 3), to the Virgin Mary who, though of humble means, was chosen as the mother of Jesus, God’s Only begotten Son (Luke 1:26-38).

Womanhood extols the best and the worst of human kind.

Our culture tends to idolize women who personify infamous qualities that a half-century ago would have been scandalous. Sadly, women who epitomize the best character qualities are seldom noted or praised, by family or peers.

A virtuous woman is one of godly character. She is morally upright, faithful to her husband, and worthy of the praise of her family and friends (Proverbs 31).  She brings out the best in her husband (Proverbs 31:11, 23), and is a joy and delight to her children (Proverbs 31:28).

Closing thoughts – Have you set your heart to love the Lord, and aspire to the highest virtues?  What is your reputation at school, work, in your neighborhood, and church?

Proverbs 12:4 is a lesson every man should note, and every woman should heed.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Character Traits of the Righteous (Psalm 15)

Scripture reading: Psalm 15

Our preceding devotional considered five characteristics of the “blessed” man’s life (1:1-3). Today’s devotional will observe seven character traits that define the hearts of those whose citizenship is with God (15:1-5). The brackets within the following verses are by the author, and present a broader application of word definitions.

Remembering the psalms were worship songs, and not merely poems, David invites the congregation of Israel to ponder two questions in the opening stanza (15:1).

Psalm 15:11 LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah], who shall abide [dwell] in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell [remain; continue] in thy holy hill?

In essence, the psalmist asks: Lord, what manner of man or woman, desires to “abide in [dwell in] thy tabernacle [i.e. where the Ark of God was located]? David had prepared a new tent (1 Chronicles 16:1) to shelter the Ark as it arrived in Jerusalem, and it remained there throughout his reign. The king expressed in other psalms, his preference to worship the LORD in His sanctuary, over the opulence and comforts of his palace.

“Who shall dwell [abide; remain; continue] in thy holy hill? (15:1b) What manner of man seeks, and longs to abide on Mount Zion, where the Ark was located? (The Ark represented the throne of God, and His presence in the midst of His people.) David answered those questions, and stated seven characteristics of those who sincerely seek, worship, and enjoy the presence, and favor of the LORD.

1) The lives of the righteous are defined by integrity. They are trustworthy, sincere, and morally upright (15:2a).

Psalm 15:22  He that walketh uprightly [blameless; with integrity], and worketh righteousness [lawful; just], and speaketh [declare] the truth in his heart.

2) The righteous speak the truth, for it resides in their hearts and thoughts (15:2b; Ephesians 4:15).

3) Those who abide in the presence of the LORD are neither mean-spirited, or vengeful. Their words and deeds are loving (15:3).

Psalm 15:33  He that backbiteth [gossips; slanders] not with his tongue, nor doeth evil [sin] to his neighbour [friend; companion], nor taketh up [bear; carry] a reproach [contempt] against his neighbour [lit. near; nearest kinsman].

4) The sins of the wicked are loathsome to the righteous, and the godly have no desire for their company (15:4a;Psalm 1:1). The righteous give honor and respect to those who fear the LORD, and walk according to His Law and in the likeness of Christ (15:4b; Philippians 2:2-8).

Psalm 15:44  In whose eyes [sight of the righteous] a vile person [loathsome; reprobate] is contemned [despised; disdained]; but he honoureth [glorify] them that fear [revere] the LORD. He that sweareth [makes an oath] to his own hurt [affliction], and changeth not [.e., does not vacillate].

5) The righteous are promise keepers (15:4c). They keep their word, and honor their vows (and contracts), even at the sacrifice of themselves, and their own interests.

6) The righteous have compassion for the poor, and do not charge them excessive interest they can ill afford (15:5a; Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37).

Psalm 15:55  He that putteth not out [gives] his money [silver] to usury [high interest; i.e. indebtedness], nor taketh [accepts] reward [bribe;a gift] against the innocent [guiltless]. He that doeth [make; perform; do] these things shall never be moved [waver; fall; slide; slip].

7) The righteous are above reproach. They cannot be bribed, nor swayed in their judgments (15:5b; Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; Proverbs 17:23).

The summary answer to the questions that introduced Psalm 15, (“1Lord, Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?”), are satisfied in the last phrase of Psalm 15:5.

“He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (15:5c). Those who dwell in the presence of the LORD have integrity, speak truth, hate the sins of the wicked, are not vengeful, keep their promises, have compassion for the less fortunate, and live above reproach. Are those traits true of you?

An Application – Do you have integrity in what you say and do? Do you speak the truth, and never lie? Do you hate the sins of wickedness, and find them loathsome? Are you forgiving? Do you keep your word? Do you make a vow, sign a contract, and commit yourself even at the sacrifice of your own interests? Do you show compassion for those less fortunate than yourself? Are you above the influence of a bribe?

An Invitation – If your answer to any of those questions raises a sense of guilt, and brings conviction: Confess your sins to the LORD, and vow to make right with others where you have failed.

1 John 1:9–109If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

You Can’t Take It With You (Psalm 45, 49)

Scripture reading – Psalm 45; Psalm 49

Psalm 45 – Here Comes the Bride

Psalm 45 is a fascinating and beautiful psalm, and is in my opinion a Messianic psalm. The central subject of the psalm is the king, whom I believe is the LORD Jesus Christ, the Messiah King.

Psalm 45:2-9 is a description of the Messiah King who is fair and beautiful (45:2), a warrior with sword, and arrows (45:3-5), a throne that represents a perpetual reign, and who is altogether righteous, and hates wickedness.

Psalm 45:10-14 describes the Messiah King’s bride, whom I believe is the congregation of believers, the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:7-8; 21:2, 9). To be the bride of the king, the bride must leave her father’s house, and be devoted to her husband (45:10-11), even as believers are to separate themselves from the world, and be wholly dedicated, and a “living sacrifice” to the LORD (Romans 12:1-2).

Like gold that is pure, believers are to be to the LORD like a bride whose “clothing is of wrought gold” (45:13). As the bride comes to the king “in raiment of needlework” (45:14), the bride of Christ comes clothed in His righteousness (Philippians 3:9; Titus 3:5).

Psalm 49Money Will Not Buy You Happiness

Psalm 49 reflects the ponderings of a man who faces the reality many of us put off…his own mortality.  Regardless of what we amass in possessions, or how rich or poor we become, everyone will “leave their wealth to others” (49:10).

Some, by acts of charity, and others by calling “their lands after their own names” (49:11), go to their graves hoping their legacy will live on after they are gone. Yet, no man or woman can escape the final reality–death (49:12, 14).

After nearly 44 years of ministry, I have yet to see a U-Haul truck or trailer following a hearse to a cemetery.  A similar reality was noted by the psalmist: “For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him” (49:17). The apostle Paul reminded Timothy of those same truths when he wrote, and warned:

1 Timothy 6:7-10 – “7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9  But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Moral Dilemmas: Divorce, Debt, and Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24-25)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 24-25

Our Scripture reading continues with Moses setting forward various laws that would guide Israel in matters of marriage, family, societal civility, business, and government.

Principles Regarding Marriage and Divorce (24:1-5)

The matter of divorce is raised, and it is indicative of the heart of man. Moses allowed for divorce in this passage; however, I remind you that was never God’s plan, or will. What is the will of the LORD? The sum of God’s will for marriage is this: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Pharisees questioned Christ saying, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife [divorce] for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3) The LORD answered, citing the “one flesh” principle. and added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Displeased with His answer, the Pharisees pressed Him, asking, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). The LORD answered the matter of divorce, and diagnosed the moral basis for Moses permitting divorce in Deuteronomy 24.

Matthew 19:8–98He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A Moral Guideline for the Borrower and Lender (24:6)

The matter of taking the upper millstone is foreign to most, until you understand Moses was talking of the stones used to grind grain into flour. A lender was warned, he could not take the “upper millstone,” for by it a family was able to grind grain into flour, and then bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking. Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity is an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found who “maketh merchandise…or selleth him” shall be put to death (24:7). Were the judgment of the Scriptures practiced today, innocent victims of human trafficking would receive justice, and human traffickers would be dispatched to swift judgment: “Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

Charitable Obligations (24:10-22)

False teachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace, and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but to characterize the Law and Commandments as “graceless,” is to suggest the LORD was the same.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 give evidence that God was sensitive, and compassionate concerning the condition of the poor, the weak, the orphan, and the widow. For example, in ancient times the poor often had nothing more than the “clothes on their backs.” Robes were the attire, and men generally had an inner, and outer robe. The inner robe afforded modesty, the outer robe protection against the elements, and warmth in the night. Should a poor man borrow, it was his outer robe that might serve as the security or pledge of his debt (24:10-11). The lender was not to humiliate the borrower, and forcefully take the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11), and in the evening the lender was to return the outer robe, that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (24:14-18)

Day laborers were to be paid their due at the end of the day (24:14). Everyone was to bear the consequences, and punishment for their sins. Therefore, a father was not to be punished for the sins of his children, nor were his children to be punished for the sins of their father (24:16).

Charity Was the Law (24:19-22)

There was no welfare system for the poor in ancient times, and they were a perpetual presence on the earth. Widows were forsaken by their children, orphans suffered neglect, and foreigners found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the people how Israel had suffered bondage in Egypt; therefore, they were to remember, and allow the poor to glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Time and space prevent a commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following for an outline: I. Principles for Capital Punishment, and Civil Justice (25:1-4); II. Principles for Family Posterity (25:5-12); III. Principles Regarding Business and Commerce (25:13-16); IV. Principles Concerning the Offence of an Enemy (25:17-19).

I close, inviting you to ponder the Grace of God: Not only the grace we find expressed in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, but also the grace of God we have seen throughout His laws, and commandments.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith