Category Archives: Pride

Time for a Spiritual Self-Portrait (Galatians 4-6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading completes our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our devotional commentary will focus on Galatians 5:19-25.

Paul challenged believers in Galatia to “Stand Fast…in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (5:1).

There were many things that might have shaken the faith of first century believers living in the Roman province of Galatia. There was the ever-present threat of persecution, the rejection of family and friends, and the ever-present pressures and influence of living in the midst of a sinful, pagan culture. Understanding the cultural temptations that surrounded them, Paul’s letter urged believers to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16). What is the “lust of the flesh” that the Spirit will enable a believer to overcome?

The “lust of the flesh” is manifested in what Paul defined as “the works of the flesh” (5:19-21).

1) Galatians 5:19bSexual immorality (“adultery, fornication”) and moral debauchery (“uncleanness, lasciviousness”)

2) Galatians 5:20aReligious sins (“idolatry, witchcraft”)

3) Galatians 5:20b-21aRelationship sins (“hatred [hostility], variance [contentious], emulations [envy; jealousy], wrath, strife, seditions [divisions], heresies [departure from the Truth], 21 Envyings”)

4) Galatians 5:21Moral corruption (“murders, drunkenness, revellings [drunkenness; sinful indulgence]”)

Did you notice the sins of first century Galatia are the sins of our 21st century world?

The heart of man has not changed, and the nature of sin is passed from generation to generation, from father and mother, to the son and daughter. Though “the works of the flesh” are characteristic of our fallen world and society, they have no place in a believer’s life. Paul warned, “of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21b).

After admonishing believers concerning the “works of the flesh,” Paul turned his focus to a brief exposition of the spiritual graces that the Holy Spirit should manifest in the life of a believer when he is fully-yielded to the work and leading of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit-Filled Life (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice that the Holy Spirit will produce a spiritual transformation in a believer’s life (5:22-23).

Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy [gladness of heart], peace [tranquility], longsuffering[patient; restrains from vengeance], gentleness [kindness, without harshness], goodness [good deeds toward others], faith[conviction], 23Meekness [not soon angry; humility], temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law.

When a man is genuinely saved, and the Holy Spirit is present, there will be “fruit of the Spirit.” The degree of fruit produced, and evidenced in a believer’s life, will be dependent on their walk with the LORD, and obedience to His Word.

Realizing that the “works of the flesh” have no place in a believer’s life, there should be a transformation that is noticeably evident:

Where there was hatred, there is love. Where there was wrath, there is joy. Where there were divisions, there is peace. Where there was wrath, there is patience. Where there was contentiousness, there is gentleness. Where there was envy, there is goodness. Where there was heresy, there is faith. Where there was murder and hate, there is meekness. Where there was drunkenness and self-indulgence, there is self-control.

How can this be? How might a believer get victory over the “works of the flesh,” and his life and spirit evidence the “fruit of the Spirit?” Paul’s answer:

Galatians 5:24–2524 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Friend, I encourage you to take a few minutes and do an honest, self-evaluation of your life and spirit. Is the “fruit of the Spirit” apparent in your life?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Trials, Temptations, and the Tongue (James 1-5)

Scripture reading – James 1-5

Regarding the human author of today’s Scripture: The book of James is a letter, bearing the name of its author who introduces himself and his intended recipients in the opening verse:

James 1:1 – James, a servant [a slave or bondservant] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes [Jewish believers of the Tribes of Israel] which are scattered abroad [dispersed], greeting [rejoice; be glad].

With humility, James introduces himself simply as “a servant,” a slave to “God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). There are several men we might identify as James in the New Testament; however, this James did not feel the need to introduce himself, perhaps because he needed no introduction. By the time this epistle was penned, the apostle James, brother of John and the son of Zebedee, was martyred (Acts 12:2), thereby eliminating him as the writer.

Most scholars are in agreement, and identify the author as James, the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), being born of Joseph and Mary. James and his siblings were not followers of Jesus until after His crucifixion, death and resurrection (John 7:5). Acts 1:14, however, identifies “Mary the mother of Jesus” and “his brethren” among those who were assembled in “an upper room” after He ascended to heaven.

This same James is also identified as a leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). Also, when Paul and Barnabas were giving account to the believers in Jerusalem, it was James who addressed the assembly (Acts 15:13) that consisted of the apostles and elders. James is also mentioned by name again with the leaders of the church in Acts 21:18.

Regardless of who we might believe the author is, we know the epistle was addressed to the twelve tribes that had been scattered by persecution (1:1b), and is wonderfully practical, insightful, and convicting as it addressed a reality of life that all believers face: trials and temptations.

James 1:2–4My brethren, count [regard; judge] it all joy [i.e. a cause for rejoicing] when ye fall [stand in the midst of] into divers [various] temptations [trials]; Knowing this, that the trying [testing] of your faith [what you believe] worketh[performs; works out; produces] patience [steadfastness; endurance]. But let patience [steadfastness; endurance] have her perfect [maturing; complete] work, that ye may be perfect [mature] and entire [complete], wanting nothing [i.e. lacking not one thing].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Are There Hypocrites in the Church? Oh yeah! (Acts 11-12)

Scripture reading – Acts 11-12

“There are hypocrites in the church!” Sadly true, and often the excuse some sinners give for rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, “hypocrites in the church” is also the pretext for carnal saints to excuse their unfaithfulness (Hebrews 10:25).  Rather than defend the contention that there are hypocrites in the midst, let us acknowledge that such has been the case from the beginning of the New Testament assemblies!

Those who follow Christ are not exempt from disputes and contentions, as we will see in today’s Scripture reading. I marvel, not at the imperfections found within the ranks of the church, but that a membership so fallible might continue and not degrade into oblivion!

Acts 11-12 offer us four portraits of life of some believers in the early church: Contentious (Acts 11:1-18), diversified (Acts 11:19-26), charitable (Acts 11:27-30), and persecuted (Acts 12:1-19). Today’s devotional will focus on the first portrait:

Contentiousness (Acts 11:1-18)

We read, “when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended [argued; opposed; judged; disputed] with him” (Acts 11:2). It is a striking scene to find brethren in Jerusalem who opposed the apostle Peter! Peter had been an early disciple of Christ, a member of the Twelve, and was named in Jesus Christ’s most intimate circle (along with the brothers, James and John). The thought of church members challenging Peter is perplexing, but a reminder that none of us are exempt from criticisms or personal attacks.

Having heard how Peter had preached the Gospel to Gentiles, who “had also received [accepted; welcomed] the Word of God” (11:1-2), there were some Jewish believers (“of the circumcision”), who were ready to fault him for eating with “uncircumcised” men (11:3).

Consider Peter’s response to the unjust inquisition, and his humility (Acts 11:4-17). 

Peter might have taken offense that he, a disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ, should suffer such an interrogation, however, such was not the case. Demonstrating the humility of Christ, Peter lovingly rehearsed how the LORD had, in a vision, sovereignly instructed and providentially directed him to declare the Gospel to the uncircumcised sinners of Joppa (11:4-17).

Contemplate the dynamic between Peter and the members of the early church: While some came, not to enquire, but to argue; Peter responded with humility and truth explaining,

Acts 11:15–17 – “15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?

Disarmed by truth and his explanation, Peter’s inquirers “held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (11:18).

I commend those early saints, not for their contentious spirit, but for their humility and acceptance of Peter’s explanation. Though he was a formidable figure, and a leader among the apostles, Peter’s response to those who were contentious is a lesson in “servant leadership.”

What about you? What manner of believer are you? Contentious believers can become a curse to the church, and a discouragement to those who labor in ministry.

Are there hypocrites in the church?

 Absolutely; however, be sure you are not one of them!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” (Luke 23; John 18-19)

Scripture reading – Luke 23; John 18-19

Today’s Bible reading brings us to the third of the Gospel accounts concerning those things Christ suffered for our sins, according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53). Having declared Jesus was innocent of political sedition (Luke 23:4), the charge brought against Him by the chief priests (John 18:29-30), Pilate sought an escape from the demands of His accusers (23:1-5).

Declaring, “I find no fault in [Jesus]” (23:4), the chief priests defied Pilate saying, “He stirreth up the people…beginning from Galilee to this place” (23:5). When Pilate heard Jesus was a Galilean, he sent Him to King Herod, a puppet ruler of Galilee appointed by Caesar, and a man who was the Roman governor’s political nemesis (23:6-7).

Though his hands were bloodied from beheading John the Baptist, Herod had longed for an opportunity to encounter Jesus, and had hoped to witness one of His miracles (23:8). The King’s eagerness quickly soured when Jesus refused to answer or acknowledge his authority (23:9). Incensed by the snub, and having heard the charges brought against Jesus by the chief priests and scribes (23:10), Herod and his “men of war” began to mock and deride the LORD (23:11).

An ancient adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” comes to mind when I read Luke 23:12: “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.”

Pilate and Herod became friends, because they shared in the greatest travesty of justice in human history. They were forever guilty of the most egregious act, having condemned the holy, altogether sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Pilate, having declared, “I find no fault” in Him (23:4), attempted to shirk his responsibility to exercise judicial integrity (23:13-16). Unfortunately, when he failed, he lacked the moral character and fortitude to do the right thing, and release Jesus (23:17-23).

Luke 23:24–2524 And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they [chief priests and scribes] required. 25 And he [Pilate] released unto them him [Barabbas] that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will [to be crucified].

As much as we might be tempted to look upon Pilate with disdain, and wonder about his sudden friendship with the likes of Herod, we should look into our own souls. The pressure to compromise with evil men and women, is never too far from any of us.

How often have you denied Jesus because you lacked the courage and moral fortitude to do right, even while others were choosing to do wrong? How easy is it to long for popularity and acceptance, at the sacrifice of obeying God’s Word and walking in His Truth?

Tradition insinuates that Pilate died an insane, broken, miserable soul. His conscience was no more able to bear his guilt, than his soul could escape God’s judgment.

Romans 12:1–2 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Judas: Remorse is Not Repentance (Matthew 27; Mark 15)

Scripture reading – Matthew 27; Mark 15

Rich with drama, the passages we are reading today bring us to the spiritual crossroads of human history. The unfolding drama is providentially God’s redemptive plan of salvation for man’s sin, conceived in the heart of our Creator before the foundation of the world was laid.

Today’s devotional could focus on many aspects of this path to the Cross; however, I must limit myself to one thought: Judas, his remorse, and death.

The chief priests and the Sanhedrin, having condemned Jesus to die (Matthew 27:1-2), had taken Him away to the palace of Pontius Pilate where He would be tried, and sentenced to death by the civil authority.

Judas had watched with remorse, the effect of His decision to betray Jesus into the hands of His enemies (27:3). For three years, he had been privileged to be Christ’s disciple. Along with the other disciples, he had listened to Him teach, and witnessed miracles that could not be explained apart from God’s power and anointing. Nevertheless, Judas was, like so many, a follower, but not a believer that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

Judas, seeing Jesus was condemned, and desperate to make right his wrong, went to the chief priests and elders with the thirty pieces of silver burning in his hands. He confessed to them, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4a).

Poor, sad, miserable soul; Judas realized too late the scorn those religious hypocrites held not only for Jesus, but also for him. They answered Judas with contempt, “What is that to us? see thou to that” (27:4b).

What terror of soul! Those religious pretenders cared nothing for Judas’ soul and offered him no counsel (27:5a). He realized too late that there was no place, and no one to whom he could go to find relief for his wickedness. Unable to bear the weight of his sin, and his betrayal of “innocent blood” (27:4a), Judas realized no act of contrition could ease his guilt. Casting down the thirty pieces of silver, he fled through the streets of Jerusalem, “and went and hanged himself” (27:5b; Acts 1:16-19).

Magnifying the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, though set upon the murder of Jesus, they disingenuously debated among themselves the unlawful expenditure of blood money, the silver Judas had returned and hurled at them (27:6b). In a plan to conceal their sin, they proposed an act of charity and purchased “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in” (27:8). Unknowingly, they had fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (27:9-10) that was recorded by Zechariah, stating:

“So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zechariah 11:12–13).

The public would learn the secret of their purchase, and called the place, “The field of blood” (27:8).

What sorrow, depravity, and travesty of justice and piety! Such is the way of the wicked, and the sorrow of remorse without sincere repentance. Judas was filled with regret; however, he failed to confess his sin to God. With no recourse except repentance, Judas found himself in a state of hopelessness. His remorse was too little, and his repentance came too late.

Friend, don’t make that mortal mistake. Confess your sin to God, and turn to Him knowing Christ has borne the penalty of your sin on the cross.

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The World Always Has Room for One More Servant” (Luke 22; John 13)

Scripture reading – Luke 22; John 13

The setting of today’s Scripture reading (Luke 22 and John 13) is our LORD’S final observance of the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” and the Passover with His disciples (Luke 22:1; John 13:1).

Judas had agreed with the chief priests, to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Luke 22:2-5), fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah: “So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12b).

John 13 – “His hour was come”

Jesus was mindful that the day had come when He would be betrayed, and die on the Cross (13:1). Moved by His love for sinners, He would soon express that love in His suffering, humiliation, and death (13:2).

When the Passover supper was ended, Jesus rose from the table, laid aside His robe, girded Himself in a towel, and began to wash the feet of His disciples (13:4). Although an awkward moment, the disciples allowed Jesus to wash their feet. When He came to Peter, he objected to this act of servitude and asked, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” (13:6)

Foot washing was a cultural practice in that day, as households lacked plumbing and running water. Wealthy citizens of towns and villages bathed in public baths, and after walking home on dusty streets, were met by a household servant who washed their feet in a basin of water and dried them with a towel. Washing feet was the work of the lowest servant of a household.

Remember, as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, among them was Judas, the one who would betray Him that night! It was one thing to stoop and wash the feet of His disciples; however, to wash the feet of an enemy was an act of love and grace! (13:2, 11)

Consider three spiritual lessons from today’s Scripture:

Salvation: The disciples believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God; however, not all believed.  Judas rejected Jesus Christ and his lack of faith forever damned his unbelieving soul (13:10-11).

Sanctification:  Jesus washing the feet of His disciples is a reminder that a believer needs daily cleaning from sin.  The apostle John would write, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Service (13:1, 5, 12-16). To bear a servant’s towel requires at least three things in my estimation:

Persevering love: Jesus “loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end [continually; to the uttermost]” (13:1).

Unpretentious humility: Jesus washed “the disciples’ feet [and] wiped them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (13:5). Paul exhorted believers in Philippi to follow Christ’s example of humility: “Let this mind [attitude] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus… 7 [Who] took upon him the form of a servant [slave], and was made in the likeness of men [became man]” (Philippians 2:5, 7b).

Enduring commitment to follow Christ’s example.  Jesus commanded His disciples: “If I then, yourLord and Master [teacher], have washed your feet; ye also ought [duty, obligation] to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (13:14-15).

The world will always make room for one more servant

Will you be that servant?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

WARNING: A Contentious Man is A Spiritual Cancer (Matthew 26; Mark 14)

Scripture reading assignment: Matthew 26; Mark 14

The Gospel of Mark, chapters 13-14, is a captivating reading of historical events that took place in the last week of Christ’s earthly ministry. We have considered the LORD’s teachings on “Eschatology,” the Biblical doctrine of “Last Things,” including His revelation of universal occurrences that will precede His Second Coming (Mark 13).

The record in Mark 14 begins with supper at the home of Simon, the leper (Mark 14:3-9), followed by the Passover meal (Mark 14:16-28), prior to the betrayal and arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43-65), and Peter’s threefold denial of Christ (Mark 14:66-72). Understanding a commentary of those historical events in the confines of a devotional is impossible, I will limit today’s devotional to an examination of the betrayer Judas, and his presence and influence on the other disciples.

Mark 14 finds the LORD and His disciples having dinner at the home of Simon the leper (14:3). Because lepers were outcasts, the occasion of the feast was probably a celebration of our Lord healing Simon, and a festive occasion for Lazarus being raised from the dead. The central focus of the feast became a sacrificial gift that was offered by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the disciples’ criticisms of her actions led by Judas (14:3b-9).

In an act of sincere love, Mary had entered the room where Jesus and His disciples were eating, and breaking the neck of an alabaster jar (a milky cream-colored jar containing spikenard), she poured out its contents on Jesus’ head and feet (14:3b; John 12:3).  John identified “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray Him” (John 12:4), as the disciple who led a chorus of criticism of Mary’s actions. Judas had suggested the spikenard, a perfume fit for royalty, and in Judas’ estimation worth over 300 pence (a full year’s salary in that economy), should have been sold and its proceeds given to the poor (John 12:5).  Leaving no doubt as to Judas’ motives, John writes,  “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).

Consider with me Judas’ character and his influence on the disciples.  Judas’ objection carried the appearance of a charitable soul, but in reality, he was a thief, a traitor, and a deserter.  His words not only implied Mary’s sacrifice was a waste, but was also a slight against the LORD for receiving Mary’s sacrificial act of love and devotion. Rather than defend the LORD’s honor and Mary’s action, we read that the disciples “murmured against her” (14:5).

Jesus rebuked the disciples, and silenced them saying, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me” (14:6).  Affirming Mary’s act of sacrificial love, Jesus once again spoke of His imminent death and burial (14:7-8; John 12:7), and revealed Mary’s sacrifice would be a lasting testimony of her faith and devotion (14:8-9).

I close on a practical note, challenging you with a proverbial principle: Beware an angry man, for he will spoil and destroy you with his contentious spirit!

Proverbs 16:21 describes men like Judas who are, “As coals [i.e. black coals] are to burning coals [red hot coals], and wood to fire; so is a contentious man [brawling; strife provoking; quarreling] to kindle [incite; burn] strife [controversy; dispute; quarrel].” 

A contentious spirit has the same destructive effect on a family, church, and organization, as a burning ember of an unattended campfire in the middle of a forest. An angry, contentious spirit has the potential of destroying everything, and the LORD hates it!

Proverbs 6:16, 19 – “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him…19A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hypocrites, Hypocrites, Hypocrites! (Matthew 23; Luke 20-21)

Daily reading assignment – Matthew 23; Luke 20-21

The setting of today’s Scripture reading, Matthew 23 and Luke 20-21, is in the midst of the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He and His disciples are on a path that was pre-ordained by God, and will culminate on Friday, the Day of the Passover, with Judas betraying Jesus, leading to the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of our LORD. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Matthew 23.

Matthew 23 – The Final Public Sermon

Matthew 23 sets the stage for our LORD’S final sermon, an open confrontation with His adversaries, that was addressed to a multitude of souls gathered to hear Him teach (23:1). Aware His enemies were plotting to kill Him, Jesus did not shy from boldly exposing the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who, asserting themselves to be authorities in matters of the Law, were described as sitting “in Moses’ seat” (23:2).

“Hypocrites…Hypocrites…Hypocrites” is a recurring label that Jesus attached to those religious leaders (23:13-15, 23, 25, 27-29). He exposed them as frauds, whose interpretations of the Law lacked mercy and were “heavy burdens and grievous to be borne” (23:4a) by the people. The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees was that, while they demanded much of the people, they themselves failed to follow their own interpretations (23:4b).

What motivated those religious hypocrites to exceed the loving simplicity of God’s Law, with demands that were a grief to the people? Jesus proceeded to answer that question with a series of examples that might be summed up with one word: PRIDE (23:5-12).

Proud religious leaders lack humility, and demand to be seen, heard, and elevated in the eyes of men.

Those hypocritical Pharisees wore enlarged phylacteries, leather boxes containing portions of Scripture (Exodus 13:1-10; 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Deuteronomy 11:13-21), and enlarged “the borders [or tassels] of their garments” to draw attention to themselves (23:5). When they attended banquets and feasts, they ascertained their rightful place was the most conspicuous places (23:6a). When they attended the synagogue, they demanded the most prominent seats, eager for all to see their piety. When they were in the marketplace, they craved the attention of the people, and loved to be called, “Rabbi, Rabbi” (“teacher, teacher” or “master, master” – 23:7).

Rather than pointing men to a closer walk with God, those religious hypocrites desired to build a loyal following for themselves (23:8-11).

Let us take a moment and consider the wicked propensity of hypocrites in first century Israel, and translate their practice and ways to our day. Internet blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and emails can be amazing tools when employed for good, but the temptation to misuse them has become legendary. Rather than humility, men and women are using the electronic mediums of our day, demanding to be heard and seen, that they might earn a following. Rather than phylacteries on their foreheads and long tassels on their robes, they boast their “Friends” on Facebook, and their “Followers” on Twitter and Blogs.

Tragically, the principle of doing all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and “for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12), has been sacrificed by hypocritical self-promoters and those who follow them.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Extravagant, Sacrificial Love (Mark 11; John 12)

Scripture Reading – Mark 11; John 12

Having departed Jericho (Luke 19:1-28), Jesus and His disciples made their final journey to Jerusalem, and arrived in Bethany “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1). Bethany, located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and some two miles east of Jerusalem, was the home of Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus “whom [Jesus] raised from the dead” (12:1b).

The resurrection of Lazarus from the dead had been a catalyst for many to believe Jesus was the Messiah (John 11:45). Howbeit, there were others who rejected Jesus, and they “went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done” (John 11:46).

John 12:1-8 – Supper at the Home of Simon the Leper

We find Jesus and His disciples having supper (John 12:2) at the home of a man that Mark identified as “Simon the leper” (Mark 14:3). Knowing a leper would be an outcast in Jewish society, we must presume that Simon was no longer a leper, and had been the object of Jesus’ compassion and been healed. John makes mention that Martha was serving, and “Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him” (12:2b).

The meal was suddenly interrupted when Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took “a pound of ointment of spikenard very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment” (12:3).

Mary’s actions were an example of extravagant, sacrificial love (12:3-4), and an expression of her gratitude to Jesus for raising her brother Lazarus from the dead.

Mary sacrificed her most precious possession (12:3a), for spikenard was a costly fragrance imported from India (and according to Judas, worth 300 pence, or 300 days wages, 12:5). Mary was also a picture of humility and loving devotion, for she used her hair to wipe our LORD’S feet (12:3b).

Unfortunately, the beautiful portrait of loving devotion on Mary’s part was interrupted by the protests of a swindler, a phony, and a fraud named Judas, one of the Twelve (12:4-6).

John 12:4-5  – Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should [would]betray him, 5  Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence [one year’s wages], and given to the poor?

Judas resented Mary’s homage to Jesus, and his hypocrisy influenced the other disciples who, in the words of Mark, “had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?” (Mark 14:4)

Matthew recalled the disciples expressing the same sentiment in his Gospel, and saying, “To what purpose is this waste? 9  For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor” (Matthew 26:8-9).

The first words of Judas recorded in the Gospels, reveal the covetousness of his heart. John would look back on this moment and later write of Judas, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor [poor people]; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (12:6 ).

Judas’ biting rebuke of Mary’s sacrificial love and actions, earned him the wrath of Jesus who rebuked him saying, “Let her alone: against the day of my burying [burial] hath she kept [made preparation] this. 8  For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always” (12:7-8).

I close, inviting you to consider how Mary offered the LORD not only her most precious possession, but that she seized the opportunity to identify with Christ’s sacrifice: She anointed Him for His burial (12:7).

While others were deaf to Jesus prophesying His hour, the hour of His sacrifice for the sins of the world, was come; Mary had faith that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Beware That Your Possessions Do Not Possess You (Luke 12-13)

Scripture reading – Luke 12-13

The sin of covetousness is the malady of humanity, and is as ancient as sin itself.

When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-7), he proposed that she consider the fruit of the tree that 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 saw that the fruit God had forbidden was “good for food,” appealing, for it was “pleasant to the eyes,” and had the prospect “to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Coveting what God had prohibited, Eve “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).

Covetousness goes by many names and is evidenced in many ways: Greed, lust, discontentment, “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), hoarding, and stinginess are a few words and attitudes that define a sin that has driven many a man or woman to self-destruction, and eternal damnation.

The Parable of the “Rich Fool” (Luke 12:16-21) is universally known to many.

In the parable, 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 content. So the rich man determined to build larger barns, boasting 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 God 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 had come 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 discontent, demanding his inheritance out of a heart of greed and gain.

Recalling Jesus knew the hearts of all men, He recognized in the brother’s request an inordinate affection for wealth and possessions. Rebuking the man for his demand that He act as 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).

Truth: A fool treasures riches, and eventually finds himself a slave of them.

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

Where is your treasure?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith