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Spiritual Principles for Employees and Employers in an Entitlement Age (1 Timothy 6)

Click on this link for translations of this devotion,

Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 6

Our brief study of Paul’s 1st Epistle to Timothy concludes with today’s Scripture reading. Readers will notice Paul continues a broad sweep of issues that have confronted believers since the 1st century. Arguably, times have changed, but the prevailing sins and spiritual challenges of mankind are the same. Today’s devotional will consider 1 Timothy 6:1-6.

The Culture of the 1st Century Church (6:1-2)

Paul’s letter was addressed to a culture where slaves and masters were members of the church. In fact, the membership of the 1st century church had some slaves who found themselves serving “believing masters” (6:2). Paul did not tackle the moral or ethical nature of slavery, as slavery was a common way of life in the first century. Nor did he urge Timothy to lead an uprising against slavery. Instead, the apostle addressed the dynamics of believing slaves and their masters (whether unbelieving or believing).

Author’s note – Before I consider an exposition of 1 Timothy 6:1-2, I hope you might give me liberty for a personal observation.

Mirroring the attitude of the 21st century world, I have observed the growing presence and influence of a rebellious spirit of entitlement even among believers. Sadly, our families, churches, and Christian institutions have embraced entitlement as a right, of which few are willing to challenge. Entitlement arises from a self-focused heart, in essence, from those who would espouse employees’ rights and privileges above all else. I believe the pendulum has swung so far in favor of employees, that they now abuse their employers thus driving corporations to the edge of fiscal insanity, if not bankruptcy.

What is the Believer’s Duty to An Unbelieving Employer? (6:1)

Paul challenged Timothy to teach slaves and servants to be characterized by the same attitude of which he wrote, namely – Respect. Whether a slave served a master who was an unbeliever or a believer, the requirement was the same: Servants were to treat their masters with honor and respect, knowing their actions and attitudes reflected on their faith and profession in Christ. Paul wrote, “1Let as many servants as are under the yoke [the yoke of bondage or slavery] count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed” (6:1).

In his epistle to believers in Ephesus, Paul challenged servants and slaves to obey their masters, and fear and honor them out of a sincere heart, “as unto Christ” (Ephesians 6:5). Peter commanded, “18Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward” (1 Peter 2:18). The heart attitude of a believer is to serve, honor, and obey an employer to the end they will give them no cause to have an ill opinion of God and the Scriptures (6:1).

What is the Believer’s Duty to a Believing Employer? (6:2)

Today, many believers bring a spirit of entitlement when they are employed by believers or a ministry. Some believers become so offensive in their expectations, they become a sorrow to fellow believers that employ them.

There were some in the congregation Timothy pastored who were masters (6:2). Surely, salvation so transformed the lives of some that they evidenced love and Biblical virtues toward their slaves (2 Corinthians 5:17). Perhaps, some believing masters even divested themselves of slavery entirely.

Nevertheless, slavery was a component within the culture of the 1st century church. Therefore, Paul commanded Timothy teach and exhort believers regarding the relationship of the servants and their masters (6:2). What was Timothy to “teach and exhort” servants? (6:2) Paul wrote: “they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit” (6:2).

While the servants and some masters were believers, the believing servants were to remember their place and role, and treat their masters with respect (“not despise them,” 6:2b). A believing servant was to “do them service,” meaning serve them with a right heart attitude and spirit (6:c). Because the master was a believer, the believing slave was to value the privilege of serving a fellow believer, knowing both were “partakers of the benefit,” meaning the Gospel of the grace of God in Christ (6:2d).

Closing thoughts (6:3-6) – I close today’s devotion, exhorting you to not entertain any other spirit or attitude that arises and hinders your testimony in the world. There are believers who justify a belligerent, divisive spirit toward their employers. If believers were to exercise an honest self-examination, some would find a spirit of entitlement contrary to the Spirit of God, and the teachings of the Scripture.

If believing slaves were commanded to honor and obey their masters, surely no less can be expected of us.

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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 Blessed Grace of Giving (2 Corinthians 8; 2 Corinthians 9)

Scripture reading – 2 Corinthians 8; 2 Corinthians 9

Click on this link for translations of this devotional.

Today’s Scripture reading is well known to believers as a passage where Paul taught and encouraged what I like to refer to as “Grace Giving.” Grace, essentially the favor of God, is not only the basis, but also the motivation for all we do in serving the Lord, and as we will see in today’s devotional…giving.

Remember, Paul’s first letter to Corinth presented the afflictions and sufferings of the brethren in Judea, and in particular, Jerusalem. Hearing of the physical want of those believers, Paul urged the churches throughout Macedonia to give, and share in the relief of their fellow believers. The believers in Corinth set an example of compassion and willingness to give, and pledged themselves to be gracious. Unfortunately, a year later, the apostle was concerned they had failed to fulfill what was promised (though he had boasted of them to other congregations).

2 Corinthians 8

Among the many truths we glean from Paul’s letter are four spiritual truths in regard to “Grace Giving.” The first, “Grace Giving” evidences the grace of God when a believer gives liberally out of God’s blessings (8:1). An unregenerate heart is naturally selfish, and not inclined to give. In fact, sinners tend to evidence two extremes: Some are hoarders, and give little to nothing, while others are narcissists, and waste their material blessings and possessions on self-centered pursuits and pleasures. A second characteristic of “Grace Giving” is joy (8:2). The believers of Macedonia, though suffering afflictions, and poverty, were described as expressing “the abundance of joy,” and abounding “unto the riches of their liberality” (8:2).

Another trait of “Grace Giving” is personal consecration. We read, the Macedonian believers “first gave their own selves to the Lord” (8:5). Having dedicated their all to the Lord, they kept back nothing. Lastly, the sincerity of a believer’s love for others is demonstrated in a willingness to deny oneself for the welfare of others (8:9). In other words, the Macedonian believers proved the sincerity of their love for Christ in their sacrificial giving (8:8). Paul summed up that principle in these words: “24Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf” (8:24).

Closing thoughts (9:1-15) – I invite you to read 2 Corinthians 9 and search out seven additional qualities of “Grace Giving” that are found in that chapter. I close with a quote of Amy Carmichael, who served as a missionary to India for 55 years without a furlough:

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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.

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.

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

Philippians: An Epistle of Joy (Philippians 1-4)

Scripture reading – Philippians 1-4

Our study of Paul’s “Prison Epistles” concludes with the beloved Epistle to the Philippians, and was written to “all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (1:1). Though written in particular to believers in Philippi, the epistle has been providentially preserved for the saints of all ages.

Introduction to the City of Philippi

The city of Philippi, located in eastern Macedonia, was on a major traderoute between Asia and Europe and was the gateway between two continents. The city had a large population, was a center for Greek culture, and had become a thriving commercial center in Paul’s day.

Apart from Paul’s epistle, there is little mention of Philippi in the New Testament. It was in Philippi where we first met the Jewess named Lydia, a woman described as a “seller of purple,” and who became a believer in Christ, the Messiah (Acts 16:14-15). Paul and Silas had also been jailed in Philippi, following an uprising led by some who protested their trade in idols was being harmed. When God had sent an earthquake that opened the doors of the prison, Paul bid the jailer to not take his own life; and he and his family became believers and were baptized (Acts 16:30-34).

The Circumstances of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians

Scholars believe the letter was sent by Paul to Philippi sometime between 60 and 65 A.D. The apostle, now an elderly statesman of the Gospel, was under house arrest, and humanly speaking appeared to be on the shelf of ministry service. Unable to travel, his future uncertain, and the reality of martyrdom being a very real fate, it would have been an easy step for Paul to despair of life.

Though bound by Caesar, Paul was a prisoner of the Lord and his heart effused with the joy of ministering to believers. Instead of an epistle conveying gloom and despair, Paul penned a letter expressing love and joy! He was buoyed by a mutual love and affection that he shared with the believers at Philippi. His care and expressions of love fill the pages of this epistle (1:2-4, 7, 9). Even in the midst of his own bondage, Paul writes, “I pray, that your love may abound [abounding love] yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (1:9).

Following the example of the apostle’s self-sacrificing love and ministry, the believers at Philippi had evidenced their love and affection for Paul in very tangible ways. They were, as many have observed:

Models of JOY: Jesus first; Others second; and Yourself last.

Appreciating the abundance of God’s grace bestowed on them through Paul preaching the Gospel, the Philippians gave sacrificially, even out of their poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). They became models of self-sacrificing giving, disregarding their own needs, they gave cheerfully “by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). When Paul was in need, they sent a generous offering to support his ministry (Philippians 4:14-16), even sending Epaphroditus, one of their own to minister to Paul in Rome (2:25-30).

I have merely touched upon the mutual love Paul and the saints at Philippi had for one another. Suffice it to say, their affectionate bond should encourage 21st century believers and their ministers to cultivate the same loving relationship between those who minister, and those who are served.

Philippians 4:1 – Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

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

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

Uncommon, Common Sense (Proverbs 22-24)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 22-24

We are continuing our study of the Proverbs of Solomon, chapters 22-24. Today’s devotional commentary, Proverbs 22:1-3, is appropriated from earlier posts at http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Proverbs 22:1 – “A Good Name: Better Than Silver and Gold”

(Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is one of my heroes. Born in 1809 on the western frontier of the United States in the state of Indiana, Lincoln’s life story is inspiring. The son of a farmer, Lincoln’s childhood home was a log cabin. He was homeschooled and largely self-educated.

This man of the most common stock would challenge a nation to confront its soul and weigh its fundamental declaration that, “all men are created equal.” Honest AbeThe Rail SplitterThe Great Emancipator was mocked by his enemies; however, even they admired his character and reputation for honesty.

Proverbs 22:1 calls you to consider the reputation associated with your name.

Proverbs 22:1 – “A good name [honorable reputation] is rather to be chosen than great riches [wealth]and loving favour [grace] rather than silver and gold.”

A good name is not something you can purchase with silver and gold. Your reputation is something you earn. Your parents named you when you were born; however, your character and life choices have shaped and colored the hue of your name. What character qualities come to mind when someone hears your name?

Solomon challenged his son that it was better to be an honorable man, than to possess wealth, but be cloaked with dishonor.

Proverbs 22:2 – A man’s worth is not defined by what he owns, but by what or who owns him.

Parable 22:2 – “The rich and poor [destitute] meet together [concur; encounter]: the LORD is the maker [Creator] of them all.”

There is little difference between the rich and the poor; with the exception the rich man has much goods. We are all God’s creatures.  The rich man is no better than the poor man, and a poor man is no less than a rich man.

Whether rich or poor, we are sinners in need of a Savior Redeemer—Jesus Christ. Regardless of the designer label in our clothes, we need God’s mercy and grace. In the end, death is the great equalizer of both the rich and poor.

We read in the Book of James:

James 1:9-10 – “Let the brother [believer] of low degree [poor circumstances] rejoice in that he is exalted [rich in Christ]10  But the rich, in that he is made low [humbled]: because as the flower of the grass he [rich man] shall pass away.”

Romans 5:8 – “But God commendeth [demonstrated] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Proverbs 22:3 – A Word to the Wise and a Warning to the Foolish

Proverbs 22:3 – “A prudent [cunning; sensible] man foreseeth [perceive; understands] the evil [sin; wickedness; adversity], and hideth [conceal; hide; shelter] himself: but the simple [foolish; silly] pass on, and are punished [condemn; inflict a penalty].”

We are living in dangerous, uncertain times and Proverbs 22:3 challenges believers to be wise and discerning in a world that is no friend of the spiritually-minded. Consider the contrast between two men who are polar opposites when it comes to discernment—the Prudent and the Simple.

The Prudent man is a learner. He is a student of the Scriptures [the Wisdom of God] and human nature.  His senses are exercised by the Word of God and a lifetime of experiences.  He is wary of the wiles and ways of the world. Prudence dictates that he foresees the ways of the wicked and withdraws himself from the consequences of their sinful ways.

The Simple are not learners.  They are stubborn, and ignore the admonitions of their parents and have disdain for godly counsel. They pursue the pleasures of sin, giving no thought to their tragic end. The Simple rush past moral restraints and headlong down the path of self-destruction. This same proverb is repeated in Proverbs 27:12, thus magnifying the need to read and heed its truth.

Proverbs 27:12 – “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.”

Truth – Men who are wise will seek and heed godly counsel.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith