Tuesday, October 6, 2009

You Have Heard It Said

In Mt. 5:21-48 (NIV), Jesus said six times, "You have heard that it was said [or, 'It has been said']... But I tell you..."

J. B. Phillips wrote a "Most People Think" list presenting the world's version of the Beatitudes: "Happy are the pushers: for they get on in the world... Happy are they who complain: for they get their own way in the end... Happy are the trouble-makers: for people have to take notice of them." (See Phillips's book Your God Is Too Small, p. 92 in the 2004 Touchstone Edition, for the full list.)

So often do our natural, pride-infested human instincts run dead opposite to God's way. In our own society, there's an epidemic of the idea that thinking primarily of oneself is a virtue. While most people do know better than to advocate actually ignoring and abusing others, anyone who states outright that "the convenience/needs/lives of others is/are far more important than mine" (cf. Phil. 2:3) is likely to be pounced upon and chided: "Sounds like you have an inferiority complex." "You'll never get anywhere until you convince yourself you deserve the best." "Don't you know you can't really help others unless you first take care of your own needs?" Admittedly, many have burnt themselves out because they were such people-pleasers or so "driven" that they never said no to anybody. This is really just one more manifestation of "the world says selfishness is good for you": we think that we have to make everyone happy, or our lives will be ruined for lack of popularity and success; and meanwhile God is trying to tell us that our souls are overdue for rest and prayer.

Small wonder we listen more to the world's voice than to God's, since the receivers of our sin-infested souls are better tuned to the world's frequency. No amount of experience seems to teach us that the world's "how to be happy" program just doesn't work.

The only remedy is to "adjust the dial" by studying and following God's guidelines in the Bible.

You have heard it said, "Have faith in yourself,
And believe you deserve the best;
Make sure you get all the praise you're due,
And that medals adorn your chest."
But Christ says to us, "Think not of yourself,
But, in love for the human race,
Live your life to serve, in humility,
And to others reach out in grace."

You have heard it said, "Stand up for yourself,
Or you'll find that nobody will;
Make sure that no one walks over you;
Take no insult just standing still."
But Christ says to us, "Think not of yourself,
But of everyone else's good:
Never take revenge; never grouse or gripe,
But show love as your Father would."

You have heard it said, "You must plan your life,
And set goals for yourself each year;
Always know what you'll achieve each day,
And let nobody interfere."
But Christ says to us, "Only God can know
What the week or year may bring;
Do not clutch your plans as if they were life;
Trust the will of your Heavenly King."

You have heard it said, "You just can't trust God:
He will take away all your fun.
If you live your life for 'Heaven's rewards,'
Here on earth you'll be left with none."
But Christ says to us, "When God lives in you,
All your joy will be complete."--
Yes, the world's own "joy" is a hollow thing,
But God's Heavenly gift is so sweet.

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