Why You’re Richer than Donald Trump

Relevant Text: Rom. 11:33
Full Text: Job 7; Rom. 11

“Oh, the depth of the riches … of God!” [1]

Owner | The riches of God are deep because He owns the earth and everything in it – the land, the people, the sea, the air, the buildings: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” [2]. Also, He owns everything beyond the earth – the universe, the galaxies, the heavens: “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens” [3]. Nothing exists that God does not own. Human wealth, by comparison, is unbelievably silly. Donald Trump is a beggar compared to the poorest heir of God [4].

Creator | Not only are His riches deep because He owns everything, they are also deep because He created everything: “God created the heavens and the earth” [5], and “I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place” [6]. Moreover, He created everything out of sheer nothingness, which means that His resources are inexhaustible because nothingness always exists. If He wants something new, He can speak and it will come forth: “He commanded and [all things] were created” [7].

Being | Finally, even if God never owned or created a single thing, His riches would still be infinitely deep because He Himself is the most valuable treasure in the universe. In Romans, Paul wrote about “the riches of his kindness” [8] and “the riches of his glory” [9] in order to show that God’s greatest gift to us is Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. It is not, therefore, that God gives us riches; it is that Christ himself is our wealth: “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” [10]. Christ is our greatest treasure because he is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” [11]. In him, we see the face of God.

Prayer | Lord, The depths of your riches are infinite because you own everything, you created everything, and you are everything. This is great news for us because, in Christ, we are co-heirs of your kingdom and wealth. Therefore, we have no reason to envy others or withhold our generosity or think that you are incapable of giving us everything that we need [12]. For in Christ, we are wealthy beyond our wildest imaginations. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Rom. 11:33 ESV  |  [2] Ps. 24:1 ESV  |  [3] Deut. 10:14 ESV  |  [4] See Rom. 8:17  |  [5] Gen. 1:1 ESV  |  [6] Ps. 8:3 ESV, see also Ps. 104:24  |  [7] Ps. 148:5 ESV. See entire Psalm 148.  |  [8] Rom. 2:4  |  [9] Rom. 9:23  |  [10] Col. 1:27 ESV  |  [11] Heb. 1:3 ESV  |  [12] See 2 Ptr 1:3

What Not to Say to a Suffering Friend

Relevant Text: Job 6:14
Full Text: Job 6; Rom. 10

Silence | After Job lost his family and wealth in a single day, his friends immediately came to his side and mourned with him: “When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” [1].

Theology | Then Job spoke, “Let the day perish on which I was born” [2]. At this point, his friends felt that they needed to say something. They needed to correct him. Eliphaz went first. He argued the mainline theology of the day – that those who suffered must have done something to deserve it: “Who that was innocent ever perished? … As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” [3]. Then he arrogantly and superficially recommended, “As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause” [4].

Patience | Job struggled with the simplicity of Eliphaz’s reasoning because he knew that he hadn’t committed some extraordinary sin that merited his suffering. He needed Eliphaz’s friendship, not theology. As he said, “He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty” [5]. He wanted some slack: “Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind?” [6]. In other words, when he lamented the day of his birth, he wasn’t aiming for theological accuracy. He didn’t need Eliphaz to jump on him. He needed him to let his words go. In their friendship, there would be plenty of time for Eliphaz to determine whether Job’s words were the true convictions of his heart that needed correction or mere words of his despair that would blow away with the wind.

Prayer | Lord, It would be great if we were careful with our words in our despair so that we never said anything wrong. Yet, we’re not like that. We feel things in our suffering and overstate things in our confusion. Therefore, make us patient with those who suffer. Today, especially as we recognize that the innocent suffering of Christ completely defeated Eliphaz’s theology, make us careful and humble in our assessments of others’ suffering. Help us mourn with those who mourn. Amen.

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This reflection is dedicated to all my friends to whom I’ve played the Eliphaz. Thank you for your patience with me! Even writing this brought tears to my eyes for the many mistakes I’ve made over the years. I love you. BLJ

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Footnotes

[1] Job 2:12-13 ESV  |  [2] Job 3:3 ESV  |  [3] Job 4:7-8 ESV  |  [4] Job. 5:8 ESV (For the reader of Job, there is much irony in this statement. After all, the reader knows that Job has been chosen to suffer precisely because the Lord considered him to be “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned way from evil.” Job 1:1 ESV. God even said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Job 1:8 ESV.)  |  [5] Job 6:14 ESV  |  [6] Job 6:26 ESV

How to Approach the Throne of the King

Relevant Text: Rom. 9:30-31
Full Text: Job 5; Rom. 9

Queen | In 1992, when Australian PM Paul Keating dared to touch the Queen, he earned the nickname, “The Lizard of Oz” [1]. After all, he should’ve known that, according to protocol, you’re not supposed to touch the Queen. You’re not even supposed to initiate a handshake [2]. In 2009, however, something “absolutely extraordinary” happened. The Queen and the First Lady put their arms around each other. According to an eyewitness, “No one – including the ladies-in-waiting standing nearby – could believe their eyes. In 57 years, the Queen has never been seen to make that kind of gesture and it is certainly against all protocol to touch her” [3].

King | If such formal protocol is observed when meeting a mere human monarch of a single country, then what is expected when approaching the King of Kings? One thing is certain – the Law demands far more than protocol; it demands an entire lifestyle: “Be holy as I am holy” [4]. Yet, as Paul has shown, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks after God” [5]. Thus, we have a problem. We want to meet with the King, but we cannot because we are unrighteous sinners.

Lord | The Law, however, was intended to awaken in our hearts a longing for something to bridge the gap between its righteous requirements and our inability to meet them. In other words, it was meant to make us long for Jesus and his righteousness [6]. How do we get his righteousness to be our own? We pursue it as a gift to be cherished, not a wage to be earned: “What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law? Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works” [7].

Prayer | Lord, You are holy and, therefore, unrighteousness cannot stand in your presence. Thus, we tremble at the impossible standards of the Law, knowing that we are hopeless sinners apart from your grace in Jesus. In him, we believe and are forgiven. Thus, we rejoice in the Law because its requirements have been met in him. Today, as we approach you with imperfect faith and obedience, we see and savor his righteousness as our only hope. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Jimmy Orr. Michelle Obama hugs Queen – breaks royal protocol! The Christian Science Monitor. 2 April 2009.  |  [2] Good Morning America. Royal Etiquette: Talking to the Queen. 7 May 2007. An interview with Paul Gauger, the director of regional press for VisitBritain. See ABC Nightline. Royal Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts When Meeting Her Majesty. 1 April 2009.  |  [3] Id. at FN1  |  [4] This is the oft-repeated phrase and one sentence summary of the entire book of Leviticus.  |  [5] Rom. 3:9-11 ESV  |  [6] c.f. Rom. 9:4-5  |  [7] Rom. 9:30-31 ESV

How Radical Grace Can Be Dangerous

Relevant Text: Rom. 6:1-2
Full Text: Job 2; Rom. 6

The Stakes | Only one kind of life leads to eternal life. All of us are guilty sinners through our own disobedience and through our being united with Adam. Another life that leads to heaven, however, comes from being united with Christ: “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” [1]. What leads to eternal life? Sanctification. Freedom from sin. Slavery to God.

The Danger | In the first part of Romans, Paul shows a radical emphasis on justification by grace alone through faith alone apart from works of the law. This is tremendous kindness: Christ’s obedience – not ours – is our grounds for justification. Yet, Paul recognizes that such sweeping grace can be dangerous because it can be easily distorted. As D.A. Carson explains, “People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated” [2].

The Reality | So, having just said, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” [3], Paul counters: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace abound?” [4]. Then he resounds: “By no means!” Why not? Because dead people don’t sin: “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” [5]. In other words, when Christ died, we died in and with him [6]. When he rose, we were made alive in and with him [7]. Therefore, we are to become in practice what we are in truth: dead to sin and alive in Christ [8]. In this way, the hard work of sanctification is not the opposite of grace; it is the result of experiencing grace.

Prayer | Lord, Our hearts are fundamentally flawed and deceptive. Although we cherish your grace, we go about manipulating it for our own selfish purposes. Therefore, we ask that you would change our hearts to hate our sin and to love your grace, as we live obedient lives of sanctification. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Rom. 6:22 ESV  |  [2] D.A. Carson, For the Love of God, Vol. 2.  |  [3] Rom. 5:22 ESV  |  [4] Rom. 6:1 ESV  |  [5] Rom. 6:2 ESV  |  [6] Rom. 6:5, 6, 8  |  [7] Rom. 6:4, 5  |  [8] Rom. 6:11, 13

Letting the Tension Remain

Relevant Text: Job 1:21
Full Text: Job 1; Rom. 5

Tension | In February 2006, six weeks after her daughter, Penny, was born with Down syndrome, Amy Julia Becker journaled:  “I went to the doctor for a follow-up appointment today. The receptionist was very nice. She told me about a good friend of hers who has a daughter with Down syndrome. The young woman is in her mid-20s, with a job, with highlights in her hair. I think the receptionist was trying to comfort me by giving an example of how functional someone with Down syndrome can be, but her words betrayed her. She said things like, ‘They dress her in cute, funky clothes,’ and, ‘She can walk around the neighborhood all by herself and the neighbors keep an eye on her.’ What I heard was not that she wears cute clothes and goes for walks, but that her mom still chooses those clothes, she can’t drive, and she needs the neighbors to look out for her on a walk around the block. I didn’t feel particularly consoled. People are always trying to downplay the hard part and overemphasize the good instead of letting the tension remain[1].

Limitations | Job is about letting the tension remain. It’s written for people who struggle with loss. It’s realistic about confusion in suffering and limits in understanding. Although Job “feared God and turned away from evil” [2], he lost everything – his family and his wealth – in a single day. Yet, even as he mourned: “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head” [3], he also worshiped: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” [4].

Honesty | Suffering is universal, but sometimes we’re tempted to avoid admitting that it brings doubt, fear and anger. We want our praise nights to be pep rallies. A realistic understanding of the Christian life, however, includes a recognition that the founder of our faith was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” [5] and that, if we want to be glorified with him, we must also suffer with him [6].

Prayer | Lord, Make your name holy in our lives, as we walk in your footsteps. Let us live in the tension of the suffering of the cross as well as the joy of our salvation through it [7]. Help us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice [8], even as we learn to love others in grace and honesty. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Amy Julia Becker. A Good and Perfect Gift.  |  [2] 1:1 ESV  |  [3] 1:20 ESV  |  [4] 1:21 ESV  |  [5] Is. 53:3 ESV   |  [6] Rom. 8:17  |  [7] See Heb. 12:2  |  [8] Rom. 12:15

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