The Identical Nature of Greed and Lust

Scripture Focus: 1 Timothy 6.17-18
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

Reflection: The Identical Nature of Greed and Lust
By John Tillman

As he brings his letter to Timothy to a close, Paul has just lifted heart, mind, and spirit in a glorious and artful prayer, comparing Timothy’s testimony to that of Christ before Pilate and describing God living in unapproachable light. He ends this passage on an uplifting note with a well deserved “Amen.”… But after closing out the letter so beautifully and with a definite note of finality, Paul seems to think of one more thing.

In his commentary, John Wesley notes that verses 17-21 of 1 Timothy seem to be a kind of postscript. It is as if the letter was ready to go and then, perhaps, delayed long enough that Paul had time to think of one more paragraph he found necessary to add. 

So, what was so important that Paul felt the need to add more about it? Wealth and greed.

Paul earlier addressed ministers who think “godliness is a means to financial gain.” This shows us that the prosperity gospel is not a 20th-century invention. It is as old and as dangerous as any other heresy. Paul then turns his attention sharply in verse 17 from ministers to wealthy church members who were at risk of becoming ensnared by greed.

If Paul considers wealth a distraction worthy of a second look and warning, so should we. Paul has already taught that wealth is powerful enough to corrupt those called as ministers of the gospel and instructed Timothy to “flee” from its influence. Paul takes the danger of greed seriously.

Paul uses the word “command” when speaking to the rich about their responsibility to be humble and generous. It is the same level of authoritative language he uses to speak of sexual sins. 

Financial sins of greed and sexual sins of lust are two sides of the same coin. It was no mistake that when the prophet Nathan needed an analogy for lust, he chose a parable about a rich man stealing material goods from the poor. Lust and greed are the exact same sin. One is concerned with material goods and one with flesh.

We must take a second look at our hearts for the twin sins of lust and greed, inviting the Holy Spirit to illuminate every dark corner. Greed or lust may be the downfall of a minister, as Paul warned Timothy, but, as Paul warned, they may also destroy a community.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O Lord, watch over us and save us from this generation forever. — Psalm 12.7

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 9 (Listen – 6:32)
1 Timothy 6 (Listen -3:16)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about God Shivering on Concrete
God’s love is evident in the disaster God promises a nation that ignores responsibilities to the poor and to the foreigner. Our God humbles nations addicted to greed—including His own.

Read more about Greed and Envy
The trap for the wealthy is to think that we are not that wealthy, or that the poor are not that worthy.

Thoughts and Prayers

Scripture Focus: 1 Timothy 2.1-2
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Prayer is not a passive, calm, quiet practice. — Tim Keller

Reflection: Thoughts and Prayers
By John Tillman

In our world, there is now pushback against even saying that we will pray over a situation. Thoughts and prayers as a hashtag has become a philosophical battlefield where people of faith and people frustrated by people of faith clash about the efficacy of prayer and the pointlessness of faith without works. (The language is, of course, not that academic.)

This pushback is based on a cultural assumption about prayer and an assumption about those who say they will pray. The first is that prayer is pointless and can’t help any situation. The second is that those who say they will pray, will not actually pray, and worse than that, will not follow through with any actions at all.

The cultural version of this type of empty prayer is engaging in the equally empty gesture of clicktivism—liking or sharing a post about an issue, but doing nothing substantive to address it. In a way, those who are decrying thoughts and prayers are praying unknowingly—they are calling out, they know not to whom, for real, tangible change and action.

The culture Paul was in prayed a lot. Prayer was everywhere. But in no religion was it so personal and direct as in Christianity. The type of prayer that Paul practiced and taught confronted both modern and ancient cultural assumptions and was attractive, not repulsive, to his culture. How?

One reason we see is that the kind of prayer that Paul engages in is fruitful in creating action—good desires and the deeds that follow. Paul’s prayers were not just words, but will and work. According to Paul deeds are prompted by faith, and faith is fueled by prayer life.

It is our actions, growing directly from the cultivated soil of prayer, that bear fruit that our world will gladly partake of.

When we follow the lead of godly, broken-hearted prayer, we will find ourselves acting in undeniably loving ways (against which there is no law), seeking out the lost, marginalized, and broken with Christ’s love, and suddenly realizing that people are no longer repelled by our thoughts and our prayers.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus was at a feast when: “He said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends and brothers or your relations or rich neighbors, in case they invite you back and repay you. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; then you will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you and so you will be repaid when the upright rise again.’” — Luke 14.12-14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 5 (Listen – 5:13)
1 Timothy 2 (Listen -3:17)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Praying as Priests
May we pronounce this blessing not with words alone, but in how we live and walk through our world

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Read more about Artful Prayers
In the psalms, we…enter the lived emotion of the artists who bared their souls to God in prayers that were always intended to be performed.

Our Merciless Culture

Scripture Focus: 1 Timothy 1.13-14
Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Reflection: Our Merciless Culture
By John Tillman

The mercy and forgiveness offered to Paul is staggering, scandalous, and in our own time, practically impossible.

One of the least Christian things about American culture today is how we feel about forgiveness and mercy. We frown at forgiveness in general, but to forgive someone who harmed you or to forgive someone outside one’s tribe or group, is anathema. If you want to be an outcast, forgive someone outside your political party, your race, or your gender.

Every culture is a bit cynical about mercy and repentance. Reasonable skepticism is justifiable. Even the apostles didn’t accept Paul until Barnabas spoke up for him. The type of mercy extended to Paul and many others in scripture would never be tolerated or allowed today. 

Our culture has become anti-mercy, going past skepticism and walking into the wilderness of hatred and retributive violence. In recent years, when people have offered public forgiveness to individuals that everyone agreed did not deserve it, our world wouldn’t tolerate it. We are opposed to forgiveness. We go beyond refusing to forgive—we label forgiveness and mercy, not just foolish, but evil.

A culture that is invested in and glorifies hatred, retribution, payback, and vengeance cannot allow an act of mercy to stand as a simple act of mercy. It must be critiqued and spun. Media and pundits immediately will attempt to twist it, politicize it, and discount it.

Our world is desperate to explain away Christian forgiveness as something else. It must be enabling evil. It must be the result of racism. It must be a naive and foolish gesture. It must be anything other than Christian, gospel forgiveness. Never that.

Otherwise, we might be forced to set down our weapons of vengeance. Otherwise, we might be forced to question our treasured value of total war against our ideological enemies. Otherwise, we might have to abandon our “ends justify the means” political machinations. Otherwise, we might be forced to admit we need mercy ourselves.

Our world would like to pretend that it hates mercy because it cares for victims. But it requires it’s victims to stay victims, suffering eternally. Healing or restoration doesn’t fuel hatred, only pain does. Our culture’s interest in victims is only as fuel for hatred. Our world hates mercy because it loves hate.

As Christians, we must defeat hate by truly caring for victims and by forgiving in shocking and scandalous ways.

*Forgiveness and mercy does not mean abandoning the pursuit of justice through the law. It also does not mean asking victims to be quiet or to stop sharing their pain and their stories. For a short brush up on the tension between forgiveness and justice, see this Veritas Forum video with Rachael Denhollander.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
…You have showed me great troubles and adversities, but you will restore my life and bring me up again from the deep places of the earth…
…My tongue will proclaim your righteousness all day long, for they are ashamed and disgraced who sought to do me harm. — Psalm 71.20, 24

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 4 (Listen – 6:17)
1 Timothy 1 (Listen -2:37)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about A True Example of Repentance
As permissive as our supposedly modern culture is, we are remarkably tribal about mercy.

Read more about In Our Least Favorite Commandment
There is, perhaps, no commandment of Jesus that we flout with more impunity than, “do good to those who hate you.”

God, the Wall Breaker :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 4.1
Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter.

As we discussed yesterday, racism is an idol of our culture that the church has difficulty putting down. May the global church unite in this confession and call for community from Japan. —  John

Reflection: God, the Wall Breaker :: Worldwide Prayer
A Prayer for Global Community from Japan

Father, we adore you and praise your name.
We thank you for the fellowship we share with our brothers and sisters all over the world.

So many of us have committed the dreadful sin of failing to worship you as the only true God,
By failing to say no to acts of idolatry,
Serving the created instead of the Creator,
Causing immeasurable pains and sufferings upon
Brothers and sisters in our neighboring communities and countries.

We confess our sin and ask your forgiveness.
We ask your healing for the pains and wounds of our brothers and sisters, many of whom still suffer because of our insensitivity and sin.

We believe that you alone are the healer
And the Lord of true reconciliation.

Gracious God, help us to break down dividing walls
The walls of ignorance, indifference, prejudice, and discrimination
Which still separate people all over the world.

May we be agents of global peace and reconciliation
In the name of Jesus Christ
Our only true Lord and Savior.

Lord hear our prayer!

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I will bear witness that the Lord is righteous; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High. — Psalm 7.18

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 4 (Listen – 2:18)
1 Timothy 6 (Listen – 3:16)

 

Decorating the Tombs of the Prophets

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3.16
And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
in the place of justice—wickedness was there.

Matthew 23.29-30
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

We cannot say we want your blessing God, but don’t disturb us too much. — Dr. Russell Moore

Am I buggin’ you? I don’t mean to bug ya. — Bono, speaking about apartheid in the middle of “Silver and Gold” — Rattle and Hum Live Concert Recording

Reflection: Decorating the Tombs of the Prophets
By John Tillman

Two weeks ago in Memphis, the city where 50 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated outside the Lorraine Motel, many brought wreaths to place at the motel, which now houses the National Civil Rights Museum.

Oh, how we love to decorate the tombs of the prophets.

The remarks below are excerpted from Dr. Russell Moore’s opening keynote address to the MLK50 conference, hosted in Memphis by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and The Gospel Coalition.

Jesus says you honor the prophets, and yet what the prophets said to you was from God, and the prophets told the people of God that they could not serve Baal and God…And yet time and time and time again, when told they could not serve both, the people of God tragically often chose to worship Baal but to rename him God.

And time and time again, in the white American Bible Belt, the people of God had to choose between Jesus Christ and Jim Crow. Because, you cannot serve both. And tragically, many often chose to serve Jim Crow and to rename him Jesus Christ.

“Your fathers,” Jesus says, “would not have minded the prophets either, if the prophets were dead. Your fathers would not have minded the prophets either, if the prophets would not speak. And now that there is no need to worry that they will say anything else it is easy to honor them.”

Martin Luther King is relatively non-controversial in American life, because Martin Luther King has not been speaking for 50 years. It is easy to look backward and to say “if I had been here I would have listened to Dr. King,”—even though I do not listen to what is happening around me in my own community, in my own neighborhood, in my own church.

But Jesus Christ is not dead anymore.

The most difficult thing about following a risen and reigning prophet, priest, and king, is that he will not leave us alone. He will keep bugging us. He will keep saying uncomfortable things to us. He will not stop challenging us to break down our idols.

We cannot say we want your blessing God, but don’t disturb us too much; we want your blessing God, but don’t change our order of worship; we want your blessing God, but don’t change our institutions of power; we want your blessing God, but don’t change our systems.

And if we have to change our worship styles, let’s crucify our worship styles. If God’s way upsets our political alliances, let’s crucify our political alliances. To be a gospel people means that we don’t seek a cheap reconciliation, but a cross reconciliation.

On The Park Forum, we have written extensively on the subject of race and racism. Why would we devote so much time and so many words to the attempt to break down the cultural idol of racism?

Because it is the idol that our culture can’t seem to eradicate. Just as there were always idols of Baal to be found around Israel, there always seem to be idols to racism standing in corners of our hearts, our homes, our cities, and even our churches.

May we seek Christ’s mercy and give ourselves to him as instruments of his suffering pursuit of justice, instruments of his reconciling love, and instruments of his restorative redemption.

Jesus say something
I am someone, I am someone
I am someone — Silver and Gold, U2

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, and evil cannot dwell with you. — Psalm 5.4

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 3 (Listen – 3:02)
1 Timothy 5 (Listen – 3:22)

Further Posts on Racism

Racism Wears a Mask
Racism is not just an individual crime or action, it is an unseen burden we are forced to carry by our culture and our history.

Putting To Death Racial Hostility
Christians must take the lead in racial issues because we have the only viable ideology that, if we let it, will counter the ideology of hate. We cannot grow weary. We cannot tire of addressing the issue. We have the only answer.

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