Stewards of Our Faith

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 24.16
16 Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.

Reflection: Stewards of Our Faith
By Jacque Jordan

In Deuteronomy 24.16, Moses dictates the law to the Israelites who are learning how to live as a chosen people set apart by God. This law addresses Exodus 20.5, “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation to those who hate me.”

The last phrase, “…to those who hate me,” suggests iniquity is passed down to the third and fourth generations by choice. The Israelites blamed their current exile on the previous generations while continuing to commit the same sins. The Lord was not punishing them on behalf of their parent’s decisions, but judging their present immorality that was shared by their parents.

The Lord gives each person the gift of free will and assurance that he will judge the world in righteousness. We have a human desire to make sense of suffering by assigning blame to others’ sins. We also desire to make exceptions for our own sinful behavior. Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 18  teach individual responsibility for sin. So does Jesus. When his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…” (John 9.2-3) The Lord does not hold His children accountable for any sins other than their own.

We live in a fallen world; sin patterns and the effects of sin are all around us, permeating our culture, family, and workplace. Certain circumstances and interactions are outside of our control and a part of life. The Lord, however, does not judge us by the criteria of the world.

A relationship with the Lord is true freedom. It is not defined by our parents, where we live, or what we look like. We are not responsible for what happens to us. We are accountable for how we pursue God in the midst of generational sin, confusion, cultural pressures, and the suffering of day-to-day life.

The freedom of being judged individually comes with individual responsibility. May we be good stewards of our faith, and have courage to follow the Lord even if we stand alone.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long.
Do not cast me off in my old age; forsake me not when my strength fails. — Psalm 71.8-9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 24 (Listen 3:21)
Romans 4 (Listen 4:08)

Read more about A Generational Lament
The inspiring victories of the previous generation have faded. In their world there is no prosperity, little security…they experience only danger and disappointment.

Read more about Cultivation Must Be Learned
Spiritual wisdom and knowledge, like agricultural knowledge, must be passed on, with its seeds, from one generation to the next.

Jesus with Axe and Fire

Psalm 115.3-4
Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.

Reflection: Jesus with Axe and Fire
By John Tillman

Ancient idols of silver and gold seem so simple, pagan, and foolish. How could people have fallen for them? Today our idols are more likely to be rose-gold and come with an upgraded camera and a processor marginally faster than last years’.

Modern people are often guilty of shaking our heads at how quaint ancients must have been, worshiping their idols of stone, wood, and gold, not realizing how similar to them we are. We worship brands, companies, and CEOs with fervor equal to the most ardent of ancient adherents of Baal or Asherah. We give our money, adulation, and adoration to the brands that fit our aspirations and our ideals. We are, at times, more faithful to brands than to our churches or to our spouses. We wear their symbols on our clothing and follow their CEOs on Twitter, hanging on their every word.

We’d probably be better off worshiping actual idols of wood and stone than the brands that pander to us, telling us how smart we are to purchase their products. At least the wooden idols are truly dumb and unable to speak. The so-called wisdom we glean from CEOs often only leads us to invest further in consumerism rather than community. 

The problem with our idols is they are all internalized. Our external devices are merely manifestations of our self-love. We could throw away every piece of technology and still slavishly worship pride, consumerism, and comfort.

When Israel was commanded to cut down and burn Asherah poles there was a tangible, physical step. To burn out of our souls our preoccupation with ourselves we require a different kind of axe and a different kind of fire. Thankfully, Jesus stands ready to supply both. John the Baptist describes a Christ who stands ready with both axe and fire. 

May we ask him regularly to cut down our idols. May he burn out of our souls impurity and selfish desires. May he baptize us in fire, making of us a light for the world and a spark to ignite God’s love in our communities.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, asking: “How can you believe, since you look to each other for glory and are not concerned with the glory that comes from the one God?” — John 5.44

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 24 (Listen – 3:21) 
Psalm 114-115 (Listen – 2:18) 

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Read more about Lamenting Materialism
In ancient agrarian society if you worshiped a sun god or a fertility goddess or a god of weather or a god of bountiful harvest you were worshiping a god of financial success. It is akin to our worship of stock performance or financial forecasts or political economic policies.

Read more about In Denial about Greed and Power
If there is anything that can still be shocking in today’s world, it is that we still don’t fully admit or understand the destructive nature of the sins of greed and power.