The Poison of Privilege

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 12.8, 14
But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him…he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.”

Philippians 3.18-20
For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.

Reflection: The Poison of Privilege
By John Tillman

Privilege seems sweet to the taste but is a generational poison that kills with pleasures and cripples with comforts.

Solomon is a second generation leader. He begins his career with a position David spent a lifetime getting to. It is as if he is running the 800 meters with his starting blocks placed in the final curve instead of at the start.

Rehoboam is a third generation leader. If Solomon’s privilege is analogous to running the last 100 meters of the 800, Rehoboam’s is analogous to taking a victory lap and standing on the winner’s stand without committing a disqualification. He could not manage it.

Privilege can grow generationally. Rehoboam says to his subjects who begged for relief from Solomon’s high taxes and enforced labor, “my little finger is bigger than my father’s waist…” 

It is not only King David’s grandson who is engorged with selfishness. Rehoboam’s companions of his own age are equally entitled, disrespectful, and self-focused. It is these men who craft Rehoboam’s harsh message: 

“My father scourged you with whips. I will scourge you with scorpions”

These young men could quickly find employment as social media managers for many of today’s disrespectful and autocratic leaders. How do individuals become so bloated by entitlement, privilege, and selfishness?

It is natural and good that parents dream their children might have a better and more prosperous life than their own. Parents can act as servants, subjugating their own needs, desires, dreams, and goals to advance opportunities for their children. But children who benefit from sacrifice don’t always catch the lesson that they should become people who sacrifice. They can become accustomed to their level of privilege, their level of wealth, their level of power. They can develop an identity connected to their advantages and possessions. 

In Rome, slaves often rode behind great leaders after a victory, whispering, Memento mori—Remember you will die. It was intended to inspire humility but we need more than this simple reminder. Awareness of mortality does not guarantee morality. Another popular saying in Rome was “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Christianity gives meaning to mortality and recognizes privilege and power as what it is—poison for the soul. Rather than accumulate earthly privilege, Paul encourages the believers to remember that our citizenship is in heaven and our model is Christ. 

Anyone (of any generation) who does not learn to serve like Jesus, giving up rights, position, and power will end on a path of self-worship and eventual destruction.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The same stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. — Psalm 118.22

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

1 Kings 12 (Listen – 5:15)
Philippians 3 (Listen – 3:21)

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 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Gospel Faith or Garbage Faith
Even with all that he had achieved, once he met Christ, Paul realized everything prior was waste, rubbish, by comparison.

Read more about Born to Serve
Paul describes who Christ is, and by extension, who God is, and furthermore by example, who we should be.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/born-to-serve/

Born to Serve

Scripture Focus: Philippians 2:5-8
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Reflection: Born to Serve
By Jon Polk

In what is traditionally known as the “Christ Hymn” in Philippians 2, Paul describes who Christ is, and by extension, who God is, and furthermore by example, who we should be.

Who is Christ? Christ was in his very nature God. He was God himself, even though he was uniquely human, too. 

However, Christ didn’t behave the way people expected gods to behave. In the first century, they were more familiar with the volatile, angry gods of the Greek pantheon, who used power to advance themselves or to subdue others. 

Gods didn’t live their lives in humility. Gods didn’t come among their people as servants. And gods especially didn’t sacrifice their lives for the sake of their subjects. 

Paul writes that Christ took the very nature of a servant. He uses the Greek word doulos, which is more properly translated “slave.” A slave existed in servitude to others without advantages, rights or privileges.

Christ became nothing. He emptied himself by pouring out his grace to others. He humbled himself by entering into relationship with lowly humans. He obeyed death, freely giving his life.

Who is God? God’s strength is not in his ability to manipulate or subdue his subjects, but in his willingness to take on the form of his subjects. Not only does God condescend to human form, he chose not to come as a ruler or king but a servant.

Jürgen Moltmann writes in The Crucified God, “God is not greater than he is in this humiliation. God is not more glorious than he is in this self-surrender. God is not more powerful than he is in this helplessness. God is not more divine than he is in this humanity.”

Who should we be? Paul states we should “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” Not only does Christ present us with a radical picture of who God is, he presents us with a radical challenge about who we should be: humble servants giving ourselves on behalf of others.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes “The church is the church only when it exists for others… It must not underestimate the importance of human example which has its origin in the humanity of Jesus.” 

Jesus Christ is our ultimate example. For certain, none of us could ever be sinless and perfect, but that’s not the example that Paul wants us to see. Jesus is the full representation of God, but he also represents what it means to be fully human: to live life completely in service of others. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
From this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. — Luke 1.48

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

1 Kings 11 (Listen – 7:05)
Phillipians 2 (Listen – 3:45)

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 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about He Stoops to Raise
Christ’s entire life could be understood as a process of descending and ascending. He goes from the highest place, to the lowest place. And then, he ascends.

Read more about Sacrifice of Self
Ultimately we have been called to imitate our self-sacrificing savior, Jesus, by giving of ourselves to do good for the benefit of others.

Paul’s Example of Thankfulness

Scripture Focus: Philippians 1:3-5, 9-10

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…

Reflection: Paul’s Example of Thankfulness

By Jon Polk

Who has been used by God to help you in your walk with Christ? Who has come alongside you during difficult times? Who has helped shape you into the follower of Christ that you are today?

In his letters, Paul frequently gives thanks for other Christians that have been important in his life and he has good reasons to have fond feelings for the church in Philippi.

There, Paul met Lydia and a group of “God-fearing” women praying down by a river. Lydia and her household responded immediately to the Gospel message and she invited Paul to stay in her home. The fledgling Philippian church started by meeting in her house.

There, Paul was imprisoned after incurring the wrath of a slave owner. While he was praying and singing hymns, an earthquake broke open the prison doors! Because Paul chose not to escape, the jailer and his household came to faith.

There, Paul would return to minister at least three times following his initial visit. The church in Philippi began to financially support his traveling ministry. Their support was so significant that Paul would brag about them in a letter to another church.

So it is no surprise that Paul writes about them, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” How many people in your life can you say that about, that you thank God for them every time you think of them? Not only does Paul thank God for them, he also prays for them on a regular and frequent basis.

What exactly does Paul pray for them? He prays that their love increases and grows to overflowing. He prays that as their love grows, so does their relationship with God. He prays that their actions and motives would be pure, driven by this profound love.

When you think about those who have been influential in your life, is this the way you pray for them? Do you pray that they might have so much love that they can’t expend it all? Do you pray that their relationship with God grows and deepens? Do you pray as frequently for your friends as Paul says he does for the Philippians?

Perhaps we should.

So why don’t you take a moment now to thank God for significant people in your life. But don’t stop there. Like Paul did, send them a note letting them know how much you appreciate them. Surprise someone with encouragement today. You’ll be glad you did. And so will they.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting

The Lord lives! Blessed is my Rock! Exalted is the God of my salvation!
Therefore will I extol you among the nations, O Lord, and sing praises to your Name.

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

1 Kings 10
 (Listen – 4:27)
Phillipians 1 (Listen – 4:03)

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 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Paul’s Anti-Anti-Intellectualism
Paul’s intent was that developing faith should not be dependent on the eloquence of a speaker or the artfulness of argumentative tactics.

Read more about Paul’s First Sermon
Paul’s sermon is in response to a call for exhortation. The word Luke uses, paráklēsis, can imply an entreaty for help and is often translated as “comfort”

Walking the Way of Pain

Scripture: Colossians 1.17-20
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Scripture: Luke 23:46
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Reflection: Walking the Way of Pain
By Jada Swanson

Poetry has a way of putting into language that which we are unable to speak on our own. It communicates poignant, intentional thoughts, feelings, and expressions of all that we hold dear, but, perhaps, have never uttered aloud.

On this Good Friday, we are sharing Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Way of Pain”, which shares a perspective of sacrifice and grief and pain.

Although our world tells us that we are to be in a constant state of motion and busyness and productivity, the season of Lent has been a time of preparation of remembering and waiting. Lent leads us and points us towards Holy Week, which culminates in the celebration of our Savior’s resurrection.

However, may we not be too anxious to move past the mourning and the grieving of what took place on Good Friday. For in this remembrance, we are able to grasp the magnitude of all that our Savior, Jesus Christ, willingly sacrificed on our behalf. As Wendell Berry so eloquently states, “Unless we grieve like Mary at His grave, giving him up as lost, no Easter morning comes.”

The Way of Pain
By Wendell Berry
1.
For parents, the only way
is hard. We who give life
give pain. There is no help.
Yet we who give pain
give love; by pain we learn
the extremity of love.
2.
I read of Abraham’s sacrifice
the Voice required of him,
so that he led to the altar
and the knife his only son.
The beloved life was spared
that time, but not the pain.
It was the pain that was required.
3.
I read of Christ crucified,
the only begotten Son
sacrificed to flesh and time
and all our woe. He died
and rose, but who does not tremble
for his pain, his loneliness,
and the darkness of the sixth hour?
Unless we grieve like Mary
at His grave, giving Him up
as lost, no Easter morning comes.
4.
And then I slept, and dreamed
the life of my only son
was required of me, and I
must bring him to the edge
of pain, not knowing why.
I woke, and yet that pain
was true. It brought his life
to the full in me. I bore him
suffering, with love like the sun,
too bright, unsparing, whole.
––Wendell Berry, 1980

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 17 (Listen – 2:58)
Philippians 4 (Listen – 3:20)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 18 (Listen – 2:23) Colossians 1 (Listen – 4:18)
Proverbs 19 (Listen – 3:09) Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)

Dirty Feet

Scripture: Philippians 3.10-11
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Scripture: John 13:14-15 (CEB)
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do.

Reflection: Dirty Feet
By Jada Swanson

If you knew that you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do? What would you say?

Imagine walking into a tiny upper room, crowding around a table, passing plates of food to eat, but knowing tomorrow was the day. This is the situation Jesus faced on the Thursday before he was crucified.

On this day, Jesus celebrated his final Passover with His disciples. However, on this occasion, he did something quite different. At the very beginning of the traditional meal, Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet. Something he had never done before.

In the Old Testament foot washing occurs frequently (Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; Judges 19:21; 1 Samuel 25:41; 2 Samuel 11:8; Song of Solomon 5:3; Psalms 58:10). In ancient times, foot washing was considered a tremendous act of hospitality, and was done before entering someone’s home or tent. One’s status (rich or poor) determined whether the guest washed their own feet with water provided by the host, or if a slave performed this act, which was considered the lowliest of services.

However, as often is the case with Jesus, he turned everything upside down. Surely, shouldn’t the servants be washing their master’s feet? According to customs of this time, this should have been the case. But, instead, Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet, even Judas’ (John 13:2).

Jesus gathered the disciples around him, took a towel, poured water into a basin, and washed their feet. He served them with love and humility. As his followers, we are called to do the same.

Although we do not know the hour or the day of our final moments on earth, we do have an example of how to live our life. Jesus is our example, and his life demonstrates love and service to others. On the final evening with his disciples, he included an act of service. As his modern-day disciples, may we all continue to carry on his example by serving others each and every day of our lives.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your name. — Psalm 86.11

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 16 (Listen – 3:15)
Philippians 3 (Listen – 3:21)

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