Monday, March 9, 2009

Luke 6 (and 16) - The Letter or the Intent

Jesus had a number of fights with the Pharisees regarding the Sabbath. Over and over he did things on the Sabbath day that the Pharisees declared were not allowed. He healed people, picked grain, told people to carry their mats, etc.

Why all the fighting? What was the big deal?
Jesus was doing what he always did - trying to get people to think. He wanted them to see the heart of the matter, the reason behind the Sabbath restrictions, not just the restrictions themselves.

The Pharisees knew the Sabbath laws, what they didn't remember (or consider) was why they were instituted. Were they written to enforce inactivity one day a week? Were they written to keep people from being overworked? Were they written to make God more important than work? Were they written to give people a specific time to turn their hearts to what God wants?
The fourth commandment tells us to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. This intent was to be accomplished by refraining from working. This day was different, it was special, it should not just be treated like the other 6 days which were filled with work. Not working was the means, not the end.

Back to Jesus. What was he doing on the Sabbath? If he was healing people, feeding people, saving people, could anything be more holy? Would the day have been more holy if he sat home and twiddled his thumbs? The Pharisees were looking at the letter of the law (which they had refined, polished, applied, multiplied and reapplied) while Jesus was looking at the intent.

Those jerks! We would never do such a thing! But this is our natural tendency. Turn to Luke 16 and read the parable of the shrewd manager. Go ahead. It irks you a little bit doesn't it? If not, go read it again. The manager stole form the owner, then stole again after he got caught and the owner applauds him for it! That's not right. It's not fair! He should have been punished and yelled at, not applauded. We are stuck on the letter of the law, not the Intent.

Let's break it down. Who are we in the story? We're the manager. God is the owner. If we look at the story, we've been caught not being good managers of what God has given us. Protest all you want, this is where we all fall. (Even if you've tithed everything since the first allowance money you were given, EVERYTHING you have is God's and intended for his uses. Everything we spend [dollars or hours] on something other than God's service is mis-management.) So far, so good (or not good).

So, what does the manager do? He uses the owner's stuff (that he has control of) to make friends. (Don't think, "I'll give you $50 to hang out with me." Think "I'll pick up the tab" or "This round is on me.") The manager does NOT pocket the money. He doesn't keep it for himself - he uses it. More specifically, he uses it to build relationships. A relationship with a Christian is the first step in a relationship with Christ.

The letter of the law says, "Give a tenth of everything you own to God." The intent of the law is that all of our possessions belong to God and should be used to Love God and Love People. It is literally the least we should do to give a tenth. The parable says that before we die (get fired), we should start using some of what God has entrusted with us to make friends and influence people.

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