Even before I could afford a self-cleaning oven, I managed to keep my oven clean. Guests even commented on it when we had them over for a meal. “Wow, your oven is so clean. It looks like new.” I accepted the praise even though I knew I didn’t deserve it. The reason my oven was clean had nothing to do with my meticulous scrubbing; it was clean because I so seldom used it.
How often, I wonder, am I guilty of accepting undeserved admiration for my “clean” life? It’s easy to give the impression of being virtuous; simply do nothing difficult, controversial, or upsetting to people. But Jesus said we are to love people who don’t agree with us, who don’t share our values, who don’t even like us. Love requires that we get involved in the messy situations of people’s lives. Jesus was frequently in trouble with religious leaders who were more concerned about keeping their own reputations clean than they were about the spiritual condition of those they were supposed to care for. They considered Jesus and His disciples unclean for mingling with sinners when they were simply trying to rescue people from their destructive way of life (Luke 5:30-31).
True disciples of Jesus are willing to risk their own reputations to help others out of the mire of sin.
Dear Lord, give me a heart of compassion for those who are lost in sin. Help me not to be concerned about what others think of me but only that Your holy name will be honored.
Christ sends us out to bring others in.
The role of tax collector in first-century Israel was quite different from what we would think today. Ancient Rome operated on the back of the taxes drained from conquered lands like Israel. This was overseen by the local governor (or procurator), but it was actually accomplished by local citizens like Levi (also known as Matthew), who worked for Rome. These tax collectors, however, were not viewed as simple agents or bureaucrats. They were known to charge higher taxes than were due and to pocket the excess. They were despised as collaborators who had aligned themselves with the hated occupying force. The taxes they collected were a continuing symbol of the oppression the Jews felt as a conquered people, and the tax collectors were considered participants in that oppression.
On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in response to the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. Within 90 days, other European countries had taken sides to honor their military alliances and pursue their own ambitions. A single event escalated into World War I, one of the most destructive military conflicts of modern time.
The tragedy of war is staggering, yet our relationships and families can begin to fracture with only a few hateful words. James wrote, “See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (James 3:5). A key to avoiding verbal conflict is found in Proverbs: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1).
A small comment can start a large fight. When we, by God’s grace, choose not to retaliate with our words, we honor Jesus our Savior. When He was abused and insulted, He fulfilled the prophetic words of Isaiah, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth” (Isa. 53:7).
Proverbs urges us to speak the truth and seek peace through our words. “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, . . . and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!” (15:4,23).
A careless word may kindle strife, A cruel word may wreck a life; A timely word may lessen stress, A loving word may heal and bless. —Anon.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
A major theme in Proverbs concerns the use of our tongues (10:19-21; 12:18, 13:3; 17:27-28; 18:6-8; 25:11; 26:18-22). Proverbs 15 warns of the consequences of using wrong words and the benefits of using right words. A wise person is carefully restrained and judicious when speaking (vv.2,7,28).
“I’ve got bad news for you,” said the builder, who was renovating an old house I had inherited. “When we started to convert the back half of the garage for your office, we found that the walls had almost no foundation. We will have to demolish them, dig proper foundations, and start again.”
“Do you have to do that?” I pleaded, silently calculating the extra cost. “Can’t you just patch it up?” But the builder was adamant. “Unless we go down to the proper depth, the building inspector won’t approve it. The right foundation is vital.”
The right foundation makes the difference between something that lasts and something temporary. Jesus knew that though foundations are invisible, they are vitally important to the strength and stability of the house (Matt. 7:24-25), especially when it is battered by the elements. He also knew the hearts of His listeners. They would be tempted to take the easy way, find shortcuts, or do things by halves to gain their objectives.
Other foundations may be quicker and easier. Building our lives on the right foundation is hard work, but God’s truth is the only bedrock worth building on. When the storms of life hit, houses built on and held together by Him stand firm.
Father, the winds of life’s storms can be powerful and threatening. Thank You for the foundation of the truth of Your faithfulness. Help me to rely on Your strength in my storms.
The wise man builds his house upon the Rock.
Jesus had just finished giving His “Sermon on the Mount” when He used the analogy found in today’s passage. His teachings provide a stable foundation that will weather any storm. The wind, the rain, and the house are not the problem. The house built on the sand fell down because the sand provided no support in the wind and rain. The wind and rain washed and blew away the foundation so that there was nothing to support the house. Even the best house will crumble with no foundation.