Greed and Justice

By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down. Proverbs 29:4

It’s not an accident that we see leaders in the news who want to make a little extra cash on the side, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois comes to mind. Unfortunately, he’s not alone; he’s the one who got caught and it happened to be associated with the current President of the United States’ former Senate seat. You can see how it happens: millions of dollars in Federal, State, and local budgets. Why shouldn’t someone who makes a mere $150K per year want to take a little more on the side? No one gets hurt and the per capita “contribution” is mere dollars. But the Bible says it’s wrong and it tears down a country.

“Extreme,” you say? Consider this. What is it about America that keeps people coming every year? Before you answer, let me ask another question. If you’re on trial for a crime you did not commit in a South American country, for example, what is the likelihood that you will go free after your trial? You don’t know who has formally accused you. You don’t know what kind of money has changed hands to see that you’re incarcerated, and you don’t know if the judge is honest or corrupt. Of course I’m making a large generalization about an entire continent but due process is one of the hallmarks of people coming to the United States: you’re innocent until proven guilty.

But, as Scriptures tell us, that can change quickly. As people become more and more greedy, their quest for justice fades quickly. The verdict of a fair trial is up to the highest bidder. We see it in the U.S. and cringe at the consequences. Fortunately, it’s the exception and not the norm.

So, pray for those in authority by name. Pray for them regularly that they would be fair and impartial, and that they would not become greedy.

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True Justice

Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that man gets justice. Proverbs 29:26

As I write this, hundreds of thousands are descending on Washington D.C. for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. It is not hard to imagine that many are straining for that one glimpse of the president. Others will get a chance to meet and greet the new president. Some will have their own agendas; others will just want to say that they met the President of the United States in person. Very few, however, will get more than a few minutes with the President.

After the inauguration and into the presidency, many will go to Washington so that they can have a few minutes with the most powerful leader of the free world.

What's interesting about this one obscure verse in the Book of Proverbs is that no one really needs to leave their homes to have an audience with One more powerful than the President (or any other ruler for that matter). We only need the confidence and trust that God is more powerful and more in control than a President, Prime Minister, or Benevolent Dictator could ever be.

We may not get justice we desire by going to rulers; we will get the justice we need, however, by going to God.

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Honest Prophets

Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.”

The prophet answered, “As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused. 2 Kings 5:14-16

What a very different society we live in today! Today the so-called “prophet” would require the healed one to give a large gift because of the miraculous healing. I of course hold a very cynical view of the modern-day profiteers who think nothing of asking for money for a prayer cloth or a piece of jewelry that has been blessed by the “man (or woman) of God.”

For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers…they must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach–and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Titus 1:10-11

In the days we live in, Brothers and Sisters, we need to be extremely cautious in our associations.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7

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Wash Seven Times in the Jordan

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. 2 Kings 5:8-14

This is the “meat” of the Naaman the Leper story. Go and wash seven times in the Jordan. Not five or six times, but seven. Very specific number and location.

The lesson today is short: what is God saying to you today? What is it on your heart that God is showing you that you need to do? Or perhaps the question is, what are you avoiding doing that you know you need to do? I’m not referring to a super-mystical experience as many might have these days. I’m talking about a plain ordinary nudge of the Holy Spirit to do (or not do) something. What is He revealing to you?

You’ll have much greater peace when you finally do it.

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Miscommunication Happens

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. I will send a letter to the king of Israel. So Naaman left, taking with him 10 talents of silver, 6000 shekels of gold and 10 sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: "With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.” As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!” 2 Kings 5:4-7

We deal with miscommunication nearly every day of our lives. He said something that she didn't like but it wasn't exactly what he had said really. She had misinterpreted body language or tone, or perhaps the words didn't flow out of his mouth as fluently as it should have. Feelings get hurt and harsh words get said. 

E-mail is another form of communication that is often misinterpreted and misunderstood. We write things in ways that make formal typewritten letters seem archaic and old-fashioned. Or how about that e-mail that was sent before it was finished or even it was sent to the wrong recipient because the names were side by side in the address list. In fact, just before I wrote this, I rechecked an Sent e-mails because I happen to know two Franks and I wanted to be sure that the e-mail was sent to Frank1 because Frank2 might have been hurt if he had read what I had written about the organization we're all in together.

So here are a few practical tips we need to employ regularly when communicating with others:

  • Be sure you understand what is being discussed or asked of you.
  • Take your time in communicating your thoughts and ask for immediate feedback that what you had said was understood ("is that making sense to you?").
  • In e-mails write to be understood not to be cute.
  • Jokes are often misunderstood in e-mails. If you are ever in doubt about whether something will not be perceived as humorous, use the colon, right parenthesis for a smiley face :)  The alternative is to remove the questionable remarks completely.
  • Lastly, have a 3rd party bystander read your e-mail for clarity and tone. You'd be surprised what you're communicating through e-mails.
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I Know a Man

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.
Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
2 Kings 5:1-3

When we think of the story of Naaman, it’s often associated with him dipping into the Jordan seven times to be healed, but there’s much more to the story. We don’t often have a good idea of how people actually meet the person who solves their problem.

In this story we have the King of Aram, Naaman the army commander, his wife, his wife’s servant (a captive from Israel), and eventually the prophet Elisha. The servant girl learns about Naaman’s condition and tells her mistress (Naaman’s wife) about Elisha. You have to give this gal a lot of credit to speak up like she did. Servant girls did not get a chance to do this often, I would think. They weren’t thinking, feeling individuals. They were servants. Obviously Naaman’s wife took notice and informed her husband.

We don’t know the servant girl’s name but her legacy lives on. There’s power in leading a humble, quiet life. You don’t get to be heard often, but when you do, it can be life changing.

God’s kingdom is big enough for the boisterous (who often try to change the shy)…and the quieter ones. And pretty much everyone in between.

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He Speaks

A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said. “How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked. But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.'” Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord. 2 Kings 4:42-44

If we didn’t know any better, we’d say that this story comes directly out of the New Testament from the feeding of the 4000 and 5000! Once again God supplied the needs of a hundred people. Sure, the servant could have gone out and bought more bread and grain, but he didn’t need to. When Elisha was hearing from God, I’m certain he didn’t know how it would play out but it did.

We don’t know the name of the servant, but he played a key role in feeding these people. This servant had to trust a man of God he didn’t know to perform a miracle I’m sure he’d never seen before. He probably thought Elisha was a crackpot. But the Lord had anointed Elisha to do great things

God used a servant and a prophet to feed 100 people; one was a follower, the other was clearly a leader. He still speaks to those who will listen; he still moves in hearts; at times he still speaks through others. And of course He still speaks to people through His word.

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After Seeking Advice

Jeroboam thought to himself that “the kingdom, will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam. After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt. 1 Kings 12:26-28

Advice is good. Bad advice is, well, bad. How can you tell the difference between the two? In the case of the passage above, Jeroboam knew what he was doing but wanted his counselors to sanction it. Kings and powerful leaders throughout history have surrounded themselves with "yes men." Followers learn quickly what to say and what not to say around their king. Often their lives depended on it. So too was the case with Jeroboam. He knew what he wanted, probably let his counselors know it too and wanted verification that he was doing right.

We do this in a more subtle way in our lives. We really really want to do something. The thing we are thinking about may be a very good thing. We think and believe in our minds that God must be in it since it's the only thing we've been thinking about for days and why would he put this in our minds for such a long time if it wasn't from Him? Then you ask God to sanction (bless) it when you actually go through with it.

The lines are often blurred between what we want and what we believe God wants. Too often we let our emotions get in the way. Too often what we want is not at all what God wants but we're afraid of letting go for fear of losing something we really really wanted. What's worse is when this applies to relationships we know deep down aren't healthy or right for us. We continue in them anyway and ask God to bless something that is flawed and unhealthy from the start.

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God Raised Up an Adversary

Then the Lord raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite…And God raised up against Solomon another adversary, Rezon son of Eliada…1 Kings 11:14, 23

We get to see a very different side of God in this passage. Generally, we tend to think that the opposition we face in life is entirely of the Devil's doing! Not so. Twice within a dozen verses God raised up an adversary against the King of Israel, Solomon. Solomon's heart had turned away from God and the anger of the Lord burned against him (1 Kings 11:9).

God had given Solomon great wisdom and he had squandered it. He married many foreign women and they had led him astray with their foreign gods. Here is a man who was seeking, searching for the truth, trying to fill his void. He had it all. And he had experienced God in a great way. But the Scriptures tell us that Solomon had done evil in the eyes of the Lord (1 Kings 11:6). You still can't help shake the nagging feeling that God was trying to tell Solomon something very important. There was still hope for Solomon.

God is still in the business of trying to shake us and wake us. His methods are often unconventional, and He can deploy any means at his disposal (which happens to be the entire creation) to get us to open our eyes. God has not written any of us off.

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