Mourning: A Blessing in Disguise

Mourning: A Blessing in Disguise

Part 10 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

Here we are, at the second of Jesus’ famous beatitudes. Last week, we explored the radically paradoxical implications of what Jesus meant when he said, “blessed are the poor” (Matthew 5:3, Luke 6:20). If you haven’t read that article already, we encourage you to do so as it’s clear from reading the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament that wealth & poverty is an extremely important theme for us as Christians.

This week’s topic–blessed are those who mourn–seems a bit more straightforward, probably because mourning is a lot less controversial than Jesus’ revolutionary economics. Still, this second beatitude is paradoxical, and hopefully we can start unpacking a bit of that together!

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

Blessed are you who weep now,

for you will laugh.

Luke 6:21

Like we mentioned at the start of our dive into the beatitudes, it’s interesting to note that Matthew’s version seems to focus more on the state of one’s spirit, whereas Luke’s version is more focused on the physical side. Here is a great example: Matthew writes about a mourning spirit, whereas Luke focuses in on what people who mourn actually do (i.e. weep).

And what powerful language these two words are! Mourn and weep. It suggests bereavement, like the loss of a loved one. Which of course brings to mind the orphans and widows whom Jesus & his disciples often expressed compassion for (Luke 7:12-13, James 1:27), or the fathers who sought for Jesus to heal their sick children (Mark 5:22-24, Luke 9:38-41, John 4:47-50).

Suffering is an inevitable part of life. It’s how we face these challenges that makes all the difference. In our American culture (as well as many others), it is often viewed as a shameful thing to express deep pain or sorrow, especially for men. But when we suppress our natural instincts to feel and show grief, we’re actually denying ourselves the chance to experience deep healing/comfort. That’s at least part of what Jesus is saying in this second beatitude. Our loving Father wants to offer us comfort when we mourn. He joins us in solidarity with our pain. Or maybe the reverse is more accurate! When we grieve, we actually join in solidarity with God who feels the pain of the whole world down to each individual.

And it’s not just for our own, personal suffering that we must learn to allow ourselves to mourn, either. Do we mourn for our brothers & sisters who are being persecuted in far-away countries? Do we mourn over the fact that approximately every 10 seconds, one child dies of hunger-related causes (BBC)? Do we mourn for this war-torn world? Do we mourn all these things and more, or do we allow our love to grow cold (Matthew 24:12)? The great suffering of every human, creature, and even plant-life is validated & mourned in the eyes of God, and so we must be in solidarity with God on this, too. (Although the suffering of the world is more of a discussion for a later beatitude, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice” [Matthew 5:6, NLT].)

In this second beatitude, “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”, we will stay focused on personal sorrow and the comfort that God wants to extend to us. Here is the heart of the paradox: it is blessed to mourn because in that state of vulnerable surrender to pain, we open ourselves up to the opportunity to receive God’s loving comfort. If we deny the pain, then we simultaneously deny God’s offer of comfort because we are too proud to admit that we need it. It takes strength and a humble spirit to admit weakness and accept help, which seems to be what Jesus wants us to understand in this beatitude.

So it’s probably fairly obvious how this particular saying of Jesus is part of the Good News (i.e. the Gospel): if we lift our grief up to God, He will reach down to offer us comfort. But maybe it’s not so readily apparent what this has to do with loving God, our neighbor, and each other. Still, it’s there if we dig a little deeper…

Embracing this relational exchange with God of our sorrow for His comfort is part of a deeper, more mature relationship between ourselves and our Heavenly Father. Rather than try to fix our pain all by ourselves, we can learn to bring our problems to God and place them in His hands. This is an act of humble surrender that isn’t always easy to do (because we too often think that we should be able to take matters into our own hands!), but each time we do practice this exchange, our relationship with God deepens and we learn to trust & love Him more.

Surrendering to our pain also shows love for our neighbor as well as for each other in a few different ways, depending on the situation. If we are mourning for the loss of a loved one, then we are acknowledging the deep impact this person had on us. Our grief is a testimony to the loving relationship we had with this person. If we are mourning in solidarity with the pain of another person, then we are showing empathy which is surely a sign of deep love & care for the other. And even if we are mourning for a private hurt, there is opportunity to experience interpersonal love if we take our pain to a loved one or community of loved ones. This last example is very similar to the relational exchange we described in the last paragraph between ourselves and God (where we give Him our sorrow and He gives us His comfort), and in fact, going to loved ones with our pain may be one of the ways that God moves to comfort us!

So even in our difficult experiences with life’s inevitable suffering, even when we feel like we are drowning in pain, we have an opportunity to make this very human experience a fulfillment of our call as Christians to love God, our neighbor, and each other. Now that is truly a blessing!


What do you think? What does it mean to you to be blessed for mourning? Have you had an experience of suffering where you experienced God’s love and comfort? Please share in the comments below, or you can email us at thefaithworker@gmail.com

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Blessed Poverty: A Paradigm Shift

Blessed Poverty: A Paradigm Shift

Part 9 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

The beatitudes are probably some of the most well-known of Jesus’ sayings, yet we so easily read right over them, not really asking ourselves what he means. But when we put in the effort to listen, we are often quite surprised and even puzzled by what Jesus has to say. Possibly one of the most radically paradoxical and subversive of the beatitudes is the first one:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3

Blessed are you who are poor,

for yours is the kingdom of God.

Luke 6:20

Whether you prefer Matthew’s version or Luke’s version, Jesus is clearly trying to get us to think in a totally new way. He’s creating a paradigm shift where it’s actually the poor (not the rich) who are blessed by God. This goes against everything that we think we understand: isn’t wealth a sign of God’s blessing–not poverty? The culture of Jesus’ day certainly thought so, and our modern culture continues to believe this as well (even if it’s sometimes expressed in more secular terms). So let’s take a moment to explore what this first beatitude really means.

Looking at Strong’s Concordance, we learn that the word “poor” in both Matthew and Luke is translated from the word “ptwcoj”: “a beggar… i.e. pauper (strictly denoting absolute or public mendicancy)”. (Mendicancy means “the condition of being a beggar” according to Merriam-Webster.)

So another way to translate Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20 would be “blessed are the beggars who live off handouts“!

Living in Blessed Poverty

What does this mean for us as disciples of Jesus? It means that at the very least, many of us need a bit of a paradigm-shift on what kind of person is favored by God. Rather than looking down our noses on street beggars, we should learn to see them through the loving eyes of God.

But we shouldn’t stop there… Just because many of us are not poor now, does not mean that we cannot voluntarily adopt a lifestyle of blessed poverty. This brings us back to a few of our earlier posts in the Living Waters Series where we discussed what it means to practice Jesus’ command to forsake all our possessions (Luke 14:33) by selling what we have and giving the proceeds to the poor (Luke 12:33) and then working for God instead of money (Matthew 6:24). If you haven’t read these already, we strongly encourage you to check them out now for an idea of how you, too, can begin your discipleship journey into a life of blessed poverty the Jesus Way!

In first world countries, poverty virtually does not exist. We can say this because we know from personal experience: we are well below the poverty line of the United States where we live because we have chosen to live very simply by practicing Jesus’ teachings (more on that below). We have learned to live on less by sharing with others in Christian community and giving up little things like TVs, eating at restaurants, and even big things like living in houses/apartments. Despite this fact, we do not plead poverty because we have abundant access to all the necessities of life. For example, we have more than enough food for each day, and it’s mostly very healthy food, too. We also have access to health care, shelter (our little old RV), and transportation.

Poverty in first world countries is mostly just a matter of perspective, which is where Matthew’s version really rings true: blessed are the poor in spirit. Sure, we could try to keep up with the insatiable materialism of our country, demanding things like TVs, a multi-bedroom apartment/house, two or more cars, the latest devices, etc. But we would probably have to stop working for God full time, get a “normal” job somewhere, and thus become trapped in the vicious cycle of making money just to spend it on things we really don’t need, never having enough time (or energy) to do God’s work.

There are many ways to simplify our lives. Our way of going about it is inspired by the teachings of Jesus, but we certainly don’t have the monopoly on minimalist living! In fact, we even know people who live much more simply than us even here in the States. (Click here to learn about “the man who quit money”.) We would say, however, that if you’re interested in becoming Jesus’ disciple, then it may be wise to consider trying some of the methods that we use to embrace poverty because we use Jesus’ teachings as our framework. The more we learn about and get to know others who are embracing the poor-in-spirit lifestyle, the more inspired we get and the easier it becomes to be content with the basics (Matthew 6:32-33, 1 Timothy 6:6-8).

All this being said, however, we must not forget that Luke’s version isn’t talking about those of us who have the privilege of choosing to live without the excess luxuries of our wealthy society. Here, Jesus really is challenging our preconceptions about who God sees as the blessed ones.

“Poverty” in America vs. True Poverty

We mentioned earlier that real poverty does not exist in first-world countries. It is true that there are people who are on the streets even here in the United States who are in desperate need of help. But what kind of help do they need? Are they struggling to get enough food for themselves and their families? Do they have access to functional clothing? Are they able to take shelter somewhere? Is it possible for them to get enough money for any of these things? We know that very few homeless people here in the United States are struggling to get enough food, clothes, money, shelter, you name it. (And we’d be happy to share our experience with you if you’re not as confident about this as we are. Just leave a comment below.)

So what’s the deal? The fact is, most of the homeless population in the United States is the result of addiction or mental illness. So yes, homeless Americans do need serious help, and fortunately, this help is available. Both of these tragic conditions (addiction and mental illness) can be treated by many organizations that exist here in the States if the homeless person is truly interested in getting help.

Unfortunately, these kinds of “safety nets” do not exist in third-world countries where people stay desperately poor no matter how hard they work, simply because the world economy has been rigged against them.

We feel that this is a very important point to keep in mind when deciding where to invest our resources as Christians in charity. If you have a heart for the homeless here in the United States, there is certainly nothing wrong with responsibly sharing your time or money to support the organizations that exist to help them. However, we would strongly encourage you to consider learning more about the needs of those who do not have enough of the absolute necessities of life and consider helping them as well. We trust that you will find that there is greater need in developing countries than in the United States. Here’s a great place to start: World Vision.

The Good News

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he read from Isaiah 61, saying “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor,” and then commenting that “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:18-21). So Jesus is claiming that he has been anointed to bring the Good News (i.e. the Gospel) to the poor. And yes, that word “poor” from the Isaiah passage is the same one Jesus uses in the beatitudes (Strong’s Concordance)!

We don’t think it’s a mistake that Jesus didn’t mention that he would also be preaching the Gospel (Good News) to the rich. As much as we at Faith Worker Ministries try to “heal the blind” by teaching the rich to see the Good News of Jesus’ teachings (i.e. the Gospel), the truth is that it really isn’t very Good News for those of us with relative wealth and power (when compared to the rest of the world). We are much more like Roman citizens than we are like the outcasts of an oppressed and occupied country (e.g. the Jewish lepers, tax collectors, and prostitutes) who became Jesus’ closest friends and disciples. We, with our imperialistic privilege (like the Romans) and great religious pride (like the Pharisees), really have a long way to go in humbling ourselves before the one who we so strongly proclaim as our Lord and Savior, learning to truly live in accordance with his teachings.

But as we talked about towards the beginning of this article, even those of us who are not among the ptwcoj (poor/beggars) of the world can learn to see through God’s eyes and thus embrace the Gospel. We can learn to see how it actually is Good News for us to choose a life of poverty by practicing the clear teachings of Jesus that we mentioned earlier (Luke 14:33, 12:33, and Matthew 6:24).

Check out our articles about these teachings by following the links provided at the end of this paragraph. These articles will also explain how choosing to become one of the ptwcoj by following Jesus’ teachings helps us embody the ultimate goal of the Christian life: love for God, neighbor, and each other! So please do take the opportunity to read through these articles from our Living Waters Series: Entering the Next Dimension, 2 Simple Steps to Gain Heavenly Treasures, and Who’s Your Ma$ter?

Another way to look at this whole issue of the Gospel (Good News) being for the poor and not the rich is this: our planet is quickly deteriorating due to the insatiable demands for resources that the wealthy have created. The fact is that everyone could live much more simply and efficiently, and the fate of our planet would look much less grim. But the whole world cannot live like we do here in the United States and other first world countries. We can barely even sustain this tiny population (less than one billion people live in first world countries) as it is! So when we look at it from this perspective, it becomes obvious that the bad news is how we currently live, even if it’s convenient and familiar. The good news is that we may still have time to turn things around and learn to live happily on less. Jesus’ teachings about materialism provide the perfect framework for us to learn how to do exactly that.


This has become quite a long letter! Thanks for sticking it out with us, brothers and sisters. We’ve covered a lot of ground, and yet we’ve only just scratched the surface of this first beatitude. How do you see this beatitude playing out in your own life? Is there anything you think you can do differently? What stands out to you when you read, “blessed are the beggars (ptwcoj)”? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, or you can email us at thefaithworker@gmail.com.

We hope to catch you again next week!

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Your Map to Blessed Living

Your Map to Blessed Living

Part 8 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

So far in our Living Waters Series, we have discussed what Jesus taught about love for God & others, as well as what it takes to begin the journey of discipleship. What we’ve discovered so far is that everything Jesus ever taught reveals the way to love more perfectly. So now that we’ve covered some of the fundamentals, we’d like to jump right in to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, & 7) and make our way through each of Christ’s teachings there. We’ll be a little flexible, jumping around the rest of the four gospels where we feel led and where it seems appropriate, but for the most part, we’ll be sticking to Matthew 5-7 for the next good chunk of our Living Waters Series.

That means we’re starting with the beatitudes! The goal of our Living Waters Series is to reveal how everything Jesus said really is Good News (i.e. the Gospel), and part of that revelation is how all of his teachings show us better ways to love God, our neighbor, and each other. It may seem obvious that the beatitudes are Good News, but on closer examination, many of us (especially in first-world countries) don’t quite fit the description of those who are called blessed. Not only that, but when you really think about what Jesus is saying, it’s all very counter-intuitive!

That’s because Jesus is introducing a new Kingdom–the Kingdom of God–a new Way of life. Those who we normally think of as being blessed/privileged (e.g. citizens of first-world countries), these people are actually set at a disadvantage–according to Jesus–in entering his new Kingdom (Luke 18:24-28). Our privilege makes us comfortable, less interested in the new Way of life that Jesus teaches about. In contrast, those who are oppressed, impoverished, and suffering have an easier time seeing the Good News of Jesus’ teachings without needing to be shown by others (like what we’re doing in this series). These blessed ones are much more likely to accept Jesus’ Way of life and the Kingdom of God that his teachings herald.

However, this does not mean that those of us who were born in first-world countries cannot learn to adopt the attitudes that Jesus identifies as truly blessed. So that will be the main point that we discuss as we journey through the beatitudes together: how to live more like the beatitudes! And of course, we will continue with our usual theme of how to love God & others better using Jesus’ teachings.

The problem that often comes with some of the more familiar teachings of Jesus (as with anything that gets repeated over and over) is that we often lose sight of what it actually means. So when the meaning of a word or a phrase or a whole passage begins to break down, we need to slow down and think deeply about what it’s actually saying. That’s why we will explore each verse on its own over the next few weeks, really taking time with each line of the beatitudes to make sure we don’t miss any nuggets of wisdom from the Word of God who is Jesus (John 1:1 & 14, Revelation 19:13)! We’ll use Matthew’s version as our chronological structure, adding the parallel from Luke’s version where one exists.

But for now, we’ll just brush over the beatitudes together to get the whole picture fresh in our minds. We started practicing this slow reading with the beatitudes ourselves, and one of the things that became apparent to us is that Matthew’s version seems to be focused on the state of one’s spirit (with the possible exception of the last bit about persecution), whereas Luke’s version seems to be focused on the physical state. We’ll quote the two passages side-by-side so you can see what we mean.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12

Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

Luke 6:20-23

Does this mean that one version is wrong and the other one is right? That may be a discussion better left to those who are more qualified to speculate on the historical reliability of the gospels. For us as simple disciples of Jesus, we will file this revelation away in a folder titled “Awaiting Further Light”. And in the meantime, we will take both versions as equally true. And anyway, that just feels right, doesn’t it? Jesus’ life & ministry seems to focus a lot on finding the right balance between spiritual and physical. So it would make sense for us to also focus on trying to achieve this balance between spirit & matter: both our spiritual and physical sides need to be brought into proper standing.

And that’s what the beatitudes are all about! Jesus describes for us what the most excellent state of being is. He’s telling us what kind of person is blessed, and the amazing thing is that anyone can adopt this lifestyle! Anyone can choose to develop these blessed characteristics, thus moving us all closer to that ideal of love for God & others that we first set out to accomplish at the beginning of our Living Waters Series.

Now that we’ve brushed over both versions, we’re ready to go line-by-line through the beatitudes to see what we can uncover together. So join us next week as we explore how each verse reveals a beautiful way of life which improves our ability to love God, our neighbor, and each other!

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries

Hard Teaching, Good News: More on the God or Money Gospel

Hard Teaching, Good News: More on the God or Money Gospel

Part 7 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

Last week, we began to uncover one of the least popular and least practiced teachings of Jesus. And yet, it is also so fundamental to our walk as Christians. So, we wanted to take a second week in order to address this very important subject.

What is this teaching that we’re talking about? If you read our previous Living Waters post, then you’ll know we’re referring to what is often called the “two masters” teaching, or the “God or money” teaching.

Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Matthew 6:24

We explored many aspects of this teaching in our previous post: what it means for us, how it should impact and transform our lives, how this is all part of the Gospel (& repentance), and how it helps us show greater love to God, our neighbor, and each other.

But we want to take things a little further using cross-references to offer encouragement while we all continue to pray about how we can apply Jesus’ teachings to our own lives. The cross-references also show that this God or money teaching is not a proof-text, but that it is a consistent teaching all throughout Jesus’ ministry.

Parallel

The first of our cross-references is actually a perfect parallel in Luke’s account: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13). The fact that this teaching has been recorded twice by two different authors reveals that it had been thoroughly circulated and preserved by oral tradition & the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) during the few decades in between the cross and the actual writing of the gospel accounts. For historical documents, this proves a high level of credibility to the God or money teaching.

Now, the verse that comes immediately after is one we have always found to be an insightful and even comical addition to the battle between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day: “The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him” (Luke 16:14). There Jesus goes again, cutting right down to the root of things, and consequently, the religious people in charge get offended. Classic.

But perhaps another reason why we find this verse funny (in a not-so-funny kind of way), is because most people–especially Christians–respond to us with the same exact reaction as the Pharisees once gave to Jesus. Other translations say that the Pharisees (who loved money) ridiculed or sneered at Jesus for his teaching about the choice between working for God and working for money. Yep, that is exactly how most church-people respond even today, and that is a very scary thing, brothers and sisters.

Examine your own spirit. When you hear Jesus say that in order to show God our love, we must stop working for money (remember that “working for” is the same thing as “serving”), how do you respond? It’s okay if you don’t think you fully understand it yet or if you maybe even get a little nervous! (We as human beings often react in fear to revelation from God; e.g. Luke 2:10, Matthew 14:27) But what do you do with that fear? Do you try to overcome fear with faith in God and His Son? Or do you try to defend that fear with pride like the Pharisees did, mocking both the message and messenger–criticizing, dismissing, sneering, scoffing, ridiculing… Your reaction will reveal who your master really is.

We pray that you do not respond like the Pharisees to the divine teaching of our Lord, brothers and sisters. Let us sit humbly before Christ and let him speak into our lives, guiding us out of fear and into faith.

Eternal Sustenance

The next cross-reference to the God or money teaching is found in the Gospel according to John:

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.

John 6:27

Why do most of us work in jobs for pay? Isn’t it to provide food for ourselves and our families (among other things like clothing, shelter, and here in the first world, lots of “toys” to play with)? That’s why we often hear from people that the reason why they will not choose to work for God instead of money is because they are afraid that they (and their children) will starve.

While we can certainly understand the concerns that trigger this sort of response from people, we also know from personal experience that God’s will is to feed and clothe us while we work to build up His Kingdom on Earth:

Don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Matthew 6:31-33

We must not forget verses like these from Matthew 6 and John 6. Jesus promises us abundance… but probably not in the exact way that we usually think of abundance.

The Abundant Life

Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

Other translations reveal that Jesus is talking about a “full” life, a “satisfying” life, life “in all its fullness.” So this is not the prosperity gospel, like some people would claim. This is about the true Gospel.

But the sad truth is that when people hear Christ talk about working for God instead of money, the way they react shows that they think Jesus is the one trying to “steal and kill and destroy!” They don’t hear the Gospel, the Good News.

But reading John 10:10 again, we realize that it isn’t Jesus who is trying to “steal and kill and destroy”… It’s “the thief” (aka Satan) who does that.

So who are we listening to when we respond in anger or fear to the teachings of Jesus?

Remember, Jesus is the one who wants to give us a full and satisfying life. So when he tells us how to live our lives (like working for God instead of money), then he’s telling us how we can live more abundantly!

I Will Give You Rest

The last cross-reference that we want to share with you today is from Matthew 11.

Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

What a perfect way to describe the transition from working for money to working for God… So many of us can relate to the feeling of stress that comes from overbearing bosses, difficult coworkers, rude clients, aggressive deadlines, long hours, and inadequate pay. But even if we love our jobs, most of us still feel that something is missing.

And that is where the offer that Jesus is giving to us comes in, to spend our time working for the Source of All Love, trusting that He will provide for our needs (Matthew 6:24-33).

We mentioned in our previous post that working for God instead of money gives us a life of complete freedom. God empowers us to design our own schedules, choose our own projects, and the benefits are incredible… and eternal! Talk about an easy yoke!


Jesus’ teachings are never bad news, and hopefully these cross-references have helped you to better understand how the God or money teaching is just another (important) piece of his Gospel.

But the question we must all ask ourselves is, Do I have the eyes to see and the ears to hear it?

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries

Who’s Your Ma$ter?

Who’s Your Ma$ter?

Part 6 of the Living Waters Series

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Matthew 6:24, NIV

serve /sərv/
verb:
1. perform duties or services for (another person or an organization).
synonyms: work for

Dear brothers & sisters,

If you’re just now jumping in to our Living Waters Series, we are embarking on a quest to encourage and help others who are seeking a deeper faith journey. We have personally experienced a radical transformation in our own lives by putting the teachings of Jesus into practice. This path has brought us freedom, purpose, and a deeper relationship with God; and indeed, it is the genuine Christianity that was practiced by Jesus’ disciples, the first Christians. We want to encourage you to also consider becoming a genuine disciple of Jesus, seeking to practice the teachings of our Lord in everything you do!

So of course, we started the Living Waters Series by exploring what it means to show love: for God, our neighbor, and each other. Using the words of Jesus as our guide, we learned how we as Christians should show our love in these three aspects of our lives.

The next logical place to go was the very fundamental of discipleship in Christ, according to Jesus himself: the forsake all principle. Here, we learned about what Jesus expects of us, the cost of discipleship. (Follow the links to readpart 4 and part 5.)

Now, picking up where we left off, we will explore another truly fundamental stage of our early development as disciples of Jesus. And, much like the forsake all teaching, this one is also strangely unpopular, yet it is an essential part of the Gospel message and what it means to actually follow Jesus… at least that’s what he tells us! We will also explain how this next teaching really is Good News (meaning, it’s part of the Gospel!) despite its unpopularity, and how it is yet another teaching in which Jesus shows us the Way to love God, our neighbor, and each other. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

In our previous Living Waters post, we read from Luke 12, where Jesus teaches us that if we sell our possessions and give to the poor, we gain eternal treasures in heaven (v. 33-34). We also saw how this method of forsaking all our material possessions is part of what Jesus means when he encourages us to seek God’s Kingdom first, allowing God to provide for all our needs (v. 31-32).

These teachings (and the ones immediately before in v. 22-30) are also recorded by Matthew in the famous Sermon on the Mount. Here, we find a slightly different context, but the theme is the same: Do not worry about your life; if you seek to serve God by building up His Kingdom, then He will supply everything you need to both survive and thrive! In the Gospel according to Matthew, it goes like this (with emphasis on the parts that are different from Luke’s version):

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

~
Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

~

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

~

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

~

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

~

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

~

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:19-34

Besides those two short pieces at the beginning of this beautiful and fascinating passage, everything else remains the same between Luke’s version and Matthew’s. As far as historical accounts are concerned, that proves an enormous level of credibility to these teachings, which had been faithfully preserved through oral tradition until they were recorded by these two Gospel authors.

The other thing that these parallels prove is that–at least in the minds of the disciples (i.e. Christians) who were much closer to Jesus’ earthly ministry than we are–the contexts of these two passages (from Luke 12 and Matthew 6) are inextricably linked. And we have found in actual practice that this is the case!

Here, in Matthew 6:24, Jesus teaches us that we have a choice between two masters, and we can only serve one. It’s either going to be God or money.

This is weird. Most of us would think that it’s either God or Satan, God or the world, God or our flesh. Reading through the rest of the New Testament, that is definitely the impression that we are left with, isn’t it?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is god-or-money-1.png

But no, Jesus tells us that our master will either be God or money, based on how we choose to live. We can either spend our time serving God, or else we will be spending our time serving money. According to Jesus, it’s really that simple!

So what does this mean? Quit our jobs?

Jesus says an emphatic Yes! After all, hasn’t he already given us a “job assignment” that is all-encompassing (Matthew 28:19-20)? Surely, in order to do this job well, we need to give it our full-time effort.

But it can be hard to hear Jesus’ God or money teaching because most of us feel that God has given us our jobs, that we can use our jobs to preach the Gospel, help the poor, and of course, provide for our needs.

But Jesus tells us that we don’t have to be limited to a part-time ministry that we squeeze in on the sides of whatever it is we’re actually being paid to do.

In fact, he’s even telling us the hard truth that a part-time, on-the-job ministry really isn’t a ministry at all. It’s a lot like giving God the leftovers, and expecting Him to not be offended!

According to Jesus, we aren’t serving God at all unless we commit ourselves 100% to ministry, to His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33). (And taking things even further, Jesus says that we don’t even love God unless we work full-time for His Kingdom!) The only other option that Jesus gives us is the “money master”.

Jesus tells us that working for money is actually being enslaved to money. Working for money means that we have made it our master, our God.

But wait a minute, you might be thinking… Being enslaved to money is not the same as working for pay! Except it is, brothers and sisters, and here’s why:

Most translations of Matthew 6:24 say “You cannot serve both God and money”. In the long quote above, we chose to use the NLT (which is one of the few translations that use the concept of slavery) because we like the boldness of that statement, and we see that it holds true in real life. And then there is only one translation–the Aramaic Bible in Plain English–that we know of which uses the word “work” instead of “serve”. It reads: “No man can work for two masters, for either he will hate one and will love the other, or he will honor one and the other he will ignore. You cannot work for God and for money” (emphasis added).

Working for something or someone is the same thing as serving. Google defines the verb “serve” in this way: to “perform duties or services for (another person or an organization).” And the very first synonym given for the verb “serve” is “work for“. It doesn’t matter what you want to call it, but the Truth is very clear to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear… We cannot work for both God and money. We can only serve (i.e. work for) one master. And “don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey” (Romans 6:16)? (Obey is another synonym of the verb “serve.”)

Here’s a quick test you can take to see for yourself if you are enslaved to your job (and thus, to the money you get from that job since chances are, you wouldn’t be working there if it weren’t for the pay!):

  1. When do you show up to work?
  2. Why do you show up at that time? Is it because your boss (the person who authorizes your payment) tells you to? Or is it because God tells you to?

If your answer to question 2 is “my boss”, then, according to the Bible, you are very likely enslaved to money! (After all, you don’t show up on time because you want to please your boss simply for the sake of pleasing your boss… It’s because if you don’t, they’ll fire you and there goes that paycheck you’re working for!)

So whether we’re flipping burgers, teaching school, practicing medicine, constructing buildings, running a business, or any other form of paid labor, we are enslaved to the whole money system.

Wow. Believe us when we say that this was just as shocking to us as it probably is to you, brothers and sisters! And it’s probably going to take a little while to really wrap your brain around it, so let’s make sure to take some time out for serious prayer about what God is revealing to us through the divine wisdom of His Son. We pray for you, that you have eyes to see and ears to hear this radical message about working for God instead of working for money. We know that God will bless you for your loving obedience to this simple yet revolutionary teaching, because He has already blessed us for stepping out in faith!

Yes, we really have repented of working for money in order to start working for God, brothers and sisters. That means we quit our jobs and have since dedicated our lives to full-time ministry. We call this lifestyle living by faith (more on that here), because we place our faith in God’s promise that He will provide for all of our needs if we spend our whole lives serving (i.e. working for) Him only (Matthew 6:33). He has never, ever let us down!

Despite this truth, most of us initially react to the idea of quitting our jobs with a lot of fear (among other traps of the flesh and cares of this world, see Matthew 13:22). That is why it is so important to pray throughout the whole process so that we keep our eyes on God alone, not letting the enemy’s lies take us away from God’s ultimate will for our lives as disciples of Jesus (i.e. Christians). And remember what we read from Luke 12: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v. 32).

So in a way, Jesus is saying that our choice is between God or Satan, the world, our flesh. It’s just that the practical manifestation of how Satan/the world/our flesh snares us into slavery is through the lure of money. As the apostle Paul wrote, “the love of money is the root of all evil. And some believers, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).

You see, money represents one of the greatest desires of mankind: the assurance of provision. With money, we know that we won’t starve or freeze or what have you. But when we start to trust in money as our source of provision, we become enslaved to it. In fact, we make it our God, our master, as Jesus says.

But Jesus tells us that we don’t have to worry about food or clothing. If we serve God, working to build up His Kingdom on earth, He will provide the food, He will provide the clothing, He will provide everything that we need (Matthew 6:33). By allowing God to provide for us (instead of taking matters into our own hands by working for money), we truly honor Him as the God of our lives.

It’s important for us to note here, brothers and sisters, that this teaching about God or money is not just a special calling for a few, select disciples… This is for ALL Christians. The context of the Sermon on the Mount makes this quite clear: “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them” (Matthew 5:1-2). All Christians are disciples of Jesus (Acts 11:26), so if we’re not following the instructions of our Teacher, then we’re pretty crappy disciples, huh? And in fact, Jesus–the very man-God who we claim as Lord–would say that we aren’t disciples at all… (Luke 6:46, John 14:15, 21, 23, John 15:10, 1 John 2:3).

Not to mention, the verse itself makes it very clear that there are no exceptions to this God or money teaching: “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money” (Matthew 6:24, emphasis added). So unless your name is “No One,” then you cannot work for two masters; it’s either gonna be God or money!

“Alright, alright,” you might be thinking. “Jesus really is saying that we must choose between God and money. But what happened to the Gospel, the Good News?

At this point, it may seem difficult to see how this teaching is Good News (i.e. the Gospel). After all, it’s pretty scary to think about quitting our jobs, committing ourselves fully to God’s work, and just trusting that He will provide! But we can assure you that Jesus was not lying, and it really is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32). He will provide (Matthew 6:33)!

But beyond the miracle of God’s ability and desire to provide for our needs (as if that’s not outstanding enough on its own), there is another aspect of this God or money teaching that reveals the Gospel: complete freedom!

If working for money is akin to slavery (which it is… and we have proven it earlier on in this post), then working for God is the way to break those chains of bondage (Romans 6:16)! Our personal experience of living by faith has given us a lifestyle that is very flexible, fully customizable, and infused with deep purpose, grace, and infinite opportunities to grow. If that’s not the kind of job you’d like to have, suit yourself. For us (and for countless others), this is exactly what we always wanted but never knew where to find. Where on earth is there a boss who not only lets you design your own schedule and choose your own projects, but is also Love itself? So we’ve chosen to work for the Boss of the Universe, and we hope to inspire you and others to do the same! (Did we mention that the “benefits” are incredible–and eternal?)

And finally, what could be more Gospel-like than love? Applying this God or money teaching to our lives also increases our ability to show greater love to God, our neighbor, and each other. (After all, God is Love, so working for God means that we are working for Love!)

Choosing to work for God instead of money shows reverence to and trust in God. Jesus wants us to make God our master, not money. By putting God in the right place in our lives (FIRST!), we show Him our love. We focus on Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. We trust that He will take care of us. The hard truth, brothers and sisters, is that Jesus says we cannot even love God if we are working for money… According to the Lord, there is no middle ground (Matthew 6:24).

We also show love to our neighbor when we work for God instead of money. As we discussed in our previous Living Waters post, many of us in first-world countries actively participate in an unjust world economic system without even realizing it. (For example, nearly half of the income tax paid by United States citizen is used to fund the world’s most formidable military. Read more about this here.) By refusing to play the $y$tem games any longer, we become a part of a resistance movement against the economic inequality & injustices of the world. Not to mention, we already showed how working for money is personal slavery, but in many ways, our participation in the money system contributes to the enslavement and oppression of others. Not only do we free ourselves by working for God instead of money full-time, but also, we can help free others by no longer building up the corrupt $y$tem and by setting the example of how to follow Jesus in all that he taught.

And last but not least, working for God instead of money shows love to each other by freeing us up to focus entirely on serving God’s Kingdom. This means that we have more time to help each other when we’re going through difficult times, more time to build each other up as disciples of Jesus, more time to do Kingdom projects together (like evangelizing, homemaking, child-rearing, building/repairing, etc.), and more time to simply have fun and fellowship as a true family!


Working for God instead of money is what Jesus wants us as his disciples to do, and he promises us that God will take care of our needs so that we can just get busy building up His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33)! (Remembering, of course, that “needs” and “wants” are usually very different things!) Not only that, but putting this teaching into practice also enables us to show greater love to God, our neighbor, and each other.

Please pray with us, brothers and sisters. We pray that you have been inspired by what we have shared here, and we pray that you have the eyes to see and ears to hear this radical teaching of Jesus. We pray that you can begin to understand the Good News of Jesus’ calling on your life, even if it may also seem difficult and even a little bit crazy. We pray that you grow into a deeper relationship with God, and that you learn to trust Him at the next level.

So with all this in mind, brothers and sisters… Who is your master?

Until next time!

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries

2 Simple Steps to Gain Heavenly Treasures!

2 Simple Steps to Gain Heavenly Treasures!

Part 5 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

Happy Thursday! Welcome (or welcome back!) to our Living Waters Series where every Thirsty Thursday, we dive in to the words of Jesus, quenching our spiritual thirst as we let him transform our lives into a stream of love fully realized.

The first 3 parts of our series seeks to understand more deeply what it means to love, finding the answers in the teachings of our Lord. Now, we are moving on to the fundamentals of discipleship in Christ, starting with last week’s post. We began with what Jesus himself described as the starting point. He tells us that in order to become his disciples (aka Christians), we must first forsake all: our families, our lives, and all our material possessions (Luke 14:26-33)! This is the forsake all principle that becomes the first test of our willingness to pattern our lives after the love of Christ. It is the portal through which we may enter into the next dimension: a love that is not of this world!

For all of us, forsaking all is not necessarily an easy teaching to put into practice! It’s virtually impossible to live on this planet without getting attached to the people in our lives, the gifts they give to us, the things that we buy from homes to cars to electronics, as well as life itself! Yet here Jesus is asking us to forsake all of these people and things that mean so much to us? This is truly a counter-intuitive teaching. But really all God asks of us is to join Him in eternity, remembering that all the heavens and all the earth will pass away while only He endures forever (Psalm 102:26)! In teaching us to forsake all, He asks us to reorient our perspectives, turning our focus away from what is passing and towards His perfect love and life and glory.

Because this forsake all principle is so fundamental to our walk as Christians, we think it deserves two weeks! First, we explored this teaching as the beginning of our discipleship journey in becoming a channel for God’s love. Now, we will return to Jesus’ words, this time to learn more about the eternal/spiritual perspective that God is calling on us to adopt by putting the forsake all teaching into practice.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

~
So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Luke 12:31-34

What a beautiful message, brothers and sisters! When we step out in faith, seeking only to build up God’s Kingdom, He promises to provide for our needs so that we are free to pass on His perfect love of provision to others. Here is the Good News (i.e. the Gospel!) of the forsake all teaching! By forsaking all, we gain the privilege of becoming disciples of Jesus, children of God (Luke 14:33, John 1:12). And in the process of selling everything (the means by which we forsake our possessions), we generate funds to give to the poor. Jesus tells us that we don’t have to worry about making such a grand gesture of selfless love because God will make sure that all our needs are taken care of! (Remember, it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us His Kingdom: Luke 12:32!) Brothers and sisters, are you starting to see how incredible this whole process is?

Well, it doesn’t end there. Not only are we guaranteed God’s provision when we forsake all materially, but Jesus also promises us that by selling everything and giving the proceeds to the poor, we gain treasures in heaven!

But even after hearing all of this, many of us (especially in the affluent West!) still can’t see the Gospel–the Good News–of forsaking all. We are very much like the rich man who would not follow Jesus:

Jesus said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

“How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

~

Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?”

~
He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.”

~

Peter said, “We have left everything we had to follow you.”

~

“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children [or property], for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”

Luke 18:22, 24-30; see also Matthew 19 & Mark 10

Brothers and sisters, do not take this incredible passage for granted! Jesus is not just speaking to one man with a greed problem. He is speaking to all of us who wish to be his disciples. (For a comprehensive list of the forsake all principle being taught and practiced throughout the entire New Testament, read this post!) That means that this amazing promise of God’s provision both now in the physical world and forever in the next life is for us, too! That is, if we are willing to take the leap of faith and forsake all by selling our possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor!

So Jesus is challenging us to change our priorities. He wants us to fix our eyes on God alone, trusting that He will take care of all our needs if we follow through with this simple teaching of selling everything and giving to the poor, thereby forsaking all our possessions.

By now, you’re probably getting a much better idea about what Jesus is asking us to do and how this relates to loving God, our neighbor, and each other! We began explaining how this revolutionary teaching helps us achieve the goal of complete love for God and each other (see part 4 here!), but we left the question of how forsaking all shows love to our neighbor unanswered. That’s because today’s teaching of Jesus, Luke 12:33, answers it perfectly for us!

Forsaking all by selling our possessions and giving the money to the poor is an effective way of showing love to our neighbor as if they were ourselves! This is especially relevant for those of us who live in wealthy, first-world countries. Usually without even realizing it, we have participated in a world economy that is appallingly corrupt and directly linked to the shockingly low standard of living for our neighbors. While it is not our fault for being born in more privileged parts of the world, Jesus calls on us to live our lives in such a way that will no longer contribute to the problem, but instead work against the wicked ways of the world! One of the most powerful ways that we can do this is by giving our wealth to our second- and third-world neighbors through the process of forsaking all.

“Sell your possessions and give to those in need,” Jesus says! Not only will this fulfill the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, and not only is forsaking all the first step in becoming Jesus’ disciple (Luke 14:33), but it will also ensure us treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33)!

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our email is thefaithworker@gmail.com. We’re here for you!

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries

Entering the Next Dimension

Entering the Next Dimension

Part 4 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

It’s Thirsty Thursday, which means it’s time for the next installment of our Living Waters Series!

Thus far, we have explored what Jesus taught about love: for God, our neighbor, and for each other.

All this has brought us to a deeper understanding of the deeper calling that Jesus has made on our lives as Christians. We now have a clearer picture of what our love should look like in practice: a love that transcends our own (limited) ideas of selective gestures of kindness and reveals a shimmering summit towards which we are invited to ascend.

Jesus has encapsulated Judaism in the two Greatest Commandments, and then gives us a new commandment, to love each other as he loved us. These three commandments give us the Way of Love which Jesus walked before us and calls on us to follow.

But like any great journey with a worthwhile destination, we do not simply arrive all at once, as if by teleportation. The Way of Jesus has a starting point and many points of progress that guide us toward the summit of perfect love.

In other words, everything that Jesus taught shows us how we can practice and then hone the ideal of love for God, our neighbor, and each other in our own lives.

So, we have glimpsed our goal: a love that is so complete, many would claim that it is not of this world, but of the next dimension.

Please do take the time to catch up on the first 3 installments from our Living Waters Series if you haven’t already! (Click here!)

Now, our present mission is to learn how we can begin moving in the direction of perfect love, our shimmering summit. We must seek out the portal through which we can pass into the next dimension.

If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else–your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.

~

But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

~

Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away.

~

So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

Luke 14:26-33

Jesus might as well have said: Do you have what it takes to be a Christian? To be my disciple is not an easy path, a lazy river. If you follow after me, I will take you places that will require all your resources. Where I am going, your family will not follow. Can you forsake them? Where I am going, you will at least need to die to yourself, and that’s only if you’re lucky enough to avoid the persecution that is my destiny. Can you forsake your life? Yes, to be a Christian requires all your resources. And in fact, your material resources are the very least of what you will need to be my disciple; they’ll just weigh you down. So before we even begin, forsake them. Give up everything you own. Sell it all, and give the proceeds to the poor. This is what I require of anyone who would be my disciple. Do you have what it takes? I assure you that in the end, it will all be worth it!

At this point, most of us stop in our tracks, a million different thoughts rushing through our heads: Did Jesus really mean that? Surely, he doesn’t mean that we should actually hate our families? Didn’t he also tell us to honor our parents? And what about this dying business? That must be an exaggeration. And our possessions? Jesus couldn’t mean that I must get rid everything I own. I could use these things for ministry! Jesus doesn’t actually want me to be homeless, does he?

Brothers and sisters, we have been here in this exact predicament: hearing what Jesus asks of us, yet being unsure if Jesus truly meant what he so clearly said. Doubt creeps in, and of course, we begin to rationalize our resistance to such a crazy idea as hating our families, literally facing death, and possibly most of all, actually forsaking everything. Perhaps we seek the counsel of others who are equally perplexed (or at least were at one point, but have now grown comfortable and apathetic in whatever rationalization has best suited themselves). Now that we see the cost of following Jesus, we try to find any way out of it, while still claiming the fantastic promises of abundant life, eternal life, and heavenly rewards that come with the Christian walk.

But if you are like us, brothers and sisters, you will not be able to convince yourself that Jesus is saying anything other than what he plainly said. You will not be able to talk yourself out of doing what Jesus says because you are a truth-seeker even when it hurts. All it takes is childlike faith to see through all our fears and attachment to worldly things, through to the other side: limitless freedom.

Jesus is asking us to embark on a radical journey. We already know the summit (perfect love), but in order to get there, we need to make a start. And that start, according to Jesus, is to renounce, give up, forsake everything from our families to our lives to our possessions.

This sounds scary, even impossible. But we tell you from experience, brothers and sisters, it only appears that way from a distance. Forsaking all is like the first time we went up on the high-dive at the local pool. Looking down, we are terrified at how far up we are, and we begin to second guess the whole thing. But anyone who has overcome this initial fear and took the plunge on faith knows how much fun it is to drop down, feeling the air rush up against your skin, then the satisfying splash, and finally the refreshment of cool water swirling all around! Sure, there are risks involved. Some people have broken bones jumping from the high dive, and others have even died. But that hasn’t stopped people from doing it anyway!

People are willing to risk their lives for a few seconds of fun jumping off the high-dive, but would they do it for an eternity with God? Jesus tells us we must forsake our lives, but chances are (in the Western world), the worst you’ll face is rejection from your family and ridicule from society. Is God worth it? We think so!

Yes, we really have gone through with forsaking all, brothers and sisters. We want you to know that we are not speaking about some off-the-wall theology, but about an actual experience with putting this straight-forward teaching into practice. This is real.

So being on this side of the high-dive, so to speak, we can also share a bit about why it seems like Jesus is making the first leg of the journey towards that incredible ideal of love for God, neighbor, and each other so ridiculously challenging! Well, he tells us, doesn’t he? Throughout the gospels, Jesus tells us that his Way isn’t easy and will require unwavering commitment, even at the expense of our own families and comforts (Matthew 7:13-14, Luke 9:57-62). If we do not “count the cost” (Luke 14:28), we will not be prepared to finish what we have set out to do: follow in the footsteps of our Lord all the way to the summit of complete love.

Right. Love. How is forsaking all about love? At the beginning of today’s exploration, we made the claim that everything Jesus taught shows us how we can practice and then hone the ideal of love for God, our neighbor, and each other. Trust us, we know that the last thing you’re probably feeling right now is love! If you’re anything like us, then the main emotions you’re feeling are fear, distress, confusion, maybe even anger. But not to worry: with God, we were able to work through these negative emotions, and now we hope to help you through it all, too!

Forsaking All Is about Loving God

In Part 1 of our Living Waters Series, we discovered that according to Jesus, our love for God will show itself in our willingness to carry out His will as best we can.

Here’s our first test! Are we willing to at least consider forsaking all for the sake of Christ?

Forsaking All Is about Loving Our Neighbor

In Part 2, we learned that loving our neighbor involves more on our part than a cheery smile and prayers for well-being. In many cases, it will mean sacrificing material wealth for the benefit of our neighbor.

Next week, we will devote our Living Waters post to a deeper discussion of the connections between forsaking all and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Forsaking All Is about Loving Each Other

In Part 3, we explored the implications of what Jesus’ love looks like when we show it to each other: selfless and even self-sacrificial!

We see one example of this kind of love in the early Church, where new believers forsook their possessions to be redistributed as there was need at the discretion of the apostles (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-35). By sharing everything in common, the first Christians were not only able to fulfill Jesus’ teaching about forsaking all, they were also able to practice the selfless love that Jesus modeled for us.

And not only can forsaking all show love for each other economically, but also socially. Jesus calls on us to forsake our blood families, and in so doing, we create strong ties between our family in Christ (Matthew 12:48-50).


It can be hard to see the love when you are first confronted with Jesus’ forsake all teaching, just like it is hard to see the fun when you’re standing on the high-dive for the first time! But those who, like us, have overcome fear with faith and followed through with this calling to forsake all can testify that it is not only an opportunity to grow in perfect love, but it is also the most liberating experience of our lifetimes.

So, brothers & sisters, all this has been yet another challenging dip into the Living Waters of Jesus’ teachings. If you’ve made it this far without giving up on seeking further, then congratulations! We look forward to communing with you next week.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus calls us to an abundant life (next-dimension-type stuff)! But in order to access this abundant life, we must first be willing to live his Way. Even if it seems totally crazy. Are you in? The water’s fine!

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries

Check out our comprehensive list of the forsake all principle being taught & practiced throughout the New Testament!

A Love Worth Dying For?

A Love Worth Dying For?

Part 2 of the Living Waters Series

A new commandment I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

~

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34-35

Dear brothers & sisters,

What is love, really? That is the question we have been wrestling with in the first three parts of our Living Waters Series.

First, we are commanded to love God. Wading through the deep waters of Jesus’ wisdom, we found that a genuine love for God will bring about obedience to His will. (And as simple as only the Truth can be, we discover God’s will through the teachings of His Son–the Word of God, John 1:1, 14 & Revelation 19:13.)

Second, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. For Part 2, we drank in a lot: from who our neighbor is to what Jesus intended this love to look like to what implications the second greatest commandment has on our own salvation!

And now we come to the new commandment, which reveals and requires a love that is not only selfless, but self-sacrificing, following after the example of one who accepted brutal execution for the sake of love.

The important question we should ask ourselves is what does this new commandment mean for us as followers of Christ today?

There are two parts to this teaching of Jesus: a) Jesus’ example, and b) the instruction to love each other.

During his last evening with his disciples, right in the middle of their last meal together, Jesus stripped down, wrapped a towel around his waist, and started washing the stinky, dirty feet of those who claimed him as Teacher and Lord, the very Son of God (John 13:1-17). Setting an example of love distinguished by selfless service, Jesus humbled himself to his own followers, and then tells them to do the same for each other (John 13:14-15).

So this is the kind of love that Jesus is talking about when he tells us to love one another as he has loved us. The kind of love where the greatest is servant of all (Mark 9:35). The kind of love where leadership is not lorded over others, but rather served under as a model (Matthew 20:25-26).

One would think that this new commandment would be easier to practice than the two greatest commandments because we have a clear example to follow, recorded in four historically reliable accounts: the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” Jesus said (John 13:34). Yet it is strikingly obvious to anyone who has actually read the four gospels for themselves that the vast majority of professing Christians have a skewed impression of who Jesus was and what he was like. Too many of us who claim to believe seem to have some made-up person in our minds that we call Jesus. These fake Jesuses (i.e. false messiahs) always conform to our own notions about what is loving, what is respectable, and what we care about.

The question we should really be asking ourselves is how can we hope to practice this new commandment if we don’t even take the time to see for ourselves how Jesus loved? It’s written right there in the four gospels, if we’d only learn to read them without our own biases getting in the way!

Jesus said that our love for each other will be the definitive marker to the world that we are his disciples (John 13:35). Yet it’s obvious to the very people we are supposed to be witnessing to that us modern-day Christians are really no different than everyone else. Where do you see Christians living together, sharing all possessions in common, truly showing love to one another through selfless service 24/7, just like Jesus and his disciples in the gospels, and then the first Christians in the book of Acts (e.g. Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-35)? This should be the norm for the Christian faith, and yet this lifestyle that Jesus patterned before us is all too rare, almost non-existent.

So does this mean that Jesus was wrong, that his disciples (i.e. Christians) don’t actually love each other the way that Jesus loved us? Or is it rather that today’s Christians aren’t actually Christians, disciples of Jesus after all?

The only people we are fooling are ourselves.

My commandment is this: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:12-13

We really can’t talk about Jesus’ love for us without looking to the ultimate sign of his self-sacrificial love on the cross. Whatever your theology about the cross is, one thing we can all agree on is that Jesus courageously embraced the logical extreme of his radical philosophy of selfless love unto death. (And an absolutely horrendous death at that.)

But, unlike what you’d probably hear at church, Jesus did not claim to do it all for us on the cross.

*insert record scratch and horrified screams*

Jesus did more than die for us: he calls on us to do the same.

Jesus said, “if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

Maybe he meant this figuratively, but when we look to the history of the early church and all the countless martyrs who followed in the footsteps of their Lord & Savior, there are no comfortable questions or interpretations about what Jesus really meant.

Facing death for the sake of love, that is the Way of Jesus which will revolutionize the whole world if enough people come together and embrace true discipleship, pick-up-your-cross discipleship, self-sacrificing discipleship.

This is the ideal, but just a quick look around at the billions of professing Christians in the world today leaves us with a completely different picture of what discipleship under Jesus is like.

It is true that there are Christians in north Africa and across Asia who are being actively persecuted for their faith.* But what about those of us surrounded by first-world affluence and cultural tolerance in the West? Where is our cross? Where is our persecution?

Jesus promised that we as his disciples would face persecution (Matthew 10:22, 25, 24:9; John 15:18-21, 16:2).

(When was the last time you heard this promise in church?)

So was he lying or was he just wrong? Or maybe there’s something wrong with us?

Maybe we’ve stopped following in the footsteps of our Lord. Maybe we are no longer disciples of Jesus, but disciples of our own ideologies, our own pastors, our own countries (Matthew 24:24). We’re no longer loving one another the way that Jesus loved us. We’re no longer practicing any of his teachings in the way that he modeled them. We’ve started becoming more and more of this world, and like he said, they won’t persecute us if we’re of this world (John 15:18-21).

It’s time, brothers and sisters. It’s time for those of us who claim to believe in Jesus to start believing him when he tells us to do something and shows us how it’s done. We encourage you to open your Bibles up, first to the four gospels and then to the rest of the New Testament. Start reading, and let Jesus speak into your life. When he instructs his disciples, he is instructing you! Let him guide our steps, and let us no longer conform to the patterns of this world, but to the pattern of Jesus, his disciples, and the first Christians (Romans 12:2).


Stay tuned! Next week, we will be diving deeper into radical discipleship and the Way of selfless love that Jesus calls us to.

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries


For more from the Living Waters Series, click here!

*Learn about the persecuted Church & how you can help: International Christian Concern, Voice of the Martyrs.

Have We Underestimated the Second Greatest Commandment?

Have We Underestimated the Second Greatest Commandment?

Part 2 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

Last week, we talked about the Greatest Commandment and how we, as Christians, are to show our love for God by obeying the teachings of His Son.

This Thirsty Thursday we will quench our thirst for Christ’s Living Waters by exploring what it means to practice the 2nd Greatest Commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

These two greatest commandments (loving God & loving others) are naturally linked by the Law of Love that guides our lives as Christians. And naturally—just like with the 1st Greatest Commandment—we will find further direction on how to go about showing this neighbor-love in the teachings of Jesus.

We talked last week about how we often think that we have good ideas (even great ideas!) about how to show our love. When it comes to loving others, most of us think that being polite, friendly, and respectable (at least on the outside!) is all it takes. These simple behaviors can certainly be a great start… but again, we must recognize that our “goods” and “greats” often get in the way of God’s BEST! So let’s start unpacking this 2nd Greatest Commandment to discover how we can take our faith-journey to the next level!

Usually, one of the first questions that comes to our minds about the 2nd Greatest Commandment is: who, exactly, is our neighbor?

Fortunately, Jesus already answered that one in the famous parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). A Jewish man was beaten up and robbed, left for dead on the side of the road. Three others walked by: a priest, a Levite (both of them also Jews), and finally, a Samaritan (a people whowere well-known to be deeply despised by the Jews). While the others walked by, only the Samaritan felt compassion for the victim, and he thoroughly tended to his needs. Then Jesus turns our own question (“who is my neighbor?”) on its head, asking us this question: “Which of these three do you think became a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves isn’t about who our neighbor is, but rather who *we* are to others! Are we acting as a loving neighbor to everyone we meet? Don’t worry about who they are to you, only think of who you could be to them!

And again, in Luke 6, Jesus challenges our ideas about who counts as our neighbors, and therefore, who we are called on to love.

Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy” (Matthew 5:43)… “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-36).

This is not a popular message, probably because it is totally counter-intuitive to our natural (fallen) instincts. When someone hits us, we want to hit right back! But Jesus calls on us to rise above our fallen nature: instead of retaliating against our enemies, he teaches us to shame their hateful actions by “turning the other cheek”, a nonviolent protest that shows a merciful love to our enemies which Jesus himself exemplified on the cross. This is all part of what it means to love our neighbors as we love ourselves!

Now that we’ve begun to get a better understanding of who our neighbor is, we’ve also started to uncover examples of what this love should look like in action!

In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus encourages us to take our love for others deeper. We are not called on to simply give a nice smile or offer words of comfort. He urges us to follow the example of the Samaritan man and offer practical help to those we come across. This means that we must be ready to give our time, skills, and resources (such as food, clothing, shelter, and money!) to those in need, no matter who they are. And this message of self-giving love is made even clearer in Luke 6 when Jesus encourages us to love our enemies! Do good, offer blessings and prayers, give freely, be merciful… even to our most bitter enemies. In these ways, we become a loving neighbor and fulfill the 2nd Greatest Commandment!

The passage about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46 also gives us some ideas of how to show love to others. Again, we are encouraged to offer practical help (not just a smile and “God bless you”) to those in need. Things like food, water, shelter, clothing, and visits to the sick or imprisoned.

In fact, this is even suggested as a plan for salvation, straight from the mouth of the only one who has authority to grant eternal life! (This is also suggested by the context of the good Samaritan passage from Luke 10.) So not only do these acts of love help us fulfill the 2nd Greatest Commandment, but Jesus also seems to reveal a link between this neighbor-love and our salvation.

We don’t claim to fully understand what these implications mean, brothers and sisters, but we also cannot deny the clear connections that Jesus himself makes between our love for others and eternal life.

Which brings us to our last dip into Christ’s Living Waters for the week: a cross-reference between Luke 18 & 12 that reveals yet another example of both how to love our neighbors and, this mysterious link to salvation.

While instructing his disciples (i.e. the very first Christians, and even us too!), Jesus gave this radical teaching: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves purses that do not wear out—a treasure in heaven that never decreases, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33). And again, Jesus says this to the rich young ruler in Luke 18:22 in response to his question about how to gain eternal life: “Sell all that you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Both of these passages describe another example of how we can show love to our neighbors: by redistributing our wealth to those who are in great need! This teaching is especially relevant for those of us who live in first-world countries, as we can so easily accumulate a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources without even trying or realizing it. With so much of our treasure stored on earth, Jesus calls us to take a radical leap of faith, sell our possessions, and give the money to the poor (hint: there is more poverty in third-world countries than). This way, we will transfer our earthly treasures into heavenly treasures (like a transfer between checking and savings accounts!), which provides relief to those in need. And not only that, but it is also suggested as another path to salvation in Luke 18.

So to tie it all together, Jesus shows us—his disciples—the way to practice and fulfill the 2nd Greatest Commandment through many of his other teachings. He teaches us about who our neighbor is. (That’s everyone, even our enemies!) And he gives us numerous examples of how to put our neighbor-love into action. (Everything from prayer to charity, our time to material resources, and more!)

We learned last week that when we obey Jesus and all that he taught, we show our love to God, too! So this means that the Law of Love is perfectly intertwined in a beautifully balanced harmony. By genuinely loving our neighbors, we also love God; and by loving God, we will show love to our neighbors!

And what’s more, we’ve also begun to uncover a deeply perplexing (and truly inspiring!) connection between the 2nd Greatest Commandment and eternal life. We encourage you to keep exploring these remarkable connections, and share with us anything that you find in your studies! We will surely do the same with you, dear brothers and sisters.

So, we’ve covered a lot of ground today, and we’ve only just scratched the surface of what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves. But now we’re off to a great start, firmly grounded in the foundation of Jesus’ own teachings.

Can you think of other ways to show love for others besides the examples Jesus gave which we included here? Let us know in the comments below or by writing to us at thefaithworker@gmail.com.

Thanks for joining us this week! We’re looking forward to the next Thirsty Thursday from our Living Waters series. And in the meantime: may you follow the Lamb wherever he goes!

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries

What Does God Deserve?

What Does God Deserve?

Part 1 of the Living Waters Series

Dear brothers & sisters,

Welcome to our first Thirsty Thursday, the weekly Living Waters series brought to you by Faith Worker Ministries!

None of Jesus’ teachings seem more appropriate to start with than what he called the Greatest Commandment. Quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Jesus identified that of all God’s commandments in Judaism, “The most important is: ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:29-30).

Of course, common sense tells us that this is true! But what does it really mean to love God with our entire being? How, exactly, do we go about this loving God business?

The first thoughts that often come to mind when we ask these questions may be worship, prayer, church attendance, etc. These things can all be good—even great! But isn’t it true that so often our “goods” and “greats” get in the way of God’s BEST?? So, rather than continue to rely on our own common sense, let’s look to the *uncommon* wisdom of our Lord for further guidance! John 14 offers some excellent clarification on what it really means to love Jesus & God.

Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey my teachings… The person who has my teachings and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him… If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Fatherʼs who sent me” (John 14:15, 21, 23-24).

{More related verses here: John 15:10, 1 John 2:3, 1 John 5:3, and 2 John 1:6}

All throughout the Old Testament and into the New, we see God continuously trying to develop a loving relationship with His people. This relationship is two-sided: God provides, and we obey; we obey, and God provides!

So when God sends us His dearly loved Son, He tells us to listen up & start putting our faith into obedient practice of all that Jesus taught (Matthew 7:24-27). According to God, our obedience is evidence that we genuinely love Him!

In the rest of our Living Waters series, we will take a look at more of what Jesus has to say—his teachings, his words, which he calls on us to put into practice in John 14. With each new teaching that we apply to our personal faith-practice, we show God that we love Him, fulfilling His Greatest Commandment!

Until next week, may you seek to follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

Love & Prayers,

Luke & Allie

Faith Worker Ministries