Keep Praying

I have to say I’m appalled.  I not sure I believed I would ever see the persecution of Christianity in America get as bad as it’s getting.  It all came to a head for me when I was watching the news after the church shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas.  One more atrocity perpetrated by the hands of a sick-minded individual with a gun.  By all accounts, the crime was not committed specifically against Christians, but was an act of domestic violence.  And because it happened to completely innocent people during their worship of God, all sides of the political spectrum have used it to attack each other.

But this time, it went too far.  People across the nation, including President Trump, have called for an outpouring of prayer.  The community and those families in that small Texas town need to know that they’re being prayed for.  They need the comfort of the nation rallying around them, but most importantly, they need the comfort and reassurance that only comes from God (Philippians 4:6-7).  Calling openly for prayer during a tragic loss like this is a very appropriate response.

But that’s not how many people saw it.  Immediately following the mention of prayer, the President and Christians nationwide were blasted for their faith in God.  People decried prayer as a waste of time, an action that does nothing for those being prayed for.  They said that if God actually answered prayer, those people would still be alive.  They have effectively attacked one of the roots of the Christian faith, and it was all done under the premise of showing concern for the fallen and their families.

This post is not a call for protests from Christians or for a public spectacle to be made.  It’s not being written to bemoan the negativity and harassment Christians are continually facing.  God has warned us that those difficulties would come (Psalm 34:19).  This post is a call to pray all the more!  It’s a rallying cry to stand up for our right to pray by continuing to pray more fervently and more boldly.

When we let our problems and concerns go unnoticed or fail to deal with them, they grow.  If you don’t pray your way through the difficulties in life, through the tragedies and losses like this shooting, those events fester and infect like a wound to our body.  And God can cure all that infects our lives and make us feel healthy and whole again.  He doesn’t always take away the problems.  In fact, sometimes these challenges are there to help us grow (James 1:2-4), but he does promise to bring us through.

“Cast your burden on the Lord,
    and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
    the righteous to be moved.”

(Psalm 55:22)

So continue to pray!  Pray prayers of thanksgiving and for God’s kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10).  Pray for those who are sick and for those who are mourning.  Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as you walk through the peaks and valleys of this journey called life.  Most importantly, don’t let anyone keep you from conversing with God or tell you that prayer doesn’t work.  They couldn’t be further from the truth.

-Joe Butler

 

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The Christian and Carnal Warfare: Where to Stand

So far in this series of posts, we’ve studied the Case for Pacifism and the Case for Non-Pacifism as well as an Introduction to the topic.  I encourage you to take the time to read these other posts to gain your own opinion on the discussion at hand.

I’ve titled this last post “Where to Stand,” with the understanding that readers will ultimately decide how they feel on the topic of Christianity and carnal warfare.  I have, in no way, exhausted this study or covered all the information out there on both sides of the argument, so this last post will pose a lot of questions for the reader to consider going forward.  I hope you’ve taken the time to think more critically about such a weighty topic, and have considered how a Christian should respond to worldly issues such as these.  I pray that in all things we do as followers of Christ , we put his commands and his kingdom first, above all things, and that God is glorified in all that we do.

At the end of this conversation on war, I’m left with several important questions that I will continue to study.  First would be the idea of whether war is ever justifiable in the eyes of God.  I say “in God’s eyes” because how he views the matter is of the utmost importance.  As James Willeford mentions in his book Is It Ever Right to Kill?, we “must distinguish between the morality of starting a war and the morality of defending oneself against unlawful aggression.”  He also asks us to contrast “unjust wars waged for unworthy motives and just wars of self-defense.”  As I’ve mentioned throughout this study…

OUR SENSE OF MORALITY AND JUSTICE MUST BEGIN WITH GOD’S STANDARD. 

The problem is that these issues may or may not be specifically addressed in the Bible.  That means we must take God’s general directions on Christian behavior and rightly apply them to these types of questions.  Other thoughts about war include:

  • How does our government wage war today?  Are we the aggressor or defender?
  • Who decides whether the motives for war are worthy?  Do we leave that up to our leaders in government?  Has God given us any direction on the matter?

How can a Christian know if the aim of war is of true legitimate value or if it’s being used as a means of control or aggression?  It’s a valid question considering the lack of trust that exists nowadays towards our government and our media outlets.  Our decisions on war are usually based on public opinion, media coverage, and the release of politically-based information from the government.  But can we really trust these sources?  Shouldn’t Christians consider speaking out against unjust wars, or do we simply go along with tradition or public opinion?

After my study of the topic, it’s blatantly obvious what God would have us do in regards to our relationship with our fellow man.  As already mentioned, we are to be a light unto a world filled with darkness.  We should be willing to love our neighbor as ourselves, even if it leads to persecution or even death.  We should promote a sense of peace because those who do are true children of God.  No matter what, we should glorify God by showing others the love he first showed us, and I firmly believe that may be impossible if we think war is the answer to our problems.

-Joe Butler

 

The Christian and Carnal Warfare: The Case for Non-Pacifism

Now that we’ve had a chance to discuss the case for pacifism (please read yesterday’s post), we are going to move on to understanding the Christian mindset on war from a non-pacifist’s point of view.

I believe most people will agree that the nature of war and our participation in it is not a cut and dry topic.  We could probably discuss, ad-nauseum, the valid excuses to wage war and there would still be someone who could present a personal argument for why war is sometimes necessary or justifiable.  All this is to say that the discussion of participating in war can be a difficult path to tread and one in which we should tread softly in light of what the Bible says.  Let’s take a look at some of the more popular arguments for the validity of war and see what God’s word has to say on the topic.

One of the most popular arguments for war is the Old Testament precedent for war-making during biblical times.  During the Old Testament dispensation, it seems that wars were occurring nonstop.  Even though Christians today live under the New Testament dispensation, non-pacifists continue to declare that our right to engage in war has not been removed.  They also argue that governments today have the God-given responsibility to use war and capital punishment to maintain order and promote justice.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it makes too many assumptions.  The Israel of the Old Testament had divine approval to wage war against heathen nations who disregarded God (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).  God commanded his people to act on his behalf when waging war against nations he wished to punish.  We cannot, however, use that excuse today.  We have no divine revelation or command from God requiring us to wage war against any evil nation today.  In fact, our command is to love our enemies and to pray for those who wish to harm us (Matthew 5:43-48).

Another argument for the non-pacifist point of view is our need to defend ourselves against any danger that may threaten our rights or the common good of the people.  This may be, in my opinion, the most common sense reason why war may be necessary at times.  What’s important to remember is not whether something makes sense to us, but what God has commanded on the subject.  There are several occasions where military service or analogies are mentioned in the New Testament, but interestingly, personal self-defense by a Christian was not.  On the contrary, we are commanded not to resist an evil person (Matthew 5:38-42).  While that is what the Bible teaches, not everyone in the early church agreed.

Augustine (354-430 AD) promoted Christian’s right to bear arms in war, but ironically denied the right of personal self-defense.  “As to killing others in order to defend one’s own life, I do not approve of this, unless one happens to be a soldier or public functionary acting, not for himself, but in defense of others or of the city in which he resides” (Letters of St. Augustine).  We must also remember that the church began to lose its way when acting on behalf of the State became more important that acting on behalf of God.

This naturally brings up our relationship to civil governments and how they function in a civilized society.  With that in mind, let’s now look at what the Bible has to say concerning this matter:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

(Romans 13:1-7)

After careful study of this text, several things are apparent…

  1. God institutes our ruling authorities.  This does not mean that God specifically condones the actions of our fallible human governments, but he does allow them to exist.  We may not fully understand why certain governments are allowed to rise into power, but suffice it to say that God is always in control.
  2. God has good purposes for the government.  The governments that God allows to exist are meant to rule in a way that honors Him and protects the good and justice of his people.  Sadly, most governments and people in power use their station for personal or national gain and they forget who they are ultimately meant to serve.  In a perfect world, governments would remember that they will one day answer to a higher power other than themselves.
  3. Governments have power to rule and punish.  Verse 4 of the text above reminds us that the government has the right to bear the sword to punish wrongdoers.  That God-given ability is to help protect a group of people and help promote some semblance of rule and order.  The State has been given this right and, whether they know it or not,  is acting on behalf of God because he has ordained them into this particular role.  This may not necessarily apply to how we handle private situations though in light of our command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
  4. We have the obligation to submit.  It is evident in this text that Christians are to submit to the governing authorities as if we were submitting to God.  The underlying premise also evident is that our allegiance is always to God first before man or manmade governments.  If a government acts in a manner that is displeasing to God or that is morally wrong, we are not under compulsion to obey.  We must then ask if a government wishing to wage war is acting as a protector of freedom or in a manner that wishes to exert control over another nation.  The dilemma created is one which all Christians must take seriously.  Is the use of force against another a moral or immoral issue?

Finally, we’ll look at the non-pacifist doctrine of the lesser of two evils.  This teaching places at odds the idea of going to war with the idea of apathy.  We must choose the lesser of two evils, because to go to war is devastating, but to do nothing is equally destructive.  According to Hans Morgenthau is his book The Nuclear Discussion: Continued, “man must minimize the evil he must do and maximize the good he can attain by putting his evil acts at the service of good ends.”  The problem with this belief is that it allows room for particular evils as long as they lead to a greater good.  I’m not so sure God would look at sin in a similar manner or condone any action by a Christian that would obviously lead to sin or the death of his fellow man.

At the end of this study, we’re left with the difficulty that war brings forth: Is it ok for a follower of Christ to condone and support the act of war is they do so in submission to their governing authorities?  It is no easy question to answer.  It requires gaining insight into the motivations of those governments.  Even more important is to understand how God wishes for us to handle these situations in a way that honors him and his commandments.  I’ll close with this quote from Allen C. Isbell:

“The peril of the non-pacifist is that they tend to equate Christianity with one particular nation or one specific system of government.  The pacifist’s tendency to withdraw from all political affairs is perhaps, in some ways, a healthy corrective to this other extreme which identifies the cause of Christ with national interests.  National feeling should not obscure the fact that the Christian’s first allegiance is to the kingdom of God which has members in every nation.”

-Joe Butler

The Christian and Carnal Warfare: The Case for Pacifism

In beginning our discussion on the Christian viewpoint on carnal warfare, it’s important that we view all sides of the argument, including biblical text evidence as well as prevailing thought from Christians past and present.  Please be sure to read yesterday’s introduction to this series of posts.

Pacifism, or conscientious objection to all things war, is not a common view amongst Christians of the 21st century.  I suppose that like myself, many honest Christians of our day have not given much thought to the topic, or if they have, have not spent much time in the study of God’s word, but have been swayed in their thinking by the popular opinions of their time.  In reality, I would agree that the easier course of action would be to leave the difficult decisions of war-making to others and live quiet, peaceable lives, oblivious to the havoc that war creates.

I too, found myself taking this form of action, or inaction as it were, and failed to realize how the biblical instructions for a Christian do cause us to address such things as killing and justifiable war.  So with that in mind, we will begin our study of carnal warfare with the case for pacifism.

I will say right at the outset that I come from a military family.  My father and grandfathers served in the military for their careers.  I live in a decidedly patriotic town right outside an Air Force base where most people in the community and in my church family support all things American, even the idea of justifiable war.  It would be very easy to be heavily influenced by the overall sentiment around me that says that to love America means sometimes having to accept war, and that it is akin to blasphemy to speak down about our country’s propensity to make war.

But as a God-fearing Christian, I want to make sure our look at pacifism is founded upon biblical principles and teaching rather that popular opinion.  With that in mind, we will start by looking at the Sermon on the Mount and its effect on our attitudes as Christians.  One need look no further than Jesus’ longest recorded public teaching to see the evidence for a quiet and peace-filled life that doesn’t include killing our fellow man.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).  Now many will argue that the life the beatitudes call for us to live is unattainable to achieve, and yet Jesus spoke this message anyways.  He also said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45a).

It only takes a very elementary level of discernment to conclude that God wishes for his children to be kind and forgiving to our fellow man and not be a war-mongering people looking for excuses to annihilate an enemy.  Not only do we have the teachings of Jesus during his earthly ministry to guide us, but the lives and examples of the early church as well.

Christ’s church of the first several centuries was decidedly pacifist in nature, even with the fact that they lived during a time with much war and political maneuvering amongst world powers.  Almost the entire New Testament writings echo the teachings of Jesus that we be concerned about the advancement of his kingdom and leave the concerns of fallible earthly kingdoms to themselves.

Even outside the biblical writings themselves, early Christian apologists were adamant about the Christian’s denial of anything warlike.  In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Ignatius address our response to the evils of this world:

“Be ye humble in response to their wrath; oppose to their blaspehmies your earnest prayers; while they go astray, stand ye steadfast in the faith.  Conquer ye their harsh temper by gentleness, their passion by meekness… Do not seek to avenge yourself in those that injure you, for says [the Scripture]… And let us imitate the Lord, ‘who, when he was reviled, reviled not again’; when he was crucified, he said, ‘Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.’  If anyone, the more he is injured, displays the more patience, blessed is he.”

Other Christian writings on the topic of pacifism include:

“We who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each through the whole earth changed our war-like weapons,- our swords into plowshares, and our spears into implements of tillage, – and we cultivate purity, righteousness, philanthropy, faith and hope…” (Justin Martyr- AD 110~165- “Dialogue with Trypho”)

 

“We have learned, not only not to return blow for blow, nor to go to law with those who plunder and rob us, but to those who smite us on one side of the face to offer the other side also, and to those who take away our coat to give likewise our cloak.” (Athenagoras- early Christian apologist AD 177- “A Plea for the Christians”)

 

“There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness.  One soul cannot be due to two masters- God and Ceasar… How will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve in peace, without a sword, which the Lord hath taken away?… The Lord… in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier.” (Tertullian- early Christian apologist AD 145~220- “Apology”)

 

“We no longer take up ‘sword against nation,’ nor do we ‘learn war any more,’ having become children of peace, for the sake of Jesus who is our leader.” (Origin- AD 185~254- treatise “Against Celsus”)

 

“The wickedness of war is demonstrated in the following particulars: 1st. Those who are engaged in killing their brethren, for the most part, have no personal cause or provocation whatsoever.  2nd. They seldom, or never, comprehend the right or the wrong of the war.  They, therefore, act without the approbation of conscience.  3rd. In all wars the innocent are punished with the guilty.  4th. They constrain the soldier to do for the state that which were he to do it for himself, would, by the law of the state, involve forfeiture of his life.  5th. They are the pioneers of other evils to society, both moral and physical.” (Alexander Campbell- 19th century leader of the Restoration Movement- lecture “Address on War”)

There seems to be abounding evidence pointing to the idea of pacifism as the preferred mode of thinking amongst early Christians, so much so, that there is very little or no evidence to the contrary.  So when did the church experience a change in its thinking?  When did the church grow support for state mandated wars, and even begin to encourage and participate in them?  In the next post, “The Case for Non-Pacifism,” we will examine the evidence for the participation in and approval of carnal warfare and see what the Bible has to say to this end.

-Joe Butler

Build Up Instead of Tear Down

The World Trade Center compound in New York City was just another engineering marvel.  Finished in 1972 and built over the course of 3 years, the two main towers contained thousands of offices and was the center of finance and commerce in the New York metropolitan area for many years.

And then came the fateful morning of September 11, 2001, when our nation came under attack by militant terrorists.  Two planes, hijacked with reckless intent, were flown into the World Trade Center towers at 8:46 and 9:03 that morning.  The south tower crumbled into ruin only 56 minutes after being hit, and the north tower collapsed 102 minutes after impact.  What took years to design and construct took mere minutes to be destroyed.  It’s very hard and time-consuming to build up, but very easy to tear down.

With that in mind, have you ever noticed how often the Bible mentions encouraging one another?  It’s definitely a reoccurring theme throughout Jesus’ ministry, and especially evident in many of Paul’s letters to the churches he worked with.  God knows we need the encouragement of one another.  He knows we can be easily torn down by the difficulties of this life and that we need to be built up from time to time.

Is being a Christian hard at times?  Is the world around us quite unforgiving and difficult to live in?  Are temptations knocking at your door occasionally and it’s all you can do to keep on the straight and narrow?  One of the very reasons why the church itself exists is for encouragement in times like these.

 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  (Ephesians 4:29, 32)

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  (Hebrews 10:24-25)

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”  (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Let’s look at each one of these passages of Scripture individually and learn what God has to teach us about being an encourager:

  1. WHAT YOU SAY AND HOW YOU ACT REALLY DO MATTER (Ephesians 4:29, 32).  Most people believe that this passage in Ephesians is biblical proof against cursing, and while that’s true, it’s so much more than that.  Yes, how we speak can have a tremendous bearing on our ability to build others up.  While vulgar language is just one example of ways to tear others down, so is sarcasm, crude joking, and gossip.  On the contrary, a kind word offered at just the right moment can work wonders in the lives of others (Proverbs 12:25).  Also, look at the last part of this passage.  We are instructed to be kind, considerate, and forgiving to one another.  Who wouldn’t be drawn to Christ’s church if that’s how they saw Christians treating each other?
  2. THE CHURCH HAS OTHER MISSIONS BESIDES JUST  WORSHIPPING GOD (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Most of us who attend a church service regularly have heard this passage referenced as a command to not miss meeting together.  Yes, it’s true that the Bible does specifically mention Christians gathering with one another.  While this verse may or may not be directly addressing what we think of as an “organized” worship service, nevertheless, it does remind believers that we should gather together frequently to “stir up one another to love and good works.”  If we are making excuses to not gather corporately for worship or other fellowship activities, we miss out on that encouragement and become more susceptible to the temptations of this world.  When it comes to the church as God designed it, the more we’re together, the better (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
  3. RELIGIOUS UNDERSTADNING DOESN’T TAKE THE PLACE OF LOVE (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  I really love this passage of Scripture for its brutal honesty.  Many times, there is so much emphasis in Christianity placed on biblical truth and knowledge.  Arguments abound over doctrinal and hermeneutical differences, and Christians lose track of what Jesus told us to focus on.  When we are told to love God with all we have and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40), we must know that faith and knowledge without works (love) is dead (James 2:26).  In the case of the passage in 1 Corinthians 13, we can know that without love, all the tongue-speaking, prophecying, and miracle-working is pointless.  If we don’t encourage and care for one another, we’re just playing the role of Christian in name only.

16 years have passed since the comfort of our nation was rocked by the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  The victims and families, even the country as a whole, will forever remember the hurt that was caused by the collapse of those buildings in New York City.  The scars will remain forever.  As Christians, we should resolve to be encouragers to those around us, to build up instead of tear down.  There are already enough demoralizing things to deal with in the world today.  Let’s not have any of them come from the church.  Let us be an inspiration for all those watching, to show what it means to be a follower of Christ.

-Joe Butler

The Church is a Family

I know not everyone can relate to my personal situation, but I have had the benefit of a wonderful and very rewarding family life.  I have extremely fond memories of childhood spent in a caring household surrounded by loving parents and siblings.  Of course we had our hiccups; every family does.  But being raised in a Christian home has made all the difference in my view of God, of family, and of life.

On the other hand, there are many who read this and would give anything to have the fond memories of a loving family as I do.  You may have grown up in a broken or abusive home, one from which you longed to escape as soon as you were old enough to do so.  Others may be facing family turmoil as we speak.  Your marriage didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped or your kids are in and out of trouble.  For whatever reason, many people think of grief and heartache when they hear the word family.

I believe this is what makes membership in a church family so difficult sometimes.  When people from all walks of life come to know God and are added to his church, we then have to learn what God calls us to as a family of believers.  We are, “no longer strangers and aliens, but…are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).  We are meant to be a family, a group of loved ones who look out for one another (Galatians 6:10), and God has left us plenty of instruction on how to carry that out.

As a family, Christians are to…

As you can see, membership  in God’s family is a very active position.  You’ll also notice that our role as family members has us always seeking to take care of the needs of others.  Nowhere in this family is there room for selfishness or pride or jealousy.  Do those things happen?  Sure, for they are part of our human nature.  That’s why we must strive to stay in God’s word, learning his definition of what a true family looks like so we can apply that wisdom not only to our spiritual family, but to our family at home as well.

The church is a family that has joined together the saved of countless generations and whose head and leader is Christ himself.  Won’t it be grand to one day be reunited with all our brothers and sisters in Christ and to be called home by our Father to our place in Heaven to reside for eternity?  I hope to see you there!

-Joe Butler

 

The Church is a Vineyard

Work.

It gets a bad rap doesn’t it?  For those of us who enjoy our work, it goes beyond a means of support and becomes a rewarding and valuable use of our time.  For many others, work is a drudgery, time wasted building the success and pocketbook of someone else.  Whether we like our work or not, it will always be a key component to how we spend our time.

But we must get beyond the simple definition of work just being how we support ourselves.  It’s much more than that.  We were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10) and God has a great purpose for the work he has us doing.  It’s not just busy work or a means to fulfill our time.  He has amazing things for us to do as we work in his kingdom.  God has designed the church for this very important function and we are to spend our Christian walk joyfully performing the tasks he has given us.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

(Matthew 20:1-16)

In this parable, Jesus compares the kingdom of Heaven with a vineyard and gives us some insight into the very important work the church must complete here on earth.  We also see how God will reward those who do his work, regardless of how many years of their life have been dedicated to his service.  From this passage we see that…

  • The church is meant to serve God.  We have many things in this life that we could consider work.  Everything from our paid employment, to mowing the lawn, to ministering to the poor could all be considered work.  What makes them all important is that they can all be done in service to the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).  Everything we do in life can be used to glorify God and show our gratitude for his saving grace.  We have not been saved because of work, but we’ve been saved for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).
  • The church is meant to accomplish God’s work.  We have such a great example in Jesus with regard to working for God’s purposes.  On several occasions (John 4:34, John 9:4), Jesus made it clear that there was much for him to accomplish for God’s kingdom and he derived his sustenance and strength by doing such work.  God has given us the vital task of teaching the world about him by introducing more souls to the church and to the Bible in order to grow his kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • The church is meant to bear fruit.  Jesus used the example of a vineyard when speaking his parable because it would have been easily understood by the members of an agrarian society.  The sole purpose of sowing a crop is to eventually bear fruit, and the church has the same role today.  We are to bear fruit that is worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10) so that the world may see and know the one we serve.  When the church is working, the fruits of the Spirit should be evident in everything we do (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • The church is meant to glorify God.  Even if all our work for God goes unnoticed, even if all our efforts go unrewarded here on earth, our primary purpose of working is to bring honor and glory to God.  We should always be a light in dark places so that the lost of our generation may have hope that God’s love is real and that it is offered to them as well (Matthew 5:16, John 3:16).  God will never forget the work you do for him (Hebrews 6:10).  Your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

God is calling all of his followers to be workers in his kingdom.  The role you play is vitally important to his overall purpose for mankind.  You don’t necessarily have to be a well-studied Bible scholar or vibrant public speaker to be used by God.  Just take the talents He’s given you and use them to the best of your ability to honor him.

-Joe Butler