Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Getting Grateful

The problem does not lie in our lack of action, but in our lack of gratitude. When we get grateful, we will act.

Simon the Pharisee had invited Jesus to dine at his house. As they were reclining at the table a woman of ill repute showed up. In that culture, one did not sit to eat as we do, but leaned on one elbow toward a low table. The poor were allowed to drift in for handouts and thus the woman
slipped in. The woman stopped at Jesus’ feet. As Simon and Jesus ate, the woman wept, her tears falling on Jesus’ feet. Impulsively, she wiped them with her hair. Without thought, she kissed the clean feet. With abandon she poured expensive perfume on them. With abandon, no thought of propriety she expressed her love for Jesus.

Simon harrumphed. "If Jesus was really a prophet, he would know the kind of woman is touching him and would NEVER allow such a thing to happen." It’s a scary thing to think such thoughts around God. Though Simon’s words were not spoken aloud...

40 Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said. 41 "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii (20 months wages), and the other fifty (2 months wages). 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." Luke 7 (NIV)

Simon had not even offered Jesus the most basic of common courtesies. Ordinarily a servant would wash guests’ dust caked feet as they entered the home. Simon didn’t even offer a basin for Jesus to wash his own feet. A kiss, much like our handshake, was a common practice to welcome a guest. To place a drop of perfumed oil on an honored guests’ head was simply being considerate. Simon did none of it, but the woman, probably without forethought, took care of those courtesies with abandon.

The problem did not lie in Simon’s lack of action, but in his lack of gratitude. The woman reveals to us important truths.




Our actions simply flow out of a heart full of appreciation. The difference between Simon and the woman is that she knew the truth of who she was and what she owed Jesus. He gravely mistakenly thought he was a good person.

We need to "get grateful" to get our actions right. How? Adopt 3 realities.


The sinful woman knew that, but Simon thought he deserved much. Religion always teaches us that if we do more good than bad then we deserve God’s love and rewards. Problem is that it is just not true. At the moment of committing one sin, we deserve nothing but hell.


The sinful woman knew she was guilty of much sexual sin. Simon was comparing himself to her and others who were murderers, adulterers, thieves and the like. Problem is that we have to compare ourselves to Jesus. If we are not that good, we are not good enough.

Take a moment here. Think about what you would consider your very worst sin. Got it? Now email it to everyone in your address book. No, wait, I was just kidding. But it did send a chill up your spine, didn’t it? Why? Because we are GUILTY. However, if you have accepted Christ as personal
savior, God has completely erased it, buried in the deepest part of the ocean and doesn’t even remember it anymore.

We have been forgiven so very, very much.

3. Our forgiveness cost God exorbitantly.

We can easily become so familiar with the idea that Jesus forgives us that we forget how much it cost. The Father sent His very own son to die in your place so you could be stamped "NOT GUILTY", given the love and presence of Almighty God and welcomed into heaven someday. God did not take that lightly. It cost Him the lashes on Jesus’ back, the thorns stabbing his head, the nails in his hands and feet, the spear in his side. And worst of all, it cost Jesus being abandoned by His father, separation from God – the true meaning of hell. The agony caused him to cry out just before he died,
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:34b (NIV)

The human race was literally racing to hell without hope when God stepped in. And it cost Him everything.

When we live with these realities undergirding our attitude toward life, WE WILL BE GRATEFUL. We will love, we will serve, we will give with abandon toward God and others.

As you think about your actions over the past week, which are you most like, Simon or the woman? C’mon, be honest. I challenge you to get grateful this Thanksgiving week. It leads to experiencing God and hearing His words of approval,

48 Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" 50 Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Bob and the Box

Bob was walking through his neighborhood on a sunny Saturday morning, doing nothing of importance, enjoying the day. Off to the right of the sidewalk, he noticed a box. Not hidden, but a bit off the beaten path. He dodged the water puddles to investigate, lifting lid of the box to reveal stacks of hundred dollar bills. In shock he dropped the lid into a puddle. Quickly he scooped up the lid, grabbed the box and headed for home.

He set the lid in the sunshine on the kitchen counter to dry and the box on the table. Stacks of hundred dollar bills!! Bob counted them, slowly, deliberately. 50 bills in each bundle. 200 stacks in the box. Exactly a million dollars!! Immediately he phoned the authorities to report his find. Bob’s mind spun with thoughts of all the detective shows he’d ever seen. Could it be a ransom, a blackmail, a robbery?

Bob lived in a very small town. The entire police force consisted of the county sheriff, Cliff, and 3 part-time officers. Several hours later, Cliff showed up at Bob’s house.

“No”, Cliff said. “Nothing has been reported about missing money.”

“What should I do with this? It’s not mine and someone is sure to be missing it.”

“I don’t trust the office to hold that much money. My officers are out of the building most of the time.”

“I have a commercial safe here at the house. I could keep it here for now, especially if no one else knows about it.”

“Not a bad idea. I’ll check the nationwide reports for any clues,” Cliff replied. “That sure is a lot of money, Bob. You know that if there’s no report after a year, the money will be yours.”

Now there was a thought Bob had not even considered. Bob looked at the calendar. June 9th. He was an honest man with a comfortable life and had not even contemplated keeping the money. The thought was fleeting. “C’mon,” Bob thought to himself. “What are the odds that a million dollars will not be missed.” Bob laughed as he pictured it, someone looking into their trunk, realizing their box of a million dollars was missing and saying, “Oh, well. Didn’t really want that anyway.”

Cliff called Bob the next day to let him know there was still nothing being reported about missing money. “Just keep it safely tucked away,” was all the advice Cliff provided. It was a very small rural town, after all. Bob wondered to Cliff, “Do you think the owner might give me a reward?” He got a bit excited, “What if he gave me just 1/10th of the money to say thanks? That sure would go a long way!”

Several months went by uneventfully. Most of the time Bob hardly remembered “the money”, except when he opened the safe to get his wife’s jewelry or check his insurance papers or grab a new book of checks. One day Bob mentioned “the money” to his best friend and told him the story of finding it. Ron thought Bob was pulling his leg, so Bob opened the safe and showed him “the money”. Ron whistled in awe and congratulated Bob on being such an honest person. In fact he made such a big deal about it that it made Bob feel really good about himself. So good, in fact, that he began to show the money to some of his other friends. “The money” became a topic of conversation, a focus of visits by friends. Bob found himself opening the safe, pulling out the box and showing people several times a week. It became a source of pride for Bob’s entire family.

One day in January, Bob carried the box out to the dining room table yet another time and said to the visitors with a bit of flair, “Here it is, MY million dollars.” Bob’s wife, Maggie, looked at him in shock. “What did you say?” “I said, ‘Here’s the million dollars.’” Bob replied. “No, you didn’t. You said, ‘Here’s MY million dollars.’” “No, I didn’t. Why would I say that? It’s not mine, I’m just keeping it safe.” “You said ‘MY’ not ‘the’” Maggie insisted. Because there were visitors, they both dropped it.

The next week the money was on the dining room table again between Bob and Ron. Both were quietly looking at it, simply admiring the money. “You know, I think my money deserves a better box,” Bob said as he went to another room. He came back with a plastic case with a hinged top and Bob’s name displayed on the front. He placed the money gently into the case and admired how well he was taking care of the money. Ron and Maggie both noticed the change. It was no longer “THE money.” It had become “MY money” in Bob’s mind and words.

In February, conversation turned to what Bob was going to do with HIS money after June 10th. He decided that he would give half of it to charity, invest 25% to put his kids through college and pay off his house and share the remaining 25% with his friends.

In March Bob decided that he would give ¼ instead of ½ of HIS money to charity, invest 25% to put his kids through college and pay off his house, keep 25% for himself, and share the remaining 25% with his friends.

By April Bob was spending time every day looking at the money, worrying about the money, thinking of ways to avoid taxes on the money. He was no longer coaching his son’s teams, helping his daughter with her homework or taking walks with Maggie. Ron no longer dropped by because he was tired of looking at “MY money.” As Bob looked at the money on tax day, he decided he was going to be very generous and give 10% to charity, invest 25% to put his kids through college and pay off the house, keep 50% for himself and share the remaining 15% with his friends.

In May Bob stopped going to work and stopped showing the money to visitors. He pulled the blinds and didn’t answer the door. Maggie took the kids to stay with her mom until after June 10th and told Bob she wouldn’t be back then unless the old kind, fun and loving Bob came back. He sat by the safe thinking about “MY money.” And he decided that he would give 1% to charity, (“that’s a lot of money, you know”), invest 25% to put his kids through college and pay off the house, share a few thousand with Ron and keep at least 70% for himself.

On June 2nd Cliff knocked on Bob’s front door. Standing with him was a distinguished, elderly gentleman. Bob’s heart went to his throat. Cliff kept ringing the doorbell. “I know you’re in there, Bob. Open the door. He let them in and was introduced to Charles, a resident of the Dutch Hill Retirement Center.

“About a year ago I was preparing to move,” Charles began.

Bob knew what was coming. Not the particulars, but he knew that this old man was trying to take away “his money.” He had to be a crook or a con man.

“Growing up during the depression caused me to mistrust banks. So all my life I saved my money in the attic. I kept it in a metal case I brought home from the war, so it was safe from fire. When we were packing up my house for the move, my son finally convinced me to put the money in the bank.”

“A likely story,” thought Bob. “He’s even got Cliff duped.”

“Last June I was on my way to the bank with the box of money. I’d counted out exactly one million dollars to put in the bank and I gave the rest to the grandkids.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s really worked up all the details.”

“I realize now that I shouldn’t have gone by myself, but this has always been such a safe town, and it was only two blocks to the bank, and it was such a nice morning, that I decided just to walk the box of money to the bank. That’s really the last thing I remember. Evidently, about halfway to the bank I had a stroke, fell to the ground and dropped the box. A couple of joggers found me, called the ambulance and I’ve spent the last year recovering from that stroke. My short term memory was erased by the stroke and I’d forgotten completely why I was out that day until my son recently checked my bank statements and realized the million was not there. We called Cliff and here we are.”

Bob was dumbfounded. His mind was in overdrive trying to conceive of some plan to keep “HIS money.’ His stomach was in knots. His emotions were ready to erupt.

“Bob,” Charles continued. “I know that you must have thought the money would be yours.”

“Oh, not at all,” Bob said sarcastically. Charles didn’t seem to notice the edge in his voice.“

I would like you to give me 10% of the money. That is all I really need right now to live on.”

“10%!! He’s asking for $100,000 of my money. A few hundred would be fine, but that’s way too much money.” thought Bob to himself.

“I want you to invest the other 90% and use the interest for your family, your friends and other worthy causes.”

Bob’s mind began to spin. “He wants to control ALL the money!! How could he ask such a thing,” he thought.

“From time to time I may ask you for a portion of the money for a special cause, but other than that I want you to manage it for me.”

Bob sat down as the room began to spin.

“And, Bob. When I die the money becomes yours. As your reward.”

Bob’s emotions exploded as he jumped to his feet toward Charles. “You want $100,000 of my money right now?” he screamed at Charles. “You want me to hand it over just like that? That’s 10%, 1/10th of all my money that I’ve worked so hard to protect!”

Cliff stepped forward. “Bob, it’s all his money,” he said trying to calm him.

Bob kept shouting. “And you want to call the shots on the rest of it?”

Cliff grabbed Bob’s arm, “He’s offering you an incredible gift, Bob. Don’t you remember when you first found the money, you said you’d be happy with 1% as a reward. Now you’re acting as if it’s actually yours and Charles is taking it.”

“Well, it is!”

“No, Bob. It’s not your money and Charles is giving you the chance of a lifetime. You need to apologize and take him up on it.”

STOP Here for a moment. What is the ending of this story? You can finish it any way you would like, because it is your story. Charles represents God and Bob is each one of us. Here are some possible endings.

1. Bob grabs the box, runs and tries to keep the money. The result: the police track him down and haul him off. We can try to do that and we will face God as a policeman at the judgement.

2. Bob pretends to agree, but keeps the money for himself. The result is the same as the first.

3. Bob accepts Charles’ offer, returns 10%, manages the other 90%, enjoys the benefits and at Charles’ death receives a great reward. That is God’s plan – provided for now, pleasing to God and in heaven we will receive a great reward.

So watcha’ goin’ do? The choice is yours.

Mat 6:19-21 (NIV) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."