Through Love be Servants
Through Love be Servants
Freedom and Love⤒🔗
Freedom is a current issue. People talk about it everywhere. We can hear it in private conversations, in the news media, and in the legislature. Part I of the new Canadian Constitution is called the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Article 1 of this Constitution deals with the rights and freedoms in Canada, and Article 2 defines these Fundamental Freedoms. This new Charter of Rights and Freedoms has far-reaching consequences, probably more profound than most people are aware of. Many laws and regulations have been challenged already in court and have been declared in conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Some cases have been driven to the extreme and sometimes the conclusions and judgments of the courts are very surprising and sound almost ridiculous. This development might even have consequences for the church and the way church discipline is, and can be, exercised.
Article 2(b) of the Constitution says that everyone has the “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.” Article 15(1) forbids “discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
This seems to be an article that guarantees freedom of religion. However, overly zealous antidiscrimination groups try to use this article to prevent churches from exercising discipline with respect to those who refuse to live according to the norms set forth by the Word of God. Such discipline is considered to be against the freedom of belief, opinion and expression. A church can be forced to hire, or not to fire, an organist, a caretaker or other “employees,” who openly propagate that they are practising homosexuals. This has happened already in the U.S.A. It is considered to be discrimination, based on sex, and therefore in conflict with the Constitution.
Subsection (2) of Article 15 says that this equality “does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups, including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
This section is used as the basis for affirmative action programs. That means that the government, by law, can force companies or corporations, to give preferential treatment to certain so-called disadvantaged groups. That is called “amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups.” Amelioration means: to improve, make better or less bad. It is used to force employers to hire an equal number of male and female workers. It may in the future also be used to “ameliorate” the condition of the “disadvantaged” group of homosexuals. There are already people who want to use this section of the Constitution to force churches to accept women in office and admit people to the Lord's Supper who are living in conflict with the seventh commandment.
We have to be on our guard that we do not get caught up in an application of these rights and freedoms which brings us in conflict with the Word of God. The basic question in this respect is: What do we mean by freedom? We first have to give a definition of freedom. For such a definition we have to turn, not to the Canadian Constitution, but to the Word of God. In Galatians 5 we can find such a definition. Above Galatians 5:13-24 we read as a caption: “Freedom defined.” In the verses 13-15 we read:
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.
That is a clear definition. Freedom means: to serve one another through love. That sounds rather unusual today. To serve seems to be the opposite of freedom. And moreover, what is meant by love? That is also a current issue but here we have to be even more on our guard. The word love can be used in different ways. We can distinguish three different words which can be translated in English by love, but still have very distinctive meanings.
The most commonly used meaning of the word love is the relationship between a male and a female person, a boy and a girl or a man and a woman. The meaning of this word is often closely related with sex. Another word, translated by love, is what we also can call charity. It is the love for and to the poor, the providing of unselfish support to those who suffer. This form of love has nothing to do with the first concept.
A third meaning, and the most frequently used one in the Bible, is love as trustworthiness, taking care of the other and being a reliable friend and helper. This relationship finds its most beautiful expression in the way parents love their children. It is also exemplified in Holy Scripture in the way the Lord takes care of His children.
About this love we read in 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends … So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.(verses 4-8 and 13)
That is what we have to keep in mind when we read the definition of freedom in Galatians 3:13ff. Real freedom is, to serve one another through love. However, this love has become a rare commodity. People are selfish, each one seeks his own advantage and fight for his own cause. We, as Christians, have to consider our own heart and we have to examine our mutual relationships. There is much room for improvement, at least, when we look at these things in a Biblical way and apply the standards set by the Word of God. That is what we will try to do in what follows.
We have to be servants of one another. That is the instruction, given to us by the Apostle Paul. To be servants is not easy. By nature we all tend to be selfish. Why should we serve and be less than the other? The main reason is because we are members of the same body. We are one in Christ. In the previous section we have quoted 1 Corinthians 13, where the Apostle Paul speaks about love. In 1 Corinthians 12 he speaks about the unity in Christ. We are all one in Him. He is the head and we are the members of the body. The members cannot do without each other.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honourable we invest with the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
This is a rather lengthy quote, but it shows us in such an excellent way what it means to serve one another through love. That is what we should keep in mind when we examine our mutual relations. We often like to be served, but Christ Himself has said in Matthew 20:27-28, “Whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” And after Jesus had washed the feet of His disciples He said to them (in John 13:13-17):
You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Wish that this would be practised more among us. There are so many cases of discord, animosity and struggle among brothers and sisters. We can see it everywhere. Certainly not only among people of the world, but almost in the same way among brothers and sisters in Christ. In Psalm 133 we read: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” However, reality is sometimes a far cry from it. We are supposed to forgive each other. In the fifth petition we pray: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In Lord's Day 51 of the Heidelberg Catechism we confess that this means that we find this evidence of Thy grace in us that we are fully determined wholeheartedly to forgive our neighbour. How much evidence do we find in our heart? How eager and fully determined are we to wholeheartedly forgive? Many problems and conflicts exist among brothers and sisters in Christ about financial matters. How does that happen? Has prosperity made us more selfish and less considerate? Are we always thoughtful when we have to deal with our brothers and sisters? A little more compassion and self-denial could solve a lot of problems. In Philippians 2:3, 4 the apostle admonishes us:
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others.
That seems to be one of the most difficult things to practise. Affluence and success have taken their toll, also among Christians.
When church members run a business together, it sometimes happens that the deal turns sour, and then they keep a grudge against each other. Why? Because they often expect too much from the other and give too little. When brothers make a business deal together it should be put on paper, and worked out in detail, no less than in any other case in which a partner is not a member of the church. It should probably be spelled out even better. Why? Because the closer people are, the greater the possibility that their relationship will be damaged. The greatest mistake is to assume that stipulations can be worked out after the problems have begun. Then it is too late. Also a brother or sister can spend a dollar only once. The expression: “I did not expect this from a brother or sister” is sometimes based on wrong expectations and on too vague an agreement. When the pinch is felt, everyone wants his share in the profits and few want to pick up the losses.
I have been surprised quite often by the attitude of people in this respect and by the way they treat each other. I have seen cases in which an employee feels he does not have to work so hard, can come late or leave early, because his employer is a member of the same church; as if his boss does not have to run his business in the same manner as everyone else! I have also seen cases that an employer seems to think that he can ask more from his employee, let him work harder, and let him make overtime without payment, as if this employee does not need the money as badly as everyone else! Fortunately there are also many cases in which there is an excellent cooperation between church members in business life. We should not blame the good ones for what the bad ones are doing. Still we have to realize that many cases of discord and animosity are caused by too idealistic and sometimes completely wrong expectations, and a lack of common sense in setting up a business agreement.
Exercise in Listening←⤒🔗
Let us try to analyze why there is so much misunderstanding and friction among brothers and sisters who are one in Christ and who all want to serve the Lord in sincerity. When you speak with people who are involved in a conflict which may have dragged on for a long time, you often hear all kinds of bad stories about the other party. When you hear only one side of the story you wonder how people can be so bad, stubborn and inconsiderate, not to mention dishonest. Still, too often, we hear only one side of the story, and we are ready with our judgment, and take sides with one of the parties. In this way the problem becomes only bigger and more complicated, because more people get involved. Did you ever notice how much difference it makes from whom you hear the story? After you have heard both sides, it sounds quite different, although it is not always a clear-cut matter either. Still it is a Biblical requirement to listen to both sides before you get involved in a matter or give a judgment. Lord's Day 43 of The Heidelberg Catechism teaches clearly that it is against the ninth commandment to condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard. This basic Biblical principle, based on Matthew 18, is too often ignored. In Proverbs 18:17 we read: “He who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Wish we would take this to heart more often!
Let me try to give some advice for dealing with such delicate matters. If you sometimes wonder how someone can act in such an unfair way, or you get angry because you consider someone's attitude or actions unjust and dishonest or even rude, try to put yourself in his shoes for a while. Try to think and to analyze why he acts this way. I have seldom met people purposely act in such a bad manner. Quite often there is a misunderstanding, a misinterpretation of the facts, a lack of information or communication, or another underlying reason. To know and understand these underlying causes can already solve half the problem. Therefore we need to listen to each other, and listening is one of the most difficult parts of communication. Many people have the gift of the gab, but few are good listeners. In most discussions people reflect on what they thought the speaker was going to say, and on what they expected to hear. They are already preparing their answer, before the other is finished. Therefore they do not hear what he really says. And sometimes they begin their response by interruption, before the other is finished. In this way they never find out what the other really had to say. Their response is beside the point and makes the other party only more upset. This goes back and forth, and at the end of the debate both parties have a completely different picture of what they have discussed and of what has been said.
It is quite understandable that, if both give their impression of the discussion, they contradict each other, and often accuse each other of lying and twisting the words of the other. Again, that is not done on purpose. It is only because they honestly do not know what the other really said, let alone that they understood and felt what his intentions were and what he had in mind. They have taken a few fragments of the discussion. They have not heard the rest because they were too busy with preparing their defence, and they have filled in the gaps with their own fantasy and with what they thought he was going to say or had in mind.
Most people do not realize how difficult and how important it is to listen. It is something worth putting some effort into, and it can be learned if one is willing to practice and apply some rules. A very simple, but worthwhile and often used exercise in communication courses goes as follows, and it might be interesting to practise it at home. Two people try to have a discussion about a topic in which both are interested and on which they have different opinions, but which does not emotionally affect them, to avoid personal feelings from interfering with the discussion. A third person acts as a referee. A number of rules have to be applied during this exercise. Both parties are allowed to speak for no longer than, e.g. two minutes each time. They always have to respond to what the previous speaker has said. However, and that is the main point of the matter, before a speaker is allowed to respond, he first has to repeat or summarize the main gist of what the other has said. Only after the other has agreed that this is indeed what he had in mind, the next speaker can reflect on what has been said. The purpose of this procedure is to make sure that they listen to each other and do not think about their answer before they have fully understood what the other wanted to say.
If such a discussion runs smoothly, it shows that there is real communication. If you try it you will notice that quite often the “green light” is not given, because the other is not able to repeat or summarize satisfactorily what has been said. In such a situation the referee has to act. He decides whether the discussion can continue.
Two different situations have to be distinguished.
There is in the first place the matter of bad listening. The listener is not able to repeat what has been said, because after half a sentence he already started thinking about his response and did not hear the rest of what was said. That is the most common difficulty.
There can be another reason, and that is why the task of the referee is important. Some people express themselves in such unclear way that it is difficult to catch what they mean. That is why they will never give the green light. They are never satisfied with the summary of what they have said. Also this is a clear indication of a lack of communication.
Although this can be played almost as a game, it is a very important exercise in communication and is used in professional courses. A necessary condition for using this test is that the participants can stand criticism and not get angry or upset if they find out that they are lacking some skills in communication. The results can be revealing for all parties.
What has been said in the previous section is also important with respect to home visits or family visits brought by two elders on behalf of the consistory. Do not get me wrong, I do not recommend this procedure for such visits. Not at all. But the required or the acquired skills of listening and responding to what has been said are certainly important.
The purpose of a family visit has to be to serve one another through love. The office-bearers have to support, to guide, and to admonish the members of the congregation. The members of the congregation who receive such a visit have to speak openly, to answer honestly, and to discuss all the important issues brought forward in a constructive way. They should not evade a discussion or shy away from certain questions. They should not try to mislead the office-bearers or put up a front. Honesty is one of the main requirements for a good visit. Some people complain about the quality or the value of such a visit, but it depends to a large extent on the response of the people who receive the visit. However, also the office-bearers have to be on the alert. They have to listen carefully to find out what is going on. They have to realize that the office-bearers are often more eloquent speakers than the people who receive the visit, but that listening is not less important for them.
Some people are very hesitant to come forward with their problems and concerns. They begin in a somewhat clumsy way. They beat around the bush for a while, because they do not know how to bring the real issue to the fore. In such cases attentive listening is important. When an office-bearer responds with a lengthy speech about what he thinks is the issue, the people might give up and not try again to bring up their point. Much wisdom, experience, and attentive listening is required to have good communication and to reach the real underlying causes. Every office-bearer should be on the alert, looking for clues, especially with people who do not easily express themselves, or who are hesitant to come forward with their point. Such people need some encouragement. Little things can be of great help. A few words can give an indication of existing problems. If someone, for instance, tells that again something went wrong or was a disappointment, the question might be in place: “What else is bothering you?” The word “again” probably indicates that what he mentions is not the main issue and not even that important, but that there is much more behind it. What he mentions is only the straw that broke the camel's back. An experienced and attentive listener will use such a remark as a springboard to come to the real issues at stake.
There are many ways in which a visitor can achieve good communication. An atmosphere of trust and confidentiality is very important. The people who receive the visit should know that not everything they discuss is reported in the consistory, but only that which is relevant and necessary to be known by the consistory, and then often only with their consent. The main purpose of the visit has to be: to serve one another through love.
Of course, the office-bearers have to be in charge, they have to lead the discussion. If people try to evade a certain issue, or distract the attention by bringing up certain points which are not relevant but only used to avoid the real questions, the office-bearers should cut off such a side road and guide the discussion back to the subject. It is a matter of wisdom on the part of the elders to distinguish between evasive sidetracking or hesitant efforts to come to the important points.
Cooperation is also required from those who receive the visitors. People should realize that it is not always easy to find the right approach. The elders are not coming on their own accord, but they have received a mandate from the Lord, to take care of the flock. They have to be respected because of their office. The members should not approach them in a negative way, but positively, that they may benefit from the visit. The instruction to serve one another through love counts for both sides. Only in this way can such a visit be really fruitful.
We mentioned Article 15 of the Canadian Constitution. That article of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms deals with equality, and more specifically with equality before the Canadian Law. This article of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is nowadays used many different ways. Some people go to the extreme and use this article in an almost ridiculous way. Many existing rules and regulations are challenged in court and declared in conflict with the Constitution. This is not the type of “equality” we want to discuss in this section. For us as Christians there is another principle of equality. We are all one in Christ, we are called to serve one another through love, and as members of the same body we are equal and have to show our equality in the way we deal with each other.
You are allowed to have your personal friends in the church. You do not have to be equally familiar with all the members of the congregation. But the unity in Christ should be shown in the way we deal with those who need our help the most. We should not single out or despise other members of the congregation because we consider ourselves better or at a higher level than they are. The Apostle Paul says that in the body those parts which we think less honourable we must invest with greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:22-25). That should determine our attitude as members of the church, which is Christ's body. We have to take care of one another and especially of those in need.
The Apostle James warns us against partiality in the church. He writes in chapter 2:2-4 of his letter:
For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, 'Have a seat here, please,' while you say to the poor man, 'Stand there,' or, 'Sit at my feet,' have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
We are allowed to have personal friends, but we should not restrict our attention and support to those whom we consider our equals. If you help and support those from whom you expect a reward, you do not show much generosity. In Luke 6:32-36 Jesus has warned His disciples and He warns us, saying:
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? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
That is the real Christian attitude and in this way we are supposed to demonstrate the equality and unity among members of the same body. If that would be practised more, many problems would be solved and many people would feel less lonely and rejected. Also in this respect there is much room for improvement in serving one another through love.
To avoid misunderstanding and abuse of what has been said so far, we have to add one thing. The obligation of the rich to help the poor can be abused by people who are in trouble through bad management of their own money, or by those who do ignore their own obligations. They can try to let others pick up the tab. In the same way as government social assistance can be abused by people who do not want to work, the generosity of brothers and sisters can be abused by other members. People who, through their own bad stewardship or mismanagement run short, should not blame their brothers and sisters for being reluctant to get engaged in a risky venture. If the one brother goes bankrupt, he should not demand that another brother, who by hard work has build up a solvent enterprise, puts his business on the brink to fill a bottomless hole. That would be bad stewardship on both sides.
To Suffer Injustice←⤒🔗
This brings us to another point, namely, in how far we have to suffer injustice and have to accept being defrauded by our brothers and sisters. It is surprising to see how many cases of financial grievances there are among brothers and sisters.
We have seen how sometimes a business deal can turn sour because no clear stipulations were made and too much was done in good faith, while this so-called good faith is a misnomer for wrong or unrealistic expectations.
Sometimes the question is asked, whether brothers are allowed to ask the courts for a verdict in a business dispute. In this respect reference is made to 1 Corinthians 6:1-7. This Scripture portion can rightly be used, but it can also be used in the wrong way, as we will see. It all depends who is using it and for what purpose. If brothers disagree about a business venture, they should try to solve this problem in a brotherly fashion. If everything goes in good harmony, a decision of the courts is not necessary. However, the apostle does not say that going to court is always sin. That depends on the circumstances. There are cases in which brothers have such strong disagreements and are so far apart in their interpretation of a deal or business contract, that it appears to be impossible to come to a settlement. In such cases some arbitration may be necessary. We are now thinking about cases in which both parties seriously and honestly believe that they are right and that the other is wrong. That can happen, without any bad intention, as we have explained before. Personally I would prefer in such a situation a binding arbitration, in which both parties appoint an arbiter, and the two arbiters together appoint a third, impartial person. Both parties have to agree in advance to abide by the decision of the three arbiters. According to 1 Corinthians 6 the arbiters should preferably be chosen from among the membership of the church, brothers or sisters in Christ. However, there are cases which are so complicated, or have such a long history and so many ramifications, that it is almost impossible even to find qualified people for such a committee of arbitration. It is also possible that one of the parties refuses to accept such a binding arbitration. The refusal to accept such arbitration can be an indication that the person who refuses the arbitration is not really willing to settle the dispute, or that he is not quite convinced that his case can stand a trial. In such situations it may be necessary to ask a decision from the courts. Such a decision should never be seen as a victory. The apostle calls it already a defeat as such, when a matter has to be brought to court.
It is also possible that the person who feels defrauded decides to leave the matter as it is, accepting his losses, and suffering wrong, in order to avoid a court case. However, that is up to that person. The party who is not prepared to accept binding arbitration, and who is not willing to settle the matter in a brotherly way, should not use 1 Corinthians 6 to prevent his brother from going to court. That would be an abuse of this text for someone's own purpose.
A few remarks have to be made about this Scripture passage. The apostle speaks about going to court before the unrighteous, those who are least esteemed, and unbelievers. I doubt whether we can apply all these adjectives in all situations to the courts as they function in our present judicial system. According to Romans 13 we recognize our courts as governing authorities, instituted by the Lord, His servants for our good, and to execute Gods wrath on the wrongdoers. The main gist of what the apostle says is that not all kinds of controversies among Christians should be brought before court, and especially not matters which are of an ethical or religious nature. These matters should be handled within the church, among brothers and sisters.
However, in a modern business deal it is quite well possible that there are legal implications, which are difficult to determine. In this respect we are not referring to cases in which people intentionally, or quite obviously, try to defraud each other. Those are clear-cut cases, which should not exist among believers. When personal sentiments, hatred or rivalry play a role, the matter should be settled in a different way. That is what 1 Corinthians 6 teaches us. There are, however, also cases in which both parties, in all honesty, feel that they are right. It is even possible that an honest legal adviser (e.g. a lawyer) cannot come to a clear statement. I do not see it as conflicting with the Word of God when a matter is settled by asking a verdict of an impartial and competent court. That can certainly be done without bad feelings on either side. Let us, also as brothers and sisters, try to deal with business matters in a businesslike manner and not elevate every case to an ethical conflict. In the world it is quite well possible that a legal dispute is settled in court in a peaceful way, without bad feelings on either side. Why should that not be possible when believers have a different interpretation of a legal document or a contract? Of course, if they agree to settle out of court, it is even better. And if one of them decides that he rather suffers loss and accepts being defrauded than going to court, it is in line with 1 Corinthians 6. But let not the party who is unwilling to settle the dispute, and who comes with unreasonable demands, or who is in a favourable position, try to protect his position by condemning the other for going to court. There is always the danger that someone uses 1 Corinthians 6 to cover up his unjust actions, which probably cannot stand the trial in court. The apostle did not give this instruction to provide the one who wrongs his brother with immunity from prosecution in court. The one who complains that the other party goes to court should especially take to heart what is said in verse 8, namely:
But you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that even your own brethren.
Unfortunately, there are many unsolved problems among brothers, and not going to court does not always mean that the matters are dealt with in a more Scriptural way than with a binding verdict of a court. The main point remains whether the parties are prepared to serve one another through love.
Thinking about such cases makes one sometimes wonder what the underlying cause is of so many conflicts and disagreements. Did prosperity make people less considerate and more materialistic? In the past most of our people did not have any money in the bank, and they were sometimes more happy than now. However, this observation is not always meaningful to the youngsters of today, and we should be careful in using it as an argument to make them more content with what they have today. We all have to realize that affluence can make us blasé. Those who are overfed and supersaturated do not appreciate food anymore. Those who have all kinds of luxury are easily bored by it and can become dissatisfied. There is a constant desire to have more.
Parents have to instruct their children and they have to show them the value of all they have, no matter whether they are rich or poor. They have to instruct them in a subtle way. They have to do it, not with strong words or with harsh statements, but by setting an example.
We hear many stories about the misery in the third world countries. We all are supposed to know about their poverty, but does it really appeal to us? It is so far away from our home and we are used to these stories. It is almost unreal to most of us.
Do we really bring sacrifices for others? What is a sacrifice? Our payment for the church or for the schools? For many it is only a part of their luxury. What is luxury? It is all a matter of comparison. There is a great difference in dispensable income and standard of living among us, but still we are all relatively well-off, compared to the people in other countries.
We are allowed to enjoy life with all the riches the Lord has bestowed upon us. We are not supposed to live as ascetics, denying ourselves all luxury. But still we have to maintain our own lifestyle. We have to show our thankfulness to the Lord for all He has given us and we have to learn to be content. The Lord has made us stewards. A steward in the Bible is someone who has been entrusted with the care of all the possessions of his master. He has to manage everything in such a way that his master does not suffer any loss but gets the best return from all his investments. We are stewards in this world. We have to handle and to manage all the possessions which have been entrusted to us. All the riches and the wealth we have received, no matter how much or how little it is. We have to do it to the honour of the Lord and to the benefit of our neighbour.
When we realize that we are living by mere grace, that we have received everything from the hand of the Lord, then we can also do good to our neighbour. We can give to the poor and help those in need. We remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
It is more blessed to give than to receive.Acts 20:35
He who lives by grace and mercy, can show mercy and through love be a servant.
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