Let’s talk about being grateful. There’s a lot of pressure to hustle and get ahead. Long hours of work in school or at a job are encouraged by our society. And working is a good thing; in fact, we’re supposed to work. What can become a problem is when we stop seeing the things that we gain as gifts and think that we’re responsible for what we have in life.
Really, everything that we have comes from God. So yes, we do have to work, and work hard sometimes, but it’s important to keep things in perspective.
As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. – Ecclesiastes 5:19
Let’s never forget Who gave us the intelligence to receive an education, even though we do have to work at it, and the physical and mental abilities to perform a job that provides us with a salary. Let’s remember that God blessed us with the good health to be able to finish our education or hold down that job. And God protected us and homes and vehicles that we have so that we continue to own them, even though we’re really stewards of our possessions more than owners.
The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich. – Proverbs 13:4
Not everyone who works hard will become wealthy, and a bank account with maximum zeros shouldn’t be our primary goal. But if we don’t work, that is if we aren’t willing to work, then we won’t be able to get what we want. Let’s take a second here and make sure it’s clear that being lazy and not working is vastly different than not being able to work. People who aren’t mentally or physically capable of working should be cared for and not degraded. But those of us who can do have a responsibility to provide for ourselves and our families.
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. – II Thessalonians 3:10-12
It’s easy to look at the people we go to school with, work with, or go to church with and notice what they have that we don’t. Maybe my coworker’s purse is newer and nicer than mine. Maybe a girl in my youth group has a new sweater that I’ve been wanting. Maybe I’m wearing the same coat for the third winter in a row and can’t stop thinking about how much I’d like a new one. Maybe a classmate has a car that has the latest bells and whistles and mine still has manual windows.
Jealousy and coveting can start so slowly and build until they’re ready to take us over before we realize what’s happening. Then maybe we start to get bitter because why shouldn’t we get to have those things too? When we start thinking we deserve things we can’t have, or don’t have because paying the electric bill is important, it can show up in how we treat each other.
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. – James 4:1-3
God wants to bless us. That doesn’t mean I should ask for this season’s coat when mine is still in good shape. But if I really do need a new coat because mine is getting worn out or the washing machine chewed holes in it, I can definitely pray about that and ask God to help me get it.
We don’t get everything we ask for, though. God hears all our requests and considers each of them. Then He gives us what we need most. Sometimes we don’t get what we want because it’s not good for us. In James 4:3, the Greek word for pleasures was associated with desire or lust. So this wasn’t just something clean we would enjoy. This involved sin.
Between school, a job, or sometimes both, and feeling like we really should have it a little easier, it’s easy to feel like we’re just going to take what we want out of life. Like we should have more than we do and we deserve to get it. Entitlement is a dangerous place to be, and it can start slowly and creep up on us just like jealousy. But God definitely doesn’t approve of this either.
The next couple passages are a little longer than usual, but I want us to look at them together. The first one, in Luke 14:7-11 is a story Jesus told.
So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 14:7-11
God wants us to be humble so that we don’t think too highly of ourselves. If we’re having a Bible study at someone’s house, I shouldn’t give myself the nicest, cushiest chair. There might be an elderly man or woman who needs to sit in it and would be in pain in a metal folding chair when I might squirm a little, but I could handle it a lot easier than they could.
This teaching isn’t just about seating arrangements, though. It’s a principle for our perspective on life. We shouldn’t always try to get the best thing for ourselves at the expense of other people. We’re no more worthy than they are.
We also need to be careful not to expect people to do things for us. Yes, we should help each other, and we should be happy to do it. But we need to try our best to take care of ourselves first. Then if we can’t do something, let’s ask for help. Here’s one more parable Jesus told.
At that time God’s kingdom will be like ten girls who went to wait for the bridegroom. They took their lamps with them. Five of the girls were foolish, and five were wise. The foolish girls took their lamps with them, but they did not take extra oil for the lamps. The wise girls took their lamps and more oil in jars. When the bridegroom was very late, the girls could not keep their eyes open, and they all fell asleep. “At midnight someone announced, ‘The bridegroom is coming! Come and meet him!’ “Then all the girls woke up. They made their lamps ready. But the foolish girls said to the wise girls, ‘Give us some of your oil. The oil in our lamps is all gone.’ “The wise girls answered, ‘No! The oil we have might not be enough for all of us. But go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ – Matthew 25:1-9 ERV
Here, foolish meant morally heedless. So these five girls neglected to take what they would need. When they didn’t have enough, they wanted the girls who were prepared to share their oil. But they didn’t really even ask, did they? It sounds like they demanded it because they expected the people around them to make sure they were okay.
If we’re asking someone for help, we need to remember that they may be struggling too. Maybe our electric bill was $400 because the weather was so cold the last month. But our friend might have a hard time helping us, because their bill is likely high too, and they could be dealing with other issues at the same time like plumber bills to repair burst pipes.
When someone is able to help us, let’s remember that what they shared is something they could have used for themselves to get what they needed or wanted, but they valued us enough to give up what they could have had for our benefit. Let’s show that we’re thankful and never demand what we think we’re owed.
Let’s take care of each other as we go through this life, because it’s tough on everybody. When we can, let’s help other people and be glad we could. And when we need help, let’s ask, but let’s make sure we do it with the right attitude. Let’s try to remember too that nothing we have is guaranteed; it’s all a gift, and we’re blessed to have what we do.
Thanks for joining in! If you enjoyed this week’s episode, please share with someone. By the way, how about signing up for our February devotional series? We’ll be talking about how we get spiritually exhausted and how to recharge our faith so that we can keep sharing it. For the month of February we’ll have a daily devotional email. Even if you’re already signed up for the newsletter, sign up specifically for the devotionals if you want those so I’ll know to get them to you.
See you next time and wishing you blessings until then,