Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Best Date Ever

Some might wonder about the connection between this picture and the title of this post: "The Best Date Ever". I trust it will soon become clear.

Recently I had a date night with Aimee. All three kids were sent away for overnighters. What would we do with ourselves? We had no clue. This was not a problem.

Despite an ill-advised walk down a nature trail without the protection of Off (yes, we turned back early, swarmed by pesky bugs), this turned out to be the best date ever! We soon found a shaded park shelter and uninterrupted, meaningful conversation. Aimee was reminded of a sermon she had been telling me about. She had DVR'd an episode of Grace To You on DirectTV and was shocked by the way John MacArthur interpreted a very familiar passage. She thought it would be a good time for me to see it.

Intrigued, I wasted no time getting us back home. After a quick meal we sat down with ice cream (drowned in Magic Shell of course) and watched MacArthur preach God's Word. You are right in calling me a dork, but there are only a handful things more enjoyable than MagicShell and John MacArthur preaching, and an evening with my wife, let me tell you!

Now is where I tie in the picture. The sermon was on Luke 21:1-3 where we have the widow offering her last two coins.
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. Luke 21:1-3
Familiar passage. Deals with sacrificial giving right? The lesson is simple: we need to look at how the widow gave and, in turn, give the same way, right? Wrong!

According to MacArthur, there are four common interpretations of this passage.
  1. The measure of a gift is not how much you give but how much you have after you give ... not the amount of the gift, but the amount left over.
  2. The true measure is the self-denial involved. (The percentage given) ... the woman gave the highest percentage...everything.
  3. The true measure of any gift is the attitude with which you give it. Is it selfless? Humble? Surrender? Expressing love for God, devotion to God and trust in God? The widow, we are told, had the least left behind, gave the highest percentage and must have had the best attitude.
  4. The gift that truly pleases God is when you give everything and take a vow of poverty.
MacArthur argued that, despite their universal acceptance, none of these common interpretations make any sense.
In fact, all of those interpretations are imposed on the text and you know how I feel about imposing things on the Bible text....not good. You say, “Why do you say they’re imposed?” Because Jesus never made any of those points. Jesus never said anything about what’s left behind, what percentage, what attitude, or do the same and give everything. He didn’t. Jesus never makes any of those points.

He does not say the rich gave relatively too little, they had too much left over. He doesn’t say the rich gave too low a percent. He doesn’t say the widow gave the right amount. He doesn’t say the rich had a bad attitude and the widow had a good attitude, or good spirit. He doesn’t say that. In fact, He doesn’t say anything about their giving except that she gave more than everybody.

He doesn’t say why or with what attitude, or whether she should have, or shouldn’t have, or they should have, or shouldn’t have. Her outward action is all that you see. It is no more or less good, bad, indifferent, humble, proud, selfish, unselfish than anybody else’s act.

There is no judgment made on her act as to its true character. There is nothing said about her attitude or her spirit. She could be acting out a devotion. She could be acting out of love. She could be acting out of guilt. She could be acting out of fear. We don’t know because Jesus doesn’t say anything. Doesn’t say anything about the rich, doesn’t say anything about the widow, doesn’t draw any conclusions, doesn’t develop any principles, doesn’t command anything, doesn’t define anything. Why? Because none of that matters."
So how are we to understand this passage? The post would be too long to explain in full but the key is to understand the context. This little vignette falls "between the condemnation of the false leaders, and the pronunciation of judgment that will last and has lasted two thousand years until Jesus comes." Jesus was NOT happy with the way a false religious system was willing to stand by and take the last source of sustenance from a widow, leaving her totally desolate and destitute. In application to today, MacArthur expresses the same judgment and indignation toward the "prosperity preachers" of our day, as Jesus did to the false religious system of His.
The largest segment of givers to the Charismatic prosperity gospel preachers are single women, desperate for healing, desperate for money. Sometimes they’re promised money, health and the new one is a spouse...a man. That’s right, if they send in their money.

So I say, woe to you who sell your miracle water and your miracle cloths that promise to heal the desperate if they send you their money. Woe to you wealthy self-indulgent preachers who become rich on the backs of the lonely poor, disillusioned diseased and desperate who are told to give you their money as an act of faith so that God is obligated to make them healthy and wealthy. Woe to you who indulge in ten thousand dollar a night hotel rooms, claim revelations from God, spend 112 thousand dollars a month on your private jet with money taken from the most desperate people. Woe to you, you will not escape judgment.
What a powerful message. God is not pleased to see the poor give away the last of their resources, especially to a false religious system! Let us who are with resources give so that those who are in need can benefit. Let us give generously to causes like Roundup2Roundup. Let us give with joy (like the "cheerful giver" in 2 Cor 9:7). But let us also be good stewards of our resources (God's resources) and save and be wise.

What a great date night! Looking forward to more like that. Maybe a second honey-moon to the T4G Conference?!?

Note: For a full transcript of this powerful sermon, click here. You can also catch this sermon in 3 parts on YouTube: (part 1, part 2, and part 3)

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Here is my testimony: mike