Thursday, February 24, 2011


How much of your life is motivated by greed?  Do you think there are people out there who are completely motivated by greed?  Bill Gates?  Donald Trump?  They seem like nice enough guys.  They give a bunch of money to charities.  It doesn’t look like they’re taking advantage of anybody to get more money.  Maybe they’re just really good at what they do.

Do you know anyone who you’d describe as greedy?  How would you define greed?   Somebody who wants more and more money, no matter how he (or she) gets it?  Or is that too narrow a definition?  Is it the driver who won’t merge at the end of a line of cars, but goes all the way to the front of the line and noses his way in there? (One of my pet peeves, obviously)  Can we always tell a greedy person just by looking?  Maybe not.  I’m thinking that probably all of us are greedy, otherwise, why would it bother me that that driver got in line in front of me?  Have you ever seen kids at a party with a piñata?  YIKES!  Never mind that we give kids a big stick and tell them to break something that someone made, but when it does break, we encourage our kids to get in there and grab as much candy as they can…hmmm. 

OK, so we’re all selfish, envious, and greedy, does that mean that anything we do to make money or make ourselves a better life is wrong?  Maybe…maybe not.  We’ve all heard about those folks who become so consumed by making “a better life” for their families that they completely lose touch with their spouses and children.  Their families feel cheated because all they really wanted was their mom or dad to spend some time with them.  Solomon found out that money and things weren’t what he really wanted at the end of his life.  God built us for relationships…with Him and with other people.

One of the questions that I might ask a student that I’m working with is, “Do you feel lonely even when there are other people around?”  And, kids being kids, he (or she) will usually look at me like I’m nuts and say, “No.”  But, sometimes, I’ll get a yes response and then I know that there are bigger issues to talk about.  So what do you do when you wake up some morning and realize that you are alone, even in a life full of people – wives, husbands, kids, friends, acquaintances, people you work with – alone.  How does that happen?

Sometimes, I think we are so busy just staying on schedule that we don’t have time to let other people in.  You meet folks in the hallway at work, and you nod and ask how it’s going, but neither of you expect or want any real kind of answer.  At home, you get up early, come home late, and with the kids’ homework, making/eating supper and the other evening type chores you may have in your life, you fall into bed without really talking to anyone again – and before you know it, you’re pretty much alone. 

Isn’t it wonderful to know that there is one day each week when we can pull away from deadlines, timelines and all the worldly things that clutter our lives?  What an incredible gift God has given us!  We have 24 hours to fill our loneliness with Him, with fellowship at church, and time with our families.  Saturday night the whirlwind starts up again, but for a little while, we have time. 

When my brother was just starting out as a pastor, he had a sermon in which he asked everyone in the congregation to take his shoes off, like God asked Moses to do at the burning bush.  His point was that any place where God had been was holy ground, and, if you think it through, then the Sabbath is the holy ground of time.  I liked that image so much that I wrote this “Psalm for the Sabbath”:
In the day of God’s Love, there is peacefulness.  Unlike all others is the day of the Lord.  In it He sings of His love for me.  I will not miss the Glory of the Sabbath; I will celebrate the majesty of God.Speak of the Sabbath with reverence; it is the Holy Ground of time… the most sacred room in the house of the King.  In that room you may whisper your praise to the Father and His ear will hear.And in that room, the voice of God will answer and say, “Welcome to my sacred place…my holiest of times.  Here we will speak together of love.  And, because you have elected to come, you are blessed above all others.“Then, when My holiest of rooms has passed, you will have, within yourself, a sacred room of your own that I have filled with strength and hope enough to last until my castle of solitude returns.”“Be at peace, My love will always stay in that room.And, my heart will answer, “Most blessed and joyous of days, hasten.  To be praised is the solitude of the King.”
I know it seems so obvious, and we look at Solomon and think that he’s such a dummy for loosing sight of what’s important – the only important thing – but don’t we forget almost everyday?  And we don’t have nearly the excuses that Solomon could claim!

I really believe that loving the Sabbath as a gift from a God who loves each of us and wants the very best for us, is the keystone of so many other things that we search for and long for.  And we can definitely break the bonds of oppression, greed, loneliness, and succession that Solomon is talking about in Ecclesiastes 4.  Sabbath is a day that brings everything back into perspective after Satan has done his best to skew them during the week.

I’m sure that it’s possible to go through the motions of keeping the Sabbath and not let yourself become engaged in the blessings and fellowship, but I would think that that would be really torturous.  I remember when I was a kid and only came to church because my mom made me and I could hardly stand to sit through church.  Sometimes I thought I would go crazy!  But as I grew older, I started to find reasons to enjoy Sabbath…one of them was, I didn’t have to do any homework on that day!  That was enough for me for quite a while!  In college (in Keene), I knew kids who were so driven that they would study right through Sabbath.  Well, firstly, I was never that driven to get a good grade, just ask my mom, and secondly, I think they were missing the point of going to an Adventist institution!  Also, they came out of the Sabbath more exhausted than when they started.  They may have gotten better grades that I did, but I learned to love the Sabbath and the blessings that come with it.  I learned to treasure that special time with God that I don’t always have time for during the week (I know; I’m working on it)

I think keeping Sabbath as though it is “the holy ground of time” is a big part of fixing what’s broken in me.  Sometimes, I get frustrated thinking that the stuff I need to get done this week can’t wait till sundown, but I’ve got to remind myself that Sabbath is a lot like tithe.  Earthly mathematics would tell us that it’s impossible to have more after you give something away.  But with God’s mathematics, when we give back our tithe, we don’t have 10% less; we have all we need.  When we spend our Sabbath’s learning to love God more, we don’t have 1/7th less time to get all the other stuff done…  “The things of earth will grow strangely dim, by the light of his glory and grace.”

We won’t be oppressed because the Truth has set us free.  We won’t be greedy because God has filled our hearts with His contentment.  We won’t be lonely because He promised to be with us and in us always.  And we don’t have to worry about who will succeed us because we are God’s children, and He will make that decision.  Isn’t God good?

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