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THE EXCITING RELISH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
For long, righteousness has been made to appear a dull, bookish or derelict kind of thing, fit for women and children when they are in trouble, and for the odd man or two, here or there, who is extraordinary. In fact, it is more exciting than rapid-careering in a canoe, for it is found only in Christ, who changes the heart to enable its full residence and the mind to enable its full recognition.
In righteousness David fought the enemies of Israel and sought to be honourable to the children of Jonathan, in righteousness King Josiah removed the religious brothel constructions which in perversion had been associated with religion. This, it was the sort of religion that the State Government with ludicrous ignorance, refers to in its denigratory Circular to Principals, bound on High School Principals (from 1988). For them, it is a social matter, a matter of the inward being apart from the testable realities of life, a sort of story, legend, poetry or pastime with a measure of some kind of awe.
In this dream, they direct Principals how to work with students, the relativistic religious premises and relate these to other fields. It is the same as in ancient Israel in its own forlorn days of delusion, when sex had to be allowed even in religious clothes, where comments to the negative from the word of God, to clean up could be undertaken by a King in full power, so that changes made required a vast reconstruction. So had they fallen as South Australia in much has fallen, in the camp of a relativity which ignores any absolute, but its own absolute power and right to say what it likes about religion, without stated or even defensible grounds, and to perform the tasks of an unelected political papacy.
It is not so uncommon, this kind of abuse, and many a nation has supped there before.
It is merely one of the enormous numbers of ways of fulfilling the old adage, Easy is the descent to hell! To ignore the nature of one's design, even of child-birth and the continuation of the race, and invent models without meaning or warrant, as if god, exhibits a blindness just like that in the day of King Ahaz, that trickster in Israel (cf. II Kings 7), who refused the relish of righteousness and the deliverance without limit offered by God, only to find himself attacked on many sides because of his spiritual blindness (II Chronicles 28), like walking in the heights of the Rockies.
On the other hand, to direct the heart, eyes and mind to the divine righteousness, and seek the face of God, this is an adventure not in the Sargasso, with its weedy mysteries, but in the cleanness of the fear of God and the beauty of holiness.
Let us look at the stress on righteousness in Christ's words, in the parable He told in Luke 16.
I CALLING TO ACCOUNT
An overseer of a rich man's affairs, was suddenly called to meet his employer. This man had heard distressing or at least disturbing reports about the manager, that he was not prudently conserving his property, but rather letting it waste away. "You can not longer be steward," said the employer.
He had asked first a question: "What is this that I hear about you ?" and added, "Give an account of your stewardship." It was only then that the words followed, terminating the post.
Thus the question implicitly allowed the man to take some action. Instead of arguing, he acted. Called to account, he decided to improve markedly what would have to be said.
This first of all gives us a lead. If you find ANYTHING amiss in your ways, look into it and ACT. Don't linger, for mental and moral, spiritual and personal cancers are just as serious as other cancers; and indeed, in potential more so. If you are being eaten up by error, sensing and suspecting you are not acting rightly in ANY regard, then to let it linger is like letting a spot on the lung linger. Do not put at peril your spiritual breathing.
II MEETING THE DEMAND
Thus in this parable, the manager at once sets about putting things in order. He does not dilly-dallly, fiddle-faddle, become neurotic, or see a psychiatrist about inner fears. He acts. He sees various persons with whom he has done business on behalf of his employer, and here are found to be a number of debts not repaid. These outstanding would indeed seem to be clear evidence of a careless work, and a wasteful one, deserving termination of his work. He had failed. However, what else could he do ? To dig ? to old. To beg ? too undignified.
with deft, swift strokes, according to each case, he allowed a discount of what
was owing, presumably considering the circumstances of each case, and soon had a
lot of funds restored, even
if at some loss in the process. Did this reduce his guilt ? of course not. Did it increase his effectiveness ? Undoubtedly.
III FINDING FAVOUR
So gracious was his employer, that he even commended him, presumably for his vigour, speed, directness and prudence in making some remedy.
Thus fear was translated into favour, and folly was stopped at its source, and account being acknowledged of fault, not only was the fault stopped, but the results of it were speedily reduced by care and address. So when you find yourself at fault, do not do a Nixon, a cover-up, or undertake a Watergate Wonder. Acknowledge your offence, minimise by RESTORATIVE ACTION, the fault of which you stand guilty, and with vigour and initiative, PUT IT RIGHT. Do not reduce it by special pleading of your own weakness; for do you so regard others! Act objectively and with respect to others as to yourself, and to truth beyond yourself.
IV THE MEANING OF THE PARABLE
The meaning of this parable is to be found by considering both what happened in the story outline, and what was the comment which Jesus made concerning it.
A. Christ noted that the children of darkness are wiser in their day and generation, than the children of light. Naturally! When your pastor saw some years ago, that there was a large and obvious disparity between the price of Adelaide houses and those in several other States, making due allowance for the comparative smallness of Adelaide, and other matters, it was felt that there must be a considerable rise here, since businesses would become interested in lower house prices, land prices for maximal efficiency, and the place is large enough for some specialisation. Moreover, employes would find the conditions attractive.
A man well-known to us bought many properties and profited greatly. Your pastor bought nothing, being too occupied with writing books for the Lord, to take advantage of this, or to become involved. Hence one man made vast amounts, and this author made nothing. It did not seem fitting, as a pastor, to be flitting about looking for this and that, even for personal use, and so the matter was dropped in the interests of faithfulness to the Lord and to His work. There are ways in which it is good NOT to be as wise in their worldliness as this world's citizens are; for then your mind readily becomes immersed in muck, and your one and only advent into this world becomes readily submerged, like a lawn covered with high weeds. That is the first point.
B. "Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fall, they may receive you into an everlasting home." That, Luke 16:9, is a profoundly challenging statement. Its point and pith is resolved more simply by referring to the context in the parable. Who received the unfaithful manager ? Firstly, it was those who were happy to have his discount for immediate cash payment. Second, it was the employer, since he was glad to have a rescue operation which, though it meant less profits or payment, prevented unlimited loss.
Both were pleased, because the man faced the problem, minimised the loss, rectified the negligence and brought a clear-cut and unconfused result, without the cost of legal operations. After all, those who had not paid what they owed were at fault also, just as was the steward for not pursuing the matters with them.
Taking the parable out of its earthly setting, into the everlasting home application, we see that if you have been just, and honest, or if not, at least faced your errors and diligently corrected them, acting swiftly where wrong, judging the matters aptly and putting wrong right, then your name will still be good. Imperfect ? yes, but not that of a waster. Slack ? yes at one stage, but not ruinously, and then giving a testimony of diligence, and frank meeting of the results of negligence. Conscience prevailed, and righteousness availed.
In heaven, what might be conceived as meeting him as a testimony then ? Is it horror that such a hypocrite could ever enter in ? I think not, since we are USING a worldly example to APPLY it to a different and a spiritual realm. The meaning, when you take this step for interpretation, is quite simple. While the manager, in the worldly setting of the parable, had self-interest as a motive, the saint has Christ's glory as the motive, so that while the one scampered for cover, the Christian acts with relish BECAUSE of the cover in Christ, because of His righteousness, because it is etched into his spirit, like a script, and moves his heart like a tempest, unwilling to cease till it has blown its way to the target.
What then is the interpretation in terms of action for the Christian in this example. It is this.
So act with the relish of righteousness, so conduct your affairs with honesty, integrity and realism, correcting with vigour what is wrong - even if error came by negligence, keeping standards crisp and clear, and when failing, overturning error with due action and real address, that shining through all is the principle of integrity, and the practice of virtue. In this way, you will find in heaven a company who receive you as one of their own, being adjusted to the same light which shone in you, fellows in arms, members of the same body.
Who and what are these ? They are not covered in self-righteousness like the unfortunate Pharisee shown in the parable of Luke 18:9ff, for that gains only contempt; but they are clothed in the divine righteousness, which being perfect allows no condemnation (Romans 5:1-11), and have emitted that inescapable transmission of light which, once in a man, cannot be hidden, as in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14. Some may have been clouded for a time, and squandered the good opportunities which beckoned; but even then, even if as smoking flax or a bruised reed, indeed as David after the Bath-Sheba incident, they are strengthened with might in the inner person, and become knowable by their fruits. Not least of these are the spiritual fruits which the Spirit of God brings out of those who abide.
Galatians 5:22-28 lists these and they are beautiful from His beauty (cf. Hosea 14), who says: "From ME, is your fruit found!" Heaven is not a chance operation, but the result of Christ's ransom, and this too is not a chance action, but a life-changing innovation which restores to the reality of our design, allowing friendship with God in liberty and love, in mercy and in a peaceful joy mingled with patience (cf. Colossians 1).
C. Christ then makes three further points.
1) Faithfulness, reliability, responsibility in life is not an incident, but a product. If your heart is changed and the Spirit of Christ is in you, if pardon is your non-predicament and peace is your non-agitation, if in short you are a child of light, then you will not bundle off what is 'little' as if it does not matter. Scrupulous honesty and basic integrity will shine through as light into every corner of a well-lit room. Thus small things do not reveal a litany of loss, but a life of love. They do this because of the right of light; and where they do this for that reason, then the large things will be found reliable also.
This is in no way to remove the awful fact of false prophets, foxes and wolves in sheep's clothing; for if you watch these, you see beyond their fur to their heart. In little things, as in great, they show their ways, and unless you are charmed into being disarmed by their palaver, instead of waiting on the Lord and watching with prayer, then you may be caught. However, a due regard for apparently minor things is a work of grace which does not make a show, a parade, but from the honest work of Christ in the heart, is concerned at all personal dealings, be their financial, or in equity, or in kindness or in grace.
2) As an example, Christ then proceeds to make this point. Righteous in small things, so in great. If the heart can EVER meet such searching spiritual standards as those of Christ, then it is a matter of monopoly, of principle, of the astonishing rigour of reality: you cannot do this in anything unless you are His. Otherwise, your motive is personally derived (an extension of self-will), personally motivated, or thrust on you by principles, procedures or beliefs which YOU chose and which express YOUR opinion, thrust or desire. Since man and God are vastly separated, and sin is a chasm (Jeremiah 9:17), failure to MAKE peace with God in fealty not to compromise and manipulation, but to Him in spirit and in truth is failure to so much as SEE His kingdom. In blindness of spirit, what is done lacks the lustre of light.
Christ in this parable deals heavily with the particular facet, the financial, the socially competent, the practical.
If you cannot be honest and equitable at the financial level, because of greed, carelessness or any other variant of carelessness in spirit, who can trust you with vastly more important spiritual things! Therefore watch your way and do not consider it 'unspiritual' to be just and equitable, honest and reliable, IN FINANCIAL DEALINGS in particular. This in the parable before us, is an emphasis on one region. If indeed, you have failed to handle mundane affairs with righteous relish, who could trust you with the freedom of being an entrepreneur, moving in your own affairs with reliability. People will tend to look for another rather than use you.
What however is meant by this: that if you fail to safeguard the property of others, who will trust you with your own! (16:12). Thus if you seek to save your own life (Matthew 16:24ff.), you will not have it entrusted to you: you will LOSE it. False, you inherit emptiness, and not life. It is when you lose your own life for Christ's sake, and since He is God, this means for the sake of your Creator, it is then that you become becoming, mutable to the beautiful, governed by good, led by the Lord, and it is then that your life IS entrusted to you, and you live it eternally! Thus deeply did Christ probe in this apparently mundane little episode, as He applied it with the terminal principles which we here examine for their teaching.
3) In fact, says Christ, there is a matter of two masters here. If you love money and the power and pleasure it brings, the relief and the joy which passing as it is, comes for a moment: then so be it. That is your GOD and face it! If you are willing to forsake this desire, lust or false priority in the interests of equity and honesty, integrity and grace, kindness and thoughtfulness, AS IN ANY OTHER DIMENSION OF LIFE, then that is a result of being so absorbed in Christ, that you are walking, working and functioning by Him.
You must awaken to the fact that it is IMPOSSIBLE to have a bet both ways. You cannot have Christ for first or merely for a place; nor can you have money for first, and then let the things of Christ appear. It is ONE OR the other. Playing the fool in this area is a waste of time. Spiritually, this is not the fruit but the rind.
Christ sums up in two approaches. Either, He says, you will love the one boss, mammon or Christ, and hate the other, or you will be loyal to one, and not to the other. The impossibility of both is double; and this is one double negative which does not make a positive, since there are two different dimensions. Disloyalty and the 'hatred' which Christ affirms when contrasting the love that is required for realism towards the God who IS love, these are two negatives, supplements. One speaks of the heart, and the other of action.
Christians then are challenged here to conformity to Christ, who did not seek to minimise the action of the Cross, but looking at it with horror, did its work with that conscientious disregard of alternatives which is the path of spiritual discipleship. With Him, it was the work of the Lord Himself, for that is who He is; with us, it is the following of an example at once noble and conscientious, total and glorious, where truth comes in clothes of mercy, and loyalty in the garments on which love insists. We see the beauty of this 'dressing' in Isaiah 61:10, where it is the bridegroom who puts on the garments of choiceness. Righteousness imputed is one; and with this garment, given BY God, there comes the power of His Spirit, the Spirit of God, which imbues the heart so dressed.
Let us then those follow Christ in all things, seeking to be pleasing to Him first and foremost in every situation, as in heart itself, for whom His light is better than darkness, the thrust and torment of the torrent of self-will; for whom God is above self, and self is subordinated to Him, that like an instrument in an orchestra, it might be fitting and not autonomous, with no more idea of music than a crow (and it has, if possible, seemingly a NEGATIVE idea of music, the more horrible in the midst of the musical twitterings, exuberances, soaring notes and lyre-like music of the forest.
There is no room for ungodliness in God, there is no compromise, no provision for meretricious appeal. It is so with truth, and this is one of its evidences. It is not able to be distilled or distorted, and thus the word of the Lord endures forever. The entry to the truth in the Old Testament remains in orientation and sacrificial symbol, what it always was; sin what it was; the fall of man what it was; and the call to man what it has been. It is one Lord who in one Way has for one Reason called to man: that He SO loves the world that He who alone CAN meet the exacting standards which sin, now inherent, mars and spoils, DID SO, and so provided the salvation which makes no concessions, but shows much grace and tenderness, lest any become discouraged.
It is indeed God Himself who met the meaning of discouragement when faced with the Cross, in man's format; but He prevailed and prospered in the work for which He was sent. Of course God always wins, prevails and His plans prosper, for though deep the ravines, appalling the abysses, magnificent is the power to overcome. Thus, when you spend a fortune, it is the heart which is joined to power to make the provision of pardon, and the pathway for holiness. Such is what the very nature and power of God would lead one to expect, for He neither does nor can deny Himself. THAT, it would be to become a different God, subject to potential and its keys for development, and hence a product of someone or something else. Since this is in the realm of creation, not Creator, it is not God; or in other words this would be a self-contradiction if it were possible. It would defile, deface and unname God, like having a mosquito with cast-iron feet: a ludicrous assemblage of nonsense.
Those who have idols, of course, can have any kind they like, while they live; but they cannot be real, being mere self-contradictory inventions of the dissonant and dissident mind of man. Those who serve God like sun and moon, do not merely twinkle in the sky of life; they shine with light, indeed like lights in dark places. Part of the marvellous mercy and divine magnitude of God is this: that He remains just the same, however many are impertinent, impenitent or unclean, however many defile the faith with unbelief while adhering to its name. What is His acts like it; just as sodium keeps its flair in air.
That is just the way it is, with His.
With Him, the torrent of truth like the cascade of mercy brings to the mind, reality, to the life, vitality and to the understanding heart, amity with God. Unduplicable, this is like turning on the switch for an instrument built for electrical power. The result brings things incomparable with the situation without it; or in spiritual terms, things this world knows not of.
When you live in this reality, it is marvellously merciful, splendidly spiritual and graciously godly. Unique ? of course, but it is HIS uniqueness. Empiricism fears, idealism faints; but faith acts and so does God, who meets His children, bearing gifts, not for blathering slavering slather, in inane excitement, but for function, service and co-operation not only in height, but in depth, not merely in power, but in peace.
The profile, it is His; the participation, it is that, experimentally of the child of God. We are not the light, but He; but it is with His reflected radiance that the light shines in and even through us. We do not incite the light , but convey it; we do not tamper with the light, but seek to forward it with fidelity. The title, children of light, is one of the most beautiful for those who are the adopted children of God. Let us then delight in the light as the perennial gift of the Lord of life, when those devastatingly dark denizens of humanism, secularism, evolutionism and other magical formulae which faint in the face of facts, are brought in like petty dictators, each with his syringe. Neither did man make man, nor did process make itself nor did advance come from nothing, nor were specifications of conceptual character devised by law-keeping mutes, nor did godlessness fair well as mere denial of truth.
The exciting fact of the revolutionary change WITHIN, without FORCE and WITH GRACE, wrought by the Creator of man in the first place, to restore him to his place: it is this which is not fairy tale (cf. Secular Myths and Sacred Truth), for here alone is there a ground not only sufficient (cf. Causes), but causatively competent, compelling a consequence efficient (cf. SMR Ch. 2, The gods of naturalism have no go).
All else has a vital deficiency disease, fact and reason (cf. Celestial Harmony for the Terrestrial Host ).
It is when you move from fables such as were foretold for just such a time as this (), to the quintessential realities of man (cf. Licence for Liberty Ch. 6, Repent or Perish Ch. 7, Barbs ... 6 -7, SMR Ch. 5), that you meet at last with facts, and the personal power of the Maker of man, where facts mean power and power has peace because it is rightly used, that utter stranger to the stringent systems of endlessly defeated and now check-mated man.