I love this quote from a book I once read: “Those who walk the narrow path are more likely to fall off the edge!” It popped back into my head last week as I was rereading Paul’s letter to the Colossians.
In Colossians 2:16-23, Paul discusses the spiritual futility of rigidly following human rules, such avoiding certain foods, or celebrating special religious holidays—not that we can or cannot do these things (I avoid sugar, for example), but that we can’t earn our way to heaven, or even become more holy, by doing them. He ends his comments with this surprising conclusion:
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
I’ve spent the last few weeks rereading the book of Isaiah. As so often happens when I read the Bible, certain passages jump off the page at me. I feel as if the Holy Spirit is underlining them, saying, “Pay attention! This is especially for you right now.” I typically underline the verses, then include them in my prayer time. God, what are you telling me here? (This is one reason I get a new Bible after reading it through a few times—I want to see the passages as fresh and new, and not get distracted by what God pointed out in previous times.)
Not many people do. Some believe that tithing isn’t taught in the New Testament, so it no longer applies to us. They explain that we’re living under grace, and tithing is legalistic. Others insist that all Christians are supposed to tithe, because of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23. I’ve heard many sermons on Malachi 3:10, where the pastor explained that the local church is the “storehouse” and we must bring our entire tithe to them, with any other giving counting as an “offering” above and beyond our mandatory 10%.
Clearly, there’s lots of room for interpretation regarding tithing. Matt, at TheChurchOfNoPeople.com (one of my favorite blogs) recently wrote about tithing. I think he gives us a lot to consider, and urge you to read what he has to say. Matt inspired me, thus today’s post.
As I mentioned in my post last week on “Hate the sin…”, there seems to be a backlash among Christian writers. Everyone is up in arms over survey results showing that the church is primarily known for its judgmentalism and hypocrisy. In an effort to repair the damage and improve our image—and hopefully move closer to the truth—a number of noted authors are coming out with books proclaiming God’s grace and acceptance of everyone and everything. The problem is many of them are ignoring the reality and consequences of sin. Here are my thoughts on three recent reads:
How many New Year’s resolutions did you make this year? Hmm, okay. Now, how many have you already broken? Yeah, thought so. Me too.
I’ve been pondering the fact that despite our best intentions, most of us are unable to keep our most sincere resolutions for more than a few days. We make our personal lists of dos and don’ts—do exercise, do be more generous, do read our Bible every day. Don’t lose our temper, don’t eat so many desserts, don’t buy things on impulse.
All our goals are laudable. Some are easier than others. We might even manage to achieve a few. After enough practice, they become habits, and we find we’ve made progress. We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves—hey, look at me, I eat two servings of vegetables every day!—until we compare how far we’ve come with how far we have to go. No matter how many resolutions we make and keep, the distance to perfection never seems to change. It’s always out of reach.