It is the curse of short-termism! It is a sign of immaturity… The need to have it all now! We see it every day: the credit card that ‘takes the waiting out of wanting’; the relationship where instant sexual gratification is a necessity. The political bribery that promises ‘jam today’, regardless of the pain tomorrow.
There is also a spiritual short-term immaturity. The tendency to want to be seen by others as we do good works, as we exercise generosity, as we pray passionately or fast in a disciplined way. All these activities are very good, very biblical and commended by Jesus. However…
Jesus also says that, if you publicise the fact that you are doing these important things, you forfeit your heavenly reward for doing them; the human praise and publicity is all you receive. You have chosen short-term reward, rather than eternal reward. Better to do them secretly and know that only God sees them and approves. True, you may avoid getting well-deserved human recognition, and you will have to wait patiently for your reward.
It is a sign of spiritual maturity to do this; to defer your ‘gratification’ and get something far greater, later. It is also a sign of true faith: you have to believe that there is a God who is really there, who sees and approves of what you are doing and who delights in you. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). When you know that a loving God watches over you, you know that it is worthwhile doing righteous acts in secret. Why not trust him and avoid earthy fame?
Jesus goes on to talk about ‘Treasures in Heaven’ (Matthew 6:19-21). Heaven operates a different ‘currency’ from those around on earth. There are no ‘exchange’ booths in heaven, and you cannot take dollars, euros, or sterling with you; all you can do is to change your money now. By using our God-given money today, wisely, investing in things that are of eternal value, we make that exchange, and we will find that we have a great store of treasure in heaven.
The parable of the “eye being the lamp of the body” is all about greed and covetousness. If you choose to look at the world and its needs with God’s eyes, your life will be filled with light; if you look with greedy eyes, then you are in darkness. It boils down to whom you want to serve – and it has to be someone. You can serve money and be its slave – or you can serve God and have the money serve you.
Distinct from ‘covetousness’ is ‘worry’. The man who built vast barns was full of fear; he only trusted his own wealth and resources to save him. Our heavenly Father tells us to trust Him to look after us. “The Lord is my pension!” we might declare, in a modern Psalm 23. Here is the deal: If we concern ourselves about his Kingdom on earth, with seeing the unsaved rescued, with helping the poor, with building his Bride – then He will concern himself with all are other needs, present and future! Get rid of that fear – it is from the Evil One!
Abram preferred a quiet life, avoiding involvement in his local politics – also known as ‘inter-tribal warfare’, which was going on around him. However, his nephew Lot’s unwise choice of new home turned out to be an unplanned way of forcing an unwilling Abram to engage in these minor wars. He had no choice, since Lot and his family were being held captive by one of the armies involved. Conveniently, Abram had a small militia of a few hundred men, who tracked Lot’s captors to the very north of Canaan and routed the enemy army without outside assistance, freeing Lot in the process.
An obscure non-historical figure called Melchizedek, a King of Salem (meaning ‘Peace’), and a priest of God, whose name also means King of Righteousness, appeared and blessed Abram, bringing out bread and wine. In return, Abram gave him a tenth of everything he had. This short event is explained more fully in Hebrews chapter 7. It is important to note that, whilst Abram allowed Melchizedek to bless him, he refused all worldly blessing from the King of Sodom and his associates – to avoid any future glory being taken away from the Lord himself.
GENESIS 15 – 16
We see the next key promise of God, that Abram will have a son – and verse 6 is the entire basis of New Testament salvation by faith alone.
Verse 5: “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them”. Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be”. More than 8,000 stars are visible in those skies. God wanted to enlarge Abram’s vision, imagination, and expectations (the key to building faith) and started to train his servant to ‘think big’. Ephesians 3:20 states: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” – if we ask and imagine for much more than at present, it provokes God into greater works of power in our lives.
15:8-17: Abram needed more proof that God was serious, and God graciously obliged with a solemn covenant. The symbolism of the cut-in-two animals was that any covenant-breaker would be similarly cut in half (see Jeremiah 34:18-19); the smoking fire pot represents the Lord. In Hebrew, the phrase “to make a covenant” is literally “to cut a covenant”, and now we understand why. God makes it crystal-clear that he means what he says.
Infertility feels like a curse! If you are a childless couple in your late thirties or more, even today you are regarded with suspicion and outsiders probably have you down as ‘selfish’. And if it feels like that in 21st century Britain, it certainly must have seemed that way to Sarai in 21st century BC Canaan. Genesis Chapters 16 and 17 return to the promise of God to provide Abram and Sarai with a son and heir. By now, they had waited ten years in Canaan and Sarai finally lost patience with God, deciding to take the matter into her own hands – or at least, to give the Lord a helping hand!
Sarai was medically infertile, so by mutual agreement, Hagar, Sarai’s slave was given to Abram as a second wife. The result was a son, Ishmael – ancestor of the Arab nations – and the indirect cause of a whole load of trouble, both then and now! Friction between mothers and, later, their sons, became enmity between Jews and Arabs. Often, we cause a great deal of harm by running ahead of God’s purposes for our lives – certainly as much as we do by lagging behind them!