It might sound difficult to pray for a seemingly mediocre life, to have nothing more and nothing less than your needs met by God. But if your heart cares most about God’s glory, and being on middle ground prevents you from the temptation to profane it, then perhaps it’s best to make this request, leaving your wealth in God’s hands.Read More
What if we haven’t married or have no children? Or what if we are new to such roles? Does this disqualify us from the category of someone who disciples others? What then would we teach?Read More
This article was originally published here.
Being last in anything often brings shame and embarrassment. I feel like I failed if I get last—my reputation ruined. Thus, I often succeed in not being the very last. Yet, whenever I see Jesus’s words about the “last”, I wonder if the mentality not to be last whatever the cost, proves wrong.
Jesus says, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30).
We don’t easily digest this “be last” mindset in the success-driven world we live in. The most skilled, the “elite”, and the first-placers rise up in order to get rewarded with wealth, prestige, and reserved parking slots.
But Jesus calls for a correction of our perspective. He pulls back the reigns on our natural pursuit of self-aggrandizement.
The Story of the Vineyard Workers
Jesus illustrates to his disciples the difference between the reward system of God’s kingdom and worldly accolades in the parable of the vineyard workers in Matthew 20:1-16.
He says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard” (v.1). The landowner goes out looking for men at three different times, hires everyone he can, and promises to pay each a denarius.
At the end of the day, when the landowner goes out for the last time, he finds people still waiting to be hired (v.6). It seems that other landowners passed them by and hired others, for they reply, “Because no one hired us,” when asked why they remained idle (v. 6-7). This landowner hires these men, though the day is almost done. He tells them he will pay them “whatever is right” for their work, which turns out to equal the same wage as the ones who worked much longer (v.4-5).
Immediately prior to this parable, Peter’s asks a question of Jesus that reveals that he embraced a low reputation in the world, but still struggled with pride. Like Peter, one can be low on society’s totem pole, but still lifted too high in their heart.
He and the disciples had given up everything they had to follow Jesus, so he asked Jesus what they would get in return (Matthew 19:27).
Perhaps Jesus’s purpose for the parable is to show Peter (and us) the importance of trusting God for the reward of our work, and to stop thinking we deserve more than he gives.
In the parable, the all-day workers believe they deserve more than the others who worked less. This makes sense by worldly standards (Matthew 20:10). Like the early workers, Peter thinks the disciples deserve a reward for being more obedient than others—like the rich young ruler they just heard about (Matthew 19:16-24).
But, the landowner simply wishes to give the same wage to the laborers who worked less (Matthew 20:13-15). He does so out of his generosity. And, though he was true to his word, it bruises the vanity of the others. He says:
“But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:13-15)
It turns out that the reason for the landowner’s generosity is rooted entirely in his own character, and not in the recipient. He graciously gives to each what he wishes—though he never does so unfairly.
The point Jesus makes gets to the heart of the workers he hired first—the Peters—and those of us who think we deserve more than we should.
Jesus assures us of a reward, but it will be different from our worldly expectations. God says that he rewards differently than the world rewards—he does so according to the generosity of his own heart.
God’s Ultimate Generosity
God generously grants us the faith to believe in Jesus Christ. It says in his Word, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For by grace you have been saved through faith…not as a result of works, so that no man may boast” (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:8-9).
We don’t deserve to escape God’s wrath because of our sin. This undeserved gift of salvation in Jesus Christ is the epitome of God’s generosity.
God may give others more than we think they deserve, and he may give us less than we think we deserve. But praise God that he has not given those of us in Christ what we actually deserve! Every gift God gives comes by grace—from our salvation to the reward of our work (Romans 2:6).
And, God will never be unfair, for he is just:
“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)
He will be, and has been, more than fair and abundantly generous to those who receive Christ as Lord and Savior. And for that we praise him.
His Promise to Exalt the Humble
To be first in the kingdom is to be last in our sense of deserving—desiring praise from the world and from God for what we’ve done. God will humble us if we ask him, change our perspective, and he will reward us justly in due time:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. (1 Peter 5:6)
Thus, let us focus on the object of our service—God himself—more than any earthly reward. When we joyfully work and serve with our eyes on Christ and what he’s already given us, we won’t long for more.
But, we do have the gracious promise that we will be rewarded for our good work done in Christ’s strength (Colossians 3:24). It’s important to see any good we do as Christ working in us and not our self-motivated obedience (John 15:5). God will be faithful to exalt the humble; therefore, in light of God’s generosity, let us be zealous for good works as those who are weak and imperfect, but who have a mighty and generous Savior.
This article was originally published here.
Motherhood put me in a spiritually lethargic mindset.
Yes, I needed times of rest as I took care of my newborn. After all, I was seeing hours of the night I’d never seen before. Quickly, however, my need for rest became an excuse to avoid hard things. Although I needed fellowship, I wanted to face the hardships of motherhood at home where I felt safe. I also didn’t desire to evangelize as much or invite others into my home (into the mess I had learned to embrace).
I began to see my home as a comfortable cottage where I could retreat from many of the hard things God calls his people to do. I didn’t have the determination to muscle through times of fellowship and hospitality and evangelism and service or anything else — even if those things were for the good of my soul and the glory of God.
Lethargic by Default
I notice a similar tendency among professing Christian women today. It’s not only moms. Some Christian women avoid hardship altogether. They aren’t getting uncomfortable for the kingdom of God or taking risks for the sake of Christ’s name in the world. Instead, they are clinging more to the things of this world. I see it all over social media. I hear it in conversation.
Some women take on trends of the world that bring temporary satisfaction, such as Plexus and skimpy rompers. Others live a retired life of shopping and endless primping to secure their long-gone youthfulness. It’s difficult to live differently than the world. It’s easy to seek comfort and go along with others in their pursuit of earthly pleasure. That’s why so many do.
This was me for a season. I became idle, apathetic, and lazy. I had little interest or motivation to pursue the things of God outside of my personal Bible study in my cozy nook. I became spiritually lethargic with more interest in worldly comforts than a determination to live a life most pleasing to God — one that involves getting uncomfortable.
Every person struggles with this. It’s our default tendency. We wake up in the morning in our lethargic and selfish mindset until we seek God and his help. There’s a reason the Scriptures tell us to set our minds on things above and not on the things of earth (Colossians 3:2).
Loved, Saved, Raised
Moving away from this natural tendency requires an active and continual seeking, but God is the one who works it in us. In Romans 12:2, Paul calls us to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” We don’t transform ourselves; God transforms us and renews our mind when we set it on him and his word. He helps us to discern what is good and acceptable in how we live. He keeps us from conforming to the world and enables us to conform more into the image of Christ.
When we are hoping in the one who saved us when we weren’t good enough, when we couldn’t fully obey him, and when we were still sinners, it doesn’t make sense to live like the world. It makes sense to live with a fierce and joyful determination for the one who saved us when we didn’t deserve it — for the one who made us alive together with Christ, raised us up with Christ, and prepared good works for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:4–10).
We follow the course of this world until Christ delivers us from it. When he does, we no longer sit in bondage to our sin. Instead, we die to our sin and stand alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5). When he rose from the dead, God raised us up with him and seated us in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). This is our hope — we get Christ! And the Holy Spirit is our guarantee to inherit this promise one day (Ephesians 1:13–14). When our hope in God consumes our minds, we live radically and with vigor for his mission, his glory, and his worship.
Uncomfortable for the Kingdom
John Piper says, “The deepest root of Christian womanhood is hope in God,” and “this hope in God yields fearlessness.” This doesn’t mean God calls every woman to pack it up and move to a hostile country — although every woman should be willing to accept such a call. It does mean every woman must get uncomfortable for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are a few ideas for how every woman can do this:
- Seek God every morning (Psalm 5:3).
- Look for one person to share the gospel with every time you go to the grocery store (2 Corinthians 5:20).
- Build new relationships for the sake of the kingdom each time you go to the park with your kids (1 Corinthians 9:23).
- Become a foster parent or adopt an orphan (James 1:27).
- Be hospitable without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9).
- Welcome fellowship in difficult seasons (Hebrews 10:24–25).
- Pray and engage women at a local abortion clinic (Micah 6:8).
- Go to the nations (Romans 15:20).
- Adorn yourself with good works — not immodest or expensive trends (1 Timothy 2:9–10, 4:7–8).
- Take time to disciple and discipline your children with grace and love (Titus 2:3–5, Hebrews 12:5–11).
Christian women, we have nothing to fear and ultimately nothing to lose. We will inherit our glorious hope. We will get Christ. He will reward us for our good works. Let’s not be conformed to the world in its apathy toward the things of God. Let’s live like we have the greatest hope to offer the world. Let’s get uncomfortable by hoping in God and not in what the world offers. Let’s take risks for the sake of the gospel to the glory of God.
I mentioned Plexus in my most recent article at Desiring God, so I wanted to make clear what I was trying to say in even mentioning it. A reader brought to my attention what they discerned from it and how they were offended.
My intention was never to point out that women who do Plexus are all indulged with temporary satisfaction, nor was I connecting it to dressing immodestly and primping and overspending. I was trying to give isolated examples of how we women can fall into the temptation to seek temporary satisfaction, and I specifically mentioned Plexus as one example of a new business trend but for no specific reason other than to provide an example.
I do not think it's wrong to do Plexus. I do not think it inhibits you as a Christian. My point was to get us women to evaluate if we are putting more hope in temporary things than the things of God. I hope you agree that that is possible to do with Plexus and many other things. We can talk more about these things than the gospel and Jesus Christ. We can become comfortable in doing our business or trends as a ministry but we aren't actually ministering or getting uncomfortable to share the gospel through this avenue because it's what everyone else is doing and even how a lot of Christians are spending their time.
Similarly we can dress like the world or spend our lives like the world with little attempt to take risks such as living counter-culturally for the sake of Christ. I do think it's wrong as Christians to dress immodestly to show that you are fit and promote your products though.
I do not think I made clear what I was trying to say and for that I am sorry to offend anyone. I will always welcome emails that show concern. I did not see it until someone brought it to my attention and neither did any of my editors at Desiring God. We saw it as an example of a tendency to put more hope in--not as a sure thing.
I agree it looks more negative to the company than I intended. I hope anyone who was offended accepts my apology and understands more of what I was trying to say.