Is It Greedy to Want Justice?
Today’s Live Q&A comes to you from the coast of Maine.
Is it Greedy to Want Justice?
From Smitha via Facebook:
Pastor, I have one more question. In Luke 12:13-15, a man is asking Jesus to tell his brother to share his inheritance with him. That means the other person is greedy and didn’t want to share his inheritance. Why did Jesus then say, “Beware of greed?”
Wasn’t the other person greedy who came to Jesus needed justice? What if he was really poor, that he had nothing, and all the wealth was held by his brother?
Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
- Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me: Jesus had just taught on our great value to God and on the importance of standing for Him. In the midst of this teaching, a man interrupted Jesus to ask that He take his side in a financial dispute.
- According to the law of the day, the elder brother received two-thirds of the inheritance and the younger brother received one-third (Barclay). This man did not ask Jesus to listen to both sides and make a righteous judgment; he asked Jesus to take sides with him against his brother (Tell my brother to divide the inheritance).
Sometimes, a request for justice is really a demand to “give me what I want.” Perhaps Jesus knew there was a lot more to the situation than this man explained.
- Obviously, Jesus’ previous words about the need for full commitment and God’s care for us didn’t penetrate this man’s heart. He felt he needed to fight for what was his.
- If both brothers understood life according to the principles Jesus had just explained, there wouldn’t be an argument. The brother who had more would be ready to share what he had, and the brother who had less wouldn’t think having more was the key to his happiness.
- Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you? It wasn’t that Jesus was unconcerned about justice; but more so He knew that this man’s covetousness would do him more harm than not having his share of the inheritance.
- We may fight and fight for what is ours by right; and in the end, having it may do us worse than if we had let it go and let God take care of the situation.
- Jesus did not feel it was His responsibility to judge every matter and solve every problem. There were some disputes that He refused to become entangled in
It is possible to mask covetousness with the claim that one is on a righteous crusade.
- Take heed and beware of covetousness: Jesus used the man’s request to speak to him and the crowd about covetousness. Perhaps the man’s passionate request for justice really had a low motive; perhaps he was more animated by covetousness than by justice.
It is strong wording here; take heed is more like guard yourselves. The idea is that covetousness and greed is going to attack each person, and they need to be on guard.
- “Great possessions are generally accompanied with pride, idleness, and luxury; and these are the greatest enemies to salvation.” (Clarke)
- One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses: This is the overall principle that Jesus will develop in the following teaching on material things. When we live with the attitude that our life does consist in what we possess, we live in covetousness, and covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
What does it mean that Satan is cast out of heaven in Revelation 12?
I like what Donald Grey Barnhouse says in his commentary on the book of Revelation. He considers that there were four falls of Satan. First, there was his fall from holy to profane. That’s when Satan fell, and he was no longer the anointed cherub that covers, as he’s spoken of in Ezekiel 28:14. Secondly, Revelation 12 describes the fall you’re talking about, when Satan is ejected from heaven. From that point, he no longer has access to heaven. I’ll say more about that in a moment. The third fall of Satan is when he loses access to the earth and is taken to the bottomless pit. That’s described later on in the book of Revelation. The fourth and final fall of Satan is when he’s taken from the bottomless pit, he organizes a brief rebellion on planet Earth, following which he is cast into the Lake of Fire. That’s the final fall of Satan, the fourth of the four falls of Satan.
I do want to acknowledge that different Christians have different opinions about this. But here’s what I believe. On the calendar of God’s unfolding plan of the ages, I would say that only one of the four falls has already happened so far, and that is the first fall of Satan. Satan has fallen from holy to profane. I believe that Satan still has access to heaven. We see this in the story of Job when Satan accused Job before the throne of God. We also learn from the book of Revelation that Satan is called the accuser of the brethren, and he accuses them before God both day and night. So, it would appear to me that Satan still has access to heaven now. Of course, he is the prince of the power of the air. The Bible says that he goes about the earth like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. So, he has access to Earth, and I think he also has access to heaven.
There will come a point in God’s unfolding plan, during the time which Jesus called the Great Tribulation, when Satan will be ejected from heaven, no longer having access to it; he will be restricted to Earth. Later he will be cast into the bottomless pit, and then finally, the Lake of Fire.
So, what you’re talking about here in Revelation 12, is the yet-future point in God’s unfolding plan when Satan is no longer allowed access to heaven, but his domain is restricted to the earth. That’s part of the fury which Satan pours out upon the earth in the very last days.
Is the Angel of the LORD actually Jesus? Is there a difference between the Angel of the God and the Angel of the LORD?
I heard from a Bible teaching that the Angel of the LORD is Jesus Himself. How come He is an angel? And is there a difference between the Angel of God and Angel of the LORD (e.g., Judges 6:20-21)?
Judges 6:20-21 – The Angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. Then the Angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.
Good question. In the two dominant biblical languages, ancient Hebrew and New Testament Greek, the word for angelis the same word as messenger. So, there isn’t a technical word in those languages used to describe what we would call angelic beings. It just describes messengers. Most of the time, in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament, the context tells us that these are unique messengers which are neither divine nor human, but what we would call angelic beings.
There are a few places in the New Testament, and in the Old Testament as well, I believe, where the word messengeris applied to humans in some context. We also sometimes find the context where it’s applied to God in the function of being a messenger. Sometimes in the Old Testament, God is His own messenger. He delivers the message Himself. Many of these occasions in the Old Testament speak about the Angel of the LORD, or as in Judges 6, the angel of God. Either way, this is the messenger of God. That’s the way to remember it. Angel just means messenger, and sometimes God is His own messenger, delivering His own messages. That’s a simple way to understand it.
So, how do we know whether it’s an angelic being, or a human being, or God Himself delivering the message? Friends, we just know it based on context. We draw the context out. There are certain contextual clues which help us. For example, if there is worship involved, or if people say they’ve seen God, or if it says later that a person saw or encountered the Lord Himself, those are indications that we are talking about the Angel of the LORD in the person of God Himself. To get a little more technical, this is the person of Jesus Christ. We know this because if God ever makes a physical appearance to people, He does it in the person of God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. We can’t see God the Father; the Bible says, “No man has seen God at any time.” And of course, God, the Holy Spirit is non-physical and non-corporeal. He has no physical body that can be seen.
Prior to the New Covenant, was anyone born again or regenerated?
This is a great question. It gets at a core dividing line in understanding the Bible. There’s an approach to theology today that is commonly called Covenant Theology. I have to say, I don’t favor that name, because I place great importance on the covenants which God declares in understanding His unfolding plan of the ages. I’m very big on the idea of covenants. But the idea of Covenant Theology isn’t merely based on the revealed covenants. Rather, it places a huge emphasis on what I would consider to be the implied covenants in the Bible. It places such great weight on these implied covenants, that I would consider it to be out of order.
Generally speaking, people from the Reformed world believe in Covenant Theology. A corresponding belief for some, but not all, Reformed theologians is that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s unfolding plan. They would say that before the New Covenant, people were regenerated just as they are now under the New Covenant. But I don’t think the Bible teaches that. When you take a look at the New Covenant passages, such as in Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, I think they make it pretty clear that the New Covenant was not something functioning during Old Testament times.
Now, is it possible that God could have regenerated a person, or forgiven their sins, or given them the Holy Spirit in a similar manner to what He would do for believers today under the New Covenant? Of course. God is God; He can do anything. But the argument somebody would have to make is that those things were universal among all who believed and were made righteous by faith before the New Covenant. They couldn’t argue that only a few believers were regenerated as they would be under the New Covenant, or that only few believers were filled with the Holy Spirit as they promised they would be under the New Covenant, or that only a few believers had the complete cleansing of sin, as would be promised under the New Covenant.
Not only would I disagree, but I believe it’s a very important point of theology. I would be very interested to discuss this with somebody who adheres to Covenant Theology, because I’ve been trying to do more and more reading on the subject of Covenant Theology. I honestly scratched my head at some of the conclusions they make. I don’t understand the weight that is placed upon an implied covenant which, in my estimation, is nowhere clearly stated in the Scriptures.
There is a clear statement of a covenant which God made with Noah and all humanity. There is a clear statement of a covenant which God made with Abraham and his descendants. There is a clear statement of a covenant which God made with Israel at Mount Sinai. There is a clear statement of covenant which God made with David. These things are clearly declared as covenants. Therefore, it seems strange that the most important covenant in the view of those who believe in Covenant Theology, the covenant of grace, is only hinted at in the Scriptures, and never clearly stated. If it is the most important covenant, if it is the centerpiece of God’s plan to the ages, then why isn’t it clearly present? Why does it have to be an inference made from systematic theology instead of something that’s directly stated in the Scriptures?
So anyway, that’s my perspective on that. I make a very clear dividing line on this issue. I think that the benefits or the promises of the New Covenant need to be understood. The promises of the New Covenant include regeneration, that is, being born again, being made alive; the heart of stone being removed, and a person given being given a heart of flesh; complete forgiveness; a filling or bestowal of the Holy Spirit; and believe it or not, the restoration of Israel is a common theme in these New Covenant passages. I regard myself as someone who takes the New Covenant seriously. I believe that when Jesus sat with His disciples and presented the bread and the cup to them, saying, “This is the new covenant in My blood,” that He meant it, that He was really establishing a new covenant, and, if I can be so bold, that the New Covenant is really new, that it’s just what it says it is. It’s a new covenant; it’s not a rehashing of the old.
What should the church do if it finds out that someone is living a sinful lifestyle?
What should the church do if it finds out that the newly hired worship leader is living a sinful lifestyle? When should church members say sin is sin? We had musicians in the past with that lifestyle.
I’m not pastoring a congregation right now, but I’ve had decades of pastoral experience. Here’s what I would say as a pastor. This is the kind of thing that needs to be dealt with directly, and sooner rather than later. These things don’t just go away. Now, this is a matter of the general attitude which the church needs to have towards sin. Leave the leadership question outside of this.
The general attitude that the church needs to have towards sin is this: we come near the struggling sinner, we stand with them, we support them, we help them, and we bring them before the Lord again and again. We are there to stand beside them as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have tremendous support in God’s family for the struggling sinner.
What we have much less patience for in the family of God, especially among leadership, is the rebellious sinner who says, “Look, I know you say this is sin, but I don’t think it’s sin, so I’m just going to keep on doing it.” Friends, there is very little accommodation made for that in the church. And that needs to be dealt with directly.
Here’s what needs to be determined: the difference between a struggling sinner and a rebellious sinner. There is a phrase sometimes used in the Old Testament about sinning with a high hand. It means to sin in the face of God, just saying, “Forget it, God, I’m going to do whatever I want to do.” Listen, a person like that has no business being in leadership among God’s people. That kind of sin needs to be dealt with.
Allow me to add a bit of a warning: if it’s not dealt with, the power of the Holy Spirit will be drained from that ministry, or at least drained from its potential. Look, I’ve known God to do remarkable works even while certain leaders had terrible hidden sin in their life. God was doing a great work. But I stand convinced that it was still nothing compared to what God could have done in better circumstances. So, there’s going to be a hindrance to the work of God. Additionally, that person will be heaping up condemnation for themselves. You’ll see that same approximate sin multiplying throughout the congregation. If you have a situation of adultery in a church, especially in church leadership, and if it’s not dealt with properly and forthrightly, you can expect that there are going to be multiple adulterous situations in that church. There’s some kind of spiritual dynamic behind that.
Why was Paul so concerned about meat sacrificed to idols?
What was the issue with “meat sacrificed to idols” that required so much of Paul’s concern?
We are talking about meat sacrificed to idols, and why it’s such a big deal. It was a big deal for a few reasons. First of all, it dealt with idolatry, which was an important issue in the Roman world of the first century Christians. There was idolatry everywhere, in any sizable city, especially in Corinth and Rome, to which Paul wrote letters where he speaks about meat being sacrificed to idols. In those cities, there were temples to idols everywhere. But Christians were to be known for being set apart from the idolatry of the world.
On the other hand, there was a lot of meat associated with idol temples being sold at meat markets or restaurants. In those days they thought like this. When someone needed to butcher a cow, they would bring it down to the priest at the Temple of Zeus for butchering, give the priest a little piece of it for his work, and either keep what was left or sell it at the meat market or the restaurant. Oftentimes, these pagan temples would have a place of sacrifice to the pagan god, plus a restaurant where you could get a nice steak dinner, as well as a meat market where you could order the meat “to-go.”
The question is, if a piece of meat was part of an animal that was sacrificed to Zeus, would there be something impure or idolatrous about me eating it? Interestingly, Christians had different opinions on this. Some Christians said, “Yes, that meat has been dedicated to an idol. You can’t eat that meat. You’re eating something that’s been dedicated. You are paying money to a pagan temple for that meat. You’re supporting paganism in our town.” But other people said, “Look, who cares? Zeus isn’t even real. Zeus is a figment of people’s imagination. This is good meat at a good price, so if I want to eat it, I’ll eat it.”
Obviously, in our modern day and age, the issue of meat sacrifice to idols is a non-issue in and of itself. However, it is a big issue because of the principle it gives to us about things which the Bible doesn’t command us specifically one way or another. There is no direct command in the Bible, “You are forbidden to eat meat sacrificed to idols,” or, “It’s okay for everyone to eat meat sacrificed to idols.” There’s no command either way. That’s why it is a good example of the fact that Christians, believers who are right with God, can have different consciences about the same issue. God can bless and honor them, no matter what their difference of conscience may be. But Christians need to know how to love each other and treat each other with respect, despite these differences.
When things in life aren’t going well, I start to feel condemned, like God is upset with me. Any advice?
When things in life aren’t well, I tend to feel God is upset with me, then I start feeling so condemned. Any advice? Thanks for your time and your commentary! You are a blessing.
I’m so pleased to hear that my Bible commentary has been helpful to you. That makes me very happy. I have a verse-by-verse commentary on the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. It’s 4.4 million words, and it’s available absolutely free at enduringword.com. It’s helpful for a lot of people. It’s clear and simple enough that everyday believers use it, but I think it takes the Bible seriously enough that people who have been pastors for 40 plus years use the commentary all the time as well.
Concerning your question, I want to say this directly, but gently: it seems like you’re trapped in legalistic thinking. You may be thinking that God’s opinion, God’s heart, God’s attitude, and God’s disposition towards you is based on your performance. That is the definition of legalism. Please understand that God’s attitude, heart, and disposition toward you is based neither on who you are nor on what you have done. Rather, it is based on who Jesus Christ is and on what Jesus Christ has done. That’s really the core of it.
When we think of God’s love, it is not the situation of somebody picking the petals off a flower and saying, “He loves me; He loves me not. He loves me; He loves me not.” Many Christians live their Christian life basically that same way. “Today, He loves me. Oh, isn’t it wonderful? I’ve been a good boy. I’ve been a good girl. God loves me. But yesterday, I said or thought or did something bad, so He loves me not. They go back and forth between the two. Why? Because it’s all based on their performance.
I’ve got good news for you. Your standing with God is based on His grace. It’s not based on your performance. It’s based on the wonderful, powerful grace of God alone. You can rest in that. Ask God to make that real to your heart and in your life.
How can I explain the eternal deity of Christ in Colossians 1:15 when witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses?
I am witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses. They believe “firstborn of all creation” shows Jesus was born, i.e., He was not eternal. How can I adequately explain this verse to them? Can you help me in how to witness to them?
Colossians 1:15 – He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Great question. I’m glad that you asked it. I’ll start by saying that firstborn in the Bible does not only refer to the person who comes out of the womb first. Being the firstborn was a status as much it was a birth order. So, when the Bible calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, it’s not referring to Him having a starting point in time. Rather, it refers to His status as being preeminent.
There are a couple of very distinct situations which illustrate this in the Bible, such as with King David. David was the youngest of eight brothers. He was seven brothers away from being the firstborn. He was anything but the firstborn. Yet there are places in the Scriptures where God calls David “My firstborn.” Why? Because it didn’t have to do with order of birth; it had to do with status. In those cultures, the firstborn always had the preeminence. The firstborn was always out front, and always in the position of favor. The firstborn always got a double portion of the inheritance. In Colossians, when Paul calls Jesus the firstborn over all creation, it simply means that He is preeminent. He’s number one. He is out in front of every created being. He is firstborn of all creation.
We see another example with Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph. Ephraim was the younger son, and not the firstborn, but he received the blessing and the status of firstborn. In the Bible, firstborn refers to much more than just the first one out of the womb. But there are also several situations where it refers to someone having the status of being preeminent and first in all things.
Concerning Jehovah’s Witnesses, I don’t know that this would convince any of them, but I would give you two words of advice. First, you need to be set on this answer for yourself. Secondly, you need to have tremendous peace that the Bible is true, and that Jesus Christ is God. He is not “Junior God,” as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, have erroneously claimed in the past. No, no. Jesus Christ is God. Their resurrection of the old Arian heresy is of no benefit to them and no good for the world.
When did the Church start to officially teach the Trinity? In Acts 19, Paul talked to disciples who had not yet heard of the Holy Spirit.
The truth of the Trinity is woven into the fabric of the New Testament. I think it took the Church, the community of believers, a while to understand this. But you have to admit that people from a Jewish background who did not know there was a Holy Spirit clearly didn’t know much about the Old Testament as all, because the Spirit of God is prominent in the Old Testament. Anybody who reads and understands the Old Testament understands that there’s a very vital work of the Spirit of God. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord in Zechariah. The work of the Spirit is evident throughout many, many different passages. It seems that these people in Acts 19 had big gaps in their knowledge about many things, not just concerning the Holy Spirit.
I think it took a while a good while, 100 plus years after the Resurrection of Jesus, for the Church to be able to articulate an understanding of the Trinity. But the truth of the Trinity is woven throughout the fabric of the New Testament. I believe it is very plainly and clear that there is one God. Friends, please remember, Bible-believing Christians are Trinitarians; they are not tri-theists. They don’t believe in three gods; they believe in one God in three Persons. That one God is called Yahweh in the Old Testament. He’s the covenant God of Israel, the Triune God. God the Father claims to be Yahweh God, the Son claims to be Yahweh God, and the Holy Spirit claims to be Yahweh God. And these are legitimate claims.
Is baptism necessary for salvation? The thief on the cross was not baptized.
The thief on the cross was to be ‘with Christ in paradise’ without any baptism. What does the Scripture tell us regarding baptism, concerning salvation? Is baptism “necessary” for salvation, i.e., for ‘being saved’?
Is baptism necessary? Absolutely. Yes, it’s necessary. Is it absolutely necessary for salvation? No. There are some situations in Scriptures where somebody who was not baptized still went to heaven. Consider someone who receives Christ and trusts in Him in an airplane that is going to crash. Obviously, they don’t have time to be baptized. Someone might argue that it’s impossible for them to go to heaven since they haven’t been baptized. No, that’s absurd; I don’t know of anybody who would claim such a thing.
But on the other hand, while I would say that baptism is not absolutely essential for salvation, I’ll tell you this: baptism is essential for obedience. And friends. We need to get rid of this thinking which asks, “What’s the bare minimum I can do and still be saved and go to heaven?” We need to think more about what is necessary to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Baptism is necessary to be an obedient disciple of Jesus Christ. If somebody wants to look me in the eye and say that they don’t care about being an obedient disciple of Jesus Christ, I legitimately wonder if they’re saved at all.
Christians should have a much greater urgency about baptism, but not because it is absolutely necessary for salvation in and of itself. It’s just necessary for obedience as a disciple of Jesus. And friends, isn’t that enough? By taking the name “Christian,” you claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Shouldn’t you be an obedient disciple of Jesus? Are you in that position where you’re saying, “Lord, Lord,” but you’re not doing what He tells you to do? God forbid.
So, Christians should be more urgent about baptism than they are. But that doesn’t mean we come to the place where we say that it’s absolutely essential for salvation, because we’re saved by faith, not by works. However, works will accompany faith, especially for those who are dedicated to being disciples of Jesus Christ.
I hope you understand what I’m saying by this. As believers, we should not be asking the question, “What’s the bare minimum I have to do in order to be saved by the skin of my teeth? What’s the very least I can do and still somehow make it to heaven?” Listen, if that’s your attitude, you’re not fit for the kingdom of God. You need to come to Jesus Christ in terms of absolute unconditional surrender to Him and say, “You’re my Master, you’re my Lord, you’re my Savior. By the help of Your Spirit and in the power of God’s grace, I want to follow You and obey You every day of my life.” You’re going do it imperfectly. Nobody makes a perfect commitment to God. But that’s a far cry from somebody who wants to know what is the least they can do and still somehow make it to heaven. No, we want to be full-on disciples of Jesus Christ.