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Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. — 1 Corinthians 4:1I want to devote today’s Sparkling Gem to the private lives of potential leaders. In particular, I want to talk about their marriages, their children, the physical condition of the houses where they live, and the manner in which they manage their personal finances. These four points are extremely important when you’re considering someone to be a leader. What happens in a person’s private life affects his job or his public ministry. Someone may argue, “But my private life and my home life don’t have anything to do with my ministry at the church, my ability to serve, or how I perform at work. You have no right to dig into my personal life.” This way of thinking is wrong. What happens in a person’s private life spills over into his public life. What goes on behind closed doors in a leader’s home will tell you exactly what kind of blessings or problems he will bring to his public ministry or job. This is precisely why the apostle Paul urged Timothy to take a deeper look at the personal life of a potential leader before inviting him to be a part of his leadership team (see 1 Timothy 3:4,5). You see, God designed the home as a honing instrument for many of the qualities required to be a leader in the Kingdom of God. Paul told Timothy that a leader must be “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:4,5). The Greek word for “ruleth” is the word proistimi, a compound of pro and istimi. The word pro means before or in front of, and the word istimi means to stand. When compounded together, the new word depicts someone who is standing up front before others in order to lead, guide, direct, or manage a situation. It conveys the meaning of a leader who is responsibly giving oversight and direction to a group of people or to a project. Paul uses the word “well” to describe the way this person rules. It is the Greek word kalos, which means good, well, or skilled. Thus, it pictures an individual who has shown that he is able to successfully give oversight to a group of people or to a specific project. Paul says it is required that a spiritual leader rule well his own “house.” The word “house” is the Greek word oikos, which is the word for a physical house. However, as it is used here, it includes the management of the house and everything that happens in that house. Thus, “ruling” one’s household would include how a leader manages his home life, his children, the upkeep of the physical house or apartment where he lives, and his personal finances. All of this would be part of his oikos — his house. Important information about how well potential leaders will serve at church or at work can be ascertained by delving into these four points. So let’s briefly review these four critical areas of concern.
Their Home Life:
Paul said a leader must be “one that ruleth well his own house….” As noted, the word “house” is the word oikos and includes everything about a person’s home life. One of the most strategic factors to consider when selecting new married leaders is the condition of their marriage. What kind of relationship do they have with their spouse? Is it a supportive, healthy marriage, or one that is full of problems? Does the relationship reveal good communication between the husband and wife? If that potential leader cannot successfully communicate with the most important person in his life, how do you know he will be able to properly communicate with others at church or at work? These questions may give you great insight into the pluses and minuses that come with new potential leaders.
Paul said a leader must be one who has his “…children in subjection with all gravity.” If potential candidates have children, perhaps nothing gives you clearer insight into what kind of leaders they will be than the example of their own children. Although you can’t make this a hard and fast rule, most often the children of potential leaders are a reflection of the kind of leadership those candidates are currently exercising in their own home.
Since people can impart only what they have in their private lives, it is good to observe what potential leaders have imparted within their own homes. What is the visible fruit of their influence and leadership in their children’s lives?
- Do the children speak respectfully to elders?
- Do they speak respectfully to each other?
- Do they understand authority and submission?
- Do the children do what they are told, or do they ignore their parents’ instructions?
The answers to these simple, basic questions are important indicators to let you know how potential candidates are leading their own homes. If they’re not leading their own homes with excellence, why would you imagine they could lead an entire division of the ministry with excellence? That’s why it’s important to never overlook a potential leader’s children. They will always be one of the clearest signals to alert you to the kind of leader this person will be.
Their House or Apartment:
Paul wrote that a leader must be one that “…ruleth well his own house….” As already stated above, the word “house” refers to everything connected to home life. Part of home life is the physical house where the family lives. Therefore, it’s valid to ask:
- What kind of home does this potential leader have? Is it well-kept and maintained?
- Is it needlessly neglected? Does it look like it’s falling apart?
- Is the yard mowed so this candidate has a good testimony with his or her neighborhood?
What exactly did Paul mean when he said leaders must rule well their own homes? One thing is for sure: If a potential leader can’t decently take care of his own domain, you don’t want to put him in charge of your domain. That’s why this is such a serious question to consider when selecting someone for a prominent place of leadership in your church, ministry, or organization.
In regard to finances, the phrase “ruleth well his own house” leads me to ask, “How does this potential leader handle his money and the payment of monthly bills?”
How a person handles money is very revealing. It tells a lot about his personal integrity, his character, and how he respects the rights of others. When a person doesn’t regularly pay his bills on time, he inconveniences and upsets other people’s financial plans. This failure to keep financial commitments often reflects a lack of respect for others’ needs and rights.
It also may simply be a sign that this person is immature in his understanding of money management and responsibility. Or he may not do well at saying no to his fleshly lust for material things. A person’s financial problems may also be an indicator that he’s experiencing problems in his marriage as well. Or perhaps his life is unstable due to irregular work conditions.
No matter which of these factors may be the cause for a candidate’s financial problems, they are all serious enough to require thoughtful consideration on your part. Does this person have the time, energy, or maturity to handle a position of greater responsibility in your church, ministry, or organization?Never forget that it is impossible to separate a person’s public life from his private life. What happens in one area spills over into the other. What is in a potential leader’s personal life is exactly what he will bring into his public life. If he has order and peace in his private life, it will give him a solid foundation for public ministry. But if he struggles with disorder, chaos, turmoil, confusion, upheaval, and anarchy in his private life, it will obviously affect his ability to carry on publicly as a leader. What happens at home really does affect one’s ability to work, serve, and follow God’s will for his life. If this is the case, what do these things reveal about those people who are being considered for leadership at church, business, or organization? Does their home life show that they are ready for larger areas of responsibility? And by the way — while you’re thinking about the home life of these leadership candidates, it would be good for you to turn these questions around and apply them to yourself. What does your home life reveal about YOU?
My Prayer for TodayLord, help me bring order into my own personal life! Since what is happening in my private life is exactly what I will bring into my public life, I want to bring more order into my own personal affairs. Help me take an honest look at my life so I can see those areas that desperately need my attention. Once I acknowledge the areas that need fixing, please give me the courage to delve into those areas and to get things right. I want every area of my life to glorify You, so if there is a secret part of my life that doesn’t bring honor to You, I’m looking to You to help me make the needed changes.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that with God’s help, I am putting my house in order! The way I handle my family life, my children, my physical home, and my finances brings glory to Jesus Christ. I am serious about my walk with God, and I therefore invite Him to invade every sphere of my life and to bring it under His Lordship. Jesus is Lord of my marriage, my children, my home, and my money. It all belongs to Him; therefore, I want to be a wise steward for His sake — and I will!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. If you are seeking new leadership for the church, business, or organization, have you considered these deeper issues? If you had considered this before selecting leaders in the past, do you think it would have helped you make better leadership choices? 2. Have you seen glaring problems in a potential leader’s home that you overlooked because his gifts and talents were needed? Did you later regret your choice because he brought many of those same problems to his job? 3. After reading today’s Sparkling Gem, do you see areas in your own life that need attention? If your answer is yes, what are you going to do to start bringing order into those areas of your home life?
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. — 1 Corinthians 10:13Everyone has to deal with temptations at one time or another, so you don’t need to feel embarrassed if you’re facing a particular temptation right now. But at the same time, you don’t have to succumb to temptation, because it is something you can overcome! All temptations can be beaten! You just have to make up your mind that you’re going to be the conqueror and not the conquered! You may not have thought of it before, but the devil tries to lure you into sin by using your mind and emotions. He injects thoughts into your mind and emotions that act as stimulants to get you all stirred up in a certain area of your life. At that moment, you are consciously aware that you can let the temptation pass you by — or you can allow those thoughts to fester in your mind and take root in your emotions until they become a major stronghold in your mind to battle and conquer. By refusing to accept the thoughts in the first place, you can avoid the whole struggle! It’s similar to a sexual temptation. You can choose to turn and look the other way, or you can dwell on that temptation until it fills your mind and imagination. If you choose to meditate on the thought that the devil is trying to put into your head, it won’t be too long until the devil is waging a full-scale battle in your mind! If you don’t put on the brakes and stop those thoughts, the devil will conquer you. That’s why it’s so important that you learn how to control your thinking. If you can keep your mind under the control of the Holy Spirit, you will make it almost impossible for the devil to defeat you in any realm of your life. The devil is a master when it comes to mind manipulation. He knows that if he can get you to spend a little time meditating on something wrong, he can eventually entice you to do it! If the devil was persuasive enough to deceive brilliant, mighty, powerful angels, how much more easily can he deceive people who live in a far-from-perfect environment and wrestle daily with their own imperfections! The emotional makeup of human beings makes them even more susceptible to the devil’s masterful skills of lying, deception, and manipulation. Satan watches for the right timing. He comes along at an opportune moment. He waits until you’re tired, weary, or exasperated. Perhaps you woke up in a bad mood; someone gave you a “look” you didn’t like; or you just started off your day on the wrong foot. Then suddenly he strikes you with a thought — something that takes you totally by surprise when your guard is down! When negative thoughts begin to deluge your mind, you need to know that it is Satan setting a trap in front of you. He is trying to ensnare you so he can cripple and devastate both you and the people you love. He’s trying to get you to bite the bait so he can set the hook! But you don’t have to fall into this trap anymore! If you really want out of this type of emotional quandary, there is a way out. First Corinthians 10:13 promises, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” The word “temptation” is the Greek word peirasmos, and it may refer to any outside source that appeals to a weakness in your flesh. That appeal pulls you like a magnet; it lures you mentally, emotionally, and sensually; it fascinates the imagination; it entices the flesh to take a closer peek. If you don’t stop this process, it will set its hook in your soul and haul you right smack dab into the middle of some kind of sin! Because the word peirasmos (“temptation”) can describe any weakness of the flesh, this scripture could apply to any fleshly weakness you might struggle with — from being lazy or easily offended; to thinking too lowly or too highly of yourself; to having a problem with anger or sexual temptation. Whatever your flesh responds to is what this word peirasmos refers to! But this verse promises that God will make a way for you to escape temptation — if you really want to escape it! The Greek word for “escape” is the word ekbasis. This word is a compound of the word ek, meaning out, and the word basin, meaning to walk. When they are compounded together, it means to walk out, as to walk out of a difficult place; to walk out of a trap; or to walk out of a place that isn’t good for you. This makes me think of the time Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife when she tried to seduce him. Rather than stay there and try to negotiate in the midst of the situation, Genesis 39:12 says Joseph “…fled, and got him out.” In other words, he got out of there as quickly as he could! Negotiating with sin usually leads to falling into it rather than conquering it, so it’s better for a person to just get up and get away from the situation as quickly as he can! This is why Paul was constantly telling the early believers to “flee” evil influences (see 1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14, 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). The word “flee” is the Greek word pheugo, which means to flee, to take flight, to run away, to run as fast as possible, or to escape. This means you don’t want to succumb to those temptations that are surrounding you. You just need to get up, put on your jacket, pick up your things, and get out of that place of temptation as fast as you can! Let your feet fly as you flee that situation! You’re not stuck there! You can get out! You can walk out of that place just as easily as you walked in there! Your feet work in both directions! God will make a way for you to escape those negative emotions if you really want to escape them. But you are the only one who can make the choice to jump through that escape hatch!
- If you know you’re being tempted to angrily explode, walk out before it happens!
- If you know you’re being tempted to get your feelings hurt, go somewhere else to avoid the offense!
- If you know you’re being tempted to slip into a state of laziness, then get up and get busy!
- If you know you’re being tempted to steal, get as far away as you can from the money or the coveted object!
- If you know you’re being tempted to sexually sin, get out of that situation immediately!
- If you know you’re being tempted to do anything wrong, it’s time for you to flee from the temptation!
My Prayer for TodayLord, help me find the strength to say no to my flesh and to flee from temptation when it tries to wrap its long tentacles around my soul and drag me into some kind of sin. I know what it’s like when sin calls out to my flesh, beckoning it to do something that is forbidden or wrong, but I don’t want to cooperate with it anymore. I want to walk free — to flee from sin and break free of its vicious grip. Help me bring my mind under the control of the Holy Spirit so I can think rationally when Satan tries to attack me through my mind, my emotions, or my senses.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that God makes a way for me to escape temptation. I do not negotiate with sin! When it tries to call out to me, I get up and get out as quickly as I can. I flee, take flight, run away from, and escape as quickly as I can when I know the devil is attempting to lure me into his trap. That’s when I put on my jacket, pick up my things, and let my feet fly! God always makes a way for me to escape — and I always make the right choice to jump through that escape hatch!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Can you think of times when you were tempted to yield to sin? Knowing that you needed to get up and get out of that place of temptation, did you stay and fall into some kind of sin? Were you sorry later that you didn’t flee when you had the chance? 2. What is the chief area of temptation that you struggle with more than any other right now? 3. In order for you to walk free from the struggle of that temptation, what changes do you need to make in your life?
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. — Mark 10:44,45In the city of Moscow, there is a restaurant that is indisputably one of the most elegant places of fine dining in the entire world. The setting of this magnificent restaurant is a fabulous old Moscow palace that was built in the year 1889 as the personal residence for the Count Altuphev, who was a general of the Russian army during the reign of the Russian Czar, Alexander III. As one enters the Great Hall of the palace, he is instantly overwhelmed by the great vaulted ceiling, the massive hand-carved wooden staircase, the gorgeous stain-glassed windows, and the imposing and awe-inspiring chandelier that was bequeathed to this building many years later by the dictator Joseph Stalin. All of this adds to the opulence and magnificence of this historical place — which makes an evening spent in fine dining here nearly overwhelming. When guests from the West come to visit, my wife and I enjoy taking them to this restaurant because it is such a unique experience to have dinner in an actual Russian palace. However, what makes the occasion even more impressive is the level of service provided to each customer. A client can hardly breathe before an attendant shows up to courteously ask how he can serve you better or provide anything that is needed. When dinner finally arrives, it is carried to the table by servers dressed in tuxedos and white gloves. One by one, the servers set the plates on the table. Each plate is covered by a glistening, pure silver dome that conceals the entree until the appropriate moment. Once all the plates are set in place, the servers stand to the side of each person at the table. All at once, in perfect unison, they lift the pure silver domes from the plates to reveal food that has been meticulously prepared for each diner. By the time the dinner is finished, all those at the table feel like they have been treated as royalty. Once when I was dining at this Russian palace, I carefully watched the attentiveness shown by the servers to each customer. As I watched how excellently they served, I thought of Jesus’ words, “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” (Mark 10:44). The word “servant” in this verse comes from the Greek word diakonos, the Greek word for a servant whose primarily responsibility was to serve food and to wait on tables. It presents a picture of a waiter or waitress who painstakingly attends to the needs, wishes, and wants of his or her client. Professionally pleasing clients was these servants’ supreme task, so they served honorably, pleasurably, and in a fashion that made every man feel as if he were nobility. Restaurants in the first century were very rare, so most servers worked in the very exclusive homes and palaces of the elite, rich, and famous. Hence, these were well-trained, highly refined, cultured, high-class servants who served with sophistication and finesse. Jesus used this word diakonos in a parable to describe exactly these kinds of servants assisting a wealthy king (Matthew 22:13). This high standard and attitude of excellence is what God expects from every believer who “serves” in the Kingdom of God. Think about it — why would this level of excellence be expected in a high-class restaurant but not in God’s Kingdom? As God’s servants, we should be well-trained, highly refined, cultured, and equipped to minister to any need with which we are confronted. Serving with an excellent standard should be our goal. There is nothing more important than what we do for the Lord, so God expects us to serve with the best attitude, the finest appearance, and the highest form of service and professionalism we can render in His name. It must be distressing to God when He sees believers tolerate a standard in the Church that is lower than the one found in the world. Why should our standard be lower? Aren’t we serving the King of kings? Aren’t we working at His table? Therefore, shouldn’t our standard be the highest, the one by which all other standards are measured? When people come to the Kingdom of God for the first time, shouldn’t they be shocked to see a higher level of excellence than they have ever beheld before? As God’s “servants,” we should set the example of excellence in every sphere. Here are just a few examples where the word diakonos in the New Testament lets us know that an excellent attitude and a high level of professionalism was expected by the Early Church leadership. If it was expected then, why would we settle for anything less now?
The Ministry of Tithes and Offerings:
In Acts 11:29, the word diakonos described the financial “relief” that was received and sent to believers in Judea. Because the word diakonos was used to describe the receiving and sending of this offering, it shows the professional manner in which the Early Church received and administrated these funds. They did it with excellence.
In Second Corinthians 8:4, Paul used diakonos to describe another special offering. The phrase “ministering to the saints” referred to the giving of that offering, but the word “ministering” is the word diakonos. This categorically makes us aware that these offerings were no sloppy event. It was a serious matter that was handled in the most professional and excellent manner.
The Ministry of Preaching the Gospel:
In Acts 20:24, Paul used the word diakonos to describe his “ministry.” Those who preach the Gospel literally “serve” the bread of life to hungry souls, so the word diakonos is well suited for picturing the proclamation of the truth. Paul saw the handling of God’s Word as such a high responsibility that he ministered the Word with the greatest seriousness and professionalism. When he stood to preach, it was no last-minute, thrown-together sermon. Paul prepared and served his messages with painstaking care.
The occurrences of the word diakonos depicting the ministry and the preaching of the Gospel are numerous throughout the New Testament. This suggests that our ministry should always be done with excellence.
The Ministry in General:
In Second Corinthians 6:3, Paul used the word diakonos to embrace all the wider aspects of “ministry.” Whether “ministry” is done publicly, as when preaching, or in a less visible area of the church, it should be done with excellence. This is the reason Paul said, “Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed.” Ministry demands excellence of testimony, conduct, and deed in the lives of those who are involved in it. We are never to forget that we are God’s servers!
In Colossians 4:17, Paul told Archippus to take heed to the “ministry” he had received from the Lord. This word “ministry” is the word diakonos. For Archippus, taking heed to his ministry meant being the best he could be, serving in the most professional manner possible, conscientiously fulfilling every wish God had made known to him, and doing his work with an excellence that would honor Jesus.
In Second Timothy 4:5, Paul tells Timothy to “…make full proof of thy ministry.” The word “ministry” is the word diakonos. Paul was urging Timothy to bring the level of his ministry to the highest level — to show commitment and excellence in everything he did in the name of ministry.
The Ministry of the Saints:
In First Corinthians 16:15, Paul uses the word diakonos when he refers to the household of Stephanas having “…addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” Although the word diakonos emphatically speaks of their servant attitude, it also shows us that they were addicted to serving others with the highest possible standard of excellence.
In Revelations 2:19, the word diakonos is used when Jesus speaks to the leadership of the church of Thyatira. Although this church had many problems, one of the things for which Jesus commended them was their “service.” This is the Greek word diakonos, letting us know that serving with a high standard is commendable in God’s sight.
The Ministry of Angels:
In Matthew 4:11, the word diakonos is used when the Bible says, “Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” These angels came to “minister” to Jesus and to meet His needs. They served Him like deacons, or like waiters whose supreme pleasure was knowing they had attended well to the needs of their Master. They “served” Jesus with the greatest attention, care, excellence, and professionalism.
In Hebrews 1:14, the word diakonos is used again to describe the ministry of angels. It says, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” When this verse says the angels are sent forth “to minister” for them who shall be heirs of salvation, the words “to minister” comes from the word diakonos. This clearly means angels have a God-given assignment to “serve” believers with meticulous, detailed attention. Angels are God’s supernatural servers who have been dispatched to attend to the needs, wants, and wishes of the saints.
The Ministry of Jesus:
In Mark 10:45, the word diakonos is used to depict Jesus and His own ministry. The verse says, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” When this verse says Jesus came “to minister,” it is the word diakonos. Jesus was the supreme Example of serving the needs of people with excellence. He was so committed to fulfilling the assignment given to Him that He was even willing to “serve” to the point of sacrifice. His “service” would demand the highest level of commitment, dedication, attention, and excellence.
Think of it! Jesus is the Lord of all, the Creator of the universe, the only begotten Son of God. Yet when He came, His purpose was not “…to be ministered unto, but to minister….” Jesus’ entire purpose was to serve and to give His life away, not to be served or to demand the respect, approval, or adoration of men.In all the above examples, the word diakonos describes those who are excellently serving someone and who are profoundly committed to fulfilling a specific task with the highest standard and level of professionalism. This is excellent, high-level servanthood, not sloppy service as is found in so many places today. If you possess this right attitude about doing God’s work, it won’t be too long until Jesus promotes you to a higher position. However, don’t think that a higher position will alleviate your need to keep serving, for we’re all called to serve, regardless of our status, rank, or position. So keep in mind that God is watching you today. Are you:
- Serving with excellence?
- Genuinely concerned about the welfare of those whom you serve?
- Sincerely wanting to serve them in the best way you can?
- Honestly thinking of how to help those who have been assigned to your care?
- Truthfully wanting to serve in a professional and timely manner?
- Faithfully doing your job from the depths of your heart?
My Prayer for TodayLord, I want to serve You with the highest level of excellence! Forgive me for times when I have tolerated a low standard in my life, my business, my ethics, my church, or my ministry. Nothing in the world is more serious than the services I render in Your name, so help me do it in a way that glorifies You.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that I have a high standard of excellence in my life and that I am growing daily in my level of professionalism. As I serve God at work and at church, I demonstrate the excellence of Jesus’ name! When people see me, they see the Kingdom of God. In fact, God is happy that I am His representative because my life shows forth an excellent image of who Jesus is and what He stands for in this world. I am His representative, and therefore I do everything with the highest level of excellence!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Can you honestly say that you are serving in your business or church with a high level of excellence, or have you permitted your performance to slip to a mediocre standard that is unacceptable for a child of God? 2. Would Jesus say your work and attitude glorifies Him? Does your work and attitude make Him glad that you are known as one of His servers? 3. If you were the boss, would you be pleased with someone who works like you do at your job — or would you expect your employees to give a much better effort?
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. — John 12:3How a person spends his money tells a lot about his priorities in life. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Jesus’ teaching is very clear: What a person does with his money reveals what is inside his heart. For example, someone may say he loves the local church. But if he never gives one cent to the church, the principle stated in Matthew 6:21 says his heart is not in the church, no matter what he says. Where is his treasure? If his treasure isn’t in the church, his heart isn’t in the church either. I may say I love the Lord, but if I don’t tithe as the Lord commands, what does it say about me? I’m either ignorant about tithing, or my words are cheap. If I really loved the Lord, my money would reflect that I love Him. I would tithe. Words are cheap and easily spoken. Anyone can say he loves his church. But when a person sacrifices and gives to the church, he is demonstrating that his words are real. His heart really is in the church. If a person never gives to the church, it reveals that he either has no money or that he’s a liar. Of course, a person who has no money will find it difficult to give. But if he does have money and doesn’t give, his words and actions don’t match. When he spends his extra money on all kinds of material junk and then drops a few dollars into the offering, he’s telling the true story! He loves his junk more than he loves the church. Or consider a man who says he loves his wife but never gives her any money or special gifts to demonstrate that love. Yet somehow that same man is able to find the money to go fishing, buy a fishing boat, go work out at the gym with the guys, and so on. What has he demonstrated? He loves himself more than he loves his wife. That’s why he’s spending his treasure on himself. How many men have told their wives, “I love you, Sweetheart” and then spent all their extra money on themselves? Then the wife is told that there just isn’t any money available to do what she wants to do. How does it make the wife feel when her husband does this to her time after time? He can say, “I love you” all he wants, but she knows he really loves himself. What he does with his money tells the real story. Jesus made it very clear that where a person’s treasure is — where his money is — that’s where his heart will be also. So if you really want to know where a person’s heart is, follow his money and you’ll find out. Again I say, money tells the truth! In John 12, Jesus and His disciples were having dinner in the home of Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. This family was very close to Jesus during His earthly ministry. At that dinner, Mary showed her love by bringing Jesus an extremely expensive gift. The Bible tells us that Mary brought Jesus a gift of ointment of spikenard — in fact, she brought Him an entire pound of it! The word “spikenard” comes from the Greek word nardos, which describes one of the most expensive perfumes that existed at that time. Let me tell you a little about spikenard so you can appreciate what Mary did for Jesus that day. Spikenard was an uncommon perfume extracted from grasses that grew in the country of India. Once the juices were squeezed out of the grass, they were dried into a hard, lardlike substance. Turning that lardlike substance into perfume was a very lengthy and costly process. If you add to this the cost of transporting spikenard from India to other parts of the world, you can see why this particular perfume cost so much money. Spikenard was so expensive that few people could buy it; most had to buy one of the many cheap imitations available. But the word used in John 12:3 tells us that Mary didn’t bring Jesus a cheap imitation; she brought Jesus the real thing — an ointment so valuable that it was normally reserved and used only as gifts for kings and nobility. This was the gift Mary brought to Jesus. We can learn more about the value of Mary’s gift in John 12:3, where it says the ointment was “very costly.” This phrase “very costly” is from the Greek word polutimos, a compound of the words polus and timios. The word polus means much or great. The word timios means to honor; to respect; or worth. Together these words describe something that is of great worth or something that is of considerable financial value. We’d call this “top-of-the-line giving”! As remarkable as it is that Mary even possessed a gift this valuable, what she did with this perfume once she brought it is even more phenomenal! John 12:3 says, “Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus.…” When Mary took the lid off that expensive bottle, tipped it downward, and began to pour that precious ointment onto Jesus’ feet, everyone in the room must have gasped! This kind of perfume was not normally used for feet! Rather, it was the kind of ointment used to anoint the heads of kings and dignitaries. Mary’s actions would have been considered a horrible waste in most people’s minds, but that wasn’t how she saw it. Mary loved, appreciated, and valued the feet of the Master! Isaiah 52:7 describes why Mary felt this way: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” You see, no other feet in the entire world were more beautiful to Mary than the feet of Jesus. Jesus had changed her life. Jesus had brought her brother back from the dead (see John 11:32-44). Jesus had brought new meaning into her family. To Mary, every step Jesus took was precious, honored, and greatly valued. Remember, Jesus taught, “…Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34). Mary’s actions revealed her heart as she poured her most valuable treasure onto the feet of Jesus. She deeply loved Jesus, and she showed it with the gift that she brought to Him. John 12:3 continues to tell us that she “…wiped his feet with her hair.…” After she poured the spikenard onto Jesus’ feet, Mary reached up to her head and untied her long, beautiful hair, gathering it in her hands. Then she leaned down and began to wipe Jesus’ feet dry with her hair. In the days of the New Testament, a woman’s hair represented her glory and honor. The apostle Paul referred to this in First Corinthians 11:15 when he wrote that a woman’s hair was a “glory” to her. For Mary to undo her hair and use it as a towel to wipe Jesus’ feet was probably the greatest act of humility she could have shown. She was demonstrating how deeply she loved and how greatly she valued Jesus. She didn’t throw a financial offering at His feet, but she possessed an attitude of worship as she gave Jesus the best gift she had to offer. I can imagine the tears that streamed down Mary’s cheeks as she touched those precious feet. In total humility, she dried Jesus’ feet with the glory and honor of her hair. John 12:3 tells us that “…the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” Certainly the house would be filled with the odor of spikenard once Mary poured an entire pound of that expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet! Considering how much spikenard cost, this was an enormous amount for Mary to use to anoint Jesus’ feet. In fact, Judas Iscariot indignantly asked Jesus, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). The Greek word for a “pence” is denarius. In that day, a Roman denarius was one day’s salary. So when Judas announced that the spikenard could have been sold for three hundred pence, he was saying that Mary’s perfume was worth three hundred days of salary. That is why I say it was an extremely expensive gift! It was worth almost an entire year’s income! If it’s true that what a person does with his money tells a lot about his priorities in life, Mary’s gift that day revealed that Jesus was her highest priority. What does your giving reveal about how much you love Jesus? You see, it may sound very simple, but it is a fact that if you follow a person’s money, you’ll discover what is or isn’t important to that person’s life. Look at a person’s finances, and in just a matter of minutes you can tell what he values most in life. The way he spends his money will tell the whole story of what he prizes, cherishes, loves, and adores. Of course, everyone has basic needs of life that require money, such as food, electricity, gas for the car, and so on. But once these things are paid, what a person does with the money that’s left over will tell you what he esteems more highly than anything else. This may sound like a very narrow teaching about money, but this is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Since this is the case, what does the way you spend your money reveal about you?
My Prayer for TodayLord, I ask You to help me be honest about what my finances reveal about me. I don’t want anything else in my life to have a higher priority than You, so please teach me how to demonstrate my love for You with my finances. Help me to really worship You with my financial gifts and not to just casually throw them into an offering plate. Forgive me for the times I’ve said I didn’t have enough money to give to the church or to missions, yet somehow I found a way to spend money on all kinds of material things. My priorities have obviously been wrong, so today I repent. I have made up my mind that I am going to honor You with my finances as I ought to do.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that I am growing more and more faithful in the giving of my tithes and offerings. Jesus Christ and the preaching of the Gospel are the greatest priorities in my life. Therefore, when I get paid, the first thing I do is set aside my tithe for the church and my offering for world missions and other worthy ministries. As I learn to love Jesus even more, my financial gifts are increasing as well. My treasure is in Jesus and the Gospel, because that is exactly where my heart is fixed.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. What does your monthly expenditure of money tell you about what you value most highly in life? 2. If Jesus looked at your finances to make an analysis of what you prized most highly, what would He find? You might as well be honest about it, because He already knows! 3. What changes do you need to make in your heart and expenditures to reflect that your heart is first and foremost in the Kingdom of God?
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. — Romans 12:3Have you ever been so anxious to do something big and powerful that you rashly offered to do a job you later discovered was way above and beyond your abilities? One summer when I was a university student, I was hired by a man who had a lot of confidence in my writing abilities. His firm was creating highly specialized computer programs for a steel corporation. They needed a good writer to document all the steps they were taking, so he hired me to write these reports. At that time I had never worked on a computer, nor did I know anything about computers. Therefore, I obviously didn’t have a clue about what I was getting into when I agreed to take that job! Soon I found myself seated in an executive office filled with computer programmers who spoke computer jargon that I had never heard in my life! This was a long time before people owned personal computers. Most common people had never placed their fingers on a computer — including me! And here I was, assigned to write a lengthy report about these extremely specialized computer programs. It only took a couple of hours for me to figure out I was the wrong person in the wrong place! Finally, I had to say, “Hey, could someone please help me? I don’t mind doing the job, but I can’t do it without help.” As it turned out, I asked them to reposition me in another job where I felt more qualified. I simply wasn’t able to do the job because I wasn’t equipped for the task. In the second position, I worked very well and was very successful. Had I refused to admit that the first assignment was too much for me, it would have been a very long summer of frustration for both me and my employers. If you’ve ever found yourself in a similar place, you know it’s overwhelming to be in so far over your head. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’ve been put in a position you aren’t qualified to take. It can be so difficult for the flesh to admit that it can’t do a job. Yet there is such great wisdom and peace in learning to recognize and respect your limitations! This is why the apostle Paul told the Romans, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). If anyone could have thought highly of himself, it would have been Paul, yet he admonishes believers that a person should not “…think of himself more highly than he ought to think….” This phrase comes from the Greek word huperphroneo, which is a compound of the words huper and phroneo. The word huper means above, beyond, or way over the top, and the word phroneo means to think or to consider. When these two words are compounded into one word, it means that Paul is urging us not to over-think about ourselves, or not to think over-confidently about our abilities. Instead, he commands us to think “soberly.” The word “soberly” is the Greek word sophroneo, which means to think sensibly; to think reasonably; to think realistically; to think rationally; to think practically; to keep in proper measure; or not to think beyond the set boundaries. One Greek expositor says this word means to recognize your limits and respect them. In other words, don’t pretend to be more than you are! Recognize your God-given abilities and use them. But when you come to the edge of your limitations, be willing to say, “This is too much for me.” If you act like you can do everything, you’re going to find it quite humiliating when you fail miserably in front of everyone. So instead of thinking too highly of yourself and attempting to take on tasks and projects that are too daunting for you, realize that some jobs are meant to be assigned to someone else. You need to be very realistic about your limitations. If you have tackled a job that is too big for you, there is nothing wrong with admitting that someone else should take over the project. If you refuse to admit you’re over your head because you don’t want to be embarrassed, you’ll probably end up a whole lot more embarrassed later on when everyone else has to tell you that you can’t do the job! When you fail and fall flat on your face, you’ll regret that you didn’t say, “I think someone else can do this job better than I can. This is simply not where I’m most gifted. Does anyone else on this team want to help me out with this project?” When Paul said we were “…to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith,” he was reminding us that there are other gifted members of the Body of Christ, and we must make room for their gifts as much as ours. God has gifted His entire Body with faith, spiritual gifts, talents, and abilities. Therefore, rather than try to do it all, which we can’t do anyway, we need to learn to think “soberly.” In other words, we’re to recognize our limitations and allow other people to be used by God too! This principle applies to the church, to the workplace, to school, and to every other sphere of life. Yes, we should respect our own gifts, talents, and callings from God, but we should also respect the fact that it takes all of us to get a job done! So learn to recognize and respect your limitations — and learn to embrace others who are just as needed as you are!
My Prayer for TodayLord, help me recognize and respect my gifts and limitations. Forgive me for the times I’ve been too prideful to admit I was in over my head and as a result did an inferior job. I’m so sorry I didn’t step out of the way so someone else who was gifted for the job could take my place. Help me specialize in those areas where I feel confident that I will be a blessing. Teach me to embrace and appreciate those who are more gifted than I am in other areas.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that I think soberly about myself and about my gifts and abilities. I thank God for the gifts and talents He has placed in my life, but I also recognize and respect my limitations. Just as I appreciate my own gifts and abilities, I am also grateful for those who are more gifted than I am in other areas. I need them; I embrace them; and I appreciate what they have to contribute. I can’t achieve alone what can be accomplished in partnership with others. Therefore, I choose to partner my gifts and talents with the God-given gifts and talents in other people.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!