Only One King (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 24, 2016)

I am teaching two sections of American National Government this semester, and I love it. Some people don’t like teaching freshmen because they are, well, freshmen. I think it’s awesome. I love those light bulb moments when they realize that my class isn’t going to be a complete snorefest like they expected. Anyway, we were talking last week about different forms of government and how the colonists were trying to escape what they viewed as an oppressive government. Although our Founding Fathers disagreed on a lot of things, one thing they rallied behind was NO KING. They did not want to create another monarchy.

 

I thought about that particular class when I came across a passage in Matthew 27. Verses 32-44 detail Jesus’ crucifixion. The soldiers, religious leaders, and even the general public seemed to be hung up on the notion of Jesus as King of the Jews, or King of Israel, as some translations state. They hung a sign of mockery above his head reading, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (v. 37). The religious leaders taunted him, saying that if he’s the King of the Jews, then he should save himself (v. 41-43).

 

Here’s the catch: whether we’re talking about a political science class or trying to make a spiritual application, there can only be ONE king. In a monarchy, there may be a ruling family who passes down the crown from generation to generation, but at any given time, there is one king or queen in charge. Trying to have two people wear the crown is a recipe for disaster.

 

The same concept holds true in our spiritual lives. Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13 remind us that we cannot serve both God and money. We have to choose one over the other – either God or our worldly desires.

 

Jesus did not come to serve as a political leader. Instead, he challenged our traditional ideas of rulership by introducing us to a personal relationship with the Lord. We don’t need a political king to sweep in and take over; we need a spiritual Lord to whom we willingly submit our lives. He is fully capable of leading and guiding us, but only if we allow him that position in our hearts. He does not demand our loyalty. We retain the free will to choose the world over him, if that’s what we really want.

 

However, I implore you to give him authority over your life, and I feel confident in saying that you will not regret it. Walking in a relationship with Christ is more spectacular than all the ticker tape parades and inauguration parties in the whole, entire world.

You want me to give what? (Prayer Devotional for the week of July 20, 2014)

I recall plenty of sermons on stewardship over the years, but I couldn’t tell you of a lightbulb moment when it dawned on me that my personal giving mattered. Giving—and tithing, in particular—is just something that I grew up doing. It never seemed odd to me; it was just what you did. I didn’t realize how weird I was.

The Bible focuses a lot (more than we’d probably like to admit) on finances and giving. In 1 Chronicles 29, King David announced to the assembly of Israelites that he had committed an extraordinary sum to building the Lord’s temple. Following his example, the leaders and community members gave generously (and joyfully!), as well. David offered a prayer of thanks and told God, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (v. 14). He went on to ask the Lord to bless the givers and “keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you” (v. 18).

Don’t get me wrong; Americans tend to be pretty generous. Young adults in “Generation Y” give an average of $341/year, according to a 2010 survey by Convio. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers give incrementally more, while The Great Generation gives the most, on average, at $1,066/year. The numbers vary from source to source, but a common estimate is that Americans give about 3% of their earnings to charity, on average. That certainly isn’t chump change, and it adds up to billions of philanthropic dollars each year. Yet, do we give from the same attitude of selfless abandon that King David did, when he offered “personal treasures of gold and silver … over and above everything [that David had already] provided” (v. 3)? Do we give because there is joy in it, or because we feel obligated … or do we not bother to give at all? God calls us to be weird for him in many ways, and one of those ways should be our generosity.

Originally posted August 28, 2011 (revised)