These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
We continue with the list of seven things the Lord hates, as listed in Proverbs 6. Pride was the first and the worst. But today we come on to the second, lying. Pride and lying are closely linked: “Let lying lips be dumb, which speak insolently against the righteous in pride and contempt” (Psalms 31:18). Once trust has gone and we can no longer rely on what others are saying, then there is no foundation left for a relationship.
The Bible gives some cautionary tales of the consequences of lying. There was Jacob who tricked his father into thinking he was his elder brother, Esau. He gained the Blessing, but had to flee his cheated brother’s wrath. For the following 14 years he lived in exile as a servant of his uncle. Eventually he had to return to be reconciled to Esau, and on the way wrestled with an angle. Out of this conflict he emerged with a lifelong limp (Genesis 32:24-28).
Then there was Ananias and Sapphira. This couple were part of the early church, many of whom were selling their possessions and sharing them with the whole church. Unfortunately, these two conspired together to withhold half the proceeds and yet claim to have given it all. The result was the divine wrath of Peter and the instant death of both of them! (Acts 5:1-11). This was extreme but it served as a salutary example to the other disciples.
Lying is serious. Jesus taught that when the devil lies “he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He lied in the Garden of Eden: “You will not die” (Genesis 3:4). Deception and lies should not be part of our armoury, rather, we should “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
Hilaire Belloc told a Cautionary Tale about Matilda who “told such Dreadful Lies, It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes.” When she cried “Fire” once too often, no one believed, and “Matilda, and the House, were Burned.”
Lord, you always spoke the truth. Help me to be honest and yet gracious. I know the truth will set us free. Amen.
When we speak of the Seven Deadly Sins we may immediately think of the Catholic list: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride. This list is good and comprehensive, and certainly Pride is the key to all sins.
Indeed, Pride leads a different list which we shall be considering over the coming weeks. The Book of Proverbs gives a wide ranging list of things that the Lord “hates” and which are “an abomination to him” (v.16).
The first one, then, is “haughty eyes” (v.17). This feeling of superiority is a disaster. The original sin was Adam and Eve’s desire to be “like God” (Genesis 3:5). They were tempted by the pride that they knew better than God; the ‘fruit’ would not kill them but would make them wise. How wrong they were, how far they fell! Surely the saying is true: “Pride comes before a fall”.
The first Couple were of course only following in the steps of the Tempter. Satan had already gone the same way before them. His fall is well described by the Prophet: “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven … I will set my throne on high …” (Isaiah 14:13). If you read the passage (see Explore More below) you will see that five times he says “I will”. That is the nature of pride.
We are all infected with this fatal tendency, although some of us suffer from inverted pride. We either have too much confidence in ourselves and think we can do without God and can climb up over others, or else we have so low an opinion of ourselves that we do not believe that God has done a good job in making us, and do not believe that he can do anything for us or through us.
Both these positions are an offence to God Almighty. “Haughty eyes” are to be avoided. As Paul says, the disciple “is not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment …” (Romans 12:3).
Lord, though you have made me unique, keep me from looking down on others. Teach me humility. Amen.
Although our inheritance from God is not defined clearly, it is nevertheless described as being glorious. Perhaps it is not put into words because in our present physical and sensual state we would not appreciate the spiritual world.
Peter is plainly carried away with keen anticipation when he writes about it; he says it is “an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (v.4). He trusts his God that when something good is promised, it will be good!
Of course we do get a foretaste of the coming Kingdom while we live in this world. We experience the love, joy and peace of the Holy Spirit. We know the loving provision of our heavenly Father, and the fellowship of his children. This foretaste is also called our “guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5 and Ephesians 1:14). In other words the Spirit is a down payment or a deposit. This is how we know and experience something of what is coming our way.
St Paul, as well as Peter, waxes eloquent about our future inheritance. But he knows that its nature can only be understood in our heart and not our head. He prays that the Ephesians may have “the eyes of their hearts enlightened, that they may know what is the hope to which God has called them, and what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, what is the immeasurable greatness of his power” (Ephesians 1:18-19).
This is what we need to pray for, both for ourselves and for all believers. God wants us to be full of anticipation and assurance. But if we have no conviction about our future state, then we will be fearful of dying. We will also remain unstrengthened when we face current hardships. If we have no real hope for the future then we will be, as St Paul puts it, “of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). We lose so much if we remain in ignorance.
Father, thank you for our glorious future inheritance. Grant me to both to understand it and to anticipate it more and more. Amen.
1 Note Paul’s plea against ignorance of the Lord’s return.
“What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (v.25) NRSV
Eternal life is not only desirable, it is essential! When Jesus promised us that we may have “life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10), then surely this is an offer too good to pass off. Yet how do we secure it?
This therefore was the question asked by the lawyer in today’s reading: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (v.25). Jesus’ response was that he should keep the whole law of God. In other words that he should love God and his neighbour with all that he has. Of course this standard was too high! He therefore tried to “justify himself” (v.29).
The fact is that none of us is able to enter eternal life by our own effort. As Jesus told his disciples, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). No one can save himself by trying to pull himself up by his own bootlaces. The whole essence of the Gospel is that God (in Christ) reaches down to us; he takes the initiative, and he gives us the power to respond.
Paul puts this point very clearly when he writes: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).
Therefore, when Jesus told the lawyer to be saved by keeping the law, he was merely enabling him to see that he needed help! It is only when we admit our need that God can begin to help us. Jesus came to the sick, not the righteous. That is, he came to those who knew they needed help, not to those who thought they were okay.
This story of the lawyer is paralleled by a similar one involving a rich, young ruler (Luke 18:18 and Mark 10:17). And what did he have to do to inherit eternal life? He had to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. Could he? No. We all need God grace in order to be saved and to enter eternal life.
Lord, I am weak but you are strong. The good I would I do not. Save me by your gracious power. Amen.