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(Part 48)


March 11, 2020

Today’s readings:
Jeremiah 18:18-20
Psalm 31:6-7,15-17
Matthew 20:17-28

To listen to and act on God’s words makes us be built on the Rock that is Christ, and as we serve, to be servants according to Jesus’ own ways. But we do at times have our own preferences and ways of thinking, aside from the evil one trying to influence our thoughts to do things contrary to God’s ways. And so in listening to God’s words, we need to be very attentive.

Now we can be attentive to words in the wrong way. This was the case with those who were against Jeremiah and wanted to destroy him. “Let us pay careful attention to his every word.” (Jer 18:18c). It certainly is good to listen carefully to a prophet, but they had ulterior motives that were bad. “Come, let us destroy him by his own tongue.” (Jer 18:18b).

Then there are those who, rather than listening to God, just want God to listen to them. “Pay attention to me, O Lord” (Jer 18:19a). We bring our troubles to God, which by itself is not bad. But we act as if God owes us, and tout how much we do for Him. “Remember that I stood before you to speak on their behalf, to turn your wrath away from them.” (Jer 18:20b). We might even presume to teach God what is right and just. “Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life?” (Jer 18:20a). Then we dictate on God, telling Him in righteous indignation to punish our enemies. “So now, give their children to famine, deliver them to the power of the sword.” (Jer 18:21a).

To be built on Rock, we must listen to and pay careful attention to God’s words, and only God’s words. Not to the world, not to our own fleshly preferences, and certainly not to the devil. How do we often misinterpret God’s words, even as we are listening to Him?

First, there are those who, contrary to Jesus’s example and teaching, seek power and position when serving. This was the case with James and John, who lobbied with Jesus, led by their mother. “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” (Mt 20:21b). How do we act in a similar way?

  • There are those leaders who look to positions of power and authority, and to get these, resort to lying about and maligning other leaders.
  • There are those who campaign, often under the radar, to get the positions they want. This would involve putting potential competitors down.
  • There are those who think they deserve certain positions, and if they do not get these, will become angry or disillusioned, some even lying low or leaving community.
  • There are those who, when removed from their positions, feel bad and aggrieved and begin to sow discord in the ranks.

Second, there are those who, hearing the call to embrace the cross, readily profess to be willing to do so, but do not follow through on it. Jesus asked James and John if they could drink the cup. “They said to him, ‘We can.’” (Mt 20:22b). But when Jesus was arrested and would enter into his passion, they fled and abandoned him. In what ways do we act the same?

  • There are those who do not want to go out of their comfort zones in their service.
  • There are those who will not accept certain services because they are choosy as to what service will make them happy.
  • There are those who readily give up whenever the going gets tough.

Third, there are those who, knowing Jesus’ teaching on servanthood and on becoming the least in order to be great, push their way to greatness and look negatively on those who get ahead of them. When the other ten disciples heard about James and John, “they became indignant at the two brothers.” (Mt 20:24). Why? Because they wanted those positions themselves, but the two had outmaneuvered them. How do we fall into this trap?

  • There are those who are competitive with other leaders, desiring to always be on top of or ahead of the others.
  • There are those leaders who take it out on their followers whenever their service is lagging behind or not doing as well as the others.
  • There are those who become envious of the success of others.

Fourth, there are those who lord it over those entrusted to their care, even as Jesus has said, “it shall not be so among you.” (Mt 20:25-26a). What has Jesus told us about greatness in the Kingdom? “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant” (Mt 20:26b). In what ways have we failed in this?

  • There are leaders who are autocratic or authoritarian in their leadership.
  • There are those who look to be served rather than to just serve.
  • There are those who are not humble enough to take the lowest place.

Fifth, there are those who, knowing Jesus’ call for us to give our all, including our very lives, fail in doing so. Jesus had said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:28). How have we failed in this?

  • There are those who put limits to what they can offer the Lord. It is not their all. Beyond certain limits, these belong to them or to their own personal pursuits.
  • There are those to whom God is important, but not necessarily absolutely number One. There are other competing priorities. Jesus will not necessarily always come first.
  • There are those who do serve the Lord, but believe that what they have done for the Lord, whatever it is, is enough. It actually is never enough.

Sixth, there are those who, knowing we are to worship only the one true God, still look to idols. God had spoken through David, who writes, “You hate those who serve worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.” (Ps 31:7). In what ways do we serve or trust in idols?

  • There are those who believe in horoscopes or astrology or New Age or lucky charms or the lucky cat.
  • There are those who patronize the deadlyisms of materialism, consumerism, secularism, transgenderism, radical feminism, modernism, even Satanism.

We need to be founded on the Rock that is Christ. Let us fully acknowledge God for who He is, and follow Him wholeheartedly, wherever He leads us. “For you are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me.” (Ps 31:4). Let us listen to and act on God’s words, averring, “I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’” (Ps 31:15). Then our house will be built on Rock and will stand, assuring our future. “My destiny is in your hands” (Ps 31:16a).

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