Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief

Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief

Often, we are quick to make judgements about others based on outward appearances.  However, in the kingdom of God, outward appearance doesn’t matter.  This is well explained in scripture by James, (James 2:1-17):

1My brothers, as believers in our glorious lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favouritism. 2suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3if you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “you stand there” or “sit on the floor by my feet,” 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5listen, my dear brothers: has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6but you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?

8if you really keep the royal law found in scripture, “love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right. 9but if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10for whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11for he who said, “do not commit adultery,” also said, “do not murder.” if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

14what good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16if one of you says to him, “go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17in the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

We might look upon people according to their position or wealth, but God looks at the individual, not their job or their outward appearance.  James is confronting us about being too full of ourselves.

Later we will gather round the Lord’s table because Jesus invites us to his table. At his table there this is no distinction. The good news is that Christ Jesus invites us to an “all you can eat buffet” of God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, redemption, justification, hope, wholeness, healing and, like cream or custard on top of your favourite pudding, love!

The only thing that’s required of us is to come empty, so that we can leave filled.

Come empty

How do we come empty?

… By laying at the foot of the cross all the trash, all the sin, and letting the blood of Christ flow over them, cleansing them from our life.  If we’re honest with ourselves the trash in our lives will include our selfishness (which really is pride), our prejudices, our hate, our anger at our brother, boss, neighbour, spouse or children, our assumptions that we are always right, our judgementalism.  The list goes on and on.

If we’re full of these when we come into God’s presence then we’re not going to receive all that he has for us, we just won’t have room.  We have to come empty.  For when we do, we come needy, hungry and so ready to receive what he has for us.  This will be different for each of us. Therefore, we have to come seeking, if not, we won’t be satisfied.

If we’re full there is no room for God’s grace, love and forgiveness. So we have to empty our heart, soul and spirit of all those things that keep us from feasting at God’s “all you can eat buffet of grace, forgiveness and love”.

Leave filled

The good news is that when we come empty we will leave filled.

When we come empty, we leave filled with the knowledge and assurance of our forgiveness.

When we come empty, we leave filled with the grace of God born of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

When we come empty, we leave filled with hope for ourselves and for the future.

When we come empty, we leave filled with the love which mirrors God’s unconditional love for us.

When we come empty, we leave filled with the holy spirit, Christ’s very presence in our daily lives, reminding us that we belong to him.

Conclusion

There’s a mum whose family treated her to a big birthday party. When the time came for her to receive her gifts, she was instructed to sit in her favourite chair. One by one, the father and the two older children came in from the kitchen bearing their gifts on trays, and presenting them to mum as if she were a queen.  The smallest girl, who was really too little to have had much input on the selection of gifts, had been left out of all these joyous plans. But watching the party, she rose to the occasion!  Just when the others thought the party was over, she appeared from the kitchen bearing an empty tray. Approaching her mother, she placed the tray on the floor, stepped upon it herself, and with a childish wiggle of joy said, “Mummy, I give you me!” (1)

When we come empty, we bring only ourselves, which is the best and greatest gift we can ever give to God. It’s the only gift God ever asks from us, and it’s the gift God gave to us through Jesus.  When we come empty, with just the gift of ourselves, God meets us and feeds us and fills us to overflowing with his glorious life.

It doesn’t make any difference whether we’re a rich man, poor man, beggar man, or thief, when we come empty, we leave filled.  So, empty yourself for Christ’s “all you can eat buffet of grace, love and forgiveness” and leave filled.

Bibliography

  1. Parables, etc. Saratoga press, PO Box 8, Platteville, co, 80651; 970-785-2990, March 1987