This statement is contrasting the understanding of ordinary people. Those of this world feel blessed, after receiving material benefits. This is understandable, as humans require material objects when desiring to feel comfortable and secure.
Without a house, those of this world feel unblessed and very uncomfortable. The invitation of Jesus requires giving up everything, to follow Him. This sounds very unacceptable, assumed as pauperizing Christianity, yet coming directly from Jesus.
“Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go,’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8”18-20).
The teacher of the law may have been sincere, in desiring to follow Christ. Jesus’s statement served to hinder him from following. Jesus did not have a house in which to stay. Those intending to follow were made aware of the daunting price of following Jesus. In other words, the price of following Jesus is based on the principle of giving, rather than receiving.
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
He saidth unto him, Which? Jesus said Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.(Matthew 19:16-22 KJV).
Perfection is the highest standard of goodness, which the young man all along desired. After having insisted that he wanted eternal life, Jesus offered him the unpalatable truth. He heard Jesus uttering the opposite of what was understood as blessings, by ordinary people, who may have interpreted Jesus as condoning the condition of poverty. But poverty results from receiving, rather than giving.
We need to put this in simplified form: Jesus offered His own life, for the ransom of many. Therefore, the candid question is: Was Jesus blessed, or not? Anyone assuming that Jesus was not blessed, may as well not waste time reading further. Nevertheless, anyone who feels that Jesus was indeed, blessed, may continue reading, for more understanding.
There is a lot of misinformation, out in the world. Jesus came to reveal what had all along been hidden to humanity. “It is more blessed to give than to receive”(Acts 20:35). In short, whatever is called a blessing, does not come from receiving, but from giving. While true that all of us are accustomed to assuming that blessings come from receiving, Jesus taught the opposite.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for, in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12 NIV).
Why would one be persecuted for righteousness? Should it not be an evil person who should deserve persecution? Surely, the righteous deserve blessings for righteous conduct? Why is Jesus saying a righteous person should rejoice only when insulted rather than rejoicing when appreciated for righteous conduct?
What Jesus taught is not of this world. Recently, one of my close friends suggested that my writings should target those identifying with my writings. This would then form a basis for general acceptance, as also encouraging financial contributions. I perfectly understood the viewpoint, from where my friend came from. Writers are spurred by overwhelming “likes” on their Facebook pages.
Unfortunately, that viewpoint does not resonate with Christ’s teachings. If spurred by the “likes” on the Facebook page, then what one writes cannot be from Jesus. According to Jesus, it is the public derisions that should be regarded as blessings, rather than encouragements.
This does not mean one feels bad when appreciated by others. Even Jesus, in His human condition, needed friends around Him. He could not feel cheerful when people deserted Him at His moments of anguish. But Jesus did not crave human support, as connected to His Father.
“He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”(Matthew 26:37-39 NIV).
His humanness was displayed, notwithstanding that Jesus had taught the principle of rejoicing when receiving insults from sinners. Nevertheless, Jesus remained resolute, reminiscing God’s will. His friends may have encouraged Him to succumb. Jesus left the footsteps on which true Christians should follow.
God’s will, is what encourages true Christians, remaining focused on Heavenly things, like Jesus. While exhilarating to receive praises and financial support from well-wishers, blessings are applicable to such well-wishers, not beneficiaries of praises and financial support. Blessings are accorded to givers, rather than recipients.
“Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.
“I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then, your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”(Matthew 6:1-4 NIV)
The idea of only rejoicing in the face of accumulated insults and persecution is possible through prayer. At Gethsemane Jesus was sorrowful. But He ought to have rejoiced, according to His teachings? Jesus understood that, to counter sorrowfulness, He needed prayer, leading to the rejoicing that He recommended.
The physical condition does not associate with unconditional giving. This world holds natural givers, who expect rewards for their benevolent giving. The exception is for those that Jesus referred to, in one of His teachings.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”(Matthew 25:37-39 NIV).
The Good Samaritan will be among those being surprised with Heavenly rewards, having helped a victim of robbers without expecting compensation. The Good Samaritan is not shown as having been a believer, expecting Heavenly rewards. (Luke 10:33-37).
Jesus’s instruction promotes the aspect of giving without being noticed by anyone. However, being showered with praises, cancels out the blessing of giving. The person would have applied the giving principle, whose blessing gets annulled by praises from ordinary people.
Anyone celebrating the financial benefit miracle, mistakes it for Godly blessings. This world is full of people applying whatever makes them feel comfortable, without God’s involvement.
When enriched with material acquisitions, one can be worshiped by others in the environment. Although God may not, necessarily, be involved. There are those boasting about having achieved many fortunes, ahead of others. But a true Christian can never be surprised by such insolent behaviors.
“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.”(Psalms 73:1-7 NIV).
The psalmist observed how ordinary Christians similarly perceive things in the environment. Many Christians get discouraged by this reality. Why do evil people, appear blessed, leading better lives than those calling upon God’s name, day and night? Ordinary Christians simply desire living normal lives.
However, those Christians miss the point. Christianity cannot be evaluated according to worldly standards. Christianity is measured according to Christ’s standard. Jesus had to die on the cross, revealing that Godly life cannot be in conformity with the lifestyles of this world.
Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors?!”(Psalms 73:13-19 NIV).
The majority of our Christian brothers are into Christianity for what they can get, rather than what they can give. They miss the mark in that Christianity carries the opposite of what Christians aim for. Jesus said not many who say, ‘Lord! Lord,’ would be accepted in Heaven (Matthew 7:21).
“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men’”(Matthew 15:7-9 NIV).
Indulgence into Christianity, without taking seriously what Jesus taught, is unwise. God is not impressed by those conflating Christianity with the teachings of men. One is lost when being charitable, but expecting to receive recompense.
Criminals in Christianity have conveniently adopted tithing in Old Testament teachings. The tithing principle opens doors for physical blessings. But that is diametrically opposed to Jesus’s teachings, as far as Christianity is concerned.
It is extremely difficult to bring back the lost soul, on an erroneous trajectory. The blessings of Israel were physical, granting Promised Land of Canaan, flowing with milk and honey. This was antitype of what would come through Jesus’s promises. Although Christianity is not about Promised Land, necessarily.
“For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”(Hebrews 4:8-12 NIV).
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Christians, including the advocates of tithing, are clear in that Jesus’s activities were unconditional. Jesus never demanded recompense for His services. He taught the principle of giving without encouraging expectations of physical recompense.
“But I tell you; Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”(Matthew 5:44-48 NIV)
Christianity qualifies believers to become God’s children. This, therefore, implies that it cannot be possible to be a Christian when doing the opposite of what Jesus taught. God’s children behave like Jesus, giving unconditionally, without showing-off, to the public. God’s children may not even be known by those of this world.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99