The Art and Science of God – Uncommon Sense

Standard

The Art and Science of God

Uncommon Sense

Luke 14:7-14

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

One of the greatest gifts Jesus gives us is his practical teaching and example of the illogical and mysterious values of God. What I mean is that Jesus personifies (and perhaps humanitizes) Who God is, and does so in such an exemplary way that we are invited and instructed how to personify God in our own lives as well. However, the kind of example He sets is not necessarily one that is either easy to understand or follow. Not only can it be physically and emotionally challenging, it is sometimes counter-intuitive and hard to wrap our minds around.

Kingdom hospitality is an easy example of how the logic of God does not always line up with our culture’s version of “common sense”. Common sense from a capitalist standpoint tells us to focus the bulk of our hospitality on those whom we can expect a better return. Wine and dine those who have money to buy from you, not those too poor to afford your products and services. That first step to recognizing the truth about our common sense is that it is based upon our politics and economics, not our relationship with God.

Let me give another example. In our culture of copyrights land lawsuits, if you were able to create a water purification system using basic household objects, would you hold a public forum teaching your neighbors and community how to do it themselves or with you patent it in attempt to make money off of your idea? Which does your common sense promote? The good of the community for the good of your pocketbook? Most of us would probably try to do both. We might see it as a wasted opportunity if we did not try to make money and we might feel guilty if we did not at least try to make an attempt to better the lives of those around us.

Common sense is a tool designed to lead us to success (however we understand and define success). It is also a very logical tool. Common sense, like much of our scientific tools, is based upon success we can see. I think, like much of science, it is actually a little more biased toward sense of vision than any of our other senses. It leads us to make choices that look successful not just sound successful, or smell successful, and in many cases it leads us away from choices that “feel” successful. When we make choices because “it felt like the right thing to do at the time”, our common sense often warns us otherwise.

This is why Jesus baffles us so much. Jesus does not take the middle road. He does not tell us to go and invite anyone and everyone to our parties. He tells us to leave our rich neighbors alone, and throw parties specifically for those who cannot, let alone will not repay us. That makes common sense sick to its stomach.

Ambition tells us to succeed we must climb higher. A modest Version of common sense would tell us to be patient and strategic in how we climb to gain the most success without alienating those allies around us. As usual Jesus takes a completely different approach. He tells us, if you want to succeed do not climb higher… climb lower. Take a demotion. Now our common sense is screaming.

Is there no logic to God’s ethics? Indeed there is, but it is not based in capitalism, and even more jarring, it is not based in what we can see. John’s ethics are based upon an invisible truth: that God Himself created the world, holds the world together, and that we can not find success in life that is not A gift from Him. With that kind of logic it makes sense that helping our poor neighbors pleases God and we can expect to be successful and happy simply because God is pleased with us. Our common sense lives in a place of doubt and skepticism, existing to watch our back, doubting that we will be happy or successful merely by pleasing God, and coming up with back up plans just in case God does not exist at all. After all, our common sense has not seen Him lately.

What we need is not just more common sense. We need a little more faith in God. Not just faith in general or faith in ourselves… but faith in God. Perhaps this is why the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote:

Hebrews 11:6

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

How does your common sense help you draw closer to God?

How does your common sense conflict with your faith at times?

Advertisements

What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Standard

This is a somewhat common saying and rhetorical question that some people use to make the point that the last statement made in the discussion is off-topic and not related to the issue at hand. I however, am one of those people who always have to wonder and wander and often chase rabbit trails, so… what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? And what does the price of tea in China have to do with anything.

I doubt very much that this is a Chinese saying. There is a note of sarcasm and bluntness to it that is absent from most polite Chinese conversation and especially business conversations. So I’m going to blame the British instead. If you want blunt sarcasm, you will be hard pressed to find people wielding it with more expertise than the BBC, where banter is a sport like the NFL in the US.

I think there is an underlying point to this though. If we wind the clock back a century, we would discover the time when it was boasted that the sun never set on the British Empire. All across the globe, they had colonies and nations purchased by blood and gold. One of the more important places was China, which, along with India and other places in Southeast Asia grew an enormous amount of tea. This tea was then shipped off to Europe and England specifically, to supply millions of residents during their obligatory tea-time each day.

That is a bit of an exaggeration, of course – I’m sure there were many people whose jobs did not afford them a “tea time”. But perhaps not. As you may recall, Boston Harbor, in 1776 was not filled with British oil or lumber, nor the native corn, blueberries, or pumpkins. They filled it with tea – most of which was probably not grown in England at all, but came to the colonists by way of some of those Asian countries who so expertly produce it. The price of tea went up (through some political taxes levied) and suddenly we have the birth of a new nation. So, the price of tea in China really does matter.

We’ve been told that we live in a global economy today, and that globalization seems to grow with each passing year. England did not invent this. The Roman Empire had this going 2000 years ago and the Persians and Babylonians dealt with this in their own ways before that. Ironically, it was Great Britain that decided to leave the economy last year with the popularized (Brexit) from the European Union, months after they denied Scotland the right to independence from the United Kingdom. Looking through history, it seems that those who have power want everyone to be unified, while those who are without want to be left alone. No one wants to be controlled, but many will jump at the chance of being the Controller themselves.

Jesus has some clear teaching on how we are to interact with this globalization within His Kingdom. In John 17, Jesus prays:

““My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John‬ ‭17:20-23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

‭‭We hold that desire of Jesus for unity in line with Paul’s teaching to the Church in Corinth when he writes to them:

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I donʼt need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I donʼt need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” – 1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:12-27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

‭‭

The biggest issue we face in a globalized economy is the issue of control. Who is in control? Are all parties being treated fairly (because equally is not always the same as fair or right)? Are all parties being supported? This question is at the heart of our trade politics, our immigration policies, and the recent changes (as well as the former changes) in healthcare insurance. Are we living up to the biblical standard in Christ’s Kingdom? Are we trying to?

  • What group of people do you have authority over in your life?
  • Do you weep with them when they weep and rejoice with them in their celebrations?
  • What do you need to do or who do you need to support for God to be glorified more in the body of Christ?