Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Context of the Heart

During this very busy month a dear friend of ours offered to write a post for the blog, and I hastily took her up on it! We have known her for years and she is a fabulous writer. So, without further ado, here is Kelli!

Earlier this summer, I was in my room studying for the Pharmacy College Admissions test I am preparing to take soon. I opened up my study book to an impossibly long vocabulary list and a section that might as well be entitled, "Memorize the Dictionary Until You are More Literate than Merriam Webster Himself." My eyes wandered down the list.  I came upon the word "cavalier."  It was a word I was already somewhat familiar with.  It was used as the mascot of several small, rural towns as an alternative to the cliché "Roughrider" (a reference to our 26th President who my home state of North Dakota has claimed like a native). Like Roughrider, the word cavalier also conveyed the rugged, cowboy gallantry that had, through history and tradition, become our state's trademark.   After reading the concise definition in my study book, "carefree, happy" but underneath "lordly disdain," the word's complexity prompted me to cross-reference it further using an online dictionary.  I found that cavalier used as a noun referred to a knight or gallant but when used as an adjective it was defined as "haughty" or proud.  The same word acts like its own antonym depending on its part of speech.

 I suddenly felt the prick of my conscience that I was no stranger to.  God, these words are written black, not red! I thought. Besides, I am trying to study for a test, not be tested by You.  God didn't listen.  As I have learned, He does not provide conviction at convenience.  I put down my pencil and reflected on my own shortcomings.  I had been moping around the house all that week with a cavalier attitude.  I had made a sacrifice for others and was having to forfeit my own plans on their behalf.  The gift was given willingly, no one forced me to do it but when it came to giving it up, I didn't want to let it go.  My offering was not made directly to God and yet I was treating Him as if He owed me restitution for a tithe as recorded in Malachi 3:10-11, when the Lord promises,"'Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.  I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,' says the Lord Almighty."  (NIV)

 My mind then turned to a different passage from Luke chapter 21:1-4 when Jesus saw the gifts of the rich but chose to acknowledge the offering of the widow.  In the last verses of Luke 20, Jesus touches on the authenticity of actions beginning in verse 45.  "Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, 'Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows" houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.'"  There may be a chapter break in this section, but God is making the same point.  The focus is less on the amount and more on the attitude.  

I have read this passage before and noted that the treasury was public place for the rich to pour in money ostentatiously but I had never really considered the humility of the widow.  We don't know much about her but in the word "widow" we find two significant cultural offenses.  Being an unmarried woman would have reduced her to a plight of society.  Reexamining this passage makes me wonder, why didn't she wait?  She only opened herself up to ridicule.  I believe it's because her need for internal glorification was greater than her desire for outward gratification.  She trusted that, although she didn't have much, God could still use her offering. 

My sacrifice was more like that of the scribes and the rich than the widows.  The deeds that I had done, even in His name, had come from a heart full of the wrong reasons.  Like the rich, I knew how to outwardly look good.  I'd say to my Christian friends, "Look at what what God is doing through ME."  While I may have put God first in the sentence, the emphasis in my heart was still on me.  The people that I sacrificed for had received the gift, oblivious to my selfishness.  I prayed that God could still use what I had given to the benefit of others.  

 So today are you a cavalier or do you have a cavalier heart? Because the word, like good deeds, is the same but it is the context that makes all the difference.


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