This part really boils down to Religion versus what being a Christian is really about - family.
If you can understand what God is like and just how much he loves us, you’ll be in much better shape to understand his will and intent for our lives.
I’m going to paraphrase a story from Gary Carpenter that he told as an example of our relationship with God. (it’s part of a really great series of teachings on being a steward for God, you can find it Here under the “Stewarding the Pound” heading.
Gary’s grandfather owned a family farm with his sons and daughters working on it. there were many different jobs to do on the farm, but each of them was vitally important to the operation of the farm as a whole. each morning the family would eat breakfast together and grandfather would give out his instructions for the days work. each son or daughter would receive instructions based on their qualifications for the work. the oldest son would be operating the bigger farm equipment; tractors, combines and other things that required training and a good deal of responsibility. the youngest son might be tasked with greasing the wheels and gears of the equipment, which is a small job but absolutely necessary to prevent the machines from seizing up and breaking down. some children would be tilling the fields while others planted or tended to the animals. there was a lot of work to be done and each person had to do their part.
everybody worked hard for grandfather. while mostly the sons were working outside, the daughters were helping their mother. everyone had been working up a good appetite and dinner was a great family time. even before the dinner bell rang they could smell the country cooking coming form inside the house. they had real country food that came from their own farm. fried chicken, steak, mashed potatoes covered in country gravy, corn on the cob with real butter. definitely something to look forward to during the day.
now imagine this scenario. as the family gathers around the table for dinner, grandfather takes some time to review the work accomplished that day. he turns to one son and says “son, how many acres did you sow today?” the son replies “4 acres.” grandpa says “ok, here are two chicken wings, some potatoes with gravy, and milk.”
then he turns to the next son and asks “how many acres did you sow?” and the son replied “well, i only managed to get half an acre done today.” and grandfather says “for you, water and a cold biscuit.”
does that seem even remotely likely? grandfather is not an evil man, he loves his sons. he doesn’t feed them based on how much they did that day. they eat their fill from grandfather’s table just because their sons. if they want another chicken wing, they only have to ask “could you please pass another chicken wing.” now if one son is repeatedly not getting his work done each day, then grandfather is going to have to have a talk with him, maybe a stern one, but he’s not going to starve the kid.
now here’s an important point. all the while those sons are out working in the field, they have no confusion about who the field belongs to. it belongs to their father. and when the harvest comes, that belongs to their father. all of the sons needs will be supplied for, but they are working for their father and the fruits of their labor belong to him. and after the harvest comes and the season is over, grandfather will take into account the work the sons have done for him and how much they’ve grown or matured, and he will hand out promotions. the younger son that had been greasing the wheels might now be deemed capable of running the machine he had been assigned to take care of. the eldest son might start learning the business side of farm in order to oversee it better and become less involved in the field work.
but what if during the sowing season one of the sons sectioned off some of the grandfather’s land for his own and started working in only that plot. grandfather is going to think that’s a little strange but he’ll let it go for his son. and when the harvest comes, the son takes everything from his sectioned off plot and goes to market himself to sell it and make a profit. at this point grandfather is not going to be very pleased with the son. when it comes promotion time, it’s plain to see that this son will receive nothing more from his father. he’s using the fathers supplies and equipment for his own selfish benefit.
now lets say a family comes through town and sees grandfather’s farm and his large amount of land. the family needs work to support themselves, so they approach grandfather and ask if he will allow them to work some of his land for them and use his equipment, but be allowed to keep some of the harvest to take care of their own family. grandfather is a kind man and agrees to let the family become sharecroppers. they do good work on their part of the land and take good care of the equipment that’s loaned to them, but when that dinner bell rings they do not come into the house to eat. they aren’t sons and daughters, they are sharecroppers. grandfather doesn’t provide for their needs, they provide for themselves using his land and supplies. when the harvest comes, the sharecroppers give grandfather a portion of it from their land (a tithe, if you will) but they will not receive any kind of promotion. they have what they have and if they want more they are going to need to use their profit wisely to perhaps buy some land and supplies of their own.
a son and a sharecropper are two very different roles. they do the same work with the same goal in mind, a harvest. but the sons need not worry about their provision and needs, they have only to ask to receive. the sharecropper must provide for himself while also working to give a portion back to the grandfather. he will never rise above his station unless he accomplishes it on his own effort. a son has only to grow, mature, and do what his father asks to receive his promotion.
in our Christian lives, a son or a sharecropper is a mentality. do we work for our Father and trust He will provide for our needs as well as blessing us with more for our faithful following of instructions, or do we work for ourselves and give some of what we’ve accomplished to Him?
let me assure you, one way is better than the other.
-part b to come.
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