So, what verse does God’s Little Instruction Book have for us today? It’s none other than Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” And this is one verse where taking a bird’s-eye view of its context will not lend us any particular insight into its meaning. There do exist passages in Proverbs which are not simply successions of maxims and wise sayings, but chapter 16 is not one of them.
Today’s verse from God’s Little Instruction Book is a single simple imperative sentence from Hebrews. As he’s wrapping up his letter, the author writes, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). If we zoom out and survey the rest of Hebrews 13 for context, we won’t find any additional insights into the struggle between greed and contentment. The verse in question is situated among commands to stay faithful to your spouse and to be kind to strangers and prisoners, and the meat of chapter 13 is encouragement for the Jewish Christians who’ve earned the disdain of their fellow Jews for following a crucified Messiah. Verse five is the only verse about not making your bank account your best bud! So, what we’re going to do instead is zoom out even further and consider the contrast between greed and contentment in the New Testament epistles.
Welcome to the second installment of our new interstitial study, God’s Little Deconstruction Book. The verse from God’s Little Instruction Book for today is 1 Samuel 16:7b, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” It’s part of a larger story that you’re likely familiar with, in which God, having rejected Saul as Israel’s king, leads Samuel to look for a new king to anoint from among Jesse the Bethlehemite’s sons. So as not to draw Saul’s ire, Samuel has a cover story: he comes together with Jesse and his sons to sacrifice a cow to God. And by the end of the tale, of course, Samuel has anointed the youngest son, David.
So every fifth week or so, the Triad study eschews the “passage of the week” format. Instead, it allows time for the Triad to reflect on the unit they’ve just completed, review the passages from the unit, and do a practical application activity together for their weekly meeting. Here on Chocolate Book during these interludes, I suppose I could revisit previous material, but in the interests of keeping things fresh, I want to introduce a new study: God’s Little Deconstruction Book.
Sometimes, Pastor Stephen Kirk is a man after my own heart. Commenting on Ephesians 1:13-14 in the Multiply book that accompanies the Triad study program, he goes to absolute town on the Greek. I could never be a pastor; I imagine that unless your congregation is either extremely generous or nerdy, you only have so many Original Greek Language Points to spend per sermon before they start losing interest. I, on the other hand, had half a mind to just start looking up Greek words from this week’s passage and see what I found, until I realized I’d kinda already done that back in All the Paul.
Today’s post didn’t come out right. I tried, but the thing resisted articulation and the words came out wrong. Sometimes this happens. We will try again tomorrow, after sleep. God forgives even shortcomings such as this one.
Remember Walter Brueggemann’s classification scheme for the Psalms: orientation, disorientation, and new orientation? I feel like you could apply the same scheme to my blog here. You’ve got your (i.e. my) posts of orientation, posts of disorientation…and sometimes a move from one mode to another. Take yesterday, where I took a step back, looked at myself and Ephesians 1:3-14 here, and moved from disorientation to new orientation. I’ve got a feeling I might manage a post of disorientation before we close out the week, but man, sometimes I get so tired of trying to whip up some thoughts for the blog. Sometimes I just wanna rest.
Real talk: I often come away from Paul’s words here feeling obligated. In my mind, it’s as if Paul is trying to get us to worship God, or to make us feel like praise is the proper normative response to the blessings he describes, and thereby to make us feel compelled to praise. And that’s odd, because the passage is far more about what God has done for us than what we should do for God. Why do I react to it this way? I think we might get something out of this, so let’s sit me down on the couch with this slice of Ephesians 1 and talk about my feelings.
Welcome to a new week in the Triad study, with a new passage to investigate every last corner of, like a room in an adventure game where you’re stuck on a puzzle and just start hunting for item and verb combinations in some desperate hope of advancing your progress. Well, okay, hopefully it doesn’t go down like that. We have the first handful of verses in Ephesians locked and loaded for study today, and the Triad study identifies this week’s theme as “guarantee.”
Man, how do I follow Thursday’s act? Real talk, fam: I can’t help feeling like I shot my wad with the previous post on the foundational importance of God’s sacrificial love. If what I said was true, then won’t whatever topic I talk about inevitably fall short in significance of what I had to say in that last post? Maybe so. But I wrote that post because I love God and you guys, so today I’m going to put my love for God and you guys into practice again, this time by writing a post that is not explicitly about love.