What Counts


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 56; 149, Isaiah 66:1-6, 1 Timothy 6:(1-5) 6-21, Mark 12:35-44

“It’s the thought that counts.”

If someone selects what they think is the perfect gift, but we don’t care for it, that’s probably true. On the other hand, if someone spends a month intending to visit us in our sick bed but never shows up … not so much.

Christians are taught actions do not save us, but we are also taught we must think the right things – namely that accepting Christ as our savior is the only way to salvation. However, we are far more comfortable with rules than abstract ideas so we often reduce that acceptance to a set of “correct” words, pronouncements, and expressions. This creates a paradox: we are freed from the law of actions by reinventing it as a law of belief. The danger is that adhering to this new law becomes just as meaningless if it bounces off our tongues without ever piercing our hearts.

Regarding its religious practices and sacrifices, Isaiah told the nation of Israel:

Whoever slaughters an ox is like one who kills a human being;
whoever sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck.

The Lord was angry because the people of Israel made their prescribed sacrifices and said the required prayers, but practiced no compassion for the widows, orphans, and outcasts among them. Is hiding an unloving heart behind a law of actions substantially different from hiding one behind a law of religiously correct thought and speech?

When a poor widow dropped two all-but-worthless coins into the temple treasury, Jesus told his disciples hers was the greatest gift, because others had “contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had.” Our own abundance may be measured in more ways than finances. It may also be measured in privilege, freedom, comfort, etc. If we believe the “right” things, but give only from abundance, have we really embraced all the implications of accepting the sacrificial love of Christ? True acceptance motivates us to acts of compassion and sacrifice not because we must, but because loving Christ is more than a thought.

Comfort: Christ invites us to relationship, not religion.

Challenge: Examine where you have abundance. Could you give until you feel the pinch?

Prayer: I seek to love as Christ loves, to share the abundance of his grace. Amen.

Discussion: What do you think about but never seem to get around to?

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