Perks

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 99; 147:1-11, Ezekiel 11:14-25, Hebrews 7:1-17, Luke 10:17-24


Tech companies like Google and Facebook are well known for providing their employees remarkable perks. From free unlimited beverages, to massages, laundry, on-site medical staff and shopping malls, they offer services that help attract and retain talent. These seem like great benefits for employees, but in the long run they benefit the company by creating an environment that minimizes the need to leave work – ever. In an unspoken agreement, employees are expected to pay for these luxuries with time away from home and family (if they can find time to have one).

Jesus warned his disciples not to be seduced or distracted by perks. When they returned from spreading his ministry far afield, they were joyful to have discovered that even demons submitted to them in his name. Jesus told them they could walk unharmed among snakes and scorpions and all manner of powers of the enemy, but not to rejoice in these things, “but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

In the end, we love God and Jesus not because of any special treatment or abilities they may give us, but because they love and forgive us. That alone is enough reason for our loyalty, worship, and praise. If the scorpion stings with the venom of ill health, poor finances, or grief, our Lord and Savior have not abandoned us. If all the perks are stripped away, the center and purpose of our faith remains strong. In the corporate world perks and loyalty depend on finances and performance; when things get tough, employees may find themselves burned out or downsized. Our God, ever true, sustains us through difficulty and asks us to lay our burdens before the cross. When the perks disappear, God is more appealing, not less.

There’s a reason true spiritual leaders embrace humility and simplicity: these practices, devoid of perks, remove distractions and barriers between us and our God. The more we think God is supposed to do for us, the less we understand what it is we are meant to be for God. We already have every reason in the world to rejoice.

Comfort: God is with you, always.

Challenge: Ask yourself if you are expecting things from God that you shouldn’t.

Prayer: Faithful and Loving God, thank you for letting me rest in your presence. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever found a job more meaningful because of the perks?

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Two-Way Street

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 62; 145, Hosea 2:2-15, Acts 20:17-38, Luke 5:1-11


The opening chapters of Hosea compare the relationship between God and Israel to the relationship between a husband and unfaithful wife. The emotions evoked by this image of an intimate betrayal are a useful tool for Hosea. He hopes to shock Israel into repenting over the trust it has violated, much like unfaithful spouses might confess to relieve their own guilt. God trusted Israel in a partnership, but Israel turned elsewhere to satisfy immediate political and material needs. In chapter two, God’s anger eventually yields to a desire for reconciliation – a desire to trust Israel again. To trust us again.

Modern believers can struggle with the idea of a personal God. Does God really feel things like betrayal and trust? Maybe not in ways we understand, but the story of Christianity demonstrates how God relies on us to usher in God’s Kingdom. If we embrace the idea that we are created in the image of God – including faithfulness – maybe we can be a people who deserve that trust.

Jesus trusted extravagantly. According to Luke, when it was time to recruit disciples, he didn’t pick from the people he knew back in Nazareth, or from the residents of Capernaum who adored him for the signs he displayed. Instead he selected strangers who – upon realizing how special he was – declared themselves unworthy of such trust. Along the way they disappointed him more than once, but Jesus trusted these people to become his church.

In our daily lives, are we mindful that God is trusting us at any given moment? As in a marriage, two-way trust should not be a burden, but an expression of mutual love. God trusts us enough to let us fail, as well as to succeed. God’s trust and love never falter, even when we do. Do we live in a way that honors such trust? God creates each of us worthy to help usher in the Kingdom. Let us be trustworthy as well.

Comfort: God’s trust in us is not a burden, but a joyful privilege.

Challenge: Meditate on ways to reconcile with friends or colleagues who may have reason not to trust you.

Prayer: Glorious Creator, I will do my best to be worthy of your trust.

Discussion: In what common situations do you find it difficult to trust people?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group or follow @comf_and_chall on Twitter. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!