The Children’s Bread

Citizens of any nation have a special status, based on their inherited right, or chosen right for those who take on citizenship. Jesus Christ celebrated that special status, so it is enshrined in political reality. Sadly we are seeing an erosion of this special status, so it is timely to investigate our God-endorsed rights.

Children

Jesus Christ spoke of the natural national citizens as “children”.

On one occasion Peter made a mistake in his encounter with the administrators of his day. Peter was approached and asked if his master paid tribute money. Peter unwisely said that he did. Jesus then challenged Peter about Peter’s thinking on this matter.

“When they came to Capernaum those that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Does not your master pay tribute? He said, Yes. And when he came into the house Jesus detained him, saying, What do you think, Simon? Who do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute from? Is it from their own children, or from strangers? Peter said to him, From strangers. Jesus said to him, Then the children are free. However, so we don’t offend them, go to the sea and cast an hook, and take up the first fish that comes up; and when you open his mouth, you will find a piece of money: take that, and give to them for me and you.” Matthew 17:24-27

Why Children

Every citizen is a ‘child’ of the cultural family to which he or she belongs. That is significant and I will probably discuss that point in more depth at some other time.

Suffice it to say right now that what starts as a ‘family’ really should stay as a family. However, what tends to happen is that our leaders stop being ‘fathers’ to us and become greedy brothers and sisters who sell out the ‘family’ for personal status and reward.

Good government does not penalise its own family, but rewards it. Good government creates a wonderful environment for its own children. Good government then taxes the foreigners (“strangers” in the words of Jesus) for using the resources that really belong to the children.

Oh that it were so in our nations today!

In many western nations today the foreign entities can operate within the country with great tax advantages and privileges, while the children are heavily taxed to pay for the borrowings of their leaders (their ‘fathers’?) who have placed them in an unhappy place of national penalty.

Hmmmm…..

The Children’s Bread is for the Children

Jesus spoke of ‘children’ in a political sense on another occasion. He spoke to a foreigner who was seeking His power for a family need. In that conversation with the Syrophenician woman Jesus affirmed His personal calling to the nation of Israel. His power, miracles and grace were intended for the nation of Israel.

Israel was by that time a nation that had existed for more than a millennium. It is easy to forget, after such a long time, that the nation is really a ‘family’. The original children of Israel were the literal children of a man named Israel. As the families grew over successive generations the ‘children’ grew in number to be a national entity in their own right. But they were still ‘children’ of Israel.

In political terms this foreigner was not a member of the family of Israel. Rather than being a child in the family she was something else, like a family pet. Jesus pointed this out by saying that it was not right for Him to take what belonged to the children and to give it to the dog.

While Jesus’ comments sound offensive to our ears it is important to note two things. The woman was not upset. She recognised that His statement was true. She was outside the Kingdom and had no right to the things she requested. She was not a child of Abraham or a descendent of Jacob (Israel). Jesus’ words were not an insult, but a statement of truth acknowledged by the woman herself.

Further to that, Jesus was happy to hear her appeal and expression of faith and to grant her what she asked.

She said (in essence), “It is true that I am a dog, but even the dogs get to eat the crumbs which are dropped by the children. Since not all of your blessings will be enjoyed by the children you can spare one of the crumbs for me.”

“a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she begged him that he would cast the devil out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not right to take the children’s bread, and cast it to the dogs. And she answered and said to him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said to her, For this saying go your way; the devil is gone out of your daughter. And when she came to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.” Matthew 7:25-30

Your Bread

We have seen that Jesus used the notion of ‘children’ to speak of both political realities (paying tribute) and spiritual realities (claiming the blessings belonging to God’s people).

You too are a child and have your own bread. So, what is your bread? What is it to which you have political and spiritual right?

As a citizen of your nation and culture you are entitled to the freedoms and protections afforded to you. You should not be abused by the fathers of your culture and nation. They should be providing you the special blessings which you are entitled to as a member of the family.

As a child of God you are entitled to an amazing range of spiritual and practical blessings reserved for the ‘children’. In fact, you have the right to walk and live in a state that is described as ‘glorious liberty’ (wonderful freedom), as God’s child.

“Creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Romans 8:21

I encourage you to enjoy the bread that is yours, both politically and spiritually. You are fully entitled to those blessings and it is your responsibility to protect and preserve them so that your own children can enjoy them as well.

You’re Not Dead Yet

There is still hope for you yet. In fact there is going to be hope for you until the day you die. You may have given up already and others may have written you off, but “you ain’t dead yet!” and so there’s still plenty of hope for you and your situation.

Death was once defined as “the cessation of all radical change”. When I tried to track down that definition I couldn’t find it, but it catches the idea that as long as someone is alive they are able to make significant change to who and what they are.

A sinner can choose to put their faith in Christ even as they slip from life. Until death has made its final blow people are open to change, even quite radical change.

So, if you’re still breathing there is hope for you and the mess you are in.

Sadly we make the assumption we are locked into things and we endure our circumstances as if they are unchangeable. We see ourselves as unchangeable too.

But, as I’ve said already, “You’re not dead yet”!

History is littered with testimony of people who made significant, revolutionary and unexpected change. The power of God changes people. The grace of God changes people. A wake-up shake-up can cause people to take action they have kept avoiding. New insights have empowered people to make changes they previously thought impossible.

So, cheer up. You ain’t dead yet! Today is jam packed with miracle potential. You can change the rest of your life, the future of your descendents and even eternal destinies by what you choose to do today.

Aren’t you glad you’re alive?

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Angry Dad, Wise Dad

Just how many fathers can you have? How can you have a Rich Dad and a Poor Dad? How could Jesus say to the Jews, “Abraham is your father but Abraham is not your father”?

Robert Kiyosaki added fresh recognition to the truth of multiple fathering in the title of his best selling book on his wealth journey. In Kiyosaki’s case, so he explains, his biological dad was an academic and not a wealthy man. The father of his friend, however, was an entrepreneur, and quite wealthy. Young Robert decided to learn from the man he called his Rich Dad, things which his Poor Dad was unable to teach him.

So, in that case, we see how there are different levels of fathering. We each have a biological dad, whether we ever met the man or not. We also have people who ‘father’ us, but mentoring our lives. I call that kind of fathering as Devotional. We devote ourselves to their values, skills and qualities. We effectively become the student of our Devotional Father, as Kiyosaki did to his friend’s biological dad. That boy’s biological dad became Kiyosaki’s Devotional Dad.

Devotional sonship identifies us as taking on the values, character or spirit of another person, in order to gain from that connection. The ‘sons of the prophets’, in 2Kings 6:1, were disciples of the prophets in order to become like them. Some men are called the ‘father’ of all who follow a certain course. Genesis 4:21 identifies Jubal as the ‘father of all who play the harp and organ’.

If you are a woodworker then you could be called the ‘son’ of those who invented and developed that craft. If you are a philosopher you may be a son of Aristotle or a son of Plato – since you will have a different philosophical perspective, dependent on who your ‘father’ is.

Last Saturday I taught this topic to a group of Young Adults and I will build this concept into the Youth Horizons book which I am gradually developing. For now, though, let me sow some of this into your thinking.

I am currently reading through Proverbs as I read my way through the Bible this year. What is leaping off the page to me in the early chapters is the abundance of references to ‘son’. King Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, quotes from his dad, King David, advising him to seek wisdom. There we have the use of the word ‘son’ in a biological sense.

Solomon then uses the word ‘son’ freely in his own dialogue. The commentators readily assume that Solomon wrote this book for the benefit of his own sons. I suggest otherwise. If Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs for his son, Rehoboam, then the book proves to be quite useless. Rehoboam did not follow the wisdom imparted in the book of Proverbs. Rather than respect the advice of his father and those who are wise, he listened to the foolish advice of his peers.

I suggest that Proverbs was written, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to impart wisdom to all the children of God. The use of the word ‘son’ does not indicate biological sonship, but devotional sonship. Each of us who are devoted to God become God’s sons (even if we are female we enter the same place in God’s presence as any male can lay claim to – so I am not saying ‘sons and daughters’, but ‘sons’).

When the book of Proverbs says, “My son”, it is God calling out to any and all who will submit themselves in devotion to Him and make Him their Father.

You may have a Rich Dad in your biological father and a Poor Dad in your spiritual leader. You may have an Angry Dad in the man who is mentoring you in your career and a Wise Dad in the man who comes alongside to counsel you.

Be careful who your devotional and spiritual dads are. The Jews in Jesus’ day were biological descendents of Abraham but Jesus rightly pointed out that they were children of the devil (John 8:36-44).

I suggest you dive into the book of Proverbs again and read it as if it is written personally to you, from your loving Heavenly Father.

Timothy Dwight

This is the day that … Timothy Dwight was born in Massachusetts, in 1752.

He is remembered for his hymn …
I love Thy Kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The church our blest Redeemer saved
with His own precious blood.

I love Thy Church, O God!
Her walls before Thee stand
Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
and graven on Thy hand.

But Timothy Dwight was more than a hymn writer. He was one of the theological giants of the 18th century. His grandfather was Jonathan Edwards, whose ministry sparked off America’s first Great Awakening.

Young Timothy entered Yale University at the age of 13 and studied so much by candlelight that he permanently injured his eyesight. In later life he could not read more than 15 minutes a day without “intense pain”.

Despite this he became pastor of a Congregational church in Connecticut (1783), and was eventually elected President of Yale University in 1795. Here he inspired the godless students by his piety and chaplaincy work. A revival ensued in 1802 resulting in a third of the student body being converted.

He lectured on “ethics, metaphysics, logic, theology, literature and oratory,” revised the Psalmody of Isaac Watts, and added 33 of his own hymns.

He was a personal friend of George Washington, and he wrote four volumes of travels in New England and New York.

“He was,” writes Albert Bailey, “one of the outstanding men of colonial America … and without question the best known and most influential in his day on education, theology and literature!” (The Gospel in Hymns, pages 478-9).

Timothy Dwight died in Connecticut on 11 January, 1817.

Note: Much has been said of the special grace seen on the descendents of Jonathan Edwards. Timothy Dwight, as a grandson to that great evangelist, is a clear example of the quality found in that family line.