Self-centered Christian #1/Tzedekah

Hi all,

I was getting Chris dressed for the day while having a pity party, discouraged, with a to-do list the length of my arm - feeling overwhelmed and sorry for myself as I worked at getting him ready.

 

For those who are newer to my Weekly Thoughts, Chris is our oldest son, and was born with the umbilical cord around his neck in a slip knot; Each contraction cut off his air resulting in brain damage. As I write this, Chris is 35 but mentally about 4, though he takes in information at a higher level.

 

And so it was that pity-party morning I was internalizing my burdens while helping Chris. I had put his shirt on him, he had brushed his teeth with help from me, and so on, all the while I was silently complaining to the Father about everyone and everything but no one and no thing in particular, like:

 

“Father, I just feel like a beast of burden. All these demands from people. The physical part of caring for Chris, so many prayers and needs, people wanting money while we have such needs, people wanting everything from me from settling arguments to people who preach their pet doctrine at me, I have to record 2 months of teachings and write a month of Weekly Thoughts in the next week before my trips, and have Chris home a few days, and mow the grass and clear weeds. What am I Father, a beast of burden, or what?”

 

As I rambled on in silent half prayer & half complaint it was time to put Chris’ socks on - so I’m kneeling on the floor in front of him fitting one sock on, just completing the thought; “…What am I Father, a beast of burden, or what?” when Chris reaches over and gently pats me on the top of my head and says sweetly:

 

“You’re a good horse.”

 

I laughed out loud and said “Okay Father, I get it, I recognize what just happened, I apologize – you just spoke through Chris and you’re right and I’m so sorry.” Chris has never called me a horse before or since but I knew Who was calling me a horse in mock pity. What a sense of humor and timing the Father has!

 

I changed my attitude, but just to drive His point home, Hebrews 12:4 suddenly came floating into my mind, ‘You have not yet shed blood striving against sin’, so it is clear He doesn’t want to hear my complaints, lol. 

 

This series has the potential to completely change your life because everything you have been taught about righteousness will be relearned, everything about healing, everything about divorce/remarriage, everything about giving and receiving, and discipleship - It will all become new. 

 

I begin talking about self-centered or self-focused Christians by talking about righteousness. Why? Because we’ve been told righteousness means: “Right standing with God”, but if that is your understanding, you can be in right standing with Him but hate yourself, hate your neighbor, and live a totally self-centered and self-focused life – But you’re right before God because you believe in Jesus!!!

 

But that is NOT the complete picture of how the Bible describes righteousness.

 

Tzedakah

Let us go back to the Jewish understanding of one word translated as righteousness: Tzedakah: Understanding it as Jesus and the culture of the gospels did, and as the rabbis did, helps put Jesus’ words into context (which I will do in major points in this series) which totally changes our ignorant Gentile understanding.

 

In Judaism a person can’t have right standing with God unless they are also in right relationship with their fellow man. To say it another way, righteousness is not only vertical, but vertical AND horizontal. Modern church culture leaves off the horizontal part (I think) because they just don’t know it. But if you don’t understand righteousness as Jesus did and does to our day, you will never understand Jesus nor what He is trying to do in you and in your life.

 

Everything Jesus taught in the gospels is founded upon this understanding – this is HIS understanding of righteousness. He taught if you are in relationship with the Father, you will also be in relationship with your fellow man. The foundation of why Jesus did miracles, healings, and ‘went about doing good’, is founded in His understanding of righteousness – you can’t have the vertical unless you also have the horizontal.

 

Tzedakah is understood to be God’s own character:

 

“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the stranger in the land by giving him food and clothing.” Deuteronomy 10:17-18

 

Notice the two parts to His self-description in the two sentences above: He is the honest Almighty God (vertical), and He demonstrates His integrity and right-ness by helping those in need (horizontal).

 

Everything Jesus said and did was an expression of tzedakah – righteousness. He taught the Father is righteous (vertical) and proved it by sending Him (horizontal – He so loved the world He gave). 

 

Jesus’ statements alone that He was from the Father and that the Father is good would not be enough in a culture that understood righteousness as both vertical and horizontal – So Jesus claimed to be from and in right relationship with the Father (vertical), and proved it horizontally by going about doing good and healing people.

 

We all know the Lord’s prayer, but we’ve failed to understand it is a statement of tzedakah – that all of us who call God “Father” are expected to demonstrate His Fatherhood in our lives by our lifestyle and actions toward others, as He also does.

 

We have very well understood the vertical part of righteousness, but that is just enough of an understanding to make us dangerous; Self-centered, self-focused, heavenly minded to the point we are deluded into thinking relationships don’t matter so we throw them away as if they are a disposable napkin.

 

Yet all Jesus did, and all the teaching of the New Testament is founded upon the Jewish understanding of tzedakah – and THAT is why God heals, that is why we give, that is why we make disciples, and that is why we walk in love and seek to keep the peace among the brethren:

 

Righteousness comes through faith in Christ (vertical), but it is of the heart and is unproven. Therefore God designed righteousness to be proven within (horizontal) relationships, and therein is the proof of our relationship with the Father.

 

So yes, I am a ‘good horse’, a beast of burden for others, but so are you. You can’t be focused on self as a matter of lifestyle, nor have such an attitude for very long, and remain tzedakah before God. Good horse!

 

Next week #2 is understanding healing and miracles, and in part 3 about adultery/divorce/remarriage, and much more…

 

Until next week, blessings,

    John Fenn

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