Seeing with new eyes

Study 3: What do I really value?

 There’s a few old boxes and jars on the shelves in my garden shed. To the untrained eye, the contents are a mixed bag in every sense of the description: rusty pieces of metal, a few coils of wire, oddly shaped spanners, nails with funny tops, garden tools with functions few now remember. In a bag on the floor, there’s even a chain – an agricultural one – exactly one chain long (22 yards for those of us who remember the old measures, that is 100 links each at 7.92 inches).

JourneyToTheCrossYou never know when these things will come in handy. One man’s clutter is another’s go to tool: in my defence, everything I’ve got in that shed is valuable and has its job.  4 forks (each with handles) - digging potatoes (flat tines), new trenching (long handle), raking over (short, light tines), bonfires (a good one this – long metal handle with a rubber grip, customised in the1970’s).

Over time we tend to value those things which have a very specific resonance with us. Whether it’s family photos, certificates, jewellery or collectables, we keep them because they mean something to us. It might relate to their worth as things in themselves but it is often the value of the connection with time or place or a person. 

What happens though when our estimate of the worth of things or people assumes too great a stage? How do we ensure that our appreciation of God’s world doesn’t supplant our appreciation and love of God Himself?

“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”  Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10: 29 – 31)

Pause for thought

  1. What evidence do we have for the things other people value the most?
  2. How do we avoid getting caught up in a culture that prizes the biggest, fastest and/or the most expensive?
  3. Why might Jesus’ words (Matthew 10: 29 – 31) be particularly comforting for those who have little in worldly terms? ”
  4. How do Christian attitudes on wealth, value and possessions help us to understand the nature of the Kingdom of God?

Please read Mark 10 verses 13 to 31.

There’s little direct teaching in Mark’s gospel about the Kingdom of God. His emphasis, especially in these later chapters, is on Jesus journey to Jerusalem together with his suffering, death and His resurrection.

Today’s passage is a notable exception: there are 4 direct references to the qualifications we need in order to be part of the Kingdom of God. Although Jesus’ teaching on the conflicting values of the world and the Kingdom seemingly springs from an innocent question (vv. 17), it actually takes its context from the openness Jesus experiences from His encounter with young children (verses 13 to 16).

To think about

What must I do? (Mark 10 verses 13 to 23)

  1. What responsibilities do we have in discipleship?
  2. Why is Jesus’ encounter with the children (vv. 13 - 16) a significant step in explaining (and demonstrating) the nature of the Kingdom of God?
  3. How would you answer the question put to Jesus in verse 17? [What was the man really trying to get at?]
  4. Jesus reminds the man that keeping the commandments is a vital step to building our relationship with God. Why does He go further (vv. 21) and what is the significance of this for the church’s ministry today?
  5. How can we avoid being dependent on anything/anyone other than God? What practical steps would you suggest to a new believer and/or a mature Christian?

It seems as if Jesus sets the bar so high such that it can appear almost impossible for us to enter God’s Kingdom.  The danger here, though, is that we can all too easily view this Kingdom from our own point of view. It isn’t a physical entity but a spiritual reign, one which reflects the rule of a King producing an intentional response in action and attitude in the life of His followers.

Unlike the Roman Empire there was no coercion involved, citizenship in God’s Kingdom was a matter of choice. It’s a theme Jesus picks up in the remaining verses of our reading – going forward to verses 35 to 44 He reminds us of the dangers of seeking privilege without responsibility.

To think about

What must I become? (Mark 10 verses 24 to 31)

  1. Why might a rich person find it particularly hard to trust God?
  2. What hope do we find in verse 27 for a seemingly impossible task?
  3. Although we may not seek a reward for our faithfulness, what does Jesus promise for those who commit themselves to serve him?
  4. What do we need to leave behind – whether individually or as a fellowship – in order to travel light, realising Jesus’ vision in the Great Command and the Great Commission?

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