The Sinfulness of Cinderella Thinking

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”
(Ezekiel 16:49, NIV)

Finish school, get a well-paying job, marry and have kids, take care of my family and live happily ever after!
The ‘Cinderella’ Mindset

Is the ‘Cinderella’ Mindset the mindset you have? Is this how you think – more or less? Is this your ambition in life – more or less? Well, you should re-consider if pleasing God is something you care about. It’s good to aim to provide a good life for yourself and family but this is not the extent of your responsibility as far as God is concerned.

Consider the following statement God made in Ezekiel 16:49 (NIV): “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned”; they did not help the poor and needy. When we think about the sin of Sodom we think about homosexuality. Yes, that is certainly a sin that existed in Sodom but over here we see God saying that their sin was that there were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned. God judged them for being unconcerned about the poor! Sin is not just the bad that you do but the good that you do not do. ‘Not strengthening the hand of the poor and needy’ is considered sin by God just like arrogance and homosexuality.

Taking care of your family is a fine aspiration indeed but find somewhere in your life’s aspiration to include ‘strengthening the hand of the poor and needy’ otherwise you will be living a sinful life. In the same way that you work hard for a good future for yourself and your family, you should work hard to also help the poor. The world doesn’t judge people for not helping the poor. If you steal, you will be arrested but if you are unconcerned about the poor, no one will arrest you. It is not against human laws to be unconcerned about the poor. However, it is against God’s laws. Don’t plan your life the way that the world does. Don’t think only about yourself and your family. Make room in your life for helping the poor!

Don’t Just Preach!

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” – Matthew 15:32 (NIV)

 

Some christians think they are more spiritual than Jesus! When you talk to them about helping the poor materially, they tell you things like it is the soul that matters! Such people are always eager to go out and preach to the lost but have no interest whatsoever when it comes to providing practical assistance to the needy in society. Jesus spent days teaching the people the word of God. He was concerned about their soul but he was also concerned about whether they had food to eat. That is true compassion. That’s the example Jesus set for us. We must be concerned not just about the spiritual state of people but their material state as well! You are not more spiritual than Jesus! If Jesus cared about whether or not people had eaten, so should you!

When I think of such people, I remember the priest and levite who saw the man who had been beaten by robbers and passed by on the other side. (See Luke 10:25-37) Such people readily preach or sing in church they will readily provide practical help to a needy person! Such people are not following the example of Jesus Christ! Jesus gave practical help to the people in addition to preaching to them.

Another important point is this. We can only reach so many with words and Bible quotes. We must demonstrate the Spirit through whom we are preaching! The fruit of the Spirit is love. How can we expect people to believe a gospel in which our Lord laid down his life for humanity when we – the advocates – will not lay down anything for humanity. God is good, caring and compassionate: we must not just tell it; we must show it! As Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 (NIV): “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Sister, they must not just hear your preaching, they must see your good deeds! Brother, it is not just about quoting scriptures, let them see your good deeds! Pray that God will give you true compassion that cares not only about the soul of people but about their material well-being and practically helps them out.

You are the Salt of the Earth

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” – Matthew 5:13 (NIV)

Jesus’s reference to His disciples as the salt of the earth reveals some very important truths about making change in this world. First, who we are and what we do matters. It is not inevitable that the world must be tasteless. We can make a difference! We can make the world better! We may not be able to make it perfect; but we can certainly make it better. We affect the world just as salt affects whatever it’s put into. If the world is too tasteless then it is because too many of us have lost our saltiness.

Secondly, it shows us that a small group with enough people can make a difference. ‘Small’ and ‘enough’ may appear as contradictory descriptions but on further contemplation, the meaning becomes clear. A tablespoon of salt cannot affect a barrel of soup much. At the same time, one does not need a barrel of salt to affect a barrel of soup. To make change, we need what I call a critical mass. This is a very encouraging thought. We don’t need everyone to care deeply about making the world better; we need only enough people. Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Thirdly, that Jesus refers to Christians as the salt of the earth, begs what kind of christians most of us are. If being christian is being salt of the earth, how is it that there are billions of people who claim to be christians and yet there are children in the world without food to eat? If there are truly more than 1 billion “salt” in a world with about 7 billion people, shouldn’t the world be more tasteful than it is? Pray that God will help you to be truly salt of the earth!

The Art of Listening

There are several elements that make a band sound great. One of those elements is the ability of the individuals in the band to listen to each other. Paying attention to what each person is playing and supporting the lead instrument so that the band sounds like a cohesive unit . No matter how brilliant the individual musicians are, if they don’t listen to each other the overall sound can be cluttered.

Bass virtuoso Victor Wooten uses this analogy to describe playing as a band. He says it is like having a conversation. When you are having a conversation with a group of people, not everyone talks at the same time. Someone is always leading the conversation and everyone else listens. They might nod and say a few things in agreement with what the lead is saying but that is only to support the lead. When everyone starts talking at the same time it becomes noisy and cluttered.

In this live performance of the track “Monterey” from the smooth jazz band Fourplay, Nathan East (bassist), Lee Ritenour (lead guitarist) and Bob James (pianist) play some of the most inspired improvisations I have heard:

The interplay between the three of them is simply brilliant and the way their solos blend with each other can only be that smooth because they are listening and supporting each other the entire time. And they are also able to express themselves fully because drummer, Harvey Mason, has built a solid support structure to keep the entire band going. He builds up and slows down, plays quieter or louder all depending on what the other instrumentalists are doing.

 

The same thing applies when the lead instrumentalist is the vocalist. Sometimes, we as instrumentalists, can get so carried away with what we are playing that we compete for space with the singers. Instead of supporting the vocalists and giving them space to be heard we overshadow and drown them out. In gospel music, words are very important. It is from the content of what is being sung that people can actually hear the gospel. We can aid in that process or hinder it, depending on how well we support one another musically in the band.

 

This is Keith and Kristyn Getty performing their song “In Christ Alone”. Notice how the piano and the vocals work together. The pianist supports the vocalist so that we can truly appreciate the words of this great song.

So next time you are playing in a band, it will be helpful to ask yourself a few questions:

What are the other members of the band playing?
Is what you are playing blending in with what they are playing?
Is the band creating space that allows the congregation to actually hear what is being said in the songs?
Is it possible for you to play less in order that the entire band sounds better?

What is God’s will for my life?

Guidance is a hot topic in Christian circles.  People ask about guidance in a variety of ways.  “What is the will of God for my life?”  is a common way in which this question is asked.  I think Paul answers this question in 1 Thessalonians 4, but not in the way that we would expect.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;  that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Paul seems to have said it quite plainly.  It is the will of God that we pursue holiness because He has not called us to impurity but to holiness. I would like to suggest that thinking about God’s will in this way shapes the way we make decisions and how we live.  What God wants for us is our sanctification: that we grow to be more and more like Christ as His Spirit convicts us every day about the areas in our life that displeases Him.  Which means that God is not only interested in what exactly we do with our lives (because it must not be something that brings dishonour to Him), but also how live our lives.  This affects things like how we interact with family, friends, work colleagues etc and also how we go about making the little decisions that make up our day.  Our lives must be characterized by the pursuit of a life that pleases God and when we fall His grace is sufficient to pick us back up.  We cannot be living outside of God’s will if that is our focus. And always in hindsight we always marvel at how God has used seemingly insignificant decisions we have made to further His purposes in our life.

A very wise pastor gave me these guidelines in making decisions which I think shows how we practically seek God’s will when making decisions.

  1. Is the choice I’m about to make sinful or not? – That is the obvious first step.  If the choice means doing something that the Bible explicitly condemns then it is a definite no go area.  It is an obvious step but worth mentioning since there have been quite a few examples of people justifying sinful actions by claiming they were directed by the Spirit.  The Spirit will never contradict what He has said in Scripture.
  2. Is the choice I’m about to make wise or unwise? – There are some things that are not sinful but definitely unwise.  Generally speaking the counsel of mature Christian brothers and sisters can point us towards wise path.  That is part of the reason why we belong to family of Christ so that we can learn from the experiences of those more mature in the Christian walk than we are.  I personally think it is good to have a mature Christian brother or sister that we can seek advice from when making decisions.  Someone that we trust can be truthful with us and help us think biblically about the decisions that we make.  Also this is a far more difficult step since it is very easy to see things that are explicitly condemned Biblically but much harder to figure out whether something is wise or unwise.
  3. Flip a coin! – What I mean is that if the decision to make does not lead towards a sinful path or is not unwise then we have the freedom to make that decision.

The idea is that after taking in mind these three steps we are left with choices that are in line with God’s will i.e. living a life of purity.  I take it that we are praying through all the steps.  I don’t think prayer is an additional step that is added at the end but part and parcel of who we as Christians are; so we are constantly praying through everything that we do.  If we live life in this manner we will be used by God to accomplish His purposes no matter what decisions we make.

Why are you not married?

It seems it is couples season. There are a lot of relationship seminars in town. I see the flyers everywhere and on radio programs. I spoke to a friend during the week. And he told me how happy he was that he was going to one of such programs.

‘It is a singles seminar.” he told me bashfully. “You know what that means? A lot of ladies are single and are coming for one purpose.” he winks. “It is the best place for a single guy to go to.”

This would probably add to the pressures of being single in this society. As if the kindly old woman who would nosily ask you, “So when are you getting married?” or the constant badgering of family and friends as to why at least you are not dating, is not enough. They say marriage is tough, but being single is a lonely life filled with harassment and badgering.  This helps to fuel the appetite for these summits and conferences.

I have quite honestly not been to any one of these, therefore I do not know and cannot speak into the content of these summits. I am not criticizing these summits. It is just an indicator as to what the culture thinks of marriage. I am more concerned about the societal status given to marriage and the lower status given to the single among us. It is not just the culture,  as individuals we crave companionship. Everyone at one point or the other, one time or the other, has thought about companionship and craved to have someone in our lives. Relationships we say are the bedrock of society. It is almost as if the craving for companionship is hardwired in us. The reason why isolation could be the cruelest punishment given to anyone is because we are social beings. Evolutionary biologist would say we have evolved into that habit.

The Bible says that in the beginning God created the heaven and earth and He saw that all He had created was good, it was very Good, Genesis 1:31.The only thing that was not good was a lonely man. And hence enters the helper. Note man’s reaction it is one of great joy.

“This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”  Genesis 2:23.

In Genesis 2:25, Marriage is declared, there is separation, unification, and consummation. The relationship is perfect with trust. As illustrated by the nudity with no shame. This is a perfect relationship. A relationship established by God and enjoyed by man in the presence of God. This is so because we are created like God (Genesis 1:26); a God that has enjoyed a perfect relationship since from before time; the relationship of the Trinity.

Surely that points out why we are so relationship crazy. Everyone should be in a relationship. But the picture above is a very perfect situation. You have probably been around long enough know things aren’t that perfect. The reason why things are not the same is because Genesis 3 happens. There is a sort of coup d’ etat against God. God’s abundance and good work is treated with disdain and cast away. The relationship between God and man is fractured, along with that is the relationship between man and woman (Genesis 3:6).

The most important question would be the function of relationship or marriage in our society. What does it mean? Is marriage a sort of high stool or crown that becomes the goal of every individual? What happens if you don’t get married? Well the Bible talks about marriage in the shadow of our relationship with God. Marriage points us to a greater more fulfilling relationship. In Ephesians 5:21-33, when Paul speaks about marriage, there is a direct correlation between the relationship between a man and a woman to that between Jesus Christ and the church. The man is to love the church like Christ loved the church even to the point of death. The submission mentioned in verses 24 points to a loving relationship not one to be abused. The man has the responsibility to make sure that they love their wives as their own bodies. Bringing no harm to them. And the holiness of the wife is also the responsibility of the husband; verses 27. Verse 31 quotes the proclamation on marriage from Genesis 2:24. We are in an everlasting relationship that is more important than the physical one we crave. It is growth in that relationship that would determine how our other relationships go. The cravings that we have for a relationship act as a sign board pointing us to a greater relationship. The relationship between God and the church; God and I; God and you. Our desire reminds us that we are social beings and are created for a close and intimate relationship with God. A very personal and relational God. Not a distant God or a God we need rituals and customs to get to. But one that came down in flesh to die so he can be that close to you and me.

What is there to be said about those of use who are single in this marriage happy culture? Does the fact that we are single make us defective in some way?

In 1 Corinthians 7, the Bible talks about relationship status and being Christian. I know a lot of people that are slightly disappointed in that part of scripture. Some friends claim Paul is too laissez faire on the matter and some just presume he is just discouraging on the matter. In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul says I wish everyone was like me, but each one has his own gift. I wonder if we see singleness as a gift. Especially if we are considered to be of marrying age or even beyond it. I don’t think our society treats singleness as a gift. It is often treated with disappointment and quite honestly with disrespect.

Do you see singleness as much a gift as marriage? For every one of us, whether we are in a relationship or not, our status is seen in the Bible as a gift. The place in life in which we find ourselves has been assigned to us (1 Corinthians 7:17). The goal has always been and will always be to grow in the relationship of our God and savior. The most important relationship you have is your relationship with God. Hence every other relationship you have or go into serves the purpose of glorifying God or ushering you into a better relationship with God. You see the Bible is not quick to compare one to the other or to say marriage is a bigger blessing because that is not the goal. Even marriage itself is but a sign an illustration of a marriage sealed by blood: one we have with God. If that is your stance then the question will not be so much why you are not married. But rather is your status leading you towards God? How well are you using your status for Christ? Your marriage decisions, like who to meet, where to meet,  how to grab,when to marry and who to marry are all viewed in the umbrella of Gods relationship.

If you are single like me, then know that our desires are right and good. But they are not an end in themselves. They point us to something greater. Something more fulfilling. I will continue to pray for a wife, a family. A family that I can love, because that is good and right and Godly. But I know that it will lead me to a more everlasting relationship. I won’t be in a hurry to change, but rather, no matter my status my first and foremost priority will be to grow in Christ. To get to know his will. I wonder whether in all these single seminars and relationship counseling sessions the center of relationship is Christ. I know most have heavily Christian overtones. But I wonder if we are taught to be content in Godliness 1 Timothy 6:7.

I am indeed single now and do not intend to remain single for the rest of my life. But If I am to be a Godly husband, the best thing I can do right now is to seek the number one relationship. It is to grow in Christ so that no matter my status, God is glorified. I wonder if our society understands this. I think if we did we wouldn’t put singles under so much pressure (aside the internal pressure we feel). I think if we did we would support them and help them grow.

Let all our relationships and the ones we don’t have lead us to Christ.

Living for Christ