Hi, this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Just So You Know, There Will Be A Test!

When I was a young student in school. I hated hearing those dreaded words…”Just so you know, there will be a test”! I wasn’t particularly bad at taking tests, I was simply too busy to prepare for them, and my desire to prioritize fun and play over studying, made tests stressful as well as just plain bothersome. As I sit here today sharing my thoughts on a Thursday with you I am reminded that those stress inducing words were most often uttered on a Thursday because so many of those tests came on a Friday. As a fourth and Fifth grader I had the same teacher. Miss Biga was my all-time favorite teacher even back then…though she still holds that distinction today. Then and now, I understood my good fortune to have had her be my teacher for two consecutive years. Though she was, and remains my favorite, she also would remind our class with regularity, “Just so you know, there will be a test”. In those particular grades, many of those weekly tests were designed to demonstrate our command of vocabulary words and the correct spelling of each of them. Miss Biga and her insistence to teach all of her pupils to possess a strong vocabulary is probably the one person more responsible than any other for turning me into what my wife refers to as a “Word-Nerd”.

Those weekly vocabulary lists often contained Homonyms, just to make it tricky. Most of us know these to be words that either sound the same but have different meanings, are spelled the same but have different sounds and meanings…or both. I remember one time when she went all-in for 25 little mind explosions at once by teaching us there were additional words to describe each of the options above. Just to prove my status as a word nerd…words that sound the same but have different meanings are actually called Homophones. Examples of these would be t-o…t-o-o…and t-w-o, or t-h-e-i-r…t-h-e-r-e…and t-h-e-y-‘-r-e. On the other hand, Homographs are words that are spelled the same, but have different sounds and meanings. These include l-e-a-d which can be pronounced lead, a heavy metal or lead, to show someone the way, another example might be w-i-n-d, wind is moving air, but to wind means to use revolutions to accomplish a task like winding up a kite string. I know there is some argument as to whether a Homonym can be either a Homograph or a Homophone or if it must be both, but Miss Biga said it must be both…so that is the correct definition…take it from a word-nerd! Just so you know, there is going to be a test!

Today I want to introduce you to the most important vocabulary list you will ever possess. To simplify I will not include any Homonyms, Homographs or Homophones. However to make it difficult enough that you feel the need to pay attention…if I haven’t lost you already…and I hope I haven’t because this is very important…I will use rhyming words. Are you ready? There are only two words on this all-important vocabulary list…Selfish and Selfless. They may sound similar, but they actually have completely opposite meanings! Most, if not all of us know what these two words mean, but I find we are less than adept at recognizing which we are employing at times. Moreover, I believe we often overlook the true ramifications of which of these we are choosing. Last week in my other podcast… the Monday Marriage Message, I made the point that worldly wisdom will make allowances for there being times selfishness is the reasonable and perhaps even the responsible choice. Finding Godly wisdom, otherwise known as scripture to tell us when the right time for selfish behavior is…that is more difficult, and by “More difficult” I mean it doesn’t exist. Finding occasions of Christ, (our ultimate example) choosing selfishness as the correct choice is seemingly even less likely, and by “Less likely” I mean it never happened. In fact, One day Jesus was teaching about the importance of choosing correctly, choosing selflessness over selfishness. As were many of His teachings, it was, as I like to say, “Difficult but not complicated”. It was and is to this day difficult because that pesky worldly wisdom wants to argue all of the reasons selfishness would be the reasonable and responsible path to take. It isn’t complicated, because as Jesus pointed out selfishness is only necessary when we are afraid we won’t be cared for as we feel we should be. Of selflessness, he made the important note, we have to utilize faith, we have to trust God to take care of our needs while we care for the needs of others. It is difficult…but it isn’t complicated.

The teaching I spoke of a moment ago is found in Luke 12:22-34. I would like to read this scripture from a paraphrase of the New Testament that I especially appreciate. Aptly named The Remedy and written by Dr. Timothy Jennings this version focuses on the construct of love and selflessness upon which God operates and desires for us to operate within as well.

22Then turning to his interns, Jesus said: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about how the future will turn out, about where your next meal will come from, or with what to clothe your body.23Life is not built to operate on the survival-of-the-fittest principle — constantly seeking to get food for yourself, or wear the latest fashion.24Look at the ravens: they don’t worry about planting, or harvesting, or storing food in barns or silos, because your heavenly Father is constantly giving of himself to feed them. You are infinitely more valuable than the birds!25Who of you by worrying has added even a single hour to your life?26If your worry can’t do this simple thing, then why worry about the rest?

27“Look at the lilies of the field: they don’t sew or weave, yet I tell you that Solomon in his most magnificent robes was not dressed as one of these.28If that is how God clothes the grass in the field, which is here today and gone tomorrow, will he not do much more for you? Oh, how you trust him so little.29Stop worrying all the time, saying, ‘Oh, where will we get groceries? What is there to drink?’30The pagans, who don’t know God, are constantly preoccupied with getting for self and seeking to survive at all costs. But your heavenly Father knows all your needs and longs to provide them,31so seek first to live in harmony with God’s kingdom of giving and all your needs will be met as well.

32“Don’t live in fear, fear is part of the infection of sin and turns your mind to self. It is your heavenly Father’s pleasure to give you his kingdom of love.33So live to give, sell what you don’t need, and give to bless the less fortunate. Let your hearts cherish and hold to love and therefore be like a purse that won’t decay, filled with an eternal treasure that will never run out, and which no thief can steal.34For what you treasure most is where your heart is.

We often look at this passage to gain instruction concerning worry in general. I believe it to be specifically pertaining to worrying about the results of following Christ’s example of selflessness. When you read them carefully even the other more well-known translations are focused on worry as it relates to giving to others and trusting God to care for us. This teaching of Jesus’ pointed out several things. We do in fact have physical needs like food and clothing, but just as God meets those needs for seemingly unimportant things like birds and flowers in abundant ways, how much more will He meet the needs of the only thing He created in His own image and likeness? Second, it points out that thinking selfishly is the natural thought of those who do not know God, because they don’t have the ability to place faith in that which they deny exists. However, as people who claim to love God and follow Christ, our mindset should be different. We ought to trust God to take care of us. Finally, Jesus pointed out the great test…I told you there would be a test. If we truly trust God to meet our needs we can afford to be selfless to the point of selling everything we have and giving it to those who are in need, because we know that our needs, both the physical here and now, and the spiritual which are eternal, WILL BE met by God. Essentially, we will learn that we can choose selflessness because we don’t have to look out for number one in light of the fact that Number One is looking out for us.

So now, preparing for the tests as they come, trust God to take good, good care of you and choose selflessness toward others…and go be awesome!