Today’s readings are Proverbs 19:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:11-3:7.
Our small segment of Proverbs seems to dwell on whether it is better to be poor or rich, and at first glance, seems to flit all over the place without consistency. As I read this passage through several times, trying to make sense of it and allow it to seep in, I think there is a thread that runs through it. It comes down to this… It is clearly nicer to be wealthy than poor, yet foolishness can make you chase after money unwisely, which can lead to ruin, and worse lead your heart to rage against the Lord. Better to fear the Lord, for integrity without wealth, is far more valuable than wealth without integrity.
Yesterday’s reading from 1 Peter, concluded with some wonderful words, which Jane reminded us speak to our identity in Christ.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Did you notice that we are a chosen people for a reason? “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.
So it’s no surprise that today’s reading continues with
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Two things strike me.
Firstly, God’s purpose for us “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness” extends to the fullest sense of “declare” in his claim on our actions – we are called to “live such good lives…” as part of that declaration – our lives declare His praises, because they show we have come out of darkness, so that those who don’t know him will glorify him.
Secondly, as we have been hearing in our preaching series on the book of Daniel recently, we as Christians are not in Jerusalem but rather in Babylon. In other words, we live as “as foreigners and exiles” among the “pagans”. [The ESV uses the term “Gentiles”, the Good News “Heathens”, but the Living Bible puts it the most helpfully when it calls them “your unsaved neighbours”]
So as citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) we are foreigners and exiles in our own culture. Peter goes on to spell out what living good lives looks like, how we should relate to authorities, and how we should relate as husbands and wives.
Yes some of these instructions seem to be out-of-place in our modern culture. They should! We are foreigners and exiles in our modern culture, and God’s purpose in us living differently is to declare his praises.
Lord, help me see the areas of my life where my actions don’t declare your praises to my unbelieving neighbours. Help me be aware of things that are more of Babylon than Jerusalem, where I have absorbed the culture rather than live as a citizen of heaven.
Soli Deo gloria!