Social Media Warning: Stripping on a Winter’s Day

Proverbs 25 – Thursday

“Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”   Proverbs 25:20

Prov 25-20

Any of us could be forgiven if, by looking at our latest social media feed, we were surrounded by people full of joy living their best life today.  It’s easy to see how perfect our friend’s lives appear when viewed one photo, tweet, or snap at a time.  It’s a perfect and tailored vision of what their lives are.

 

It isn’t uncommon for me to find myself not refreshed by spending a few (many) minutes on my latest Instagram feed, but actually more tired, weary, and heavy.  In fact, recent studies have shown that spending more time on social media platforms actually increases the likelihood of depression.  I know that I’m not the first one to say this, but holding our own lives – with all its boring, sad, weird bits – against the lives we see portrayed every day in these feeds is a pretty easy way to see yourself into a sadder state.  

 

The thing is, we have a hard time stopping.  We delete our Facebook, shut down our Twitter, and delete Snapchat from our phone.  But before long, it’s right back again.

 

I want to talk about this, because I think that this verb from Proverbs speaks as deeply to how we treat ourselves as to how we treat others.

 

The more obvious way to read this verse is to see it as a directive to treat others and their pain with the respect it deserves.  If someone’s in pain, don’t try to gloss over it.  If they’re hurting, quit trying to just make them laugh.  Quit telling me to smile.


And I can easily point out a ton of examples of how we see this same message echoed throughout scripture. The best thing that Job’s friends do isn’t to try to tell him how to fix it all, but to sit with him in the ashes and mourn with him.  Paul tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  God sent Christ to meet us exactly where we are.  

 

The Christian message is one of meeting people in their pain and sharing its load with them.  Just like the song says, lean on me when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend.  I’ll help you carry on… (you’re welcome for getting that stuck in your head).  


But I want to focus on how we can each steal garments away from ourselves and pour vinegar on our own wounds.  Although we can and do find all sorts of crutches in our life, few of them have the alluring power that social media has inspired over the past decade.  Why?  Because unlike many addictions, social media – when misused – can give us the fleeting sensation of being connected with others without any of the benefits of actually engaging in relationship with them.  

 

Because social media also has the ability to be a transformative tool for actual social engagement.  It can help us find a community of friends who will help us bear that load (to help us carry on…get it???).  I don’t want you to mistake this as a tirade against social media usage, but rather as a call to reflect on how we should keep it in its proper orientation.  Where digital connections enhance and strengthen the bonds you’ve built IRL (in real life), it can provide a way to stay connected in meaningful ways like never before.  But if it has become an addiction that keeps us from engaging in the richness of the world around us, then we may find ourselves stripping off our own clothing on a winter’s day.

 

We need to not only treat others emotional trauma with the kind of respect and “sitting-with-ness” it deserves.  But, we need to be attentive to our own emotional needs so that we can feed ourselves with relationships and community that doesn’t just feel engaging, but actually is.  

 

-Graysen Pack

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A Refreshing Answer

Proverbs 24 – Wednesday

Proverbs 24:23-26 

23     These also are sayings of the wise:
Partiality in judging is not good.
24 Whoever says to the wicked, “You are innocent,”
   will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations;
25 but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
   and a good blessing will come upon them.
26 One who gives an honest answer
   gives a kiss on the lips.

 

I grew up with my father telling me “Honesty is always the best policy.”  As I’ve grown, I have to admit that there have been many times in my life when I have tested the wisdom of that saying.  And I’m apparently not alone.  In a study done by the University of Massachusetts, 60% of American adults cannot have 10 minutes of conversation without stepping into some sort of lie.  I find that number both astounding and unfortunately relatable.

Proverbs 24-24

A blatant lie is easy to spot.  Calling those who are clearly wicked and have done evil “innocent” is something that we can uncover with even the smallest pursuit of truth.  But I don’t think 60% of people are taking their conversations that far within 10 minutes.  Instead, I think it has a lot more to do with our desire/need to want to impress those around us (at least I know that it is for me a lot of the time).  So I don’t make up some story whole-cloth.  I pull at the story here a little or there a bit to make it more grandiose or impressive.


Here’s the kicker though, whenever we start to do that our stories actually become less believable and others start to hold us in lower regard than if we were truthful in the first place.  As humans, we have incredibly intuitive brains that can sense when things don’t quite add up.  This is why an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.  Not romantic, but refreshing and life-giving.

 

See, I’m married and if I’m exhausted or frustrated, my wife can give me a small kiss (even just a peck) and I can start to feel better.  Not because a kiss is magic but because it reminds me of what is most important in life.  We may experience the same thing when we kiss our family goodbye or give our closest friends an earnest hug.  An honest answer is refreshing and shows us what is really going on – we are engaging in relationship with those around us.

-Graysen Pack

Caring for the Poor

Proverbs 23  (Tuesday)

Prov 23-10-11

 

 

There are two strong images that emerge in this proverb.  The first is that of moving a landmark so that it encroaches on “the field of orphans” (Proverbs 23:10).  This is most likely a reference to the Israelite practice of leaving the corners of a field for the poor to glean from (Lev. 19:9-10; Deut. 24:19-21).  This institutionalized care for those in need meant that farmers would always leave part of their field unpicked.

 

Just like surveyors today, the properties of each person would have been laid out by various markings: large rocks, stakes, or a cairn (pile of rocks).  While there wasn’t a board or city commission the farmers could check against, a greedy farmer could slowly move a marker year after year to make their own plot larger while taking from their neighbor – or in this case, shrinking the portion of their field that is left for the poor.  Human greed to take from those who already have so little is nothing new today.  So, this proverb is a warning that if we try to steal from the orphaned and poor, we have their redeemer to answer to — God.

 

The second image comes in verse 11 and is connected to the story of Ruth.  It is the role of the “redeemer.”  In the Hebrew, this is the word Gaal or Gaw’al (spellings vary).  We might more accurately translate it as a “kinsman redeemer” like Boaz is in Ruth.  This is the person whose responsibility it is to care for family members who don’t have a means to protect themselves.  And God will not only protect them, but plead their case against us if are the ones threatening the little that they have.

 

Our God is one who jealously guards His children, even more so those who have no protector themselves.  As the people of God, this Proverb reminds us that God is one who stands as the kinsman redeemer of the poor and that it is our responsibility as part of his family to take up their cause as well.

–Graysen Pack

The Prosperity Gospel vs. Giving Generously

Proverbs 22 – Monday

Prov 22-9

Proverbs 22:4 & 9

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord

   is riches and honor and life…

Those who are generous are blessed,

   for they share their bread with the poor.

 

On any given Sunday morning, I can flip on my television and find a number of ministers promising me riches, wealth, and prosperity if I only have faith.  They usually then want me to practice that faith by making an offering to their ministry – “give us $5 so that God can return it to you one hundred fold.”  These promises do indeed sound promising, but this prosperity gospel is not the message that our Lord came preaching.

 

Just like we can twist the words of Jeremiah 29:11 and John 10:10 to fit this perspective, we can also turn to Proverbs to try to find a God who rewards those who are faithful with riches, wealth, and health.  But our interpretation of the Proverbs would be just as tortured if we tried to find its truth in the shallow waters of the prosperity gospel.  

 

Rather, let’s use the Scriptures themselves to better understand the “riches and honor and life” that is promised for those who love the Lord like we find in Proverbs 22:4.  Just a few verses later, we find the clarification that we need.  It is the “generous” who are (hashtag) blessed.


The wealth of the Gospel of Christ lies not in storing up material wealth or riches or fame, but in sharing the material goodness that we have been given with those who don’t have them.  We are blessed with lives of richness, honor, and life abundant when we give away the riches we have so that those with neither riches nor basic needs can be filled as well.

 

To close with a parable of Jesus, there was a man whose harvest was larger than his barn could store.  He decided to build a larger barn to store his crop.  However, that night he died and all his wealth was lost.  I think that the point of this parable isn’t that we shouldn’t plan ahead or have large barns, but rather that when we have more than we need, we should share it instead of store it up for ourselves.

 

We can find life, wealth, and riches only when we are generous and give the very things we think we need to hoard.

-Graysen Pack

 

 

2500 Years Later

Sunday Intro by Graysen Pack

God's Word RemainsLiving & Active

As we continue our readings in Proverbs (Chapters 22-26 this week), we are going to be leaving a collection of sayings by Solomon that contrast the wise and the foolish.  We’ll then move into a new section of Proverbs, the sayings of the Wise.  These proverbs, unlike previous ones, aren’t written down by Solomon directly but put down to paper by the servants of King Hezekiah years later.


This reveals one of the defining characteristics of Wisdom literature as it’s found in Scripture: it is a product of the dynamic tension that ancient people faced in their day to day lives.  These are sayings that were passed down for generations from the time of Solomon to the days of Hezekiah and then put to paper.  Unlike some portions of the Hebrew Bible, the Wisdom literature found in Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Job, and Ecclesiastes are intrinsically shaped by the ways that the Jews of ancient Israel were trying to understand the role of faith in their daily actions.

 

This is what makes these scriptures deep, meaningful, and particularly relevant to the struggles we still face today.  So, as we explore the Proverbs this week, I encourage you to not see them as a detached set of sayings from a time long gone, but as markers laid out by individuals of faith who found themselves in older variations of the exact same challenges we encounter in our own lives some 2500 years later.

Paper Mache Proverbs

Saturday Weekly Recap with Rebecca Dauksas

paper mache

As we continued through the Proverbs we compared it to the craft of Paper Mache as we add the layers of principles into our lives and saturate every piece of our hearts with God’s Spirit. Maybe, seeing so many parables makes you think of a large jigsaw puzzle. So many pieces! Yet the beauty of God’s scriptures are how they fit and go together.  Proverb upon proverb, principle upon principle, parable upon parable, …forming us into God’s wise children. Lets continue to gain wisdom as we move into Proverbs 22.

How Much Do Your Motives Weigh?

Proverbs 21

proverbs 21-2

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2

Proverbs 21 focuses on “why we do what we do” or motives. It is hard to determine another’s motives because sometimes we don’t even understand why we are doing something. Our motives are the goal or object of our actions or something that causes a person to act in a certain way or do a certain thing. We should be comforted by the fact that the LORD weighs the heart.  God not only sees what we do, but he understands why we do it.  He understands who we are inside and out.  We can be happy about this because not only does He know what we are like, but He will help us become who we should be.  As Ezekiel 11:19-20 states, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”

So God not only looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7), but when we are open to Him He makes our hearts as they should be.  Verse 1 explains that in the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him. Anyone that has watched an irrigation ditch being dug truly pictures this. The water rushes through bringing much needed water to the crops.  In the same way, we succeed by placing our hearts in the LORD’s hand.  God gives us pure hearts so we can do good with pure motives.  We allow Him to use us to do His work and we will be rewarded beyond our sacrifice. Of course, that reward may only be given in the Kingdom of God.  As verse 21 states, “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.”  So now is the time to get ready for the ways that our lives can honor and serve our God. The final verse of Proverbs 21 tells us, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.”  So it is our responsibility to prepare for the ways in which we can serve the LORD. Under God’s direction, we will get our horse ready.  But we can be sure that victory rests with the LORD.

-Rebecca Dauksas