The Responsibility of Life
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 21 April 2001
Wherever Yah'shua (Jesus) went when He was here in earth people seemed to follow Him like a magnet, and whenever people followed Him, He taught them. It was as though He was aware that His time was short and that He wanted to teach them as much as He could. Whether sitting down or walking He never seemed to stop teaching. Today I want to look at one of His four major "Road Teachings" - things He taught whilst on the move, and in particular one which He repeated more than once, as if to emphasise its importance: the Responsibility of Life.
I wonder what life would be like if we were all plants. Try to imagine being limited to one spot on the ground with the only direction of possible movement: upwards. Together with reproducing itself, that is the only unconscious purpose that a plant has. Built into its genes is a biological responsibility, if you like: to grow upwards and to reproduce itself. Even these things are automatic: plants can't think, which means that they can't suddenly say to themselves: "Hum, maybe today I should grown upwards," or, "Ah, now's the time to make some pollen!" There are biological computers with special responsibilities assigned by Elohim (God): to grow, multiply, make oxygen for animals to breathe, clean up the carbon dioxide made by animals, make food for animals, and shelter, and burning materials for man. Trees were created with specific responsibilities.
It probably sounds a but odd talking as though insentient and unintelligent organisms like trees have "responsibilities". It's an interesting word - responsibility - because it is derived from the verb "to respond" which means "to react to something". A person who is responsible may be said to be "reacting" in a way that is expected of him. If I am responsible for turning the light off at night, that means I must respond by physically moving in the direction of the light switches, checking them, and, if necessary, turning them off.
A plant is able to respond to many different things which in biology we call sensitivity: (a) to water in the ground to which the roots automatically grow towards; (b) to light to which the leaves automatically turn towards; (c) to wounding by producing various compounds to repair the injury; (d) to changes in temperature; and to a number of other stimuli. If it didn't respond to these things, it might well die. You might call these "built-in responsibilities".
Animals, and in particular human beings, are very different to plants. For one thing, most are able to move about freely, and that means they are designed with much more complicated mechanisms. Trees can't run away from danger like animals. All animals must therefore respond to certain situations in order to survive - to stay alive. We need food, shelter, warmth, clothing, and mates in order to reproduce. All human beings do these things in order to stay alive. Though it might sound strange calling these "responsibilities", strictly speaking that's exactly what they are. Elohim (God) has planted within all living things - including us - the will to live and to reproduce ourselves. These things were do more or less automatically without having to be taught to do them. Just as adult birds push their young out of the nest at a certain age when they are expected to take care of themselves, so human beings of every society, race, religion, and climate expect their young, when they have grown up, to take responsibility for themselves and provide for their basic physical needs. These things are so obvious and so taken for granted by everyone that they don't really need to be taught - it's common sense.
Looking at most human beings and the responses they give to life's circumstances you would think that was all that was expected of them. In that respect they behave like all other animal species. They are born, grow up under the safety of parental protection, and when they are adult, they go and start families of their own, and repeat this seemingly endless cycle. For most people this is probably how they view life. It is certainly the Darwinist view of life.
According to Yah'shua (Jesus) we have only one responsibility: to be the faithful stewards of a trust which has been placed in us by Yahweh. Anciently, as today, people looked upon their wealth and other advantages as their own property, to be used for themselves. The state looks upon a portion of our wealth is its own too, and so it taxes us, taking a little more off those who are wealthier. All of this, Yah'shua (Jesus) said, was wrong, and He proceeded to go to the root of the problem, namely, man's perception of reality.
I think it is probably true to say that most people live in a fantasy world of their own making to different degrees. From the complete lunatics who think they are Napoléon or Alexander the Great, to those who think there are masters of their own lives and in complete control of their fate - from those who have no self-confidence to those who are full of vain self-confidence - we find people struggling to distinguish between reality and illusion. Only the other day I was speaking to a self-confessed Satanist who sincerely believed he was in complete control of his life and considered himself so perfect that he actually worshipped himself as a god. When I asked him if anyone else was aware of this wonderful exalted state in which he believed he existed, and if anyone else worshipped him, he got very angry. He couldn't have cared less - the only reality as far as he was concerned was himself - everything else was illusion.
This is actually the core of Satanism. From Aleister Crowley to Anthon LeVey, you will find the same incredible belief, namely, that man is the highest achievement, and that man's highest goal is to worship himself. If we want to know how great an illusion this is we have only to go to the teachings of Yah'shua (Jesus) to see just what reality actually is.
The only reality of human life, Yah'shua (Jesus) taught, was that which is relative to God Himself, and therefore in relation to eternity. If you want to know where you are on a road, you don't get out of the car and lie flat down on the tarmac and study the individual bits of sand and stone that make it up. And yet that is exactly what people who do not have Elohim's (God's) perspective do - they are so utterly absorbed in self that they cannot see what is around them at all. They are completely blind. If you want to see the road ahead you have got to look out of the front of the car - or better still, drive to the top of a hill, get out, and look down into the valley and beyond.
Satanism is about looking at self and not seeing anything beyond, except as extensions of oneself. You don't even have to believe in Satan to do that. It is no accident that the Beast in the Book of Revelation is given the number 666, for 6 is the number of man - 666 is simply man elevated into the place of a god, an unholy trinity.
When a person is focussed on self he is no longer able to see the people around him. Yes, he can see objects called "people" but he is not aware of their needs and concerns, and is therefore not the slightest bit interested in them. As far as he is concerned, they are simply objects outside of himself which metaphorically revolve around him like planets going round the sun. They exist to serve him and not the other way round. Since he cannot see beyond his immediate self and his perceived needs, he does not consider those around him to be his responsibility any more, and so he no longer responds to them when, for example, they have need of his help. Since their needs do not serve his own selfish need, he ignores them.
One of the first and most obvious signs that a person has been born-again in Messiah is that there is a complete and total change in perspective. This is not, moreover, something that he must force himself to do by an act of will, but it is something that happens naturally and spontaneously in him. For Yah'shua (Jesus) the change from selfish unbeliever to unselfish believer is not just of the mind (will) but of the heart - there is not only a change in one's thinking but in one's feeling as well.
Life, as Yahweh sees it, is in terms of the eternal. When a soul is in Elohim (God) he sees from Elohim's (God's) perspective, which is eternal. He does not have his nose down on the road but is looking ahead. But there is one other big difference between the unbeliever and the believer - the believer is actually doing something, just as the motorist is actually driving a car and not lying face-down on the road.
Every single human being has a calling in life - a mission to do. Yahweh has sent us into this world to accomplish a certain life-work and gives us the abilities to do this life work. That mission consists of many different things in different spheres of activity. Some of these things everyone is called to do, and others may be utterly unique to us. Moreover, He has specific tasks for us to do each day.
When Yah'shua (Jesus) was born He had the calling to be the Saviour of the world, and as He Himself testified many times, He was born into this world with one specific goal in mind: to die. However, He did not die the week after He was born, but 33 years later at a time appointed by Elohim (God). Before that time, He had many other callings and responsibilities to perform. We learn that as a boy he helped His stepfather Joseph in his carpentry shop, doing simple menial labour. Think about it: the Eternal Elohim (God) working in a carpentry shop, cutting wood, sweeping up sawdust, delivering the things Joseph had made to customers, helping around the home, and so on. Before He even started His ministry at the age of 30 He had a hundred thousand different jobs and responsibilities to do, and it was His obedience, loyalty, dedication and hard word that qualified Him for the more important ministry that was to come.
But what on earth did carpentry and domestic responsibilities have to do with His calling as a minister and then as the Sacrifice for human sin? Why did the Almighty Elohim (God)-in-the-flesh have to do menial work for 30 years before finally setting out on His career as a Rabbi?
Look at the work of the prophets. Many of them were simply farmers before Yahweh told them to put aside their trade and go out to preach. Look at the apostles - nearly all of them humble fishermen down to a man. None of them were idle before Yahweh called them to their ministries. Without exception, all those who were faithful were first proven in terms of the quality of the other work and responsibilities they had as farmers, fishermen, husbands, fathers, mothers, wives, carpenters, and so on. Before Yahweh could use any of these people He has to first ensure that they were faithful in those responsibilities that are laid upon us all no matter who we are.
Why was Yah'shua (Jesus) qualified to do what He did? Why was He qualified to be Yahweh's representative? Was it because He was a genius? Because He was Elohim (God)? Why was Peter qualified to be who he was? Was it because he was a naturally gifted speaker? Because he had influence in the world? The only person who had influence in the world turned out to be a traitor - Judas!
The reason Yah'shua (Jesus) was selected was because of three words, and I quote: "he learned obedience" (Heb.5:18, NIV). And how did He learn obedience? I quote again: "from what he suffered" (ibid.). And we read further: "and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him" (v.9). In other words, through obedience He became useful - He became the source of eternal life to those who in turn obey Him.
Now we are not Messiah but we are His representatives. We too, though not eternal, are nevertheless sources. As talmidim (disciples) - those under discipline - under obedience - we have responsibilities, meaning that we are supposed to respond. And it is those day-to-day duties that we have as sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, employees, and employers that actually prepare and qualify us for the ministries that Yahweh has given us. How do we know this? Because all of Elohim's (God's) servants were called in this way. Might there be any exceptions? No, because we are to imitate the example of Messiah, and it was Messiah who did these things.
Now Yah'shua (Jesus) knew what His mission in life was, so how did He prepare for it? By getting on with His daily responsibilities, by coming under discipline, by being obedient to His parents. He did hot lock Himself away and idle His time away practising His crucifixion or the words He should teach His future talmidim (disciples). He did what was necessary for each day to earn His daily bread and to be helpful to those round about Him. He demonstrated by His life that our responsibilities as Elohim's (God's) servants must first be preceded by the responsibilities of being each other's servants.
Now these things may seem obvious to some but increasingly they are not obvious to the modern generation who simply "expect" to be served - either by their parents or by the state. Our modern society has conditioned us to be lazy, ungrateful, entitled, and profitless. Many don't worry about getting a job because they know the state will support them financially. There are many who make idleness a profession. I know one man who has never done a day's work in his life but lives in wealth because he gets state benefits! Does Yahweh call such people into His service? Never! Yahweh has no place for the idle in His Kingdom, either in this world or in the next. And we are especially warned to be on the lookout against such. Paul said:
"Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions" (Col.2:18, NIV).
These Colossian Christians Paul is talking about thought of themselves as humble and instead of giving Elohim (God) all the glory that was due to Him gave worship to imaginary angels. They were what we call Gnostics. They claimed thousands of visions and talked about nothing else, claiming to be especially spiritual because of them. But the gifts we have - whether true or false, do not make us spiritual. Spirituality is born in the crucible of daily work. Paul tells Christians to warn those who are idle (1 Thess.5:14) and he even sets the example himself by reminding the Thessalonians that when he wasn't preaching he was doing menial work - mending tents - to pay for his daily bread. And this a man who was a well-educated scholar! He says: "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you" (2 Thess.3:7-8, NIV). Knowing that there were lazy people in the congregation he went on to say: "We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Lord Jesus Christ) to settle down and earn the bread they eat" (vv.11-12, NIV).
To be a servant of Messiah means first of all learning the discipline of working hard and earning your daily bread. No able-bodied man or woman is ever justified in a life of idleness for idleness always leads to sin or one sort or another. Not even the great apostle Paul claimed the right to be paid for being a minister but did menial, hard work repairing tents. Remember there were no sewing machines in those days and the material they worked with was tough leather. He must have had bad blistered, calloused hands - made doubly harder by the fact that he was not an ordinary working man but a scholar who had lived a sheltered life.
What of women? Though they had and have different rôles to men they were to be busy as well. Look at the great women of the Bible - Deborah, the prophetess, for example. Was she idle? No way - she was a busy wife and a mother as well. Look at Miriyam (Mary), the mother of Yah'shua (Jesus) - she, one of the purest women of all time, lived an ordinary, domesticated life. And finally, we have the ideal woman of Elohim (God) described at the end of the Book of Proverbs, who is the very epitome of activity - never idle, always busy, taking care of her own family, making things to sell to raise money for the family, and so on. It says: "She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness" (Prov.31:27, NIV).
I have met many so-called "Christians" who have claimed to be prophets, spiritual giants, and leaders of men who sat on their backsides doing nothing sponging of those who did an honest day's work. They either became leaders of false cults or nobody paid any attention to them. You see, they were setting a bad example - the wrong example - in seeking for the praises of men, showing off their dreams and visions, and not doing any honest work.
We can follow Yah'shua (Jesus), Paul, Peter, Deborah, Miriyam (Mary) and all the other men and women precisely because they were humble hard-workers not because of the gifts Yahweh gave them. The gifts we receive are not supposed to be shown-off because they aren't ours - they're a stewardship in addition to our main call to be fathers, husbands, mothers, workers and housewives. And it's not any old work that qualifies them to be lights for Messiah - even a prostitute may be said to "work", a thief "works", but their work is profitless and destructive because it doesn't add anything to the common good but rather takes away from it.
The only people who will imitate the lazy and those engaged in profitless work are those who are themselves lazy and engaged in profitless work. The models we have been given for men and women in the Bible are clearly defined. As King Solomon rightly said: "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty" (Prov.14:23, NIV). Paul said: "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Master Yah'shua (Jesus) himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Ac.20:35, NIV).
As I look through history at all the great men and women I admire and want to imitate it has always been those who did their humble duty around them, forgetting themselves, and worked hard to serve their neighbour.
Our lives are like the ripples of a stone that falls into still water that work their way outwards from the epicentre, only it happens much slower. There is a process - an unfolding - of character which perfects and prepares us for that which is to come. If we are idle in our youth we will remain idle in our old age. If we wish to be fruitful in the Master, then we must learn to be fruitful while we are young. That means getting your hands dirty and learning to be happy about it.
When I think about the men and women of Elohim (God) I see in my mind's eye that Chinese Pastor carting wheelbarrows of stinking human dung to the fields or of Christian mother's managing a household with plenty of children. The Chinese Pastor was a good preacher and led many souls to Messiah but what enabled him to be loved and appreciated was the fact that he was willing to get his hands dirty and lend a helping hand. King David was like that, and the reason his people loved him and served him was because he was a man of the soil like they were, and that's how ultimately he came to be a friend of Elohim (God). Then compare him with that idiot genius of a son of his, Solomon, who sat around idly in his court, wasting money building fancy buildings, and then losing his soul to pagan wives. The Christian mother was a good witness of Messiah and spoke of Messiah to other mothers, and they listened to her because she was like them - an ordinary, plodding housewife. If you want to influence people for Messiah you've got to get down to their level and work alongside them, like the parable of the King I told you about some months ago who went and worked happily in the fields. Consistently you will find that all the great and useful men and women were like that - not the idle dreamers, which is what the people of Sodom and Gomorra are described as being (Jude 1:7-8).
Elohim (God) wants adult men and women. What is an adult man and woman? Well, I'm going to end by suggesting a basic list - then you can go to the scriptures and add to it. An adult is a person who:
- cleans the toilet with his bare hands when it has overflowed
- cleans up babies when they have pooped and peed
- wipes runny noses
- cleans the floor when someone else has puked up their dinner
...you get the idea, I think. Being an adult is dirty work and hard work. It means doing yourself what you'd like others to do for you, and then finding joy in doing it yourself - finding joy in witnessing of Messiah and then afterwards carrying human manure to the fields or wiping baby bums ... And being the first to volunteer to do it. These are the ones I admire and they are the ones Elohim (God) uses.
May Yahweh bless you not to be like a plant who stands fixed in one place but like the human you were made to be - to be his spiritual janitor in a very, very dirty world. Amen.
This page was created on 8 May 2001
Last updated on 8 March 2014
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