Context Matters

So I seem to have this mental block where I hardly ever say just enough, it’s always too much or too little.  There are times when I need to learn how to shut up, and times I need to say more instead of just cutting off.  For instance, I have been talking to people lately about my experience with a 6am Men’s Bible Study at my internship site and I say how I attended or led it on occasion, and then I would go home and go back to bed for two hours, then get back up and go back to the church.  This makes me sound a bit lazy, as the rest of the guys who went didn’t go home, they went to work and had the rest of their days.

In one way, I’m saying too much.  If I just talked about the study and how great it was that these guys came together to hear the word of God and to know one another better, that would be great.  But instead I talk about my experience, and that takes away from the goodness of the event.  On the other hand, I am not saying enough to give context, because that was a period of time before I had been diagnoses with my sleep apnea and I was constantly exhausted since I wasn’t breathing at night, making mornings especially hard on me.  However, now that I have been diagnosed and take measures to ensure my health, I would have no problem with participating or leadings such a group and staying up and getting other work done.

Context does change things quite a bit.  Yet when we read scripture, how often do we look at the context?  Do we know or pay attention what comes before or after a particular passage, or do we focus just on what we see?  That’ is even a deficiency in these devotionals, because I will only occasionally look at the broader context (usually when I read and go “What the?  There has to be more, I’m not getting this at all!) instead of just focusing on the few verses in the lectionary.  So what I’m challenging everyone to do is not just look at snippets, but always look for the context, ask questions and dig, and faith shall surely grow.


1st Reading – Proverbs 23:1-11 – When you are with a ruler or someone who is stingy and they have a big table of food in front of you, do not be desirous of the food and eat your fill.  They don’t really mean to eat and drink!  It will all be gone soon anyway.  Also don’t speak in front of fools and don’t remove landmarks and take from orphans.

How often is it that food is laid out as a temptation or a trap?  Or how often in the movies is it that the rich, powerful villain is sitting at his table eating a feast when the hero is brought to them?  The problem lies in the storing up of things for one’s self or to impress or intimidate others.  The problem lies in the temptation to get more and more for ourselves, to feast for ourselves and neglect everyone else.

Think about the times that the writer lived in, where most people were living a life that barely made ends meet, where the focus was on having enough just to eat.  So what does it say when people are suffering all around you, that you might have a feast on your table?  The scriptures constantly point to Godly people giving what they have away to their brothers and sisters who have none, so to strive to be rich ourselves, to strive to store up for ourselves and lord over others goes completely against those teachings.  Therefore, those who have these rich feasts are not to be trusted, because they are just as likely to kill you if you are in their way or if it might benefit them, as it is that they will help you if it helps them.  Be careful of those who look out for themselves first and foremost, and be careful not to fall into that trap yourself.

2nd Reading – Romans 11:33-36 – The wisdom and riches of God are far beyond our capacity to even begin to understand.  Everything comes through, from, and to God, so let God be praised.

I like to think that I’m a pretty smart guy, yet I also know that there are people far wiser than me, whether it be in science like Neil deGrasse Tyson,  or theology, like any of my seminary professors, or board gaming, like Tom Vasel.  Yet at the same time, each of their wisdom is nothing compared to the wisdom of God.  No matter how smart we may be, or how much we may plan, or anything else, God will also know more and better than any of us.

So what are we meant to do?  Well we are to use whatever meager gifts God has given us to serve God, to use what we have been given along god’s purpose for each of us.  In God’s wisdom, God has decided to use every single one of us in different ways, to further God’s kingdom of mercy and love.  What we need to do though is let go of the idea that we know what is the best thing to do, and instead listen for God’s instructions and desires for us.  God is the bearer of all things, who created us and formed us as God’s own children.  May we seek out that wisdom in the quietness, in the listening, and then act in the ways that God moves us.

3rd Reading – Psalm 49 – Listen carefully!  You cannot buy your way into everlasting life, the price is far too high.     Everyone dies, the wise and foolish, rich and poor.

Well isn’t that just so happy?  Of course, what the psalm doesn’t tell us, because the psalmist didn’t know, was that the price for everlasting life has been paid by God, the only one who could possibly do it.  We are made free from fear of the grave, even though we must go through the grave, because of what God has done for us.  So yes, we all die, and that is miserable, but we also shall all live in the life that is to come, praise be to God!  Just remember always that it is not by our doing that this is done, it is purely from God.


Lord, you give us life, and you are with us when these lives come to an end.  Help us to see the big picture in life of your will, that we may serve you as we are able until we are all reunited again in your kingdom that has no ending.  Amen.

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