Week of Jan. 19

God’s Workhorses

Read: Genesis 34-36; Luke 14

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Luke 14:13-14, ESV


The meek “do not accommodate to the powerful and influential, but ‘surrender their will to God so completely that God’s will becomes their will’ . . . They become God’s workhorses on earth” (Clarence Jordan, Sermon on the Mount, 24-25). Christian culture, when confronted with a call to become God’s workhorses, quite often responds with “Neigh!” (Sorry, I could not resist the pun). Jesus, however, makes meekness a cornerstone of life with God, so we dare not miss the point or the application. Let’s examine today Christ’s ethical teaching on humility in Luke 14.

A Biblical Lens

We need to understand our context today, or we will miss Luke’s aim and the message that Jesus had to give. This section in the gospel focuses on humility (meekness; 14:1-24). The Pharisee and the three “parables” that follow provide us with a lesson on the type of character that God requires of his true children (cf. HNTC; NAC). Recall that Jesus calls his disciples to demonstrate various virtues, one of which is “meekness” (cf. Matthew 5:5). Let’s take one step back to remind ourselves of the root need for humility.

The word Jesus used in the Sermon on the Mount means to be totally dependent upon God. The difference between Christ’s teaching on virtue and that of the Greeks is how one approaches the application of the concept. Meekness is not simply a condition, but it is an “ethical attitude” to be acquired. It is a general characteristic of a righteous person and is closely connected with the anchor virtue, “poor in spirit” (See also Matthew 5:3; Betz, 126).

We may describe this virtue as being trained to listen to and follow the voice of God within our lives (cf. Isaiah 66:2). Christ’s Beatitudes find their basis in passages like Isaiah 61 and they announce the joys of participation in God’s kingdom reign (cf. Luke 4:18). Virtues like meekness are the lens by which we are able to see and participate in the broader cosmic drama of God’s grace and deliverance (cf. Kingdom Ethics, 1st ed, 37). Now we may understand why Jesus likened the religious leaders of his day as “blind guides.” They lacked the necessary character that God’s leaders were to possess! Bluntly, pride and arrogance are “abominations” before God. Hmm. “OK,” you say, “so get me to the takeaway.” I thought you’d never ask! (I’m smiling.)

Jesus warns against the vanity that blinds one to the needs of the less fortunate precisely because such people represent the model disciple (Matthew 5:3). Jesus decried the pattern of inviting people who may give an immediate reward to the neglect of the future reward that God gives to his choice servants (14:12; “friends. . .brothers. . .relatives. . .rich neighbors”; i.e. a worldly view of wealth). How do I know this to be the point?

Passages like Luke 4:18 and 14:21 use the same foursome of poor, crippled, lame, and blind! These were folks that were typically excluded from banquets like this one (cf. 14:2), as well as communal meals and participation in sacrificing (Leviticus 21:17-23; NAC). God will bless the heart that recognizes its great need of him and the hands and feet that broadcast his love and forgiveness to the least of these. This type of character represents two sides—heaven and earth—of one lifestyle! (cf. 14:11). Let’s examine two moral applications of this principle of humility.

A Moral Pathway

“You’ll see the sky crawling” was enough of a news snippet to get me to click on an article about fears that astronomers are having. A Northwestern University astronomer noticed recently a “swarm” of unfamiliar objects that were streaking across the sky while he was observing two very dim dark galaxies that orbit the Milky Way. The streaks were not from the heavens but from the earth; 19 satellites that crossed his view while looking through a telescope! He soon learned that Elon Musk’s SpaceX had launched a week earlier 60 small satellites into low earth orbit.

Consider that the 9000 stars that are able to be seen by the naked eye may soon be outnumbered by the 12,000 satellites that the FCC has authorized SpaceX to launch in its quest to provide internet access to remote areas of the earth! There are any number of other companies that are doing the same thing. Satellites of this variety will be brighter than 99% of the objects that are currently orbiting the earth.

The commodification of the cosmos holds serious moral implications like access to such technology by the underserved and what rights there may be to clutter outer space with “stuff.” (i.e. “orbital debris”). We, of course, need to consider human hubris! (cf. creation care and our worldviews; See Genesis 1:3; Psalm 147:4). In ethics speak, just because we can do something does not mean that we must do it. Let’s also turn the telescope, so to speak, to gaze upon the human heart.

We attended a banquet recently with several hundred people where the focus was on some very deserving people. Even though I was scheduled to participate in one small part of the event, we sat off to the side and toward the back because we did not want to presume that we would be included in the wider celebration. It was not long before someone came to us and told us that we were seated in the wrong place and that two places had been reserved for us at the front of the room! (cf. Luke 14:9; “you will begin with shame to take the lowest place”). That moment provided us with a spiritual life lesson.

I believe that Christ simply wants us to understand God’s infinite greatness and our own unlimited impotence and sinfulness. It’s hard to be prideful when we know and practice our servant’s role in his kingdom. Furthermore, love for God necessarily includes love for all our human neighbors, including those in need (14:13, 21; cf. NAC).

For Your Journaling

1. Meekness does not get much playing time in Christian circles. Consider that judgmentalism and injustices abound where meekness is absent. Are you unduly critical of others? Do you seek the limelight? Determine if this may be the case by examining “what foursome” is in your circle of care. Make character changes as needed.

2. How may you glorify God by being his “workhorse.” Write down several ways that you may participate in his kingdom reign through your service to those with lesser needs.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock