Of small sins and medium sins and big sins…

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The world believes we have the right to get angry with someone like Janet Napoles who allegedly stole P10 billion from the people’s money. She has a “pig’s heart,” people would say, and she deserves to “rot in hell”. The world says we have a right to condemn a Mark Joseph Solis who had the nerve to steal someone else’s photograph and win in an international competition, but whose deed was later found out and is now subject to international ridicule and anger. He brought shame to the Philippines as well and we may think it serves him right if he goes to jail for what he did.

The world thinks we have the right to judge and condemn people who are “evil,’ – those whose sins are far greater and weightier than the mistakes of any of us mere mortals. Our earthly conscience tries to comfort us with the fact that we deserve to feel good about ourselves because we know we will never be as “bad” as them. Our sins are “small-time” in comparison to theirs, and for that, we are thankful. Most of us are like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:9-14 who thought he was a lot better than others and said, “‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 

However, God’s Word – the Bible – tells us differently. James 2:10 tells us, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”

The world’s standard seeks to separate evil into categories:

  1. little, negligible-will-soon-be-forgotten sin
  2. medium, needs-more-time-to-heal sin
  3. gigantic, world-impacting-unforgivable sin

In contrast, God’s Word is the “great equalizer,” for Romans 3:10 says, “As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous–not even one.” In God’s eyes, we are all sinners, no matter how big or small our transgression, “sin” is “sin” and it has separated us from the love of God.

“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.” – Isaiah 53:6

Little sinners, medium sinners and big sinners alike are all LOST —  some have wandered just a bit and all they need is a little holler to come back home; some are lost a little farther and would need fetching; while others are completely lost, are in the dark, or at the clutches of an enemy such as a lion or even drowning in the stream and need rescuing.

The truth is, whether we just need a holler, we need fetching or we need rescuing, we are all lost without a shepherd. And it is only by the “Good Shepherd” – Jesus Christ , who gave His life for us on the cross — that we may have peace once again with God.

Remember that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. The tax collector in Jesus’ parable went home justified before God because he recognized he is a sinner and sought mercy from God. The Pharisee on the other hand, thought he was already justified (through what he has done) by his proud attitude and thus, his coming to the temple was simply a show of religiosity and not the kind of true faith that leads to God’s saving grace.

And so we read, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18). What does this mean?

It means to be humble enough to recognize, we are all like Janet Napoles and Mark Joseph Solis who are lost and deserves to be damned in hell because we have all sinned. But, God’s grace of salvation is open to them just as it is for us. We are not better than anybody else. We all need Jesus. So, learn to forgive as God forgave.  Ask God to help us love as He has loved us. Let us be ready to show kindness, mercy and grace, especially for those who seem to deserve it the least.

And,

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21

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Are we robbing the Lord?

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Do we take our portion from what belongs to the Lord? Malachi 3:8 tells us, “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings.” 

Read: 1 Samuel 2: 12-17

12Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. 13Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled 14and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 15But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”

16If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

17This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for theyb were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.

For Eli’s sons, the judgment was death. Hophni and Phinehas thought they had the right to take their portion of the meat sacrifice since they are in fact entitled to some of it as per the law. But they took their portion BEFORE the meat was boiled, and BEFORE the fat was burned — thus, got their share before the meat was offered to God.  God said, “Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.” (1 Samuel 2:30). Ananias and Sapphira also died when they kept back money for themselves but made it appear to the apostles as though they have offered to them everything they had (Acts 5). The Lord has shown repeatedly that what He desires is obedience, not sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22)

Isaiah 1:11
“The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

Jeremiah 6:20
What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.”

Amos 5:22
“Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.”

Therefore, do not think it is alright to take our tithe and give it to the poor ourselves, or spend it in some form of ministry or charity, or maybe even give it to help our elderly parents,  thinking that we are still honoring God with our wealth in such acts anyway.

Instead, we must offer our tithe to the Lord faithfully, and if we really wanted to help others, then we are do so after the Lord’s tithe. The tithe shows our faithfulness to the Lord, and to me, it does not seem proper to have an “offering” but not a “tithe.” We are to honor God first and love our neighbors too, as this is part of honoring God. It cannot be the other way around, that we think as we do good to others by sharing our wealth to help instead of tithing, we are in fact, putting God first in our lives. It really doesn’t make any sense, does it? Honoring God first means exactly that — HONOR GOD FIRST!

Jesus further clarifies this in Mark 7:8-13. We cannot mock God and say to our parents (whom God also commands us to honor) that we have nothing left to help them because we chose to honor God first. Tithing does not give anybody the excuse to refuse to help others through offering because we feel we have already done our obligation to the Lord and the rest of our money is already meant for our own personal needs. The commandments go hand-in-hand — (1) love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and (2) love our neighbors as ourselves. God did not mean for us to choose the one that is most convenient and follow that only.

The Lord does not delight in us putting the matter of our tithes and offering into our own hands. It is obedience out of love He requires; it is the right standing of our heart to God; a full surrender and acceptance that what He says is true and it is good; a mind that seeks to follow as best as we possibly can (as far as it depends on us) as the Lord commands because of a true “fear and awe of God;” — that is what makes our offering a pleasing sacrifice, a “sweet-smelling aroma” that rises up to the throne of God.

Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God

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“Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.” -1 Samuel 2:3

God reminded me about my past sins as a student, and how I would even boast about them. It was as if I deserved applause for getting away with accomplishing a bachelor’s degree the “smart” way – sleeping through the whole sem and still passing the class, copying my way thru exams, plagiarizing books and theses to manufacture my own thesis, and tons of other stuff. I had no integrity and the Lord has brought my deeds to light. So what remains is what I do with the knowledge of that sin now. Do I go to my school and tell them to strip me off of my degrees? But I have been cheating and lying, albeit in much smaller ways, even from my grade school days. Do I go to them to? For I have always crammed for exams and only remembered the lessons enough to get good grades on my report card. But ask me now about the same concepts and theories and I remember very little. How could anyone expect anything more? I wouldn’t have remembered those lessons even maybe after a month after the school exams had passed. It was all about accomplishing the task in whatever way works; never about actually learning and keeping my integrity. And especially not about doing my best because I wanted to honor God with what He has blessed me with.

Now, God is telling me, am I training my child to do the same by the way I homeschool her? O God forbid! Help me Lord! Do not let me fail my child by instilling in her the same values of doing things for the wrong reasons, whether it is to simply pass the subjects (because failing would have been shameful) or get good grades (so that I may boast)! Help me Lord to train our children always do their best for the glory of God alone!

May these words always guide our ways,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”- 1 Corinthians 10:31

In the mighty name of Jesus, this I pray!