Stupid Arguments

In the age of social media and anonymous communication, many people have made it their life’s work to share divisive links and hateful posts in an effort to promote their opinions and their agenda on the internet. This can lead to divisive and hateful responses, which in turn leads to fruitless arguments leaving readers with negative feelings. We live in a world where fruitless arguments can also find its way into the analog world. Today, just wearing a politically charged t-shirt can spark hate speech and what can best be described as stupid and foolish arguments and quarrels. In second Timothy we are encourage to avoid these types of conversations and traps. In chapter 2, verses 23 and 24 it says:

"Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful."

When you sow venomous speech you will reap venomous responses. The bible teaches us to avoid these traps. It is human nature to get amped up and defensive when someone challenges our beliefs and opinions. I know that I’ve fired off an email or two that I wish I’d taken the time to consider before sending. Second Timothy tells us that we are not to quarrel; that we must be kind to everyone. And that word, “everyone” is all inclusive. Just consider how Jesus handled situations. He was artful in avoiding traps of this nature. And if we are discerning and self-controlled, the Holy Spirit can help us avoid them as well.

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Followers of Christ are called to avoid foolish and stupid arguments that produce quarreling. When I think of Jesus’ life, I come to understand that he was adept at navigating traps set by his opposers. He was good at identifying when he was being bated by the enemy, and he was never rattled. Even when he was being accused before his crucifixion, he remained silent because I believe he knew that anything he said would’ve been used as a weapon against him. In a similar manner, we are to be careful about the conversations we enter into, and how we navigate those conversations. Paul tells Timothy that the Lord’s servants must not quarrel. On the contrary, we are to be peacemakers. We are to be kind to everyone, able to teach and not resentful.

Lay It Down

Do you ever repeat lines from movies or television shows that you’ve watched and use them in daily conversation? I do. My favorite line from a movie called, “Judgement Night” is said from the evil antagonist to a low level drug dealer who is trying to look big in the eyes of his friends as they stand off in a confrontation. He tells the antagonist quote, “I’ll take your money”. Then hears the response, “No, you can’t take my money, but you can take my money”; indicating that he doesn’t have the power to forcefully take his money, but he is being allowed to take his money in an effort to quell a tense situation. It is this line that I think about when I read these words from Jesus in John chapter 10, verses 17 and 18 which says:  

"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life - only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I receive from my Father."

Just like the man in the movie who gave permission to “take” his money, Jesus allowed us to “take” his life. The Jews may have thought they took Jesus’ life by force, but we know that no one can do that. Jesus says, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down”. So in essence he is saying that the Jews can’t take his life, but they can take his life. Jesus knew all along that it came down to his decision to obey God. It had nothing to do with man’s authority, power or strength, even though his persecutors thought otherwise. I say all of that to accentuate Jesus’ love for us. He put it best when he said “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. Jesus freely gave it, no one took it.

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Jesus laid his life down for us. No one took it from him. No one had the power, authority or strength to take his life. But aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t resist? For our sake, he submitted to God’s plan and allowed man to mock him, to torture him and to ultimately crucify him. I encourage you to think about what he did - especially in light of knowing that all the while Jesus knew that no one takes his life, but he was willing to lay it down.

Your Best

Do you ever find yourself cutting corners to save a buck? Maybe you get a lesser grade of unleaded gas for your car. Or maybe you buy a generic brand of an item instead of the better, more tested brand. You might even buy cheaper seats at a sporting event or a play to save money. For ourselves, these can be savvy and even wise decisions. But when it comes to God, we should never cut corners. We should always offer our absolute best. Moses says in Leviticus 22 verses 20 through 22:

"Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf. When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the Lord to fulfill a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable. Do not offer to the Lord the blind, the injured or the maimed, or anything with warts or festering or running sores. Do not place any of these on the altar as an offering made to the Lord by fire."

This, of course, is referring to the sacrifice of animals to the Lord. Moses tells the Israelites not to cut corners; not to give God their leftovers. He tells them that they need to bring an acceptable sacrifice. And I submit to you, when it comes to anything we do for the Lord, we should bring him our best. Whether it be our financial gifts, our time, or our talents, whatever we are “giving” to the Lord needs to be our best. We may be tempted to hold back in our tithe because we’re saving for a trip, or we might not give our best effort when donating our time or talents for Christ because we are too tired or lazy. I encourage you to think differently. When it comes to God, always give your first and your best.

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When it comes to God, we should always give our best. If you attend one of the more “contemporary” churches in our country, you may be confused as to why in some of the more conservative churches, people dress up. In some, you’ll find men in suits and ties, women in beautiful dresses, and children dressed to the nines. For them, their appearance before the Lord is an expression of offering their best. To them, being in God’s presence is honored by looking their best. Where do you find yourself consciously giving your best to the Lord? After all, he is God Almighty. He created you. He died for you. He deserves nothing less than our best.