Daily Reading & Meditation
Thursday (February 28): “If your hand or eye causes you to sin”
Scripture: Mark 9:41-50
41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 49 For every one will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Meditation: Who in their right mind would want to lose their reward and then be deprived of joy in the end? We have been given the greatest of rewards – God himself who is perfect love and source of abundant life and unending happiness. Paul the Apostle tells us that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). God’s love purifies our hearts and compels us to express kindness and charity towards our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God. We were created in love for love. The charity we show to our neighbors in their need expresses the gratitude we have for the abundant goodness and kindness of God towards us. Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to the people of Christ will not lose its reward. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for his help. As his disciples we are called to be kind and generous as he is.
Gregory of Nyssa (330-395 AD), an early church father wrote:
“God never asks his servants to do what is impossible. The love and goodness of his Godhead is revealed as richly available. It is poured out like water upon all. God furnishes to each person according to his will the ability to do something good. None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability, given by the one who said: ‘whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward'” (ON THE CHRISTIAN MODE OF LIFE 8.1)
Do you allow the love of Christ to transform your heart that you may treat your neighbor with loving-kindness and mercy?
Avoiding evil and the near occasion of sin
Was Jesus’ exaggerating when he urged his followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences (Mark 9:42-47? Jesus set before his disciples the one supreme goal in life that is worth any sacrifice, and that goal is God himself and his will for our lives which leads to everlasting peace and happiness. Just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin and which leads to spiritual death.
Jesus warns his disciples of the terrible responsibility that they must set no stumbling block in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin. The Greek word for temptation (scandalon) is exactly the same as the English word scandal. The original meaning of scandal is a trap or a stumbling block which causes one to trip and fall. The Jews held that it was an unforgivable sin to teach another to sin. If we teach another to sin, he or she in turn may teach still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith. Do you set a good example for others to follow, especially the young?
Salt and fire
What does Jesus mean when he says “have salt in yourselves” (Mark 9:50)? Salt served a very useful purpose in hot climates before the invention of electricity and refrigeration. Salt not only gave food flavor, it also preserved meat from spoiling. Salt was used as a symbol of fellowship and the sharing of a common meal with one’s friends. The near-Eastern expression to betray the salt meant to betray one’s Lord or Master or one’s friends. Leonardo da Vinci in his painting of the Last Supper depicts Judas in the act of tipping over the salt shaker, thus symbolically indentifying himself as the betrayer of his Master the Lord Jesus.
Jesus used the image of salt to describe how his disciples are to live in the world. As salt purifies, preserves, and produces rich flavor for food, so the disciple of Christ must be salt in the world of human society to purify, preserve, and bring the flavor of God’s kingdom of righteousness, peace, joy, and mercy. What did Jesus mean by the expression “salted with fire” and “salt losing its saltiness”? Salt in the ancient world was often put in ovens to intensify the heat. When the salt was burned off and no longer useful it was thrown out on the foot path where it would easily get trodden upon (Matthew 5:13). Perhaps Jesus wanted to contrast useful salt and salt which lost its ability to prevent corruption to encourage his disciples to bring the rich flavor of Christ’s love, holiness, and righteousness to a world dominated by greed, selfish ambition, and neglect for the weak, poor, and defenseless.
Paul the Apostle reminds us that we are called to be “the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 ). The Lord Jesus wants the fragrance of his love and righteousness to permeate our lives, thoughts, speech, and actions. Do you allow the fragrance of Christ’s love and truth to permeate your relationships and circle of influence, especially among your family, friends, and neighbors?
“Lord Jesus, fill me with the fragrance of your love and truth that I may radiate the joy and peace of the Gospel wherever I go and with whomever I meet.”
13 This is the fate of those who have foolish confidence, the end of those who are pleased with their portion. Selah
14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; Death shall be their shepherd; straight to the grave they descend, and their form shall waste away; Sheol shall be their home.
15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah
16 Be not afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases.
17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him.
18 Though, while he lives, he counts himself happy, and though a man gets praise when he does well for himself,
19 he will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never more see the light.
20 Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts that perish.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Why not skip over such passages, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)
“This is no trivial subject of inquiry that we propose, but rather it concerns things most urgent, and about which many inquire: namely, whether hell fire has any end. For that it has no end Christ indeed declared when he said, ‘Their fire shall not be quenched, and their worm shall not die’ (Isaiah 66:24). Yes, I know a chill comes over you on hearing these things. But what am I to do? For this is God’s own command… Ordained as we have been to the ministry of the word, we must cause our hearers discomfort when it is necessary for them to hear. We do this not arbitrarily but under command.” (excerpt from the HOMILIES ON FIRST CORINTHIANS 9.1)
Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source: www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager