Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 24 2019 - Proverbs 16 – Better a little with righteousness

These chapters of Proverbs that we are looking over the next few days are not in the form of an extended discourse or argument but consist rather of a series of sometimes unconnected proverbial sayings. In reflecting on these chapters I plan to pick out a single theme for reflection. This morning I have chosen Proverbs 16:8:

Better a little with righteousness
than much gain with injustice.

The Western world is currently going through an economic crisis brought on by excessive debts. These in turn have been fuelled by the insatiable desire for more: the desire of the individual who runs up credit card debts that they cannot repay; the activity of speculators and fund managers who devote so much imagination to brokering a good deal – even making huge profits out of a crisis that brings misery to millions; the continual desire for cheap food, unrestricted personal mobility and the latest gadgets and toys. Meanwhile we have turned a blind eye to the costs of our insatiable demands: the destruction of rain forests for the growing of soya and palm oil; the imposition of subsistence living upon the peoples of other nations as they are enslaved to the production of raw materials for our consumption. We have made ourselves fat while others starve.

And how do we react to the present crisis? We bewail the effects of the current disaster and demand that something should be done to enable us to return to business as usual: growth in GDP; annual wage increases greater than the rate of inflation; an ever increasing standard of living; a return to the religion of "More" – more for us, even at the expense of others.

When will we ever recognise that we have enough? If everyone on the planet lived as I live we would need two-and-a-half planets to meet this level of consumption. We only have one.

As I write, many school children and young people are protesting against Climate Change. I saw a number of them marching through Bristol with placards such as "Social Change not Climate Change". They are concerned about the state of the planet that we are handing on as our legacy to them. They are aware that the world literally cannot go on like this. Our pride in our own ability to harness nature and its resources to our own ends is driving us along a road to destruction (v. 18, see also v. 25).

"Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice." All too often we read such a proverb in purely individualistic terms. We argue that we have earned our wages honestly and fairly and have spent them well – even giving generously to charity. But that is not enough. We need to look afresh at the structures of our society and ask what it means to pursue righteousness in banking, commerce, international trade, international development and planet care.

Verse 6 of this chapter says, "Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided." Love for God, for the world has made and for others, particularly our children, may convict us of our folly and drive us to repentance. Further evil may be avoided and atonement made for past wrongs as we begin to repair the damage we have done. We need to turn from love of self and love of our own ways to loving God and living by the wisdom that comes from his Spirit. And those in leadership positions in our society need to take the lead in such repentance and change of direction – see the references to the responsibility of the king in this chapter and think of how this applies to our own society.

Almighty God, you have entrusted your creation to our care and we have abused that trust. Open our eyes to the injustice that is woven into the very fabric of our society. Give us the wisdom to see how to live counter-culturally and to bring healing and transformation to a hurting world. Break our pride and give us a spirit of repentance and contentment.

May 24 2013 - John 13:31-14:14 – Do not let your hearts be troubled

Jesus has been telling the disciples of his imminent betrayal and death. As if this were not enough to trouble them, he has also told Peter that before the night is out he will deny all knowledge of Jesus – three times! How could they be anything but troubled as they heard these things?

Jesus says that they need not fear. They can trust him, even in the face of such horrors. He assures them that all will be well. He is returning to the Father and will prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. He will ensure that they are brought safely home so that where he is, they may be also.

As so often, the disciples are puzzled at Jesus’ words. They don’t understand where Jesus is going and so don’t understand how they can follow him there. Jesus responds by saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He is the way to the Father’s house; he will not only prepare a place for his disciples, he will also lead them safely home. Those who trust in him are safe in his keeping now and for eternity. They can rest secure in his promises for he is the truth; he is the real thing. Trusting in him they will have life – life that will last.

The disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ can face life without fear – their hearts need not be troubled. The apostle Paul learnt this lesson in the face of hard experience. He writes, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

But the Christian life is not a passive waiting for glory. Jesus has also entrusted us with the task of making him known. Jesus had come from the Father and everything he did was through the Father’s presence and power at work in him (14:10). In the same way, Jesus is now sending out his disciples to witness in his name. And he sends them out with the remarkable promise, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (14:12). This becomes a reality as Jesus lives in them and continues his work through them – and us!

Jesus calls us not simply to believe in him, or to be known by his name, but to learn from him as disciples from a master. The master artists of the past would often have their pupils work with them on their paintings. It is not always easy to tell where the work of the master ends and that of the pupil begins – so well might the pupil have gained the skills and learnt the style of their teacher. The disciple is to reflect the character of the master. The signature of the Christian is the character of Jesus stamped upon them.

One of the most powerful ways in which we bear witness to Christ and make him known is through our love for one another; “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (14:35). How well are we learning Christ?

Lord Jesus, still my fears and fill me with the assurance that you are able to bring me safely to the Father’s house. May this confidence fill me with joy and peace in believing and empower me to live and work as your disciple. Help me to learn of you; may your character be more fully formed in me. And may your love, made visible in me, draw others to come to you and learn of you.

Peter Misselbrook