Sex, power and money are among the big themes in our bible reading today. These were make or break issues in the days of the early church as much as they are in our day. Look at any newspaper, listen to any podcast on current issues and often one, if not more, of these big three will be at the heart of the story. Of course, there is nothing wrong with sex, power or money, they can be of great pleasure and great good. They are part of everyday human life. But they also seem to be sources of the greatest heartbreak or scandals in our world.
With regard to sex we read, “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4) God created us as sexual beings. This is nothing to be ashamed of. God gave marriage, between a man and a woman, as the right relationship for sexual intimacy. The bible is very clear that marriage between a man and a woman should be honoured.
Sexual intimacy is not a mere physical act, it encompasses us emotionally and spiritually. There is a vulnerability in this, with trust and faith in the other. In the right context this can add to our life, enriching us and allowing us to enjoy a lasting relationship with another person. Sexual intimacy affects us so deeply, that much of the hurt and brokenness in our world is directly linked to the misuse of this gift.
With regard to money we read, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5) There is nothing wrong with money or the creation of wealth. The bible praises the virtuous wife who buys and sells, trading profitably and working hard (Proverbs 31.15-20). But problems arise when people are not content, when they become greedy or obsessed with money.
The early church really stood out as a caring community. We read of people like Barnabas selling land so they could provide funds for the poor. (Acts 4.33-37) Directly after his generous example we read of the deceit of Ananias and Sapphira who having sold land wanted to give the impression of being generous. They lied about the price of the land and the extent of their gift. The love of money we’ll take you captive if you let it. But if you treat your money as a gift from God and use it wisely in love it can be a great asset.
With regard to power we read, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7) Many leaders develop a taste for power, cling to it and won’t let go. Human history is replete with stories of dictators who refuse to step down and leaders who misuse power. But this can also happen at a local level in community clubs, societies and even in churches where people cling to power or abuse power. It is of great sorrow to me that some church leaders have not honestly lived in the manner they outwardly project, giving an appearance of holiness, but secretly abusing the trust others place in them. With regard to sex, power, or money, it is important that each of these serve or contribute to the overarching command to keep loving one another as brothers and sisters.
As we have learned in this series from Hebrews, Jesus is greater than all that has come before or since he lived on earth. The life of Jesus gives us a model of love in action, an example of servant leadership, one who cares for “the flock”, strengthens and heals them. In our relationship with Jesus we can be sure that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8) The love he has shown to those of the past, he will show to us today and in the future. Because of this we can live and should live in the light of his love with confident perseverance.
How do you show respect in your own marriage or towards the marriage of others?
Do you own your possessions or to they possess you?
How do you exercise power at home, in the workplace in service of others?
How are each of the above expressions of brotherly/sisterly love for others?
Rev John Malcolm