Teaching at the Tree is communicated in a practical, easy to understand way that is relevant to your everyday life. It’s not religious jargon, just the truth of God’s word presented in a loving and challenging way.
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Mark 2:23-28 The Message (MSG)
One Sabbath day he was walking through a field of ripe grain. As his disciples made a path, they pulled off heads of grain. The Pharisees told on them to Jesus: “Look, your disciples are breaking Sabbath rules!” Jesus said, “Really? Haven’t you ever read what David did when he was hungry, along with those who were with him? How he entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, with the Chief Priest Abiathar right there watching—holy bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat—and handed it out to his companions?” Then Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath.”
By the time Jesus took on earthly form and walked the earth, the Jews had rules upon rules for those who served the true God. Their rules formed their identity, and became the standard for judging themselves and others. Rules without relationship are weighty and burdensome, and Jesus wanted them to understand the heart of the Father and to be free from rules that had morphed into bondage. In today’s passage, we see a window into a moment with Jesus as the Pharisees are trying to navigate the rules versus the gift.
Yes, we have rules from the heart of God, but there is always freedom with the rules. An example of a rule designed by love for us is that we are not to commit adultery. Adultery has never worked out well, as it destroys relationships, families, trust, and livelihoods. It always leaves devastation in its wake. To be told not to do it by God means He knows these realities and wants to spare us the pain, loss, and hurt. There is total love behind the rule.
He is never trying to deprive us; He is always trying to spare us.
The same with honoring the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day set apart every week for worship and rest.
Jesus knows our limits, and knows we are hard wired to need rest and spiritual rejuvenation. In our passage today, He emphasizes the goodness of this principle, in that if we honor it…we receive the benefits.
Through obedience, God helps us get done in six days what it would normally take seven days to do. What a gift!
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (ESV)
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Rest. Today’s scripture emphasizes the importance of resting. In a world of careers where productivity is king, we often forgot the value of rest. God made us in His image, and deliberately rested on the seventh day. God didn’t get tired—He was modeling behavior for us to follow. He stopped His own productivity in the name of rest.
Did you know that “rest” is an area where modern science agrees with scripture? The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported stress levels at an all-time high in work scenarios, and health care expenses are nearly 50% higher for people who report that they fall into the “high stress” category. Stress caused by constantly being pushed to produce and sacrifice rest has been shown to reduce your immunity.
Implementing a Sabbath and taking time away from the productivity drive results in HIGHER productivity, better mental focus, and creative thinking. God knew that we would be in stressful situations even when He created the world, and the command to rest is just another example of His great love for us. He wants us to be at our best and to live life abundantly—obey His commandment, and live by His example!
Genesis 2:1-3 (ESV)
Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
Take notice of the language that is used when the seventh day, the Sabbath, is described in today’s reading. God called this day holy (sacred), so holy that God Himself, who did not need any rest, took the time to model for us the value of this day. When God declares that something is holy, we mustn’t just look past it. Although every day has value and purpose, the Sabbath is set apart for a special purpose. To keep the Sabbath day is a command, and like all commands, it accomplishes two primary outcomes. The first is to develop a trusting relationship with the Father. And second, it blesses our lives to live it out. Although rest is not a need for God, it is vital for us. God knew this and made a way for it to happen. The Sabbath gives us permission to rest. It is a caring Father saying, “You look exhausted, go rest!” If you have ever worked incredibly hard at something, you know how rewarding it is at the end of it to just rest.
Well, the Sabbath is so much better than even that, because it includes spiritual elements as well that refresh our souls. Without the Sabbath as a part of our weekly rhythm, we will become run down, burnt out, weakened, over-stressed, and ultimately ineffective in fully living out life the way God designed it to be lived.
And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
When considering today’s reading, it seems necessary to define what “more blessed” looks like for us. There are certainly some perks to being on the receiving side of any form of generosity. When it comes to assessing value, it seems counterintuitive to say that when you give something away, namely money or resources, the value of your life actually increases. However, if you are familiar with any of Jesus’s teachings or views on life, you know that Jesus does not view things as most view them. Jesus’s views, which are spoken with full knowledge of what man’s true heart, desires, and needs are, give us a much truer measure of what it means to be “more blessed.” The Apostle Paul, who wrote today’s passage, also had come to see this truth in his own life. There are many reasons why it is more blessed to give than receive, but the primary reason is that it enriches your relationship with God. I know this may not make sense at first, because primarily you are giving to others and not God, but giving to others does several incredible things.
First and foremost, as Christians, our relationship with God is most important, and anything we can do to enrich that relationship is exactly what we should do. Giving anything is a cost on our part, and giving to others, especially sacrificially, develops a deeper trust in God to take care of our needs. This is the best place to operate out of, because whatever God gives is far better than any earthly possession we hope to find life in. The more we operate like Jesus, the more the Spirit in us overflows with the love and joy of God. This is what fulfills the cravings of life that we want to so often fill by focusing on our own needs. By giving more than receiving, we get to show Christ’s love and joy to others around us, which profoundly blesses and enriches their lives as well. There is no greater joy than loving God and loving others.
Proverbs 11:24-25 (The Message)
The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.
The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.
God smiles on the generous person, and places His stamp of disapproval on the stingy person. The farmer who sows small will reap small; business people have to spend money to make money. Those are realities.
In the spiritual realm, you must be generous with everything God has given you, in order to receive His blessing. It is a lifelong journey of being extra generous that brings true fulfillment.
We have both a social and spiritual responsibility to be generous. God rewards generosity.
God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it,
He throws caution to the winds,
giving to the needy in reckless abandon.
His right-living, right-giving ways
never run out, never wear out.
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God. (2 Corinthians 9:7-11, The Message)