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October 2012

God of Balance and Imbalance

Suresh Manoharan

More than worshiping God for the blessings which He pours into our lives, we need to learn to worship Him just for what He is! Worshipping Him, awed by His unique attributes, is the noblest form of worship, for it emanates from the depths of the heart with no strings attached. Worship in its pristine form is nothing but an unalloyed form of an ethereal romance between the Creator and His favourite creation (Isa.62:5;Zeph.3:17). The driving force for winning a soul to the Lord ought not to be only the need of saving him from scorching hell-fire, but also to acquaint him with the indescribable heavenly joys one is enjoying. None ought to miss out on that! He is a God of balance and can you believe it, at times one of imbalance!

God Of Balance
In the realm of physical creation we see the principle of balance all around. If not for night following the day, would there be scope for rest and recuperation, before yet another round of strenuous activity? If there had been one continuous summer season, without the intermittent rainy and winter seasons, would not we all be baked dry? If it had been all rain, the depressing scenario of Noah's flood would have loomed large before our eyes. If it had been chilly winter all the way, would not we all be frozen stiff? Add to this reverse breathing pattern of the plant and the animal world, and a hallelujah springs from the depths of the heart for the amazing balance He has placed in the physical world.

In the spiritual realm too, from earliest times (Gen.14:17-20), even before the Mosaic Law came into effect, the good Lord had established the principle of 'financial balance' between clergy and laity. The laity could pursue any business or vocation for their livelihood, whereas the clergy could not; rather, they were required to spend all the time in the presence of the Lord, learn from Him and instruct the people in the ways of the Lord (Isa.30:20-21). Since the clergy should not, would not and could not take-up any secular means of livelihood, the laity were required to financially support the clergy, in order that the latter's needs were also met. In Israel we would see the eleven tribes supporting the priestly Levite tribe with tithes (Lev.27:30;Neh.10:37-39). Jesus was all for the continuance of the tithing principle (Matt.23:23), 'balanced' with other paramount matters such as justice, mercy and faithfulness. By the way, I too pay my tithes to my local church, from the income I get from serving our faithful Lord. While on the subject, let me remind one and all, that while we are obligated to contribute liberally to different ministries serving Him wonderfully around the world, the tithes should uncompromisingly be always paid to our local church, where we are being spiritually nurtured. It is imperative to get one's 'balance' right on this crucial subject.

Coming to the Saviour, one remarkable feature which characterised His ministry on earth was that of balance. He hated sin but loved sinners. He was all for payment of taxes to Caesar, without in any way ignoring our financial obligations to the Giver of all gifts. He lauded His disciples when they had to be appreciated and duly reprimanded them when they were going off track. Let's look at the three incidents in our Master's life, when He walked the fine line.

Condescending, But...
Remember the account of Jewish religious leaders bringing a woman caught in adultery before Him (Jn.8:1-11) for judgment on her and most importantly for His judgment on the Mosaic Law (Lev.20:10), which demanded her stoning? Of course, Jesus' envious enemies (surprisingly they were not robbers or murderers but fellow servants in God's vineyard, the teachers of the Law, Pharisees et al.), outraged by His growing popularity among the masses, desperately wanted to tarnish His image publicly as a 'breaker of the Law'. How our good Lord handled that dicey situation is the very definition of being balanced in a crisis. His later demeanour with the guilty one reflected His attitude towards sin and a sinner. With His critics waiting with bated breath for the slightest slip, which would send His public popularity ratings nose-diving, our Lord handled the tricky situation with an equilibrium which was so typical of Him. Without in any way diminishing the significance of the Mosaic Law, He appealed to the universal, higher law of conscience in every individual ready to stone the hapless adulteress. "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first."

While on the subject, doesn't this question ring a bell in the mind of every overtly critical Christian nursing a holier than thou attitude towards others?

Then the gospel writer John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, takes the scene to a stirring climax. "At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there" (Jn.8:9). If at all anybody had the right to cast a stone on this sinful woman, it was the spotless, holy Son of God. What did He do? "Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one, sir,' she said. 'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.' " Did Jesus declare, "Go now and continue your life of sin?" No! Rather, leave your life of sin. Jesus hated sin but loved sinners. Amazing balance, isn't it?

Commanding, But…
Jesus' enemies wouldn't give up so easily in their efforts to publicly disgrace Him. Later on, in Jerusalem, they thought He would be lax in His verdict on paying tax to Caesar (the Jews' avowed enemy and their despised ruler at that time). They thought they had Him with a 'googly' when they publicly fired this question at Him. "Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?" only to be outwitted by a doosra from the good Lord, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matt.22:21).

Christians are commanded to pay their taxes to the Government, without putting back the need to pay tithes to their local church or support those who preach the Gospel to them. One without the other would displease the King of all kings, who has put every government in its place (Mal.3:6-12;Rom.13:1-7;1Cor.9:14), and commissioned His every servant to serve Him without taking up any secular livelihood. It was the apostle Paul's magnanimity that he let go His God-given rights also (by taking up tent making work, albeit temporarily, Acts.18:2-5;1Thess.2: 9), in order that none should get any chance of pointing an accusing finger at him. Out of my own ministry experience of five years, I can testify that it is some kind of a surreal, joyous 'walking on water' feeling, to press on with vigour solely on the back of voluntary, free-will offerings, even while generating some income, courtesy part-time 'tent-making'.

Commending, But…
Scene 1. Jesus is whole-heartedly appreciating the impulsive Simon Peter. "Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven'" (Matt.16:17-19).

Scene 2. Shortly afterwards, to the same Simon Peter are addressed these sharp reprimanding words, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns" (Matt.16:23).

Hey, what really happened? Let's hit the rewind button. Firstly, Jesus was all praise for Simon Peter when he came up with an unequivocal, truthful declaration, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" in response to the Messiah's poser to the disciples, "Who do you say I am?" But this same Simon Peter, when Jesus revealed the divine redemption plan for mankind involving the Master's crucifixion and resurrection, started playing the Devil's advocate dissuading the Master from going to the cross. Hence, the sharp rebuke.

Jesus' 'balanced' way of handling us has not changed one bit (Heb.13:8), has it? Dear Christian, doesn't He fill your heart with heavenly joy, when you obey Him, and whenever you stray, isn't there invariably a 'rap on the knuckles' (emotional or physical pain by way of discipline)?

God Of Imbalance?
The phrase 'God of Imbalance'-is it not revolting, seemingly at direct odds with the tone and tenor of this essay so far? But give Hi loud hallelujah, for He becomes imbalanced, only and only when our personal benefit is at stake. Consider this verse, "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities" (Psa.103:10 NKJV).

At a time when our sins require a severe punishment He chastises us just enough to bring us back to the track, as any loving Father would (Heb.12:5-11). Then what about the 'blessings being not in proportion to known sources of efforts for Him'? Consider this Scripture portion culled from the familiar parable of talents, "And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned ten minas.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities'" (Lk.19:15-17).

Now is there any correlation between minas and cities? For earning merely 10 minas, we who are faithful are being guaranteed a reward of, oh boy, 10 cities! Even on this side of eternity, the Lord provides wondrously for us and in the other side of eternity, boy, the blessings and rewards He has in store for us are simply mind-boggling. No wonder, the prophet Isaiah declares and the apostle Paul reaffirms bringing to light the true meaning of the OT prophet's declaration, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (Isa.64:4;1Cor.2:9)!

Dear child of God, even as you take inventory of your life, is not your experience similar to mine? Is it not both comforting and reassuring to know that we have been punished far less for our sins of commission or omission and that our meagre efforts for His kingdom have fetched us rewards far beyond our expectations? The good news to top it all is, the best is yet to come!

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