Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 17 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Attitudes of Grace”
In today’s episode, I’ll be sharing some thoughts about The Economics of Godly Relationships, whether in the home, among friends, or interacting with other people wherever we may be.
It occurs to me that the single most fundamental truth of the Universe is identified by one word: Relationships.
Can you think of ANYTHING AT ALL that isn’t in relationship to something—or someone—else? My guess is no. If you can think of something, please let me know. Otherwise, from what I’ve seen and experienced in my 76 trips around the sun, it looks to me like every thing imaginable—animate or inanimate—exists in relationship to everything else.
- On the cosmic level the earth, moon, planets, and sun all relate to each other.
- The entire solar system relates to the wider Milky Way galaxy.
- Our galaxy relates to other galaxies, etc.
- Looking the other way into a microscope, we discover smaller and smaller dimensions. Everything there also reveals the constant reality of relationships. Cells, membranes, molecules, atoms, electrons, protons, and nuclei all work together to compose what we call “matter.”
Living things—at least as we know them here on our planet—all exist in relationships, both to inanimate nature, and to other living creatures.
And, we human beings live in relationship to it all.
So, let’s talk about us.
Everyone lives in relationship to other people. The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives—and for we who are Christians it determines the effectiveness of our witness as ambassadors of the Kingdom.
In Matthew 5, the opening passages of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches numerous important lessons about relationships. He speaks of anger, love and lust, divorce, vows, revenge, and loving one’s enemies.
At the very end of the chapter, in Matthew 5:48, He says, “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (NLT).
I’d encourage anyone listening or reading just now, to get your copy of the Bible, open it to Matthew 5, and read the context of Jesus’s instruction here in verse 48.
Frankly, I’ve heard many outrageous claims that Jesus meant that we—his followers—must strive for and achieve complete perfection of character in this life. Otherwise, we can’t be saved in His kingdom and we won’t be “ready” for His return.
Some of my more conservative Seventh-day Adventist friends underscore that idea with one of their favorite comments from Ellen G. White, who is widely looked to for inspired counsel and interpretation of the Scriptures.
About this idea of perfection of character, Mrs. White says, “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p.69).
Again, let me repeat what I said a few moments ago about Matthew 5—Read The Context! Someone once said, “A text without the context is a pretext for a prooftext!”
Repeatedly in this entire chapter where Ellen White writes about Jesus’s parable of the sower in Mark 4:26-29, she says that character development is the work of the Holy Spirit residing in the believer’s heart. Nowhere does she say this is to be accomplished—in whole or in part—by the human agent! It’s all about God who “works in [us] both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
I really like the way the NLT treats that verse. It says, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”
So, about Matthew 5:48—if you read the context, you discover that the “perfection of the Father” Jesus speaks of here is about our relationships and how we treat other people!
With those thoughts in mind, let’s consider for a bit the Economics of Godly Relationships. (Using economics as a metaphor is a good way to understand how relationships work.)
If you were to start a business today, one of the first factors you’d need to consider is your start-up capital. How much money—or other resources—do you have in hand to bring your idea to life? Will it be sufficient to cover all the start-up costs, including inventory, required licensing fees, initial advertising, equipment, rental expenses, and (if you need to hire help) salaries of employees?
Here’s a hard reality: Even the very best idea for a new business will go nowhere if it has nothing to build on.
So, let’s apply that thought to building strong, healthy relationships in life.
Every baby receives an endowment “capital of goodwill” at birth. When the baby is born, the first thing that happens is someone–doctor, nurse, mid-wife, mother herself, father, whomever, SOMEONE (!) has to make sure the newborn is breathing, get’s cleaned up, and nurtured.
(I’m speaking, of course, in the normal process of life events. I am all too well aware of tragic exceptions. But, that’s not my focus at the moment.)
We receive our gift of “goodwill capital” from parents, teachers, friends, and others who care for us. We could not survive for even a few hours without someone else supplying our basic needs for life.
Jesus spoke of the natural disposition of parents to provide good things for their children as He addressed the crowd that day on the mountainside.
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So, if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”Matthew 7:7-9 NLT
So, the next question is, What do we do with that initial capital of goodwill we receive at birth, and (ideally) at the beginning of every new relationship afterwards?
Just as the initial start-up capital for a business must be managed wisely, so our goodwill capital can be invested to provide positive returns.
Jesus answered this question in Matthew 7:12, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (NLT).
Here is a truism that works in nearly every situation:
I grew up as a farm kid. We often planted corn and/or sugar beets every year. After the fields were prepared, we buried the seed in the dirt at the appropriate depth for each crop. After that we watered and watched for a few days. In a short time we could see the beginnings of tiny shoots poking their heads up out of the soil. It always brought us joy when we could see all the rows stretching across the field.
All summer through the growing season, we invested time, fertilizer, weed control, and more water. At harvest, our investments paid multiplied dividends. Some years the return was bountiful. Other years, not so much. But, regardless, in order to receive a harvest we had to keep investing in the crop.
Relationships are the same. What relationships do you value the most? That’s where you need to make the heaviest investments—in whatever form needed to nurture the health, well-being, and continued growth of your connection with someone. What do you need to invest in the life of someone you love? I’m sure you probably already know the answer to that question. If not, ask God to give you wisdom. You can claim the promise found in 1 John 1:5. (Look it up. Mark it. Memorize it.) It will give you courage and hope.
Remember, “Goodwill multiplies when it is given away.!”
It is vital to make continuous, regular, and frequent deposits in your goodwill account with anyone you love and cherish. And, conversely, it is crucial that you NEVER make a personal withdrawal from that account by acting in a nasty, selfish, demanding, or demeaning way.
Unkind words can never be retrieved once we’ve let them escape our lips. It is good to pray for the fruits of the Spirit to be manifest and evident in our lives every day—the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I mentioned these in last week’s episode, but they bear repeating often.
And, here’s a final thought as we close off this episode of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast, and the ideas about the Economics of Godly Relationships.
What should you do if someone else has “wronged” you and impacted your life negatively? In essence, that person made a withdrawal from the account of goodwill you hold in common. It may be large or small, a mountain or a molehill. It makes no difference. That individual is “in debt” to you because of their words or actions.
Can you ever get repayment?
In a word, no.
Regardless of future apologies, positive experiences, or good intentions, the debt can never be recovered. The only way of “getting even” in this life is to do or say something negative in return. I’m sure you can immediately see where that leads. Tit-for-tat revenge can only escalate until the situation becomes irreversibly destructive.
But, there is another way—the Jesus way. That way is to forgive. Christian history in every culture is filled with stories of healed hearts when people choose forgiveness.
Damaged relationships may or may not be restored. Sometimes there has just been too much “bad blood” between parties to restore the goodwill account to functional life. But, choosing to forgive removes the weight of that debt from your heart, and frees you to live!
That is, in fact, what God has done for us. He has collected all our “debts” (i.e. sins) and forgave them all! In Him we are “debt free!”
Praise the Lord! Forever, and ever. Amen!
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts about a Christian’s new life in Christ.
Be sure to tune in, and if you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please share with your friends, family, or whomever! My many thanks—in advance!