(Please read Jeremiah 9:23-26.)
Samuel L. Jackson want’s to know, “What’s in Your Wallet?” You can tell a lot about a person by what’s in their wallet, but what’s in their hearts is what really counts. What’s needed in our hearts is the humility to forsake self-sufficiency and instead embrace dependence on God.
MESSAGE: Self-sufficiency is one of the biggest roadblocks to a godly life.
CONTEXT: The previous 21 verses of the chapter have been spent in pronouncing woe upon Jerusalem, similar to what we heard Jesus doing a couple weeks ago. So this set of four verses sounds a little out of place, but t point is that in desperate days we’ve an even greater need to rely on God.
- Do not rely on any worldly thing (23, 25-26).
Why we should not rely on worldly things.
– They will not ward off trouble or tragedy.
– Trusting in worldly things is a subtle idolatry.
– It pleases God if we rely on Him & trust Him.
– The problem with all forms of worldly self-sufficiency is that they can blind us to our need for God. In that blindness, we fail to seek God & are thereby not saved.
– The world honors its scholars, athletes, warriors, and wealthy, but their assets will not save them.
Jeremiah gives four examples of worldly things that have been proven untrustworthy.
Do not rely on your WISDOM (v. 23). Man’s wisdom is not God’s wisdom – not even close (see Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 1:67; 9:10). We have a tendency to self-deception and can be deceived by others – only God is always true.
Do not rely on your STRENGTH (v. 23). Neither physical might nor any other form of worldly power will have the spiritual and moral strength that God’s righteousness endows. Worldly STRENGTH will fail us.
Do not rely on your RICHES (v. 23). Jesus told us that only treasure kept in heaven is safe from thievery and decay – all kinds of loss (see Matthew 6:19-21). Jesus pointed out how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (see Matthew 19:23-24).
Do not rely on your religious credentials (vs. 25-26). In the Old Testament, circumcision was the ultimate religion credential. It was the physical sign that distinguished men of God from everyone else.
But Jeremiah dismissed any notion of privilege based on circumcision: “I WILL PUNISH THOSE WHO ARE CIRCUMCISED ONLY IN THE FLESH.” While it is stated in the Old Testament, the people often missed the fact that keeping the Law was not about the letter of the Law as much as it was changing the heart. So being circumcised only in THE FLESH was a way of describing the kind of hypocrisy that can occur with people who observe only the letter of the Law. The Apostle Paul dealt with this same issue in Romans 2:25-29 and also observed that true circumcision is a matter of the heart, done by the Holy Spirit. This is a recurring them in Jeremiah:
– 4:4 calls Judah to circumcise their hearts.
– 6:10 condemns “uncircumcised ears” that fail to listen to the LORD’s commands.
The only thing all the nations listed in v. 25 have in common is that they are going to be punished by the LORD. (It’s easy to dismiss others as irreligious, but to truly seek God is not.) So, in spite of the spiritual advantages God gave them, in spite of all the grace He had shown them, His people continued to trust in their worldly wisdom, strength, and riches instead of God. Ironically, this is when God’s gifts become perverted into idols. What He gives to empower godliness can sometimes become substitutes for Him. When we worship the gifts and not the Giver, we sin.
As an alternative to worldly priorities, God wants us to value the following – this order:
– Dependence on God.
– Interdependence on each other.
– Independence and self-support.
In our culture we often have these backwards, don’t we?
- Rely on the Lord alone (24).
The LORD is the only one worth boasting about. Our highest good is relationship with God. Understanding Him is an intellectual experience. Knowing Him is a spiritual, emotional, and moral experience. From this primary relationship flows true wisdom, power, wealth, and religious relevance.
The life of faith is a matter of knowing what delights Him and DOING IT. This is one way to demonstrate a real faith-relationship with God. Jeremiah offers three virtues that characterize a life in which God delights:
– KINDNESS. This Hebrew word is hard to translate into English. It refers to an inner attitude good will to people whether it’s expected or deserved. “Steadfast love” is an alternative translation. It is the kind of love God has shown to us, the example He has set and we are to follow. This is GRACE – the single most important way to demonstrate love.
– JUSTICE. This is a far-reaching term; it describes a society where good people are protected from evil people so that they are free to continue to do good. One of the sins condemned by the prophets is the oppression of the poor. God rejects all forms of injustice as a violation of His will. Those who are blessed in worldly things need to be careful to use their wealth to lift up those not as endowed in worldly things. For examples, see how Hosea 5:4; 6:3; 8:2 called the people to know God and His justice. See Micah 6:8 and 7:18 to find activities that please God.
– RIGHTEOUSNESS. Similar to justice, this term describes a culture in which doing the right thing is the predominant, normal, expected behavior. As with all God’s standards, the bar of behavior is set at its highest. “Righteousness” involves doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. God sets His standards impossibly high to force us to rely on Him.
– We rely on His forgiveness when we fail.
– We rely on His Spirit to succeed.
– All of our life experiences are supposed to direct our attention to Him and deepen our relationship with Him.
Self-sufficiency is one of the biggest roadblocks to a godly life.
Do not rely on your WISDOM (23).
THE PROBLEM: People who are intellectually self-sufficient insist on forms of evidence they can verify with their five senses. Whether well-educated or not, they take God’s gift of intelligence and turn it into an idol. They proudly believe they’ve got it all figured out.
THE SOLUTION: The remedy for intellectual self-sufficiency begins with 1CT 3:18-20 = DO NOT DECEIVE YOURSELVES. IF ANY ONE OF YOU THINKS HE IS WISE BY THE STANDARDS OF THIS AGE, HE SHOULD BECOME A “FOOL” SO THAT HE MAY BECOME WISE. FOR THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD IS FOOLISHNESS IN GOD’S SIGHT. AS IT IS WRITTEN: “HE CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS” AND AGAIN, “THE LORD KNOWS THAT THE THOUGHTS OF THE WISE ARE FUTILE.”
The remedy continues by a reliance on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This individual grows in faith by trusting the subjective, intuitive guidance of the Spirit and experiences divine wisdom as they respond immediately.
Do not rely on your STRENGTH (23).
THE PROBLEM: This kind of self-sufficiency represents all the resources that an individual has WITHIN themselves. This power may take the form of their physical, political, economical, egotistical, or circumstantial power. They exert their will over others based on the prideful notion they have the right to do so. “Might makes right” leads to sin.
THE SOLUTION: The remedy for strength self-sufficiency starts with PSS 20:7-8 = SOME TRUST IN CHARIOTS AND SOME IN HORSES, BUT WE TRUST IN THE NAME OF THE LORD OUR GOD. THEY ARE BROUGHT TO THEIR KNEES AND FALL, BUT WE RISE UP AND STAND FIRM.
The remedy deepens as the individual pays more attention to the Giver than the gifts. They need to do the hard work of being more responsive and less reliant on their own plans. They need to purposely seek ways to worship God and serve people that are outside their usual powers.
Do not rely on your RICHES (23).
THE PROBLEM: Money is not the problem; it’s the LOVE OF MONEY. RICHES represents all the resources we have OUTSIDE of self. These are the things we own that we think we’ve earned or somehow deserve. They can easily become a point of pride and an idol. Money is one example.
THE SOLUTION: The remedy for this kind of self-sufficiency starts with LKE 12:13-21, the Parable of the Rich Fool. In this parable, Jesus tells of a man blessed with wealth whose sole concern is making more wealth. “BUT GOD SAID TO HIM, ‘YOU FOOL! THIS VERY NIGHT YOUR LIFE WILL BE DEMANDED FROM YOU. THEN WHO WILL GET WHAT YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR YOURSELF?”
The remedy continues when we take a spiritual view of things; increasingly seeing the world as God does. For example, “Savers” need to stop relying on money in the bank for their sense of security. It’s better to trust in God than in the FDIC. On the other hand, “Spenders” need to stop relying on material things to bring them joy. Give less time to your toys and more time to your relationship with God and the people around you!
Do not rely on your religious credentials (25-26).
THE PROBLEM: This kind of self-sufficiency is based on the notion that religious acts can earn salvation or authority. You’ve heard people suppose they’re good enough to get into heaven. You’ve heard people recite their good works in church and/or community. Each are equally false. True good works begin with a heart of love for god and people and have no such strings attached.
THE SOLUTION: The remedy starts with having the attitude shown by Isaiah when he encountered the glory of God in the temple. He said, “WOE TO ME! I AM RUINED! FOR I AM A MAN OF UNCLEAN LIPS, AND I LIVE AMONG A PEOPLE OF UNCLEAN LIPS, AND MY EYES HAVE SEEN THE KING, THE LORD ALMIGHTY,” (ISH 6:6). The Lord, in response, cleansed the prophet of his sins, preparing him for divine service.
The remedy deepens when our focus is on the Lord and not on ourselves and when our motive is love and heavenly riches, not worldly gain. We practice the three virtues characterize a life in which God delights: KINDNESS, JUSTICE, and RIGHTEOUSNESS.