Rapacity is such a striking concept, according to Dictionary.com
given to seizing for plunder or the satisfaction of greed.
Inordinately greedy; predatory; extortionate:
This word is closely akin to “rape,” and yet it is the very thing Jesus accuses the leaders of the Jewish religion, the Pharisees of being.
In Luke’s Gospel, after the disciples ask Jesus why his disciples don’t ceremonially wash their hands. the Lord said to him,
“Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of [rapacity] and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also?
Luke 11:39-40 (NASB brackets mine)
The indictment is not on the external world but doubly about their internal world. The two things mentioned: Rapacity (the craving for more to satisfy the self) and wickedness (lack of ethical moral character) are things I myself as a sinful human being can identify with. In fear, I crave the acquisition of my own entertainment so I don’t get listless, my own food so I don’t get hunger pains, my own acceptability in crowds so I don’t feel ostracized, my own money so I can avoid being forced to do anything. I crave the satisfaction of the self. I know what it is to serve God in a skin-deep way, only inside to leave the more precious, secret and important things for myself. The result of my own Rapacity has led me to situations where I am less than ethically or socially or morally care-filled, loving, and true.
This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. This is because the rapacity and wickedness of man has, does, and will destroy God’s messengers.
How do I know? Because of what Jesus says when he switches from talking to the Pharisees to the Law-experts. The Pharisees and the Law-experts were of the same sin. He tells them:
“Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs.
Luke 11:47-48 (NASB)
They are the offspring of those who killed the prophets, the rapacious and the wicked. It was this rapacity and wickedness that God recognized and said in His wisdom:
“I will send to them prophets and messengers and from out of them they will kill and persecute.”
Jesus quoting the Wisdom of God (Luke 11:49, translation mine)
Anyone who thinks that the days of persecution of God’s people are finished is shortsighted and foolish. It is the one who recognizes the wisdom of God that see the rapacity and wickedness of man, including the rapacity and wickedness of their own heart are the real villains in this world. The craving to serve the self and the lack of character has rendered the very object of God’s desire–the heart of His beloved creatures– the very weapon of the enemy used against God to wound Him.
The rapacity of man makes war against God and His people.
The call now to you, if He gives you the conviction of this rapacity and evil in yourself, is: repent! If you are like the Pharisees and your outer world is good while your inner world is rotting away with greed, and all the dark treasures you hold close for your own self-service and self-glory, then Jesus’ words to you are these:
“Charitably give what is within you, then behold everything is clean about you.”
Luke 11:41 (NASB)
The way to repent of this selfish desire to attain for self, is to give those things that are most special to you to the Lord and to the poor by extension. Then you will be like your Father who gives the deepest truest treasures He loves to show the World how much He loves them.
One final warning–do not leave your rapacity unrepentant: it makes you an enemy of God.
Through translation and the molten nature of meaning in language, I have recaptured in my imagination something pleasantly sober the way even the hardest truths can be. No matter how hot the fire burns or how brutally it breaks down constructed things to irreducibly simple forms, it still brings warm life to the cold and reminds us of deep things intrinsic to human existence.
Consider the earth, with only the surface inhabitable, and yet beneath an entire world un-trodden by man’s body, where only his dreams and musings may go. Understanding goes deep with a person deeper than their body, but it also comes forth from within a person in ways that effect their tangible livelihood. There are lightnesses of understanding which men contemn, and there are depths to which some men go that many who go there seem stuck upside down with their bottom sticking up in the air: completely un-comprehensible to the surface mind. The lightness does the heart good, like the sea air does the deep-sea diver’s lungs good. But the Ordinary alone is not enough to maintain a profitable life. The ordinary life in which we live– that layer of reality in which we move around, make decisions, and react with decisions and chance far greater than our own control– is ruled by other layers of reality. And the deepest layers are the Highest layers. Let me lay out these layers as I see them.
-1. Humor. Humor is the level of understanding to which one person goes, to make another person exert greater understanding than himself. It makes the ordinary feel that he is indeed sane, and this fool who prates on and on makes him who is listening feel that he is sound. It is the humble gift God has given humanity to encourage and comfort the world with its ever-precarious, ever sobering, ever deepening conditions of decay and uncertainty and trouble. Well-crafted humor is the very fragrance of understanding rising up from the vents of that which is deeper than us. But, when used effectively, humor raises us to great heights, then either sets us down again, or plunges us into the deeper understandings into which we must dive. O the thrill of the hammer swung backward through the air, only to rush forward to drive the nail home once more! O the exuberant and silly breath we take to dive once more to the depth of understandings!
0. OrdinaryReality. The realm of the real and clear. Here far is far, and near is near, a spade is a spade, and a cigar is a cigar. Do not read between the lines. Words are sufficient. Listen to what is said. Read what is written. See what is shown. Many find this simple life good. It is. And yet the corruptions beneath the surface have far too often twisted the surface to that which is not simple. Look around you at the dishonesty of man’s hearts. A simple weight well-calibrated is true and good. It is the plethora of dishonest weights that make this level of understanding a dangerous ground. “Don’t believe everything you read” say the wise, and wizened. Solomon also said, “The simple believe every word, but the prudent consider their steps.” ~Prov 14:15.
1. Joy— Ah the pledge of good faith! There is truth beneath the surface! The Promise of a better surface life comes from digging a deep foundation and a roomy storehouse where the temperature is cool year round. Such cools calm the temperamental flares of heat which spring from a lack of reserve. The deep waters of life flow beneath the surface, and cool water is a nourishment to every soul seeking shade and sweetness in this broken desert of life. A man of understanding carries within him an oasis in any desert! He is the happiest of fellows to embrace the streams of truths that water all of the plants up on the surface. Indeed, for many this results in a nerdy withdrawal from all things surface and ordinary, and thereby leaving those without refreshment feeling abandoned, ignored, and deprecated. Nevertheless, these ordinary folk gain the hearty laugh of staring at people up-ended, bottoms in the air seeking some sort of treasures and refreshment that would otherwise be bought with a great cost underneath the hard sun.
2. Weight— The pledge is sweet, and the collection of waters tastes good, but there is too much water to carry around with a person. A man’s canteen, strength, stomach, and mind can only handle so much. Eventually, the immovable and inescapable nature of what is understood leads many to shy away from the responsibility which is thrust upon those who have understood it. Not only are there many who are in need of the life here in encased, but the one who knows of it comes to see the real predicament at the surface. The pressure and weight of all the understanding comes to sober the one once drunk with the pleasure and raucous laughter of understanding, and he comes to see his own face in the water, and in that face recognize his own makeup of water, and his resemblance to the owner and supplier of all the water in the world. These are those who are stuffy and self-absorbed and feel impregnated with the grand self-importance of that which they hold, lest they give way to the deeper levels of understanding which require greater courage.
3. Sorrow–Fingernails grind on a chalkboard, and a bone fallen out of joint is a deep pang of something wrong in the world. Understanding brings grief, that depth of the weight of all the world crashing down on broken supports. Seeing people in reality slip off the edge into oblivion unnecessarily just because the scales are tipped out of favor of real justice. It is heartbreaking to know not only the problems for so many, but the connection of the problems to other problems both cause and effect, and to see this web of impossibility, like the web created by a mirror shattered and fragmented from some point of impact. Understanding in people who face the deep underbelly of the world have one of two directions they can go now. It is too thick to explore here, you cannot go left and right. You can return to the surface with your sorrow you have learned, and boast over your understanding as deep as you went. You laugh at those who revel in new discoveries, because you have forgotten the pledge of good faith, and have seen heartbreak the more understanding you have grown. You can return jaded. Or you can go down deeper.
4. Surrender— The point of impact, where the real world we live in was shattered like that mirror is the brokenness of humanity which must be acknowledged and dealt with at the source of the problem: me. G.K. Chesterton understood this when asked in a Newspaper, what is the problem with the world.” He responded with these two words, “I am.” This is the moment to which Understanding leads a person: will you seek to preserve your life, or will you lose it? Here again, the man who has understood– who has “stood under” the reality of life and seen it’s fractured-ness and fractals and fractions–has two choices. He can lose self in annihilation or an inglorious manner that utterly rejects the goodness of understanding he learned at the beginning. Or He can entrust himself to the wise One who led him down this far on his journey of understanding, and commit the unpardonable sin against self: surrender to someone greater than yourself who requires your all with no caveats, no reservations, and no exit strategy. This is the “Lose yourself” that Jesus spoke of when he said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel will find it.” It is a risk. It is very much like death. It’s like giving up, except it’s more like “Okay God, you win. I won’t keep fighting you anymore. I will actually submit to you, and accept that You are the Savior and not me.” This is the decision to which your journey deeper into understanding has been leading. There is Reality, Joy, Responsibility, Sorrow, and ultimately Surrender of self to the One who has proved how worthy He is through his impeccable track record.
This is the end. Of the old life. Of the New life This is the beginning.
“There are depths of love that I cannot know, til I cross the narrow sea. There are heights of love that I may not reach, til I rest in peace with Thee.” ~Fanny Crosby
Understanding brings a person to the core of all that is, and he discovers the need to surrender, and once there is surrender, suddenly, from the very core of a person’s existence to which Understanding has led, a life is born anew. A life that is never-ending because it is begun by the One who is Never-ending. A life that is not your own, but belongs to the One who truly owns all things. A life that is set not on a broken platform, but the deepest possible foundation: to the core of reality itself: The Maker, the Word, and the Resurrection. This is where Understanding can bring a person, but only with humility, love, grace, and courage–honesty with self and God. He is there at the center of the layers of reality. And in His presence is the FULLNESS of the joy the understanding of which one found hints at the beginning of his journey. He is there, eagerly awaiting those who will take up their cross, and lay down their lives for His World-saving cause.
These are the Depths of Understanding as I have seen it. And I hope that God gives you the heart to go to this depth with Him. Remember: “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” ~Hebrews 11:6.” If you find yourself at any point of this journey and you have stopped short of the Self-Loss Surrender that leads to life, go back to the last point you found yourself, and seek God. After all, “He who seeks God understands all things.” (Prov 28:5)
– – Last week, I shared about Jesus in his Humanity being born of man, and having a lot in common with us. Since the day He was born, He has been showing us the real meaning of the Image of God in man: Humility. The next stage is what comes after a person has been exposed to Christ and how he grows in the blessing and knowledge of God’s goodness.
The next stage is what we have in Luke’s Gospel at Jesus’ 8th day old and his 12th year old. The significant stage when Jesus was recorded at the Temple has two different parts which are super important for the man or the woman who is coming into their fullness as a Little-Christ.
The First, is Blessing, (Luke 2:21-40.) A parent has such love for their children, and here it seems to me that God showed favor to the little boy Jesus by sending Simeon and Anna to bless him. This was such a wonderful practice which ties to the Old Testament like in Genesis when Isaac, and Jacob blessed their children and spoke words that would come to shape their direction. (Genesis 27, 49) Notice that it is the blessing that precedes any command. From the beginning we have this pattern,
“God blessed them, and told them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:28)
In the Ten commandments, “I am the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me . . . ” (Exodus 20:2-3)
The Sermon on the mount opens with blessing and continues with commands. (Matthew 5)
Even if you look at the Great Commission, you have a very interesting phrase, “And he blessed them and said, ‘All authority has been given me in Heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples . . .'” (Matthew 28:18)
It appears that God’s pattern is to bless his creation, profess his goodness, then to stress what he wills for the creation to do. If we see this pattern throughout the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, should we be surprised to see it in Jesus’ life?
The Second thing, is Learning in the temple at 12 years old. In Philippians, Paul said, Jesus ’emptied himself.’ in Philippians 2. He needed to be taught. His understanding and his ‘answers’ amazed the teachers in the temple as he submitted to their teaching. Recently, I saw a Mormon video of Jesus in the temple himself doing the teaching, but the Canon of Scripture the Church worshipfully chose and keeps says, in Luke’s account that he was
. . . sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.~Luke 2:46
That is the pattern of one who humbly receives from those wiser and older than he. It is this stage of Jesus’ life where he was growing super familiar with the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. As Jesus did for his disciples in their “stage 2” when he “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45) In the later stages, Jesus was only able to do the teaching he did because he had passed through this stage, having received God’s blessing, and having been taught God’s Word. He had been given the full framework for His own person and spread out his understanding to fully grasp his story.
These days, I have seen a fading in the excitement of seeing mass conversions to Christ, because so few of them seem to be followed up by something evidently genuine. People hear the Gospel, (which is a crucial part of Stage 2) but they do not progress beyond that. It appears that the person who has only reached this stage where they receive God’s blessing and learn God’s teaching, but progresses no further in their walk are merely shown to be soil that is hard, stony, or thorny. The word of God bears no fruit, and their heart is proved worthless.
The importance of this stage, however must be kept at the level with all the others. It is the blessing of God which reminds us how much we owe him in worship, glory, and thanks, for making us and giving us such good gifts. Many churches still are very intentional about blessing their congregations. Also, exposure to and training by Christians keeps on shedding light and nourishment on the soil of the heart filled with the faith of a child– faith which according to Jesus is necessary to be saved. In today’s time, a Christian will likely receive much of this stage in the temple of the church, though in relationship with a small number of believers it is possible. In this stage a Christian has certain things he must be sure he gains, things he must take care to avoid.
Blessing– learn how much Good blesses and loves you through the blessings of people in the church. Learn how his love has shaped them, and as one who is in a later stage, take it upon yourself to extend God’s blessing to the world so they can know God’s love and goodness in a personal way.
Knowledge of God— Many claim to know Him, but have no idea who He is, or how or why he does things. The Scriptures bear witness to this: “In [the gospel] the Righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Romans 1:17. It is this faith by which a Christian can live. If he lacks this knowledge of God, he can by no means be saved.
Understanding about yourself. I am hesitant to put this in, because there’s all kinds of hoaky stuff out there about “be the best you.” and “Know thyself” etc. Still, even some popular theologians like John Calvin have recognized that the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self are inseparable. Here, the value on self-understanding is notfor the purpose of Maslov’s self-actualization. It is more for the purpose of the prodigal son when he “came to himself.” It’s that moment when you come to the end of all that you are and recognize that you are totally broken and corrupt and in rebellion against God. This is crucially important for the Christian who seeks to enter the next stage.
Wisdom of God–Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) There’s a certain way the world works. It needs to be understood in light of the Story of God’s interactions with fallen humanity. Stories teach us wisdom even more so than they do knowledge.
False Teaching– Jesus reserved his “Woes” for those who taught God’s word incorrectly. People who twist the Scriptures having neither, the spirit nor the letter correctly settled in the heart create great problems in the life of God’s people. Matthew 23. Measure up everything to the Scriptural revelation of Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t ring true with him ask more questions.
Traditionalism— There are those who have sought to make the church accessible to the three bad kinds of soils previously mentioned: the shallow, the hard-hearted, and the worldly. Avoid these things as you grow in Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding.
For the hard-hearted, they can still hear about Jesus, but they won’t be required to actually believe it. Maybe to fit in they will be required to do only superficial demonstrations of devotion like raising their hands, giving money, and attending regularly, nothing really all-involving.
For the stony-hearted, they can come to church, but there won’t be any really challenging doctrine that requires them to take deeper looks at themselves. They will have plenty of good man-teaching that will teach them have to grow maybe some AstroTurf lawn grass but no fruit.
For the thorny-hearted, they can come to church, and hear God’s word and even do some worthwhile things, but they won’t be required to clear out all the other stuff that’s important to them. They can come to church one day a week and six days of the week keep a garden of worldly thorns like entertainment, work, family, and possessions.
Summary: The Second Stage of a believer’s life is where the truth and blessing of God pour into a person. A person who is seeking to grow “To a mature man” needs to gain the blessing, knowledge, wisdom and understanding of this stage while avoiding False teaching or Tradition. Until a believer has biblical faith, he is not ready for stage 3.
Final thought: This stage could be compared with childhood, and for the Christian, I believe he can take comfort in this: that he is fulfilling this part of his Savior’s word, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Mt 18:3.
O for courage to face the broken sphere
So easily comparable to the human soul
In which high thoughts like mountains sheer
Arise from the ever-moving ocean of emotion.
The Eye that pierces space and time
In search of eternity’s finitude
Alight with the small sun’s radiance sublime
A little dimmer than Mercury or Venus can tell.
Little part; big proportion. Tiny ant or looming mountain
Every piece of God’s creation patterned to His majesty.
Such a care of gentle wisdom, for the Sun to keep His distance
So all can delight in His good gifts, and not be swallowed up by His immensity!
O sphere so broken, trampled, bent.
His care for you is evident.
So let the eye of His image soften
To see the Good sparkling in His eye.
I don’t like reading poetry
Except the works of old:
That timeless art of honesty
Where heart-sung words unfold
Like flowers. Shimmering and glistening
With vibrant tones and luscious accents
Knocking on the door of children listening
Hoping to know their guardian’s intents
Here I raise two books to the sky.
Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament
I hold in my hand Heaven and Earth.
And in between a human seeker
A person who is being shaped
To the image of the Author:
The servant who suffers is communicating
A meaningful truth inseparable from eternal love.
A Ravine. One who stands on one side
Sees only half of what can be seen below.
He who stands on the other side
Can only see half of what lies below.
But he who walks the tightrope between
And peers down straight into the deeps
Only to him can both halves be seen
As awestruck he barely balance keeps.
Mark well the poet who sees Three-D.
Such a one can see a penny from both sides
The canons that fire both ways in one shot
Are aimed with Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws in sight.
With all complexity of sides and tales
The center simple stays the same.
A start with an end that never fails:
The fear of Yahweh’s perfect name.
Madam Grandmother had a house of grey:
Grey roof, grey shutters, grey siding.
All one story; All one level
Surrounded by box hedge plants waist high.
A hedgeman had come and trimmed them recently
But he only chopped the shape just right.
He did not seek to undertake
The dive seeking weeds of thorn and vine:
Young spritely clinging little buggers
Troublesome meddlers in a boxy world
In shadowy subtlety they showed their heads
A long time they had grown in secret.
The hedgeman returned at the grandmother’s request
The bushes needed trimming, but the vines were his quest.
Over two days he set about the purge
Of everything that grew up from secretly seeded earth.
He found himself saying, as the vines scraped his arm:
“My goodness this bush is a pain.”
But then he thought to himself: I wonder if God looks that way on me?
Extricating and tending the bush planted well.
From the weeds of the seeds of the unworthy sown.
Did the Maker of creation who saw it was good
Did He say, “This is a pain.” When the devil’s seed was sown?
Grace shines like the hot afternoon sun on his back.
Reminding him of the Maker’s glowing face.
Which does not cool when faced by those who turn
Their back on him shady tents to pitch.
O grief, such grief: that crown of thorns
That encircled the Savior’s human brow
To crown the flower with Satan’s weeds
To raise up a sacrifice of earth because of Heaven’s love.
Of course! Twas not for grief He bore
But for the Joy that was set before!
His cross he endured and the seed he planted
In the tomb of the rock to sprout forth with new creation!
Determined by his Father’s love,
Pronounced for the world from the beginning
He did not merely say, “It is good.”
He simply “Saw that it was good.”
Now the hedgeman was ennobled to press
Through the thorns that tore his exposed flesh
For in these thorns a fresh thought was true:
God fell in love with the world to make it new.
Emancipation: the feeling surged as one by one the vines relinquished their hook
They could not withstand the power of man determined to make the bushes good.
Why? Because these bushes were planted first, and then the weeds took root.
The bushes are good, it’s the weeds that have corrupted their look
So even though the weeds are deep entwined
With the plants of the Grandmother’s good intention
Still, deeper is the ability to dig
With a pair of pruning sheers to clip the hidden stems.
Strong is the stock the Sower sowed
When He made the world out of His goodness
The enemy may have added his own ingloriousness
But the Angels can tell what is good by its fruit.
Oscillating between standing and kneeling
The hedgeman cleared away the weeds by probing deeply.
Humility and confidence to seek understanding and apply it:
Getting to the root, and pulling up the shoot.
Familiar with these living plants
Their tender leaves not sown by chance
Were worth releasing from these self-ish pokes
For which the fire the Angel stokes.
Grappling with the plant near the top does no good.
It took a long time to reach the now spoiled-sightly top.
With a firm hand the hedgeman pulls on the vine
So he can pluck the thorns like a bow string and cut the base.
Others yank the plant up by the stem
Hoping that the whole thing will come right out.
Those who are clever know such a risk is not sound
Even if it clears the top, soon the issue will reemerge.
During his struggle, He sees the Creator dealing with him.
Not managing his issues so as to keep God busy
But always asking the questions that get at the heart
Of why man hides and turns his back on Him.
Resting in the tension of the Master’s pull
And wincing at the precise cuts of the wise Healer
Leveling haughty lusts from creeping back out again.
He reminds me of His pleasing and excellent plan
Utilizing the hedgeman to keep the hedges beautiful
The Creator has appointed a manager for His Creation
A Creation He made so beautiful, that it was even good in His own eyes.
The only One who is Good, saw that it was good.
Lo, He did not only say “It was good” when he made the light.
Nor even when he made land, trees, fruit and seed
Nor even when he made stars, and birds and fish and animals
But when He appointed man to rule He saw that it was VERY good.
Ended the task, back stood the hedgeman and smiled
The grey house framed by box-hedged life
The weeds were cast away to rot, to be chewed, and to die
And the Hedgeman sees that the Earth is worth redeeming.
” . . . All you need to do is be a tree like I am,” the Old Oak said to the Wandering Willow who had pulled up her roots like feet and had left home in search of the world beyond her sight. She would set her roots down when she started to wither, but she had forgotten what type of tree she was, because she never stayed rooted long enough to bear any fruit. In desperate anxiety, she had returned home to find out who she was from her wise friend the Old Oak. He had said to her, “Why, you were the Well-watered Willow before you started to wander, but if you really want to know who you are, there’s only one way. . .”