Mark 2:3-12 records the miracle of the lame man “borne of four” and lowered through the roof to be healed by Jesus. I’m very impressed with this miracle and impressed with the lesson behind it (v. 9-10). However, have you ever considered why the men lowered their friend through the roof? They had to do this because they couldn’t get their friend through the front door (v. 2, 4)! Prior to them bringing their friend to meet Jesus and be healed, Jesus had entered the house in Capernaum, and when He taught the people, they filled the house, so there was no more room in the house for anyone else (v. 1-2).
As I thought about the full house, it brought to mind two lessons:
- What Jesus brought to the people. Jesus didn’t come to Capernaum with bags of gold. He didn’t offer people freedom from enemies or some scheme for getting rich quick. He came to Galilee, “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mk. 1:14). I’m impressed with the book of Mark and how it emphasizes the word of Christ. Twenty-two times in sixteen chapters, we read about Christ’s work in spreading God’s truth. Some of the words used to describe Christ’s work include: “Taught” (9x); “preached” (2x); “preach” (1x); “teach” (4x); “teaching” (2x); and “doctrine” (4x). Jesus brought the people the truth (Jn. 17:17)! He made a point of telling as many people as possible about the “gospel of the kingdom.” May we learn a lesson from Christ in this. What’s on our lips? Do we take the time to tell someone about the Lord? If not, why not? Only through Christ will any man have salvation (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12)!
- What interest do we show in Christ’s teaching? I’m also impressed when I read passages like Mark 2:1-2 because I see a generation of people who took a genuine interest in the truth taught. I hear about similar responses in foreign countries like the Philippines, Colombia, China, and other places today, and for this, I am thankful. Yet, being a citizen of America, I wonder about those of us in the USA! What interest are we showing in God’s word? As Christians, is God’s word still our “first love”? Are we hungering and thirsting for the truth (Matt. 5:6)? If not, why not? Only the doctrine of Christ will bring salvation (Rom. 1:16; Mk. 16:15)! Only the doctrine of Christ tells us from whence we’ve come, why we’re here, and where we’re going when this life is over! There’s no other sustenance for the soul (I Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14). Is there any wonder folks in the first century flooded the house where Jesus was? They wanted nourishment! Do we appreciate God’s spiritual nourishment?
Having considered the above carefully, there is only one thing left to do: apply what we have learned! You see, these two elements go together like a hand in a glove. First, what are we teaching people? Do we know God’s word well enough to tell it to others? It’s high time we woke from our sleep and got busy learning the word so we can tell the truth to others (Heb. 5:12-14)! I am convinced there are people in the good ol’ “U.S. of A.” that want to hear the truth. Their problem is that they don’t know where to look! Too many groups calling themselves “churches” and claiming to love the Lord and His word talk about everything else but what is most important! Unfortunately, even some of my brethren are more concerned about social events, or whether or not the community thinks well of them, rather than focusing on the one thing that will save!
Have we ever thought about the fact that if we got focused again on the most important thing - the truth - we would attract people now as Christ did then! The gospel has the same power it has always had. Could it be, though, that we have lost faith in it?
Let’s remember what Christ brought the people and the people’s interest. These things are inseparable! Paul encouraged the same thing when he taught Timothy to “preach the word” (II Tim 4:2)! Are we willing to follow in the Lord’s footsteps? I’m convinced we haven’t worn out the Lord’s way yet! Let’s go back to that and see the blessings that come when we do things the Lord’s way!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The last part of Ecclesiastes 9:4 says that “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” What I find interesting is that in the days of Solomon, dogs were not “man’s best friend.” They were not considered pets but nuisances. Lions, on the other hand, were exalted and symbols of royalty. In those days, if one had the option, a regal-looking lion would be much preferred over some mutt dog. Yet, Solomon observed a living dog is still better than a dead lion.
What does such a statement mean? It is similar to our saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Put simply, it means that there are times when we are better off getting what is available, what is possible, instead of the things only wished for. We could say it this way: Take advantage of the opportunities you have instead of waiting for things that might never come!
I believe some folks are guilty of hoping for that “dead lion” when they think they will wait for a “convenient” time to be saved. Felix maintained this attitude (Acts 24:25), and though seeing Paul for over two years (v. 27), he never found a “convenient” time! Are we like this? Some wish to wait on their obedience to the Lord until they “know more” or until they have accomplished some goal. I know of people who said they needed more Bible knowledge before they could be saved. To these people, I asked, “You know the Lord’s plan of salvation and you know that you are in sin and need to be saved. At this point, what else do you need to know?” A living dog is better than a dead lion, friends!
Some will not tell others the truth about salvation and Jesus because they are afraid they do not know enough. They are concerned that some question might be asked of them that they cannot answer. Many are fearful of any type of “confrontation.” I think there is a large percentage of Christians who don’t wish to talk to people who are not like them -- whether racially, the same economic status, etc. What ultimately happens is that no teaching gets done, and a generation is lost in a Devil’s Hell. To these people, I say: “A living dog is better than a dead lion”! We are wasting our opportunities looking for the “perfect” opportunity, the “perfect” person, etc. Listen, those are not coming in that form. We need to understand that the “perfect” is only “perfect” in hindsight. Our opportunities to teach someone about the Lord doesn’t come wrapped in a pretty bow! They come to us at the bank and the grocery store. They come to us when we are dirty and sweaty from working, and with our children at night when we are tired. Opportunities to teach about Christ come to us looking like a flawed and failed person who is in sin and needs Christ. This person has sinned and has emotional or other types of “baggage” and regrets. It is these people who need to cast their care on Christ (I Pet. 5:7) but can’t do it until they are introduced to Him. What are we doing to help these people? Where is the love for our neighbor (Matt. 22:39)? Are we so busy waiting for “dead lions” that we are missing the “living dogs?”
Take a moment for true self-examination (II Cor. 13:5). What opportunities and who are we overlooking in our vain pursuits? The dead lion offers nothing for you. Stop wasting time on the impossible and accept and work with what is real and true! The blessings are sometimes right under our noses. We need to get them out of the clouds and down where we can focus on what is instead of what is not.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
At the end of Ecclesiastes 7, we read, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” These words are a sober reminder that what God had in mind for man and what man has become are two very different things!
When God began His work on earth, He made man ”upright.” This is not in reference to his bodily structure, but instead a reference to his soul. God created man free from the bondage of sin. It is by “one man sin entered the world” (Rom. 5:12; Gen. 3:1-6). God did not make man a sinner, yet, “all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12, 3:23)!
Solomon shows us that it is man who “sought out many inventions.” Instead of “inventions,” other Bible versions use terms like “schemes,” “devices,” “perversions,” and the like. One version that I think states this thought in plainer language says: “I did learn one thing: We were completely honest when God created us, but now we have twisted minds” (CEV).
Man left to himself, does not tend to get better, but tends to get worse (Jer. 10:23b)! On our own, we tend to follow after temptation, and this results in sin, heartache, sorrow, and ultimately death (Jas. 1:14-15). Yet, we keep following this path, thinking that things will somehow get better if we keep going. Sadly, just the opposite is true. Our sin leads to death and not life! Anyone who follows this path will meet destruction and be lost in Hell (Matt. 7:13-14).
Friend, are you awake (Rom. 13:11)? Are you listening? Living life as you please and answerable to no one but yourself will result in separation from God rather than growing closer to Him. God made man upright/honest, and if we wish to stay on that course, then we need to be faithful to Him! We need to “draw nigh to God,” and He will draw nigh/near to us (Jas. 4:8). As Barnabas taught, we need to “cleave unto the Lord” with “purpose of heart” and not let go (Acts 11:23)!
God made man upright, and He gave us a way to stay upright (Jn. 17:17; I Pet. 4:11; Col. 3:17)! Will we listen and obey so that we can go to Heaven one day? Or, will we turn to our own inventions and be lost in Hell? The choice, as it has always been, is up to us. Don’t allow another day to pass where you are following your own schemes. Instead, make today the day you repent and turn back to the Lord’s way (Acts 2:38)! You will be blessed beyond measure when you walk in the way that is upright (Eph. 1:3)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Do we have a problem with listening to too much? Sometimes we hear things said about us that are really none of our business. Why do we listen, and why do we take these words to heart? Solomon teaches us a hard lesson in Ecclesiastes 7:21, but it’s a lesson that will help us immensely if learned.
The Holy Spirit inspired the following: “Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee.” What a lesson! In a time when we want to hear all, and when social media allows us to hear it, let’s go back and listen to Solomon. He reminds us that this isn’t always a good idea! “Take no heed” means essentially, don’t take it seriously. I’ve had to tell people (and tell myself), “consider the source!” This is the essence of Ecclesiastes 7:21.
Don’t listen, nor take to heart everything that falls out of someone’s mouth (or keyboard). An enemy doesn’t have your best interests in mind, anyway. Someone may ask, “What if it’s a friend saying harmful things?” As someone once told me, “Hateful statements are sometimes made by kind people.” We don’t always know what a person’s disposition is when they say things. You may be the nearest person to criticize when a friend is angry! Someone has said, “He was in the line of fire.” Listen, dear one -- “take no heed”!
As I thought about Ecclesiastes 7:21, I also thought about the other side of this “coin.” You see, it’s true that harmful statements can be made in a moment, and yes, there are times when a person does damage with his sharp tongue (Jas. 3:2, 5-6, 8; Ecc. 5:6; Prov. 26:18-19). Yet, have we ever thought about the fact that perhaps some of the damage could’ve been lessened if we’d not taken it the way we did? Maybe there would’ve been no lasting damage done if, after we have heard someone say something, that we remembered the words, “For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others” (Ecc. 7:22)!
In other words, before we get too offended at what someone has said about us, remember that we probably did the same thing already! Did you mean it, or was your mouth in gear while your brain was in neutral? Were you angry, and this person was just the easiest “target”? Maybe that’s what happened to our friend, too. Think the best about people instead of thinking the worst (I Cor. 13:7). See how your life is bettered for it!
I know it is a hard pill to swallow in a society that prefers “information overload,” but sometimes, the best advice is: “Don’t listen!” You’ll be happier when you don’t have your nose in other people’s business. Furthermore, the one who said something hateful will have some time to calm down, reflect, and repent before things get worse. Isn’t this the way we live Matthew 7:12 and 22:39?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
From an early age, our youth lament about what is fair and what isn’t. I can remember things happening to me as a young child, and my response was, “That’s not fair!” Did you also say that in your youth? Maybe you have said those things even more recently? You’re probably right!
Solomon made this same observation about life in Ecclesiastes 7:15. He wrote, “All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.” Notice that Solomon observed what we have all seen, namely that life is not fair! A just man dies, while the wicked man lives, and we think it ought to be the other way around.
Asaph wrote a similar thing in Psalm 73. He said he was distressed over his observation of the wicked until he had almost given up altogether. “My feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped” (v. 2). He looked and saw the wicked, who, “are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men” (v. 5). Life is not fair!
Let us not despair, though. Though life is not fair to us, God is! It is God who praises the balanced scale (Prov. 11:1, 16:11, 20:23). It is God who looks on things fairly when men do not (Ezek. 18:20-32). It is God who knows how to judge us fairly, based upon our works and not merely our intentions (II Cor. 5:10; Ecc. 12:13-14; Matt. 25:31-45).
Looking again to Psalm 73, we see that Asaph’s distress and depression disappeared when he “went to the sanctuary of the Lord” and understood the “end” of the wicked (v. 17). He considered what God was doing and saw that even though life is not fair, God is! We may have hardships and unfairness to contend with in this life, but God sees and knows and will make all “fair” in the end.
The “prince of this world” favors those who hate God and despises those who love Him (Jn. 14:30, 15:18-20). This is why life on earth is not fair. God, however, brings balance and fairness to His children. The question is will we accept what the Lord has said? Will we be patient in an unfair world and realize that what is fair is on the way? “Let us not be weary in well-doing …” (Gal. 6:9).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs