You Only Get What You Give

If you want to get to heaven… Love is all you need. God will provide. What goes up, comes down. Just desserts. Be the best you can be. No fear. These are sound bytes that most, if not all, of us have heard before. These are also ideas that are touched on in our Old and New Testament readings for this month of February.

Jeremiah and Isaiah were Old Testament prophets who were not always Israel’s favorite commentators. They really didn’t want that honor anyway. But God chose them, made sure that they knew that they were more than capable of doing what He asked, and guided them through the troubled times that they prophesied about. They urged the Israelites to trust in God, not in their short-sighted, selfish selves. When they didn’t listen, they punished themselves. When they finally took the prophets’ hints, they were restored. God delivered them from their distress. You have to be open to God no matter what the circumstances. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers! Yet, the Lord guided him to Egypt and using the skills God gave him, he became an Egyptian VIP. That put him in a position to save his family (including his brothers!) during a long, brutal famine. Joseph (eventually) saw his sale as part of God’s plan to preserve his family and the future of Israel.

In 1st Corinthians, Paul speaks of God transforming us if we just let Him work his “magic”. Paul used himself as an example. He went from being a persecutor of Christians to becoming Christianity’s greatest public relations guru. He would show millions and millions of people, then up to now, who Jesus was and what we could do if we trusted in Him. Paul just had to be open to God’s grace. Of course, God had to knock him off his horse to get his attention. The rest is history.

Jesus preached all these ideas and lived them during His time here on Earth. He was a prophet not accepted by those who didn’t/wouldn’t understand his teachings. But he promised (and delivered) that those who trust in Him would be relieved of their suffering and even do things they would never have believed possible. The reviled will rejoice. And like the Hebrews when they dropped God from their lives, those who cause and profit from suffering will be brought to justice.

So, for us, as we journey through a troubled world, we have a choice to make. Do we put our trust in God or in our own short-sighted interests? In other words, are we going to love God and our neighbor, or just ourselves? God has given us what each one of us needs to do what Isaiah and Jeremiah did – whatever God asked of them. Paul told us that we can and should take full advantage of our God-given gifts. But without love we are nothing but a lot of selfish, useless, deafening noise. Jesus told us to love everybody, even – especially - those who can do nothing for us. He will see to it that we have the only true reward that really matters. We will get what we give. If we trust Him….

Beverly A. Tasy

St. Christopher's Episcopal Church