Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What will you profit by today?

The dictionary defines profit as an advantageous gain or return, a benefit. In this week's Bible lesson on 'Substance' each section begins with a phrase about profit. So I decided to look for just what each person gained or benefited, how they learned more of what true substance is.

To profit from an experience one must also be a prophet or spiritual seer. One must begin with God as all there really is. There is nothing else. The three Hebrew boys knew that and they chose to disobey Nebuchanezzar's law and to only obey God's law. When they were punished by being tossed into the fiery furnace they emerged unharmed. So they profitted by learning that their true life and substance belonged to God and nothing could ever take it from them.

A widow turned to Elisha for help when her husband died and she could not meet her debts. She was about to lose her sons as well to the creditors. Elisha's answer was for her to borrow more, in the form of empty pots, and to then fill these from the only thing she thought she had left, one pot of oil. Her supply was only limited by the number of pots she borrowed as she filled them all and was able to pay her debt. She profitted by learning that her reliance was not on her husband, her sons, or Elisha, but only on God, good, who supplied her needs in abundance.

Solomon contacted a neighboring kingdom to ask for the supplies he needed to build a temple for God. This could not have happened when the land was at war, but now that they were at peace, he moved forward. His offer was to send his own servants to help and to pay fairly the servants of his neighbor. The agreement blessed both sides. Solomon profitted by seeing that his substance was from God and he had all he needed plus enough to be generous to his neighbor.

The man at the Pool of Bethesda thought he was without help to get the healing he needed. He told Jesus he had no man to help him. Yet there was the Messiah, right in front of him. His healing was instantaneous. He profitted by seeing the true source of healing was not in some random act of nature or with the aid of others, nor at the whim of chance. His true substance restored harmony and health.

The story of the tribute money is only given in the book of Matthew, which is not surprising as Matthew had been a tax collector when Jesus invited him to become a disciple. The half-shekel or Temple tribute was a customary tax towards the maintenance of the Temple services. Every male Israelite above the age of twenty was required by law to pay this annually. Jesus knew he was exempt from such a tax but chose to pay it., so that the creditors, who did not know he was the Son of God, would not get the false impression that he dishonored the Temple, thus hindering his ability to convert them. Jesus tells Peter how to get the money, from a fish's mouth, and that coin was enough to pay for both of them. In Jesus' case, a condensation, in Peter's a debt. The result is that the money appeared and the debt was paid. Peter profitted by this demonstration of God's power.

Although these events took place over 2,000 years ago, they are wonderful to read about, inspiring to contemplate, and just as possible for us today...if we choose to profit by them.

What will you profit by today?

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