“Do not eat the bread of a selfish
man, or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He
says to you, ‘Eat and drink!’ But his heart is not with you" (Proverbs
Diana, a member of our Prayer Team, sent us this: “Could
you write a sermon about ‘as a man thinks in his
heart, so is he?’” (our Scripture for
today). Diana is the friend and neighbor of Robbie, a teenager who received a
heart transplant when he was very young and now he needs another one. The two of
them had a discussion about “how thoughts affect every
aspect of our lives.” Diane wrote, “Since I am not
a pastor, it is hard for me to expound on certain Scriptures or to give him the
correct interpretation. He spends part of his days with me and the rest of the
day he is home-schooled. He gets bored and we have talks about Scripture and
life and so on, to help make the time waiting for ANOTHER new heart pass easily.
Because he is 14, he has limited patience with Bible stuff as most teenagers
tend to, but our discussion was very good and I would love a sermon on this
subject if you have the time and are so inclined. Blessings, Diana.” I
indeed do have the time and yes, I am inclined to prepare a sermon for Robbie.
It is called “Thoughts,” and it is as follows:
We have an interesting photograph of a lawn area in
Central Park, which we took a few years ago in New York City. It’s interesting
because, at the front of the picture there is a metal sign that says, “Stay
Off The Grass!” but behind the sign in the picture there are dozens of
people, sitting and standing on that very grass, sunning themselves and enjoying
the moment. The fine print on the sign revealed the reason for the prohibition –
the city had re-seeded the lawn and wanted to give it time to grow. It was
obvious that those who were on the lawn had thoughts about how things should be.
They would use it for themselves, even if it damaged the young seedlings and the
future of that stretch of grass.
The Scripture for today talks about someone who wants to
be liked and entertains others in order to achieve that goal, but when his or
her thoughts are revealed by God through the author of Proverbs, the person in
question is shown to be utterly selfish, acting only for themselves. Dr. Edward
de Bono, who, at last count, wrote 65 books on the subject of thinking said, “Many
highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence
are skilled thinkers,” concluding, “The power of a
car is separate from the way the car is driven.” A good thinker is aware
of the needs of others, and is not merely in it for themselves. Many of those on
that lawn had children with them. We send countless subliminal messages to our
children by our behavior, influencing their decisions in the future. They are
likely to follow bad examples, not unlike when WE were growing up.
Those who sat on the grass in that park said to
themselves, “I will sit on this grass and enjoy myself,” without a thought that
the grass was planted for the future, not just for the moment. The sign, “Stay
Off The Grass,” and the low, temporary fence around the newly-seeded area, was
intended to give the lawn time to grow to a point when the sign could be taken
down, and ALL could enjoy a beautiful lawn. Forethought is a part of what
intelligence really is, and so is consideration of others, a form of love.
Our thoughts, as revealed in today’s Scripture, really
do shape who we are and what we will become. An unknown author said,
“Watch your thoughts; they become
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.”
Our thoughts are capable of becoming a reality that
affects others, and our thoughts will produce unexpected outcomes in our own lives as
well. That lawn was just a lawn, but it was so deeply green and beautiful that
it was sad to limit its potential before its time. What we really should be
concerned about are thoughts that result in harm to people, not unlike the
subtle message sent to the children in relation to that lawn. The adults were
unconsciously promoting the idea that it is better to give in to momentary
desire than to care about the needs of others.
The other day, I observed a homeless man who crossed the
street in front of my car while I waited for a traffic light to turn green. He
had the marks of drug and alcohol abuse written on his face and stamped upon his
shuffling body. At some point he had a mother, father, possibly siblings, and
all too likely he has a child or children who wonder why their dad is gone. At
some point he was at a crossroads and thought, “Should I go to that party?” or,
“They want me to try that substance; should I do it?” He thought, “Yes, I will,”
and his action ultimately led him to the place where he is today.
A lady named Michelle contacted our Prayer Team this
week for prayer about her godson, Art, who “took something”
and has been in the hospital for two months. Art is 17 and would be graduating
from high school, but he is now in rehab. When Michelle and her daughter went to
visit him, he “looked like he was in a car accident… He
has seizures… He is now opening his eyes, but he can’t talk because of the
‘tracheotomy’ in his neck that lets him breathe.” Some “friend” of Art
said, “Try this,” and Art did. We want to go back in time and shout, as in
today’s Scripture, “Art, ‘his
heart is not with you… don’t eat the bread of a
sinful man,’” but it’s too late. At least for now, the Art that “everybody
knew and liked” – is gone.
But we can eat the “bread”
of our Lord without fear (He is “the bread of life”
– John 6:48). You can safely “eat and drink” at His
table for you can TRUST in Him. All of us need to see that Almighty God is
precisely the OPPOSITE of the selfish person in our verse for today. Our Lord is
full of love. There is something in us that doesn’t want to be blocked from what
we want to do – I have often felt frustrated by a slower driver in the fast
lane, when he or she is right in front of me! But it’s begun to occur to me that
God sometimes slows me down in order to keep me and others safe from something that might
be ahead on the road of life.
It’s got to be difficult for Robbie (who needs a new
heart) to see it, but the Lord has a purpose for slowing down his life; a good
purpose. When I was young, I spent kindergarten through part of the fifth grade
in wheelchairs and in hospital beds. I missed five years of school and never
truly recovered as a student. I thought, “Why me?” and Robbie, who needs yet
another new heart, must have thought about such things as well. We don’t know
why at the time, for the reason is still in the future. But the five years in MY
life has paid off for the good, time and time again. We often have to WAIT to
see God’s good purposes.
Lord, instead of looking to a “selfish man,” let us
trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.