The dominion of forgiveness

This is the scriptural solution to evil in the world.

Romans 12:21: “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

This famous verse written by Paul to the Roman congregation, while well-known, is much less practiced than it is widely known.

The word for overcoming comes from the Greek root word which means victory, or conquest. The famous Nike statue known as winged victory (the armless, headless torso of a woman with wings spread wide) is based on this very same Greek word.

This famous verse comes contextually on the heels of Paul explaining how vital it is for believers to treat others, especially those who are adversarial, with uncommon love and respect.

Romans 12:17-18,20: “Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. … Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Paul here is actually quoting an Old Testament principle that is found in the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 25:21-22: “If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink; for so doing you shall heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward you with good.”

This was also a core teaching of Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount, demonstrating a thread of consistent emphasis throughout all of scripture. It was obviously given fresh life and emphasis in the teachings of Yeshua, and then deeply ingrained into the mindset of the early believers.

Matthew 5:44-45: “But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. “

Yeshua explains that practicing this ideal signifies the believer as a true child of God. A child of God carries the same spiritual DNA as its parent and will therefore conform to the practices of the parent.

This ability to overcome is rooted in the concept of forgiveness, as no one can truly bless their enemies unless they have let infractions go. It is one thing to follow the command with gritted teeth, uttering curses under our breath, trying to be faithful to what we have been tasked to do. However, it is another thing entirely to truly forgive someone who has wronged us, and to serve them honestly from the heart. To be able to practice this overcoming quality, believers must be willing to forgive. Doing so enables us to actually and effectively practice this vital principle that Yeshua commanded us.

This idea of being born of God and overcoming is also carried forward by the apostle John. This is the only other passage in the New Testament that speaks of this ability to overcome, or be victorious.

1 John 5:1-5: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the child who is born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is loving God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Our faith in the Messiah allows us to overcome the world, and in overcoming the world, we are therefore afforded the ability to overcome the evil that is present everywhere. This is the scriptural solution to evil in the world. It begins with obedient children of God respecting and honoring all others in a way that honors God.

This is how God‘s plan for the dominion of believers in the world takes place, not through conquest and bloodshed, not through political reform, but through simple forgiveness and honest service to others in the name of God.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Giving with intention and love

What does Yeshua really teach about giving to help those in need?

Core of the Bible podcast #29 – Giving with intention and love

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of compassion, and how our giving to the needs of others should stem from an intentional purpose of assistance and a heart of love, and not from a place of financial reciprocation.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Give to everyone who asks from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. … And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Luke 6:30-31, 34-35

In these verses, Yeshua appears to be saying that believers should give and loan freely to whoever asks of us, expecting nothing back from them. The distinctive aspect of how believers are supposed to model giving is to go outside the normal boundaries of the culture; to willingly give to those who would be considered unlikely recipients: those who can’t repay, even those who could be considered enemies.

This is not a practice for the faint of heart. Giving as God intends requires mettle and resolve. This is not “feel-good” giving. In fact, this type of giving can be painful because it seems so contrary to common sense.

First, it would be helpful if we were to identify what type of giving is being talked about here. An interesting dynamic is raised by the parallel of this teaching of Yeshua in Matthew 5:42

Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asks of you, and him that would borrow from you turn not away.

I am becoming of the opinion that, in our rush to exhibit compassion to others, we may have missed the actual intent of Yeshua’s teaching on this matter. As always, we need to remember that Yeshua’s teachings are all based on the torah of God.

Matthew 5:17, 19 “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. … “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

As we review the commands of God, we find basis for this teaching of Yeshua which may shed additional light on our giving practices.

Exodus 22:25 If you lend money to one of My people among you who is poor, you must not act as a creditor to him; you are not to charge him interest.

Leviticus 25:35-37 Now if your countryman becomes destitute and cannot support himself among you, then you are to help him as you would a foreigner or stranger, so that he can continue to live among you. 36Do not take any interest or profit from him, but fear your God, that your countryman may live among you. 37You must not lend him your silver at interest or sell him your food for profit.

Deut 15:4-6: “However there shall be no poor with you (for Yahweh will surely bless you in the land which Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance to possess it) if only you diligently listen to Yahweh your God’s voice, to observe to do all this commandment which I command you today. For Yahweh your God will bless you, as he promised you. You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow. You will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.”

Deut 15:7-11: “If a poor man, one of your brothers, is with you within any of your gates in your land which Yahweh your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother; but you shall surely open your hand to him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need, which he lacks. Beware that there not be a base thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand”; and your eye be evil against your poor brother, and you give him nothing; and he cry to Yahweh against you, and it be sin to you. You shall surely give, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him; because that for this thing Yahweh your God will bless you in all your work, and in all that you put your hand to. For the poor will never cease out of the land. Therefore I command you to surely open your hand to your brother, to your needy, and to your poor, in your land.”

Deuteronomy 23:19-20 “You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. 20“You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess.

Based on these passages, it is apparent that in the days of ancient Israel, with no established banks or other forms of credit, it was a common practice for those who might have fallen on hard times to request loans from family and friends to get back on their feet.

Ellicott’s commentary states the following on Matthew 5:42 regarding someone who would borrow from you:

From him that would borrow.—The force of the precept depends on its connection with the Jewish Law, which forbade not only what we call usury, i.e., excessive interest, but all interest on loans where debtor and creditor alike were Israelites (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:37; Deuteronomy 23:19-20). From our modern point of view that law cannot be regarded as in harmony with the present order of society, nor consistent with our modern views of financial justice. It is not the less true, however, that in the education of a family or nation, such a prohibition may be a necessary and useful discipline. We should look with scorn on boys who lent on interest to their brothers or their schoolfellows, and the ideal of the Law of Moses was that of treating all Israelites as brothers brought under the discipline of the schoolmaster. As if with a prescient insight into the besetting temptation of the race, the lawgiver forbade a practice which would have destroyed, and eventually did destroy, the sense of brotherhood (Nehemiah 5:1-13), leaving it open to receive interest from strangers who were outside the limits of the family (Deuteronomy 23:20). The higher law of Christ treats all men as brothers, and bids us, if it is right to lend as an act of charity, to do so for love, and not for profit.

The intent of these torah commands, coupled with Yeshua’s teaching, seems to imply that there should not be discrimination in whom you lend to, whether close associate whom you know will repay, versus a faint acquaintance whom you recognize may never repay you. The issue was not the repayment, but the generous giving in love.

I believe we can learn much, both good and bad, from contemporaneous writings from ancient Israel. I like reading the apocrypha, or the additional books of the Bible that are found in Orthodox and Catholic versions of the Bible, because they provide historical perspective on how the Tanakh, or Old Testament, was being interpreted by the culture in the time period between the Old and New Testaments.

For example, in the apocryphal book of the Wisdom of Sirach, which is very similar to the book of Proverbs, there’s an insightful teaching that corresponds with Yeshua’s mentality in our current passage under discussion, explaining the benefits of unrestricted generosity.

Sirach 29: 1-13 He that shows mercy will lend to his neighbor,  and he that strengthens him with his hand keeps the commandments. Lend to your neighbor in the time of his need; and in turn, repay your neighbor promptly. Confirm your word and keep faith with him, and on every occasion you will find what you need. Many persons regard a loan as a windfall, and cause trouble to those who help them. A man will kiss another’s hands until he gets a loan, and will lower his voice in speaking of his neighbor’s money; but at the time for repayment he will delay, and will pay in words of unconcern, and will find fault with the time. If the lender exert pressure, he will hardly get back half, and will regard that as a windfall. If he does not, the borrower has robbed him of his money, and he has needlessly made him his enemy; he will repay him with curses and reproaches, and instead of glory will repay him with dishonor. Because of such wickedness, therefore, many have refused to lend; they have been afraid of being defrauded needlessly. Nevertheless, be patient with a man in humble circumstances, and do not make him wait for your alms.9 Help a poor man for the commandment’s sake, and because of his need do not send him away empty. Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost. Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold. Store up almsgiving in your treasury, and it will rescue you from all affliction; more than a mighty shield and more than a heavy spear, it will fight on your behalf against your enemy.

Here we can see how generosity with those in need is encouraged. But we also see the type of giving that is being discussed; it is not so much donating to someone’s needs, but rather providing them a generous loan. We can see the language of lender and borrower and repayment of loans being discussed.

This is absolutely in accord with the torah teachings we looked at earlier;

Exodus 22:25 If you lend money to one of My people among you who is poor, you must not act as a creditor to him; you are not to charge him interest.

The other torah passages we looked at had a similar emphasis. So as we look for the ancient understanding of giving to those in need, we find that the primary method of accomplishing that, and the method that God encourages, is to freely lend, without interest, to those who are in need.

This is the same thing Yeshua is teaching

Luke 6:35 ESV – … lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asks of you, and him that would borrow from you turn not away.

Based on this broad ancient context, we can see that the type of giving God desires believers to practice is intentional and generous loans to those in need, all the while expecting nothing in return. While a loan with no expectation of return is essentially a gift, the idea remains that the receiver of the loan has been thoughtfully tended to without the stigma of charity or a handout. God’s intent is that their needs have been duly assessed, and a reasonable measure of assistance has been provided in love. Most would repay the loan/gift, and this is to be counted as a bonus to the lender, as many simply would not repay.

All of this seems pretty straightforward as far as torah teaching and the cultural context of the day. So if this is the case, why was it necessary for Yeshua to provide additional insight to his followers about loving, and possibly even lending to, those who could be considered enemies?

While the teaching on generosity does appear reasonably clear, we find that Yeshua felt it was necessary to dig in deeper to the concept in his day and age for his audience. Whenever we see Yeshua doing this, it is typically to overcome the wrong perspectives that were exemplified in his day.

For example, in Matthew 23, there are a lot of condemnations that Yeshua leveled against the hypocrisy and unrighteousness of the religious leaders.  Here are a few of those

Matthew 23:16, 23 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ …

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Yeshua is condemning them for building up and enforcing exclusive and harmful traditions around godly things: creating nonsensical rules for oaths concerning the holy temple; demonstrating exacting minuteness in tithing, but foregoing true justice conveyed in God’s torah; obsessively minding cleanliness commands while ignoring the intent and spirit of those commands.

This is the work Yeshua had to do in the process of calling out the remnant of true believers away from the hypocritical religious establishment. He had to make sure he was reestablishing them on the correct spirit and intent of God’s torah.

This extended also to ungodly traditions that had grown up like weeds around the clear teachings of God on giving and loaning to those in need. An historical example of this type of wrong perspective can also be found in the apocryphal book of Sirach, as it discusses who is “worthy” of receiving favor.

Sirach 12:4-7 Give to the godly man, but do not help the sinner. Do good to the humble, but do not give to the ungodly; hold back his bread, and do not give it to him, lest by means of it he subdue you; for you will receive twice as much evil for all the good which you do to him. For the Most High also hates sinners and will inflict punishment on the ungodly. Give to the good man, but do not help the sinner.

I believe this is the type of thinking that Yeshua was trying to overcome. Passing judgment on who would receive your alms or your loan was keeping truly needy people from being helped. Rather than promoting a society of generosity, as the torah had intended, the command had turned into a system of condemnation and refusal to help those who were not considered worthy. This only served to cause further division and corruption within the religious system of his day.

So Yeshua’s directive to give or loan to everyone, good or bad, or even someone considered an enemy, was a radical departure from the ideas of giving that had come into vogue among the elite. A believer’s generosity should not be based on the perceived worthiness of an individual, but through the careful assessment of the need and a loan free of interest or any other catch.

Okay, so if we understand that this principle of giving revolves around the idea of loans, then how does that affect our response with those who approach us on the street corners for handouts?

Does this mean that we shouldn’t give to every beggar on the street corner, or whomever we pass on the sidewalk who approaches us for money? After all, Yeshua did teach to “give to whomever asks of you…”

Let’s see how this has been classically interpreted over the centuries.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Give to every man that asketh of thee] Literally, “be giving implying a habit, not an instant act. Here again we have a broad, general principle of unselfishness and liberality safely left to the common sense of mankind, Deuteronomy 15:7-9. The spirit of our Lord’s precept is now best fulfilled by not giving to every man that asks, because in the altered circumstances of the age such indiscriminate almsgiving would only be a check to industry, and a premium on imposture, degradation, and vice. By ‘giving,’ our Lord meant ‘conferring a boon;’ but mere careless giving now, so far from conferring a boon, perpetuates a curse and inflicts an injury. The spirit of the precept is large-handed but thoughtful charity. Love must sometimes violate the letter as the only possible way of observing the spirit (Matthew 15:26; Matthew 20:23).

This is a really interesting perspective and not a popular view that is heard preached from the pulpits. These commentators are suggesting that indiscriminate handouts to those who approach us are actually a careless, rather than a caring, action. They go so far as to say that this “perpetuates a curse and inflicts injury” upon the receiver, because it not only prevents them from desiring to earn a wage, it also reinforces a culture of degradation and vice. In this view, handouts actually go against the spirit of the principle of intentional and generous giving that Yeshua is teaching about.

Matthew Poole’s Commentary

Matthew hath much the same passage, only he saith, “Give to him that … asketh of thee;” and for the latter clause, he hath, “from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away,” which seems more agreeing to the precept. Deu 15:8. These precepts of our Saviour must be interpreted, not according to the strict sense of the words, as if every man were by them obliged, without regard to his own abilities, or the circumstances of the persons begging or asking of him, to give to every one that hath the confidence to ask of him; but as obliging us to liberality and charity according to our abilities, and the true needs and circumstances of our poor brethren, and in that order which God’s word hath directed us; first providing for our own families, then doing good to the household of faith, then also to others, as we are able, and see any of them true objects of our charity.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

(42) Give to him that asketh.—Here again our Lord teaches us by the method of a seeming paradox, and enforces a principle binding upon every one in the form of a rule which in its letter is binding upon no man. Were we to give to all men what they ask, we should in many cases be cursing, not blessing, them with our gifts. Not so does our Father give us what we ask in prayer; not so did Christ grant the prayers of His disciples. That which the words really teach as the ideal of the perfect life which we ought to aim at, is the loving and the giving temper that sees in every request made to us the expression of a want of some kind, which we are to consider as a call to thoughtful inquiry how best to meet the want, giving what is asked for if we honestly believe that it is really for the good of him who asks, giving something else if that would seem to be really better for him. Rightly understood, the words do not bid us idly give alms to the idle or the impostor; and St. Paul’s rule, “If a man will not work, neither let him eat” (2Thessalonians 3:10), is not a departure from the law of Christ, but its truest application and fulfilment.

Wow. In looking at these classic commentaries I find it amazing how they have arrived at similar conclusions to each other, yet the principle they are espousing is so far removed from what we see actually promoted among God’s people today.

In my opinion, when the words of Yeshua are maintained within the context of all scripture, and not cherry-picked to support a specific ideologies or a denominational bias, a comprehensive and consistent view arises that can provide very practical insights for all.

For the topic at hand, if we understand it is a principle for regulating generous and intentional loaning for assistance in hard times, this causes us to take time to lovingly and caringly assess someone’s real needs and provide real help. Simply providing small handouts to those who would beg from us, while not wrong in and of themselves, don’t really solve the person’s situation and typically only make us feel better about ourselves. Of course we should always be willing to share food and resources with those in need, but we would do well to be thoughtful and intentional so that the individual is truly helped.

So, considering all of this wide perspective on giving, if we return to the teaching of Yeshua, why should we give anything to those whom are unable to repay? Along those lines, why should we be commanded by Yeshua to give generously even to those who could be considered adversarial?

There are at least five reasons that immediately come to mind, but many more could be added as well.

First of all, as we have just seen in the words of Yeshua, because this type of intentional giving is what is expected of us by God: “Give to those who would ask of you.” He quite simply expects us to be generous in helping others.

Secondly, because everything we have is temporary at best.

2 Corinthians 4:18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Thirdly, because everything we have has been provided by God, so why should we hold back what has been freely given to us?

Psalm 37:26 [The righteous] is always generous, always lending, and his children are a blessing.

Proverbs 22:9 A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 Now the one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will also provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.

Fourthly, because believers are supposed to be distinctive in this world, not to follow the conventions of the existing culture.

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Fifthly, because God is kind to the ungrateful and evil, and our goal is to be like him, and to exemplify his character of compassion in this world.

Matthew 5:44-45, 48 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, “so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. … “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

According to Yeshua, giving in this manner also carries a promise of reward: you will be considered a child of the Most High. I can think of no higher honor or greater decoration to be bestowed upon us than for God to call us his own children.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Proactive compassion is honest and doesn’t hide or refrain from helping

Believers are not exempted from helping with the needs of those around them.

“If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey that has strayed away, take it back to its owner. If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.

Exodus 23:4-5

“If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility. Take it back to its owner. If its owner does not live nearby or you don’t know who the owner is, take it to your place and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then you must return it. Do the same if you find your neighbor’s donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses. Don’t ignore your responsibility. “If you see that your neighbor’s donkey or ox has collapsed on the road, do not look the other way. Go and help your neighbor get it back on its feet!

Deuteronomy 22:1-4

Most people will typically be available to help friends and loved ones in their time of need. However, one of the easiest things to do when a need from an anonymous individual becomes apparent to us is to pass by, turn the other way, or to simply ignore it. We can justify this by any number of ways saying we are not qualified to help, or not capable, or more commonly, on a schedule with no time for distractions.

But the torah or instruction of God makes no such distinctions. God removes anyone’s justifications with a couple of choice phrases. In the Exodus passage regarding one’s enemies, God says the Israelites should not refrain from or leave undone the thing that needs to be done. In the Deuteronomy passage regarding a brother, God says that one should not hide or conceal oneself from their need.

Regardless if one is an enemy or just an anonymous person in need, the honest response that God expects of his people is that those individuals would not be ignored.

Yeshua confirms this instruction by illustrating an ideal response with the story of the Good Samaritan. The righteous Israelites passed by the man who had been assaulted by robbers, but the Samaritan, considered an “enemy” by the Jews of the day, was the hero of the story and did what God expects of all of us. Yeshua made it personal for his audience in his day, certainly highlighting how any person, even an enemy, is valued significantly more highly than a donkey.

Admittedly, this type of proactive assistance was much more necessary in the day and age when emergency services were not available, as it was up to the individuals in a community to watch out for one another’s needs and not to rely on local agencies to address those types of situations. Even so, the local agencies can only help so much because the needs vary so greatly among regional populations.

Since it is God who makes this type of involvement personal and required, we should be honest and not neglect our response to the individual needs that become apparent to us. Many times, in an effort at charitability, we instead choose to focus on the anonymous movements to “save the world” in one fashion or another. Those endeavors may also be helpful in different ways, but they do not relieve us of our obligations to help proactively in personal ways with the immediate needs of those around us, friend and foe alike.

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Luke 10:36-37

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week I take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Outward strength through internal compassion and unity

Compassion and unity with one another provides a foundation for reaching others.

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be compassionate, and keep a humble attitude.

1 Peter 3:8-14

According to Peter, being compassionate is simply one of many expected traits believers should exhibit. The compassion he is speaking of here is extended not just to those outside of the faith, but to one another. If we cannot be compassionate with one another, how can we be truly compassionate towards others who are not believers?

For us to be truly compassionate with others, we should be operating from a base of harmony with one another, and recognizing one another’s needs sympathetically. Once we are able to show brotherly love to each other through humility and compassionate actions, we can then have a united purpose with those outside the faith.

Once he establishes their base actions with one another, Peter expands his directives to their attitude toward others who did not agree with their positions or their beliefs.

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.

1 Peter 3:9-14

This was a very real assessment of the social status of the early believers. They were always in danger not only from the civil strife of their day, but from the religious antagonism and persecution of their Jewish brothers and sisters. Additionally, they were challenged with resisting the influences of the pagan society. Through all of this, Peter encourages them to repay evil with blessing and seeking to maintain the peace, because “this is what God has called you to do.”

In like fashion, for us to fulfill our calling, we should mimic their harmony, humility and compassionate actions with one another so we may be able to effectively stand together for God’s purpose and kingdom in a hostile world.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

The steep price of obtaining purity of heart

God has a refining process for every individual who is seeking purity of heart.

Flee from youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:22

As Timothy was a young leader within the Yeshua movement of Judaism, Paul was encouraging him to focus on being a positive example to the believers. His commitment to the Messiah would need to be evident in every aspect of his being so that people would sense his sincerity, thereby spurring confidence in his teaching, and honor towards his Lord.

This admonition comes amidst a discussion on faithful workers versus those who had been spreading falsehood among believers. Paul was encouraging Timothy to stick to these basics of kingdom living to ensure he would remain separated from falsehood. He uses a metaphor of the varieties of uses of household utensils to illustrate his point.

Now in a large house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of clay. Some are for honor, and some for dishonor. If anyone therefore purges himself from these, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, and suitable for the master’s use, prepared for every good work.

2 Timothy 2:20-21

To pursue righteousness, Paul argues, one needs only to focus on faith, love and peace within the community of Messiah. This will breed pureness of heart among the believers and all will be encouraged.

While this may come across as being too simplistic, it certainly was not an easy task for the early believers. Maintaining faith in an environment of doctrinal oppression and intense persecution was a lifestyle of daily challenge. Demonstrating real love not only for the brethren but also those who were opposed to the gospel of the kingdom was a monumental task. And pursuing peace with everyone who was essentially against the teachings of Yeshua required the deepest levels of reliance on the spirit of God working in them to establish God’s kingdom in that generation.

Yeshua demanded his followers have purity of heart, but this purity of heart would come at a steep price. Paul himself suffered intense persecution, and he knew it was a reality for believers who were separating from falsehood, but that they should remain steadfast in their faith.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you remain in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.

2 Timothy 3:12-14

Being set apart for God’s use, a gold or silver utensil to be used for honorable purposes, required a refining process that would test them at every turn until they came forth in their purified quality, ready and useful to God for his special purpose in each and every opportunity. This is the end result and the goal of holiness; being set apart for God’s use.

How like those early believers we should strive to be! By demonstrating righteousness through faith, love, and peace, we will be honoring their memory along with their sacrifice and example through intense persecution. But we will also be honoring the God who calls us to the same life of useful work in our generation. As his people become set apart for his use, he is glorified in every age and his kingdom continues to fill the earth.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here.

Genuine compassion may behave differently than we expect

A child of God is one whose actions in life will mimic those of their Father.

And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.

Luke 6:34-35

In a former essay, we have looked at the importance of being kind to our enemies, or those who may act in adversarial ways towards us.

But in this passage lies another aspect of being compassionate that may get overlooked because of our general unfamiliarity with the culture that this teaching arises out of.

In today’s American culture, we typically view “alms” or giving to the needy as something that is a straight donation to their welfare, a practice that we should certainly continue. However, in the middle Eastern culture of the Bible, “alms” was actually a form of a loan to the less fortunate, typically for friends or associates who had fallen on hard times. This was how the community could look out for one another’s needs in practical ways.

Since banks as we know them today did not exist, there were only a few means for someone who had fallen on hard times to extricate themselves from their circumstances.

One way to repay someone was to become their slave until the debt was repaid. This was a form of indentured servitude, a commitment to the benefactor to recoup their investment. This was widely practiced and is mentioned all throughout the Bible (and, unfortunately, usually misunderstood as the brutal, savage slavery that we typically associate with that word).

But another method of redeeming oneself was to ask friends, family and acquaintances for a loan to get by until they could repay. This is what is usually being described when this concept of “alms” is being presented to us in the biblical texts.

If we understand this principle, then the verse above from Yeshua’s teaching takes on new perspective on several levels. He is here commanding his followers to give these “loans” freely, even with the understanding that they are likely not to be repaid. There should not be a measurement of hard feelings if the indebted friend cannot pay, because God has demonstrated a similar mercy to us as believers.

Additionally, the disciple should be willing to lend also to their enemies, not just friends and acquaintances. This is a drastic diversion even from the cultural practice of the day, and highlights the extent of compassion believers should be demonstrating at all times. It is one thing to forgive a friend or acquaintance of a debt, but to lend in the same fashion to an adversary? This would be a truly unorthodox and radical admonition to his followers.

It is such a revolutionary and profound concept that it still shakes us to the core to this day, two thousand years later. True compassion is like that; it is profound, challenging, and requires real commitment and, many times, heart-wrenching, white-knuckled, gut-twisting sacrifice. This is the type of genuine life transformation believers are called to.

Are you up to the challenge of what it really means to be a follower of the Messiah and demonstrate true compassion?