Weekly Bible Devotional
“Fear Not: Fear of God”
October 18, 2020
Scripture for Sunday: Matthew 13:1-9
“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!”
Notes on the Text:
The parables of Jesus played an essential role in dispelling the myth of spiritual scarcity and fear which dominated the scene at the time. Most people believed that bad things happened as punishment from God. Jesus struggled to help people let go of the prevalent view of spiritual scarcity and fear of a domineering God. The religious leaders of his time had developed elaborate rules and regulations for people’s behavior to keep them on the straight and narrow. Many of them promoted the belief that faith was mainly about rules and laws.
The parable we are looking at today from Matthew 13 is about a certain sower who seemed to discard the common sense of farming by scattering seeds where there is little potential for growth. The people who first heard this must have thought that the farmer was foolish because he chose to sow the seeds on the wrong kinds of soil. Farmers in those days were not rich. Their livelihood depended on the success of their crops. Good seed was hard to come by; the wise farmer made sure to entrust the precious grain he had to the best of soil. But this one tossed seed wherever he could find ground. The farmer behaved as though that which was most precious was available in unlimited supply. What a great metaphor for God’s abundant and unconditional love!
This parable must have been shocking to the people who listened to Jesus. He used a common event from their daily lives to turn their understanding of God upside down. That is the way Jesus used his parables to help people understand that the kingdom of God was so different from what they thought it to be. The wisdom of this lesson that shatters all of our conventional wisdom is that the kingdom of God is not entirely dependent on our actions. The kingdom of God is dependent on God’s generosity. In our conventional wisdom, we may see that God is a reckless and foolish farmer, but through the wisdom of the kingdom of God, we see that God’s love is lavish, generous and abundant.
During this pandemic, I have heard several people say that the pandemic was God’s punishment for our sins or infidelity. I have also heard some people question God’s goodness for letting such suffering take place in the world. On the one hand, people are fearful of God. On the other hand, people are questioning the goodness or existence of God. This boils down to this question: Is the universe friendly or not? As human beings we struggle with our fears and our limited knowledge of the mysteries of life. Through his parables, Jesus was challenging the common views about God’s grace being limited to only those who obeyed the rules. Jesus offered an alternative vision for our understanding of God’s grace. This vision challenged the traditional understanding of “the fear of God” and invited people to see it as reverence and connection.
In his book, Barking to the Choir, Greg Boyle writes, “Human beings are settlers, but not in the pioneer sense. It is our human occupational hazard to settle for little. We settle for purity and piety when we are being invited to an exquisite holiness. We settle for the fear-driven when love longs to be our engine. We settle for a puny, vindictive God when we are being nudged always closer to this wildly inclusive, larger-than-any-life God. We allow our sense of God to atrophy. We settle for the illusion of separation when we are endlessly asked to enter into kinship with all.”
A Prayer Of Anchoring by Joyce Rupp:
I turn to you, Holy One, in this time of turmoil amid the
waters of life and I pray:
Anchor my mind in your unswerving serenity that lies
beneath the wild waves of my discontent.
Anchor every heartbeat and breath of mine in the wide
ocean of your endless compassion.
Anchor ongoing longings for world peace in the steam
of your eternal harmony.
Anchor a respect for every human being in the clear
waters of your non-judgment.
Anchor in the steady undercurrent of your justice each
choice to end unbearable injustice.
Anchor deeply in your merciful forgiveness any inner
surges toward retaliation and revenge.
Anchor in the depths of your divine wisdom my
questions and concerns about the future.
Anchor every storm that riles my heart in the gracious
tranquility of your abiding love. Amen.