2017年9月21日星期四

钱财与生命的关系

传道书五10-20

传道者论财富

基督徒并不仇富或高举过贫穷的生活。《旧约圣经》甚至看财富是一种蒙福的象征。追求钱财与事业的人生,是一种很正常的人生。我们都花很多时间在工作上,而殷勤工作,更是一种美德。我们作工赚钱,就会拥有钱财和事业。

圣经让我们看到钱财的好处。设宴是为欢笑,酒能使人生快活,金钱能解决万事。(传十:19

金钱能解决很多问题:送孩子到外国著名学府读书,很昂贵,有钱能解决;人病重,要去最好的医院,看最好的医生,吃最好的药,都需要钱。钱财可让我们做很多事,给我们很多方便。传道书说金钱能解决万事,并不是拜金主义,而是一件实在的事。钱财也能够提高我们生活的素质,可以住更好的房子,可以拥有房车代步。富翁的财物是他的坚城。(箴十:15

可见金钱能够使人的生活更有保障。钱财也会提高人的尊严和价值,有了钱财,朋友也会多些。

然而,一个人对财富的态度,决定他们是否真正体验到财富所带来的好处。传道者在《传道书五10-20》教导我们,如何在充满变数的生活中,去享用财富的智慧。

解经和应用:

10-12节提到三种理财的态度,扭曲了财富的真正价值。

10节说:『喜爱银子的,不因得银子满足;喜爱财富的,也不因得利益知足。这也是虚空。』

虚空在传道书的意思是:不能长远掌握,很快就流失掉,对自己没有真正的益处。

人喜爱金钱或财富,视钱财为人生的目的,但不知道几时才知足。这种贪爱钱财,使一个人永远不满足。人终日劳碌奔波,思想如何赚取更多。可是,要拥有多少金钱,人才算足够而停止追求呢?人心不满足的态度,令传道者感叹虚空。

11节说;『货物增添,吃的人也增添,物主得什么益处呢?不过眼看而已!』

人的消费,跟着财富的加添而增加,人因此得不到财富的真正好处。在传道者看来,人赚的钱越多,花费也越大,变成生活豪华、甚至奢侈与浪费。这样的消费和感官享受不持久,其实没有益处,因此是虚空。

你有钱了,就多人来敲你的门;和朋友上餐馆吃饭,叫来满桌丰富的食物,然后众人都指望你付钱。许多人因你的钱财跟你交朋友,许多人因你的钱财想从你身上得好处,那些朋友都不是你真正的朋友,因此是虚空。

12节说:『劳碌的人不拘吃多吃少,睡得香甜;富人的丰足却不容他睡觉。』

生活比较简单的人,以劳碌得以糊口。他无论吃多吃少,会睡得香甜。相反,富人的生活丰盛,生活也随之复杂。要维持和扩展财富所面对的风险和思虑,叫他无法安睡。

人有钱就会去投资,期望赚得更多钱。可是投资不是永远赚钱的,是有可能亏掉一切的,所以投资的人常有烦恼和压力。如果你买了很多股票,每早晨起来第一件事,不会是拿起圣经灵修,而是去看看股价;钱掉了一点,心下沉一点,压力随之而来,因为用了太多钱去投资了!如果你没有什么钱财去投资,早上起来,就可以专心读圣经。人愈有钱,愈难清心,因有许多压力和烦恼。

13-17节提醒我们,坐拥丰厚财富的人,可能会遭遇不幸。

13节:『我见日光之下有一件令人忧伤的祸患,就是财主积存财富,反害自己。』

14节:『他因遭遇不幸,财产尽失;他生了儿子,手里却一无所有。』

15节:『他怎样从母胎赤身而来,也不照样赤身而去;他所劳碌得来的,手中分毫不能带去。』

16节:『这是一件令人忧伤的祸患。他来的时候怎样,去的时候也比怎样。他为风劳碌有什么益处呢?』

富有的人不一定都能够享受到财富的美善,因为生活里有祸患或不幸的可能。祸患发生,使到他一无所有。然而,他还有孩子有待抚养,因此面对怎么活下去的生存问题。传道者说他反害了自己

在南非的华人,他们的住屋外面有自动开关的铁闸大门,大门连着围墙,墙上有铁丝网;进到庭院,内有恶犬;进到屋内,房间内每个人都有枪!因为南非黑人认为华人有钱,专门伺机向华人抢劫,甚至杀害;所以住所设有自动开关的铁门,都有恶犬,人人有枪。当国家社会发生动乱的时候,财富往往是最大的祸殃,使财主遭灾。所以说,财主反受财物之害。

人劳碌得来的财富,如果生前不懂得享受,分毫不能带走。因为人死去和人出生的时候一样,赤身来去。不同的是,人出生的时候双手握紧拳头(开始掌握与争取),人死时手掌却放松(什么都带不走)。

这说明,人今日累积的财富,明日不知能否活着享用。财富,生不带来,死不带去。富人面对这些祸患,那又有什么益处呢?

17节:『并且他终身在黑暗中吃喝,多有烦恼、病痛和怒气。』

这里提到一个人在黑暗吃喝的可怜光景。他被孤独、愁烦和苦毒占据。他在应该享受的时候不享受,时日已过的时候却无能力享受人生,或因已经衰老,或因病失去胃口,或已经死亡。

18-20节,传道者用看哪!,回应之前的问题:有什么益处?他切换语气,强调人是可以享受财富的美善。

18节:『看哪,我所见为善为美的,就是人在上帝赐他一生的日子吃喝,享受日光之下劳碌得来的好处,因为这是他应得的报偿。』

19节:『而且,一个人蒙上帝赏赐财富与资产,又使他能享用,能获取自己当有的报偿,在他的劳碌中喜乐,这是上帝的赏赐。』

20节:『他不多思念自己一生的日子,因为上帝使他的心充满喜乐。』

在这里,传道者把上帝引进他的论述里,强调上帝是赐予者。上帝是一生年日的赐予者(18节)。上帝是财富和资产的赏赐者(19节)。上帝使人在劳碌中享受自己的份(19节)。也就是说,人在自己的劳碌中享有财富与资产的好处,并从中得到喜乐,是上帝的赏赐。上帝是喜乐日子的赏赐者(20节)。

上帝赐财富与资产,使人得以吃用。上帝赐给人活着的年日,也使人有能力吃用。人得以在劳碌中享受吃喝和喜乐,也是来自上帝的赐予。可见,上帝并非要人守住财富,而是要善用财富。在自己应得的报偿中吃喝,劳碌,生活,和享受薪金回报,能够给我们带来喜乐。

这也就是说,除了一日三餐温饱,有时候跟家人或朋友吃山珍海味,使心里舒畅,并无不对。或者,工作的来的佣金和花红,用一些来设宴请客,或往喜欢参观的国家旅游,也无可厚非。又或者,生活中经常在工作之余,花一些钱进行喜欢的活动娱乐休闲、运动健身、瘦身美容,也是可以接受的。

传道者不是在提倡纵欲的生活方式。他是在建议一个负责任的生活方式。我们的确要为自己的生活负责,包括工作与休息的平衡,付出与得着的平衡,劳碌与健康的平衡等等。总而言之,不要做守财奴,反要做财富的好管家。我们不在乎拥有多少,而是把所拥有的加以管理和发挥用途。

上帝若赋予人工作的能力,也给人年日和健康去享受从中而获的报偿,人何必亏待自己呢?上帝要给我们生活有喜乐,使劳碌的日子有陶冶心情和滋润生命的作用。我们必须需要学习享受神所赐的生活福分,懂得运用财富活在当下的真理。这是一种敬畏上帝的活着。

结论:

传道者认为人需要有一个正确的财富观念,就是当知道:第一、当知道财富是上帝的赐予。第二、自己必须先劳碌,才有享受财富的乐趣。第三、财富是一个人随劳碌之后所得的,是自己应得的报偿。人必须善用,不要做守财奴。第四、人对财富的心态,应该是心存喜乐,而不是心存不足。

总而言之,财富的衡量不在多或少,而在于是否能享用。神赐一些人丰厚的财富,这些人无需处心积虑如何累积更多,或贪恋别人的财富,反而应该在当下的日子,恰当享用自己所得。这样,一生的年日才有真正的喜乐。

来到新约,主耶稣说:人就是赚得全世界,却赔上自己的生命,有什么好处呢?(可八36

人若以累积钱财和追求事业成功为一生的目标,他赔上的,不单是永恒的生命,更是赔上了今生生命的价值;不单在永恒里不得救,在今生也没有真正的喜乐和满足。惟有在主里面,才能得着真正的喜乐和满足,才能拥有丰盛的生命。

腓立比书劝勉我们:你们要靠着主常常喜乐(腓四:4)。靠着主常常喜乐,原文的意思是在主里常常喜乐,就是说,在主以外,没法喜乐满足;在主以外,没法得到丰盛的生命。

或是努力工作,或是努力赚钱,我们都要为主而活。我们要按照主的心意而活,善用和享受神所赐给我们的份,包括把当纳的奉献给神。让主在我们的钱财上作主,这样,我们的生命就会变得更丰盛,因为我们是上帝忠心的仆人,在他的永恒国度里有份。 

嫦娥 Chang'e, Please Don’t Fly

Chang'e, Flying to the Moon

The most famous Mid-Autumn Festival story is Chang’e flying to the moon. The story goes like this…

Long, long ago, there were ten suns in the sky. The suns burnt all the plants and people were dying on Earth, until one day, the excellent archer Hou Yi used his bow and arrows to shoot down nine of the suns. Earth was saved, and people flocked to learn archery from Hou Yi.
The Western Queen Mother gave Hou Yi a bottle of elixir that could make one person immortal. Although Hou Yi did want to become immortal, he wanted to stay with his wife Chang’e more. Therefore, he just kept it at home.
Pang Meng, one of his students, tried to seize the elixir when Hou Yi wasn’t at home. Faced with greedy Pang Meng, Chang’e decided to drink the elixir. It made her fly to the moon where she would stay forever.
To remember her and pray to her, Hou Yi and others started to worship the moon with many offerings.
Chang’e’s image usually appears on Mid-Autumn Festival pictures. Children in China are told that Chang’e is still living on the moon. And on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, when the moon is bright, children try their best to find the shape of Chang’e on the moon.
Chang’e’ story emphasizes people have long wanted to be immortal and free from bondages on earth. They could achieve that by consuming the ‘elixir’ from heaven. But immortality and freedom will only come with a great prize which they cannot afford to pay, that is “parting with their loved ones”! Indeed it is such a misery or agony if we live in eternity without love!
In comparison to Chang’e, the Bible also tells us a story of a woman who received salvation from miseries of life. By her faith in Jesus, she was granted total freedom and loving relationship in eternity.
John 4 records that Jesus once came to Samaria. He was tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?  And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”
Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
“Please, sir,” the woman said, “gives me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”
 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.
“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.
Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”
Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman; the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus told her, I am the Messiah!”
The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

Friends, brothers and sisters, the Samaritan woman did not go in the morning or in the evening because there would have been many women drawing water during those hours. She did not want to be seen by others in order to avoid the gossips. Her sin caused her to feel shame and guilt. She expressed this by avoiding people. She was bound in darkness by the power of sin, just as Scripture says, “it made me a captive” (Rom 7:23). She was truly wretched and miserable!

But we do have hope! It is true that nothing in this world can save us from the power of sin. Education, wealth, and social welfare cannot deliver us from our bodies of death. But through our Lord Jesus Christ, we can be saved!

The Samaritan woman was transformed by our Lord Jesus Christ. After she met Jesus Christ, she left her water jar beside the well. That means she left all her burden of life—“sin, bitterness, disillusion, and estrangement with people”, to Jesus. Jesus carried for her the burden. Jesus delivered her from the burden.

Then she went back to her village and gave her testimony. Previously, she dared not come into contact with others, but now she ran to meet them. She was no longer living in fear. Previously, she was afraid of the gossips surrounding her sinful lifestyle, but now she proclaimed to them, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29).

Clearly, she overcame sin and broke its power through the Lord Jesus Christ. She became a new creation. She gained a new life. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). Not only did she become a new creation, she also attracted many people to the Lord Jesus (John 4:30).

Conclusion

Today, all of us have experienced the bondage to the power of sin in one form or another. God the Father loves us and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth. Not only did He die on the cross for our sins, He also conquered the power of sin and death so that those among us who place our trust in Him would receive the forgiveness of sin.

More than this, we also become overcomers by the power of the Holy Spirit. We become a people who live in the truth and taste the true meaning of freedom, which is to bring glory to God. This is how we can live a rich, abounding, and meaningful life, like the Samaritan woman, and become a witness of God.

If anyone among us is convicted that he or she is indeed a sinner and is bound and made captive by the evil power of sin, do cry out now the Lord, “What a wretched and miserable person I am! Lord Jesus, please help me overcome! Forgive me of my sins. Grant me renewed strength. Give to me the eternal life. Help me to live the truly abundant life that is full of hope.”

May the Holy Spirit help us, release us, and enable us to truly obey God’s law so that we may live an overcoming, victorious life.

2017年9月2日星期六

From Doubt and Struggle to Trust

Psalm 73
God is My Strength 
and Portion Forever

There is a class of psalms called the “wisdom psalms.” Wisdom psalms typically reflect on the difficult experiences and questions of life. Often, these psalms are written as the psalmists face personal bad experiences or contradictions as they attempt to live out a life of faith.
Sometimes the psalmists reflect upon seemingly irreconcilable conundrums such as the juxtaposition of God’s righteousness and His love. These are all categorized as “wisdom psalms.”
Psalm 73 is a wisdom psalm that contains many reflections on the rich experiences of life. Is God truly righteous and at the same time truly loving? Is God really sovereign over the universe? Why does darkness envelop me? Why is the enemy still attacking me?
In the 20th century the greatest doubt on God’s existence and his sovereignty was derived from the Holocaust, the massacre of six million Jews by German Nazis. The German people were Christians and so-called most civilized people on earth by that time. The whole world is stunned by the horrific view of gas chamber killing in Auschwitz, Poland.
Why did God allow such atrocity done on his own chosen people, the Jews? Maybe God does not exist? Or God is not able to help?
Following the incident, many theologians left the profession to become philosophers because they said God was dead. But not long after, they realized that, hey! We have all this while trusted in the beauty and good of humanity, but not on a transcendent God. Now we know that humans are truly evil, and we need salvation from God.
Besides, they also realized that, hey! Jesus himself was the victim of human violence. He was crucified on the cross. Where there is suffering, Jesus is there to suffer with the victim and is there to help. So the existence of suffering does not negate the presence of God.
And Jesus calls us, the church who is his representatives on earth to walk into suffering to do the same as he does.
In verse 1, the psalmist declares his fundamental faith in the covenant God – “Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure.”
The LORD God is forever Israel’s God. He has entered into a covenant relationship with Israel.
Who are the people whose hearts are pure?
According to the Psalmist, they are people renewed by God’s Spirit (51:10), commit themselves to lives of godliness, keep away from anything that is sinful, and enjoy God’s presence (24:3-4).
This confession above is not only the content of the psalmist’s faith but it is also the starting point of his faith.
But from verse 2 to verse 14, the psalmist does not conceal what is in his heart – feelings of injustice, anger, disappointment, dissolution and doubt. He complains to God:
“But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness (vv. 2-3).”
The Psalmist sees the prosperity of the wicked as unfair and resents it. His feet were slipping from the way of wisdom and godliness.
“Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain (vv. 13-14).”
“So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is (v. 16)!”
The psalmist is filled with dissatisfaction and doubts as he sees that things are going so smoothly for the wicked and as evil becomes more and more rampant. He presents a caricature of the bliss of the wicked:
They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else. They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut though the earth. And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words.  “What does God know?” they ask. “Does the Most High even know what’s happening?” Look at these wicked people—enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply (vv. 4-12).
The proud adorn themselves with pride and cruelty rather than wisdom. The proud boast, claiming that they own everything and are not subject to anyone.
The notion that the wicked are in power and the righteous are suffering contradicts and conflicts with the psalmist’s doctrine that “God is righteous and loving.” He does not understand why this is so and does not know the best way to deal with this conundrum:
If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people. So I tried to understand why the wicked proper. But what a difficult task it is (vv. 15-16)!
As the psalmist surveys the world’s horizon, he sees that it pays to be wicked. The wicked prospers while the righteous suffers. How is God righteous? Why did God not intervene each time the psalmist was attacked by his enemies?
The psalmist is deeply troubled. His mind becomes skeptical and he continues to struggle. It is not true that he does not believe. An unbeliever does not believe God. Rather, the psalmist is a doubter for he is trying to believe amidst his confusion, dissolution and struggles.
If he voices his doubts and dissatisfaction to the public, it is tantamount to inciting the people to doubt and oppose God. The psalmist dares not offend God or stumble others. What then can he do?
The psalmist persists to worship God, sing praises to God, listen to God’s word, and cares for the community of faith. He did not withdraw from God or hide from him.
Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction. In an instant they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors. When you arise, O Lord, you will laugh at their silly ideas as a person laughs at dreams in the morning (vv. 17-20).
At this time, God’s sanctuary was the Temple in Jerusalem. There, in God’s presence, in the midst of worship, the psalmist receives a deeper knowledge and wisdom from God. His eyes are opened by God and the doubts in his heart are answered.  
Now his eyes are fixated on God’s ultimate plan, the destiny of good and evil. God deals with the wicked over the long term. He waits patiently and gives them time to repent; those who do not repent will get what they deserve.
It may seem that the wicked prospers and the righteous suffers, the reality is that the peace that the wicked enjoy is short and in vain just like dreams in the morning. Although the wicked may seem all glittery now, but their final outcome is destruction. They will ultimately perish.
The Psalmist’s attitude changes tremendously. He is now at peace and full of joy because he has gained a deeper understanding of God’s righteousness and love.
Compare verse 18 with verse 2:
But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone (v. 2).
Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction (v. 18).
This comparison is a vivid depiction of the respective fates of the righteous and the wicked. The plight of the righteous is only superficial and short but the destruction of the wicked is total and is forever.
Then, the psalmist expresses regret for his ignorance, doubts and bitterness. As he regains composure, he feels at peace. God is leading him through his troubles and changes his misery into splendour. He continues to follow God:
Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant—I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny (vv. 21-24). 
The psalmist sees that he has truly been ignorant and feels that he has fallen short of God. His negative emotions had clouded him from thinking and seeing clearly God’s work and power. But God does not forsake him but leads him to the truth.
Ultimately, the psalmist gains a more mature understanding and assurance from God, and established a deeper spiritual relationship with God. He has become an overcomer in faith.
The psalmist declares:
Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. Those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do. (vv. 25-28).
The psalmist once again reinforces an important and unchanging truth that is found in the wisdom literature, which is also the core of the faith of the Israelites:
In the end, the wicked will perish; while those who place their trust in the LORD and take refuge in Him will be blessed. The blessed ones inherit God and, thereby, inherit everything! Nothing in heaven or on earth is better than being near God.
Not only does the psalmist know God even deeper, he also further develops his spiritual walk with God. His commitment to God is now total. He trusts God to lead him higher and higher into glory!
The psalmist understands that true blessedness is found in trusting God because God is the eternal sovereign of life. God reigns in eternity. God alone is our refuge. Everything that we need is found in Him. This is the distinctive characteristic of wise men and women of faith.
By the end of the worship session, the psalmist’s doubts and suspicions are transformed into solidified faith. He calls on the congregation to draw near to God and to meet Him so that they too will have the eyes of their hearts opened to see that God is sovereign over everything.
The psalmist invites all of us to put our trust firmly in God, hold our heads up high, and ride calmly into the worldly fog as we battle with evil. Our future is bright ahead!

Let’s declare together with the psalmist: In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom 8:37).