Influences

Read Mark 8:14-21

As we go through life we are influenced by many people. The amount and manner in which we are influenced depends on many factors. If the influence creates positives or negatives in our lives is based on perspective. A challenge before all of us is to seek out those people who are a beneficial influence and avoid the people who influence us in negative ways. Evaluating the positive and negative influences is a crucial aspect of life choices.

Jesus was continuously engaged in a tug-of-war dynamic with the Pharisees. Being the keepers of the Law for the Jewish people, the Pharisees were prone to interpret and debate in most interactions. They considered themselves to be the gatekeepers of the Hebrews. They had just asked Jesus to produce a sign that would convince them the claims made about him were true. He not-so-politely refuses their request. Jesus there turns to his disciples to caution them against the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod. The disciples misunderstand his point and think he is talking about the bread which they are lacking.

Jesus is talking not about bread but about influence. He is saying that the disciples should not be influenced by the legalistic focus of the Pharisees. He also connects Herod to this warning as a way to also speak against ruling out of fear and force. Jesus views both ways of interpreting life and interacting with others as bad approaches. Jesus presented, as an example, a different influence operating out of grace, forgiveness, compassion and love.

The caution which Jesus places before the disciple is still very real for us today. Are we going to let individuals who live by the letter of the Law instead of the spirit of it be those who influence our world view? Are we going to follow the influence of those who dominate by the use of fear and force because of their own fear of losing power? Or are we going to be influenced by and follow the example of Jesus who lived the meaning of love and forgiveness? Be careful what and who you choose to let influence your life.

Treasures

Read Matthew 6:19-24

After the stock market crash beginning in October of 1929 and the ensuing collapse of many banks, the United States population changed its whole perception of money and savings. Adding to this was the onset of the dust storms wiping out the crops of the midwestern plains due to severe drought conditions. Unemployment rose at a devastating rate. Those who survived all these economic disasters began to store whatever they could obtain in their homes as an attempt to safeguard against future losses. The birth of a hoarders mindset developed out of these experiences. A person’s earthly treasures, as meager at they might be, were hidden away and guarded at all costs.

The writer of Matthew’s gospel shared a series of lessons Jesus taught. We find this series in chapter six of the gospel and have come to refer to them as the beatitudes. One of these lessons speaks of treasures and how we handle them. Jesus teaches us to store our treasures in heaven. He says that where our treasures are, that is where our hearts will be. What we let into ourselves creates either light or darkness in our lives. Jesus warns that we cannot have two masters in our lives. 

The mention of what we let into our lives may seem out of place at first but actually fits when given a further inspection. Jesus is speaking about what is most important in our lives, what we treasure. These are the items to which we give priority. As part of his warning, Jesus says that the influences we allow in our lives can work to enlighten us regarding our priorities or can blind us to the right priorities. This lesson is about what are our priorities, especially our top priority.

Looking at what we protect and strive for in life makes it clear what we prioritize. These are the treasures of our lives. Things of this earth have a limited lifespan whether it be materialistic, people, or even relationships. Those aspects of our spiritual life are eternal, as is our relationship with God. Jesus is teaching us that our priority should be on God and the spiritual matters of life because these are the aspects that last forever.