Kings Lesson 27 - Catching Golden Apples
Greed dominates our world today. From the advertisements of Madison Avenue to the profit-grabbing of Wall Street, the love of money is all around us. But greed isn't new. it's an epidemic as old as humanity itself. There is a cure, however . . . if you're willing to accept it.
“Golden Apples or Caught!”
(II Kings 5:15-27)
I have always been fascinated with Greek fables. And I’m sure that everyone in here has read some of Aesop’s fables or legends.
Aesop was a Greek writer who is supposed to have lived 600 years before Christ and he acquired a great reputation as a teller of legends and fables.
Aristotle himself even described the brilliance of Aesop’s stories as he recounted how Aesop had defended a corrupt politician in a court of law. His defense was simply the telling of a fable about a fox.
“A certain fox, Aesop said, was troubled by fleas, and other animals asked if they could help remove them. The fox replied: "No, these fleas are full and can no longer take my blood. And if you killed them, new, hungry fleas will come." "So, gentlemen of the jury," Aesop concluded, "if you put my wealthy client to death, others will only come along who are not yet rich and they will rob you completely." And his client went free.
The fact that I told this fable, while at the same time the primaries are underway - is just an amazing coincidence.
BEGIN FIRST SERVICE
Then there is the interesting legend of a beautiful woman named Atlanta and her hopeful suitor named Hippomenes. Atlanta was the fasted runner in her Greek city state and she decided to challenge all suitors to a race. Only with one condition - she would marry the man who won a footrace against her, but all who lost would be put to death. A number of men accepted the challenged and one after another, they lost the race and their lives.
But along came a crafty man named Hippomenes - he accepted the challenge, yet before entering the footrace against her, he hid three apples made of solid gold, inside his pockets. When the race began, Atlanta began to outdistance him, fairly easily - but he took out a golden apple and tossed it in front of her. The glitter of the gold caught her eye, and as she stopped to pick it up, he shot past her. She quickly recovered and again outdistanced him. Another golden apple rolled off the track ahead of her - she stopped to pick it up, allowing Hippomenes again to sweep past her. The goal was near and he was ahead, but once more she overtook him. Sensing his last chance, he rolled the third apple in front of her and while she wavered between the goal and greed Hippomenes swept past her and won the race. The legend says, they were married and lived happily ever after. Which I seriously doubt!
Atlanta was caught off guard - she stepped off the track and lost the race - because of the glitter of the gold.
Some of the strongest warnings in the New Testament occur in a letter written by Paul to his young disciple Timothy. I want to begin with that warning - it’s found in I Timothy 6:6. But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. (now understand, contentment isn’t passive acceptance - it is active independence - the Greek word literally means, independent of circumstances); 7. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. (one man said, “You have never seen a hearse pulling a U-haul” 8. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. By the way, the Bible speaks to the modern day - it identifies to this day the two leading causes of discontentment - what you have hanging in your closet and how big you wished your closet was . . . this is a little too convicting so let’s move on . . . 9. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare (stop - you notice Paul didn’t write, “But some people who want to get rich. . .But I heard of one man who wanted to get rich and he fell into temptation; NO “But those who want to get rich!” By the way, he didn’t say, “Those who are rich - but those who want to get rich - the word want to is the word Boulomia - it means to “purpose” to “will” - “Those who set the council of their mind and heart on becoming rich - every one of them fall into temptation and a trap . . . read on . . . 9b. and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. The word plunge means to drag to the bottom - to submerge, to drown. The idea is someone who is drowning in the sea of their own desires. 10. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil (he didn’t say, “Money is the root of evil, but the love of money. . .” and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang - or sorrow!”
They were running the race - but then ahead of them, just a little off the path of godly endurance, a golden apple rolled into view - it’s just a little detour - just one greedy decision; one dishonest compromise; and things seemed to be alright - that wasn’t so bad. . .but in reality you have been caught in the snare - in the trap.
The trap is in forgetting that you didn’t bring anything into this world, and you’re not taking anything out - so instead of setting my mind and heart on righteousness and godliness and faith and love and perseverance and gentleness; you’ve lost sight of the goal - you’re now just chasing every glittering apple that attracts your fancy.
I want to read you a direct quote from Cyprian - he was an early church leader and he wrote these words just 200 years after the Jesus Christ ascended back to heaven. Cyprian wrote with frustration, these words describing the Christians of his generation;
“Their possessions hold them in chains. . .chains which shackle their courage and choke their faith and hamper their judgment and throttle their souls. They think of themselves as owners, whereas it is they rather who are owned; enslaved as they are to their own things; they are not the master of their money, but its slaves.
Look at verse 11 - But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. I love that word fight -you ought to write next to it in the margin the word agonize. The word fight comes from the Greek word “agonizou”; to agonize for; to long for.
The point is, instead of agonizing over possessions, over promotion, over power, over prestige - and simply wanting more; that comes naturally, we are to agonize over godliness to be revealed in us - righteousness, faith, love, gentleness - these come supernaturally!
When have we agonized for them?!
I want to show you, not a fable or legend, but the true story of a man with great promise, who somewhere along the line stopped agonizing for the things of God and began agonizing - for golden apples.
A Priveleged Position . . . Potential and Honor!
*powerlessness (2 Kings 4:31)
*faithlessness (2 Kings 4:43)
Hinge verse - 20. It marks the end of potential and the honor and the loss of position and great dishonor. “But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him.”
A Disgraceful Deed . . . Greed and Dishonor!
Secret greed cannot remain hidden forever.
The symptoms of will eventually become public knowledge.
It may be dishonest dealings with people; it might be the lack of graciousness to others; it may be conversations laced with name brands and new possessions - worse yet, it will develop into a personality that slowly, shrivels the soul and clouds the face - I wish I could show you the picture of this man who spent his life living a double lie - you can see it in his face and in his eyes. It will be the inability to make godly decisions when faced with the lure of prestige, or promotion. If it means more money, more power, more things, you will say, “As the Lord lives, surely this must be the right thing to do.”
One of the consequences of greed is guilt. While our society has declared war on guilt - it happens to serve as God’s personal prosecutor - built into the fabric of every human being's conscience.
I love the cartoon that showed a man sitting in his psychologist’s office. His head is hanging low - he looks miserable - the psychologist speaks, “Mr. Smith, the reason you are suffering from these deep feelings of guilt, is because you’re guilty.”
Chuck Colson wrote about an incident in his military career, long before his appointment in Washington and his close association with Richard Nixon. He was leading a group of tired, sweating soldiers on a training mission in Puerto Rico. The marines had been instructed not to trade with or buy anything from the impoverished people of the island. On the second day of maneuvers, when the hot, exhausted platoon suddenly came upon an old man leading a scrawny donkey burdened down under two ice-filled sacks of cold drinks, the men headed twoard the old man to buy some. Suddenly Colson intervened. “Sergeant, take this man prisoner. He is trespassing on government property.” The sargeant stared in disbelief but began to carry out the order. “And confiscate the contraband,” Colson added. The soldiers cheered as they stole the old man’s chilled drinks, which a moment before they would gladly have paid for, and drank them all. After the drinks were gone, the “prisoner” was released and sadly slunk away, having probably lost what was quite possibly his life savings and most certainly his means of livelihood for many months. Technically Colson had only been observing the rigors of military law. But now, years later, it is this and not the spectacular “crimes” of Watergate that he calls one of his most terrible sins.
Greed comes in many forms - it has many faces - it wears many masks.
Close friendships with spiritual people does not guarantee spirituality.
I’ve clipped from several recent issues of Christianity Today magazine some of the news stories they are following.
From the world of religion comes stories like . . .
Servants of God are not automatically protected from selfish desires to be served.
think of his frustration - famine, hunger and then a pagan with 1.2 million - ready to plunk it all down - Elisha says, “It’s free” - “Scuze me - did I hear you right?”
imagine his fantasy
Add a Comment