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Lesson 6: Discipling the "Ordinary." *

Introduction: This lesson gives me mixed feelings. For almost 35 years I was a member of the Adventist Church in Manassas, Virginia. When I joined, the church leaders immediately asked me to be an elder. I challenged them: "Why should I be an elder? Because I'm a lawyer?" On the other hand, I've been involved in many evangelistic outreaches in Manassas. No effort was ever made to bring in educated "professional class" members. We never converted anyone with a Ph.D or professional doctorate. Church always seemed this bizarre mix. We would never target professionals for conversion, but if we had a professional in the church, they were almost always made a leader. What does the Bible say, if anything, about these kinds of issues? Let's plunge into our study and find out!

  1. James and the Rich

    1. Read James 2:1-4. Would this happen in your church? (I suspect it would happen in most churches.)

      1. James says this reflects "evil thoughts," and later he will call this a sin. Do you agree?

      2. When we use the term "discrimination" in the United States, we mean treating people differently for irrelevant reasons. For example, if someone grew a lump on the arm, we would not consider it discrimination for that person to seek the opinion of a medical doctor and not a carpenter. Is there any relevant reason to make special efforts to try to bring the rich man into your church? (I can think of at least a couple. First, it helps the church financially. Second, at least in the United States, there is a link between intelligence, education and income. Most organizations want educated, intelligent people in leadership positions to make the organization run better.)

    2. Read James 2:5. How is the church not like "most organizations?" (James says that God discriminates against the rich by giving faith to the poor.)

      1. Which would you prefer in church leadership, those who are educated and intelligent, or those who are full of faith? (Those who are full of faith would be able to rely on the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.)

      2. Do you really believe what James says - that God chose the poor over the rich?

      3. If you say, "yes," how do you explain that Deuteronomy 28 is in the Bible? We looked at it last week because it says that those who follow God are physically and financially blessed. How do you explain Job, a fellow we also considered last week? He was faithful, but also smart and fabulously rich.

    3. Read James 2:6-7. Is this true in your country?

      1. James did not live in a democracy. Is his observation true in a democracy? (In the United States, CNN reported that in 2010 those in the top 10% of income paid 70.6 of the income tax total, everyone else paid 29.4% of income taxes. To compare, those in the top 10% of income took home 45% of income. I use CNN as a source because I doubt that anyone will think that it is biased in favor of the rich.)

    4. Read James 2:8. I'll let everyone who reads this determine whether the situation James described in his time is true for the current time in their own country. What does James say is the timeless rule regardless of where we live? (We are to love our neighbor as our self.)

      1. What does this mean as a practical matter? (It means that if we have been discriminating against the poor, we should stop it. If we have been discriminating against the rich, we should stop it.)

    5. Read James 2:9-11. Is showing favoritism a sin? (Yes.)

      1. To what sin does James compare favoritism? (Murder and adultery.)

        1. Is James getting carried away? Is he exaggerating to make a point? (This is why grace is so important! We may think that our sins are minor, but James points out that violating any part of the law is a violation of the entire law.)

    6. Read James 2:12-13. What do these verses suggest is James' main point? (That we need to show mercy to people. If we treat people differently (and worse), because of their relative wealth, then we fail God because we are not showing mercy.)

      1. Why is mercy so important? (It is God's greatest gift to us - the mercy He showed us by saving us by grace alone!)

  2. Jesus and the Rich

    1. Read Luke 5:1-3. Why did Jesus get into the boat? (It allowed Him to be seen and heard better when He was teaching.)

      1. A boat was a valuable asset. Is Jesus blessed to have a follower who has a valuable asset?

    2. Read Luke 5:4-5. Do you think Jesus was teaching the people about fishing? Who was the expert on this topic? (Simon Peter. He was the fisherman whose business owned the boat.)

      1. What do you think Simon Peter thought about Jesus' suggestion that they put down nets? (He followed Jesus' suggestion to be polite. He knew it was a waste of time.)

    3. Read Luke 5:6-8. Is Peter sinful because his business had valuable assets? Is he sinful because he failed to recognize the opportunity of fishing during the day? Why does he ask Jesus to leave because of his sins? (Peter lacked faith in Jesus. He realized it and confessed his sin. Peter knew this was a miracle, not a missed fishing opportunity.)

    4. Read Luke 5:9-11. Jesus calls Simon Peter, a partner in a fishing operation, to be His disciple. Why would Jesus choose a man whose education was in fishing (and perhaps business) instead of theology? Peter thought he knew more than Jesus and he did not have faith in Jesus. Why choose him (and apparently his business partners as well)?

    5. Read Mark 6:3, John 1:45-46, Luke 9:58 and Isaiah 11:10-12. These texts show that Jesus was homeless, He was not educated in a traditional sense, He grew up in a lousy town and there was some question about the morality of his conception ("Mary's son"). The Isaiah prophecy predicts that Jesus will be a warrior King who will rally the Jews and defeat their enemies. If you were empire-building, would you choose Peter? Would you choose the conditions of Jesus' life for a warrior king?

      1. If you were reforming a religious movement, would you choose Peter? Would you choose for the leader being poor, homeless, uneducated and of questionable heritage?

      2. The Trinity had plenty of time to consider all of this, why did They make the decisions They did? (Read Hebrews 4:15-16. When we say "We want to be like Jesus," we should not aim to be uneducated, homeless or being scorned by others. One reason Jesus came with all of these disadvantages is because of grace - He wants us to see that He lived through the kind of problems humans face.)

    6. Read Judges 7:2-3. Are you familiar with this principle? (God works through weakness so that it is clear that God is the source of the solution.)

      1. Would this principle explain in part why Jesus chose the disciples He did and lived the life He led?

  3. The Advantage of Being Poor

    1. Few think being poor is an advantage. Few hope to be poor. Yet we have just seen that Jesus chose to be poor and chose unlikely disciples to show us that the Kingdom of heaven is for all, regardless of wealth. The Bible suggests another advantage of being poor, and we turn to it next.

    2. Read Proverbs 10:15. Perhaps James missed this text. What does it say about wealth?

      1. In contrast, read Psalms 144:1-2. What does this say about our fortress in life?

    3. Read Luke 18:18-20. Is Jesus' answer the one you would give? Is it the answer Paul would give?

    4. Read Luke 18:21-24. No one who has ever discussed this story with me believes this instruction applies to them. Why not?

      1. If it does not apply to you, why did it apply to this rich ruler?

    5. Read Romans 10:9-11. Will keeping the commandments or giving away all of our wealth earn our salvation? (No! Jesus was talking to the ruler about trust. As Romans 10:11 says, if we trust in Jesus we will never be put to shame. The lesson Jesus taught was that we must trust Him instead of our wealth. That is why wealth is a disadvantage when it comes to grace. We trust our wealth.)

    6. Friend, will you look more realistically at wealth and your fellow church members? Will you love all as you love yourself, and will you make it your goal to depend only on Jesus?

  4. Next week: Jesus and the Social Outcasts.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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