“Word for Today” – 1 Thessalonians 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

November 24, 2009 at 4:45 am 2 comments

One person’s trash may be another person’s treasure.  Then again, one person’s trash may simply be trash.  The other morning, I heard a news report on WOAI chronicling those who suffer with compulsive hoarding disorder.  People with this disorder will regularly hoard things of limited to no value – things such as empty milk cartons and tin cans and old newspapers – because of deep, and usually complex, psychological disturbances.  The report went on to explain that even after a person’s house is cleared and cleaned by a professional housekeeping service, things will immediately begin to pile up again because the psychological addiction to hoarding cannot be addressed by simple aesthetic changes in a person’s living environment.

One person’s trash may be another person’s treasure.  This cliché, slightly modified, can help us understand Paul’s condemnation of an unrepentant group of Jews in today’s reading from 1 Thessalonians 2.  Paul begins this chapter by recounting his own sufferings (cf. verse 2) and then moves on to address the sufferings of the Christians at Thessalonica:

For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved – so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. (verses 14-16, ESV)

There is group of Jews, it seems, which is stridently bent on preventing the gospel’s spread and will even resort to persecuting the church to thwart its march forward.  Paul says that such persecutors “fill up the measure of their sins.”  That is, they pile sin upon sin until God’s patience is exhausted and his wrath is revealed.

But at the same time that these recalcitrant unbelievers are filling up the measure of their sins, those who suffer under them are doing some filling of their own.  As Paul writes elsewhere in Colossians 1:24: Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”  Paul is not here teaching that Christ’s suffering on the cross is somehow incomplete or inadequate for salvation.  Rather, he is saying that we, as those who follow Christ, get to share in Christ’s sufferings.  And the promise is that the same persecutions which fill up the sins of the persecutors also serve also to fill us in Christ the persecuted.  In other words, persecution, depending on whether you are unjustly leveling it against another or unjustly receiving it from another, can serve either to fill you up in sin or fill you up in Christ.  One person’s trash of sin may be another person’s treasure in Christ.

In the world’s eyes, persecution seems to have limited to no value.  But not in God’s eyes.  As the Psalmist says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).  Every affliction that a Christian endures, every unjust accusation under which he stands up, even a death that he dies for the sake of God’s name is precious in God’s sight.  The trash of worldly persecution is reformed and remade into treasure by Christ.

So if you are suffering today, take heart!  For the trash of this world’s suffering can be a treasure in God’s sight.  Ask God what he is seeking to teach you through such hardship and rejoice that you are counted worthy to receive God’s treasure – even when his treasure is suffering.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 1 Thessalonians 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – 1 Thessalonians 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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