Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 4 Study # 11
Thesis: As a part of the powerful rich, we stand in grave danger of living with emptiness.
Introduction: There are two characteristics which typify our culture. We are rich beyond the imagination of every generation prior to the second world war, and, because of that war, we are powerful beyond the imagination of even most of the people who live in the world today. If we put the mentally and physically handicapped outside of our considerations, there are no citizens of our culture that could not live at a level beyond the pleasures of the Caesars of Rome if they would practice diligence, integrity, and self-discipline. Since diligence, integrity, and self-discipline are characteristics of those who walk by the Spirit, there is no good reason for any believer to not be well on the road to wealth and the power it produces. This is considered to be a good thing by everyone, with only a very small number of exceptions. But, it is not a good thing if we understand Mary's words in Luke 1:52-53 within their context. That there are only a very few exceptions to the desire for wealth and power among the peoples of a nation that is identified as "Christian" is a statement of just how "unChristian" this nation is. There is a huge danger in being wealthy and powerful and even the experience of the threat that hangs over everyone that is wealthy and powerful has proven to be unproductive in stemming the tide of the lust for wealth and power. As we approach Mary's words this morning, we are in serious danger because the words are going to cut across some of our most fundamental desires and we will be sorely tempted to just dismiss them and, then, continue to experience the consequences of being wealthy and powerful.
June 20, 2004
- I. Mary's Words.
- A. She sets forth a two-fold statement that is designed to communicate one reality.
- 1. She creates an ABBA form with her words so that we can understand that she is saying the same thing in two ways.
- a. The AB words are "He hath put down princes from their thrones, And hath exalted them of low degree."
- b. The BA words are "The hungry he hath filled with good things; And the rich he hath sent empty away."
- c. She is saying that God has frustrated those whose pursuit of life is methodologically flawed and has fulfilled those whose life is methodologically solid.
- 2. She uses words that signify something more than the words themselves.
- a. There is nothing "immoral" about being powerful or wealthy, per se.
- b. That the powerful and wealthy are the objects of God's judgment means, then, that power and wealth stand for something besides power and wealth.
- c. The context of her words identify power and wealth as the instruments of those who are "proud" [the same tools, in the hands of the "humble", would never be considered as qualifications for the wrath of God].
- B. She addresses some fundamental issues of "pride".
- 1. When she comments on God "putting down rulers from their thrones" she is not speaking of God's opposition to rulers sitting upon thrones.
- a. God both establishes and favors "rulers" who "execute power from their thrones".
- b. Mary's historical context is the kind of rulers which God has removed from their thrones as the Davidic rulers: these were men who were abusers of their power.
- c. Thus, Mary is speaking of those who use power to pursue ungodliness in opposition to the revealed will of God, given by prophets and Scripture.
- d. This is a fundamental characteristic of "pride": using the provisions of God to pursue that which is against the will of God.
- 2. When she comments on God "exalting the humble", she is not speaking primarily of putting the humble on the throne (though this is the destiny of her Son); rather, she is speaking of what has happened to her.
- a. What happened to her was that God appointed her as an instrument of His power to bring about the fulfillment of His promises...an appointment that had nothing to do with taking a seat on a throne, nothing to do with taking a place of authority over anyone else, and everything to do with embracing her place in the flow of life from the throne of God.
- b. That her embrace of her place in God's flow of life was going to ultimately bring about the seating of the Humble upon the Throne goes without saying, but she is unconcerned with the central problem: lusting after "control".
- c. It is central to "pride" that the proud seek to be "in control".
- 3. When she comments on God "filling the hungry with good things", she is not speaking of various types of foods designed to satisfy physical hunger.
- a. There is no indication that Mary was going from garbage can to garbage can because she was starving.
- b. There is every indication that Mary's soul and spirit were "hungry" and that the good things that God gave to satisfy her hunger were the ability to "magnify the Lord" and to "exult in God my Savior".
- c. It is central to "pride" that the proud seek to satisfy their "hungers" with things that can not satisfy.
- 4. When she comments on God "sending the rich away empty", she is addressing something profound: what the rich cannot obtain by their wealth.
- a. One cannot go away "empty" if one is wealthy unless the commodity is not available or cannot be purchased with money.
- b. The commodity ("good things") is not unavailable; rather, it cannot be bought with money.
- c. It is central to "pride" that what is truly valuable is overlooked almost entirely.
- II. The Realization of Mary's Words in Principle.
- A. The problems of wealth and power are problems of "pride".
- B. The issues of pride have nothing fundamental to do with wealth and power, but with misplaced values and misplaced faith.
- C. The realization of the consequences of "pride" settles slowly if at all.
- 1. It is no accident that American Christians have more troubles than they can shake a stick at -- their misuse of wealth and power simply reveal their basic opposition to God and He has responded in kind.
- 2. It is no accident that American Christianity can hardly be identified with Biblical Christianity because it is not the same "Christianity".
- a. Americans are self-indulgent to a fault.
- b. Their practice of religion is self-indulgent to the same fault.
- c. Even the Word that is preached is diluted to the point of no power by the excessive context of self-indulgence.
- 3. The worst of it all is this: even under the judgment of God, those who say they know Him cannot even recognize that they are under His judgment and not His blessing.