A Life More Precious than the Whole World
Deuteronomy 8:1-6; Matthew 16:26
Human life is from God, so it cannot be exchanged even for the heavens and the earth. Too often, this precious life that is most beautiful, holy, and dignified is cast away like dirt. Abortion is a fearsome sin of murder. Shooting and stabbing someone to death is not the only sin of murder. “What I choose to do with my own body is none of your business!” But that is not true. My life does not belong to me. It belongs to God. If you abort a baby and throw it away like trash, those babies will cry out, “God! I was not able to be born on this earth. I am heading straight to the tomb.”
About ten years ago, there was an incident in which a young mother gave birth to a baby with severe birth defects and needed surgery. However, even with surgery, the baby was expected to live only about ten years with severe disabilities. Without the surgery, the baby would live around a year. The parents made the decision to not go through with the surgery, and the child ended up dying at six months. This incident contains the fundamental issue of one’s perspective on human life and how it should be handled.
Human life cannot be exchanged for time.
Some say, “What kind of sin did I commit in my past for me to have a child like this?” Even other people murmur that the parents or ancestors must have transgressed in some way. Your own child turns into a bitter foe. Those ten years would be a truly painful time for the parents and family. People these days think, “The whole family just cannot invest that much time into one child.” Their perspective is that this child, who would eventually die anyway, would be in pain for a long period of time even if the child lives, so would it not be better to rather die early? However, the Bible says otherwise for those who believe in God. A saint is someone who gives thanks for all things, saying, “This child was given to me so that my family would be greatly glorified through this child, and to gift me with a great faith that my ancestors were not able to have until now.” “Thanksgiving in all things” is not something we do only when we are in a good mood. Giving thanks even at the most hopeless, darkest moments of life, when you feel like there is no way out and at the point of death—this is “thanksgiving in all things.”
In the old days, mothers would take freshly washed rice and filter out the stones through a sieve. God, however, does not filter out anything. He does not regret what He has created (Romans 11:29). The sculptor creates something according to what he envisions, but if he doesn’t like it, he crushes it and remakes it. This may be the world of man, but not of God. After creating, He saw that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Was there anything He didn’t like? No matter the child, one must give thanks to God and receive grace.
On the way back to Jerusalem, after Jesus had gone to Galilee, a poor blind man begged, “Have mercy on me!” And Jesus’ disciples, who were very exclusive, asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” At that time, Jesus said, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
We are not like this. Someone is “bad” when we are not satisfied with them, then suddenly turns “good” when they work in our favor. This is the human world where human life is so easily ignored and trivialized. Still, people say they believe in Jesus. Dear saints. After hearing this message today, let us thank God even more for our children, even if they are imperfect with disabilities. Let us love them. Please do not grumble or blame others.
Think about the great love and mercy of God, who puts our lives above time.
Let us view this matter in regards to the Exodus.
God spared the Israelites for forty years. Moses stressed, “Remember God who was with our forefather in the wilderness for forty years!” God could have instantly struck the Israelites dead for their deeds, but he spared them because He remembered Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ps 105). Time was absolutely necessary for the people to attain faith and pass it down.
Ever since the Exodus, the Israelites complained and grumbled without ceasing. Moses put his hand into the fold of his robe, and when he took it out, it was leprous; when he again put it back into his robe and took it back out, his hand was restored. Didn’t the Israelites witness this along with two other signs of Moses’ power? This was the sign that we become leprous when we are embraced by the world, but we can live an immaculate life when embraced by Jesus. The Israelites witnessed the ten plagues of Egypt. The plague of thick darkness fell upon all of Egypt for three days, but the Israelites had bright daylight in Goshen where they dwelt. Indeed, they saw and experienced all of this. Nevertheless, they spoke evil against Moses as soon as they came out of Egypt, cursing him to die. Moses went up to Mount Sinai to pray on their behalf, for forty days and without drinking or eating, and he finally received the blessed ordinance, the Ten Commandments, which God Himself wrote on the stone tablets that He had cut out. But that moment, the people of Israel were betraying God and dancing before the idol that they themselves had made. Moses threw the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments and it shattered into pieces; he then ground them into powder and made the Israelites drink it. When God said He would destroy the Israelites, this elderly, eighty-year-old Moses fell on his knees and prayed without eating or drinking. He begged, “God, if you destroy these people, the Gentiles will say there is no God. Please save them!” God received Moses’ prayer and spared the Israelites once again.
Why did God spare them? Because their life was precious. When the Israelites walked through the wilderness for forty years, God also walked with them. He led them to each and every campsite and never left them. He even said that He carried them on eagles’ wings and brought them to Himself (Exod 19:4). God lamented over how much He grieved and suffered during those forty years because of them (Ps 95:10; Deut 9:7, 11; 31:21; Judg 2:17; Hos 9:9-10).
Don’t our hearts also become dark the moment we come home to find out that our children got into trouble? The whole family is disgraced and the humiliation is felt at work and even among friends. But God, by not smiting the people at that instant, teaches us that life must be prioritized over time. He suffered forty years with them, but their life was more important than time to God. He embraced the Israelites who sinned against Him day and night, and endured their incessant curses, betrayal, and grumblings. They grumbled even in their tents, “Is Moses making himself king over us?” Or, “Where is that land of Canaan flowing with milk and honey? Only thing we see here is a dusty, windy desert!” They cursed Moses in this way (Deut 1:27). God could have struck them down right there, but how precious life is! Please think about the great love and mercy of God, who puts our lives above time! Moses could not enter Canaan because he failed to believe just once. But we too, don’t we only come to church if we are in a good mood, then speak badly about the church if we don’t like something? Can’t you see God enduring and withstanding all this?
Parents invest about twenty-four years of their life giving birth to a child, raising him, and putting him through college. The parents bear those long years with joy. Even if they cannot afford a single item of new clothing for themselves, they will always buy new clothes for their children. They will work for others through many sleepless nights to provide the tuition, books, and clothes for their children. But are you honoring your parents right now? You are blessed with longevity when you honor your parents; but you will live only half your life if you don’t. The Bible clearly says this.
Parents endure these long years because their children’s lives weigh heavier than time.
They forget the long years of suffering because they put the life of their children above all else. That is the heart of God our Father. Nothing in this world can be exchanged for human life. To Jesus, one soul is heavier than the weight of the whole earth. So, how precious is His Word? Our God searches for one lost sheep out of a hundred. He searches the entire house to find the one lost coin out of the ten. He searches for the prodigal son, the very son who broke His heart and wasted all the family fortune! Please fathom the heart of the Shepherd as he leaves behind the ninety-nine sheep in the field to find that one lost sheep, wandering over the hill, across the river, and deep down into the valley. How contrary is this in our current world of putting in the least amount of effort for maximum results! Jesus saw that it was definitely worthwhile to invest the long hours of a tiresome night to find that one lost sheep. That lost sheep was clearly a bad sheep; it got lost because it did not follow the shepherd’s order. Nevertheless, Jesus wandered here and there, searching for that one sheep. This parable shows how Jesus considers that lost sheep’s life more precious than time itself.
I tell this story often. Pastors and evangelists went into the city and came across a shivering beggar at a subway entrance to whom they gave money. I asked how much they gave, and they answered, “One dollar.” I responded, “Go back! One dollar wouldn’t buy even a bowl of soup. That beggar may look like nothing, but he is Jesus.” Jesus taught us this, saying, “Did you not turn away when I was sick and naked?” And the people responded, “When did we ever do that?” Jesus replied, “What you did not do for the little ones is what you did not do for Me.” Apostle Paul urges us to receive others as if they are God. Pity the ones who regret treating others to a meal, saying, “That was a waste of money!” When money is short, people simply need to be honest with each other and combine their funds to eat together. Don’t be the one who eats all there is to be eaten then feigns ignorance when the other party goes to pay the check, only afterwards saying, “Oh, but I was going to pay…” As believers, we must not be this way; we must regard others as we do God. Giving must be done in the name of Jesus, then nothing will seem like a waste. When we give, we sometimes have thoughts like, “I shouldn’t have offered; I could have paid less.” But if we can just believe that we are giving to God, then these thoughts will disappear! How can we be closefisted when we know that we are giving to God, the Creator of all things, the Ruler over life and death, the origin of all blessings.
The same goes for our offerings to God. How can we be begrudging in our offerings to Him? We would be dead without the sunlight and moonlight. We cannot even survive one minute without air. The vitality of the earth invigorates us and wards off illnesses; it is indwelt with the divinity and power of God. Thus, human beings must live with their feet on the earth. It is good to have a little bit of earth or soil in your home, even if it’s in a corner of your apartment veranda. All this God created and freely gave to us, so how can we not be thankful to Him?
If we do what Jesus’ disciples did by disregarding the poor and those with disabilities, God will say, “You despise me.” How terrifying is this? When we ostracize and shun those who are marginalized and who we deem lower than ourselves, God tells us, “I have created both the poor and the rich. Their lives I’ve created. Will you so disdain me?”
Proverbs 14:31 One who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but one who is gracious to the needy honors Him.
Karl Barth, John Calvin, and John Wesley have all said many things, but what Jesus says is everything! Even if Jesus speaks just once, all things are contained in it. The words of Jesus are life. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus commanded His disciples saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” He forgave sins and blessed with His word. After seeing Jesus in the company of women and drinking wine, the Israelites asked Him, “Are you truly from heaven?” Jesus said, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds ”(Matt 11:19). Jesus is saying here, “You find nothing praiseworthy in my actions because you are not My children. That is why you only find fault, cursing me.”
Jesus did not only regard the wealthy and high-ranking officials. He viewed every life to be equal. The spirit of human beings is the lamp of God; it brings all things to light just like a flashlight. God does not distinguish between the rich and poor, as human beings do. The more prosperous one is, the more good one must do. He calls upon us to become “a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds”(Eph 2:10; Titus 2:14). Proper wages must be paid to those commissioned with a job. By doing so, their business will not go bankrupt. Properly paid employees will praise their employers, and that becomes their blessing. But a company will go out of business if their employees say, “I only got this much for the work I did? What goes around comes around.” That doesn’t mean people should get paid for failing to work. The Bible says that those who are unwilling to work are not to eat.
Every soul, whether poor or rich, is the lamp of God. Both the national president and a beggar on the streets are equal in their character. A rich man’s coffin at his funeral may be much more expensive than a poor man’s, but they will both decay in the ground the same way. Please remember this. I always tell people, “Please don’t buy an expensive coffin when I die. We will all go into the ground and decay the same way. What use is an expensive coffin? We go to heaven by faith. Please don’t weep when I die. How happy are we when we move from a tiny apartment to a big mansion? We are sent to this earth only for a little while until we return to the eternal world covered with diamonds and overflowing with gold. So why should anyone cry?” This is why we refer to our funerals as “home-going worship services.” After we have done our best to finish our God-given tasks and enter the bright kingdom of heaven, myriads of angels will come and serve us. How wonderful would that be!
Only man has God’s image. What a noble life we have! We must never be hostile to our bodies and we must take good care of it. Don’t try to look nice to the wrong crowd outside; look nice to your spouse at home. Be nice to your spouse. Some call their husbands the devil because he does not believe in Jesus and drinks after work. You’re enjoying the devil’s money though… (laughter). Even the life of an unbelieving spouse is equally precious. It is just that he does not yet know the truth of God. If you inspire him with kindness, good deeds, and daily life, he will come to church even if you tell him not to. Let us cherish the life of our unbelieving spouses, children, and in-laws. I bless you in the name of the Lord to become God’s saints who build a household that cherishes human life above all wealth and time.
Human life cannot be exchanged for comfort.
People think they are happy when they are comfortable. They dream of living comfortably at an old age with the hard-earned money that they saved up by eating less and spending less. A hot topic of conversation these days is ‘euthanasia’ because people want to die comfortably. I saw a film where the elderly were euthanized because they were diseased, old, lonely and uncared for. Hitler not only killed 6 million Jews but 230,000 of his own people. He captured and killed people who were not smart and deemed to be a loss for the country. It was a complete rejection of the word of God that states, “The spirit of a person is the lamp of the LORD (Prov 20:27).” Hitler judged which lives were not worth living. He believed that the act of killing them was not a sin but justified. This was a result of a materialistic interpretation of mankind without regards to the dignity of life that was created in the image of God, a result of forgetting the power and might of the Word. The life of mankind was not a random and spontaneous occurrence. Life is a result of God’s work of creation, in His image, with all His heart. This is why God saw that “it is very good” after creating all that He had created, including mankind. He gave the three blessings: fill the earth, subdue it, and rule over everything that moves on the earth. God is the Lord of all things in the universe, but he entrusted all things to man and allowed man to name and manage all creation (Gen 2:19-20).
You are the most precious person in the world that cannot be exchanged for anything else. Our lives do not belong to us but to God. Never forget that! Everyone has flaws. There is no perfect man on this earth. Everyone is sick and everyone is a sinner. If we were to make a list of “humans not worth living,” your name or my name could be on that list. In other words, no one should be haughty! Today’s scripture tells us that God has led us in the wilderness to “humble you, putting you to the test, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Since when did you have power, honor and money? If you are wealthy, please provide for the poor and their means of life with love. Take good care of those who work well, even more than your own children, acknowledge them as valuable assets in your company and compensate them accordingly. A company that does this will never go out of business.
We ignore, neglect and turn away those who can’t eat three meals a day and can’t live a comfortable life because they don’t have the money. We say, “Don’t play with that child.” Or, “Don’t bring them over to our house.” The value of life should never be judged by the criteria of wealth, education, or comfort. We come to this world empty-handed and will go empty-handed (1 Tim 6:7). The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil (1 Tim 6:10).
How patiently did God take care of the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years? They complained both before and after eating manna. How great is Moses, for enduring all that! God had Moses teach them, “Man does not live by material things but by the word that comes out of God’s mouth!” Everything is contained here.
Deuteronomy 8:3 He humbled you by making you hungry when there was no food in the desert. Then He fed you with manna, a food you and your ancestors had never heard of. He did this because He wanted you to understand that what makes you truly alive is not the bread you eat but following every word that comes from the mouth of the Eternal One.
Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4. The Word of God is life (John 1:1), and we received this precious life. I pray that we all realize that our lives are precious when we live according to the Word of God. Strive to be people of God who work hard to stay away from sin by always praying before God, giving Him praise and reading the Bible and doing good deeds. Don’t slander others and say, “He is evil, he is a thief.” I urge you in the name of the Lord to become saints who pray before God and ask Him to hold onto that soul, to hold onto that life.
God had patience for the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years, because life is more important than time.
Moses brought out the 2 million Israelites who had been slaves in Egypt for 430 years by Your great power and might. He was a great leader who led these lowly people in the wilderness church, even when they always complained with evil words both before and after receiving manna. He cried out and prayed, “Please do not kill these people! Let them live! If my name is written in the Book of Life, remove my name and let me either die or live with them!” He always placed life above time or matter, counseling, commanding, and guiding them. Help us to not become slaves of material things from this moment on. Our purpose in life is not in materials that are only a means in which we live. Our purpose in life is only in eternal life, the Word of God! Please allow us to live lives of faith where we cherish the life you have given to us the most. Please bless us all so that the name of Jesus does not leave us for generations and generations. God, we want to be good and not sin. Please help us. We are tempted by material things, and by women and men, and we sin within our hearts. God, please forgive us. We sincerely request that You let the mighty power of the Word and the Holy Spirit work through us, to protect us like a pillar of fire, physically and spiritually. Help us to become people of God who are always filled with the Word, filled with grace, filled with the Holy Spirit. Help us to not sin in the world but to always be devoted, truthful, loyal and honest to the work that is entrusted to us. With the faith that all of this will come true, we pray with thanksgiving in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.
February 26, 2006, Rev. Abraham Park, Lord’s day, 2nd service
*This post can also be read in 'Champyungan'. (http://champyungan.com/en/)