Appreciation motivates a “hunger and thirst” for righteousness that extends the benefits of human service through more people and time. We join this year’s celebration of thanksgiving and use the opportunity to discuss Christ’s teaching on appreciation as a motivator of positive human interaction.
Thanksgiving is celebrated in different parts of the world at various times. In several places, the celebration is associated with harvest and appreciation for the “fruits of the land.” Also in several places, thanksgiving is celebrated near the end of the calendar year in appreciation of all that was good during the year. For example, in several countries of North America, thanksgiving is celebrated late in the calendar year, usually a few weeks before Christmas; thus beginning a season of giving, receiving, and appreciation that lasts through the remainder of the year. People and institutions exchange gifts and greetings to appreciate each other for being who or what they are and for events of the year that brought their paths to cross.
We join in this year’s celebrations: to express our appreciation to all that interacted with our program one way or the other during the year. We thank God for you and appreciate this opportunity to learn his word and share our understanding through Banking Blessings Ministry. We celebrate this year’s interactions and use the opportunity of the celebration to discuss the value of appreciation in motivating positive human interaction.
CHRIST’S TEACHING ON APPRECIATION We examine Christ’s teaching on appreciation based on his interactions with two people he healed from persistent illness. The interactions suggest he wanted to emphasize appreciation as important to the healing, as if the healing was incomplete without it. The interactions occurred in regard to a woman he healed of long-term bleeding and a man that was the only one of ten that returned to thank him for healing them of leprosy. In both cases, he appeared to be telling them and us that their appreciation enabled them to receive full benefits of the healing. However, we know based on the biblical accounts that the physical healing was complete in each case before the recipient stepped forward to show appreciation. Therefore, his interactions with them lead us to understand that each recipient needed more than the physical healing to receive full benefit of his/her interaction with Jesus in the healing incident.
HUNGER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS His interactions with the two lead us to understand that every human service offers two potential benefits to the recipient:
Surface-value or short-term benefit that arises from the service addressing an immediate need, such as physical healing.
Long-term benefit that arises because the recipient’s appreciation motivates him/her to be good, not only to the provider but also to other people.
If the recipient is good to another person as a result, the other also is motivated to be good to yet others. Thus, an act of goodness whereby a person provides a service to alleviate another person’s need could benefit several more people because the recipient’s appreciation motivates him/her to be good to others that are, in turn, motivated to be good to yet others. Thus, the long-term benefit of human service lies in the potential to motivate an expanding community of people to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” [Matthew 5:6] and earn blessing as Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount. This long-term benefit is more important than the short-term benefit. Christ emphasized its value through personal interactions with the two healing recipients.
RECOGNIZE AVOID AND REJECT TEMPTATION The temptations of Jesus help us understand aspects of a person’s life the devil may target and how it may disguise itself to operate on the targets. We discuss reducing temptation in our lives through prayer, recognizing and rejecting temptation through its attributes and potential disguise, and evaluating potential actions and events based on whether they will fit into or work against our general purpose of living in the image of God.
Nature of Temptation
How to Recognize Avoid and Reject Temptation
Temptation persists among us as the devil tries to pull each person away from living according to God’s purpose. As we discussed in several previous studies (e.g. Keeping Watch by Living in the Image of God), God creates every person to live in his image, i.e., represent him in every human interaction as his provider assistant and conveyor of his image. Representing him means your actions and words radiate Godliness and provide opportunities for other people to feel God. Furthermore, you fulfill your responsibilities as God’s provider assistant by willingly and gracefully providing service to benefit others when God places a need in your path. Also, you receive service provided by others with heart-felt appreciation and happiness. This type of behavior pleases God and draws a person closer to God’s purpose. The devil wants to pull each person away from God’s purpose and devises schemes to lure people into committing sin by behaving in a manner that is opposite to living in the image of God.
Apostle Peter warns about the devil: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” [1 Peter 5:8]. He devours a person by luring them into sin, away from living in the image of God. Our first line of defense against temptation is to pray as Christ taught: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” [Matthew 6:13]. Although we know the devil’s objective is to lure us away from living in the image of God and will readily reject such objective when recognized, the devil succeeds a lot of times because of its disguise and stealth. Therefore, we need to reduce its access to our lives and understand its methods in order to recognize and reject its attempts when it does enter.
In this bible study, we discuss the nature of temptation based on a study of the temptations of Jesus. His temptations help us understand aspects of a person’s life the devil may target and how it may disguise itself to operate on the targets. We seek to understand reducing temptation in our lives through prayer, recognizing and rejecting temptation through its attributes and potential disguise, and evaluating potential actions and events based on whether they will fit into or work against our general purpose of living in the image of God.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF LEADERS AND FOLLOWERS We discuss the responsibilities of leaders and followers through a study of Christ’s rebuke of the teachers of the law in the Seven Woes. He advised the people to honor and heed the teachers but to abhor their lifestyle. He recognized the authority of the teachers but rebuked them for not living according to their interpretations and teaching.
We discuss the responsibilities of leaders and followers based on Christ’s rebuke of teachers of the law in the “Seven Woes” [Matthew 23:1–36]. He rebuked the teachers for not living according to their interpretations and teaching of the law but did not question their authority. He rebuked them for interpreting the law and scriptures for others but making no effort to follow their own teaching. He also rebuked them for focusing on displaying for others to win honor and respect for themselves; and, as a result, misleading people that looked up to them.
Though he rebuked them for such behavior, he did not try to undermine their authority in any way. Instead, he emphasized to his disciples and others that they have to respect and obey the teachers of the law because they represented the authority of Moses among Israelites [Matthew 23:2–3]: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you.” Therefore, in this interaction with his disciples, teachers of the law, and others, Christ taught about our responsibilities to respect and obey our leaders and the responsibilities of leaders to practice what they teach so that others may learn through their living.
KEEPING WATCH FOR GOD’S FINAL JUDGMENT means always living according to the mission for which he created humankind. God creates every person to convey his image and compassion in human interactions and relationships. He will determine who has fulfilled the mission and at time of final judgment will instantaneously separate them to inherit eternal life in his kingdom. The rest he will condemn to eternal punishment. This bible study discusses Christ’s teaching about keeping watch to be prepared for final judgment by living in the image of God always.
Christ Teaching on Living in God Perpetually
Christ taught us through his disciples to be ready at all times for God’s final judgment. He explained the judgment will occur instantaneously everywhere: God will separate the righteous (people that he has judged to have lived according to his purpose) from the wicked (people that he has judged to have not lived according to his purpose). No one knows the day or the hour: “…not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” [Matthew 24:36]. Christ used parables to explain that being ready for the final judgment means living in the image of God perpetually.
LIVING IN THE IMAGE OF GOD He had in previous interactions explained the meaning of living in the image of God through formal teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (This_Link), parables such as the Good Samaritan (This_Link), and demonstration of human service such as in feeding a crowd of thousands (This_Link). As we discussed in previous bible studies (e.g., This_Link and This_Link), living in the image of God implies representing God in every human interaction such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and provide opportunities for other people to feel God. Furthermore, you fulfill your responsibilities as God’s provider assistant, willingly and gracefully providing service to benefit others when God places a need in your path, or accepting service provided by others with heart-felt appreciation and happiness. Those that God judges to have lived in his image will inherit eternal life in his kingdom. In contrast, those that he judges to have lived a different kind of life will be condemned to eternal punishment.
READY FOR JUDGMENT In this bible study, we focus on understanding what a person needs to do in order to be ready for final judgment. Being ready means living a life that pleases God. We examine Christ’s teaching in the parable of the Faithful and Wise Servant [Matthew 24:45-51] and the parable of the Ten Virgins [Matthew 25:1-13] to understand the meaning of “being ready” or “keeping watch” in the context of human interactions and relationships.
Christ rejects hypocrisy and rebuked people against hypocrisy on several occasions. He rebuked people that presented themselves as worshiping God but were more concerned about promoting their authority or self-interest, people that asked questions to show off their knowledge instead of seeking to improve understanding, or people that focused on condemning others. We discuss his teaching on hypocrisy and examine circumstances in which he rebuked people against hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy refers to a person’s motivation for an act of worship or righteousness. Is the action motivated by an understanding of God’s purpose in a given situation and desire to fulfill the purpose? Is one motivated by a desire to be recognized and admired or respected by other people? Hypocrisy could manifest in terms of a person professing a belief but their actions are inconsistent with what they profess. Also, hypocrisy could manifest in terms of self-righteousness, resulting in looking down on and judging others but failing to apply same rules and standards to self. Hypocrisy in worship often manifests as play acting, working behind a “mask,” and in general pretending to be something that the person really isn’t.
Christ’s teaching on hypocrisy could be summarized into a simple message: An act of worship or righteousness pleases God if it is motivated by a desire to worship him or serve people to fulfill his purpose. In contrast, an act of worship or righteousness does not please God if it is motivated by self-promotion, seeking human recognition, or any purpose other than serving God.
In this bible study, we discuss Christ’s teaching on humility through three interactions: first, an interaction with his disciples, when he presented a child as an exemplification of humility and declared that “whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 18:4, NKJV]; second, an interaction with fellow guests at a dinner, where he explained that people should refrain from assigning themselves to seats of honor, to avoid potential demotion by the host, for “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” [Luke 14:11, NKJV]; and third, an interaction with his disciples and a large audience during the Sermon on the Mount.
Humility conveys a message that a person is available and willing to provide or accept assistance as needed. It sets up an environment for fulfilling God’s purpose of mutual provider-receiver relationships among people, whereby every person is potentially a provider sometimes and receiver at other times. Humility conveys a person as predisposed to appreciate other people as potential providers of human service and willing to perform services to benefit others. Therefore, a person’s humility conveys Godliness to others and motivates them to do the same. God creates every person to be humble, expects and rewards humility, but punishes haughtiness.
Christ uses the parable of the Sower to explain that God grants opportunities to every person to know him and grow, flourish, and bear fruit in him. Furthermore, he uses the parable to warn that a person may fail to accomplish the goal of flourishing and bearing fruit in God because of personal habits and environmental influence.
He identifies three potential causes of failure as poor understanding and assimilation of the message, inadequate connection to spiritual nourishment, and inability to withstand enemy competition. In this discussion of the parable of the Sower, we focus on the approach to guarding against and rising above the potential causes of failure. We discuss our understanding of the potential failures and identify various things we can do to avoid them, in order to attain maturity in God and live the life that he created in us. Also, we recall information from previous bible studies to discuss the meaning of bearing fruit in God.