Wise Guys

Matthew 1:1–4:25

Most people long to be smarter. To increase their IQ, some try the latest “brain foods,” while others take up brain-stimulating hobbies. Intelligence is a priceless commodity. The smarter people are, the more money they can make, the more respect they will receive, and the more influence they will have.
Although it’s good to be smart, intelligence isn’t everything. In fact, three men in this reading have something more important—wisdom. Wisdom may seem to be more difficult to gain than intelligence, but these men show how easy it is to start down the road in that direction. As you read, follow the example of these men.

Three astrologers from the east traveled a great distance to a foreign land to find Jesus. They said they wanted to worship him, but that was only half true. As soon as they found Jesus, they also honored him as king by giving gifts. Then they left (Matthew 2:1-12). Though their encounter with Jesus probably lasted only a day, the wisdom they displayed in worshiping him has been recorded for eternity.
Today, many people demonstrate foolishness in their attitudes and actions toward Jesus. Some treat him as a quaint and harmless idealist, too human to be worshiped. Others expect him to accommodate them. Some even treat Jesus with contempt and irreverence. Yet those who are wise recognize Jesus for who he is and feel a personal responsibility to bow down to and serve him.
Honor Jesus in your attitude and actions. Give your life to him because he gave his for you, and don’t forget to give him the praise and worship he deserves. In doing this, you will be truly wise.

Great Expectations

Matthew 5:1-48

Have you ever had a teacher who expected a lot out of you? What about a parent or relative who assumed that you would act responsibly and morally? People who believe in you usually expect a lot of you—your conduct and your work. Although it may be frustrating to have someone hold you to such high standards—not to mention trying to live up to them—it can be very beneficial.
Similar to this teacher, parent, or relative, Jesus wanted, and expected, the best for his followers, and he set high standards for them to live by. This passage, known as the Sermon on the Mount, spells out some of those standards. Jesus set them up to help you.

Jesus’ standards required a new way of holiness that neither the crowds nor the religious authorities could grasp. They couldn’t understand because his standards turned theirs and their world’s way of thinking upside down. Consider some of Jesus’ teachings: True happiness involves humility, mourning, longing, purity, and persecution (Matthew 5:3-11); anger can place you in danger of judgment (5:22); do not even look at others lustfully (5:28); never take revenge (5:39); and love your enemies (5:44). Jesus’ listeners that day also didn’t realize that to live by his standards required God’s power, faith in Christ, and change brought by the Holy Spirit.
Although Jesus’ standards are steep, they are his formula for happiness and success. Christians should strive to live up to them only with the help of the Holy Spirit. When we get discouraged by trying to live up to such high standards, we should remember that living by them will bring rewards—though not the kind most people seek, and not necessarily in this life (5:12).

Rewiring The Panic Botton

Matthew 6:1-34

“I’m not worried,” we say nervously, “just quite concerned.”
Life is full of concerns—fleeting, chronic, financial, relational, mild, or severe. These worries can drive us crazy just thinking about them. They can also cause us to question our faith in God. Does God care about our concerns? Is he doing anything to help us out?
In this passage, Jesus points out the lessons in trust that we can learn from nature, assuring us of the futility of worry and of the certainty of God’s care. As you read, strengthen your dependence on God’s gracious care, and watch your worries melt away.

Jesus knew that his disciples naturally worried about having enough of life’s necessities, so he reassured them that God would provide for their needs. He pointed out that God provides for the animal kingdom, so he also would provide for them—they mattered much more than the animals (Matthew 6:25-34).
Worrying about our needs accomplishes nothing and ignores the fact that God works to meet those needs. Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to be lazy or not to work, just to trust God and not to worry.
Do what you can about the concerns you have, but also realize that God, who loves and cares for you, has made provision for them as well. He will not let your needs overwhelm you. Whenever worries plague you, follow these three steps: (1) tell God about your concerns, asking him to provide for your needs; (2) do what you humanly can to work on your concerns; and (3) trust in God’s goodness—remember that he cares for you more than even you care for yourself and will provide all you need at the right time.