Truth in Labeling

I need to warn you that I’m getting on my soapbox today. But hang with me because there’s a reason for it and I won’t be up there very long.


Here goes . . . .


I am totally in favor of making food manufacturers and restaurants list ALL the ingredients we are consuming when we eat their products. And they need to list the real ingredients—not the fake names the FDA allows them to use so the products “sound” healthier than they really are. Or so they sound like REAL food—which a lot of them aren’t.


Another way we could protect ourselves would be to make the labels list the possible outcomes of ingesting some of these “food” products regularly. For instance, a can of soda might have to list cancer, diabetes, obesity, neurological disorders among other things. It would be like cigarette labels that now have to warn consumers of the potential health hazards of smoking. And alcohol labels that warn pregnant women of the health risk to their unborn babies.


I may be in the minority, but I want to know what I’m eating. I don’t want to be surprised later by a health diagnosis that could have been prevented if I had only known what I was choosing to put in my body. (Soapbox dismounted.)


Let’s take this idea a little further . . . into our decision-making.


How much easier would life be if the documentation on that car you purchased had included a warning that, according to its history, this particular model was probably only going to last a few months past the warranty.


Or, if before you bought that house, you would have been informed that the hidden plumbing was corroded and you would soon be forking over a huge chunk of change to fix the damage from a major leak.


And how great would it be if relationships came with a warning?!? Yes, please. Like . . . prepare for an emotional roller coaster. Turbulence ahead! Get ready for a daily uphill battle . . . for the rest of your life!


And employers had to tell you—yes, we may look and sound good while we’re trying to hire you, but after you spend a little time with us, you’ll regret the day you answered our ad.


I think those labels would save us all a lot of heartache because I believe most people want to choose the best way. I personally don’t know anyone who makes decisions that will knowingly tear their life apart.


Today’s verses tell us that when it comes to our spiritual life, we definitely need to check the labels. Jesus says in today’s verses that there are only two paths to choose from—one leading to life and the other to destruction. The road that leads to life is entered through the “narrow gate” while the “wide gate” leads to destruction.


Since these gates and their labels are symbols and not actual objects, Jesus tells us in the next few verses in Matthew 7 how to recognize whether or not we’re on the right path so we’ll know where we’ll end up. We’ll look at these clues today and for the next couple of weeks.


In the verses we’re looking at today, Jesus tells us that the gate that leads to life is narrow and contracted by pressure, and the road to life is restricted, confined, narrowed and few people find it. And He tells us that the gate leading to destruction is wide and the road is spacious and broad and traveled by many.


To me it sounds like the road to destruction is the easy way. It’s easy to find, easy to enter, and filled with lots of companions living life on the same path. You don’t have to give up a lot of stuff, if anything, to get through the gate, and you have a lot of latitude and company as you travel the road.


On the other hand, it sounds like the road to life is a much more difficult journey. It’s not wide open. It requires a conscious decision to enter, possibly getting rid of any baggage or possessions or self-righteousness you were hanging on to. And the road is compressed, which could mean there’s still no room for any of that stuff. It’s so narrow there’s not a lot of leeway–it’s pretty much the “straight and narrow.” And it can seem lonely sometimes, compared to the other road.


One way to help determine if you’re on the road that leads to life is to make sure you can remember entering the narrow gate. It had to be a conscious decision you made and it came with a cost—letting go of anything you were trusting in besides Jesus.


Another clue is to see how many fellow travelers you have. If your life’s path is very popular with most of the people in today’s culture, you may want to rethink it.


I’m not saying to look at what the world says is the right or acceptable way and do the opposite. But, a great majority of the time, that might just work out perfectly.


Well, I’ve worked up an appetite. Think I’ll go read some food labels and see if there’s any REAL food in the house.




Matthew 7:13-14

Amplified Bible (AMP)

13 Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it.

14 But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it.


The Message (MSG)

“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.

Simply Brilliant

One of the biggest trends in today’s crazy busy world is simplification.


The recent bestseller Essentialism talks about how doing less rather than more gives you more time and energy to do what you do even better and results in you making a bigger difference in your world.


One of my favorite blogs is “becoming minimalist” which shares inspiration and tips for living with less while enjoying life more.


I also love Andy Stanley’s teaching that the ultimate goal for leaders should be to “only do what only you can do.” My paraphrase: determine what is essential, delete what’s not, do what only you can do, and delegate the rest.


Simplification sounds real good . . . until you start looking at each individual detail on your to-do list and every appointment in your day timer. The thought of deleting some of those items may feel brutal and uncaring, even though, at the same time, you may resent the time and energy they require.


Maybe we should take a cue about our priorities from Jesus.


I love the way Jesus lived His life. He was never in a hurry. He ministered to whoever crossed His path each day. He shared His wisdom with them, met their needs, and gave them His undivided attention.


Jesus also simplified the rules and regulations that were such a burden on the Jews in His time. Through the centuries, the religious leaders had added hundreds of laws to the ones handed down by God. It had reached the point where the law was no longer making their lives better and bringing them closer to God. Instead, trying to keep all the rules was now making everyday life more difficult.


Today’s verse is one of the most popular ones in the Bible. In fact, it’s frequently quoted, not only in churches, but also in secular arenas. A lot of companies even include the phrase in their name.


It’s located in Matthew 7:12 and it’s known as the “Golden Rule.”


The NIV translation says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you . . . .”


It’s such a simple yet brilliant concept. And a great way to live life.


And what is equally brilliant is the phrase that completes this verse: “. . . for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”


In one fell swoop, Jesus took hundreds of Jewish rules and regulations and reduced them down to one sentence.


One lone truth.


A single moral code that encompasses all the law and the prophets.


Now that’s what I call simplified.

What Are You For?

Most parents love to give gifts to their children—and a lot of them excel at it.


Gifts that parents give their kids come in a variety of packages.


A lot of parents give their children new cars on their 16th birthday. But one set of parents I know gave their son a riding lawn mower and an edger and a blower so he could build a lawn business that will help him pay for college. They also helped him purchase a used pick-up truck to carry the lawn equipment to his clients.


Most parents take their children clothes shopping several times a year, buying them their basic wardrobe needs, plus clothes for special occasions, as well as whatever latest trends their friends are wearing. Other parents give their older children an annual or seasonal amount of money for their wardrobe and help them learn to budget while they are still at home.


If the children were given a choice, I’m sure they would always choose the easy way—like the new car and the shopping trips paid for by their parents. But if they could see the wisdom they would acquire and how it would serve them the rest of their life by taking the other route . . . I STILL think most of them would choose the easy route.


Because they’re children. And that’s why they need parents who know what’s best for them—whether it’s the easy way in one particular situation or the more indirect route in another.


As Jesus followers, we have THE BEST DADDY. Our Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need—and He’s not looking at just today. He has the unique perspective that allows Him to know what we need NOW that will give us the best advantage in the future.


Have you ever asked God for something and He gave you something totally different? I know I have. And at the time, I wondered why He didn’t give me what I asked for. I wasn’t asking for anything evil. In fact, it was what I considered the best answer for the situation.


But later on—to be honest it was YEARS down the road—I looked back and saw what He did and why. The wisdom I gained by not getting the “easy” answer has given me the advantage in many situations in my life.


The Amplified Bible says “keep on” asking, seeking, and knocking. And it says to knock “reverently.” Jesus isn’t telling us to “name it and claim it” here.


I think He’s saying that if you’re not getting your answer as quickly as you think you need it, don’t give up.

  • Keep going to God and asking Him because He is the source of all good gifts.
  • Keep looking for His answer because it’s going to show up. It may not show up when or where you expect it and it may look totally different than you thought it would. But it will show up.
  • Keep reverently knocking on that closed door. Not demanding, but expecting it to open.


And then KNOW that your Heavenly Daddy is going to give you the absolute BEST gift. He knows what’s best for you and He has the power to bring it about in your life.


Your gift from God may not be wrapped like you expect. It may not be the gift you think you asked for. In fact, it may be the exact opposite of what you were expecting Him to give you.


But you can trust that God doesn’t make mistakes and He doesn’t give His children anything but the best.


So say, “Thank You, Daddy.” And then smile, because this gift is going to work to your advantage for years to come.



Matthew 7:7-11 (AMP)

Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you.

For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened.

Or what man is there of you, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will hand him a stone?

10 Or if he asks for a fish, will hand him a serpent?

11 If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven [perfect as He is] give good and advantageous things to those who keep on asking Him!



Pearls in the Pigpen

Matthew 7:1-6 Amplified Version (AMP)


Today’s passage deals with an important aspect of our relationships with other people. It talks about what to do—or better yet what NOT to do—when you see someone who has made a mistake or is living with a fault or an issue.


1 Do not judge and criticize and condemn others, so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves.

For just as you judge and criticize and condemn others, you will be judged and criticized and condemned, and in accordance with the measure you [use to] deal out to others, it will be dealt out again to you.


These first two verses talk about the law of the harvest. Not per se. But here Jesus says if you have a critical spirit and are in the habit of criticizing other people, you will reap what you sow. And you will reap in the same way and in the same ‘measure’ that you sow.


He doesn’t spell out who will be returning your criticism back to you, but He says it will be returned.


So what we’re NOT supposed to do when we see someone who’s made a mistake is to criticize them for making the mistake . . . or for having the fault . . . or for dealing with their particular issue.


The next two verses give us a good reason why we should keep our mouth shut.


Why do you stare from without at the very small particle that is in your brother’s eye but do not become aware of and consider the beam of timber that is in your own eye?

Or how can you say to your brother, Let me get the tiny particle out of your eye, when there is the beam of timber in your own eye?


In these verses, Jesus reminds us that we have no room to talk about anyone else’s problems. We’re not perfect either. I know. At least we don’t have THEIR problem. Yeah. I think that’s what Jesus is talking about in verses 1-2.


It’s so easy to see everyone else’s faults and mistakes and issues. And sometimes it’s very difficult to see our own. And when we do admit we have a problem, it comes very natural to minimize our problem.


But apparently it’s not as minimal as we like to think.


I love Jesus’s word pictures. Here He paints the scene where one person with a log sticking out of his eye is pointing out a speck in his brother’s eye and volunteering to remove it.


That’s laughable.


Which is apparently how Jesus feels about us continuously focusing on the faults in everyone else and excusing the things that aren’t right in our own life.


But He doesn’t say we’re to ignore our brother’s faults. Check out the next verse.


You hypocrite, first get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother’s eye.


I believe He’s talking about fellow believers here. Not earth’s general population.


And I believe Jesus is saying there is a time to help your brother or sister recognize the speck in their eye and help them remove it. But I think He’s saying this should take place after spending time in His presence asking Him to show you anything in your life you need to repent of—and dealing with it—BEFORE you go in humility and ask if you can help your brother or sister.


This is something that needs to be done after LOTS of prayer and repentance and in deep love and humility.


And when God is leading you to do it.


And that’s where I think the next verse comes in.


Do not give that which is holy (the sacred thing) to the dogs, and do not throw your pearls before hogs, lest they trample upon them with their feet and turn and tear you in pieces.


I often wondered why this verse was placed here. I understood its meaning. I just didn’t get how it connected to this passage until I studied it this time.


And this is just my opinion.


I believe Jesus is saying that helping someone with the speck in their eye is only for fellow believers. And even then, I believe it’s for believers who are actively seeking Him and His best for their life.


Those people will be open to help. They will appreciate all the prayer and repentance and humility required in preparing to help them see the speck in their eye and then helping them remove it.


Sharing all of that with unbelievers and holier-than-thou believers is just like giving something precious to a wild dog or throwing your expensive pearls into the pigpen for the hogs to play dress-up with.


Neither will appreciate it. In fact, they’ll probably do what comes natural to them—turn on you and tear you to shreds.


That would not be any fun.


And you probably wouldn’t get your pearls back.