Escaping The Clutches Of Green Acres

Green Acres was one of my favorite television programs growing up. If you weren’t around back in the day, the plot focused on two city people adjusting to life on the farm.

Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor proved, transitioning to another life isn’t easy—and it can often present a plethora of problems.

TODAY’S READING

Deuteronomy 31:1-32:27
Luke 12:8-34
Psalm 78:32-55
Proverbs 12:21-23

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Deuteronomy 31. This chapter is very similar to Joshua 1, especially the theme to “Be strong and courageous.”

To help ensure that the people continue in their faith in God, Moses then commanded them to gather every 7 years to hear the law read (verses 9-13). Remember: no one owned their own version of the Torah, so they couldn’t refer to it whenever they felt the need to read. But also, most people were illiterate, so they couldn’t read the Torah anyways. However, reading through the Bible as a whole every 7 years seems like a good rule of thumb. It’s not a law that God requires of us, but it seems like a good idea.

Often, people don’t fare well during the transition. Either they remain in the wilderness and abandon the Promised Land, or they enter the Promised Land and abandon God—which is the issue God addresses in verses 14-29. This reminds me of the lines from one of my favorite hymns, Come, Thou Fount: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”

What was true for Israel is also true for us.

Luke 12:13-21. Various forms of sexual immorality are easy to point out as grievous sins. However, Jesus said more in the gospels about greed than sex: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (verse 15).

Whenever I start getting overcome by a desire for more stuff, my wife asks me, “Will it fill the hole in your heart?” Her question (usually) knocks a sense of reality into me.

But that’s the point Jesus is making. Possessions will never fill the hole in our heart. After spending time in Africa, I realized that Americans were were just as happy as my friends in Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world.

In Jesus’ parable, the rich man tore down his barns so he could hoard his wealth and live an easy life. Jesus wasn’t opposed to earning money, but he was opposed to hoarding it. Instead, the rich man should have been generous to God by giving away the excess.

Reading this parable also forces me to question whether God ever intended for us to retire. Some of the saddest stories I know are ones where people waste the last part of their lives spending their retirement and playing. After years of accumulating wisdom and experience, they fail to share it with others.

If people can quit their jobs toward the end of their lives, I’m all for it. If people want to play a little more at the end of their lives, I’m all for it. But they’re wasting their lives if they aren’t sharing themselves and their resources with others.

Jesus concludes by offering us these instructions in verses 33 and 34:

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Psalm 78:32-55. Ironically, this psalm carries the same theme as Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 31-32—that after they enter the Promised Land, Israel will abandon God.

Proverbs 12:23. “A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.” Reading through Proverbs, I’ve come to the determination that the more I talk, the greater the chance is that I’ll say something foolish.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Moses’ encouragement to “Be strong and courageous” was important. To his listeners, the wilderness was home. Transitioning into the Promised Land required a HUGE lifestyle change:

  1. Moses would be handing the reins of leadership to a new leader: Joshua.
  2. God would no longer supply them with daily provisions of manna and water, which meant they would now be forced to work for their food.
  3. They would transition from being a nomadic people to an agrarian people. In other words, instead of moving around and living in tents, they would be moving into houses and raising crops. Remember: no one among all the Israelites knew how to farm!

For all of us, moving into our Promised Land requires change that can be scary. We often opt for what’s safe, even when it means staying in the wilderness. Yet God never intended Israel—nor us—to remain there.

Moses’ reassuring words to a nation in the midst of change can calm our fears as well:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (verse 6).

Making a change can be scary. You jeopardize your world as you know it. But all too often, it isn’t until we settle into our Promised Land that we realize we wasted too much time in the wilderness. And because God is on our side, we have nothing to fear.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does your Promised Land look like?
  3. Do you feel you’re living in the wilderness or the Promised Land?
  4. If you’re living in the wilderness, what changes might be required for you to enter your Promised Land?
  5. Do you plan to retire? From God’s perspective, what could it look like?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Escaping The Clutches Of Green Acres

  1. Linda

    This spoke to me on a variety of levels. Wow. But since I’m currently unemployed and trying to traverse that particular Sinai Desert (and praying it won’t take 40 years!) it’s given me food for thought. Should I make the transition to once again working for myself? The notion of a “permanent” job is delightful (benefits, security — ha!) Wait a minute: Where does my security come from? A job? That can be lost in a split second? Or from the Lord. Obvious answer, but this has definitely provoked some additional thought and some more prayer. Thank you! (And thanks for the Green Acres reference — funny stuff.)

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