Truth and flattery with a hook

Truth and flattery with a hook

Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. – Matthew 22:16

Luke 20:20-26

 20 Watching for their opportunity, the leaders sent spies pretending to be honest men. They tried to get Jesus to say something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he would arrest Jesus.

 21 “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others think. You teach the way of God truthfully.

 22 Now tell us – is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

 23 He saw through their trickery and said,

 24 “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.

 25 “Well then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

 26 So they failed to trap him by what he said in front of the people. Instead, they were amazed by his answer, and they became silent.

What is entrapment? Entrapment happens when government agents, officials, or law enforcement officers coerce or induce someone into committing a crime that he or she is not previously disposed to commit. In American courtrooms, claiming entrapment is a legal defense strategy that can be used when facing criminal charges. It attempts to establish that the official/s involved originated the idea of the crime and induced the accused to engage in it.

The rationale underlying this defense strategy is to deter law enforcement officers from engaging in reprehensible conduct that results in criminal activity.

The religious leaders, who were often offended and angered by the Lord Jesus Christ, came up with the scheme to entrap Him. Their bait was flattery. They had schemed together and then attempted to elicit a response that would be construed as undermining Roman law and authority. The Scriptures are clear that flattery often is used to lay a trap for others.

Proverbs 29:5 To flatter friends is to lay a trap for their feet.

The entire episode is ironic. They flatter and praise Jesus as a bold and courageous prophet and teacher. They assert that He fearlessly proclaims the Father’s truth without compromise. Further, He refuses to defer to anyone. He is not interested in the praise of men, but only in the praise of His Father in heaven (John 12:43).

“Jesus immediately saw through their scheme. He knew that their real purpose was not to get an answer to a question, but to try to trap Him” (Wiersbe). He makes a brilliant counter move that left his inquirers dumbfounded and speechless.


“The money belongs to Caesar, and you belong to God. Let the world have its coins, but let God have His creatures” (MacDonald).

Father thank You that You have provided a reliable source of information regarding true Truth. Encourage me to stand tall, not to be entrapped, and to proclaim Your Truth accurately and without bias.


In their attempts to entrap the Lord Jesus Christ, the religious leaders actually expressed great insight into His character and teaching.

Luke 20:21 You speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God.

This exchange provided a teachable moment. The Lord Jesus Christ took the opportunity to teach the crowds who were listening to several important spiritual truths. His answer was succinct and sagacious.

Some important background information helps ferret out the meaning of His explanation. It provides a greater understanding of what the Lord Jesus Christ said. “Each ruler minted his own coins and put his own image on them. The ‘penny’ (denarius) had Caesar’s image on it, so it belonged to Caesar. ‘Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,’ was His reply. ‘And give back to God what belongs to God” (Wiersbe).

The point is simple and yet profound. There is a clear separation between the Father and Caesar. Ultimately, the coins belong to Caesar. Give him what is due to him. But at the same time, give to the Father God what is His. People belong to the Father, those who claim to follow Him are to give Him what is due to Him.

But there is more.

The phrase “you tell the truth,” could be rendered “you are an honest man,” “you are a man of integrity,” or “you are a truthful man” (UBS).

The phrase “truly teach the way of God,” could be translated “you tell each person clearly and plainly how he must live according to God’s will,” “you really do teach the life that God wishes us to live,” “you teach the truth about God’s will for man,” or “what you teach about God’s laws (or, will) is the truth (or, correct)” (UBS).

The enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ recognize that He spoke true truth. How ironic, that they themselves did not.

The phrase “you show no partiality” or “you are not partial to any,” is literally “you care for no man” in Greek. To express the idea more clearly, it can be translated

you do not allow yourself to be influenced by people,” “you are not swayed by men’s opinion of you,” or “You don’t care what people think” (UBS).

The Lord Jesus Christ stood tall and boldly proclaimed what the Father desires people to know and do. He is a person of character and integrity and always spoke the Truth regardless of what people thought of Him. He can be relied upon to say what is right and truthful about the things of God. In summary, “he was sincere, faithful to the truth, fearless, and no respecter of persons.” (Morris).


Sweet mercy

Sweet mercy

The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm. – Proverbs 11:17

Psalms 103:8 The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

Exodus 34:5-7

 5 Then the LORD came down in a cloud and stood there with him; and he called out his own name, Yahweh.

 6 The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

 7 I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.

The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown: his sceptre shows the force of temporal power, the attribute to awe and majesty, wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.

But mercy is above this sceptred sway; it is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself; and earthly power doth then show likest God’s (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I).

The Father is merciful, compassionate, gracious, and tenderhearted. He does not fail His children nor will He abandon, leave, forsake, or desert them.

The Hebrew word translated merciful is rachum. Rachum is derived from the term rechem which literally refers to a womb of a woman. Upon reflection and delightful word picture unfolds.  “The ‘womb’ carries with it a picture of the tender care bestowed on an infant when it is most vulnerable” (NIDOTTE). It conveys the willingness of someone to show favor, be gracious, and compassionate.  

When this word is used to describe the Father, it conveys the strong tie He has with those whom He has called His children. He looks upon His own as a human father looks upon his children; He pities them. It also speaks of His unconditioned choice (TWOT).

Psalms 103:13 The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who reverence him.

He is merciful to His children because He is a committed, loving parent.

Sadly, children of the King forget that He is the Father of mercies. We fail to remember our need for mercy. Our Father extends mercy to us because we desperately need it. Try as we might, even our best efforts continually fall short. We are incapable of living Up to His divine perfections.

Jesus said to them, “it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:17

Our failure leads to sadness, grief, and remorse. Consequently, we often come to Him heavy laden with shame and regret. His mercy sees our sad and contrite hearts and He responds with kindness and grace. He lovingly removes the burden and provides forgiveness and restoration.

Psalms 103:14 For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.


Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you do not deserve.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness. May I treasure your mercy in my heart.


The Father has been merciful, gracious, and forgiving to us. He wants us to treat others similarly. He wants all children of the King to be defined by gentleness, warmth, and kindness in how they behave towards others.

Matthew 5:7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Being merciful is good for us while being unmerciful is harmful.

Proverbs 11:17 The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.

This can be translated, “A kind heart is full of health and well-being, but a ruthless spirit makes a man sick” (Garrett). “Goodness benefits the one who practices it, but cruelty turns itself against the one who is guilty of it. Be kind to others and you will be rewarded; be cruel and you will suffer the results.”

The point is that a person’s behavior toward others has unexpected consequences: benefits or collateral damage. Sweet mercy, it’s good for you.

One of the main ways to show mercy is through the lenient, gracious forgiveness of others for offenses or wrongs committed.

Habakkuk 3:2 In your anger, remember your mercy.


The healing power of life

The healing power of life

Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?” – Mark 5:30

Mark 5:25-34

 25 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding.

 26 She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.

 27 She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe.

 28 For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”

 29 Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.

 30 Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him . . ..

 32 But he kept on looking around to see who had done it.

 33 Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done.

 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

The modern electric battery transforms chemical energy into electricity. Batteries are devices which are used to supply electric power. There used to energize electrical devices such as flashlights, mobile phones, and electric cars. A battery is a collection of one or more cells whose chemical reactions create a flow of electrons in a circuit. All batteries are made up of three basic components: an anode (the ‘-’ side), a cathode (the ‘+’ side), and some kind of electrolyte (a substance that chemically reacts with the anode and cathode).

In 1748, Benjamin Franklin first coined the term “battery” to describe an array of charged glass plates. The first true battery was invented by the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta in 1800. The first commercially successful dry cell battery (zinc-carbon cell) was invented in 1881 by Carl Gassner. In 1901, Thomas Edison invented the alkaline storage battery.

The Lord Jesus Christ is both perfect humanity and undiminished deity. He has all of the characteristics and attributes of deity. Life as a creative and sustaining force is one of them. That same life force which was used to create all that is resides within the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 1:3-4

 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

In the Gospels, the Lord Jesus Christ performed a myriad of signs and wonders. Frequently, He did so with the few spoken words, a prayer, or touch. What was the source of his healing power? The Lord Jesus Christ was a living battery of sorts. Within Him, was the energy of life itself. The same life force that was used to create all that exists is within Him. We get a slight glimpse of this from the story of the woman suffering from a discharge of blood. As she reached out and touched His garment, His life force flowed from Him to her and she was immediately healed.

Imagine what it was like for this poor, hopeless woman to suffer from an incurable disease. She already spent all the money she had, employing all of the medical cures available at the time. They only made the situation worse. After hearing about Jesus, she sought Him out. She thought to herself, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” She approached in the crowd from behind and touched His cloak. And immediately the flow of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.


The healing that comes from the Father is purposeful and often selective. The miracle-working power of the Lord Jesus Christ confirmed His identity as the Messiah of Israel. The miracle of Mark 5:25-34 is an exception to the general rule.  In this case, the woman’s faith was the key to her miraculous restoration.

Father the power of life abides in You. I believe, help my unbelief.


Under the Law of Moses, on account of her condition, she was in ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 15:25-28). As such any physical contact with her would render other people unclean. Therefore, she was not permitted to be in public without making people aware that she is unclean. By touching Jesus’ garment, she technically renders Him ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 15:19-23).

But the Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Law. He is greater than any purity laws. Rather than becoming unclean by contact, He makes her clean through the power of life bursting out from within Him.

The Lord Jesus was well aware of the power within Him and would discharge it as needed. He could feel it pulsating within and going out from Him. In this case, the flow of power was automatic without His conscious control.

He searched for the woman of faith. The woman was fearful and awed. The Greek word rendered fear is phobeomai which means fear, awe, or reverence. She came forth and identified herself. She fell down before Him and told the Lord Jesus Christ the whole truth. She was a woman of great faith and now sincere gratitude.

The Lord Jesus Christ said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34).




For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. – James 1:3

Romans 5:3-5

 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.

 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

In the 1800s, several different inventors were working on creating the light bulb. Thomas Edison is credited with the invention of the first commercially practical incandescent light bulb. Edison was persistent and systematic. By slow, tedious trial and error, he determined that a cotton thread filament was able to produce over 13 continuous hours of light. Edison filed his first light bulb patent in 1879.

Edison stated, “I didn’t fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps. I know of over 3000 ways [that] a light bulb does not work.”

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone [prevail]” (Calvin Coolidge).

On May 3, 2011, Austin Bay wrote In Praise of American Persistence. “If your vision of America is shaped by the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, the building of the Panama Canal, the Battle of Belleau Wood, the Battle of Okinawa, the Manhattan Project, the Apollo program, the Internet and similar endeavors, a nation of genius, courage, and persistence emerges – a nation to emulate, not injure and anger.”

In modern times, enemies of America have sorely miscalculated its persistence. Many thought that America was “fatigued” and would fade as a dominant world power. Some suggested that America lacked the will to endure. It was referred to as a “weak horse.”

What was overlooked is that after the end of World War II, from 1947 to 1989, the United States successfully contained and ultimately triumphed over the U.S.S.R. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall cracked, and the Cold War ended. It was a seemingly incessant, protracted, and grueling international struggle.

“That took extraordinary persistence. It took resilient, adaptable, creative, and able American military and security services. Most of all, it took the basic, consistent support of the American people, the ones who go to work, pay the bills, wear the police and military uniforms, and, to paraphrase John Kennedy, will ‘bear any burden . . . to assure the survival and the success of liberty’” (Austin Bay).


“Energy and persistence conquer all things” (Benjamin Franklin).

Proverbs 12:27 The precious possession of a man is diligence.

Father encourage me and strengthen me to respond properly to the trials and afflictions that I experience. Develop in me the precious possession of persistence.


James 1:3 The testing of your faith produces endurance.

The Greek word translated endurance or steadfastness is hupomone. Hupomone is the ability to withstand hardship or stress. It is the quality of persistence or fortitude. It can be translated persevere, patience, endurance, fortitude, long-suffering. It is the quality of character that does not surrender to circumstances or difficulties.

Persistence is like a muscle. It has to be exercised to grow and become stronger. The Father has seen fit to use testing, trial, trouble, adversity, stress, difficult circumstances, and heartache to develop and strengthen our endurance. It is the ability to bear up under.

It gives an entirely new perspective, a paradigm shift regarding the afflictions and trials, the vicissitudes of life. Seen from the Father’s perspective, they are intended to develop our character and make us more like the Lord Jesus Christ. The children of the King can rejoice in present trials and sufferings, not because trials are pleasant but because they produce a step-by-step transformation that makes them more like the Lord Jesus Christ (ESV notes).

But there is more Hupomone is not merely patiently enduring our circumstances. It actively vanquishes them. “It is the spirit which meets things head-on and overcomes them” (Barclay). .

“When Beethoven was threatened with deafness, that most terrible of troubles for a musician, he said: ‘I will take life by the throat.’ That is hupomone. When Sir Walter Scott was involved in ruin because of the bankruptcy of his publishers, he said: ‘No man will say “Poor fellow!” to me; my own right hand will pay the debt.’ That is hupomone” (Barclay).

All children of the King have within themselves the ability to not only “exult ‘in the midst of’ afflictions but that we are to exult ‘in’ the afflictions themselves: that is, to view them as a basis for further confidence in our redeemed status” (Moo). As our persistence grows, we will become more like the Lord Jesus Christ, we develop the attitude of welcoming and rejoicing in our afflictions.

“Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence” (Colin Powell).

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” (Winston Churchill).


Undefiled religion

Undefiled religion

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1:27

Isaiah 1:17-18

 17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.

 18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.

The coronavirus wreaked havoc on planet Earth. It has been a tragedy for all Americans. But there’s also been a crisis within the crisis in America’s nursing homes as a result of COVID-19. About 100,000 residents and workers in long-term care facilities died in 2020 in just 9 months. Many families lost their parents and other older loved ones. Due to quickly established regulations, such as shelter-in-place, those who died, died alone without the care, company, and comfort of their loved ones. Those that longed to be with them in their final days and moments were also devastated. Their grief was compounded by the lack of physical proximity, solace, and closure.

One statistic stands out. Residents of long-term care facilities constitute less than 1% of the U.S. population, yet 43% of all COVID-19 deaths through June occurred in those places (AARP Bulletin, December 2020). This catastrophe exposed fundamental flaws in how we care for our oldest loved ones.

Helping the needy is close to the Father’s heart. It expresses His nature and character. The Father longs for every child of the King to have a heart like His own. Caring for the needy is the essence of undefiled worship.


Each child of the King has a God-given responsibility to those in need.  “Do a little more than you’re paid to. Give a little more than you have to. Try a little harder than you want to. Aim a little higher than you think possible, and give a lot of thanks to God for health, family, and friends” (Art Linkletter).

Father give me a heart that truly wants to look out for and care for those in need.


Each child of the King is to demonstrate the reality of their undefiled religion by putting spiritual truth into action. True religion, the inward transformation of the human heart by faith in the Lord Jesus, is characterized by love for others, particularly those most in need: orphans and widows. Why are orphans and widows mentioned? “‘Orphans and widows’ were the most helpless people in Jewish society, their ‘distress’ (literally ‘pressure’) coming from their desperate need of food and clothing” (Hughes). The neediest are in a helpless state and are representative of those who are truly poor and vulnerable. Caring for the poor and those in need is the crux of undefiled religion.

This was the clearly stated mission of the Lord Jesus Christ

Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.

We are never more like the Lord Jesus Christ than when we do what He has done!  “Genuine religion is a life-changing force. One’s religion, then, should be more than external; it must spring from an inner spiritual reality that expresses itself in love to others and holiness before God” (Burdick).

The apostle John expounds the same principle in unforgettable potent, piercing words.

1 John 3:17-18 

 17 If someone has the world’s goods to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person?

 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unspotted by the world.

The Greek term translated visit is episkeptesthai. Episkeptesthai is derived from epíupon and skeptomaito look. It expresses the sense to look after, take care of, tend, comfort, be concerned about, or nurse the sick (Matthew 25:36, 43). The noun form of this term is episkopos. It is translated guardian, overseer, or elder. It refers to one who watches over and cares for the welfare of others (1 Peter 2:25).

The word visiting means “look in on; to go see.” It does not mean to pay a social call but to meet physical needs. It is the old Jewish usage that means to visit to care for and supply the needs of those visited (Fruchtenbaum).

The Greek term translated trouble or distress is thlipsis. Thlipsiscomes from the Greek verb thlibo – to crush, press, compress, or squeeze. In several languages “trouble and suffering” may be expressed as “that which causes pain” (UBS).

What James is asking us to do is not merely care about the poor or give to the poor. It involves much more than that. It transcends empathy. We are not to merely “feel their pain.” We are to “meet their needs.” Simply being tenderhearted does not work unless we take action to alleviate them.

How tragic it is when we cannot meet the needs and care for those we love.


%d bloggers like this: