Read for This Week’s Study: Ps. 119:11; Eph. 6:18; Rom. 8:5, 6; Heb. 11:1–6; 1 Kings 3:14; Ezek. 36:26, 27.
Memory Text: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. . . . He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage” (Proverbs 11:4, 28, NKJV).
The lesson this week has a very interesting title – “Escape from the World’s Ways.” The meaning of the title is derived from the biblical understanding that the ways of the “world,” a term used to designate the whole of human society devoid of interest or deference to God, are at odds with the ways of God. And, given the grand theme for this quarter – Stewardship – the clear implication is that, unless and until believers escape the ways of the world, stewardship will not grow and flourish as it ought to.
Probably the most formative and interesting biblical passage that comments on this dynamic is found in Romans.
Romans 8:5-8 – “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (ESV)
This is a remarkable passage. It clearly lays out the fact that there is a tension we experience in life between life without God, and life with God. And the two are not at all compatible. They are opposites. A person living one way, cannot please God. The one way – the way of the flesh – satisfies personal ambitions and goals so that we would say that stewardship, the management of life and assets, is all focused on the self while in the life lived in the Spirit, stewardship is focused on pleasing God, as the Bible puts it.
Perhaps the most foundational observation to make here is that the outcomes are automatic rather than contrived. Following life in the Spirit produces a focus on the things of God while living a life in the flesh does not. The whole business of life management – stewardship – springs from this foundational matter.
- What causes people to live in the flesh?
- What causes people to live in the Spirit?
- What makes it hard to live in the flesh? And what makes it hard to live in the Spirit?
We might add a couple more texts to the end of this lesson, one a promise found in Ezekiel, the other a bit of wisdom from the Psalmist, both of which give counsel that helps manage the tension between the flesh and the Spirit:
“26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (NIV)
“11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (NIV)