Why simply telling people to sacrifice doesn’t work. And how joy does.

Frederick Bruner, in his enjoyable commentary on Matthew, reflecting on Matthew 13:44: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Joy is the engine of change.

It is not by telling people to sacrifice that they make ‘sacrifices.’ In theological language, it is not first of all by preaching God’s law that people do God’s law; it is first by telling people of God’s treasures that people sell what is necessary for the costly but joyous acquisition…

All Christian workers desire the people they work with to get moving, to ‘sell all that they have,’ and to live more joyfully and entirely for the kingdom. The universal temptation with this desire is to exhort people first to various and sundry acts – to give more time and money to the church, to pray more, to be more dedicated, or even to be more joyful – all of which are forms of ‘the law that kills,’ however salted they may be with evangelical language.

The law by itself always inhibits, and congregations will simply wilt under a crushing burden of “musts.” What we need first is a season of Jesus stories where we hear facts before orders, joy before sacrifice, discovery before decisions, gospel before law, Beatitudes before Commands. And when Jesus the Treasure is ‘found,’ then believers… ‘carried away by joy,’ almost without being told to do so, will sell…

… there is a moral rigor [to the Christian life, but it is…] a moral rigor that is neither moralism nor rigorism because of joy.

— Frederick Dale Bruner, The Churchbook: Matthew 13-28 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 47-48.

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This entry was posted in Gospel-Centered, Quotes, The Life of Faith, Transforming Grace. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why simply telling people to sacrifice doesn’t work. And how joy does.

  1. Jody Applegate says:

    That’s the gospel truth.

  2. He makes known to us the path of life; in His presence there is fullness of joy! Psalm 16:11

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