“The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it? I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.” - Jeremiah 17:9-10
Last week we started to look at how we can apply the theological and philosophical ideas we have seen on this topic of cheating from a biblical standpoint. We started by evaluating ourselves first. We saw that we all are capable of cheating at any moment, but also that there is also a way out of the temptation as well. Today though, we are going to look at the other side of this, and how we are supposed to react when we see people cheating others, or when we have been cheated ourselves.
1. Understand that you will encounter cheating and cheaters, in any and all situations.
Just like it is important to recognize this in ourselves, we need to recognize this in our ministry as well. “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” Deceit is in everyone, and that means that where there are human hearts, there is potential for deceit. Just because you’re running a league in a church building, does not mean that human desires cease to exist. We need to understand this, not to be paranoid, but to be prepared, because this is another opportunity for ministry. We need to apply the gospel to our own hearts. We will get into this more shortly.
2. “I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart” - Jeremiah 17:10
God is the Judge and not us. This is important for us to remember in all circumstances, but especially within the context of a ministry. We don’t know the heart of the athletes we play with, coach, or invite into our leagues and open gyms. God is the only one that knows the intentions, and so we cannot allow the emotions of being cheated get in the way of ministering to the people God has gifted us with.
3. Your community is watching your reaction.
This is an opportunity for us to proclaim the gospel by how we live out our faith. We know that cheating is nothing more than our sinful human hearts being human hearts, and so when we need to deal with this issue in that manner. If discipleship is our goal, then we need to come at this topic of cheating with the same goal. We need to show forgiveness, offer chances for repentance, provide accountability, and allow God to take care of their hearts.
4. God already has given us a framework to deal with this as leaders.
“Then I said, “Now listen, leaders of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel. Aren’t you supposed to know what is just?” - Micah 3:1
Unlike Jeremiah, we don’t know much about the life of the prophet Micah. We know he prophesied around the same time as Isaiah, that he lived in the southern regions of Judah, and that he most likely was looked at as being a common nobody, especially compared to the great Isaiah. However, God used him to communicate to Jerusalem about a growing problem: INJUSTICE.
“Woe to those who dream up wickedness and prepare evil plans on their beds! At morning light they accomplish it because the power is in their hands. They covet fields and seize them; they also take houses. They deprive a man of his home, a person of his inheritance.” - Micah 2:1-2
Injustice was rampant throughout the kingdom of Judah, and God had had enough. He sends Micah to deliver a “lawsuit” to the people of Judah for violating His Covenant with them. For five chapters, God lays out all the corruption, deceit, and sin that the people had committed against Him. Then in chapter 6, God lays out the terms. The people have committed so much sin and they were so corrupt that God tells them that they can’t afford to make payment.
“Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin?” - Micah 6:7
This is a feeling we all have had at one point or another. We have been hurt so deeply, that there is nothing the other person can do that can make up for it. It is a natural response and understandable, but it’s important for us to remember that God doesn’t end negotiations there.
“Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” - Micah 6:8
God was willing to take a deal. If the people of Judah would simply do three things, God would forget everything else. 1. Act Justly. 2. Love Faithfulness. 3. Walk Humbly with God. These three things are much harder than they sound, especially in a world or system full of corruption, but they are also the keys to fixing the corruption, and a good example for us on how to deal with it in our ministries as well.
We set the example. God doesn’t put conditions on when or to whom you should act just with. He tells us to Act Justly. This is why last week is so important. If we are not aptly Justly, then we cannot expect others in our care to. This also means that we need to be fair, in how we handle the “judgements” that we hand out when cheating occurs.
Faithfulness to what? In the context of Micah we see that God wants people to be faithful to the law. But not just be faithful, but to have a love of faithfulness. Within the Hebrew of this verse we see that Love is actually a noun and not the verb. Our desire should be in faithfulness to God and his law. This is a hard one to do, because it is a heart change not just an attitude change. ““The heart is more deceitful than anything else,” but when we focus on being faithful to God and what He wants for us, we will see our desires change as well.
3.Walk Humbly with God
How do we do this? by understanding that we are just as corrupt as everyone else, and that only God can change our incurable hearts. And when we allow Him to do that, we will be able to minister to this corrupt world.