During a TV interview, a reporter asked Bill Gates, “Microsoft products have been illegally copied and distributed in China. How are you going to deal with that problem?” It was about twenty years ago.
Bill Gates replied with a smile, “China is still developing. If they are stealing technology, I rather let them steal mine over others.” I was surprised at his answer. He seemed confidant that his software would not only survive the theft but also turn the thieves into customers.
Today, his amplitude of attitude pays off. After years of using the stolen Microsoft products, the Chinese have fallen in love with them, and they prefer to buy Microsoft as they can now afford it. Today, Bill Gates has captured the market four times larger than that of the United States by his amplitude of attitude.
In those days, there were other brands of software that were better than Microsoft’s. For example, I loved IBM’s OS2. It was generations ahead of Microsoft Windows. Now, no one remembers those brands.
I wonder how many great products or bright ideas in history have disappeared because of the owner’s narrow attitude. Even if you have the best product or the greatest idea in the world, your attitude can become a stumbling block for people to discover or appreciate.
What’s more important is that the world gets cheated if we fail to fulfill our divine purpose by our puny attitude. Dr. Steven R. Covey calls it “scarcity mentality” as opposed to “abundance mentality.”
The cynic would say people like Bill Gates used unfair tactics to win. They may be right, but we must know that no one is perfect, and if we see only the dark side of people, it will magnify our own darkness, and if we appreciate their light, it will magnify our light. If we understand the tendency to see people’s darkness come out of our own darkness, it will open the way for us to kindle our light.
Everyone is born with at least one special gift, and it must be shared, or the world gets cheated, and God gets disappointed. How much you can multiply your gift depends on the amplitude of your attitude.
Jesus warned his disciples against puniness of attitude because heaven and hell were in the balance of their amplitude of attitude. Whether the good news of grace got shared or disappeared in their hands depends on their abundance mentality.
Your amplitude of attitude could become a saving grace or a stumbling block for the world. So, today, let’s explore how Jesus taught us to amplify our attitude to let our life become a blessing to the world rather than a stumbling block, based on today’s scripture lesson.
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
The scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Mark 9:38-50. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell., 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:38-50).
[This is the Word of the Lord! Thanks be to God.]
The disciples were mad because some fellow engaged in unauthorized use of Jesus’ name to cast out demons. They thought they had the exclusive rights to Jesus’ name because they gave up everything to follow Jesus, and he had given them the authority to over unclean spirits (6:8). But now, someone who had not invested anything is doing what they do.
It’s like the reporter who questioned Bill Gates, indicating that we, Americans, pay a steep price to own a Microsoft product, but those people abroad was using the unauthorized copies for free. They must be stopped.
So, the disciples tried to stop the theft, and John came to report to Jesus about the case,
“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” (v. 38).
Notice John said, “he was not following us,” instead of saying, “he was not following Jesus.” John seemed to believe anyone using Jesus’ name must be a downline of the disciples.
It’s ironic that we still see this kind of religious monopoly today. Some sects and denominations believe if you are not a member under their hierarchy—their pope, their bishops, or their baptism—you are not regarded as a Christian by them. It would break the heart of Jesus to see denominations or non-denominations today still try to monopolize his name.
Jesus’ answer must have disappointed the disciples.
But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” (v. 39).
It’s like Bill Gates saying, “Don’t stop those who copy my software. Everyone who creates a nice word document, a powerful spreadsheet, or a timesaving database with Microsoft Office will soon begin to spread the good news of my products.
What the man did was somewhat like the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak to heal her bleeding disease. I’m sure you know the story. She stole Jesus’ power to heal herself, while this man stole Jesus’ power to heal others. If Jesus did not revote his power from the woman, why would Jesus stop this man from using his name? What he did made Jesus even more popular and made the disciples’ job to spread the good news easier.
The fact is Jesus needed more than the effort of the twelve to spread the good news faster and broader. The twelve had the privilege to be the first-person eyewitnesses. Their words are the most authoritative and could authenticate the purity of the message if there were any confusion, but Jesus did not allow them to be gatekeepers to sensor others from spreading his name.
They were friends, not foes. Jesus taught them a simple principle to differentiate friends from foes.
“Whoever is not against us is for us.” (v. 40).
There are enough enemies in this world, and we don’t need to make any more. We must have the amplitude of attitude to develop strategic alliances with those who are not against us. Evil wins when good people are divided against one another. Jesus showed his grace by promising rewards to anyone who makes our job easier.
For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. (v. 41).
Jesus’ magnitude of attitude should inspire us to amplify our own attitude. God doesn’t withhold God’s generosity from those who show kindness to his children.
Here, we must understand the difference between “reward” and “salvation.” A reward is given to anyone for their service. It’s like compensation. But salvation is for the believers. Simply put, rewards are for the servants, but salvation is for the children.
Compensation is not salvation, but it can be a path to salvation. Servants can become children through adoption. If we have a narrow attitude, we could put a stumbling block on someone’s path to salvation. Jesus said,
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.” (v. 42).
Jesus sees them as little ones, meaning beginner believers. Their faith is young and fragile. We can assume that Jesus was still holding a child because a few verses before this passage, Jesus took a child and placed him in the middle of the crowd and taught them an object lesson using the child as the symbol of a fledgling believer and that they must accept them.
Now John came to complain about the outsider who used Jesus’ name without a license to cast out demons, but Jesus did not see him as an outsider but as a little one who was trying out Jesus’ name to see if it works. It’s like someone playing with Microsoft products before deciding to buy.
In other words, Jesus saw him as an opportunity rather than a thread. If this man discovered the power of his name that can cast out demons, he would soon become a believer and possibly an enthusiastic evangelist.
That potential could disappear if the disciples stopped him out of their narrow attitude. That means They could ruin this beginner’s future and deny him the ultimate salvation. Their scarcity mentality could have sent this little one to hell. They must change their attitude, or they could ruin many people’s lives.
Jesus depicted the intensity of their attitude problem by saying, “it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.” It sounds scary, but we must know that Jesus often used exaggeration to make people remember his teaching.
Exaggeration is often used in Hebrew humor. Today, we might read this passage and cringe, but for the first century Jews, they might be laughing out loud at Jesus’ wittiness. Jesus might have made John a laughingstock in front of the crowd for the moment so that he could teach them the importance of the amplitude of attitude. Jesus then says,
“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” (v. 43).
The precise translation of the original Greek text is, “If your hand causes you to make someone stumble,” as opposed to “make you stumble.” In this context, Jesus was talking about making a child stumble. So, it only makes sense to continue with that train of thought.
Your hand represents your action. It means if you do something to make a potential believer stumble, cut that action or behavior off your life. It’s not literally cutting the hand off. Otherwise, Christians will be a bunch of maims and cripples. The exaggeration is meant to be memorable, if not humorous as well.
The Apostle Paul also gave a similar warning. As Christians, we can do anything, eat anything, or drink anything because we are not saved by our deeds but by God’s amazing grace. However, our freedom could cause a potential believer to stumble and say, “Christians are a bunch of gluttons, drunkards, or adulterers. We will stay away from them.” If so, we sin, again, not because of our action but because our action has caused someone to fall. Paul said,
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things are constructive. (1 Co 10:23).
Because we are saved by grace, not by deeds, all things are lawful for us to do. Despite such freedom, we must consider whether our actions are beneficial or constructive, especially for those who look up to us as role models.
So, Jesus is saying that the man that used Jesus’ name to cast out demons might have looked up to the disciples as role models. Now, their narrow-mindedness could have disappointed the young man and turned him away from Christ.
After two more exaggerated and memorable symbolisms, Jesus rested the case with this last metaphor.
“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (v. 49-50).
The last sentence explains the metaphor, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Salt symbolizes grace. The Apostle Paul also used salt as a symbol of grace to build a peaceful relationship.
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” (Col 4:6).
Just as salt makes food taste sweet, grace makes your words sound pleasant. The disciples were ungracious when they stopped the exorcist from using Jesus’ name. So, when Jesus told them to have salt in them, it means they need to be gracious so that they can have peace with people and be able to form strategic alliances with others for the sake of the gospel.
The secret to the amplitude of your gratitude is grace. Standing as a laughingstock in front of Jesus in the middle of the crowd and getting roasted by Jesus’ gory humor, John must feel like being burned in a crucible of Jesus’ refining fire. Jesus was salting him with fire or baptizing him with fire to make him gracious. John learned the lesson and later wrote,
“From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (Jn 1:16).
Let us increase our amplitude of attitude by knowing Christ in his fullness and receive grace upon grace so that we also become gracious and build peaceful relationships and form strategic alliances to fulfill the greater purpose God has for us.
Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.