When some of us think about friendship with God, it might feel like a foreign concept. We may have been taught that God is only to be feared or revered, and friendship with God just seems too casual. And while I certainly don’t advocate for making God seem lesser, I do advocate for thinking about God as friend, which naturally rearranges my thoughts on God’s proximity and intimacy with me.
In John 15:14-15 Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (NIV).
One time at work, I had to bring up an issue that was funneled up to people in much higher positions than me. Though it was something that directly impacted me, those at the top decided to take matters into their own hands. They left me out of the decision making and didn’t explain why they were doing the things they were doing. They didn’t feel they had to. They were in positions of power, and I was too lowly to need to be informed. My thoughts or feelings on the issue were not a concern and I felt devalued and frustrated.
But in this passage in John, Jesus is saying that is not the case with him.
Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a change has occurred in our relationship with God. God is no longer a stranger with unknown ways. We know what God’s about and what God’s up to because we know what Jesus was about and what Jesus was up to. Jesus is the living image and revelation of God.
And because of this knowledge, our obedience to God isn’t a forced or blind acceptance. Our obedience is compelled through friendship because we want to be a part of what God’s up to—the redemption and restoration of the world.
And because we’re friends, our input is valued. Our relationship is meaningful. Our worth has more to do with our connection than our output. We have an in with upper management!
We have a friend in high places.
Reflect: Is it easy or hard for you to view God as a friend? Why or why not? In what ways can you cultivate your friendship with God this week?
Location: My Vegetable Garden
“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;” (Proverbs 3:9, NIV)
For the past couple years my husband and I have planted a vegetable garden on the side of our house. We love having fresh salsa or a crisp tomato cucumber salad composed of our freshly grown harvest.
Yesterday, I went to our vegetable garden and noticed our first two tomatoes had ripened and were ready for the picking. I was excited to see the first fruits of the year and it immediately made me think of the places in the Bible that mention giving the first fruits to God. This got me reflecting on how my vegetable garden came to be in the first place.
This year, my husband Billy built us new garden beds to put on the side of the house after our old ones rotted. After we dug out the old wood and assembled the new beds, we went to Lowe’s to pick out our plants. When we got home, we dug into the ground to transplant the plants into our garden.
And over the past few months, we’ve weeded the garden when it looked overrun with weeds. We’ve watered the garden when it seemed dry and wilty. We’ve put a lot of work into nurturing our plants so they would grow and prosper.
But at the end of the day, no matter how much attention I give my plants, I can’t make the plants grow. I don’t control the axis of the earth, the amount of hours the sun shines, or the frequency of natural rainfall. I don’t place the worms in the soil or the bees that pollinate the fruit flowers or position the plant leaves to get sun. Those aspects are divinely orchestrated by the Creator of the Universe.
Sure, my role in my plants’ growth is important, yet it is partial. Significant, yet incomplete. I need the Creator to help me produce the fruit of my labor.
When Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops;” (NIV) it reminds me that giving my first and finest resources back to God is a way of acknowledging “I didn’t do this all on my own” (1). It’s a way of laying down the falsehood that my efforts alone achieve an outcome and encourages me to joyfully submit to the gift of co-creation with God.
Though you may not yield many crops or have much wealth to speak of, what “first fruits” can you give back to God today?
Perhaps it’s as simple as a prayer of praise and thanksgiving immediately following received recognition. Or, perhaps it’s dedicating the very first moments of your day to spending time with God.
Whatever your “first fruits” may be, let’s recognize our reliance on our Creator and rejoice in our partnership of co-creating the Kingdom to come.
This Week’s Practice: Giving - What first and finest resource can you give to God this week?
(1) Raymond C. Van Leeuwen in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary discusses the first fruits mentioned in Proverbs as “the first produce of the harvest and symbolically the best” (775).
Van Leeuwen, Raymond C. “Proverbs” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary Volume III. Edited by Leeander E. Keck et al. Abingdon Press: Nashville, 2015.
Location: My Front Yard
by Erica Smith
Nature noticer, contemplative wannabe, coffee drinker, wine taster, and novice painter.