Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Trifecta

Submitted by Jim Garner
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” – (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

I don’t know much about gambling nor do I care to. But it’s definitely something that has been around for a long time. People are known to have gambled in about any way you can imagine – casting lots, rolling dice, betting on sporting events, playing cards at casinos, picking numbers for the lottery, or going to the track to bet on horses or dogs.
As a young teenager, I remember a time when I went out to visit my dad living in Albuquerque, NM. He had moved there not long after he and my mom had divorced.  One afternoon he decided to take me up to the horse track near Santa Fe to watch them run. It was definitely a different kind of experience for me. Throughout the day he let me pick some horses to hopefully win their race and net some money. Every now and then we would succeed, but most of the time, we failed. 
But then came the final race of the day, the Trifecta! It was the biggest race of the day promising a large pay off to the lucky winner, predictor, or bettor. (Whatever you want to call them) To win the trifecta, the bettor had to correctly predict the exact order of the top three finishers to the final race.
Well, acting like I understood it all as an educated, modern-thinking adolescent, I quickly made a prediction and passed it along to my dad. He told me: “Son, I will put down the last bet of the day. You can just sit back and watch.” I explained my rationale but to no avail. (I think my strategy involved a combination of horse names, assigned numbers of the horses, and their color – not too scientific) My dad placed the bet and a few minutes later the horses were off. It was an exciting race and the crowd really got into it. After all the horses crossed the finish line I looked up on the board to see the finished race positions only to discover that my dad had lost again. (Thankfully he didn’t wager very much) But the irony was in the top three finishers of the last race. Why? I had correctly predicted their exact finishing order and we would have been the recipients of over $1600. However, there was a problem. My dad had not placed the bet I had recommended. Therefore, there was no money coming. There was no Trifecta.
Now the point of this devotional is definitely not about gambling. (However, I’m glad I didn’t win because who knows that I might have become addicted to the thrill of winning and money.) I was just sharing a brief experience as a kid. But here’s the point and there’s a parallel to our focus scripture passage above. Just as in predicting or putting three things together is called a “trifecta”, there are three things that I think make up what I would call the “HUMAN TRIFECTA”. By that I mean they are consistent among cultures and generations in regards to what people seek in life to fulfill their needs, give them security, or believe will make them happy. What are they?
This trifecta of humanity is: knowledge (wisdom), power (might), and wealth (riches). Jeremiah laid it out very plainly. If you think about it, in and of themselves they aren’t too bad. They are necessary things in life.

We need knowledge (a.k.a. wisdom, mental capacity, ability to think, or experience) to accomplish things for the betterment of our lives. Where would be without deep or creative thinkers when it comes to technology or problem solving? This ability has helped to provide medicines for the sick and given us the ability to travel and communicate quickly across the planet, to name a few things.
We need might to have strength to work, play, or build the things we need in life. It helps us work longer and better (at times), provides us the ability to compete better in games, and have the fortitude or perseverance to carry on when things seem too tough.
We also know it helps to have an amount of wealth to live on (salary, inheritance, investment) so we can provide for our families, but also be given to help others whether it be for the purposes of educating, clothing, or feeding a starving child or village.
But when it comes to these three things making up the “human trifecta”, we often see they have most often been at the heart of man’s demise. How? It happens when they become the priorities in our life over our relationship with God. Before we realize it, we have made them an idol and in our own way we bow down to them in worship. We trust or rely on them without even realizing it and forsake the Lord.
As we can see from Jeremiah’s proclamation to the Jews, this plagued their culture and people. But we are foolish or blind if we think it was just a “back in time” issue. This trifecta challenges us today – maybe even to a greater degree. It’s probably one of the toughest spiritual tests we will face as American Christians living in a land of “plenty”.
Why? It’s because we get deceived so easily by the evil one to make life all about us. Before we realize it the Lord is nowhere to be found in our lives. It’s not always intentional but it can happen swiftly and leave us with a trail of debris from a wrecked life with misplaced priorities.
Jeremiah calls it a problem of “boast” more than even a specific focus on these three things – “wisdom, might, and riches”. And that’s true. Our boast becomes more about building ourselves up instead of God. It comes back to that pride issue that Satan has wrecked humanity with since the beginning of time.
But according to Jeremiah there is a “boast” that is not in error or sin. The only boast the Lord likes is when we acknowledge our need of Him and realize the blessing that flows from a relationship with Him (v. 24). If we look closely that we see the Lord gives us his trifecta: “love, justice, and righteousness”. Wow! Now that’s a trifecta!

This same thinking continues in the book of Micah where the prophet proclaims a similar “trifecta” the Lord honors:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – (Micah 6:8)

I think from these passages it’s pretty clear to see what the Lord wants for our lives when it comes to “boasts” and “delights”. Mankind has one list and God has another. Which trifecta list will you choose?

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