the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
I concluded last week's article saying that this week we would look at an example of imitating Christ in reference to a “hard-to-reach” passage from the Old Testament. To do so, I used the flip-n-dip method and came up with a selection from Deuteronomy: If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved, and if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved, then it shall be, on the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons, that he must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn. But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).
To begin with, polygamy is impermissible in the new covenant era. Jesus made it clear; from the beginning God intended marriage to be limited to one man and one woman (Mark 10:5-9). Moreover, one criteria Paul visits on church leaders is that a man be the husband of one wife. From this we may extrapolate a principle all Christians should adhere to. Indeed, Christ presents the ultimate example for us, being “married” to one bride, the church.
Additionally, this inheritance law is not civil law because there is no civil sanction imposed on the man who refuses to obey it. This is why Jesus refused to involve himself in an inheritance dispute that “one from the crowd” asked him to settle (Luke 12:14). The man was asking Christ to act as civil judge in an inheritance dispute and there was no allowance for that in the law. Besides, civic adjudication was not included in the role assigned Jesus during his earthly ministry. In any case, it remains true in the new covenant era that distribution of the family wealth is between God and the individual bequeathing his wealth.
We also recognize that with the change of the priesthood, there is a change in the law (Hebrews 7:12). In the old covenant, inheritance laws were tied to the land and the family possession was indissoluble. Now days all of God's promises are yes in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20) and we recognize that any limitations placed on the distribution of a family inheritance intrinsic to a landed acquisition are null. Heirs are free to sell their portion of the inheritance even if it breaks up the family farm or family business (the decision to do so - or not - would be subject to other principles found in Scripture).
Another principle in play is that in the kingdom of God there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). All believers share equally in the kingdom inheritance. All are reckoned as firstborn sons in Jesus Christ – be they male or female. Since we are called to imitate our father in heaven (Ephesians 5:1), Christian parents should not consider the sex of a child when distributing the inheritance.
We may think that honoring one child above another is not legitimate in the new covenant age. However, a glance at the New Testament reminds us that honor is due to parents, widows, governing officials, to church leaders and indeed to whomever honor is due (Ephesians 6:2, 1Timothy 5:3, 17, 1 Peter 2:17, Romans 13:7). Therefore, a child demonstrating exceptional Christlikeness (acting most “firstborn”) toward their parents deserves to be honored with a greater portion of the family estate.
I'm out of space but I hope you can begin to see how to imitate Jesus even in those “hard-to-reach” ways.