The Paperwork Problem

Acts 25:25–27 “ ‘I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death; and since he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. Yet I have nothing definite about him to write to my lord. Therefore I have brought him before you all and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I may have something to write.’ ”

Observation: Paul was preparing to make his defense to Festus, the Roman governor of Judea, and King Agrippa, great-grandson of Herod the Great. Before he began, Festus was having a hard time coming up with valid charges against Paul, yet he knew he must find some offense objectionable enough to justify taking Caesar’s time to hear Paul’s appeal in Rome. Paul was caught in a bureaucratic morass from which no escape seemed possible. Each lower-level official booted Paul’s case up the chain of command not due to crimes on Paul’s part, but simply to keep peace among a populace that demanded Paul’s head. Paperwork had become more important than righteousness.

Application: Just one small phrase in these verses caught my attention, as it summarizes a truth for us all. Festus says, “I have nothing definite about him to write to my lord.” By “my lord,” Festus referred to Caesar, to whom he knew he was about to send a frivolous case, the prospect of which must have caused Festus some discomfort. In this one phrase there is demonstrated the truth that everyone bows before someone or something. Festus’ allegiance was to Caesar, arguably one of history’s most evil despots.

God has built me to worship. He has hard-wired into me a deep need for the covering and protection that come from being lorded over by someone or some thing. The lord of Festus was a Roman ruler who had all power and authority over Festus’ career, even life itself. What or whom I give lordship to says everything about my eternal destiny. Paul too was a Roman citizen, yet he gave lordship to Jesus Christ.

Nothing matters more than for me to examine my life to be absolutely certain that I value nothing above Him: not money, not houses, not political leaders, not success. I must shake off and turn away from absolutely every thing I have exalted above Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I ask You to examine my heart today to uncover anything I have lifted up above You. Sometimes these patterns have gone on so long that they have become familiar to the point of being invisible to me, yet You see them perfectly and Your heart breaks because of the high place they occupy in my life. Cause me today to have eyes to truly see my condition, and to respond to Your leading.

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