Saved by Faith, Rewarded for Being Faithful

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. Galatians 2:16 NKJV

Fact: No created being unfallen or fallen has ever earned salvation. Life always has been and always will be a free gift we have never earned and never will earn. Life was a free gift to Adam and Eve before sin just as much as it was after sin. So when Paul said “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law,” he was not saying anything new. He was simply stating an eternal fact. Even after I have lived a million years of perfect sinless living in the new earth, I will always sense my need of Jesus, and will depend on my relationship with him for all eternity. In heaven I will cast my crown at the feet of Jesus because I know even in heaven I will be nothing without Him. He is everything to me here on earth and He will be everything to me throughout all eternity. I sing “I need thee every hour” here on earth and I will still be singing “I need thee every hour” after a million years on the new earth. 

Fact: While Adam and Eve were given paradise as a free gift, they lost it because of disobedience. The Bible speaks of disobedience and unbelief as synonyms. 

And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:18-19 NKJV 

Disobedience and unbelief go together just like faith and good works go together. Wherever you find faith you will also find good works.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV

Good works are the evidence of our faith. This is why James writes, 

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without our works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:18-26 NKJV 

Our works are evidence of our faith. So when God acknowledges our works He is acknowledging the evidence of our faith which we express by acts of love. 

And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. Revelation 22:12 NKJV

While Jesus and the Bible are clear that we are saved by grace and not by works, we still see Jesus acknowledging the works of the saved. 

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-36 NKJV

Notice Jesus does not tell those on His right, “you only believed so come right on into my kingdom.” As James 2:19 says, even demons believe and tremble. Jesus welcomes those on His right into His kingdom because of the good works that gave evidence of their faith. In Genesis 15:6 Abraham was credited for righteousness by his faith. James 2:21-24 explains that Abraham’s good works of obedience were evidence of his faith. In other words Abraham’s good works justified God in calling Abraham righteous because of his belief. Likewise in the parable in Matthew 25:34-36 Jesus shows the good works of those on His right as evidence of their faith, thus welcoming them into His kingdom.

This is why Galatians 5:6 does not speak of faith or works, or even faith and works, but rather a faith that works, not motivated by reward or punishment, but by love. Just like Abraham, all who are saved by faith exhibit good works.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

12: Rewards of Faithfulness-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School class, March 25, 2023.

Main Theme: While saved by grace, God rewards faithfulness.

Read in Class: Hebrews 11:6, Isaiah 40:10, Revelation 22:12. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study: What doe these texts mean to us? What do they teach us? How should we respond?

Apply: How do we understand the difference between salvation by grace and a reward according to works?

Share: Your friend asks, “Why is God rewarding us by our works when we are saved by grace?” What do you tell your friend? For a hint see Saved by Faith, Rewarded by Righteousness.

Read in Class: Revelation 21:1-4, 7-8. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What are some of the things that we are promised?

Apply: Read Revelation 21:8, about the fate of those who will face the second death. Which sin of those depicted there cannot have been forgiven by Jesus? Why, then, are these people lost when some who have done the same things are saved? What is the crucial difference between these two groups?

Share: Your friend asks why God does not save people who are cowardly or fearful? Why be so harsh with someone just for being fearful? What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: Matthew 25:14-23. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study:  What does God say to those who were faithful money managers in supporting His cause? What does it mean to “enter into the joy of your lord?”

Apply: How are you going to fare when God comes to “settle accounts” with you?

Share: Your friend asks why the master was so harsh on the man who only had one talent? What do you tell your friend.

Read in Class: Romans 8:16-18. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: How was the knowledge that he was a child of God a factor in his faithfulness?

Apply: How have the things you have already suffered helped you become more faithful to God?

Share: Can you think of someone who is going through a hard time and struggling to be faithful? What word of encouragement can you share with them this week?

11: Managing in Tough Times-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt, for Sabbath School Class, March 18, 2023.

Main Theme: Amid trying times, when we need to lean on the Lord more than ever, there are some concrete steps, based on biblical principles, that we should follow.

Read in Class: 1 Chronicles 21:1-14. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study:  Why did David decide to number Israel or count his soldiers? Why did his commander Joab counsel against this? How was David contradicting himself in Psalm 127:1?

Apply: How do we strike the right balance between doing what we can, for instance, to be financially secure, and yet, at the same time, trusting in the Lord for all things?

Share: Your friend asks, “David showed a lack of faith in God’s care by counting his own men. What does that have to so with the our lesson today about managing during tough times? We don’t have an army. What might you and I be counting today that might show our lack of faith in God’s care?” How do you answer your friend?

Read in Class: 2 Peter 3:3-12. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What is Peter telling us with these words?

Apply: If you knew Jesus were coming within ten years, how would you change your life? Or five years? Or three?

Share: Your older friend says, “I have saved up so many things over my life, and now my kids want me to sell it all and move in with them. I’m not sure how I feel about that?” What do you tell your older friend?

Read in Class: Matthew 6:24 and 1 John 2:15-17. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study: What has been your own experience with the truth in Matthew 6:24? How are the three things mentioned in 1 John 2:15-17 manifested in our world today? Why is the danger they present sometimes more subtle than we realize?

Apply: Read 2 Peter 3:10-14. How should what he says here impact how we live, including what we do with our resources?

Share: Your friend says, keeping up appearances and keeping up with the Jones’ is what creates all the stress and hard times in our lives? Do you agree with your friend? Why or why not?

Read in Class: Revelation 13:11-17. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: How do financial matters fit in with the end-time persecution?

Apply: If you had to break the Sabbath in order to work and earn money for your family to eat would you? Why or why not? Or if you only had enough money to return tithe or feed your family which would you do and why? See Does God Still Expect us to Give During Tough Times?

Share: Do you know someone going through a tough time right now? How are you going to encourage them this week?

Does God Still Expect us to Give When we are Going Through Tough Times?

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While Israel was experiencing a spiritual drought due to their Baal worship, God allowed a literal drought to fall upon the land as well. This drought affected everyone, including God’s prophet, Elijah. 

The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 1 Kings 17:6-9 NKJV

God has an interesting way of providing for His prophet during this time. First, ravens are scavengers. They are not known for sharing food, but in this story they become quite generous.

Then God sends Elijah to a widow. Widows can be very generous when it comes to giving to missions. Jesus noticed a widow in Luke 21:1-4 giving all she had. Still, most people in charge of fundraising look to the rich for provisions, and not to poor widows. 

I believe that in the last days, while many are trusting (even schmoozing up to?) rich people, God is going to provide for His people by using very unlikely and humble sources. I believe that the widow was not Plan B. God did not send Elijah to the widow because the brook dried up. The brook dried up so Elijah would go to the widow. Sometimes God has to close one door so he can get us to open a new door. 

So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.”  And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” So she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’ ” So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah. 1 Kings 17:10-16.

Here we have another unlikely scenario. Who goes to a poor widow who is about to starve to death and says, “Feed me first?” But that is exactly what Elijah did. I have heard many people, even church members in good standing, tell people, “If you don’t have the money to tithe, God understands,” or “If you are going through a hard time right now, God does not expect you to give anything.” But the story of Elijah and the widow contradicts such notions. The widow was going through a very hard time, even about to starve to death, and God still expected her to give to His prophet first. Anything less would be a lack of faith, and the just shall live by faith. (see Romans 1:17). Without faith we cannot please God. (See Hebrews 11:6). So the widow had to give first in order to have the faith to live, as well as to please God. While tough times made it appear as though she could not give first and survive, the truth was she had to give first in order to survive. The poor widow was able to feed her household for many days, and the jar never ran dry during the tough times because she gave first. 

So today, even in tough times when it looks like you can’t afford to return your tithes and offerings, the fact is you can not afford to not return your tithes and offerings first. During the tough times in Elijah’s day, God used miracles and some very unlikely means to provide for His people. So today, even in tough times God is working miracles to provide for those who give first to Him.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Not Making a Will Won’t Make You Live Any Longer

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People have told me, if it came down to it, they would be afraid to die for Jesus. But you know what? They are going to die anyway, so we might was well be willing to die for Jesus, at least that way he have the hope of eternal life after dying. After all, either way we still die. 

At the same time some people don’t want to make a will because they don’t want to think about dying, but you know what? They are going to die anyway. And not making a will won’t make you live any longer. What making a will will do for you though, is making sure your assets go where you want. 

If you wish your local Adventist conference can assist you in making a legal will. This is a service local Adventist conferences do for their members, and while you can, you don’t have to leave anything to the church for them to perform this service. However I am all for leaving a legacy when I die. I hope when I die people will still read my blog posts, and remember my sermons and kind words. To me leaving such a legacy is just being a good steward of my life. Just like I want my writings and sermons to live well beyond me, I also want my resources to keep working for Jesus well beyond my days. 

When I was a child my mother would tell me all kinds of interesting stories about her life before I was born. Now that she is resting in Jesus, I am living my life making sure I will have all kinds of interesting stories to share with her after she awakes in the resurrection. If I fall asleep before Jesus comes I know I will love to hear in heaven all the wonderful stories about how my money kept working for Jesus while I was sleeping. Possibly you feel the same. If you would like your local Adventist conference to help you make your will, with or without giving anything to the conference, let me help you get started by sharing a link. Again, not making a will won’t make you live any longer. Making a will makes sure your money goes where you want it to. When you are ready just click on this link to find a local Adventist estate planning representative. The sooner you get this taken care of the sooner you can just go back to enjoying the rest of your life, with peace of mind. 

10: Giving Back-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School class, March 11, 2023.

Main Theme: In this week’s lesson we look at how to manage money wisely in our golden years.

Read in Class: Luke 12:16-21. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What’s the relevant message to us here? What strong rebuke did the Lord give to the foolish man, and what should that say to us regarding our attitude toward what we own?

Apply: At any age and with any amount of money, how can we avoid falling into the trap that the man did here? Ask yourself, “What am I living for?”

Share: Your friend says he has worked hard all his life saving up money so he can enjoy his hard earned money when he retires. He asks why he should be expected to share it with the church or anyone since after all, he worked so hard for it.

Read in Class: Proverbs 23:23-27, Proverbs 30:8 and 1 Timothy 6:17. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study:  How would you interpret “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks” (NKJV) for Christians living today?

Apply: “For riches are not forever” (Prov. 27:24, NKJV). Why is it important to keep this thought before us?

Share: A friend asks, “What plans have you made for God and family if you died suddenly? What would happen to your property? Would it go where you wanted it to?” How would you respond to your friend?

Read in Class: Psalm 24:1, Hebrews 3:4, Psalm 50:10, Genesis 14:19 and Colossians 1:15-17. Define the common thread in these passages.

Study: How should these passages help us know what to do with all God has given us?

Apply: How do you balance what you spend your money on that shows you are faithful in managing God’s money? In what ways could your spending be better?

Share: Your friend says it seems many people use money to manipulate others instead of blessing others. What do you say to your friend?

Read in Class: Ecclesiastes 2:18-22. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What does this passage tell us about human life?

Apply: Death, as we know, can come at any time, and unexpectedly, too, even today. What would happen to your loved ones were you to die today? What, too, would happen to your property? Would it be distributed as you would like?

Share: Besides money, what do you want to share with others before you die? What plans are you making to share this week with friends?

9: Beware of Covetousness-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School class March 4, 2023.

Main Theme: By appreciating all God has done for us and given to us we can be happy and content without needing things we don’t have.

Read in Class: Isaiah 14:12-24. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What hints are given there about the fall of Lucifer? How did covetousness play a crucial role in that fall?

Apply: Read 1 Timothy 6:6, 7. How can focusing on what Paul writes here help protect us from covetousness?

Share: Your friend says he covets rich people’s fancy and homes and expensive cars, but all he does is daydream about these things. He says coveting is a pretty benign sin. In light of Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5 how do you answer your friend?

Read in Class: Joshua 7. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What happened after the powerful victory at Jericho, and what message should we take from this story for ourselves?

Apply: Think about how easily Achan could have justified his actions: well, it’s such a small amount compared to all the rest of the booty. No one will know, and what can it hurt? Besides, my family needs the money. How can we protect ourselves from this kind of dangerous rationalization?

Share: Your friend says it was not fair for God to allow Israel to suffer such a defeat just because of Achan’s sin? What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class John 12:1-8 and Acts 5:1-11. Discuss the common thread of these passages.

Study: Judas pretended to be concerned about the poor while Ananias and Sapphira pretended to be generous, but what sin lied in all their hearts? How did this sin lead to their fate?

Apply: How can we make sure we do not suffer the same fate as Judas, Ananias and Sapphira?

Share: Your friend asks, which was worse? Ananias and Sapphira keeping the money or lying about giving the entire amount? What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: 1 Corinthians 10:13. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What promise is given here, and why is this so important to understand in the context of covetousness?

Apply: How then, in God’s power, can we be protected against this dangerously deceptive sin?

  1. Make a decision to serve and depend on God and to be a part of His family. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15).
  2. Be daily in prayer and include Matthew 6:13, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” When feeling covetous of something that you know you should not have, pray over it, claiming promises in the Bible for victory, such as 1 Corinthians 10:13.
  3. Be regular in Bible study. “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Ps. 119:11, NKJV).

Share: What, if any, have been the consequences in your own life from covetousness? What lessons have you learned? What might you still need to learn from them?

What is Your Net-Worth?

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He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know me?” says the Lord. Jeremiah 22:16 NLT

George W. Jenkins not only began his Publix grocery store incorporation during the depression, but he also set up several foundations and charities so that even after his death, in 1996, he could continue giving to the community and those less fortunate. After setting up and giving to so many charities, someone asked Jenkins what he would be worth had he not given so much away. He quickly answered, “probably nothing.” Jenkins saw his worth in what he could give instead of in what he could get. He did not figure he would be worth anything if he could not give. Unfortunately four of the “Last Five Kings of Judah” did not share that understanding. Only Josiah recognized that his worth lay in serving the Lord by serving his people. One of my favorite quotes that helps us keep a perspective on money is,

“Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”

This quote reminds us that life is not about things. Jesus says,

Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own. Luke 12:15 NLT

Jesus goes on to say,

..a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21 NLT

Life is about relationships not money and things. Another one of my favorite quotes is,

The richest person is not the one who has the most but the one who needs the least.

Several years ago my friend’s daughter was having her 12th birthday during a holiday season, and I felt bad for her almost being “forgotten” with so many other celebrations. I gave her a card and twenty dollars, which I thought was a generous gift back then. Later I found out she had taken my gift along with the rest of the money she had been given and gave it to a fund at our church to help parents with children in the hospital. Turns out my young friend did not need to be remembered with money. She did not need money at all. She needed to be a blessing to others. I reckon she too figured she would be worth nothing if she was not giving to others. So, what are you worth?

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

8: Preparing for Success-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School class on February 25, 2023.

Main Theme: True success has to do with our faithfulness to God and our community.

Read in Class: Genesis 2:15, Ecclesiastes 9:10 and 2 Thessalonians 3:8-10. Discuss the common thread of these passages.

Study: What is the significance of the fact that, even before the entrance of sin, Adam (and certainly Eve, too) was given work? How might this explain why, as stated above, those who never had to work found their situation to be a curse?

Apply: What is it about work that, ideally, should make it something that can be a blessing to us?

Share: A couple you are friends with are having a light disagreement and want your opinion. The husband wants to buy a brand new car for their 16 year old daughter. The wife thinks the daughter should work and save her own money for a car. What do you share with your friends?

Read in Class: 1 Timothy 5:8, Proverbs 14:23, and Colossians 3:23-24. Discuss common thread of these passages.

Study: What important points can we take away from these texts about finances in the home?

Apply: Of course, no matter what they do no one has any guarantee about the direction their children will go. Why is it important for parents not to blame themselves for the wrong choices their older children might make?

Share: Your friend says that while public schools are free, there are better things for him to invest his money in at this time rather than putting his children in an Adventist school. What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: Genesis 39:2-5. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: Although the texts do not specifically tell us, what do you imagine Joseph had been doing that caused his master to look so favorably upon him?

Apply: What are the principles that you are following, not just in work, but in life in general? What changes might you need to make?

Share: Your friend says it seems Joseph was working with integrity even though it seemed there was no way out of his current situation. Supposed Joseph had died in prison, would his integrity still paid off? What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: Proverbs 3:5-8. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study and apply: : How do we apply this principle in our basic financial matters?

An overview of the biblical counsel on financial management gives us very valuable points to follow. Let’s look at seven of them.

  1. Get organized. Develop a spending plan (Prov. 27:23, 24). Many families just exist from paycheck to paycheck. Without a simple plan for earning, spending, and saving, life is much more stressful.
  2. Spend less than you earn. Determine to live within your means (Prov. 15:16). Many families in Western countries actually spend more than they earn. This is made possible only because of the availability of credit and debt. Many problems plague those who are in debt.
  3. Save a portion from every pay period (Prov. 6:6-8). We save to make larger purchases in the future and to take care of unplanned expenses, such as accidents or illness. Some savings can be used to plan for the time when because of advancing age, we are no longer able to be employed.
  4. Avoid debt like COVID-19 (Prov. 22:7). Interest is one expense you can live without. A person or a family living with debt — that is, on borrowed money — is really living today on money they expect to earn in the future. If any life changes occur, then serious financial embarrassment can result.
  5. Be a diligent worker. “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (Prov. 13:4, NKJV).
  6. Be financially faithful with God (Deut. 28:1-14). No family can afford to live without God’s blessing.
  7. Remember that this earth is not our real home. Our management says a lot about where our ultimate priorities are (see Matt. 25:14-21).

Share: Can you think of someone who could use some advice from this week’s lesson? How can you share it with him or her this week?

How Could I be Better Than Someone Jesus Died for?


I think my parents did a pretty balanced job of raising me. I was taught that no one was better than me, and that I am no better than anyone else. A while back I was listening to a documentary on NPR , talking about how awkward it was for people who served as maids and butlers to become successful and turn around and have their own maids and butlers. To me it would not be awkward at all. I have actually had to hire a temporary housekeeper at times when I became so busy with multiple jobs. There were also times when I did some housekeeping or landscaping work myself to make extra money. When I was working for someone in their home I never thought of them as better than me, and when someone was working in my home I never thought I was better than them. I just thought we were all just helping each other out as we made our way through life. 

However some people are tempted to think they are better than others. Having worked with youth and families in churches and schools I have learned there are two types of parents. One type of parent teaches their kids not to act like they are better than anyone else. The other group teaches their kids they aren’t better than anyone else. Even with my professed balanced upbringing, I have had to tell myself, “If I shouldn’t say something condescending then I should not even think it.” 

Here are some ideas that keep me humble as if all my mistakes and failures were not enough.  

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 1 John 4:20 NKJV

I understand the word “love” here is “agape.” Agape is the love God has for bad people. Of course God is good so he does not need our agape, since He actually earns our love. So what I understand John saying here is this, “If you say would agape God and love Him even if He was bad, prove it by loving your brother who really is bad. Speaking on this passage I once heard Wintley Phipps say, “Our love for God is no stronger than the love we have for the person we love the least.” 

How could I be too good to love someone who Jesus loves? 

Speaking of the least, Jesus says,

‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40 NKJV

Jesus gave His life for sinners. If the least of sinners needs my time and help, and I shrug them off as not worth my time or money then I have just put myself above Jesus. No matter how smart, rich or talented I think I am, if I think a sinner is not worth my time and effort after Jesus gave His life for them, then I must think I’m greater than Jesus!  

For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Hebrews 2:16 NKJV

How could I be too good to help someone who Jesus helps? 

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NKJV

How could I be too good to die for someone who Jesus died for? 

Our attitude towards the least of these shows our attitude towards Jesus. 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.