Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 308 Money, a Very Spiritual Thing

Dear friends,

How much is enough? I'm wrestling with the lofty principles of simplicity, generosity and contentment, and using a mental machete to cut through the weeds of my own western biases to get to the answer to that question. I don't want a speck of greed, covetousness or discontent to put up needless barriers on my own pilgrim road, or on the paths of those I am travelling with. So this work of seeking the Great One for His perfect wisdom on the subject of money and its place in the life of a Christian is important.

Jesus makes some statements about money that frankly scare me to death. He tells the rich man to "sell all he has and give to the poor, then come follow Me". Wow. He says "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God". Ouch. The scriptures also say "the LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil". Yikes. Thinking about these things, I've come to a few unfinished conclusions. (Is it possible to have an unfinished conclusion)?

1- Jesus was always careful not to create a law. He knew the precise need of each individual. He still does. I'm sure all of us need to learn to trust Him more, and to become more radical in our giving. But the problem with the rich man was his deep attachment to his money. Let's face it, Jesus let a woman pour perfume on His feet worth a year's salary, and put out the very best wine (miraculously) at the wedding of a young couple. He's certainly not against extravagance. But where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. And He wants our treasure to be in what has truly lasting value. Himself.

2- Jesus loves both rich and poor. A rich man provided His grave, and women of means made it possible for Him to do the hard work of ministering to people without a salary. So it wasn't the wealth that was the problem. Money is a necessary tool. But riches can easily become a snare. They can become the focus of life's pursuit. Both by rich and poor folk. They have no power to give life, so the Great One warns against their counterfeit satisfaction. The problem again is the attachment to money.

3- Money is the topic of a great deal of conversation in the Bible, because it is such a major contender for the hearts and souls of men. How we handle our money is a very real barometer of our faith. And it's got nothing to do with amounts. One man's ten dollars is worth another man's million. Only God can judge where we are with this. We can't look at the man driving the fancy car and assume he's greedy, nor can we look at the one in the beat up old Chevy and assume they are foolish with their finances. Money is a heart issue to the core. There are no formulas. The tithe was a guideline for giving in the Old Testament. Jesus says, lay it ALL down. What that means for each one of us is as individual as our DNA. Still, there's nothing like giving till it hurts a bit to beat up on some of that stubborn selfishness inherent in our natures.

4 -If you are hoarding your cash to protect you in your old age, forget it. (I'm not saying don't be wise and save - again, how much is enough?). What I am saying is putting your trust in that nest egg is a big mistake. Cancer could get you tomorrow. Or a heart attack. Or you could be hit by a drunk driver and killed. Then it won't matter whether you had money or not. In the long run, we took nothing into this world, and we can be sure we will take nothing out of it.

I, as usual, am preaching to myself and letting you overhear. I live in a lovely home, in a nice neighborhood. Both our cars run, we have 3 tv's in our house, and we go to Cape Cod every summer. All three of my kids have attended private Christian school. I've got shelves full of books in my house, a computer, and more than one pair of shoes. I've never been hungry one day in my life, and I can afford to get an occasional coffee at that fancy coffee place. By the standards of the rest of the world, I am wildly rich. And because of that, I must search and continue to uproot any place in my life not wholly devoted to God. Because I don't trust my heart for one minute. I know where my head can go, and it isn't good.

The crash impacted my relationship with money in a number of ways. I experienced great generosity, and the threat of overwhelming debt. By God's grace, our lifestyle has remained the same. Thanks to all of you, and the mercy of God, we have been fine. But I want to continue to find ways to keep my life free from the love of money. I never, ever want to get stuck on my way through and to the Kingdom of God in the eye of the needle. That would be a far greater disaster than any I have ever known.

Learning and growing, friends, learning and growing.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


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