The pendulum is swinging
I don't know that I have ever experienced a topic which
stirs up so much emotion in people -– including church people...
What does wheat, barley, sea shells, salt, leaves, tobacco,
gold and silver all have in common? Not a whole lot at all...but each of these commodities
has been used historically as tokens of economic exchange. Of course, now we use
money... but being good Christian folk, we mustn't talk about the m
word, "that's just a necessary evil" we mutter to ourselves. In
reality, money is not a necessary evil at all. It happens to be the
current format through which we trade or barter here on earth, usually generated
through our being remunerated for hard work...nothing evil there. This means
that we should be able to enjoy our money without condemnation or guilt -– but
can we? How often do I hear my fellow Christians apologise after apparently
slipping up during the course of a conversation in stating how much they enjoyed
doing something recently, like buying new clothes or going out for dinner... We
seem to be so much on guard, so not to be identified with the material world. I
asked some friends how they enjoyed their recent holiday. They looked rested and
unwound, were smiling more than usual, but after a couple of minutes of thinking
about their experience, their answer came back negative (as usual). It's
almost as if they have become incapable of the simplest expression of enjoyment
like "Oh look we had a great time -– we loved it...can't wait to be blessed
again...". They dug deep to remember anything and everything that had gone
wrong -– little things that in the context of a holiday one should be able to
take in their stride. It puzzles me why so many believers can not express joy!
Certain denominations portray this phenomena more than others, it's true that
our view of God will affect our entire lives...
Fun and enjoyment do not equate with sin do they? One man
wrote a book "The Happiest People On Earth" and he's absolutely right...in
theory at least.
We have tremendous privileges and opportunities in the
Western world. No matter how many "Voice of the Martyr" books we read, or
how many times we mask the fact that we have experienced something really
enjoyable, we should be able to acknowledge that God has allowed us to be born
and raised here -– and in this fact, He has blessed us! Good stewardship of His
blessing is vital, but to pretend habitually that we live difficult lives here
in the West would seem short sighted and misleading. Indeed most of our
difficulties would appear to be generated within the self centeredness of our
minds...they are not like the harsh daily realities millions face just trying to
scrape up enough food to feed their starving children. We do not suffer in that
way at all -– and to experience guilt and to hide joy is not a
constructive or more spiritual way of dealing with the situation we find
ourselves in. My definition of being rich is 'If a person can decide for
themselves what they will eat for dinner, be it beef, chicken or fish - they are
rich' and should acknowledge this and show gratitude to the Giver of all good
gifts. Maybe it's just a cultural thing, where we wish to appear modest, or
perhaps the result of an upbringing which developed a frugal perception within
us...or could it be that we have mentally fallen prey to a form of an ancient
heresy (ascetism; the putting down of the flesh, in the hope that the spirit
will excel) where we believe we must suffer physically in order to win Christ
spiritually...so we have developed a pattern of pretending we're not
I see so many good and talented people, who are not able to
respond to opportunities which arise, almost ham-strung by a false idea that God
would have them turn down every chance at succeeding or excelling in different
areas "I mustn't get into that, I might enjoy myself and sin by mistake".
Abraham Lincoln said "Most people are as happy as they choose to be".
Our problem is not money, achievement or success -– it is
the heart of man. It's what we do with it all. We are warned 'not to fall in
love with the folding stuff' as it can easily become a root through which all
sorts of evil can sprout ie. if money consumes us, we can act quite selfishly as
a result. Yes, believe it or not, even Christians can turn quite mean and ornery
Thankfully, with our God we are in a process where we can
grow. I have seen first hand some fairly affluent churches where instead of
pretending that God would have everybody poor, they practise what the Bible
teaches..."If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God -– learn to serve...".
If God blesses your hard work, be grateful and get on with serving. Actions
speak louder than words, and certain churches emphasise serving one another,
and serving out in the community! They literally put their money where
their mouth is. Sounds good and honest to me.
Perhaps a constructive way for Christians to deal with money
would be 'not to be afraid to gather more of it -– use it wisely to create
more money -– and, to liberally utilise it for the Kingdom of God'. When you
consider that the whole welfare system of Israel was generated and operated by
the religious system of tithing...my, how things have changed. Tithing was
instituted by God -– it's purpose clear, God takes care of people,
including those who did not have land or opportunity to grow their own food or
produce - priests, widows, the fatherless and aliens in the land. The
priests did not take the tithe! It was divided between all of the above, those
who couldn't provide for themselves. Of course today we have a welfare system
-– but certain needs remain which can never be met by the State. Collectively
we "the people of God" could have a very real impact. One thing we have
noticed over the years -– when people make a song and dance about their support
of something, great declarations of loyalty and support pretty well always come
to nothing. If you think money is evil, or has the power to stumble you, please
write to me -– I will gladly relieve you of the pressure.
Love is a practical word -– serving one another is the
outworking of it. Lets not pretend that God will not prosper His people -– He
certainly does in different ways. God said to Abraham, "I will bless you, and
you will be a blessing to others".
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