Christianity 201

January 1, 2012

Giving is the Anecdote to Greed

With the start of a new month, I go back to see what sources we linked to six months ago, and also to see if there’s original anything that was published twelve months ago that might be repeated, as well as sources from that month.  Unless you have staff, doing something like this on a daily basis is no small task, and sadly I occasionally run into great blogs that have stopped publishing, such as Feeding the Soul from BBG Ministry.  However, if I had staff, I’d spend much effort on mining the depths of the Christian internet, because just because it wasn’t published yesterday, doesn’t mean it’s not relevant.

So I thought we’d kick off the new year with a two-for-one special featuring two short devotional articles from Feeding the Soul, starting first with the one I chose for the post title here today, and then a bonus reading.

Giving is the only antidote to greed.

Jesus says, in Matthew 6:24, No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Jesus is making the point that our heart’s highest loyalty will be for only one thing. We can’t be equally devoted to two things; ultimately one will win out over the other.

If money is the most important thing to you (i.e., if you’re greedy), then you will serve your money more than you serve God. And you will find it very difficult to follow God’s instructions to give to others: If there is a poor man among your brothers … do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs (Deuteronomy 15:7-8).

If it’s true that no one can serve two masters, then the best way to fight against greed is to make sure that your master (your highest loyalty) is God—not money. Follow God above all else; that way your money will follow God, too.

John writes, If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (1 John 3:17). That sounds rather harsh at first, but it’s really no different than what Jesus said in Matthew 6:24. If you love your money more than God, then you’ll keep your money for yourself rather than giving it away to help others. The only way you’ll give generously to others is if you love God more than you love your money. So, how do you know if you love God more than money? By examining what you do with your money: Do you keep most of it, or give most of it?

If you want to fight against greed (that is, if you want to love God more than your money), then you’ll follow God’s instructions to give—give to the poor, give generously, give joyfully, give liberally, and give regularly. Giving is the best weapon against greed.

Bonus reading for today:

Faith is the ability to see God in the dark.

Have you ever felt that God isn’t with you? That when life became tough and darkened God abandoned you? Such a feeling is common to many Christians. However, you must not rely on feelings; instead, you must rely on faith, knowing that God is always there—you just may not always be able to see him in your circumstances. That’s why faith is so important.

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. For example, if a family member dies, you may understandably question whether or not God could possibly be with you during such difficult times. However, by faith, you can be certain of what [you] do not see—certain that God was there watching over the whole situation.

Romans 4:19-21 describes how Abraham had faith even though it looked like God could never do what he said he would: Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

In his dark circumstances, Abraham could still see God—he had faith. That’s the same type of faith to which God is calling you.

March 15, 2011

Exegetical Blogging

Bible commentary need not be restricted to pastors and Christian authors.  You can copy and paste text into your blog and insert your own insights.  This piece is from Dreaming Beneath the Spires, the blog of Anita Mathias in Oxford, England where it first appeared under the title, Wealth and the Spiritual Life.

Matthew 19 16-30
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

He has the longing for spiritual things that many good people have.

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

For starters, the moral code of basic decency with the addition of Love Your Neighbor as yourself, an obscure directive from Lev 19:18.

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

An idol is something which, in practice, means more to us that God does. Though we may not realize that we love it more, in effect it absorbs our thoughts and our attention more than God does. And how does one deal with this?

Sometimes, surgery, giving it up all together. God may take the idol from us in mercy, or we may give it up.

At other times, we need to constantly repent and surrender the idol to God, and make sure that we are doing it in God’s way. (That, for instance, is what I need to do with my blog.)

Jesus did not ask everyone to sell their possessions and give them to the poor. However, his diagnosis of this young man’s heart was correct, because that was the one thing he could not do.

He could not deal with the resultant transformation of identity if he lost his possessions. He could not part with something he had probably nurtured and brooded over over many hours and years.

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

And this is what happens when we say No to God. We go away sad.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Wealth brings with it a sense of security, prestige, power, an easier life, the respect of men, “friends” some of whom might become real friends, social acceptance, the power to fulfill fantasies, to gratify desire, to affect the lives of your children, family, and friends in positive ways. “Men praise you when you prosper.” Psalm 49:18.

It is not therefore surprising that it could easily become an idol to us, something which takes the place of God in our thoughts.

The general attributes of the rich are the opposite to those of the child, (Matthew 19 13-15) when it comes to the Kingdom of Heaven.

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished

Because wealth was equated with God’s blessing and favour.

and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Even rich men and rich women can be saved!! For “with God, all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

No wonder Jesus loved Peter. He who said what he thought as he thought it. Him with his foot in his mouth.

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

What have you done for the sake of Jesus?
Think about it.
You will receive a hundred times as much, in this life, some of the Gospels, specify. And eternal life.
Receiving a hundred times as much for the little I have done for the love of Christ in this life–that I can testify from personal experience is true!!

30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
A repeated theme in the Gospels. Those who are prominent here, may be the least prominent in paradise, and those who are the least prominent here may be the closest to God here, and in paradise.
The day of judgment will bring many surprises.

What is the one thing in your life which might take the place of God? Think about it. What would it take for you to either let it go, or to do it in God’s way?