I am so thankful for our Body of Christ and the fact that we have this “radical” aspect…
- A priority on love relationships, not performance, rituals, or even corporate worship… Our ability to relate starts with Jesus. I am so blessed by Him and filled with love from Him that enables me to love others and experience the relational “image of God” we were uniquely created to have.
- A priority on the Word as the preeminent objective source for God’s revelation and discernment –> fuels and objectifies love; a document – preserved for centuries, having been tested time and time again only to stand stronger than ever through the gristmill of history – that is living and active, able to speak as clear as ever into the here and now
- A focus on serving others –> most important outcome of love, our ability, calling, privilege to emulate our Lord, to reach out to those who don’t know Christ and serve those in need.. and experience what it means by “it is better to give than to receive”
But there is one area of “service” that will undermine all these aspects that make us a vibrant BOC and my life meaningful …
Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
How true it is that I can easily get caught up in the demands for “services” on me by the world. What an opportunity I have to invest in the world. That’s what it seems to be all about. I may be able to shrewdly make lots of money (or at least dream or always try to). I get paid … I can then gain some control, some fun, some comfort… But what does that really get me? How can I free myself from serving the pursuit of the American Dream to the pursuit of building the Kingdom of God?
Let’s go back to Luke 16 and see if there are any keys to be had…
Luke 16:1-13 Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.  “And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’  “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.  ‘I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’  “And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’  “And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’  “Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’  “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.  “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.
 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.  “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?  “And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?  “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
The elements of the parable:
- – A manager who’s messing up
- – A rich owner who’s pissed at the manager
- – The manager freaks out and decides to bail by settling the owners debtors in a very favorable way for them
- – The owner praises the manager for his shrewdness in setting himself up for the future
- sons of this generation are shrewder than sons of light – a slam on Christ-followers … we’re too naïve and enamored with the bright lights of wealth to realize what we are really dealing with
- make friends with money for eternity – money is a means to an end, but it is only that … it always leads to something, what will that something be?
- faithfulness with the insignificant money demonstrates trustworthiness if given more significant things – isn’t that what we ultimately want, something or at least to be part of or involved in something, or someone, that is really significant?
- you don’t really own anything – this is a shocker… what do you mean it’s not my money?
- you can’t really serve both God and money – this is a stunner … who do you serve?
These are the things that we need to take stock in. It seems to me that the bottom line here is one of a reality check. If what Christ is saying is really true… is that working itself out in my life? Or, am I blind to my allegiance? It’s not very hard to figure that out. What are you spending your money on? How big of a priority is it to “make friends for eternity” with your money? Is money an insignificant thing or not so insignificant thing? Are those my possessions?
Christ is saying, if you want to follow Me, you have to release your ties to the world’s values. Christians just don’t seem to get it (do we really look that different than others in the world who do not know Christ in the area of our finances?). Yet, we are in such a position to really score for the Kingdom with the unrighteous mammon we have. It’s really quite an opportunity. As Paul says:
1 Tim. 6:17-19 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.  Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,  storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
We can invest our silly money in building our fellowship by supporting those who minister, are burdened, are effective at following God’s lead, teach, and establish a vibrant ministry.
Just as important are the greater ramifications of the Great Commission, to reach all the people groups of the world for Christ. The opportunities to support missionaries in this endeavor are many. This is only becoming a bigger issue. As our American $ drops like a rock, it costs more to minister overseas.
Related to this, but perhaps even more significant is that the same amounts of money we spend on cable TV, CDs, candy, fast food, cigarettes, etc… could go a long way with the brothers and sisters working in the less developed if not impoverished parts of the world where Christianity has wide open doors and people are under severe hardship. I’m not saying just throw your money somewhere to make yourself feel better. One needs to look into how ministries are making a difference and is it just social relief or is the Kingdom of God being built.
But in this ever shrinking world, we have a responsibility to share with those brothers and sisters less fortunate than us (2 Cor 8:13-14) … and why not, I got to believe it will go to building the Kingdom of God way more than what I would have spent it on.
Related to this is the fact that the pressure on the poor countries of the world is only increasing. The price of staple foods (rice, corn, wheat, etc…) has recently skyrocketed 50%. Countries that were already spending over 50% of their income are going to be devastated.
We spend less than 10% of our income on food, on average. It’s going up for us to, but the thing is, we for the most part buy processed foods, like Corn Flakes. I heard on an NPR article that the cost of the corn that goes into a bowl of delicious Corn Flakes has gone up from about 10 cents to 20 cents, a fraction of the total cost since most of the cost is in the processing (which has not increased in price too much). However, poor people do not buy Corn Flakes, they buy corn or rice… which has gone up 50%… if it was costing them at least ½ of their income to buy food, now it will cost them at least 75% of their income. This is very disheartening.
We are a culture with all it’s energy focused on “making it”. And we have for the most part. From an article in 2001 (http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2001/12/wade.htm) referring to data from the United Nations which dates back to 1989, the 20% richest people in the world possessed nearly 83% of the wealth of the world. I couldn’t find how much it’s changed since then, but I can’t imagine it’s changed that much in the opposite direction.
We’re in that 20%. The reality is that the rich get richer at the expense of the poor; that just ain’t right. Why are we so fortunate? Why is the child born in Rwanda who has nearly a 20% chance of not making it to his or her 5th birthday because of very treatable diseases caused in large part by malnutrition born there? I don’t know why, but it certainly is not because I deserve to be born here. If I really look at things the way they are, I sure as hell shouldn’t take it for granted.
But the fact is we have an amazing opportunity. Since we have wealth, one thing we know is we have a ministry of sharing it!