Friday, November 23, 2012

What Money is For

From today's installment of Our Daily Bread: "The challenge of riches is living with thankful hearts to God and open hands to others." See here.

Money itself isn't condemned by the Bible. 1 Timothy 6:10, in the Bible's New Testament is often misquoted to claim (or accuse) the Bible of this attitude. (Even by Pink Floyd in the song, Money, on Dark Side of the Moon.) Money is not the root of all evil. The misquoted passage says that, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains."

Jesus does say that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the eternal kingdom Jesus came to bring to those with faith in Him. He says this to His disciples after telling a rich man to sell everything he has, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus.

But Jesus isn't saying that wealth is intrinsically bad. It just happened that money was this young man's particular idol of choice and it becomes such for lots of people.

The simple truth is that not everyone can handle wealth, no doubt far fewer than actually have wealth. The rich young man who incited Jesus to use His "camel through the eye of a needle" metaphor, was apparently not handling his wealth in a way that had him in sync with God. (Matthew 19:16-26)

Because wealth buys so much in this dying world, it's easy for the wealthy to delude themselves into thinking that they are, in a sense, gods in themselves.

Or, they can develop a material notion about life itself, thinking that anything that can't be bought, sold, touched, or manipulated, isn't real, even God Himself, Who, after all, has been revealed materially only once, in Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Savior.

Yet the Bible is filled with wealthy people who retained their faith and their wealth. Because God came first, they were able to use their wealth in a way that honored and loved God and gave practical expression to their love for others. The list includes Abraham and Sarah, Lydia, Matthew, and Joseph of Arimathea, to name just a few. And the fishermen who followed Jesus--including Peter, Andrew, James, and John--were at the least, members of the upper middle class of their time.

Each came to see their wealth as a gift from God over which they were to exercise good management. The Biblical word for this is stewardship.

In another part of 1 Timothy, on which today's installment of Our Daily Bread, quoted and linked above, is based, the apostle Paul writes:
Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy (1 Timothy 4:28).
Paul is not saying that everyone who has acquired wealth stole it. He is saying that the thieves who had come to faith in Christ needed to leave their sins behind by learning the true object for acquiring money while we live on earth.

And this is it: We acquire wealth so that we can take care of the needy.

The needy, of course, can include the neediest people of all: those who have never come to know or follow Jesus Christ. Proclaiming the good news that God so loves every person on this planet that He gave His Son Jesus, so that all who will turn from sin (repent) and believe in Jesus (surrender their lives to Him) will have everlasting life is the job of every Christian. Even our money should be marshaled in the effort to help others to fill their need for Christ.

But the needy also include the poor, whether in our own community or around the world.

The needy also include the victims of disaster, wherever they live.

Understanding why God entrusts our wealth to us, no matter how wealthy we may be by world standards, should alter the decisions we make about how we spend our money.

Followers of Jesus Christ, grateful that God has already saved them by His grace through our faith in Jesus, are set free from the temptations of money and can ask themselves each day, "God has given me new and everlasting life through Christ. God gives me my daily bread. In response, how can I use what God has given to me in order to address the needs of others?"

Maybe one day I'll be content with how my life daily answers that question. But I haven't gotten there yet. God is still working on me.

No comments: