Archive for the ‘money’ Category

Who are the Swine?

January 19, 2016

“Don’t give holy things to depraved men.  Don’t give pearls to swine!  They will trample the pearls and turn and attack you.”  Matthew 7:6

 

What did Jesus possibly mean when He said this?  In our modern Christian culture, we believe we are to give charity to everyone without question.  We are to preach the message of hope to all.  We are to persist without fail in giving, loving, and sharing Jesus.  Sometimes we feel we must knock endlessly at doors that never open, and even at doors where the voice inside yells “go away”

All Christian charities go through times of financial struggle.  When the economy is bad, donations dwindle, yet demands increase.  Would Jesus say to be good stewards of our resources and accountable to our donors and to Him to use what we have where it seems to do the most good?  Do we want to work where we see changed lives, or where we have labored in vain, sometimes for years.

Anyone who has worked in inner city ministries has seen two things that are distressing.  In the first case are the Christmas giveaways.  In some ministries some attempt at order has been forced by the situation.  People must pre-register, and people must come at an appointed time because the ministry can’t deal with a crowd that is too big.  Some ministries make an attempt to give a little five minute talk about the “real meaning of Christmas” and perhaps offer a prayer to the group that is pawing the ground waiting to get the gifts.  And many could testify to what always happens.  Huge crowds arrive early.  There is pushing, shoving and shouting.  People arrive who never preregistered and still expect gifts.  Usually there has to be a police presence to keep order.  There is always shouting and anger, and complaints about the gifts not equalling the expectation of the recipient.  The time, money and stress that went into the program drains the ministry, its staff and its volunteers.  And at the end of the day, some wonder why the ministry does this every year.  What usually isn’t asked is:  How did this honor the name of Jesus, and was His message heard by anyone.

Another scenario is the feeding program.  A lot of gospel missions, who otherwise do good work in rehabilitating the willing addicted, also feed anyone who comes in for the meal programs.  Often they do a little sermon or prayer first.  Those who came for the food are restless and distracted, angling toward the door nearest the food line.  Few appear to listen or pray.  At the end of the week, or the year, the staff could ask themselves if anyone’s life was changed by what happened at the mealtimes.  One could ask whether this honored the name of Jesus, or if it looked like bribery in order to hear a “sales pitch”, rather like the “free meals” at hotels which require one to hear a pitch involving real estate, investments, cruises, buyers clubs or something of that nature.   Might it not be better to just feed the hungry, and perhaps have a sign saying, “Be blessed, in the name of Jesus.”  It seems like this might at least be more honoring to Him.   He did indeed tell us to feed the hungry.

But who are the swine?  There are some who are absolutely hostile to the name of Jesus and His message of grace, and are indeed hostile to God himself, even in the “one God fits all, all religions are the same” open and liberal brand of God.  Should we argue the truth of Jesus with those who are hostile?  Possibly Jesus is saying “Don’t waste your breath”, but also may be saying “Don’t expose yourself to harm in this case.”   Its interesting that Jesus himself wouldn’t work miracles on command for those who came to see a spectacle.  They weren’t interested in what He had to say, they were just curious and wanted to be amazed.  He also did not feed the crowds a second time when they followed Him only because He fed them.  Indeed, He called them on their motives.   Jesus may be protecting those who serve Him from wasted resources, from burnout, and even from unnecessary exposure to physical harm.

But who are depraved men?   Depravity is the absence of a moral code, values or ethics.  A depraved person lives by the law of the jungle–“all about me, what’s in it for me, and I don’t care who I step on”   They also engage in “deeds of darkness” according to Jesus, and He leaves it to our imagination what those deeds may be.  They could range from illicit sex to plotting murder for gain, and everything in between meant to pleasure the self and harm others.   One thing is certain: while many encounter risk to self when they go into dangerous places to share the gospel, it would seem Jesus is not calling us to go into an Islamist terrorist encampment to preach the Christian message.

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What if We Believe Jesus? part 1

January 16, 2016

”  You cannot serve two masters:  God and money.  For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.”  Matt 6:24

Jesus said this as part of the famous Sermon on the Mount, possibly the most widely quoted of His speeches.  Do we believe that?  What would life look like if we served God before money?

I think often of those missionaries, ministry workers and pastors who take a vow of poverty.  They have the necessities of life, but no more.  Some never own a home or a car, or much of anything but their clothes, a few books and perhaps a personal computer.  They live in ministry supplied housing, usually quite plain.  Life for these people doesn’t consist of owning things, or pursuing pleasures that cost money.  Life is very simple, and revolves around relationships, and their interior life with God.  I have family members in the Salvation Army.  They have little, and while their old age will be provided for,  they will always have little.  I know other people who are supported ministry workers.  They also live simple lives, and have to depend on the support of others to do their work.  All of the above are some of the happiest people I know.  They work harder than a lot of people, but aren’t trying to climb the career ladder or compete in the rat race.  They do what they do out of love for God and others.

I also am aware of Christians who try to excuse their materialism as God’s blessing or God’s providence.  They are sure that abundance is God’s will for them, never mind they have spent a large amount of time and energy acquiring their material blessings.  To them, prosperity is a sign of God’s favor.  Well, it may be that God allows some to prosper monetarily without a lot of setbacks, but Jesus also taught that “To whom much is given, much will be required.”  Those who have wealth will use it for God’s glory if God indeed has first place in their lives and is their true master.

For most people not in ministry, we need to ask ourselves if God owns everything we have, or if we do.  If God is our master, He does own it, and we are just the managers of that amount He has trusted to us.  We need always to seek His will as we invest what He has given us for the good of others and to further His Kingdom.   As someone once said, we need not ask God how much to give Him, but how much we should keep for our own needs.