Posts tagged ‘money’

Chasing the Bulls

The pursuit of happiness.
For many, the pursuit of happiness means one thing — the pursuit of wealth. After all, isn’t that the American dream? We want to be better off financially than the previous generation was. We want to have a house that is paid for, two cars, 3.2 kids, a dog, and a flat screen TV. But there is a question that needs to be asked. Just because that is the “American Dream”, is it necessarily God’s dream for us? We need to examine what the Bible says about this dream, and see if it lines up with what God desires for us. And while there is nothing inherently sinful about having money, it does come with some serious warnings. Like fire, it can be beneficial, but used in the wrong context, it can kill and destroy us and those we love.

There are two dangers, from what I can see, in pursuing wealth — idolatry and covetousness. But there are also two remedies — contentment and gratitude. Lets see what the Bible says about it.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (I Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV)

Want to get ahead, and have great gain in life? Great! There is your key to success — godliness and contentment. The Greek word for contentment here indicates satisfaction with what one has. The Stoic philosophers liked contentment because it indicated self sufficiency. But for the Christian, contentment reflects Christ’s sufficiency. We are secure in the knowledge that as we seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, (Matthew 6;33), that our God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). Our lives are completely in His hands, and contentment reflects a trust that God knows what He is doing.

But some folks are driven no constantly attain more and gather up wealth for themselves. What follows is that money, which is supposed to be a useful servant, becomes a tyrannical master. Eventually, money, or mammon, becomes our God. We think about new wealth strategies day and night and constantly need to have the latest and greatest. Money becomes an idol.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (I Timothy 6:9, 10 NKJV)

Again, you may be either blessed or cursed with riches. But a conscious effort must be made to make sure the servant doesn’t become the master. Jesus put it this way:

“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13)

You see, Jesus didn’t say it was difficult to serve God and money. He didn’t even say it requires great skill.

    He said it is impossible!

Knowing that, why would any of us mock God and act as though Jesus was mistaken on this point?

So how do you know if you have crossed over into the pursuit of mammon instead of the worship of God? Well, what would happen if God took it all away? Or better yet, if He told you to give it all away? Could you release it, since it belongs to Him anyway? Those are hard questions that deserve much thought and self examination. Please don’t go over them lightly.

Down in the financial district around Wall Street in New York City, there is a large metal statue of a running bull. For some, it would symbolize a profitable, or “bull” market. In one way, perhaps unintentionally, that state is a warning to those who would worship wealth. Just like the golden calf that the Israelites built at Mount Sinai was an idol that caused death and destruction of lives, covetousness changes money into an idol that destroys us spiritually. And like the bull statue illustrates, it will turn on us without mercy and run us over and leave us behind.

If you have wealth, make sure you are also rich toward God, willing to share, and eager to serve God, not mammon. Are you poor? Don’t think that covetousness cannot consume you as well. Rest in God, and trust in His loving care for you. Serve Him fully, and with an eye single to His glory. Walk in godliness.
And be content.

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The Value of Denominations

I love having denominations, especially in my wallet! My favorite denomination is the $100 bill, although the $20 is easier to spend. But the extra effort to spend the $100 is one of its better qualities. in spite of my preferences, all too often my wallet is nondenominational. Sometimes it gets so bad that it seems my pockets fear change, too. In a pinch, like for a parking meter, noisy denominations are handy to have around. But for the long term, I prefer the quiet type that only occasionally makes a crinkling noise. But after enough time, even those become silent and just lay there folded in small groups, just waiting to be used by their master.

There are other pieces of paper in my wallet, some of which are still recognizable. They are not, however, denominations of anything, no matter how much they try to be. Even if they are play money or bills from a copy machine made to replicate real money, they have no true value. Unless something changes, they will one day be thrown away.

But whether a denomination is crisp and new, or aged and malleable, its value does not change. A new one is fresh off the presses has the same power as one that was printed 20 years ago. The used one may have been wadded up, stepped on, and bent out of shape multiple times, but that is not what determines how valuable it is. For a $100 bill have inherent value because of what it is, not because of what it may or may not have endured.

The same applies to disciples of Jesus. A Christian has value to His Master and Savior because of what he or she is, regardless of what they have been through or how much of a mess they are in. And you can’t become a Christian by just wanting the eternal or temporal benefits that they have. You must be born from above (John 3). Just as denominations of the dollar have no value unless the U.S. Mint makes them, you are not a Christian unless God makes you one. To quote the Jesus Christ, “you must be born again.”

In the end there will be three types of people:
1. Those who have been doing religious stuff like going to church or giving to worthy causes and speaking Christian words, but were never born again. Like counterfeit bills, they will be rejected and destroyed by the Grand Inspector.
2. Those who are not Christians and make no pretense to be ones. Just like spare pieces of note paper, they will be cast off and destroyed.
3. Those who have been born from above, and are true disciples of Christ. Just like the blank sheets of special paper at the mint before printing, they will start off just like the other two categories of people. But then they were changed, just like the paper at the Mint, into something of worth by the Master Maker into a something new, and uniquely valuable. In many ways they are just like the other bills, but each will have its unique characteristics as well. And they will all have the signature of the Spirit that lets everyone know who they are, what the are, and to whom they belong. Remember that when you are going through trials, being folded over or stepped on. Your value comes from the One who turned you from a piece of paper into something of value, not from those around you who look pristine. You are still useful to the Master for every good work.

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Misappropriation of Funds

Misappropriation of Funds
Back in my Navy days, there was a form of theft that was prosecuted called “misappropriation”. It occurred when someone would take something that belonged to another work center or division and use it for their own division. It was different than larceny because the person didn’t take it for personal use. The money or items never left the ship. But it was still a crime because as a result of the misappropriation, supplies would have to be reordered and money was wasted.

Sometimes, I wonder if misappropriation is happening in the Christian community in America. Jesus Christ set out what the priorities of the church were to be, and our use of church funds ought to be a reflection of those priorities. After all, Jesus said “where your treasure is, there will your heart be, also.” (Matthew 6:21)

The priorities, as set forth in the New Testament, are evangelism, care for orphans and widows, and ministering to the needs of others. But is that where our money is being spent? Or is the priority in the American church the comfort of the members, building bigger ministries, and marketing a user friendly inoffensive message? Have we turned from being fishers of men to being keepers of the aquarium?

In light of The Lord’s priorities, how do we justify multimillion dollar building projects? There was no such thing as a church building for the first 300 years of the Church and they changed the world! Lets see what could be done with the money used for a building expansion at a cost of $20 million if it were not spent on the comfort of the flock.

The average cost for sending a missionary from America is $6032 a year. (It is even less for support of indigenous missionaries). That $20 million dollars would support 300 missionaries for 10 years and result in the salvation of those who otherwise would have no Gospel witness. Instead we make the church larger and offer more programs to attract spiritual consumers that will be called "Christians" because they sign their names on a card, or slip their hand up for prayer when no one else is looking around.
Ideally, we could have a two for one special and support missionaries that not only preach the Gospel but care for orphans and widows and feed the hungry in Jesus name.

Speaking of orphanages, $20 million would run 7 orphanages for 100 years! Not only would we be ministering to "the least of these" by giving the poorest of the poor food, clothing and education, we would be raising up a generation of champions for Christ that would penetrate their culture with the Gospel far more effectively than a mass crusade every couple of decades or so.

And yet the American church goes on spending its time and treasure on itself. We use 96% of our finances at home and neglect the Great Commission. Why? So we can have a nicer facility to bring our friends to? To have the best fitness center and yoga classes in town? To have bigger and bigger congregations? It is very telling when a senior pastor has to be more of a CEO than a shepherd. I don't mean to be harsh, and I do want to speak the truth in love. But how do we expect God to ignore our extravagance here while missionaries have to spend time begging for the crumbs from the American church's table or risk having to come home?

Instead of building bigger churches, how about getting to a certain size and then planting smaller churches where people can grow in a healthy spiritual environment where they can't go and be anonymous. Wy the desire for spiritual empires? In the First Century they didn't bring people to church to get them saved. They could all tell someone about Jesus and salvation. They went out and made disciples, and brought them to the congregation so they could be shepherded and grow. The church growth program of the first church is still the only church growth program God approves of. Lift Jesus up so that He draws all men to Himself, and co-labor with Christ to add to the church daily as many as should be saved.

On the flip side, it is also wrong to spend money on orphanages that refuse to teach children the Gospel. Or to support programs that amount to little more than sending a social worker that don't tell anyone how to be saved. It is just as wrong to preach to a hungry person without feeding them as it is to feed someone without telling them about Jesus!

This seems hard, and in some ways it is. But please know that I love the American church. Over the past few centuries America has been a launching pad for literally thousands of missionaries and evangelists. But we have to wake up and get our fiscal policy in line with His. After all, it is supposed to be The Lord's money, right?

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