In my last blog post I shared about the need to fix your eyes on the wealth of Godliness, not money. I also shared about how money can change each of us if we allow it. Money, like many other tempting things can either pull us away from God or draw us closer to God. You may say, Woh, how can it do both. Because money, like so many other things has the tendency to change people into something they weren’t without money. Hard work is replaced with laziness, you know, let someone else do it to spread the wealth around. An aggressive attitude to help those who are poor like you were can change to “well, they need to get their act together like me.” You can look at wealth two different ways. You either got it through your great planning and hard work, or God gave it to you. Because either way it is undeserved…Ooops! Did I say that out loud? You might say, “You mean to tell me that all this wealth I worked so hard for is undeserved?” Yes, that’s exactly what I mean!! Whether we want to believe it or not, the very breath we breathe is a gift from God, so where do you think that puts wealth? I rest my case. I have seen many movies where someone who started out poor gained great wealth and they were kind of embarrassed at the changes in their lifestyle when they were around their friends from the old days. Why is that? Deep in their hearts they want to show they are the same, but they aren’t. They are different because of their wealth. Good different? Mostly no! Even when they give to those less fortunate there is this smug, “here’s some of my leftovers” type attitude and it just doesn’t line up with the teachings of Christ. Conceit comes in and robs them of feeling like they are the same good ole boy or girl, and guess what? Deep inside they are sad that they have let this happen. Sad, unless they are bad at the core, and that is a whole other lesson.
In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul reemphasizes the point about how wealth can change each of us. It’s not how much wealth we have, but what we do with it. Years ago a down and out guy came to my office and wanted financial help. I quizzed him and felt like our church could really help him. You know, give him money and clothes, but also give him some direction. He hadn’t eaten in days and looked very weak. I took him out to get a burger and some fries and he immediately perked up. Then I got him some clothes from a clothes closet we had at the church. I took him back to his little rental place and found out he didn’t have a bed, so I got him a bed. Each day I would see a little more progress and strength coming into his life. By the end of two weeks he was like a new person, but not a grateful person. He started avoiding me coming to try and disciple him, and before long he totally disappeared. About a month later I got an urgent call from our pastor and he said he needed some help with the very guy we had helped get back on his feet. He felt the guy was dangerous and the pastor wanted me to come to the church right then. I quickly got ready and drove to the church to find the guy threatening our pastor. As I got out of the car he saw me and quickly walked toward me in a threatening way. I had to subdue him to get him under control and I realized something. He had separated from us because he thought he was fine on his own, but the only problem was he wasn’t fine. Now he needed us again and this time he was demanding. Do you see a pattern here? When we need God He supplies our needs and even more, and then when we get what we want and more, we distance ourselves from Him because we want to think we were the ones that made all that success happen. Then when it all falls apart we come back to God, but just for another fix. We have become dependent on the wealth and not on God. It is a dangerous position to find one’s self in, but it does happen. 1 Timothy 6 Verse 17 says it well,“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.” Verse 18 “instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 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.” Wow, some great words of advice for all of us who believe in Jesus. He gave it to us, so to line up with Him means we give it away. Sadly enough, the more wealth we get, the more stingy we become. Conceit is driving that bus, and it is going down the wrong path. Money, or the lack thereof, is a tough issue to deal with and usually we don’t approach it because we feel like it comes from sour grapes if the person speaking to it isn’t wealthy. Not so! We are wealthy when we realize that what we have is a gift from God. A gift that we have the privilege to give to others. I remember early in our ministry I was getting paid $12,000.00 a year at a church that could have done much better for us, but we kept on serving to the best of our ability. When the new budget was presented a person from the stewardship committee got up and bragged about how much they had blessed us with our big raise. It was $84.00 more for the next year. We had our first child and we were not making it. (they didn’t ever ask us about that though) The youth group had grown from ministering to 25 people (youth and their families) to ministering to over 400 people. God was blessing and people were being saved and discipled. As I listened to the report it saddened me, but we knew we would just have to make due. All of a sudden a man stood up in the congregation and said that the raise was an embarrassment and made a new motion that they increase our salary $5000.00 more for the next year. The church quickly agreed and God provided for our new little family. I never forgot that man and his “generosity!” He knew us and our needs and didn’t try to “help” us figure out how to live on nothing. He filled our need and lifted us up when we needed it the most. Now when I know someone has a need, I give it to them without question. Why? Because that’s how God gives. Is this a flippant attitude toward giving to others? No! Money is here today, and gone tomorrow. Godliness is eternal. Which will you choose? Remember, one affects the other. How are they lined up in your life?
The Pilgrimage continues….