You’ve heard the sermons, too. You’ve heard preachers say that in the gospels Jesus speaks more about wealth, money, and how we handle it all than He does just about every other subject. “We live in the wealthiest nation in the history of humankind.” “The poorest among us in America is better off than most of the rest of the world.” Etc. I wonder if at some point we just decide to tune it out.
If so, I get it at some level. Trying to figure it out–how to handle our often-obscene first-world riches (comparatively speaking where third- or developing-world nations are concerned) in a God-honoring way–is a conundrum. Scripture gives some guidance, of course, but the metaphor-rich language doesn’t help at times, does it? Sell everything I have? Really?
I don’t have great answers here, and I certainly didn’t have them several years ago, when I wrote these devotionals for students heading to India on a missions trip. But as I read though this one again, I am reminded of the value of wrestling with the issue, even if hard-and-fast answers are elusive.
1 Timothy 6:10a – “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (NIV)
To celebrate the birth of our son, my wife and I went out and did what all parents of more than one child must do at some point: buy a minivan. I was determined to buy a new one. You see, my father was the King of Used Station Wagons. We had them all—Ford Country Squires (with the faux-wood paneling), Oldsmobile behemoths into which small villages could comfortably fit, and even poor-excuse-for-a-station-wagon station wagons made by obviously small Japanese people (a couple of Datsuns). Why? Because after one used vehicle would break down, as it inevitably did, it seemed more frugal to buy another one than to put too much money into one now in need of a major repair. And so I made up my mind, by gum, that my first car purchase was going to be a new one. Our 1995 Dodge Caravan (Sport model, mind you) had all the trimmings, but the best part was walking around it, admiring its newness, and seeing my reflection in its shine.
Those prophetic voices from the field of pop music, Pink Floyd, summed up in one song what the reflection that I saw was all about:
Money, get away. Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay. Money, it’s a gas. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash. New car, caviar, four-star daydream, think I’ll buy me a football team. Money, get back. I’m all right, Jack; keep your hands off my stack. Money, it’s a hit. Don’t give me that do-goody-good bull[feces]. I’m in the high-fidelity first-class traveling set, and I think I need a Lear jet.
Most of us American Christians do a nice little two-step around the uncomfortable fact that we all have more material goods than we need. Mike Yaconelli, again, cuts to the chase in his usual dramatic fashion:
Radical faith doesn’t mean that we all give up our money and become indigent, but it does mean that we give up the antiquated illusion that money isn’t evil. We must face up to the frightening fact that anything money touches, it corrupts—including us. Money is evil and, therefore, extremely dangerous.
Whether you want to go all the way with his argument, Yaconelli raises a serious question. As you work with and minister among those with severely fewer means than you on this trip, may God challenge you to consider your lifestyle as it relates to wealth.
Prayer for today:
God of Providence, Whose word says that the children of the righteous have never begged for bread, impress upon us the need to be reflective regarding our wealth, that we might live within our means and be free to give to others, even as we have been given so much. Amen.
The Lord be with you!