Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

For the Love of Money

I never considered myself materialistic.  I don't strive for a bigger house, better car, new wardrobe.  In fact, I've lived in a one bathroom, no-frills semi in the city for 25 years.  I drive a 14 year old vehicle.  My closet is mostly filled with hand-me-downs from family and friends - nice stuff, but the majority of it is not new.  I've always said I don't need a lot of 'things'...that as long as I can pay my bills on time, I'm happy.  But am I really?  

What got me thinking about materialism was a blog I read yesterday.  The blogger quoted from "Radical" a book by David Platt:  "Is materialism a blind spot in Christianity today?"  The blogger felt it was.  In his status, he asked this question: "Can the love of God and money coexist?"  He felt it could not.  Then he made his case with Luke 16:13 which says we “cannot serve both God and money”.  I confess, I walked away from that read feeling a little self-righteous.  I mean, maybe Christianity as a whole struggled with materialism, but not me.  I'm always giving...I give out of my need. (Can't you just hear me beating on my chest praying "Thank you God I'm not a sinner like THAT person??)

Let me back up for a minute.  About a year and a half ago I read "The Externally Focused Church" by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson.  I was convicted that neither I nor my church were doing enough to reach out to our the community.  I went to my pastor who agreed.  What began with about 3 or 4 people coordinating a church-wide food drive has blossomed into a team of a dozen heading up monthly projects from serving meals at the Salvation Army to refurbishing and decorating a local family shelter.  We've also begun to develop relationships at the shelter and God's hand of blessing has been evident.  My church family doesn't just open their pocketbooks anymore...they leave the building to get involved in people's lives.  In an effort to stay in touch with residents moving out of the shelter and into new living quarters, we present them with a housewarming gift basket filled with medical, hygiene and cleaning products as well as a Bible and information on the church.

In the summer, many of our church families are away on vacation, and donations tend to slow down.  Still, someone had moved out of the shelter, and a basket had to be filled.  So after reading the above-mentioned post, I went shopping.  Problem was, it wasn't with a spirit of joy in giving...it was with a spirit of grumbling.  I complained about the time it ate up on a weekend.  I complained about the money it cost.  I complained and grumbled to God all day long.  "You know I don't have any money for this.  You know I've been asking for donations for weeks now with barely anything coming in.  I can't afford to put all this out of my pocket."  And on, and on, and on. 

God listened all day, and finally He had enough.  He brought to mind all the money I'd spent on myself that week.  Lunch out with co-workers.  Dinner with a friend.  A trip to the movies.  A haircut.  How much had I spent on myself that week?  Maybe $100?  About what it would cost to purchase the essentials for this family coming out of a shelter and settling into a home.  Shame on me.  Honestly, $100 on myself in a week really is a huge amount and not the norm.  But still, I did it and didn't have a whole lot of guilt about it at the time.  "I work hard.  I do a lot of 'good things'.  I deserve to treat myself once in awhile."  Those were the thoughts that went through my head when it was for MY enjoyment.  

That got me thinking about materialism.  I give myself a "pass" on that label because I don't covet the 'big stuff'.  I'm not a workaholic trying to earn money at the expense of all else to support an extravagant - or even very comfortable - lifestyle.  But rather than look at how God has blessed me with enough to keep a roof over my head, a working car, food on the table and a job I love, I tried to hold on to the little I had left and grumbled when I had to share.  If that's not materialism, nothing is.  You see, it doesn't really matter how much we earn.  If we love money more than God or more than doing what God asks us to do with it, it doesn't matter if it's .02 or $2,000,000 dollars.  If we go before Him with a clenched fist rather than an open hand, it's sin.

I told that other blogger I felt the key to that verse in Luke is the word 'serve'.  If money is our master, no matter how large the funds, I agree, our hearts will grow cold to God.  But if we serve God and recognize that all our money is His, given to us as a tool to do good for others, well, then, money becomes the servant in the hands of the Master. 

What saddens me most about yesterday was that I could have been blessed by what I did.  I could have given with a cheerful heart knowing that as God had blessed me, I was being a blessing to someone else.  Instead, I made myself miserable.  I felt shallow, empty, and devoid of joy.  I pray I remember that the next time I'm called upon to serve God by using money for its intended purpose...I pray that I really won't be materialistic.

1 comment:

  1. Toni, I first want to say what a great post this is! I just read it to my wife because I feel it is definitely one worth sharing. I'm so glad that God used my blog to inspire you to write this, and I will definitely be sharing your experience and wisdom that are so well conveyed in this post.

    What's even wilder is that you quote from The Externally Focused Church. It turns out that I actually work with Rick Rusaw as a part of the Externally Focused Network out in Colorado in addition to writing on my 7 Sentences blog. I'm currently putting together a free report about the best externally focused ideas that churches and individuals are doing to impact their communities for Christ. It will be released on September 23rd on our website, http://externallyfocusednetwork.com. I'm still looking for a few more stories and I'd love to talk with you more about the things you're doing at your church. It sounds like you all are doing things that, if shared, could be a huge blessing to other churches! My email is abrewer@lbcc.org if you're interested in talking more!

    Thanks again for sharing all that God has taught you and keep up the great work! Many blessings!