A friend became a Christian early on in college. He had lived a life of partying previously and left that to follow Jesus. He had some up’s and down’s over the years, so when I saw him several years after college, I asked him how he was doing spiritually. Bruce was making plenty of money in his career, and he paused and then said that he wasn’t where he should be with the Lord. He said, “I get the same feeling from money that I used to get from pot. Materialism is my drug, but no one at church judges me for it like they would if I was smoking pot again. But my attitude is the same.”
Wow. I’ve never heard it said like that, but it’s true. In the Old Testament we read how the Israelites had Asherah poles and altars to Baal in their back yards and it took a radical prophet to pull them down. Would you suppose that materialism is our Asherah poles, or as Bruce so aptly said: our pot?
In Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn, he quotes statistics that 17% of American Christians claim to tithe, but only 6% actually do and 23% gave nothing. What we do with our money reflects what we do with God and our relationship with Him. In Luke 12:20-21 there is the story about the guy who filled his barns and then died without being able to enjoy his stored wealth. Jesus called him a fool and said “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” Tithing is one way to be rich toward God, and to ensure that we’ve giving God the first fruits of our bounty. But it’s not the only way. We could put money in the plate and still be selfish with our time, self centered in our pursuits and cold hearted to God.
Our stewardship when it comes to being rich toward God becomes the story of our lives. I don’t think we intend to be short sighted as Christians, but if we don’t intend not to be, the pull of the culture takes over. We live in a materialistic and narcissistic culture. Randy Alcorn writes that Satan is the lord of materialism. Our world is currently ruled by Satan until Jesus comes back and takes over.
Materialism is money-centered and thing-centered rather than being God-centered. Narcissism is being me-centered. Combine the two and we’re in trouble. Our culture seems to be getting more and more narcissistic by the minute.
The cell phone commercial where the parents trample each other to get a better picture of their kids on stage plays out reality, where we’ve put our kids and ourselves on stage–trampling each other to get a close up shot. Facebook is the adult version of a kid’s music program all too often, where we think that everyone needs to know things like “I’m sitting on the porch.” I know someone who posted 800 pictures of her sister’s wedding. Really?
We might not intend to be thing and me centered, but if we’re not about the Kingdom and being rich toward God, then we are. Jesus just might call us fools too. If I think that the Christian life is about me and my dreams, my happiness, my pursuits, how my week went, then I’ve fallen into a trap that makes me not rich toward God. It’s easy to just want to think about those things and not about bigger things.
Colossians 3:1-3 commands us to set our hearts and minds on things above. John the Baptist told the Pharisees to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” in Luke 3 and then told them what to do with their greedy hearts. I want a generous heart and that would involve not just my money, but my time and the things I have, whether it’s a lot or a little. And I want a kingdom centered heart, an other’s centered heart and one that is rich toward God.
How do I get there? Set my affections on things above, as Colossians 3 urges. I do that by making sure that I spend time with Jesus each day, meditating on His call to be my treasure. Then with His strength I resist the pull to love gadgets and shopping and me time over and above what benefits others and the Kingdom. If I ask God how to do that each day, I trust He’ll tell me.
Randy Alcorn writes “I, for one, hate to live with that nagging feeling deep inside that when Jesus called people to follow Him, He had more in mind than I am experiencing.”
God, may you take me to what You do have in mind for me, to a life that is rich toward you and rejects the pull of the world. Take me away from the love of stuff and comfort at the expense of what You really want. Answer the stirrings of my heart, to show me how to balance work, home. I don’t know how to get there from here, but I trust that You will show me.