I love the smell and feel of a new thing I just bought. The experience of opening the box of a new iPhone is exhilarating, so is pushing the “purchase” button on Amazon.com.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with loving to get new stuff. There is, however, something wrong with any obsession. The problem with obsession is, we frequently don’t know we’re obsessed, when in reality we are.Statistically this is true of us in the US. How do we know this?
Let’s look at just a few facts: Americans have three times more space than they did 50 years ago. Yet there’s a booming $22 billion dollar/year storage space industry. Which means we have, on average, more than three times the stuff, still need extra storage and are willing to pay extra for it. At the same time, credit card debt levels and, not surprisingly, stress levels have gone way up.
Also not surprisingly, happiness levels have flatlined in the last 50 years. Human greed was, perhaps, more glaringly visible than ever before, as the direct source of the last Global Recession. Has humanity looked at that and drastically changed it’s MO? Have we looked at ourselves, and wondered how much of that stuff might have trickled into the church?
The love of money is not not a modern problem, and certainly not only just a first world problem. In fact, Jesus spoke about money more than almost anything else. When we teach in our churches, we might shy away from money talk. It’s sort of awkward, specially for those of us who serve in ministry and are paid by the church. It feels like a conflict of interest to talk about it. It feels a little heavy, a little “let’s do this and get it over with."
In Austin Christian, my home church, we decided we’ll have an in-depth study dedicated exclusively to money and possessions, at least once a year.
Let’s be honest. We all need this, so if this speaks to you, send it forward to some friends who need it too.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. -- Matthew 13:44I find it fascinating, that Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven using terminology of money and possessions. He says it’s a treasure above all treasures. He says we should re-align our priorities, all of them, to take hold of this, infinitely superior, treasure. There’s a way to live, that looks beyond money. He wants us to live that way.
Have you noticed that most world changes have this in common? When they are interviewed, when you read their biographies, one thing is consistently there: they were never in it for the money. Ironically, many of the world changers ended having more of it than they ever imagined.
The Beatles just wanted to play great Rock’n’Roll and ended up re-defining music. The Wright brothers funded their own research, failed a lot, and didn’t have a college education. All they wanted, was to see man fly. And they did. Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t interested in money, still isn’t, actually, although he is the youngest billionaire in the world. He wanted to connect people through Facebook. When Steven Spielberg shot his first home movies, he wasn’t thinking about how many mansions he could afford in a few years. He just loved movies. When the rock group U2 started playing music in Dublin, Ireland, they wrote politically themed stuff. They never thought they would end up selling over 150 million records.
Are you a world changer, who is held back by the love of money? Here’s a few ways your love of money might be hurting your world-changing super powers.
- Part of you erroneously thinks that your position in life, work, church and family determines your value and worth. You feel that you are under appreciated, should have been further long in your career, are not getting enough respect from people around you.
- You own a house or car you can’t really afford. Part of you thinks possessions add value to who you are.
- A good portion of your income is dedicated to paying off debt you’ve accumulated. You feel trapped by debt. You feel enslaved.
- You hate your job, but it pays well and you need to pay for all your stuff, so you stay where you are.
- Eight hours a day, seven days a week, you have to work with people who you don’t share a common passion with, people should have ditched a long time ago. But you still stay.
- You don’t pursue that creative, entrepreneurial, charitable, life giving idea you’ve had for years.
- You regret not being able to serve your church community more because of time constraints.
- Much of your emotional and creative energy is wasted on things that don’t really matter to you.
- Your financial giving in your church community is more of a secondary, “crumbs off the table” thing.
- You worry. A lot. About your financial future.
Every group of world changers needs a straight talker, who can call the audience “brood of vipers” and get away with it. In the New Testament that guy was John the Baptizer.
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. "What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” -- Luke 3:7-14
Three different groups of people approach John, asking what they should do. Every single answer had to do with money and possessions, although no one specifically asked him about money and possessions!
This tells me two things: a) Our understanding of money and possessions is central to your spirituality, and b) Everyone is at risk of falling into the trap of love of money.
Here are four ways to stop loving money. If you want to be a world changer, having the right motivation is a good place to start.
1. Honor the Giver of Everything.
At each harvest everyone is to come, and no one is to appear before me empty handed -- Deut 16:16
Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord -- Exodus 23:19
In an agrarian society, you work hard. Very hard! But even though you work hard, there is very little doubt in your mind, that a great harvest is from the Lord. In fact most of the early idols and deities of antiquity, are all connected to people asking the gods for a good harvest. Most of us are removed from that visceral connection with The Giver. We have payroll, virtual money and plastic cards. And yet, if you are a believer, you must be fully aware of who The Giver of all is.
We need to honor Him, just like our brothers and sisters did in the Old and New Testament.
Giving your tithe is giving of your harvest. Give your “first fruit.” Give it with joy, worship, gratitude and love. When I counsel people about financial giving, I try to remind them: when you give, don’t think, that you’re giving God His money. Actually all of your money is His, all of everybody’s money is His. If you know this, you’ll find it easier to honor The Giver of all things.
2. Embrace your brokenness
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” -- Luke 19:5-10
Everyone loves the story of Zacchaeus, everyone wonders what was wrong with those grumbling, ungrateful “ followers” of Jesus. How could they not see this guy’s sincerity and faith?
What we often don’t think about, is that we might not be far from being a grumbler. We are either extravagantly generous, grateful and zealous, like Zaccheus, or we are religious, and self righteous like those other guys. The difference between the two is defined by wether we feel broken before the Majesty of Jesus, or not.
Only a truly broken heart is a truly open heart.
A truly open heart trusts in God’s power to provide, sustain and protect. We love money, because it gives us the illusion of control over our future. A broken hearted Zaccheus, in that encounter, was freed from illusions about who controls his life and his future. So he gave a whole bunch of money to help a whole bunch of people. If we don’t truly know how broken we are without Jesus, we won’t have the zeal and generosity of Zaccheus. We need to explore, own and embrace our own brokenness.
Remember: Only a truly broken heart is a truly open heart.
3: Do anything it takes to get rid of greed.
A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas -- Acts 19:19
A drachma = day’s wage ($100/day in the US). 50,000 drachmas = $5 million! The value of the scrolls did not make them waver! They just got rid of them. They didn’t even put them on Craigslist!
Here are a few things to ponder when examining greed in our hearts. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul gave the church a short list of sins, for which they were to kick someone out of the community (1 Corinthians 5:11) . One of those sins was greed. Have you ever seen anyone asked to leave the church because they were greedy?
Compare that to our response to any other grave sin. If someone has committed adultery in the church, most likely, you will see a code red flashing in the community. People will be all over that situation. But greed can lay in your heart, unchecked, for years, wreaking havoc in your soul. Unless you have the courage to identify it, confess it, and deal with it.
4: Learn wholeheartedness
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” -- Mark 12:41-44
This is a classic scripture to read before contribution. It invariably inspires and challenges. It reinforces something we already know, something we lack, something we wish we had more of – wholeheartedness.
You can mask greed as being conservative, strategic, even wise. You cannot mask wholeheartedness. It shines, it leads, it inspires. Wholeheartedness is pure, unadulterated faith.
What can you do to learn wholeheartedness? A good starting point is to ask yourself this question: do people that know me well, know me as a generous person?
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also -- Matthew 6:19-21
Do you have a savings account, a retirement account and good insurance? If you don’t, you should get those things. It’s good to save, invest and think of your future You can be less of a burden on others, have enough to live on, and have the ability to serve.
The core of this conversation is not about money, really, it’s about treasure. Money is not treasure, the Kingdom of Heaven is.
Every week I get an email from my Fidelity Investment Portfolio, it tells me if my investments have gone up or down. There are good weeks, months and years, and there are bad ones. But that’s just an investment account. The Austin Church is my treasure, so are some of the other churches I serve in other parts of the country and the world. The spiritual well-being of my wife and kids is also a big part of that treasure. The good we do for the poor is my treasure. The impact we have as a community on the beautiful city of Austin is my treasure.
Stock in this investment portfolio never goes down. It’s safe from any recession. As this treasure grows, it’s more and more obvious to me, that there’s no better investment than this. I love looking at some of the great things I’ve seen God do, and thinking to myself: “I was there! I was one of the investors. It looked so small when we started this family, this church, this small group, this journey with this person. Look at it now!”
Through the grace of God, we were all called to be world changers. One thing most world changers have in common, is they live a life that is beyond the love of money. May you do everything in your power to stop loving money, may you be a true world changer.
Shared from AustinChristian.org