Where is your treasure
What is it?
Friends, we have been numbed by the comforts of modernity to such an extent that we do not even know, how to love God with all our heart, mind and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves. We justify our materialism as a blessing from God. How can we cope in a world that is so much caught up in the pursuit of pleasure, wealth and consumerism? The consumerism and the materialistic lifestyles of our times seep in into our lives unawares and only when we are in its grips do we realize how far we have strayed or gone into it. Are there any practical ways or guidelines to help us cope or counter the onslaught of materialism over our lives?
Attitudes to have:
1. Gratefulness – ‘In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you’1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV). As the popular Chinese proverb says, ‘I complained I have no shoes until I saw a man without feet’. One of our greatest problems is, we look at those who have more than us and complain how less or underprivileged we are. We must learn to look at those who do not have even what we have so that we can be grateful to God. Gratefulness is a great deterrent to counter the spirit of complaining.
2. Contentment – “Keep your lives free from the love of money (Covetousness), and be content with what you have, for God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” – Hebrews 13:5. (NIV). Notice that contentment counters covetousness.
3. Responsible stewardship – The principle of stewardship teaches that God is the owner of everything that we posses and that we are just stewards of what he gives us. Hence we are accountable to him. This will help us in being careful about the way we use or abuse the resources given to us.
4. Life of faith and trust – In the Sermon on the Mount, Lord Jesus taught the disciples, not to worry about what we shall eat or put on. It is the people of the world who run after them. But our heavenly Father knows what we need and that he would provide when we seek him and his kingdom. How to handle our futures? (See below)
5. Principle of denial – The principle of denial helps us to overcome the tyranny of things; of food through fasting, of sex through abstinence, of comforts by a life of simplicity. Abraham expressed this when he was asked to take the riches/plunder of war by the King of Sodom. His response was, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.” Genesis 14:22,23 (NKJV)
6. Control and use – In today’s utilitarian world we have the problem of placing economic value over human value or loving money more than loving people. While we are supposed to use things and love people, increasingly our attitudes suggest we love money and use people. We can see this in the dowry deaths and the property disputes that have become such a commonplace problems these days. This is quite often expressed even toward God. We wish to love and obey him if he provides or gives us what we want. We tend to choose the ‘God’ who helps us or prospers us. And if he doesn’t, who needs him! We make the God of our choices. Such an attitude needs to change. Relationship with God and with people is paramount. We must place a high premium on relationships rather than on property or wealth. What I gain from others or from God is not the issue but that I love them because they are worth loving.
Some simple steps to remember
– Buy things you need and use them carefully not flaunt them. “ Many times we buy things we do not need in order to impress people we do not like’ (Arthur Gish). Remember ‘That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God’ Luke 16:15.
– Refuse to use money as a symbol of strength, influence and power (Richard Foster).
– Inculcate the ‘grace of giving’. John Wesley says, “ When I have any money, I get rid of it as quickly as possible, lest it find a way into my heart”. Yes money has a way of finding its way into our heart, so much so that Leonard Ravenhill wryly says that many Christians would rather sing, ‘Land my safe on Canaan’s side’ rather than ‘Land me safe on Canaan’s side’!.
How to give and how long to give? As someone said, ‘Give till the master stops giving to you”. See how the Macedonian Christians(2 Cor 8: 1-7), ‘excelled in the grace of giving’:
- They overflowed with joy in the midst of severe trials
- Their extreme poverty welled up into rich generosity/liberality(haplotes means simplicity or single mindedness by implication it means it is uncalculating giving and free from ulterior motives)
- Gave as much as they were able
- Gave beyond ability
- On their own/voluntarily
- Considered it a privilege
- Considered it a service to saints
- Pleaded urgently for their gift to be accepted
- They first gave themselves to the Lord
Listen to two church fathers from the 4th century AD. John Chrysostom (347-407 CE) talking about the true meaning of stewardship argues, “This is also theft not to share one’s possessions…Just as an official in the imperial treasury, if he neglects to distribute where he is ordered, but spends instead for his own indolence, pays the penalty and is put to death, so also the rich man is a kind of steward of the money which is owed for distribution to the poor. He is directed to distribute it to his fellow servants who are in want. So if he spends more on himself than his needs require, he will pay the harshest penalty hereafter. For his own goods are not his own, but belongs to his own fellow servants…I beg you remember this without fail, that not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth but theirs.”
Basil of Caesarea (329-379 CE) preached, ‘That bread which you keep belongs to the hungry; that coat which you preserve in your wardrobe, to the naked; those shoes which are rotting in your possession, to the shoeless; that gold which you have hidden in the ground, to the needy. Wherefore, as often as you were able to help others, and refused, so often did you do them wrong.’
– Working hard with our own hands to earn a living is a virtue. Do not hoard or amass wealth which is damaging to the soul.
7. Cultivate a lifestyle of simplicity – Richard Foster talks about the vow of simplicity in his masterly thought provoking book, Money, Sex and Power. He says the great question of our time is how to move from greed to generosity and from vengeance to magnanimity and from violence to shalom. The vow of simplicity points the way. Simplicity gives us the framework to experience generosity, magnanimity, and shalom.
8. Handling the future – First we must remember that faith in the Lord leads to the conviction that nothing in this world is final or complete until he returns. Therefore we live with hope. Hope that, when he comes – he will finish what he has begun. So we commit all our tomorrows into his hands and live in trust. So the people of his kingdom, while they plan and prepare for the future, their hold over everything is tentative trusting in the Lord to take care of it. Hence the words of our Lord in Matthew 6: 34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Dear Lord, deliver us from the blight of materialism plaguing our culture. Teach us to value our relationship with you and with one another more than riches and property. Teach us to be grateful and be content with what you have given us graciously – break the lust for affluence and pomp. Give us the grace to practice the art of simplicity. Give us grace to give away to those who do not have from what you have given unto us so graciously. Teach us to live with the hope of our calling in you, shining bright before our eyes so that we are not stranded by the glitter of today. Amen