Having money/possessions isn’t bad; it’s letting those things consume you that becomes the problem. (1 Timothy 6:10) Keep God first.
I am teaching two sections of American National Government this semester, and I love it. Some people don’t like teaching freshmen because they are, well, freshmen. I think it’s awesome. I love those light bulb moments when they realize that my class isn’t going to be a complete snorefest like they expected. Anyway, we were talking last week about different forms of government and how the colonists were trying to escape what they viewed as an oppressive government. Although our Founding Fathers disagreed on a lot of things, one thing they rallied behind was NO KING. They did not want to create another monarchy.
I thought about that particular class when I came across a passage in Matthew 27. Verses 32-44 detail Jesus’ crucifixion. The soldiers, religious leaders, and even the general public seemed to be hung up on the notion of Jesus as King of the Jews, or King of Israel, as some translations state. They hung a sign of mockery above his head reading, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (v. 37). The religious leaders taunted him, saying that if he’s the King of the Jews, then he should save himself (v. 41-43).
Here’s the catch: whether we’re talking about a political science class or trying to make a spiritual application, there can only be ONE king. In a monarchy, there may be a ruling family who passes down the crown from generation to generation, but at any given time, there is one king or queen in charge. Trying to have two people wear the crown is a recipe for disaster.
The same concept holds true in our spiritual lives. Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13 remind us that we cannot serve both God and money. We have to choose one over the other – either God or our worldly desires.
Jesus did not come to serve as a political leader. Instead, he challenged our traditional ideas of rulership by introducing us to a personal relationship with the Lord. We don’t need a political king to sweep in and take over; we need a spiritual Lord to whom we willingly submit our lives. He is fully capable of leading and guiding us, but only if we allow him that position in our hearts. He does not demand our loyalty. We retain the free will to choose the world over him, if that’s what we really want.
However, I implore you to give him authority over your life, and I feel confident in saying that you will not regret it. Walking in a relationship with Christ is more spectacular than all the ticker tape parades and inauguration parties in the whole, entire world.
In between a disappointing encounter with a rich young ruler in Matthew 19 and an audacious request by a helicopter parent that would make even today’s generation blush in Matthew 20, Jesus tells a parable about laborers in a vineyard. Perhaps I’m reading more into the passage than is intended because of some things I’m dealing with at home (namely, kids telling the truth but not the whole truth to keep from getting into trouble), but bear with me and see if there are some real-life parallels for you, as well.
A land owner goes out early in the morning to find workers for his vineyard and negotiates a day’s wages with the new hires. Not only that, but he also returns four more times to try to hire more workers throughout the day. Without being present in the story, it’s hard to tell exactly, but it sounds like he hired anyone who was willing to work each time he went.
The last time he went was about an hour before quitting time, and when he found some people hanging around, he asked why they weren’t working. They answered, “Because no one has hired us” (Matthew 20:7, ESV). Interesting. If my earlier interpretation is correct, then either these guys weren’t around the first three times the owner came by looking for workers, or they originally turned down the offer hoping for something better to come along.
I wonder if “Because no one has hired us” is the whole truth. Maybe they slept in till noon and didn’t want to admit their laziness, or perhaps they turned up their noses at doing such prickly manual labor as picking grapes until the day dragged on to the point where they realized they wouldn’t have money to feed their families if they didn’t swallow their pride and accept the work.
We don’t know the backstory, but I reckon we could still put ourselves into their shoes. There are times when God nudges our hearts to do his work, and we pretend not to hear the Spirit’s call because we’d rather do something else (or nothing at all). I encourage you to listen carefully and let God use you in his kingdom work; you won’t regret it.
Something really terrific happened the other day: I found out that my boss recommended me for a raise! Unfortunately, the same day that I learned of the pay increase, my transmission fried. Literally, the fluid smelled smoky and was not the usual pinkish tint. I had noticed that it seemed to be straining a bit, but since I live in the mountains now, I thought it might just be the drastic weather changes, altitude, or whatever. Long story short, the transmission has to be rebuilt.
So, I ask you this: For what should I give thanks?
I’m certainly grateful for the pay raise; that will be a huge help with everyday expenses. I’m thankful that my boss went to bat for me, and I appreciate feeling like a valuable part of the team.
But what about the car? Sure, it’s going to cost a lot of money for the repair, but there are still plenty of things to be thankful for. First and foremost, I’m thankful that I finished paying it off just a couple of months ago, so I don’t have a car note anymore. I’m thankful that on the morning it died, I was able to make it into the parking lot at work. I remember sitting at a red light on the edge of campus praying that it would make it to the lot – and it did!
I’m thankful that although we haven’t gotten to know a whole lot of people here very well yet, one of the new friends from church who I called to see if they had a referral for a mechanic turned out to actually be a mechanic! Who knew?!? (God did!) He took time out of his work day to meet me on campus and make sure my car made it to a reputable transmission repair shop that he trusted.
I think this type of finding-reasons-to-be-thankful is part of what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 9. The chapter is primarily about giving and financial supporting ministry, but it goes deeper than just writing a check to the church. It’s about having a spirit of thanksgiving for all of our blessings. When we’re thankful for what we have, we are more inclined to give back. What good would it do to kick the tires and shake my fist at the heavens? Instead, when we find ways to be thankful in the midst of our circumstances, it brings honor to God, who is the giver of all good things. (James 1:17)
We take a lot for granted, don’t we? Think about your annual salary: What’s something remarkable that you could buy with that kind of money?
Two of my kids are rehearsing for a Shakespeare play this fall, and understanding the dialogue can be as tricky as reading the King James Version of the Bible. Oftentimes when a subordinate is addressing his superior in Old English, he uses the phrase, “My lord …” I started thinking about how many lords (with a lowercase L) we can have in our lives.
Other people can be our lord, when we defer to their influence. Money can certainly become our lord, if we let it. Likewise, ambition and greed can be lord of our lives. We can be lord over others when we wield authority in a way that makes people feel subservient to us.
But what of Jesus? He doesn’t want to be the lowercase-lord of our lives; he wants us to acknowledge him as Lord with a capital L. Jesus is the only one worthy of being called Lord, as his disciple cried out in John 21:7 and Peter reiterated in Acts 10:36. When we confess Jesus as Lord, we are offering him authority over our lives – not because he demands it of us like a feudal lord over his fiefdom, but because we willingly give up control out of loving submission to him.
Jesus also came to be our Savior – again, with a capital S. We can think of countless saviors (with a lowercase S) in our lives. When I was just a toddler, my mom was my savior when she dislodged a Maple Nut Goodie from the back of my throat as I was choking. I could have died, and she saved me. A parent’s love is sacrificial: she would lay down her life for her kids. A parent’s love is authoritative: there was a time when she could dictate my comings and goings. A parent’s love endures: her love for me is unconditional.
A parent’s love is safe: she would do everything in her power to protect me. And yet, even she can’t save me from myself. As deep and abiding as my mom’s love is toward me, she cannot be my Savior. Only Jesus can be my capital-S Savior because of his perfect sacrifice.
Who do you say Jesus is? Have you accepted him as Lord and Savior of your life?
Do you remember the jingle from the Klondike® commercials, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” with people doing silly antics to earn one? What if the stakes were higher than just a square chunk of chocolate-coated ice cream?
What would you do for $100? $1,000? $1,000,000? Would you eat bugs? Would you violate your moral convictions? Would you put your life at risk?
In this age of reality TV, it’s obvious that many people will do just about anything for attention: live in the wilderness for months, subject themselves to public scrutiny and berating, face grueling physical challenges, even marry a virtual stranger. What if the stakes were higher than just a few minutes of television fame or a prize jackpot?
What if the stakes were eternity?
The Amplified Bible translates Psalm 125:3 as: “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the [uncompromisingly] righteous, lest the righteous (God’s people) stretch forth their hands to iniquity and apostasy.” Uncompromisingly righteous … that seems to mean that people who otherwise live righteously still make unrighteous choices sometimes. We compromise. We give into lesser stakes—but for what? For fame? For glory? For something that feels like love? For a sense of self-worth? For spite?
The Psalm goes on to say, in verse 5, that our “crooked ways” boil down to our indifference toward God. When we compromise, we say to the Lord that we don’t care what he thinks. The Bible is clear that God does not want anyone to perish (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9), but when we turn our backs on him, sometimes he lets us keep walking. Psalm 125 ends with a sobering image of God’s people walking off with evildoers. Is any amount of worldly gain worth separation from God?
Originally posted July 31, 2011