Tag Archives: Money

Hand in Hand

Have you ever felt resentful or a sense of reluctant obligation when they pass the offering plate?  Yeah, me too.  But that’s because us knuckle-headed humans don’t understand how an offering works.  First read this:

And He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”  (Luke 21:1-4)

How could her meager offering be worth “more?”  Apparently, the value of an offering is not measured in dollars and cents.  Makes sense (no pun intended) when you remember that God doesn’t need money.  Offerings are not about raising money for God.  So what is the reason for an offering?  The widow’s offering was “more” because her trust was greater.  With her copper coins, she was saying, “Father, this is all I have but I love you and trust You to provide.”

Offerings were set up by God as a tangible way to experience a relationship with Him based on thankfulness and trust.  That is why the offerings were to come from the first part of each harvest.  Thankfulness and trust.  See that? 

A friend of mine is an expert builder of houses.  One day, as I was trying, unsuccessfully, to tear out a soffit to remodel my kitchen, he happened to stop by.  He watched in silent amusement as I continued to get my butt kicked.  Then he asked, “Would you give me your hammer and let me work with you?”  I knew he was good and I was ready for help.  I gave him (offered him) the hammer and watched in amazement as, with a few expert strokes, he made real progress.

Offerings are like that.  God holds out His hand, not as a beggar or a bill collector, but with a smile on His face, asking, “Hey, you want to work together with me?  Got a hammer I could use?” 

Offerings are opportunities to strengthen our relationship with our loving Father, the relationship based on thankfulness and trust.  And it is a real thrill to join Him in what He is doing, working hand in hand.

First and Last

Our first exposure to line dancing was humiliating.  My wife and I had turned our most exuberant country swing moves loose at the local roadhouse, when we noticed that all the other dancers were in formation and were laying out beautiful, complex steps – in unison!  Wanting to learn and take part, we joined the back of the group, where we could watch and try to imitate what they were doing.  We were back there, lurching about and trying our best, when they all turned around, putting us in the front.  We watched the rest of that dance from the safety of our table.  I was reminded of that embarrassing moment as I read these words of Jesus:

“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. “ (Matthew 19:30)

Jesus wasn’t talking about line dancing but the “renewal of all things” after the end of this age (verses 28-30).  Throughout the Old and New Testament, God makes clear that there will be a time when He will establish a new and perfect world in which everything will work according to His perfect design (eg: Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13).  Perfect peace, perfect harmony, perfect love, perfect life.  Perfect intimacy between God and His people.  Jesus said, when that  time comes, “many who are first will be last” and vice versa.  But what did He mean?

It’s important to notice that this comment (which He repeated in other settings) immediately follows His observation of how hard it would be for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23-24).  Not because it is a sin to be rich, but because it very hard for the rich to not trust money and trust Jesus instead (verse 21-22).  In that culture, people commonly assumed that those who were well off were rich because they were held in special favor by God.  Jesus said, “Not so.”  In our day, deceptive preachers, who call themselves Christian, say something similar: “God wants you to be rich.  If you do what I say I’ll make you wealthy.”  The preachers of such heresy invariably wind up rich, but they do so by deceiving gullible people who think success in life is measured by money.  Jesus said, “Not so.”  Many of those who are “first” in this world, will be the “last” to make it into the next one.

However, I believe Jesus’ words held meaning far beyond how big your bank account is.  I think He meant this: When God renews all things, restoring them to perfection, we will probably be dumbfounded to discover who He includes and who has been left out.  Many who seem to be at the head of God’s VIP line may not even make the cut.  Many who seem insignificant and unworthy to our worldly eyes may be welcomed into His Kingdom with open arms.  The “first” in our eyes may well be “last.”

So, where are you – first or last?  Don’t answer that question in terms of how rich or famous or religious or beautiful or successful people think you are.  Measure it by how much you trust Jesus.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Diving into Life

A friend of mine had made millions in the oil business.  He told me that the best thing that ever happened to him was when he literally lost it all.  He discovered, he said, that when he made money the goal of his life, what he lived for, money held him in a very tight and demanding grip.  There was never quite enough. You and I think a few million would be plenty, but my friend said he found real wealth when he was penniless.  Here’s how Jesus said it:

“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. … “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.  (Matthew 6:19-21 & 24 )

This sounds preposterous; everyone knows that the goal of life is to be rich.  That is, except those who have chased that goal and, too late, find themselves unable to let go.  It’s not that money is bad.  The problem is our tendency to want more and more money as a goal in itself.  When money becomes our quest, it is an addictive substance.  And, in our quest for more, we trample the attitudes Jesus calls, “storing up treasures in heaven.”   He was talking about living by the counter-intuitive principles He taught in the Sermon on the Mount.  These are based on the truth that sets a person free, that produces a life lived in harmony with God’s design.

So why does this seem so upside-down?  Jesus said it’s an eyesight problem, a consequence of how we see life:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  (Matthew 6:22-23)

When my friend lost his fortune, Jesus opened his eyes and showed him what living was really all about.

You can check this out for yourself.  Ask Jesus to open your eyes and show you how to be generous.  That’s a dangerous prayer. Jesus will certainly respond, and put you in some challenging situations.  Real generosity is a struggle because it feels self-destructive.  It feels a lot like the first time you decided to try a diving board.  You grab onto the safety rail and think, “If I do this I’m going to hurt myself or drown!”  But it is impossible to hold that rail and dive.  You have to choose.  But when you let go and bounce off the end of the board, you discover a new and exhilarating freedom.

Jesus is waiting for us in the pool of abundant life.   He says, “Stop holding on to money for dear life.  Let go and take a flying leap into real life.  Come on in, the water is fine!”