The Lap of Luxury

Last week, I was in the middle of beginning dinner when I went to the faucet and turned it on to wash my hands and rinse the potatoes.  To my great dismay, I found that no water was coming out.  I called the water company and learned that the water was off in our part of town while they were doing some work on the pipes.  I was assured it would not be long before it was back on and preceded to Germ-X my hands.  Over the next four hours, I kept going to the faucet to see if it was running again.  Finally, I gave up on dinner, and Jason and I went out to eat.  In all of my frustration, I could not help but think of our times in Africa as well as other countries all over the world who would find running water at anytime a luxury.  I scolded myself for taking my blessings for granted.  I began to think about everything my husband and I have.  We are not rich by American standards and do not consider ourselves so.  I would venture to say that you do not count yourself among the wealthy either.  However, we truly are.  David Platt, in his book Radical, says, “Today more than a billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty.  They attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day.  Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day.  That’s nearly half the world struggling today to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on french fries for lunch” (p. 108).  What a staggering statement.  What does this mean for the American Christian?  What does it mean for you and I?  How does Scripture address our finances?  Let’s take a look.

Now, I want to clarify before I begin examining the Word that there is nothing inherently evil about being wealthy.  God’s word doesn’t condemn the rich simply because they are rich.  In fact, God often poured out His blessings on His people in ways that resulted in wealth; land, animals, and possessions.  The key here is how we view our resources and how we use them.  We must remember that the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10), or anything else for that matter above God, is the issue.  The problem is what are we doing with the things we have been given?  Are we storing up treasure on earth while the poor and lost around us die both physically and spiritually?  Even though the vast majority of us would rush to help someone we saw hungry or in need of clothing, we may find ourselves stuck inside our nice homes filled with things while there is a great need outside that God wants us to help meet.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 says, “If there is a poor person among you, one of your brothers within any of your gates in the land the LORD your God is giving you, you must not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.  Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him enough for whatever need he has.  Be careful that there isn’t this wicked thought in your heart, ‘The seventh year, the year of canceling debts, is near,’ and you are stingy toward your poor brother and give him nothing.  He will cry out to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty.  Give to him, and don’t have a stingy heart when you give, and because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you do.  For there will never cease to be poor people in the land; that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.'”  God knows that the poor will always be with us.  It is His desire for us to help meet their needs with what He has given us.  We are not to have a selfish heart, but one that pours out abundantly on those around us.  Do not mistake what I am saying.  It is not from our abundance that we are called to give, but the message is to give abundantly no matter what we have.  Think of the poor widow in Luke 21:1-4.  Scripture says, “He looked up and saw the rich dropping their offerings into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow dropping in two tiny coins.  ‘I tell you the truth,’ He said.  ‘This poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For all these people have put in gifts out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.'”  If that doesn’t bring you to tears, I do not know what will.  The Holy Spirit convicts me to the depth of my soul when I take the words of Christ to heart.  I have been given more than most of the world.  I need to be giving it away sacrificially.  I do not want to fall into the trap of ever believing I am doing enough.

Now, again, I want to be very clear about what I mean.  It is not works that saves us.  We do not earn our way to heaven, but only inherit eternal life through placing our faith and trust in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  The Word makes it clear, however, that when we are believers, people will be able to see our faith lived out through our actions.  If you need a refresher, dive into the book of James.  James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  James 2:18 testifies, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’  Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.”  The life of a Christian involves both.  I have to be constantly evaluating my relationship with Christ.  That includes how I am managing the time, finances, property, and family He has given me.  Jason and I sponsor a child through World Vision, we give to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, and we try our best to help the poor in our community.  I do not say that boastfully, but to make a point.  I can not let that be a comfort, however, to keep me from doing more.  God has to be in control of all of us all the time.

I will never forget the story I heard about John Wesley.  David Platt also quotes it in Radical.  “Wesley had just finished buying some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door.  It was a winter day and he noticed that she had only a thin linen gown to wear for protection against the cold.  He reached into his pocket to give her some money for a coat, and found he had little left.  It struck him that the Lord was not pleased with how he had spent his money.  He asked himself:  ‘Will Thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward?’  Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money that might have screened this poor creature from the cold!  O justice!  O mercy!  Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?'” (p. 126).  The language of Wesley’s time may make this seem too dramatic, but he was convicted.   Again, it is not that God wants us to have bare walls.  He does want us, however, to spend wisely and give generously.  James 2:15-16 says, “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ what good is it?”  We have to do more than give lip service to the poor and hurting around us.  We have to move beyond our Christian words which sound good to actually putting hands and feet to the Gospel and showing the love of Christ through our actions.  We have to meet physical needs as we meet spiritual needs.

I believe it is also important to point out that we are to give from a heart that desires to help and not from a mindset to be seen by others for what we have done.  Matthew 6:3-4 says, “But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  We are to give in the attitude of the poor widow from Luke and not like the rich who wanted everyone to hear the amount they were dropping in.

No matter our financial situation, if we are a child of the King, we are called to give freely to the world around us.  In these tough economic times, you may think you have nothing to give.  Scripture challenges us, however, to give even when it hurts.  Wealth is not evil, and poverty is not a curse.  God gives to His children as He sees fit and asks them to be good stewards of what He provides.  Our finances are linked to the condition of our hearts and our relationship with Christ.  It really is all about perspective.  Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the LORD with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest; then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”  When we are faithful to the Lord, He is more than faithful to us.  He will take care of us and provide for us no matter what.  We must be willing to give away to others to help provide for them as well.  When we do, we show that we are truly children of the King.  I hope you are both challenged and encouraged by the Word.  Have a blessed week.

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