Blogs (Faith), Life-Ecstatic (Faith)

Matthew and Money: Our Covetous Culture

moneydude

Ever noticed how, in our culture, we’re basically taught and brought up to never be content? All our advertising, our schooling, the media, and the business culture, all tells us that we have to be ambitious for more. It’s all about competition and comparing ourselves with others, looking at what they have and wanting that for ourselves.

We grow up in a covetous culture.

This is the world’s endless and restless pursuit of money and power. I don’t say it’s necessarily wrong to be competitive (that might require some explanation) but what I am saying is that discontentment is never satisfied, no matter how much money or power you have.

Proverbs 23:4-7
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it isgone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings, like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.
Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But
his heart is not with you.

I don’t know about you, but if I let just a little bit of this covetous, discontent culture seep into my thinking and my heart, I’m restless for days on end. You might not think you’re a very covetous person, and in fact neither did I, but I never understood why money was a constant problem in my life. Why it was I felt like I just was never doing well enough and providing well enough. The answer? I would look at what many others had and covet. Sure, I wouldn’t steal, but I would make it a life goal to get to the place where I could afford such things too. And that, in fact, means that money was very much my master.

In my last post we saw that the context of Matthew 6: 19 – 24 is, in fact, about the contrast between generosity and coveting (not so much a contrast between generosity and stinginess, although that’s definitely in there.) This context of coveting continues in verses 25 to 34, a set of famous verses which I think have often been taught outside of the correct context of coveting.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Now, what do we see here, given the context? The anxiety Jesus condemns is an anxiety around coveting, not about legitimate worry.

This makes sense of Jesus’ saying that “life is more than food” and the “body more than clothing.” It’s about what we’re pursuing. If someone I know gets to eat all the good food, drink all the good wine, and buy all the good clothes, my heart can very easily covet all that – I also want all that for myself and my family. I also want the nice house and the feeling of security that all that stuff brings.

We all do, don’t we? Many of us spend time on Pinterest pinning all this stuff that we want. Liking nice clothes is different to making the nice clothes our goal in life. It’s not just about the dangers of materialism, it’s about our sight – where we’re looking. What we look at is what we will go after. Remember the previous verses? Those with a bad eye are full of darkness. They’re always looking at wealth and what others have and having all that is their endless, restless goal in life. (Some are calling this affluenza.)

Now this thing of legitimate worry needs to be expounded. We’ll do that in the next post.

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Blogs (Faith), Life-Ecstatic (Faith)

Work (Pt 2): Don’t Stop; Don’t Fret; Don’t Seek a Better Life

bread working prosperity

In Part One of this series we covered that God is the one who created WORK, and he called it good. One of the principle points around this I mentioned was:

If we were created to work, we must work, and in doing so we do one of the things we were made to do – regardless of what we are doing. So menial jobs carry a greater meaning. Also, the point of life is not to try and do whatever we can to stop working. We must work, despite our bank balance.

We tend to either be workaholics or idle busybodies. And both of them lead to anxiety while at the same time tend to become our habit because of anxiety.

We’re anxious about what people will think of our work, whether we’ll be a success or not, if people will call us a failure, whether our family will be proud, whether we are working hard enough to receive a good reward – and that reward is usually financial and often in an effort to stop working. If we could just crack this next big deal we may have enough money to quit this job, maybe retire, or maybe start our ‘dream job’, only to find years down the line that our dream job has also become a bit of a pain.

Psalm 127: 1 – 2

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved in his sleep.”

The point of work is not to stop working. We must work regardless of our bank account. Sure, it’s nice to do something you really love, but if idleness is our goal then even what we love will become a pain to us. We must see work from God’s perspective – he created it, it’s a good thing and it can be a joy in our lives, regardless of what we’re doing. In this every kind of job carries a greater and more glorious meaning. We’re doing exactly what we were created to do – we’re working.

At the same time, we’re not called or created to fret and be anxious about our work. God is the one who prospers it, who makes something out of it. Unless He does, all of our labour – our rising up early, our staying up late – is in absolute vain. He needs to prosper it and there is no way we can make him prosper it. Hard work often pays off, but not always, and God doesn’t guarantee that He’ll reward hard work or even honest living. He guarantees that He’ll take care of you and I, and He guarantees that we’ll have joy in the hard times, but He does not guarantee financial prosperity – honest work is more likely to lead to prosperity in the long run than dishonest work, but even God does not guarantee that honest work will always lead to prosperity.

This may be hard to swallow, especially in our culture and even in Christian circles. We don’t want a poverty mindset, we say, and I’m not advocating one. But I’m simply saying that God has bigger things in mind.

The difference is in what it is we want. We either want the better life or we want the better hope. We’re either chasing after the riches of this world or we’re chasing after the Treasure of All – one who is worth more than all the riches of this world can offer – Jesus Christ. This God wants to give us, and if a tight pocket leads us to this Greater Treasure, well God is as good as He says He is then.

God sent manna from heaven to the Israelites. He took care of their needs. Manna day in and day out. Manna, manna, manna, and they got bored of it. So would you and I. See, we link the abundance of life God promises us to a life where there is always choice, always diversity, to keep us entertained and feeling happy. Lord, not manna today, but steak; Lord, not manna today, but apples. None of these are bad in themselves, but we want God to keep us entertained and keep the better life coming or we say He isn’t good. Meanwhile, he wants to lead us to a Better Treasure – the Greatest Treasure. We’ll expound on this in the next post.

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