Friday: Further Thought ~ Managing in Tough Times
Though nothing in the Bible warns against wealth, nothing in the Bible talks about wealth as increasing one’s spiritual commitment, either. In fact, the opposite danger is true. “The love of money, the desire for wealth, is the golden chain that binds them [people] to Satan.” — Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 44.
In fact, since the founding of Christianity, no church has ever partaken of such wealth and creature comforts as the church in many countries of the world enjoys today. The question is: At what cost? Such affluence surely influences our spirituality — and not for the good, either. How could it? Since when have wealth and material abundance fostered the Christian virtues of self-denial and self-sacrifice? Can coming home to refrigerators stuffed with more food than we can eat, and owning one or two cars, and taking yearly vacations, and shopping online, and having the latest in home computers and smartphones make it easier to love not the world nor the things in the world? Though many members of our church don’t have these luxuries, many do — and they do so at the peril of their own souls. This is not talking about the “rich” now, as in millionaires and beyond. They at least know that they’re rich, and they can heed (if they choose) the biblical cautions given them. We’re talking, instead, about many even of the middle-class people, who — amid smartphones, iMacs, air-conditioning, and SUVs — are fooled enough to think that because they are just “middle class,” they are not in danger of being spiritually pickled by their own prosperity. That’s why tithing can be, if nothing else, a powerful spiritual antidote to the dangers of wealth, even for those who are not particularly “wealthy.”
Sometimes we get ourselves caught up in descriptions of end-time events and how we should prepare for them that we become unrealistic and sometimes even paranoid about the present. I hear awful scenarios about Sunday laws, not being able to buy and sell, persecution, and other apocalyptic tableaux that we like to tell one another. In the midst of all of this, we are reminded that we should be finishing the work - whatever that means.
I am not sure that a lot of this is helpful. I suspect that God will "finish the work" in his own good time and that our task is really to "continue the work".
Jesus' instruction to us was to:
That requires persistence and stamina, not a sudden burst of energy, but a continued dedication of ourselves to sharing the love of the Gospel.
I agree, we get so caught up in what will happen and what will we do with ‘end time’ events that we forget that we should live each day as if it were are last (and for some today will be their last) and yet plan to live on this earth a lifetime. How we live each day will prepare us for how to live for eternity.
Jesus makes it very clear that a perfect knowledge of end time prophetic events will not be our “ticket” into God’s presence and eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-46.) If we have not bought into the lies of the Beast and his Image, then we will not be trafficking in (“buying into” and “selling-telling”) his conspiracies and distractions.
If we see any prophetic waymarks along the way, they merely tell us we are getting closer to our destination. The waymarks are not our focus—it is forever and always the Lamb of God. He is the Way, the Truth and Life. (John 14:6.) He is our focus. (Hebrews 12:2.) And since he is our focus, we can boldly follow him wherever he leads, that is, into God’s presence. (Revelation 14:4; 22:4 Hebrews 4:16.)
Entry into God’s kingdom is not dependent on whether or not we get prophecy right; instead, it is totally dependent on whether God knows us. (Matthew 7:23.) And that is practically evident from our loving service to others that results from God writing his law of love into our hearts. (Hebrews 10:16.)
I don't know what to make of the paragraph in today's lesson that mentions many devices most of us in the "West" have and then says we own them at the peril of our soul. I can agree that Christianity appears to be growing much more slowly in rich countries (though measuring true faith may be more difficult than we think). However, wealthy people like Job, Abraham etc. were not corrupted by their wealth. Every society has something prone to hinder faith and ultimately these things are heart issues.
I was born in a prosperous country to parents who got an education and worked hard to give me opportunities. I can't control that anymore than anyone else can control the situation they were born into. So I can't believe my soul is in peril because of these things. God relates to each one of us according to our situation. If we have a relationship with Him, He will show us how to use our "wealth" to benefit others, whether that's by giving it away or using it to nurture relationships.
I once talked to a fellow church member who has a walk with God that I admire. She said she once felt somewhat guilty that she had a nice house while many in the world live in shacks. But she began to think of her house as a means to bless people, asking the Lord how she can serve people through her house (ie through hospitality). I personally like that way of thinking. If God blesses us with wealth, let's use it to work for Him.
Hi, Christina. I think the lesson author, though the particulars of his illustration may not have conveyed his point very well, was talking about the choice to live in luxury -- to use the means entrusted to us to purchase far more than we really need, to the neglect of the good we could otherwise have done for others. That, of course, would actually imperil our souls, as only those who care about others would even be happy in heaven.
Amen to this, R.G. White. Jesus along with His Father, who is the creator of the universe, owns every thing in it even us and all humanity. Yet Jesus only gave up the ownership of all this for only 33 years. What is that compared to what He owned before that and after that? So what if we come to where we cannot buy or sell? God will take care of us and give us bread and water to survive it until He comes in the clouds of Glory to take us home to be with Him for eternity.
Interesting how differently we can read things. I read it as a caution to remind those of us living in the western part of the world that we are *all* rich, seeing that half of the global population lives on less than US$6.85 per person per day.
Our possessions represent a spiritual peril because it is so easy to let them rule our lives.
I really appreciate your last paragraph, and I believe that seeing our possessions as means to bless others is the way to manage them without "peril to our souls."
For sure, all of us in the West are rich, relatively speaking. And we should keep that in mind as we manage our resources.
However, everything is relative. For example, poor people in Canada or the US are rich compared to most of the world, but I can't imagine us telling them that they live in "the projects" or whatever at their peril. And many of the devices mentioned in that paragraph are things necessary to function in the society I'm in. I need a car to get to church/work. I use a computer in my job. For a single woman, having a cell phone is just common sense for safety reasons. On and on it goes. That's why I objected to the tone of that paragraph. We can always be more aware and generous, but I'm not sure telling us that our soul is in peril because of the situation we were born into is the best motivator for generosity.
Thanks, Christina. I think the lesson author could have said it better, because your reading is the usual one. I just automatically translated his wording to mean that the possessions we have can be a danger to our souls - not that we shouldn't have any of these possessions.
I think it is quite clear that the possessions he mentions do, indeed, present a danger to our souls. That comes with living in an affluent society, but retreating into a cave would hardly make us more effective for the Lord.