Archive for the ‘wealth’ Tag

PUTTING GOD FIRST

Posted 13/6/07

The weekend before last, on a camp preparation weekend, I had the pleasure to witness Ed Drew giving an example Bible Study as we may do to our ‘room group’ come the summer. It concerned the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12) who took such pleasure in his barns full of grain but found them worth nothing when God took his life. Often summarised as a cautionary tale by the pithy phrase ‘you can’t take it with you’, Ed linked the story instead to the concept of the desirability of ‘Jesus-centred decision-making’. The idea stuck in my head – am I putting God first in my decision-making? And so, as so often, God took that seed and watered it.

 

My quiet time shortly afterwards took me to 1 Samuel 15, in which God rejects Saul as King, perhaps unfairly in our eyes, on account of his failure to utterly destroy the Amalekites and their livestock as commanded. Upon closer inspection, it would seem Saul’s worst offence is in his failure to honour God through sacrifice – this destruction was a form of sacrifice to God (and before anyone rails against the fact, just be grateful that the need for such actions has been replaced by the blood of Christ – the sacrificial lamb for all time!) and by withholding the best sheep and goats, along with the Amalekites’ king, Saul was showing God he deemed him only worthy of the worst things, unwanted by him and his army. This idea is linked by the NIV study notes to the concept of ‘blemished sacrifice’ dealt with in Deuteronomy 17; the idea that God is dishonoured by keeping what’s best from Him and sacrificing that which is flawed and unwanted. And so I wondered once more – am I offering the best of myself to God?

And on it went… Perks blogged last week about sisters Mary and Martha in Luke 10. In this passage, Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, whilst Martha is too distracted by the work that needs doing to stop and listen, instead resenting her sister for the lack of help. We can relate to Martha, but it’s Mary whom Jesus praises for her prioritisation. So I wondered; ‘does the hustle-bustle of life prevent me from putting God first?’ And on again… to school CU, where PK led a study looking at the rich young man of Mark 10, to whom Jesus stated it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. In this simple study for teenagers, it was asked ‘do you have more than 2 rooms in your house?’, ‘Do you have more than one tap?’ and ‘Are you guaranteed three meals a day?’. In answering yes to all these, the boys were told that they were richer than over 90% of the world. And with that, some sort of insight began to form in my mind. We, the West, are the rich man of the story. We have fallen away as a society and no wonder. We feel we need nothing. We are proud and preoccupied in our land of plenty. Like the rich man, we consider Christ a painful intrusion; for when you have much, you have much to lose.

Now, few of us are called to leave all we own, but, for many, time is the most precious commodity. Work rules the bulk of our days and London offers an entertainment opportunity for every available evening. The short time we spend indoors we must justify through use the many things we own – stereos, televisions, computers and gadgets we can’t remember buying. It is hard enough giving ‘quality time’ to the members of our family, let alone to God. Yet it is therefore in our allocation and prioritisation of time that we show whether we are truly willing to put Him first; whether we are willing to give Him what is precious. Our blemished and dishonourable sacrifice may be the final 5 minutes of our day we call ‘quiet time’, spent with eyes closing and dreams encroaching. It is in our planning that ‘Jesus centred decision-making’ is most vital and most difficult. It is far from the only time such a principle should be employed. To give money to God’s work whilst paying a new mortgage may well mean sacrificing Sky Sports. To live for Jesus may be to turn down an attractive member of the opposite sex, an appealing night out with friends or even the career you always thought you wanted. However, I believe it is through a perceived lack of time that we are most likely to drift to a point where we no longer recognise, nor even consider, God’s input into those things that really matter.

So then, the West today has turned from God as only a rich man can. It can’t bear to give up it’s free will, pride in science, precious free Sundays or opportunities for instant sensual gratification. With each year that passes and makes it richer, it is harder for its inhabitants to make it through that needle’s eye, for it becomes harder to sacrifice all they feel they’ve achieved. Thank God then that, in the following verse, Jesus reminds us that ‘all things are possible with God’. I would never presume to envy the 3rd World – that would be a privilege available only to those who take a full stomach for granted – but it is no co-incidence that they often set an example in living faith. It’s easier to read the Bible when there is no alternative on TV; easier to ascribe all things to God’s sovereign will when your economic survival is at the mercy of the elements. Our proffered aid is required and encouraged by Scripture, but in extending sympathies, we shouldn’t miss the fact that many among the suffering are far richer than us where it truly matters. If we’re not careful, we may reach eternity finding we stored up our treasures in the wrong place entirely. After all, you can’t take it with you…