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Life Theology

Where We’ve Been Swimming Lately

A week ago I emailed my wife at work after I read a passage from the book of Luke.  Here’s what I read:

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (12:33-34).

And here’s what I wrote:

I don’t want to be one of those guys who meets Jesus face-to-face and says, “I thought that was a metaphor.”

Carly and I have been wrestling with what it means to live counter-culturally and be liberal givers.  We are thinking and praying about what it looks like to reject the Christian version of the American dream.  Things like a big house, nice clothes, luxury vacations, and retirement seem meaningless.  This is what America wants. And I’m sad to say that it’s what many Christians want too; they just do it with a spiritual wrinkle and make it seem and sound like everything is “a blessing from the Lord.”

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t perfect, of course.  We wrestle.  It’s a battle.  Our sin nature tries to get the best of us. But our hearts’ desire is to live seriously, simply, minimally, and prepare to actually sell everything and give to the needy if and when God says, “Now’s the time.”

I know that I’ll hear Christians say, “There’s nothing wrong with having stuff and enjoying things.”  I get this, and I agree. But we draw a pretty thick line here in America.  Where does it stop?  At the end of the day, I always end up at this point: if life is purposeful, and if eternity lasts forever, and if Jesus really did die for our sin, and if hell is real and awful, how can I be content with living in Disneyland and accumulating stuff and comfort?  The answer is always: I can’t.

So that’s where we’ve been swimming lately. It’s a deep ocean and it’s hard to navigate sometimes. Great grace is needed, but great grace is provided.

Categories
Life

Woe to the Idolater

In Luke 6:24-26, Jesus condemns people in general — and the Pharisees in particular — with four specific woes.  Here’s what he says:

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Jesus is not condemning being rich, having a healthy plate for dinner, enjoying a good joke, or being commended by friends.  Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus is not a fun-sucker.

Instead, Jesus is condemning those who put their hope in those things. People who hope in riches usually don’t cheerfully donate to the homeless. People who hope in food don’t normally volunteer time at the food bank. People who get their kicks from insulting others aren’t selfless humanitarians. And people who love the praise don’t love to give credit to others when its their due.

Riches, food, humor, praise, and a thousand other things are all good. But when good things become ultimate things, they become idols. And idols will kill you.

Categories
Theology

What do you want when you go to heaven?

The critical question for our generation — and for every generation — is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties your ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?

– John Piper, God Is the Gospel

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Related Post:

Categories
Life Theology

“We are rich. Filthy rich.”

I love Mondays.  You see, I have Mondays off.  So I get to kind of relax as I spend time with the Lord in his word.  There’s (usually) no distractions and no work to go too.  As I sat down on the couch this afternoon, I looked around our apartment and said, “Lord, you have given us so much stuff.  We aren’t poor.”

Carly and I both have average-paying jobs — and I work part-time at our local French retailer, Target — but we have more than, not just the average person in the world, but probably the average American. We are truly “blessed.” I was truly humbled as I sat there and stared at all this stuff in our living room.  I said, “Lord, I praise you that we can afford to have the lights on.”  You know what else is humbling? I get two days a week off. Most people get one. Some people don’t get any.

After reading the Scriptures, I read chapter 5 in Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love.  He wrote about the exact thing I was meditating on. Francis writes:

Which is more messed up — that we have so much compared to everyone else, or that we don’t think we’re rich? That on any given day we might flippantly call ourselves “broke” or “poor”? We are neither of those things. We are rich. Filthy rich.

Francis goes on to talk about how this hurts us spiritually:

The reality is that, whether we acknowledge our wealth or not, being rich is a serious disadvantage spiritually. As William Wilberforce once said, “Prosperity hardens the heart.”

Understanding that we aren’t poor, but rich — filthy rich — starts in the heart. Do I want to prosper materially or spiritually? What do I really want? Of course I need to eat and sleep and wear clothes. I need a car and I need to put gas in it. God understands this. But where is my hope and energy and adoration going? I pray that everyday it goes to God, not because he gives stuff, but because he is the only thing that will give me satisfaction.

Prosperity hardens our hearts because it causes us to depend on our money and stuff and not God. If we daily lack food and clothes and shelter, we will be on our knees begging God for help. I don’t need to do that. But I want to be on my knees thanking God for what he has given and begging him for his mercy because all I deserve is hell and damnation.  When that sobering truth is on your mind, you will never say, “I’m poor.”

Categories
Life

Who is paying taxes?

This is staggering.  For the 2009 work year:

  • The bottom 50% of earners will pay $0 in Federal Income Taxes.
  • The top 1% of earners will pay 40.5% of taxes.
  • The top 5% will pay 60.6% of taxes.
  • The top 10% will pay 71.2% of taxes.

Here is a helpful infograph from Mint.com to break these numbers down.

HT: Eternity Matters