There Your Heart Will Be Also (Part 2)

What does it practically look like?

In part one, I did my best to express that when you look at Matthew 6:19-34 as a continuous flow of thought, it makes sense to say that Jesus wants us to give away our money today for his purposes, not worrying about tomorrow’s needs.

But, how could this possibly work? What does it practically look like? And are we sure there’s never a call for the use of “wisdom” on the part of the individual in his/her specific situation? Is saving money never an option?

These questions are begging to be asked and need to addressed if we’re going to live this out. So let me start by saying that I don’t have it all figured out. Actually, I’m hopeful you can help me out by giving your thoughts in the comments.  But I do have some ideas on a few of these questions that might prove helpful, so I’ll start there.

First off, how we understand the today/tomorrow language makes a difference. I don’t really know how money matters worked in the time of Christ. I’m sure someone who has studied up on 1 century lifestyle could tell me. Did people have bills that they had to pay from month-to-month or was it more of a day-by-day type of living? I know there was the temple tax that had to be paid yearly. But otherwise, is it possible that they paid for their necessities a day at a time? What if Jesus was not necessarily intending a literal today and tomorrow when he taught, but was using those words to embody a principle of now and the future, which for those original listeners could have worked itself out very literally, but for us maybe can’t be taken so literally? Otherwise, there is difficulty in knowing how this is practically possible or makes any sense at all. I can’t imagine that Jesus would really desire us to give away one day the money that we were planning to use to pay the whole months’ rent the next. But I could see him advocating giving away what we don’t or won’t need this month and trusting him to provide for next month.

Is it ever okay to save money for the long term or for something big? Jesus says, “Do not lay (the word is the verb form of the word translated “treasures” later in the verse) up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Does that mean we should never save up money or goods for the future? What about saving money to buy a house or a car? My thought is that maybe it all depends on your purpose for having that house or that car. If you intend to use that house or that car for the kingdom, maybe saving up for that is fine. Paul instructed the Corinthian church to save up money for a kingdom purpose:

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store (same word as above) it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 16:1-3)

I personally don’t think Jesus would be in favor of retirement savings though, both because of Matthew 6 and Luke 12 (the parable of the man who built bigger barns for his bumper crop). The big idea is that when you store up savings or goods here on earth for yourself you will start to set your hopes on them and your heart will become attached to them. Retirement seems like the most likely way for that to happen.

“Wisdom” in saving money- I’ve commonly heard Christians qualify the verse about not laying up treasure on earth by saying something like, “But, we need to be wise, of course.” It seems so completely CRAZY to take this verse at face value, I agree. But, I do question whether in some cases being “wise” actually means partially buying into the so-called wisdom of this world rather than listening to and acting from true wisdom. Is it possible that true wisdom says, “I’m not going to save for retirement because I believe Jesus is right and really means it when he says not to lay up treasures on earth”?

One argument I have heard for saving money is that we need to be good stewards of what God has given us. That might be right, but I’m really not sure the Bible says that anywhere. Honestly all I can think of that comes close to that are parables about stewards intended to make various points (usually not related to money at all). I’d be open to hearing if there’s something I’m missing that proves that point.

The other argument I’ve heard for saving money is the Proverb about the Ant.

Go to the Ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. (Proverbs 6:6)

The ant may very well store up food for herself, but that’s not really the point of the proverb. The point is that we should be diligent like the ant and not be a sluggard. I don’t see it as making any point about how we should deal with possessions.

I welcome any thoughts, agreements, disagreements, additions, questions. This is a topic that affects us all, and I’d obviously like to get it right and I’m sure you would too. 🙂

– Laura Anne

Advertisements

The Poor Widow (Guest Post)

The Poor Widow
by Amy at http://www.artofthislife.wordpress.com

The voices grew louder as more and more people gathered around to watch the discussion.

“Which commandment is the foremost of all?”  one of the scribes asked.

She tried hard to listen to the answer.   The question was directed toward a young teacher who, for the last hour, had been arguing with the Scribes and Pharisees.   However, his manner was different than any she had seen before.  He spoke calmly and with a certain confidence that she had not observed among the other teachers of the Law.

“Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

A small gasp caught in the back of her throat as she listened to this answer.   She had heard the Law read before and knew this was what God had spoken to Israel many years ago.  But how could she truly love such a great God?  What could she offer to such a King?  Her husband had been dead for several years now, and she was only barely surviving, each day trying to stretch her few cents in order to buy food to live.

Still half-listening to the young teacher, these thoughts grew in her mind.  Her hand, cracked and bleeding from hard work, slipped instinctively into the small pouch she carried at her waist and fingered the two small coins it held.  It was all she had left.  She planned to spend it at the market this afternoon, when she was done here.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…”  Perhaps she should offer these coins to the temple treasury.   They wouldn’t buy much anyway.  Yet, she was already hungry from having so little food the days before.

“No,” she spoke in an audible whisper.  Somehow it seemed much better to give something to God, and this was the only thing she had left in the world to offer.

The crowd around was large.  Religious leaders who had been questioning the young teacher, curious onlookers who loved listening to the discussions, and rich men coming to make great contributions to the temple treasury all thronged about.  If only the young teacher would not look her way, she hoped secretly, as she edged through the crowd. He would probably laugh if he were to see her giving such a small offering.  Certainly, he would think it worthless and, most likely, scorn her for even trying to give when she could only offer so little.

But alas, there he was taking a seat directly opposite the treasury.  Now she would have to pass by him to make her offering.  Common sense urged her to forget this silly scheme, yet an irrepressible desire to give something to the Lord refused to allow her to turn around.

Head bent down, she walked past him hoping he would not notice her.  The two coins, so small, so worthless, dropped into the treasury.

With a tiny chinking sound, they were gone, and she began a hasty retreat.

“Truly, I say to you…” the young teacher was speaking to a small group of men gathered around him.  In spite of herself, she stopped momentarily to listen before leaving the temple. “This poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury.”

She glanced around quickly, wondering who this poor widow might have been who could offer more to God than every other contributor.  Surprise filled her face as she saw the teacher and his disciples looking her way.  It was impossible! She could not be the ‘poor widow’ the young teacher was referring to.  She had given the very least of anyone.

“For they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”

Slowly, she raised her eyes to see if the teacher really meant what he said.  His face was sincere and earnest.  He nodded gently to her when he noticed her eyes searching his face.

Turning away, joy filled her heart as she pondered this strange statement.  She had given so little to God, and somehow it was counted as more.

The thought of food momentarily crossed her mind, but suddenly she didn’t feel hungry.  The amazing words of Scripture she had heard this young teacher speak seemed to fill her with everything she needed.  She walked along the road away from the temple unsure of where she was headed.

Unsure of direction, future, or life, and yet she was filled with more life than she had ever experienced, through the incredible words of God that had been spoken today. Contributing less and yet giving more!  Hungry and yet fully satisfied!

**Adapted from Mark 12:28-31, 41-44

Disarming the Devil

Q. What do these three passages have in common?

1.) So, you men could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you many not enter into temptation. (Matthew 26:40)

2.) With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the spirit with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)

3.) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13)

A. In their contexts, they are each about avoiding temptation/standing firm against the devil’s schemes.

KEEP WATCH. BE ON THE ALERT

This day might hold your greatest hour of temptation, or that of your brother/sister.

There Your Heart Will Be Also (Part 1)

Your heart always follows your money. Jesus said so. And it makes sense.

If you invest in things of this world, or save to be able to afford what this world has to offer, there is no doubt that you will become attached to this world, or begin to crave what you don’t have and find yourself a willing servant of the master Money. I know this because Jesus said as much. Don’t think that you can do what you want with your money and keep your heart unattached. If I understand Jesus correctly, that’s not possible.

Your heart always follows your money. So it’s wise to put your money where you want your heart be. 

One time I heard news that some friends of ours who live out of state were adopting. For some reason, I decided to give them some money. To be honest, it wasn’t a particularly heartfelt action, but it seemed right at the time, so I did it. Amazingly, as soon as I did, I became much more interested in knowing all the details about the kids they were adopting and their prayer needs during the process. Jesus was right. My heart followed my money.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Matthew 6:19-34 has been an incredibly significant and faith-building passage for me over the last several weeks as I’ve been thinking a whole lot about how to deal with my money. In my mind it flows together something like this:

Jesus says: Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. (I take this to mean, “Put your money into a heavenly savings account rather than an earthly one by using your money freely for God’s purposes.”) Realize that your heart will be where you put your money. 

You’re tempted to say: But what about when I need this money tomorrow, next month or when I’m old to pay the bills?

Jesus says: Don’t worry about tomorrow. God is aware that you need to pay the bills. He never fails to feed the birds and cloth the lilies and He’ll take care of you too if you put your money toward His kingdom first of all. 

Wow! So it looks to me like I’m allowed the privilege of investing my money freely in the kingdom of heaven (a kingdom that is alive and growing, like a mustard seed that becomes the largest of trees!) without needing to worry about the things that I need from day to day or month to month! AND, by doing this I’m storing this money in a heavenly savings account where it is kept as safe as it could possibly be from thieves and rust! What an incredible promise of God’s provision! I’m praying that God will give me the faith to take full advantage of this great privilege. May he do the same for you too.

-Laura Anne

 

True Greatness (Understanding Adornment Biblically)

It’s always interesting to me how much of Jesus’ teaching is completely counter-intuitive! Who would have thought that in order to gain your life, you must give it up? Who would have thought that you are blessed if you are persecuted for righteousness sake? Who would have thought that the way to be supplied with everything you need is to give your money and possessions away to the poor? Yet, somehow, strange as it may sound, there’s something really intriguing and appealing to me about every one of Jesus’ counter-intuitive teachings. But I must say, the one about becoming great by becoming a servant is especially intriguing to me these days. See Matthew 20:25-28, and Mark 9:33-35 for a synopsis of Jesus’ teaching on this.

What better way to understand what it means to become great by serving than to take a good look at the example that Jesus set for us. Do you remember the last time he ate with his disciples before he was betrayed, how he dressed himself to serve them? Recall how he replaced his outer garment with a towel, poured water into basin and washed the disciples’ feet? He did this as an example, explaining, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

This is only one of many ways that Jesus served throughout his lifetime, culminating in the greatest act of service: giving his life as a ransom for many. But there was one thing that stood out to me in this particular story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, though. I was impressed with the intentionality that Jesus showed in dressing himself to serve them. I have found that to be a helpful, practical thing to imitate.

As women identified with Christ, what do we typically think about when it comes to how we dress? Modesty, right? I’ve got news for you: the goal shouldn’t just be modesty alone. The goal according to 1 Timothy 2:9-10 is to adorn ourselves with good works.

Do you ever consider, when you face the clothes in your closet at the beginning of a day, how you might best dress for service? I’m sure you have on occasion, like when you know that you are going to help a friend work on a house project or unload a moving truck. But what about on a normal day?

It’s been super helpful to me to think through this for several reasons. For one, it helps me start out the day with the right mindset. I’m already expecting those opportunities to serve to show up in my day, and I’m essentially deciding ahead of time to take those opportunities.

Secondly, there have been times in my life that I’ve wanted to jump in and serve in certain ways, but have been handicapped by my choice of clothing. If you’re a woman, you probably know what I’m talking about. There are certain things that we can wear that are perfectly modest and can easily remain modest for the whole day, so long as we plan only to socialize and relax. But those same clothing items can also easily become immodest the moment we need to bend over and use both of our hands. I think it’s so worthwhile to make choices ahead of time that will free us up to serve in various ways without worrying about this. It may take some time and energy to build a wardrobe that is conducive to this and also classy, but it is very possible. If Jesus really meant what he said about how to become great (and he always does mean what he says),  don’t you think this is worthwhile pursuit?

-Laura Anne

A Happy Daughter’s Memories

You know one thing that was really cool about my childhood? My dad traveled a lot for his Christian ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rejoicing in the fact that he was gone a lot. But I truly always saw it as a positive thing, and I think there’s good reason for that.

For one, I always knew he was out there doing exactly what God wanted him to do. My mom had a great attitude about it that made us all feel it was important and right for him to be where he was. I never once felt that he was neglecting us.

Secondly, instead of making us miss out on crucial “daddy” time, I think the whole situation made for better quality “daddy” time than most people get to experience. My brothers and I had the privilege of taking turns accompanying him on his trips! What a remarkable way to bond!

My dad always did have a way of making the most ordinary things seem extra special. These trips in many ways to him, and eventually to us, became quite ordinary: the airplane travel, the airport wait time, the first peek into the hotel room, the continental breakfast. But somehow dad would make each part seem extra special in a unique way each time. Whether it was sketching funny faces together on a scrap of paper in the airplane, or splurging on a Macdonalds ice cream cone in the airport while waiting on a flight, or simply appreciating my excitement at the cream cheese, or the “real milk” (as opposed to the powdered stuff we drank at home) I found at the hotel’s breakfast spread in the morning. It didn’t take much to please me. Just seeing the smile on my dad’s face that told me that he was enjoying his little daughter meant the world.

These trips also bring to mind a lot of valued experiences making new friends, seeing new sights, enjoying warm hospitality, eating delicious food, and of course, hearing the same sermons and the same jokes over and over (and somehow, surprisingly enjoying them afresh with each fresh audience). How much I would have missed if my dad had just had an ordinary job! I wouldn’t trade my childhood experiences for anyone else’s in the world!

-Laura Anne