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

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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

 

The True God

What is it that sets the true God apart from other so-called gods or distortions of the real One? I think it’s an important question and worthwhile to meditate on. The Bible presents a God that is unlike any other imagined God: much bigger, more powerful and more beautiful. The Bible speaks of the kind of God that is truly able to satisfy a soul; a God that fully deserves trust and worship. Here are a few of my favorite aspects of the true God:

  1. He is the only God.

Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. (Isaiah 43:10b)

See also Isaiah 44:6&8, Isaiah 45:5&21-22 and Isaiah 46:9.

2. He has always existed as God.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2)

The Bible also speaks of God as the eternal God (see Deut. 33:27), the everlasting God (see Isaiah 40:28), the first and the last (Isaiah: 48:12-13) and the alpha and the omega (Revelation 1:8).

3. He created the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

See also Isaiah 45:12.

4. He gives all men life and breath and everything else.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being the Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

5. He always does what he says he will do.

I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient time things not yet done, saying, “my counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,  . . . I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:9-11)

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19)

There are obviously so many more aspects of God to admire, but aren’t these wonderful? Pair these truths with truths about God’s goodness and faithfulness and wisdom, and I can hardly imagine not desiring to trust and serve and praise such a big and powerful God! Aren’t you glad that the true God is so much grander than any figment of one’s imagination?

I’m Homesick!

Recently I’ve been feeling excited about the future: the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells! I’m ready for it now! Sometimes I get a little weary of being in a world where it is impossible not to drink in some poluted air. Worldliness is everywhere around us, and even though I’m blessed to know comparatively little of it, it still is there and always scheming how it can pull me gently and quietly away from God. I can’t wait to live in a world free of this polution! And we will some day! 

Related to this idea, I’ve been thinking about how much the Bible talks about giving up things in order to receive something greater. It’s clear that the christian life is a hard road: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”  But it’s all about gaining in the end: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” It is vital to keep our minds on the treasure. Paul says to “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  

It’s just downright stupid to forget the prize, yet I do so often.

I really like the words to this song:

My rest is in heaven, my rest is not here,
Then why do I worry when trials are near!
Be hushed my dark spirit, the worst that can come
But shortens your journey, and hastens you home.

Chorus:
I have died to this world, and am hidden with Christ
So my mind will be set on this:
Glory is certain, for Christ is in me,
Glory is certain, for Christ is in me.

I dare not be seeking my comfort and bliss,
Or building my hopes in a place such as this;
I look for the city God promised and built,
Where Jesus has banished my sin and its guilt.

Afflictions may press me but cannot destroy,
One glimpse of His love turns them all into joy;
The tears of a lifetime will vanish away
When He stoops to dry them on that coming day.

So let Satan’s army assail me full force;
Their plans cannot help but to steady my course.
Come joys or come sorrows, whate’er may befall
An hour with my Savior will sweeten them all.

—Laura

“Who has made man’s mouth?”

God taught me something last night from the story of Moses that I think is worth sharing.

I’ve had a hard time with the command in Hebrews 3 that says to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “today”, so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” I just haven’t felt like I can do it. I’m just little me, who often finds it hard to talk to people already, and I’m supposed to take it a step further and encourage these people? I don’t have any idea what to say that would be encouraging! This kind of thing is definately not my strong point.

But last night when I was thinking about this, I remembered Moses. He didn’t think he was cut out for what God told him to do either:

“Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12)

The command in Hebrews is directed at me the believer, and it would be stupid of me to think that I can’t obey it when the One who commanded it is the One who made me, and redeemed me, and gave me His Spirit.  I can’t argue with God’s reply to Moses: “Who has made man’s mouth?”

When God commands something, He doesn’t leave us to carry it out alone. He means for us to trust Him and do what He says.

Laura