Monday, April 25, 2011

The Busy Christian... Chapter 11

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives

The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness,
Chapter 11: I’m busy because I need the money – the liberating joy of God

The lie: material possessions can satisfy
Our culture says that wealth, possessions and shopping are the route to satisfaction and fulfilment. But it’s a lie. (p139)
And so easily we buy the lie. We replace “I want” or “I desire” with “I need”. I need more money. I need the latest iPhone. I need a new TV. Do we really?
Our culture is characterized by the question: ‘How can I get more?’ Christian culture should be asking the opposite question: ‘How can I give up more?’ Think about the possessions you own and the activities you are involved in. Which could you give up to release time, space and money for God’s kingdom? How could you declutter your life and your home?... We need to think of luxury as the carefreeness of having too little rather than the burden of having too much. (p143, my emphasis)
With consumerism, Christians often ask ‘What is it OK to have?’ Why instead don’t we ask ‘What’s the least I can manage with?’

For those in full-time ministry, these can just as easily be our issues. With our up-to-date gadgets, nice clothes and houses full of pretty things, sometimes we hardly look different from the pagans around us. Or, sometimes it works the other way. We justify what we have and do, knowing that it’s less than others around us – yet fail to see our own materialism. Perhaps we even tend to pride that we are “not like them”. Or do we whinge that we don’t have what they do? Yet, we are still incredibly wealthy.

Do we ask ourselves “What is the least I can manage with?”
Do you compare yourself with others (to justify yourself), or do you ask what God wants of you?

The truth: the liberating joy of God

Perhaps our problem is not that we have desires we want to satisfy, bit that we are too easily satisfied. We are far too easily satisfied with the things of this world, instead we need to believe “that we find fulfilment, satisfaction, joy and identity in knowing God, and nowhere else.” (p143)

The antidote to materialism is the promise that our true treasure is in heaven. Materialism seeks to find meaning in this world. True faith has hope in the world to come.

Some of us fall into the trap of thinking if we have more, we will be happy. Others want security, to whom God will say “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you (Luke 12:20).

And we Christians fall into both camps – we look forward to treasure on heaven, yet we also like the treasures of this world too. So we are even busier, chasing after both.

Chester issues a challenge to think about having less. This may mean choosing to work less hours or not take the promotion, in order to have more time outside of work. It may be choosing the smaller house over the larger one, so that we don’t have to work so hard to pay for that larger mortgage. It may mean no longer reading “Better Homes and Gardens” or similar, and learning to be satisfied with the home that you have.

I think this is something that those of us in ministry should be striving to model. Consumerism is so rife we hardly notice it anymore. But we need to find ways to model it that are honest. If people think we have less because we cannot afford it, we are sending the wrong message. Ministers (at least those in the Western world) are generally not poor, we are paid enough to live on (and often much more than that). We need to be able to explain why we choose to spend less on some things, it’s a choice. Most ministry families who cry “poor me” have little understanding of true poverty.

How do you explain your financial choices to others?
How do you explain your financial choices to your children? (ie. We can’t afford it, or we choose to spend our money on other things?)
How can you remind yourself that our true riches are in heaven? Do you truly believe it?

A pure heart

The Psalm for this chapter is Psalm 73 – a meditation on a pure heart.
1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked...
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny...
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Next week – Chapter 12: I’m busy because I want to make the most out of life

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