Monday, January 17, 2011

Trust: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Last week I began a series of posts regarding my One Word for 2011: Trust. You can read more about it here.

Something momentus happened in my little community a few weeks ago. Someone won the Megamillions lottery, a $355 million jackpot that, when split between 2 people and Uncle Sam amounts to $78 million.

$78 Million!

Now whenever something like this happens, we always pretend that we're somehow glad that we don't have to deal with all of the negative things associated with winning the lottery. For my part, I looked up information on all of the lottery winners that went bankrupt, ended up in jail or some such horrible thing. One guy spent all his money on crack and another guy's brother hired a hit man to try and kill him!

But, much as we many deny wishing we had been the lucky ones, we still imagine what we would do with the money. I am a nerd so I made a spreadsheet. No I'm not joking. I made a spreadsheet budgeting my $78 million dollars. I was especially generous because, you know, I'm a Christian, so I only kept about $2 million for myself. I figured, "hey thats less than 3%," conveniently forgetting that its still two freaking million dollars!

The point here is not how generous I am (with money that I did not earn) but what it is truly costing me. I have no doubt that if I won that much money and gave 97% of it away I would be lauded as a hero but would God be pleased by my generosity?

There is a short story in 1st Chronicles in which the Lord directs David to buy a threshing floor upon which to build an alter. The owner offers to give to David, the king, freely. David's response is incredibly wise:
But King David said or Ornan, "No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burn offerings that cost me nothing." 1 Chr 21:24
Would God be pleased by my generosity? Well maybe in someone else's case, but not in mine. I know this because, by my calculations, $2 million would have been enough money to do everything that I wanted to do and not have to worry about money for the rest of my life. It sounds reasonable doesn't it? As I dreamed about such a windfall in my life, I thought to myself, "Come on God, I don't want to be rich, I just want enough so I can do the work YOU have put in my heart and not have to worry about money," and then I heard it. The quietly patient and deeply convicting voice of God,
"Who said you had to worry about money right now?"
Aw, snap!

My 97% generosity, by human standards, amounted to $77 million, but my God is not concerned about how much I am giving but how much it is costing me. It isn't that God wants grand gestures or self-deprivation, he wants our trust. My sacrifice would not come at the cost of my self-dependence, and that's not enough for God. He wants everything, not because he's a sadist or arrogant, but because He wants to be our security; He wants to give us more.

Let me be clear here, if our anxiety is predicated on "having enough," then you and I are slaves. Jesus explains this on the Sermon on the Mount.
"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...No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" Matthew 6:19-21, 24-25
Often we view the exhortation to "store up treasures in heaven," as yet another burdensome spiritual discipline that God has heaped upon an already overflowing plate. Please understand, this is not another empty exhortation to, haha, "not worry about money." Like you, I've heard that a dozen times before. No, this is a call to accept the freedom God offers. The freedom to live the life He has given us, free from the dictates of money.

This is the freedom that Paul talks about in Romans 8:15
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
Later in Romans 8, Paul speaks of the afflictions he and his companions have suffered for the sake of the Church. Yet somehow, miraculously, he can say,
"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Romans 8:36
God's call is never a call to bondage but to freedom. He does not call us to take on a burden of poverty, but rather to operate in freedom from our circumstances, to recognize that there is more for us than simply having enough money to "not worry." Can't you hear Jesus imploring us,
" not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"
Jesus does indeed provide food for the sparrows and clothing for the flowers. He does want to meet our needs but He desires to be more to us then some kind of cosmic bread-winner. He offers us His own spirit, not a spirit of fear, of anxiety, or of slavery but the spirit of adoption in which we can cry out "Abba!" or "Dad!"

I know, I know, it sure would be a whole lot less scary to win the lottery. But that security can be taken away in a moment; you'll still be a slave, you'll just be a rich slave. Jesus offers us something more, something that cannot rust and cannot be stolen. He offers us true independence, true freedom from worry and fear.

Won't you learn to trust with me? Won't you be free with me?

Next Post: A Culture of Affluence

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