October 24, 2015
What if you suddenly discovered that you were fabulously wealthy? And I don't mean just along the lines of Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Rupert Murdoch or Mark Zuckerberg...I mean REALLY wealthy!
What if you found out that somehow you had a credit card that had no limit, and that you would never have to pay off the balance. In fact, the balance would be paid in full by someone else, regardless of the amount. It's a crazy thought, but let's just imagine that it really happened and right now you're holding that piece of priceless plastic in your hand. And, just to keep you from veering off track, you don't have to worry about any eventualities that might put a damper on seeing your wildest dreams fulfilled (in as far as money is able to achieve them). None of the negative side-effects that immediately begin to come to mind are a possibility. All you need to do is point and shoot. Bam!
What would you do?
I'm assuming that as a Christ-follower (or even as a reasonably decent human being) your mind would begin to focus on all the good you could do in the world rather than on all the cool stuff you could buy to make your life cushy. There would be no problem in the world that you couldn't address, provided that the only hindrances to solving the problem are ones that money could overcome. Given that you would have no worries whatsoever about 'running out' of resources, I'm sure you would become prodigally magnanimous. It would be insane (as long as you really believed that the unlimited line of credit was really real) for you to give a second thought to being selfish or miserly.
But, leaving the orbit of fantasy, and re-entering the atmosphere of reality, we find that we are back in the world of limited means, where we judiciously consider whether a person or cause is worthy of a chunk of the finite resources that have been entrusted to us. And thus, we find ourselves often arbitrating as to whether, if we give in to our consciences that tell us that as followers of Christ we should be generous, we will have enough to meet our own needs. We know that some Christians give a 10th of their paychecks. Some even tithe on the gross amount of their earnings. And some go even further than that. But many of us, because we're "not under the law, but under grace" choose to give only sparingly. We seem to only have enough to meet our own needs, and it would be irresponsible (our reasoning goes) to put our families at risk since the Bible tells us that we are to provide for our families and "anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
However, life in the Kingdom of Heaven, is not subject to that brand of 'reality'. Life in the Kingdom is upside down. The problem with us 'believers' is that we often fail to believe! Even though we are told "Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back". (Luke 6:30 ESV), we somehow justify not obeying Jesus' instructions. Or maybe we are quick to whip out a dollar for the homeless guy, but when the offering plate comes around we treat it like the homeless guy! :-p
But we are the children of the King of kings and Lord of lord!. Everything in the universe (and beyond) belong to our Heavenly Father. And we are his heirs, co-heirs with Christ!
For all things are yours, whether ... the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. (1Co 3:21-23 ESV)
Therefore, Jesus tells us that we should imitate God, who out of his love that is beyond comprehension, sent his own Son to earth to experience all of the trials, struggles and temptations to be selfish and stingy that we experience, and then to die on the cross in our place that we could be set free from the distorted reality of a life of limited means that results from choosing to live it apart from the rule of the Benevolent King and Creator and Owner of the Universe...and beyond!
"give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." (Luk 6:38 ESV)
God promises that if we seek to imitate him in our generosity toward others that he will ensure that our resources never run out. But that requires faith, because in the natural world, unless you are very fortunate, no one is going to give you anything you don't earn yourself. In fact nearly everyone in the world and most institutions and organizations are trying to get a piece of what you have. And if you squander it or otherwise use it up, it's on you to figure out how to replenish your coffers, and it's usually by the sweat of your own brow.
But that's not how it works in the Kingdom of God. Our Heavenly Father is fabulously wealthy and ridiculously generous; and not just to those who are righteous and deserving (as if there were any who are).
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Mat 6:33 ESV)
The point I'm trying to make is that this is the Gospel. It's the good news about the Kingdom of God. We need to ask ourselves whether we are truly in the faith. The Apostle Paul challenges us to do this because of the very real possibility that we have veered from the authentic Good News of the Kingdom and have built our faith and practice on a false one. The Gospel that Jesus and his disciples preached was "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand". It is available here and now. Eternal life, abundant life is not in the future. It is here...NOW! In fact, it's ONLY available here...and now. If we don't take it here and now, and invest it in the world around us, we won't have it when we transition into eternity. Jesus demonstrated the Kingdom way of life by healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, and bringing the Good News of God's prodigal generosity to the poor.
We so need to understand and receive the love of God, which is beyond understanding, deep into our souls. It needs to become as real to us as the things that we can see, touch, smell, and hear around us right now. When we are overcome with how much we don't deserve God's goodness, kindness, mercy and generosity, and the reality of the availability of all of it to us right now, we will begin to live differently. We will understand the urgency of bringing the Good News of the Kingdom of God to every creature. We will understand why Jesus left us with the command:
"And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."" (Mat 28:18-20 ESV)
God has generously offered ALL the resources of his Benevolent Kingdom, here and now, to 'whosoever will' and it's our job to live in and promote that reality to an impoverished world. May it be so in my life...and yours.