This post is a work in progress. To be honest, I have known for a while that I was going to write it, but still at this moment I am not exactly sure how to explain this subject.
Before I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, I enjoyed every toy imaginable. I had snowmobiles and trailer, I had a motorhome, jet skis, a boat, horses, big pickups and, you name it and I probably had it or at least for sure wanted it.
When I became a Christian I began to realize, through lots of different circumstances, that I had way too much, and that all I did was take care of stuff. I was constantly trying to keep up on work equipment, toys, property and animals. To the point where I was spending more time taking care of stuff than I was actually getting to use it.
So because of a few different situations, I decided to downsize. I began the big sell-off, and it felt really good. I chose to tithe on all of it, so there was a pretty considerable amount of money, which felt really good. Because, it had always been about me up to that point – I was going to be a millionaire and I lived like one. I spent and spent until I had racked up huge debts. It had helped cause me to lose a marriage and now my business was deep in debt.
Now that I was giving money I found that it was so freeing to give it away and, in some ways, it was like restoring something that I had lost or missed.
There have been lots of situations and circumstances that led me to live a much simpler life, like we do now. We do our best to take on no new debt. We have no credit cards, and both my wife and I work part-time so that we can raise our children.
It is a very different lifestyle than I ever believed I would lead, but it is amazingly freeing.
This has led me to live a life that is very different than most Americans, and even most Christians.
We have been told that we have a poverty mindset; that we have made a poverty vow; and lots of other things because of the way that we choose to live. The interesting thing is, that we find more and more peace the more we live this way.
Now don’t think for a second that we don’t desire to have nice things, or that we wouldn’t like to have more financial provision so that things weren’t so hard sometimes. But I wouldn’t trade the way that we live so that we can go back to those things for anything.
So today’s post is about… how much is too much.
The Bible teaches in many places not to be of the world, to not allow Mammon to become a master, and that debt is a bad thing. Because most of these things are suggestions and not “Thou Shalt Not” it leaves a lot of wiggle room and, of course, much debate about what is acceptable, and what is not.
The problem, as usual, is that people want to talk about absolutes. A certain amount for a car, a certain size of house, maybe it is the number of toys in the garage? With any of these answers it would be really easy to say, this is enough, I can’t have any more and be a good Christian.
However, Jesus usually doesn’t do things that way. He actually talked a lot about money and, as was often the case, taught things that turned the way that the world looked at them upside-down.
I recently had a friend that told me that I should look at David and how the Lord blessed him as a great example of why God wants us to be rich. I guess my problem with that is that I look at David a little differently. David was an amazing guy while he was running from Saul, and during the trials of that time. However, when life got easy and the wealth began to flow, that is when his life fell apart.
I certainly don’t think that is always the case. I do believe that there are people who can handle wealth, and do it in a Godly, Kingdom way. I am just pretty sure it isn’t most people, and it for sure isn’t me. I still dream about Audi’s, big houses and lots of toys.
I would love to have a lot of money because I would give a lot of it away, but I am for sure not sure that I could or would want to make the decisions that come with wealth.
Jesus said in Matthew 19:24 New Living Translation (NLT)
24” I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
This verse is found in 3 of the 4 Gospel accounts, so I assume it was something that made a big impact to the Disciples.
Now I have heard this section of Scripture argued forever. It seems like many want to explain it away, in lots of different way. However, I want to throw out something to think about.
In the Jewish culture at the time of this interaction, this rich young man, would have been considered to be “Blessed” by God. Because, the Jews believed that riches came from God, and so therefore his wealth would have been a blessing from God. This is why this man was so confident in the fact that he had done everything right. He said he had followed all the commandments, and basically was telling Jesus what an amazing Jew he was.
However, Jesus rocked his boat when he pointed out that the man’s desire for money, was actually keeping him from God and following Jesus. I believe that Jesus could see the burden and the pride, that the man had from believing that his money was a blessing, and somehow proved that he was righteous.
I think that many believe this thinking here in America. From entertainers to athletes, from mega-church pastors to average people, we have all been trained that money is a blessing from God, and I agree sometimes. I guess it is the amount that I struggle with.
If I go out and buy a vehicle or RV, when people around me are struggling to find food and warmth, is that okay? How about if I am remodeling my house and spending money on new landscaping, when there are people and needs all around the world.
Here is another one… How about if I am going into debt to do any of it? Is that faith or is that trusting in myself and the world?
We tell people that Jesus will change your life if you choose to follow Him, but does my life look any different than anyone else’? Do I make my family a priority, or is my career and toys more important? Am I worried about my property values more than about knowing my neighbor, and what they may need? Am I spending more than I make, so that I can keep up the appearance that everything is good?
If people that know me thought about me, would their first thought be that I am different than my unbelieving neighbors?
See, I don’t think that money, or the amount, is the way to be able to tell if I have a problem with worldliness and the love of money. I believe that it is just like always, a heart condition.
If I am taking on debt to buy things that are not a necessity, then I am not only missing the faith to wait upon the Lord, but I am also telling those around me, that I care more about things than about Jesus, and in some cases their needs.
I can also tell you, from personal experience, that debt does bind a person and easily becomes your master. If it wasn’t for the debt from my past life, we could do so much more for Jesus.
The other thing I have to say that is a good indicator of whether or not something is worldly or not, is if there is guilt involved in buying it. I am not talking about the kind where I feel guilty because I know I don’t deserve something. I am talking about the kind where I feel like I have to justify my purchase to other people around me, because the Holy Spirit is convicting me that it wasn’t the right thing to do.
I really hope that we don’t have to live with the debt and struggles to stay afloat forever, but I can guarantee you that I also don’t want the burden of credit cards, missing out on my family for my job, or trying to keep up with the neighbors and their “Cool” new thing.
I love the freedom that we are finding in waiting upon the Lord. I can’t believe the peace that comes from being content with what we have, or the abundance that comes in living simply, and not taking for granted the beautiful things in life.
I wouldn’t trade anything or any amount of money, for getting to be there when my kids rode their bikes for the first time or getting to pick them up and drop them off at school.
There will be plenty of time for work, and things, and God has blessed us so much more richly than any amount of money or stuff could ever replace. I am finding abundance, not in things that can be touched, but in the moments that can only be experienced, and in the amazing blessings of peace, joy and love that we experience more and more every day as we have chosen to step out of the world’s systems, and not to place value on the things that the world finds valuable.
So I don’t know if I answered anything for anyone else but for me I have answered one of the big questions of life.
Yes… I am a very wealthy man!