Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Economy of the Word

Studying the word this morning, specifically the letters to Timothy from the Apostle Paul, I had an Epiphany!

It occurred to me that the current economic crisis we are experiencing might just be one of God's wake up calls to a world that has gotten itself way out of whack in how we prioritize our lives, view prosperity and the purpose of worldly wealth. The Bible is full of examples of situations that occurred on local, regional or even a global scale, which God used to redirect his people. I for one am a believer that God does still work in our world this way, though because of our enlightened condition many of us are blind to those occurrences, or dismiss them after wise secular analysis.

The apostle Paul had direct contact with Jesus after the time he was reported to have descended to heaven and shared much of the same wisdom Jesus imparted during his earthly ministry to his disciples (which are evidenced in his letters). In the first letter to his disciple Timothy (who was leading the church at Ephesus at the time and who Paul considered like a son), Paul shares some of that wisdom when he wrote about wealth and how Tim should deal with the wealthy in his church*:

"Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow (as many of us have experienced first hand over the past year or two). Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining a life that is truly life!

But if it's only money that people are after, they'll self destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble, nothing but trouble! Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.

A Devote life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God."

*1 Timothy 6: 6, 10, 17-19 (The Message Bible)

As a nation and culture, do we put too much emphasis on acquisition of wealth and being wealthy? (That's a rhetorical question, in case you were wondering). As the current financial meltdown has shown, our whole economic prosperity was based upon greed and the illusion of wealth on paper, and like Paul wrote, in a cosmic blink of the eye, it was gone and in it's wake left a country...and by association the whole turmoil, despair and regret!

Paul never disparages our right to support ourselves, profit from our hard work or even thrive, but rather this is a cautionary tale about what we do when prosperity comes our way. Do we congratulate ourselves and hoard our wealth, or do we count it as a wonderful blessing which should be shared with those not so fortunate?...and are far to few people doing this?

Of all the wonderful things that Jesus and his apostles shared, money and how we handle our money I believe tops the list of mentions in the Gospels. Both Jesus and Paul were very clear that worldly wealth is transient and for those who believe in the promise of Eternal Life, it only serves our needs a tiny portion of time. In other words, truly important wealth is gained by: Doing good, being rich in how much we help others in need and being generous to a fault. The kind of wealth these actions accumulate is sustaining throughout our Eternal Life...while earthly wealth is only good here and now...which in God's cosmic timetable is only a blip.

It's hard getting your hands around this kind of concept, especially when it runs so contrary to how our world seems to operate. But if you've ever met someone that has made the commitment to this kind of lifestyle, you many times will find a person who has a peace and joy in this life which (excuse the pun) "money just can't buy."

So take stock in your life and examine your faith. Do you truly believe that following Jesus is the way to Eternal Life? If so, Jesus and his apostle Paul have given us a blueprint to how best to enter and prosper in that next destination. Are you prepared to follow their direction?

R. J. Luedke

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