Money and Financial Gain & Greed – Part Three of Three
Continuing with our series on Wisdom and Successful Living, we have found that wisdom is both from above and necessary in our daily living. It is a life skill that comes with knowledge and practice. It is the Hebrew term chokmah, which means skillful living or wisely winding your life with skill around the circumstances you face with good judgment and sober thinking and knowledge.
Remember the story of the monkey who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar…there was a cookie left inside an open jar, and the opening of the jar was just big enough for the monkey’s hand to enter but not big enough for his fist to come back out with the treat in it. If he insisted on trying to hold onto his treat, he would be stuck. The moral is there is a price for greed: the monkey got himself captured because he refused to just let go of the cookie.
My first experience challenging my pilgrimage into understanding work, money, our culture, and wealth was when I was 21 years old. I met a wonderful old man who lived in a cabin and was selling property (I bought 20 acres from him with a handshake), and I found out he was a multi-millionaire. It really wasn’t a cabin. It was a shack. His wife cooked on a wood stove – best apple pie I have ever had! Morris was a man of simple interests and tastes, and happily I can tell you after the death of his wife, he invited Jesus into his life, and the remainder of his life he read only two books – the Bible and a book about Corrie ten Boom. The trappings of our world and culture were of no interest to him. As I dealt with part of his estate years later, I came to begin to understand the seductions and temptations of wealth vs. real happiness. Now 50 years later, the lessons keep coming.
To the ultimate question, posed to Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life,” and with attempts at self-justification, couching it as “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with a parable of the good Samaritan. After a man was robbed and left half dead beside the road, first, two religious leaders passed by ‘on the other side.’ Then a lesser citizen, in the eyes of the Jews – a half breed, a Samaritan – saw the injured man, took pity on him, bandaged his wounds, cared for him, and paid for his convalescence in an inn. So, in answering the question about eternal life, Jesus replied: Luke 10:36-37. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
So where does that leave us in our pilgrimage of comfort, provision and abundance? I believe the answer to reflecting the life given by God – the fullest inheritance – comes from two standards:
First, identifying my neighbor. From this parable we learn that my neighbor is one whose need I see and whose need I can meet. You may see needs but not be able to meet them, or not see needs you otherwise could meet. But if you see a need, and God has given you the means to meet that need – Bingo! – that is your neighbor and your duty is to provide sacrificial care and assistance within your means. For each of us, that is somewhat different. But to none of us do we have the luxury of walking past that injured soul with no assistance.
Second, the ministry of mercy. Matthew 5:7. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. This is the second part of our lesson as we walk through life. Not only am I committed to meeting the needs of those that I see around me, but I am offering this with the mercies and benevolence of God. Note the result: “for they will be shown mercy.” Do you need mercy in your life? I certainly do? One of the ways God is gracious and merciful to me is in the context of my commitment to being merciful to others. This is not a mathematical model. Even the 10% tithe in the Bible (actually in the Old Testament the multiple instructions on giving totaling closer to 28% of income) is supplanted and replaced by the New Testament standard of saving money from our income, setting it aside (I Corinthians 16:2) in a sacrificial manner.
As Philip Yancey has noted, “Money is far more than a question of statistics; it is a god that bids us to worship it. The poor stand as God’s challenge to my faith and love. Will I serve God or serve money? Do you see it? The main benefit of giving is in its effect on the giver. It reminds me of my place on this planet. We all need the grace of God, offered through Jesus, to live with the ambiguities of money and wealth, to accept other Christian’s different viewpoints, to reflect God among us.”
Or in the words of the apostle, expanding the question about eternal life: 1 Corinthians 13:33IfIgiveallIpossesstothepoor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. May God give us all wisdom – the ability to live skillfully – in these challenges and opportunities around us.
– John Moore