This morning I have been eye-ing on the passage Matthew 13 when Jesus uses parables to describe the Kingdom...
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
A long time ago, I had one of those conversations with a Christian friend that I absolutely loathe. I hated it because it made me feel like I was a Christian police. And if taken the wrong way, friendship would be broken and it made me looked like a legalist or some high nose phraisees.
My friend was mentioning he was having money troubles. I, in return, shared about how God provided when I needed money to fix my teeth from my bike accidents a few years ago. Then a while later, he was talking about getting a new car.
I tried my best to hold my teeth. Let him live the way he live. After all, money is a private matter. Speaking about money with another Christian, from my experience, almost always end up being unpleasant. Not sure what we do with the teachings of Jesus when he talks about money. But more often than not, the response is typically, 'well, I need to live right? I need money. Yes, we all worship one God and believed in Jesus. When it comes to living, I live the life that I want. God gives me the freedom to do that.'
Or it is the, 'isn't being a Christian all about attitude? I need to take a vacation right? I deserve it after all the hard work I've been doing (insert..for the church etc.)'
Or 'really, how practical is it to live according to what Jesus talked about selling everything and follow Him? Obviously Jesus didn't mean to do it practically. It is up to me to decide what to do with the money and I will spend it accordingly.'
So I had a minor confrontation with my friend. I shared how I recall his financial situation before and how he was contemplating of his new purchases. I offered ways that it is more feasible to buy a used car or something of a lower class. It was practical..but no glitz.
After much talk, he asked me how should one live according to Jesus...
This is when I started to compare lifestyle living and Kingdom living...
Everyone lives according to how much they earn.
For example, say I am an accountant and I make 65 k a year. I will go on vacation based on 65 k. I will buy a car based on how much I can afford with 65 k. So on and so fourth. If I make more money, say 100 k (rich accountant!), then I will live according to that. Get a bigger house, a fancier car, a nicer vacation to fit into the 100 k lifestyle.
Kingdom living is wholly different. Kingdom living is according to the Kingdom that Jesus declared (for more on Kingdom living....can read the Beatitudes, Matthew 4-7). Kingdom living focuses on Jesus as the Lord. We live according to His guidance. He, through the Holy Spirit, might call us to go love a bunch of people we don't really care. We give up our lifestyle and live according to what He has given us. And (in most cases in North America where we are much wealthier), we invest in His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33).
I pushed a bit further. I shared the fact that we live in Canada, we are wealthier than 80% of the world. This means, we are rich (even at times we don't look or feel like it). What did Jesus command the rich to do? To give freely to those who need it.
So if I need to get a car, I try hard to save as much as I can to get a second grade car. With the money I saved up, I invest in the Kingdom. Or, every year I go on vacation. Let say I work for 10 years and I went on ten vacations. Is it really give up that much to spend one vacation instead on going to an orphanage?
I will be honest. Looking at the way we, Christians, spend our money, I can say maybe the cost is too high to give up. [Where we spend our money is where our heart is.]
Some believe that to be a good stewards of God's resources, money, we should spend it wisely and make good decisions. Too true. But how often I see we use the money for our own needs neglecting our neighbors. I can go a bit further and go back to Genesis 12:2 when God commands Abraham to be a blessings to others. It's tough to be a blessing to other nations when I am happy when I save money from a good sales and others are still starving.
Today at Sunday School I was sharing how much joy it is to give because I see God's Kingdom at work. And God is using me for His purposes. I think, if someone doesn't get the Kingdom, to them giving is a chore. This is old covenant, performance-based thinking. I give in order to please God because this is what the rule say.
To be filled with the Spirit, to be reborn again, it is a joy to give. To give is a privilege because after seeing what Jesus had done for me, what more do I value? Salvation is so precious. I will sell everything for it. Just as Jesus' parable, those who 'sees' the Kingdom, they will be so joyful that they are willing to give up everything for it.
If there is any encouragement, it is from reading Francis Chan's The Forgetten God.
Things like this happen all the time. As a church, we tend to do this to peoplewho are passionate and bold. We mellow them out. Institutionalize them. Deadem them to the work that the Spirit is doing in them.
Instead of encouraging people who are doing courageous things for God and joining them in their discernment process of how to be faithful to what God is calling them to, we tell them to slow down and back off. Instead of being astonished at believers' courage, frequently (and unfortunately) I am astonished at believers' timidity and lack of boldness. What a contrast to the biblical model we are given!
A few months ago I was speaking at a summer camp, and I was speaking to one of the organizations there that sponsors children. This volunteer told me about a sixteen-year-old girl there at t he camp who sponsors fourteen children, on her own. I was astonished by this....She told me that she works year-round and she works three jobs in the summertime to pay for the child support. While other teenagers are saving for a car, she's saving lives! Instead of spending her hard-earned money on herself and her future, she gives it to these fourteen children because she believes God loves them just as much as He loves her.
People told us that we were foolish and irresponsible with the gifts God gave us. They said we should at least put some away in case of an emergency. My response back was, "Is it not an emergency that children in Cambodia and Thailand and even the United States are being raped every single day of their lives? Why is that not an emergency?" I think the church often inadvenrtently teaches that the sex-slave trade is not an emergency. And this, I believe, is sin. Is an emergency only an emergency if it affects me and my immediately family?
What I am saying, though, is that instead of thinking and telling people they are crazy when they feel like the Spirit is leading them into something that doesn't necessarily make sense to us, we should join them in the discernment process. Instead of discouraging people, we should pray for more insight and boldness. Instead of deadening people to the Spirit's leading with our words and our actions, we should celebrate and join the Spirit's movement in and through them!