Quick Quiz: Is Money too important to you?

This is not a scientific test in any way. Just some thoughtful questions designed to show potential signs that money may have too much influence in your heart.

Is money too important to you?
1)ENVY- Do you find yourself strongly resenting people who have more than you?
2) ANXIETY- Do you find yourself worrying about money a lot? Do you fear that your wealth is disappearing?
3)BIAS- Do you have a bias toward people with money? Do you prefer them as friends?
4)SPENDER OR MISER- Do you habitually turn to shopping and purchasing to make you feel better?  Are you a penny pincher who won’t buy anything?
5) GOALS – What are your main goals for the future of your children: to be successful, educated, comfortable, financially secure, to make enough money so they don’t have to worry about money like you do?

Wealth creates a privacy that impedes fellowship, an independence that impedes prayer, and creative distractions that impede ministry.

When Jesus said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God,” he was talking to you and me. The Rich, Young Ruler didn’t necessarily think he was RICH and neither do we even though we live in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet and most of us have an annual household income well above the U.S. average of $48,000.
It is very difficult for those who have a lot to feel impoverished and needy, hence the difficulty for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus is saying that it is hard to make spiritual progress when you are rich and comfortable.

Wealth creates a privacy that impedes fellowship, an independence that impedes prayer, and creative distractions that impede ministry. Wealth brings burden of excessive business and major projects, the burden of caring for numerous properties and possessions which leads to a greater anxiety about maintaining wealth. How can you not have your Heart set on earth when you’re so invested in the earth?

Today’s Rich Young Ruler is Middle Class, Middle Age & Middle Management

A summary of his resume would state: “I’ve done it right my whole life.” He went to the right school and came from the right family. He was a good man, successful, a rule-follower, a Conservative, didn’t buy into global warming,  complained about high taxes, desired smaller government and was responsible with his money. He loved his wife, disciplined his children and schooled them the right way!

He lived a model life, was an inspiring moral hero who was respected and even admired  by his peers. His strong sense of duty and obligation drove him to always do the right thing. He worked hard and was successful, he earned his own way, was financially independent and provided well for His family.

He had more rooms in his house than people who lived in it. Each year he disposed of clothes that he didn’t want, didn’t need or didn’t fit. Sometimes he hosted sales in front of his home to clean out the excess. He didn’t have to work every week of the year to make ends meet so he was able to take family vacations. He had more than one mode of reliable transportation. Today’s income didn’t need to be spent immediately on today’s needs. He was able to give some away and save some for future needs like advanced education for his children or simply preparing for the day when his earning potential would diminish.

But he didn’t consider himself wealthy. After all, he knew lots of people who made more money than he did. Many of his peers had nicer forms of transportation and larger homes. Luke described him as a Ruler and Rich, Matthew called him Young and Rich while Mark simply referred to him as a Rich Man. We know him as the Rich Young Ruler but we know him better today as Middle Class, Middle Age and Middle Management.

Faith is Acting upon what we Know

There certainly is an informational side to faith. For us to trust Jesus, we must have good theology which informs us about who Jesus is. Our faith must be fed with solid biblical and theological content. But when Jesus challenges his closest followers with the charge, “Do you STILL have no faith,” He is saying something more about faith.

Jesus had given them a plethora of evidence about his power, sovereignty, love and goodness. They had received lots of information, were taught good theology and feasted daily on His Words yet after everything they had been through, after all they had seen and after all of their needs had been met, in a moment of panic they did NOT believe. Jesus said, “Do you still not trust me?”

Certainly faith is always IN something or someone and to have faith you must learn about and become acquainted with someone or something. Part of faith is looking at the evidence and thinking it through with your mind. But moreover faith involves a commitment, a clinging to the information. When Jesus says “have you still no faith?,” he’s assuming that they already HAVE something they should be EXERCISING. He’s saying, “it’s time to act like you believe your theology.”  He doesn’t say, “oh you poor men, you can’t help yourselves” but instead rebukes them and exhorts them to faith. He says to them and to us, “I’ve been giving you faith and all it needs but you are not exercising it.” This is because faith is not a feeling or an impulse and it does not automatically result from having, hearing or studying good theology. Faith is acting upon what we know.

Faith comes from thinking about the evidence and facts and telling yourself the truth and then LIVING AS THOUGH ALL OF IT IS TRUE! When confronted with challenging circumstances we must remember Who He is and What He has promised and then act consistently upon what we know and believe.

Charging Jesus with a Felony

Sometimes in the midst of the panic of our adverse circumstances, we have a habit of charging Jesus with a felony against us. It’s as if the Lord has perpetrated wickedness against us or has failed to care for us because He has allowed certain storms to rage in our lives. The disciples did this in the midst of the storm (Mark 4) when they aroused a sleeping Jesus with the charge,  “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” “You obviously don’t love us anymore because you’re not doing what we think you ought to do right now, Jesus.” “You must want us to die because we know you can do anything you want to do and you are not intervening in a timely manner.”

If he would have remained in His state of slumber for a while longer they likely would have begun to call on other gods to stop the storm and save them. Often when God does not deliver us immediately from our difficulty, we tend to turn to our own functional gods to help us cope with the storm.

Paul David Tripp says this, “So, if God is not on site, delivering what we want when we want it, our confidence in Him flags, and we tend to give our hearts to something else. One of the hardest things for sinners to do is wait.”

So, instead of casting our eyes on the storms in our lives to see if God loves us or not, we must cast our eyes to the greatest storm that Jesus ever stood up to, the storm of God’s Holy Wrath that was due to us for our sin. Jesus absorbed that wrath and paid our penalty because of LOVE. Then we can hang on to His Love until the storm passes.

Jesus got sleepy

I like the fact that Jesus got sleepy because I get tired and sleepy too. In Mark 4 we encounter Jesus after a busy day of ministry asleep on a pillow in a boat in the midst of a furious storm. How exhausted would you have to be to sleep in the stern of a boat on a cushion during a furious storm? He was drained, he was spent. He was really tired. Ministry had exhausted him. He gives and gives and gives and now he’s tired and the squall on the sea does not awaken Him.

I like the fact that Jesus became tired and sleepy because it means He doesn’t have unrealistic expectations for how much I can produce or how much work I can do. It means that I have a sympathetic High Priest who understands my weaknesses because He took on human flesh with all its frailties and limits. Does Christ understand that you get tired? He does!  Does he understand that there needs to be an end to the day and that work needs to cease? He does!  Here we encounter a Jesus with an exhaustible body just like yours.

A Thundering Voice!

There’s something about a commanding voice that inspires, motivates, commands attention and scares you almost to death all at the same time. Thoughts and pictures of Jesus from my childhood and even more recent movies about Him cast Jesus as soft-spoken, meek, mild and almost effeminate. How different is the Jesus of the New Testament who “got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” The Thunder of His Voice possessed such command and authority that the waters and waves instantly became Mega Calm.

Recently I was looking at Psalm 29 which describes “the voice of the LORD.”
The voice of the LORD is over the waters;  the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;  the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

When we get a sense of the Thundering Voice of Christ to speak into the storm, still the wind and waves and calm them at his pleasure, we are deeply humbled. When His Awesome Power over the wonders of nauture are celebrated we ought to be aroused to give Him Glory for He asserts His empire and majesty with His voice. Be amazed, for the One with the Thundering Voice, created and redeemed you with just a word. He is also the same One who stands up into your storm and (on His schedule) says HUSH!

Limitless Love

Do you place a cap on your love and affection for Christ? Still thinking about the woman in Mark 14 who removed the cap and emptied her jar of expensive ointment-like perfume on Jesus‘ head. This pint of pure nard would likely have been a valuable family heirloom passed down like jewelry for generations. Normally, such an object would have been precious and prized and sold only in a time of great need. The text tells us that her possession could have been sold for a year’s wages.

She did this for the sheer beauty of WHO HE IS and WHAT HE HAS DONE. Her love, affection and worship for Him seemed to be LIMITLESS even in the face of the criticism of the religious right who charged her with being excessive in her practice. So I ask, where do you place limits on your devotion to Christ? Are you afraid of being too excessive? Do you think that when you give of yourself or your possessions that you will somehow be short-changed?

Our affection should rival the woman in the passage because she had an experiential understanding of the magnitude of His worth and His love for her. It was like she was singing along with the hymn writer of When I survey the Wondrous Cross:

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small;                           (if everything belonged to me and I gave it all to Him, it wouldn’t be near enough)
Love so amazing so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

What’s in it for me?

Want to know something that I dislike about myself?  I dislike the internal selfish desire that is always asking, “What’s in it for me?”  But I dislike that desire more in you than I do in me.  Sadly, we probably won’t get away from the quest of personal gain in this lifetime. An old pastor, Henry A. Boardman once wrote,  “I am deeply convinced that my best duties have fallen far short of the perfection of thy law and been so riddled with sin in their performance that I might justly be condemned for the most fervent prayer I ever made.”  So even in our worship, we are prone to ask, “What’s in it for me?”

So thinking back to the woman in Mark 14 whose costly act upset the stewardship crowd: Was she beyond the selfish question, “What’s in it for me?” Like the rest of us, she was also asking the self-motivated question. But what was she trying to GET? What did she WANT?  She wanted HIM! Which makes me ask these questions: Are we following Jesus to get blessings? Or are we following Jesus to get Him? Do we worship instrumentally or do we worship aesthetically? Is Jesus a means to an end? Or is He THE END?

Is He Worth it?

I find myself regularly doing cost-benefit analysis and asking the question, “Is it worth it?” Should I invest my time, my money, my effort, my gift or my talents?

The woman in Mark 14 who poured her precious life savings onto The Savior did a pretty radical thing which was not comprehended by the accountants in the room.
Why would she do such a thing? If you asked her, do you know what she would say, “Because He was worth it!”
She took everything she had and poured it upon on the object of her affection, Christ!

The best way for me to understand the affection of this woman’s heart is to think about what goes through a 25-year-old pre-employed man’s mind when he proposes to the woman of his dreams and makes an insane purchase of a $4000 engagement ring taking on consumer debt at 18% or more. Why would he do such a thing? Ask him and he would say, “Because She’s Worth it!  I can’t spend enough to equal my love for her.”

When we become captured by the beauty of Christ, we cease to do cost-benefit analysis bean counting. We simply give Him everything. Why? Because He’s Worth it!