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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

Learning To Live With Less?!?
Date Posted: September 17, 2004

"Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life? …obey the commandments. ….I have. What still do I lack?"

"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

"When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth."

"I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. …it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, 'Who then can be saved?'"

"… all things are possible. (with God)… when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, …everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first (or think they are because of wealth) will be last, and many who are last (given that title by those who have more) will be first." Matthew 19:16-30

Why? What's the problem with having money – even being rich? Nothing in itself. It's what happens to our attitudes that is cause for God's concern. We don't have to be poor to be Christians but money often gets in the way of our being good Christians. We begin to live for money instead of using it to make not only our lives better, but seeking opportunities to help others. We accumulate wealth and want to keep it, spending inordinate amounts of time trying to come up with ways to save and hoard. We become too busy to do the things God calls us to. Our loyalties become divided, our attention averted, time reduced and responsibility ignored. That's why Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6:24 The issue is who or what has mastery over your life; what is motivating you to do the things you do? There is nothing inherently wrong with acquiring money; the Bible does advise however, "Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint." Proverbs 23:4 Because, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many regrets." 1 Timothy 6:9,10

Does this mean I should never try to earn more, to better my situation and circumstances? No; yet Paul does say that a rule he established in the early church was for people to retain the position in life they had when called to faith in Christ. 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 Not because money – or the pursuit of a better standing in life were evil but because it is so easy for us to forget the price paid for our salvation, becoming consumed in the effort to acquire more. "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men." (or others' expectations) "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from your empty way of life…, but with the precious blood of Christ." 1 Corinthians 7:23 and 1 Peter 1:18,19

In this day and age, with down-sizing prevalent and a counter-cultural push to re-evaluate what we have and how we use it, Christians should be at the fore-front in dealing with this issue regardless whether living with less is forced on us or embraced for a cause. Scripture deals explicitly with our relationships to people and things of the world. "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of the eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:15,16 And, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:37,38 This not being a call to disrespect or refuse affection and provision to those placed in our intimate circle of relationships but a call to love God more – to take up the cross of service to God seriously, giving him first place in our life.

All these cautionary words stem from a simple truth. "…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21 "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (or our actions come) Matthew 12:34 God has always looked to our hearts, to that which motivates us to be and do what we do. "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." I Sam. 16:7 And sometimes our hearts are purer and our responses better when we obey the admonition of Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have,…" Why? Because we learn to depend on God's provision rather than on career opportunities and our stock portfolio. "…because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" Giving us the confidence to say. "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid." Hebrews 13:5,6 Our love for God is often expressed in obedience to his will while obedience to his will is often expressed in service to others. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? …let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:16-18 (See James 2:14-18 as well.)

Often, even if we have enough – we want more. When things are going well we feel we are doing good – when things go bad – God has let us down, seeking him only when our finances are wanting or things aren't as we would have them be. The problem is almost always us – we are unproductive when we allow, "…the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things (to) come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful." Mark 4:19 Jesus says, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And goes on to illustrate his point. "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, "What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops." Then he said, "This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods! And I'll say to myself: You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.'" (rather than using his excess to bless those with nothing) "But God said to him 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." Luke 12:13-21

Learning to live with less. The story of the rich young man was never meant to rule out the salvation of the rich, nor was this young man told to give up his wealth as a precondition of acceptance by Christ; who none-the-less knew the importance wealth and position held in his heart. It is a call to put Christ first; to be willing to give up if and when we need to; to be conscious of the needs of others and ready, even eager to serve God by giving of ourselves. He wasn't willing. Yet the problem wasn't with his wealth but with his heart, his attitude toward money. "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who gladly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." 1 Timothy 6:17-19

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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