Thursday, February 2, 2017

Money, That’s What I Want – Money: Part 2 of 4

Some reader/viewer discretion is advised in some of what follows. There are a few f-bombs. They are not intended to offend but rather to make a particular point. I think with great clarity. Peace. 

The best things in life are free
But you can keep them for the birds and bees
Now give me money
That's what I want
That's what I want, yeah
That's what I want

You're lovin' gives me a thrill
But you're lovin' don't pay my bills
Now give me money
That's what I want
That's what I want, yeah
That's what I want

Money don't get everything it's true
What it don't get, I can't use
Now give me money
That's what I want
That's what I want, yeah
That's what I want, wah

Well now give me money
A lot of money
Wow, yeah, I wanna be free
Oh I want money
That's what I want
That's what I want, well
Now give me money
A lot of money
Wow, yeah, you need money
Now, give me money
That's what I want, yeah
That's what I want

Artist – The Beatles
Song – Money (That’s What I Want)
Album – With the Beatles
Year –
"You get up two and a half million dollars, any asshole in the world knows what to do: you get a house with a 25 year roof, an indestructible Jap-economy shit box, you put the rest into the system at three to five percent to pay your taxes and that's your base, get me? That's your fortress of f-ing solitude. That puts you, for the rest of your life, at a level of f-you. Somebody wants you to do something, f-you. Boss pisses you off, f-you! A wise man's life is based around f-you."
Frank – The Gambler (2014 movie)
Truthfully, something of an “f-you” attitude is buried away within most of us. For some quite deeply. For other just below the surface. Humans have forever sought to be the lords and masters of their own lives. Humanity grabbed the apple in the garden and said, “we’ll be our own gods.” We still do it today in our lust for power and control, in our desire to be "free."
Blessing is God’s desire for humanity – that we’d experience a flourishing, whole and right life. Part one unpacks this here. There is an economic component to blessing, but blessing goes beyond economics. It’s a quality of life, a quality of relationship with God and others, it is wholeness in oneself, non-anxious living, a sound sleep, laughter, the giving and receiving of hospitality, breaking bread, drinking wine, friendship.  
Blessing is also God’s loving initiative in creating the conditions in which this sort of life is possible, a blessed life. God’s ongoing desire and ongoing initiative in the human story is in order that humanity might come into fullness of life, wholeness of life, a blessed life.
God works within history to bring about blessing.
Sometimes though, our lives don’t feel all that blessed. Then what? In God we trust? What do we put our trust in? For many people the temptation is to “hedge-their-bets.”
It’s not only in the horse racing industry that we find people hedging their bets. Common practice in the Ancient Near East of the Old Testament and the Grecco-Roman world of the New Testament was essentially to hedge your bets, to have a little both ways. You’d have your own god or handful of gods; Asherah or Baal, or later Zeus and Apollo, and you’d worship them, you’d sacrifice to them, pray to them, burn incense in their name, carry a little image of them with you to protect you.
But, you’d also hedge your bets. If there were other powerful nations nearby, or powerful people next door, then those nations or people obviously have pretty powerful gods. You’d find out who their gods were – maybe Dagon, Tiamat, Moloch, Ra, Set, Horus, Poseidon, Jupitar or Mars – and you’d make sure you had them in your pocket too. You’d sacrifice to and honour these gods as well.
This was problematic for Jews and Christians. The decree of Yahweh, the creator of the universe, of the heavens and the earth, the God of Israel, Isaac and Jacob was that Yahweh alone was to be worshiped. You weren’t to hedge your bets with God, you were to worship him alone.
Exodus 20:2-6
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.
God alone is the source of life, the one who desires blessing and brings about blessing, the one who leads you out of slavery and into fullness of life – a blessed life. God alone is sovereign in the universe.
The New Testament puts it like this…
Acts 17:24-28
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
It is God alone who sustains the world, who holds things together, who makes life, well - the miracle that life is.
We’re too used to life though. It is too everyday ordinary. We forget that this life, in and of itself, is a miracle; a gift from God. There is nothing ordinary about it.
With life a gift from God, our trust in life, is to be in God alone. We’re not to hedge our bets.
This isn’t always easy. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is continually being rebuked for hedging their bets, for worshiping multiple gods, for making sure they had them all on their side. The bible doesn’t call what Israel is doing “hedging one’s bets” though. The bible refers to Israel’s unfaithfulness as adultery, as fornication, as playing the harlot. Pretty strong language!
In our modern context, not many of us are tempted to cry out to Baal or Jupitar when things around us are a little stormy. Not many of us call on Asherah or Apollo to aid us in our attempts to live the good life. We don’t try to hedge our bets by currying favour with Horus.  
We have a tendency to put our trust in other things, we hedge our bets in other ways. The sweat of our brow, hard work, self-reliance, knuckling down. Our own ability to sort our own life out. Or at the other end of the scale, Lotto, a big win, a quick fix, an rich inheritance coming from Nigeria. We hope we’ll get lucky. Perhaps our trust is in education, science, human evolution, the good will and social conscience of society.
Most commonly, our trust is in money.
Our trust is in our assets, our wealth, our possessions. We trust these things (in case God lets us down) to be the source of the good life, of blessing, of security, of happiness, of contentment, of well being. Our path to freedom. 
Ultimately though, money becomes its own false god. We end up worshiping money, putting our trust in money, and looking to money as the source of true life. We’re still faithful Christians of course, we’re just hedging out bets. That’s wisdom isn’t it? No. The bible calls it playing the harlot.  
Have a look at these passages, try and duck them if you can.
1 Timothy 6:6-10
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people 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 griefs.
James 4:13-16
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 
Hebrew 13:5-6
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
The Lord is your helper. Not money. 
Mostly our issue in regard to the love of money isn’t that we love rolls of cash or huge vaults of gold coins to dive into and swim around in like Scrooge McDuck dies in Duck Tails.
The issue is to do with power and control. Money represents power and control in our world.
If you have money you have options, you have choices, you are empowered, you can look after yourself, you don’t have to rely on anyone, you have freedom, no one can tell you what to do, when to do it, or how to do it. You are self-sufficient! You are in charge! The more money you have the more power and control you have.

There is a scene in the 2014 movie The Gambler that highlights this perfectly. Mark Wahlberg plays Jim Bennet, and English Professor and high-stakes gambler. John Goodman plays Frank, a kind of underworld, gambling kingpin. It is full of f-bombs (so viewer discretion is advised if you chose to watch the clip). Jim has got himself into trouble despite once having been $2.5 million up. Frank can’t believe that Jim - when he was up – didn’t use that money to put him in an “f-you!” place of financial security for the rest of his life. A position where he could live as lord and king of his own life – at the beck and call of no-one. 

Jim: I've been up two and a half million dollars.
Frank: What you got on you?
Jim: Nothing.
Frank: What you put away?
Jim: Nothing.
Frank: You get up two and a half million dollars, any asshole in the world knows what to do: you get a house with a 25 year roof, an indestructible Jap-economy shit box, you put the rest into the system at three to five percent to pay your taxes and that's your base, get me? That's your fortress of f-ing solitude. That puts you, for the rest of your life, at a level of f-you. Somebody wants you to do something, f-you. Boss pisses you off, f-you! Own your house. Have a couple bucks in the bank. Don't drink. That's all I have to say to anybody on any social level. Did your grandfather take risks?
Jim: Yes.
Frank: I guarantee he did it from a position of f-you. A wise man's life is based around f-you. The United States of America is based on f-you. You're a king? You have an army? Greatest navy in the history of the world? F-you!
Now, you might not like the language, it might not be something you’d say, or an attitude that you’d like to admit exists beneath the surface in your life. Maybe you prefer the softer imagery seen in movies where the character wins lotto, walks into the office, tells everyone what he/she really thinks of them and then walks out with a smile on his/her face, (see James McAvoy as Wesley in the 2008 movie Wanted). It’s the same thing though.
And our world craves the idea of finding oneself in such a position. 
Truthfully, something of an “f-you” attituded is buried away within most of us. For some quite deeply. For other just below the surface.
Humans have forever sought to be the lords and masters of their own lives. Humanity grabbed the apple in the garden and said, “we’ll be our own gods.” We still do it today in our lust for power and control, in our desire to be free.
And, more often than not, money is seen as the means by which one will find freedom.
This isn’t the freedom Christ calls us into though.
Following Christ, living the life of a disciple, it isn’t a life of power and control. To follow Christ is to explicitly acknowledge that we are not the lords, kings or masters of our own lives. It is to secede all of our lives and everything in our lives to Christ. We’re not called to be a false god sovereign over our own life.
Take these passages scattered throughout the New Testament…
Your life is not your own, it has been bought with a price.
It is no longer I that lives but Christ that lives in me.
Take up your cross and follow Jesus.
Present your bodies as living sacrifices.
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
For the sake of those with a weaker conscience, don’t always engage in the freedom you have. 
What's hopeless is that too many Christians live life hoping to one day find themselves in an "f-you" position. This is the very antithesis of what it means to be a Christian! (I apologies for the crass terminology, but i think it makes the point with great clarity). For many, serving two masters, God and mammon is too watered down for it to really sink in though.   
Now, granted that we are to steward our lives, we’re left having to negotiate a pretty finely balanced reality. It is a fine line between faithfully stewarding that which God has graced us with and striving for power and control. Just take the following list of words – stewardship, hording, wisdom, fear, sound planning, playing the harlot, hard work, control, faithfulness, slavery, fruitfulness, trusting, false god, resource, freedom, diligence, security, comfort, power, sacrifice, worry, anxiety, trust – it is so easy to get these things mixed up. Rightly sorted one minute, but all mixed up the next. 
It’s a fine line sometimes.
In Lord of the Rings, Frodo, offered Gandalf the ring of power, offered Gandalf power and control. Gandalf replied… Don't... tempt me Frodo! I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand, Frodo. I would use this ring from a desire to do good... But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.”
Money is like that. “Oh this is just a resource, I’m just a steward. I’m just a channel for God, blessed to be a blessing, building my portfolio in order to do some great good in the world.” It is easy to have the best intentions, the desire to do good, but money is sneaky. Your desire is to do good but you can easily end up searching for power and control – failing to see that you are actually now powerless and being controlled.
It sets you work hours. It sets your calendar. It sets your priorities. It sets your values. It sets the yard stick by which you measure your life, your status, your success. It can easily frame your life more than you allow God to frame your life. More than anything frames your life.
So, the good life. A blessed life. A flourishing, whole and right life, it is God’s will for you but it is found in Jesus, not in your bank balance. We discover a blessed life as we follow Jesus, as we walk a long obedience in the right direction, we find ever increasing measures of wholeness. Life still happens of course, following Jesus offers no immunity card to the heartache that life offers at times – though there is always hope.
To think that following Jesus might somehow be a fast track to millionaire is hopelessly misguided. To follow Jesus is to determine that he’ll forever be Lord and King in your life.
The Bible offers no scheme through which to get rich and instead wisdom and guidance to ensure that money is removed from any position as lord in your life.
What is even more mixed up is the way in which we long to be in a position of total control in our lives and hope that the Bible, that following Jesus, that God might help us get to there. Financially or otherwise. To follow Jesus is to submit our lives to his lordship and authority of all things.
Too easily we're deceived into thinking that money will save us and free us in life. We end up chasing, and fantasizing, and organizing our lives in the pursuit of the power and control that money brings. It’s a false god and we’re playing the harlot, we’re unfaithful. God’s will is no longer framing our life. He wants you to have a blessed life but it is found in him, not in money, or anything else.  
Now the challenge in all of this is to discover what it means to live as careful and wise stewards. Money is a front-and-centre reality of life. We’re not to be careless with money, nor pretend it isn’t an important reality.
Next time. 

1 comment:

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