Are We Living for Christ or Cash? Musings Over Possession, Power, and Popularity in the Church

   

We are so steeped in this life. It is what we invest in. It is what consumes our thoughts. And though I would love to say that Christ and the movement of the Holy Spirit is actually what I am most concerned about, it is not. And I am not alone.

The race to accumulate and to be comfortable, to enjoy the flesh, is our number one concern.

A terrible thought seized me yesterday as I drove to class. What if Christ is weeping as he looks down at his church, those who bear his name in our cities? I drove through middle-class homes with two cars in each driveway and no doubt filled to the brim with HD TVs, computers, and just stuff. I know mine is. And I want more.

Does the true disciple of Christ who actually understands the gospel message collect such things? A difficult question since I myself fall into those who don’t understand—or worse, don’t care.

Christ constantly charged his followers to abandon possession, popularity, and family responsibility to follow him. To the rich man, he asked to sell all he had. To his disciples he said, if you are of me, they will treat you like they do me—with hate. To the man who wanted to care for his elderly father and bury him in a proper and dignified way, Christ said “let the dead bury the dead.” What searing words. They are radical.

It is without question, Christ consistently taught the abandonment of living for the moment, this world, and the collection of stuff. It was a steep price to follow Christ. The cost was to be taken seriously.

Christ’s followers absolutely understood this. No better image do we have than Paul the Apostle. He, a well to do man who had possession, position, and power, abandoned everything to truly and rightly follow Christ. To lay it all out for the gospel—no cost was to high. No sacrifice was to great.

Even the average, nameless faces of the Church sold properties and possession to give for the cause of Christ.

There must be a disconnect between what these people believed and what the church in america believes today. Something is different. The average church gets a minuscule amount of money—2 to 3% of what normally should be 10% and more of people’s incomes! Six churches within my city alone have closed over the last year or two due to a lack of attendance and funds. And those are only the ones of which I am aware. What is happening in our cities!? What is happening in mine!?

If Paul were here, now, in our communities, would he take up a teaching job, buy a three or four bedroom house, find a nice wife, have babies, buy a couple of cars, get some stuff to enjoy?

I think the answer is decidedly no.

There is, of course, the perspective that God blessed us with this life and this stuff which we surround ourselves with. Why not enjoy it? Indeed. That has been my perspective. I am not saying that stuff is evil. I am saying that it is a distraction, one which we would do well to be rid of.

Each one of us must examine our hearts and lives and ask, am I living and basing my life on the collection and enjoyment of stuff or for the service and advancement of the name of Christ.

I am fearful that the church, both you and I, will stand on that day before Christ and held to account for every dollar spent and every action taken. Did we live for our pleasure or his? Did we look to what would please God or please us?

Our stuff and our ambitions for praise and honor are a great cloud of stuff which surrounds and blinds us from what is truly important—the glory and presence of God in us and in our communities. May God brush them aside so that we can see more clearly.

Hear the words of the Psalmist.

Do not be afraid when a man gets rich,
when the wealth of his house increases.

For when he dies, he will take nothing at all;
his wealth will not follow him down.

Though he praises himself during his lifetime—
and people praise you when you do well for yourself  —

he will go to the generation of his fathers;
they will never see the light.

A man with valuable possessions
but without understanding
is like the animals that perish.

Psalms 49:16-20

No amount of money is too much, no item is too precious, no relationship so important, or amount of time too great to sacrifice and serve Christ through our local churches to preach the gospel and make disciples. May we all learn how to truly live this way.

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  • Thechapmans2009

    Convicting..

  • Eric

    Interesting article. Do you think that there is a place for those who have pursued material possessions in God’s plan? I imagine that much more can be done if we have more money to do it with.

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