For a long time, I’d automatically associated “rich Christian” with “false gospel.” But recently, I’ve come to discover that there are two types of “rich Christians” in America.
One one hand, I’ve encountered those who take great pride in their material things. They claim God has blessed them and their expensive cars, homes and clothing are a sign of that “blessing.” Many times, this mindset goes hand in hand with pressure from church leadership to tithe and give regularly to avoid a curse in ones finances. It’s a very shallow way to view God because it insists that “if I do _____, then God will do _____” and vice versa.
A quick perusal of Matthew 5-7 tells us that this is anything but the case. When Jesus called someone “blessed,” it actually meant “to be envied.” But isn’t it interesting how so many of us in America automatically associate “blessing” with “material things?” There are many warnings throughout the New Testament. 2 Peter 2 and 1 Timothy 4 are just a couple resources on that topic.
On the other hand, I’ve encountered those who are wealthy, yet humble. They don’t played games with God or try to be someone they are not. They are just wealthy… for whatever reason. And with those riches, they make big things happen; they make the light of God shine in the world around them through their sincere generosity.
From what I’ve experienced, there doesn’t seem to be any manipulation from the church leadership with believers of this nature. They give freely as the Holy Spirit leads them, and God moves through that unselfishness. It reminds me a lot of the accounts of the church in Acts 2.
There’s something so graceful and effortless about a church environment like this:
-It allows the needs of the people as a whole to get met.
-Intimate worship happens between everyone involved.
-Those involved grow closer to God and are able to experience His unbiased love.
It’s the kind of church that most of us, maybe even all of us, so desperately want to be a part of.
Are you becoming frustrated with the state of the American Church like I have been from time to time? Be encouraged and know that the same quality of Christian community that existed in New Testament times is not just a thing of the past. It really does exist… and may even be right around the corner from where you live.
I have a confession to make: I used to have a Jesus-y personalized license plate on my car. I know, I know… and, not only that, but I also had a Christian t-shirt and more inspirational Facebook posts up my sleeve than a celebrity pastor.
Now, am I saying that there is something wrong with any of those things? I don’t know. But I do think we should be careful about assuming they are all OK. In my own life, I relied on those things to establish who I was in the world. I wanted to be known as a Christian, but at what expense? Was it actually causing non-Christians to distance themselves from me?
When it comes to the things that display our faith, our 1st “go-to” should never be impressive, well-thought out words or Christian gimmicks. The first tool in our toolbox should always be LOVE. And God’s love can simply not be displayed by anything we wear or say. It takes effort. It takes us choosing to set our desires aside for the sake others. Love is an everyday, moment-by-moment decision to do what most people will not because they are either too busy or too comfortable in their own skin.
Jesus didn’t have an issue with loving others. Not at all! And you know what? He actually had more people following Him around than any of us could tolerate. If I was in that situation, I probably would have asked the 12 Disciples to throw on some black t-shirts that said SECURITY on them so none of the annoying people got too close. But Jesus found a way to welcome them all; people who were just like you and me in God’s eyes (minus the t-shirts and the bumper stickers, of course… )
Let’s pretend like you and I are really good friends. It’s July 4th and a bunch of us guys are at your house eating dinner, or maybe you are at mine. Maybe we just polished off some delicious grilled beef and enjoyed a cold beverage. Perhaps, we’re getting ready to turn on the game and take a killer nap or it could be that we’re gonna strike up a game of tackle football or start chasing each other around the yard with some of those Roman Candles or something really, really macho like that.
When out of the blue, I ask everyone to circle up in the living room. I break out a bowl of water and some soap and ask you if I could wash your feet. Seriously, what would be your reflex reaction to that?
Would you begin backing up…trying to be as nice as possible trying to make things just a little less awkward than I’ve just made them? Maybe you’d just be like, “Dude, no thanks I’m good.” Perhaps you’d freak out and begin throwing stuff at me? Start mocking me? Heck, I know what I’d do if you tried to do that to me and, to be honest, I hope no one ever tries to do that to me. After all, I’m pretty weird about my feet even though, I gotta say, they’re not bad looking feet. But anyway…
In our culture, that would be really, really strange, right? I mean, dudes don’t wash each other’s feet. Some of us (certainly not me) pay people to give us a pedicure, but that’s acceptable since it’s a service that we are paying someone for.
I was recently reading a story of Jesus where He freaked the disciples by randomly offering to wash their feet. Not just friends, mind you…people who were following Him everywhere He went because they thought He was God.
Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime…
Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron.
The first thing we should take note of here is that the washing of feet was, to people in this culture, an act of hospitality. When one of your friends would come to your house, you’d wash their feet because, well, they were really dirty and funky. You wanted to be hospitable and make sure they felt welcome in their home.
When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, “Master, you wash my feet?”
Jesus answered, ”You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”
Peter persisted, “You’re not going to wash my feet—ever!”
Jesus said, ”If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.”
“Master!” said Peter. “Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!”
Jesus said, ”If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene. So now you’re clean…” After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.
See, this isn’t about dirty feet anyway. It’s about, “holiness, not hygiene…”
Then he said, ”Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.”
So, what is this “pattern” that Jesus was laying down for us? 1 word. Humility.
Humility doesn’t come easy for me. Does it you? But it’s (and make no mistake about this) a MANDATORY part of our Christian walk. It separates the men from the boys because, while it’s easy for us to say, “I’m a Christian, but…” it’s not so easy to stop, consider the situation you are in, and choose to serve others.
The 4th of July is a great day to practice this. If you are already having guests over, do a little extra than what you were planning to do. I mean, I don’t really want to leave that last t-bone for someone else even though I’m the host and even though they insisted I keep it. Do it anyway! Wrap that bad boy up and send it home with someone else! Don’t take “no” for an answer…because you know they really want that last t-bone.
If you just happen to be at someone else’s place, take out the trash. Amuse their kids for 30 minutes so the hosting couple can relax for a bit. I know you don’t like their kids that much, but that’s OK. Maybe you would if you actually spent some time with them and realized that you’re the one with all the problems, not them.
All I’m trying to say is this: On the 4th, just step outside of your normal routine just a little bit more than usual. Because, it is in these random acts of humility that Jesus Himself promised that we’d, “live a blessed life.”
Happy 4th everyone.
Matthew 5:21 & 22 says:” You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hellof fire.”
Okay, so I realize that talking about hellfire and damnation doesn’t necessarily get this devotional off on the most pleasant of starts. So let me make a bit of a clarification. My focus here is to simply point out that anger towards people, resulting in insults and name-calling, is not encouraged in the Bible. Cool?
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me just dive right into a growing trend I’ve noticed and perhaps you have also. This phenomenon stems from our present-day culture. It has become increasingly intertwined with our everyday Christian culture and causes us to be conformed to the age in which we live. No doubt that social networking, video-sharing sites and blogs have made it even easier for Christians to be guilty of rudely calling out the foolishness of others.
Now I understand that there are times where we, as Christians, will need to approach a dear brother or sister in the Lord about sin. In one of my previous devotionals, “Be Yourself,” I actually touched on how Matthew 18:15-17 instructs us on the proper way to confront sin. It starts with approaching the person face-to-face… not knocking them off their feet with a nasty tweet.
If you don’t quite know what I’m talking about, just pull up any video on the web about Christianity or Jesus and you’ll find just as many nasty critiques from Christians as you will from atheists and evolutionists. On Twitter and Facebook, you might have noticed how bold and brash some Christians can be in their convictions. Even the meekest of saints can become someone totally different online because, well, they just can! What’s to stop them? This power to comment with little or no consequence is not only troubling to see and harmful to that person’s character, but it’s contaminating our witness as Christians in today’s world.
Who’s getting your goat these days? Is there someone in your life that doesn’t seem to be making good decisions? A close friend or someone you’ve separated yourself from because of their lifestyle? Maybe someone in the public eye like, I don’t know… a famous pastor perhaps? The President of the United States?
Whatever the case, John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." So, the next time you get ready to speak your mind to the masses, stop and think about the overall outcome. Once you’ve had a chance to cool your jets, consider how you can address this issue in love.
You’ll probably be really glad you did and may actually have a positive impact on the situation.
For Further Reading