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Money Matters - Part II:

"The World Gets in the Way" by Bob Weber - Elder and Evangelist, Chatham Church of Christ

Victory is a common theme in the New Testament; it implies a struggle in which something must be defeated. This struggle is commonly expressed in the New Testament as an adversarial relationship pitting the way of Christ against the way of the world. The Apostle Paul tells his readers in Rome not to be conformed to the ways of the world but rather to be transformed to the will of God (Romans 12:2). The Apostle Peter writes that corruption because of sinful desires affects the way the world operates (2 Peter 1:4), and the Apostle John concludes one of his epistles by reminding his readers that the world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). You get the picture of the fight announcer, “And in this corner, weighing in at…” as these inspired writers recognize the opponents in a boxing match. In the New Testament there are two distinct adversaries, two ways of doing things: the way of the world and the way of God. Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of money.

Accumulation or Abundance? - We saw in the previous article that Jesus states, “…one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15).” The voices that encourage us to accumulate more and more represent a point of view contrary to the Christian way of life. Although Christianity teaches that having nice things does not in itself constitute sinful behavior, the underlying assumption about those things means a great deal. What the world does is to take things that God has created for our comfort and enjoyment and turn them into idols, things we devote our entire lives to. Accumulation becomes our abundant life, and though many people celebrate amassing their stockpiles, such a lifestyle empties our souls of true abundance.

From a marketing standpoint advertisers don’t just sell products anymore; they project an image. Products must meet the demands of supplying not only a usable and well made product but also must portray an image associated with good health, good looks, good feelings, attraction to the opposite sex, and an overall fulfillment to our dreams of a happy life. Because the competition has heated up in the economic arena, products become associated with what we value, how the product will improve our overall feeling about life, and why it will do more than merely satisfy our need for a new car, bath soap, after shave, etc. The product becomes a means of giving meaning to life; purchasing it allegedly becomes the path to abundant living.

Two Worlds - The Bible contrasts the two worlds. One derives meaning from the power to purchase and own things, and one derives meaning from possessing qualities that cannot be purchased. Desire and pride characterize one way of thinking, the world. In 1 John 2:15-17 the Bible describes the predominant way of the world. The worldly mind focuses on cravings and lust for things and on boasting about possessions and accomplishments. The inevitable result of this way is that all the desires and things of this world ultimately pass away. The way of God recognizes the limited shelf life of material things. John presents a more hopeful, lasting way: “…whoever does the will of God lives forever.” This way of life refuses to give in to the desires, lusts, and boastings of things that perish. The final outcome of the way of the world and the way of God dramatizes the importance of making the right choice. One way perishes; one way lives on.

The world is also characterized by its inability to recognize the wisdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 people miss the wisdom of God because they interpret life with a godless—what today we might even call secular—point of view. It leaves God out of the picture. People who think in worldly terms do not comprehend the wisdom of God. They look for unspiritual means to provide direction and substance to their lives, but a view of reality not founded on the wisdom of God is doomed from the start. If we look for direction by looking at a faulty map we are certain to end up lost. Such is the case with those who view their lives through the lens of worldly wisdom.

Victory - These two worlds exist side by side, but only one ultimately triumphs. Two competing kingdoms assume two competing kings, and that never works. Yet the New Testament exhibits a victorious attitude over the competition. Jesus told his disciples that because he overcame the world, they too would overcome it. In spite of the conflict in the Book of Revelation drawn with visions of dragons and beasts, Christians come out on top. Triumph sounds a note of joy and success; victory sings a song of celebration. Victory comes when we refuse to make an idol out of wealth and the accumulation of possessions.

The first step in the victory is recognizing that neutrality is not an option. Jesus recognized this when he said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the won and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).” The nature of these competing masters is that either we possess our possessions or they possess us. Those who choose the abundant life over the accumulation of wealth are on the road to certain victory.

NEXT: Money Matters III: "Economics of the Tenth Commandment"

 

(c) Copyright 2007, Chatham Church of Christ