Holidays and Heritage


lincoln_on_5_usd_billSome years ago I had to take care of making my traditional contribution to our family dinner on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, which first required me to dash to the store for some of the ingredients. Not only did I need to go to the grocery store, I also needed gas since I would be traveling to the other side of LA.

Happily, I had passed a station posting gas at $3.15 a gallon, a dime cheaper than my regular station and about 7 miles closer! So off I went, first to get gas, then to pick up items for my Thanksgiving dish.

Imagine my surprise when I passed the shopping area (they still call them malls, though there is nothing resembling a true mall in most SoCal shopping centers any more), and found the parking lots brimming with cars. On Thanksgiving Day?

This was duplicated at the grocery store. In fact, I haven’t seen that store so busy … ever. On Thanksgiving Day?

Add to this fact, the night before one news broadcast reported shoppers setting up tents in order to be near the front of the line for store openings on “Black Friday.” Rather than being at home for the traditional “family time,” which is what Thanksgiving has become, these shoppers preferred to increase their chance of finding a bargain.

What’s it all mean? Holidays, which nationally stopped being Holy days a long time ago, are even losing their secondary meanings—a break from the normal work day, time with family, opportunity to express thanks or give tokens of love and appreciation. More and more, these “set apart” days are becoming excuses for buying more stuff.

As if the stuff is what we need.

There used to be a phrase used for the older, affluent businessman, the gift for the man who has everything. Thing is, now that term can be adapted to say the gift for the child who has everything, and it describes the kids in most middle class families.

I realized something just recently. On our money here in the US, we have inscribed the words In God We Trust. Whoever made that decision was insightful—and probably informed by Scripture, because the Bible declares no one can serve God and riches both. (Matthew 6:24) You see, what I realized wasn’t that we had the phrase on our coins and bills but rather WHY we have it there, and not on public buildings or statues or even in churches. It is that when we have abundance, often seen in the form of cash, we can so easily trust in the abundance and not in God.

To think, several hundreds of years ago, people setting up our government foresaw the danger of trusting wealth instead of trusting God! What a remarkable heritage! For that I am truly thankful. For what we have become as a nation of users, not so much.

This post is a revised and edited version of one that first appeared here in November 2007.

Published in: on November 28, 2016 at 4:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Accommodation Of Hedonism


From what I read, Christopher Hitchens, the renowned atheist who passed away from cancer a few years ago, would not have shied away from the label hedonist. After all, Wikipedia notes that he referred to himself as an Epicurean.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines hedonism as “the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.”

Not many people would quibble with the idea that it’s right and proper for a sane person to go about finding satisfaction of desires. I mean, are we supposed to look for unhappiness instead? Are we supposed to search out opportunities for slavery or deprivation?

Actually the fact that so few Americans would find fault with a life lived in pursuit of pleasure clarifies the guiding philosophy of our day. We are, quite frankly, hedonists.

I shudder at the thought because I remember studying hedonism in school in connection to ancient Rome where toga-wearing Caesars were fed grapes by scantily-clad slaves, where they would gorge themselves then throw up so they could continue “enjoying” the feast, where orgies were routine. Drunkenness and debauchery seem the most appropriate words to describe what I thought of in conjunction with hedonism.

And now, hedonism is us.

Little did I realize back in those school days that in my lifetime young girls would binge and purge, that drunkenness and debauchery would describe a lot of college life, that “threesomes” would become a TV joke, that “dating” would be replaced by one-night stands and marriage by “relationships.”

As if all this isn’t bad enough, I look at the Church, and I see many professing Christians accommodating hedonism. Some do so in an unapologetic, aggressive way, saying that God has promised His children good gifts so we ought to be holding Him to His word by naming and claiming what we want.

Others are more circumspect, involving themselves in political movements that would ensure a continuation of the privileges of living in a wealthy, capitalistic society.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not an advocate of socialism in any form, but neither do I believe the Church should take up the fight to preserve capitalism. The truth is, one system is built on laziness and the other on greed, so it’s a little like picking your poison.

Except, with our hedonistic beliefs these days, not so many people recognized the poison of greed—unless, of course, it’s corporate greed. Corporate, that great nameless monolith that we can blame for all the ills of society, because goodness knows, Man certainly can’t be to blame.

In a round about way, this brings me back to my beginning—that innocuous definition of hedonism in the dictionary, the one so few people would mind being associated with. It’s hard to call someone greedy when they are simply trying to satisfy their desires, the same as everyone else.

There’s an unspoken understanding that people should play fair in the process, and those who don’t such as Fanny Mae and Bernie Madoff, deserve our wrath. But those racking up millions by playing baseball or basketball in Southern California? Glad to have you here among us. And wouldn’t we like to be just like you!

The problem for the Christian in accommodating this attitude, even in our subtle ways, is that we no longer imagine satisfaction without the pleasures of life, as if somehow God isn’t enough to satisfy us—just He, Himself.

How ironic when Paul says that to live is Christ. In a short passage to the Colossians he refers to knowing Christ as wealth, riches, and treasure. I wonder what we the Church in America would name as our wealth, riches, and treasure.

Published in: on August 12, 2015 at 6:00 pm  Comments (7)  
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Giving And Receiving


offering_plateA friend and I were talking about giving and receiving the other day. Not an exchange of gifts like at Christmas, but generously sharing from the abundance of our wealth with those in need. And those in need receiving what they’ve been given.

I’ll admit, I think I’ve been on the receiving end more often than the giving. When I was a kid, both my parents taught in Christian schools, and we were poor. There were months that the college where my dad was employed, couldn’t make payroll. I don’t know how often this happened, but I remember one occasion when someone left a bag of groceries on our porch.

Later when we moved to California, we children benefited from “hand-me-downs” from some of the other faculty, as I had from my older sister for a number of years.

As an adult, I received support from family and friends during my three-year short term missions experience in Guatemala.

Recently I’ve received money more than once when I needed it for odds and ends like rent and food, the gift of a brand new Kindle from writer friends and a used iBook computer—such valuable tools for a writer. Then there is food. One friend has regularly shared tomatoes from her garden or oranges or left over dishes from church gatherings. My former neighbors used to give me bread and tortillas from his work. Another family gave me plates of food when they didn’t use everything they’d prepared for a church get-together. In the past two weeks two other neighbors have given me plates of food.

And there’s been more. It astounds me a bit because I’m sure I don’t look like I’m starving! These people are sharing out of their abundance and because of their generous spirit. It’s an incredible blessing.

The thing is, that’s the way God wants the Church to work. Paul explained to the body in Corinth:

For this [sharing with others] is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality—at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; as it is written, “HE WHO gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gathered LITTLE HAD NO LACK.” (2 Cor. 8:13-15)

The truly amazing thing is that the person or church group who receives is not, in reality, the one who benefits most. Paul made this clear to the Philippians when he was commending them with sharing with him when he was in need:

Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. (Phil. 4:17)

When Paul reminded the Corinthian believers of their promise to give to the famine-stricken church in Jerusalem, he established some principles of giving:
* it should be bountiful

So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness. Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Cor. 9:5-6)

* it should not be spontaneous but thought out and planned for according to each person’s ability to give
* it should be with a cheerful heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor. 9:7)

Paul’s admonition builds to a crescendo, a tipping point: you promised to give, so plan on giving. Do so lavishly, not because you have to but because you enjoy giving. God will supply for you all you need so you can give to the needs of the saints. But more so, your giving will be an occasion for those believers to give thanks to God. And it will build unity among the Church because those who receive will be filled with warm feelings for those giving and will pray for them.

How cool is that! Receivers actually create an opportunity for givers to be blessed, to profit through God’s rewards and the receivers’ prayers. AND the occasion of receiving heaps thanksgiving on God.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written,
“HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR,
HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER.”
Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. (2 Cor. 9:8-14, emphasis mine)

Both giving and receiving are part of God’s plan. It produces equality but the spiritual benefits and the glory God receives can’t be calculated.

Published in: on October 23, 2014 at 5:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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Collectibles


BabeRuthGoudeycard2I suppose it’s a sign of affluence when a society becomes enamored with collecting things. Not so long ago collecting baseball cards–except they weren’t limited to baseball–became all the rage once again. People who found a stash of old cards in their grandpa’s attic hit pay dirt. But everyone was collecting and trading–NBA cards, NFL, you name it.

My first brush with collectibles came when I was in fifth grade. My brother had a stamp collection, and I wanted one too–except, at the time, all the first class stamps were exactly the same. I had nothing particular to collect. If only I had had a starter set of stamps, I realized some years later, I would have had a little hope and maybe given it a try. I determined then I’d start saving stamps with the idea that someday I could pass them on to someone in need of a starter set of stamps. I still have them, though now stamp collection has morphed into saving unused stamps (though I heard a rumor that the used ones were again coming into collection favor).

I’ve saved some coins too–not many and nothing that shows up as valuable every time I check one of those coin books. But I heard recently that Canada is planning to stop producing one cent coins, maybe nickles too. I wonder if the US will soon follow suit. So perhaps keeping pennies might be a good collectible move.

When my sister and I returned from our year in Africa, stopping in a number of European countries on the way, we decided to do some souvenir collecting. My sister picked silver spoons. I chose key chains. I still have my collection which I’ve added to, but I’ve never figured out how to display them. And would anyone else really care about my key chains?

With the Great Recession, any number of people looked to make money by selling off their collectibles. People who had money were only to eager to buy. Gold, coins, antiques … all looked like a better investment than stocks and bonds, and nobody was saving money–not a big enough return.

I suppose there are two basic reasons people collect. One is the desire to own. Collectibles can be displayed so that others can see them, or they can be privately enjoyed the way old Scrooge McDuck used to enjoy his hoarded millions from time to time by diving into his large vats of cash or playing with it in some other way.

Collectibles also serve as an investment–Grandma’s china or silver or antique lamp might bring in a pretty penny at the next Antique Roadshow.

The thing about collecting is that a person never knows what will or won’t end up being valuable at some point down the road. What looks like junk sold at a yard sale for a small pittance often ends up being a rare item collectors are willing to pay thousands for.

In the US, I think we must be collecting more and more, despite the slow economy, because rent-a-space storage places continue to spring up all over. We can no longer fit all our junk into our garages or sheds, so we rent some place off site to store the overflow.

Collecting is a way to connect to the past. Old letters, photos, even books and music (sheet or vinyl) can become collectibles. They help preserve fond memories and remind us of people we loved.

But at some point, a person and his collectibles will be parted, and all that matters will be those treasures stored up in heaven.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:20-21)

So how do we go about finding heavenly collectibles? Apparently by giving away the earthly ones. Jesus told the rich young ruler who asked him what he lacked to sell his stuff so he’d have treasures in heaven.

Paul mentioned this too in his first letter to Timothy, but he was more expansive:

Instruct them [“those who are rich in this present world”] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. (1 Tim. 6:18-19)

So I wonder what it would look like to become a collector of good works instead of key chains or stamps or baseball cards.

Published in: on February 8, 2013 at 6:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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Treasure


treasureWho wouldn’t love to find a hidden treasure? I grew up reading stories about treasure–buried by pirates or discovered by teenage sleuths. Often a map showed the way.

The Bible has lots to say about treasure and is, in essence, the map showing the way to the treasure of which it speaks. Of course, too many of us misunderstand what “treasure” means in the Biblical context. My pastor gave a helpful definition on Sunday: treasure is whatever we value, prioritize, or order our lives around.

So the man in the parable who found a great pearl, then went and sold all he had to buy the field in which he found it, valued that pearl above all else. The Good Shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep to find the lost lamb, valued the lost above all else. [As an aside, how great a picture is that of God pursuing us lost sinners?]

Jesus gave some clear instruction about our treasure:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21)

Quite apparently, Jesus was contrasting treasure that is perishable with that which is imperishable. Our treasure trove, He says, should not be stuffed with valuables that don’t last but with those that do.

Interestingly, just before Jesus gave this treasure admonition, He taught about “religious activity”–giving to the poor, praying, fasting. In each instance, He says, don’t do what you do to be noticed by others. Then He launches in on a discourse about treasure.

I conclude that the accolades of men should be racked up with perishable treasure. But so should the money kind of treasure. A few verses later, Jesus states clearly, “You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matt. 6:24b).

My guess is, the preoccupation with acquiring treasure–earthly or heavenly–derails us from doing what Jesus commanded toward the end of His sermon. Our preoccupation isn’t to be about us. It’s to be about God and the things of God.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt. 6:33)

Too often we read that verse and immediately ask, What things is Jesus promising us? Well, He isn’t promising us anything. He’s speaking to those who seek first His kingdom and righteousness. By asking, what is Jesus promising, it seems to me we automatically rule ourselves out of the promise.

If we’re seeking after His kingdom and righteousness, we’ll come to that verse and say, How am I to seek after His kingdom and righteousness? What does that look like in my life? Where do I sign up? When can I get started?

The treasure, I suggest, is buried in the answers to those questions.

Published in: on January 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Greed Of Capitalism


One of the early Twentieth Century "muckraker" novels


This topic is too easy — except people have forgotten what the basic assumption of capitalism was. (What are they teaching in schools these days? 😉 )

Once upon a time, capitalism was believed to be all about how to give the best products for the lowest prices. Logically, if a consumer has two products to choose from, one well made but expensive and the other constructed with inferior material in a hasty manner, but inexpensive, the buyer would make a personal choice based on need and resources. But what if a third product came out that was both well made and inexpensive? Would there be any question which item consumers of all stripes would buy? That was capitalism.

Except certain greedy entrepreneurs figured out that they could buy up or force out the competition, then set the price and standard of the goods at whatever level they wanted. Thus, monopolies were born.

Enter government regulation. Citizens put into a situation in which they needed goods or services, such as oil or rail travel, were helpless against a well-funded corporation unless government kept businesses from taking advantage. The Sherman Anti-trust Act were passed to keep in check the greed of the unscrupulous.

And yet, here we are again.

Not so long ago “Ma Bell,” which seemed to handle phone service quite well, without exorbitant rates or poor service, was “broken up” because government declared it to be a monopoly. But I think a good many people would argue that we haven’t changed all that much. Phone service is back in the hands of a few (as opposed to one), so it can be argued that there is competition, but complaints abound regarding quality. And price? Hard to compare to know if prices would have become what they are now since the technology has changed so much. Perhaps those changes would never have occurred. Or perhaps new businesses with the new technology would have naturally become the competition Ma Bell had lacked.

Those who decry government regulation criticize such measures as the Sherman Anti-trust Act.

Alan Greenspan, in his essay entitled Antitrust condemns the Sherman Act as stifling innovation and harming society. “No one will ever know what new products, processes, machines, and cost-saving mergers failed to come into existence, killed by the Sherman Act before they were born. No one can ever compute the price that all of us have paid for that Act which, by inducing less effective use of capital, has kept our standard of living lower than would otherwise have been possible.” (“Sherman Antitrust Act“)

So where is greed in all this? I suggest that Mr. Greenspan’s position ignores one important Biblical truth, in the same way that socialism ignores one important Biblical command: Man is sinful. Left to our own devices, we will act selfishly, we will take advantage of others, we will grab what we can at the expense of others.

If anyone is in doubt this is true, he need only to think about some of the common tag lines that have run through our culture: “It’s not personal; it’s just business” or “Just win, baby,” or “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

Man is sinful. Why then are we surprised when sinful man acts sinfully? We shouldn’t be surprised; we should expect it.

As I understand what the Bible says about the function of government, it has the job of punishing wrong doers. I conclude, therefore, that all regulation isn’t bad. Unlike Mr. Greenspan, I tend to think monopolies would resist change — sort of like oil companies resisting alternative energy sources, sort of like Ma Bell might have resisted cell phone companies. Why would a monopoly welcome competition? These companies, remember, are run by sinners. They are not generally looking to see ways that they can cut the costs for consumers.

What’s the point of all this? Primarily, I think Christians need to beware falling in love with a human system — economic or political. God did not mandate democracy or capitalism. He did give us principles to follow such as working for our daily food and paying a laborer his due. Jesus told a parable that seems to encourage investment (though his purpose was clearly spiritual). The Mosaic laws, on the other hand, forbade usury, even as they provided for the poor by allowing them to go into fields and “glean” after the workers had harvested a crop — sort of a work for welfare system. There were other provisions in place to insure that poverty would not be a problem, yet when Jesus was teaching, He said, You will have the poor with you always.

Can we fix government, or greedy corporations? Sure. One heart at a time. Are we Christians praying for our President (not against him)? Are we praying for our Senators and our Congressmen? How about the corporations we think are so greedy — has anyone thought to look up the name of the CEO and start praying for him to meet the Savior? That’s what all sinners need. All of us.

Published in: on January 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm  Comments (2)  
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Recovery


Photo by Andrew Brown


As I drove home from doing an errand (taking my bills to the post office), I passed a man holding a sign: Hungry. Can you help? And yet last night on the news I heard for the second or third evening in a row that indicators point to a recovering economy here in the US.

What does economic recovery from the Great Recession look like? According to that latest news report, indicator of an improved economy is that consumer debt shot up in the month of November, more than it had in three years.

Yea! We’ve taken on more debt. What good news!

Really?

I understand the thinking. The real issue is consumer confidence. After all, if you take on a car payment, you must be reasonably sure that you’ll have the resources in six months, twelve months, twenty-four months to still be making those payments. So debt equals confidence.

But isn’t confidence a pretty shaky thing to stake economic recovery on? For one, confidence can be misplaced. All those loans that led to home foreclosures proved that point, didn’t it? Were all those folks who took out loans when they didn’t have the income to pay them back, confident that the banks would gladly adjust their payments instead of foreclosing? Or were they thinking they’d all get pay raises that would match their increased payments? Or perhaps they were confident they would win the lottery.

My guess is, however, they weren’t confident at all. They were ignorant. They wanted what they wanted and they didn’t think through what they were getting themselves into. Instead, they listened to the sales pitch that made the offer so enticing. They’d always wanted to own their own home. And the interest that first year would be so low. How could anybody pass up such an offer?

I’ve been there, though the stakes weren’t so high. Still, I listened to the sales pitch. I even “researched” and thought I was getting a worthwhile product, at a bargain that I couldn’t pass up. Except, when I went to finalize the deal, new terms were thrown at me and I had to decide at that minute or lose the opportunity. So I went for it. And the “good deal” ended up being a bad deal and the product ended up being nothing like what I’d expected. I’d been suckered.

So I know it can happen.

What I find troubling is that our economy has apparently arrived at a place where the financial experts think it’s healthy when we owe more than we can pay. It’s good for the banks, I guess.

That fact alone ought to make all us Main Streeters rise up and say, No more debt! How many times must the banks have their way with our money before we figure out we should do something different?

Not only did the banks approve unsustainable loans, they then got into the business of gambling over whether or not people would default. No wonder they were slow to re-finance.

The thing is, this whole debt culture obfuscates the teaching of Scripture about money and where our confidence should lie. Paul teaches that we should be content whether we have plenty or are in want. But our culture tells us contentment can only be had after we’ve purchased the Next Great Thing. Of course, in two months there will be a new Next Great Thing, so we are almost immediately thrust back into discontentment — unless we borrow and buy.

Scripture also says we are to let our requests be known to God, that we are to trust Him to add food and clothing while we are to seek His kingdom and His righteous. Our culture says food and clothing isn’t enough, that we deserve More. If that’s true, but God hasn’t provided More, then I must figure out a way to provide it myself.

I’ve been there, too. It’s a trap.

I don’t know how to fix the economy, clearly. It’s a knotty problem with ever widening global implications. But at some point, I believe Christians need to decide whose system we’re going to operate under — the debt-inducing one of our culture that depends on consumer confidence in hoped-for future income or the contentment-inducing one of Scripture that depends on believer confidence in the promises of God and in His character.

As for me and my house, there’s only one way that makes sense. 😉

Published in: on January 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Accommodation Of Hedonism


From what I read, Christopher Hitchens, the renowned atheist who recently passed away from cancer, would not have shied away from the label hedonist. After all, Wikipedia notes that he referred to himself as an Epicurean.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines hedonism as “the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.”

Not many people would quibble with the idea that it’s right and proper for a sane person to go about finding satisfaction of desires. I mean, are we supposed to look for unhappiness instead? Are we supposed to search out opportunities for slavery or deprivation?

Actually the fact that so few Americans would find fault with a life lived in pursuit of pleasure clarifies the guiding philosophy of our day. We are, quite frankly, hedonists.

I shudder at the thought because I remember studying hedonism in school in connection to ancient Rome where toga-wearing Caesars were fed grapes by scantily-clad slaves, where they would gorge themselves then throw up so they could continue “enjoying” the feast, where orgies were routine. Drunkenness and debauchery seem the most appropriate words to describe what I thought of in conjunction with hedonism.

And now, hedonism is us.

Little did I realize back in those school days that in my lifetime young girls would binge and purge, that drunkenness and debauchery would describe a lot of college life, that “threesomes” would become a TV joke, that “dating” would be replaced by one-night stands and marriage by “relationships.”

As if all this isn’t bad enough, I look at the Church, and I see many professing Christians accommodating hedonism. Some do so in an unapologetic, aggressive way, saying that God has promised His children good gifts so we ought to be holding Him to His word by naming and claiming what we want.

Others are more circumspect, involving themselves in political movements that would ensure a continuation of the privileges of living in a wealthy, capitalistic society.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not an advocate of socialism in any form, but neither do I believe the Church should take up the fight to preserve capitalism. The truth is, one system is built on laziness and the other on greed, so it’s a little like picking your poison.

Except, with our hedonistic beliefs these days, not so many people recognized the poison of greed — unless, of course, it’s corporate greed. Corporate, that great nameless monolith that we can blame for all the ills of society, because goodness knows, Man certainly can’t be to blame.

In a round about way, this brings me back to my beginning — that innocuous definition of hedonism in the dictionary, the one so few people would mind being associated with. It’s hard to call someone greedy when they are simply trying to satisfy their desires, the same as everyone else.

There’s an unspoken understanding that people should play fair in the process, and those who don’t such as Fanny Mae and Bernie Madoff, deserve our wrath. But those racking up millions by playing baseball or basketball in Southern California? Glad to have you here among us. And wouldn’t we like to be just like you!

The problem for the Christian in accommodating this attitude, even in our subtle ways, is that we no longer imagine satisfaction without the pleasures of life, as if somehow God isn’t enough to satisfy us — just He, Himself.

How ironic when Paul says that to live is Christ. In a short passage to the Colossians he refers to knowing Christ as wealth, riches, and treasure. I wonder what we the Church in America would name as our wealth, riches, and treasure.

Published in: on January 5, 2012 at 6:51 pm  Comments (9)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Lost Mission by Athol Dickson, Day 2


Yesterday was a great start for the CSFF Blog Tour featuring Lost Mission by Athol Dickson. In discussing the obedience theme touched on in the book, I brushed against the second major theme, so I think I’ll go ahead and begin discussion of it today, saving my review for tomorrow.

The theme I’m referring to is wealth and the Christian. Athol explored the subject from two angles—Christians who had an abundance and Christians in need.

One group, the wealthy gringos living in Blanco Beach, had cushy church facilities and were blind to the needs of the poor. As a body, they funded projects, but as individuals they didn’t consider how their decisions affected actual people. They seemed callous to others, not loving. The church leaders operated their organization more like a business than a ministry, and they personally lived opulent lives while nearby children died for lack of medicine.

At best, the people in this group were clueless Christians. At worst, they were nominal Christians living Pharisaical lives and corrupting the true church in the process.

In the other group were the poor Mexican workers and their self-sacrificing white young pastor. These were people living in Wilson City who worked hard, sent money back to Mexico, lived simply, and suffered great need. They prayed for what they lacked, but God didn’t intervene to change their circumstances. So their pastor did. In the face of his people’s suffering, and the unseemly wealth of the uncaring, close-fisted Christians in a position to help, he determined to play Robin Hood.

Within the pages of Lost Mission we find Christians loving money, using money to accomplish an evil purpose, stealing money to accomplish a greater good, giving money away generously, investing money, and withholding money.

One of the things I like about this book is that no one—author or character—says, Pastor, you should stop stealing. Or, Wealthy tycoon, you should love your neighbor and give to the poor. Rather, through the actions of the characters and the events of the story, change occurs and the characters themselves come to realize their weaknesses, sins, mistakes.

The reader, meanwhile, is left to make of it all what he wishes. As I often say here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, we need to read with discernment. A book like Lost Mission requires that of us.

Possibly some cheered when Tucker, the young pastor, took the money to buy medicine for the critically ill child. Certainly any caring person would feel for the mother, the friend, the pastor who stood by helplessly as the little girl grew worse and worse. But discernment for the Christian means to look into God’s Word and see what our Heavenly Father says about life. Are the characters reflecting Biblical standards? Do they come to agree with the Bible at some point?

The Bible actually has a lot to say about the money issue. Here are a few key principles:

  • serving God and money at the same time is impossible
  • generous giving isn’t about how much but how self-sacrificially a person gives (see the story about the widow’s mite)
  • the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil
  • God provides abundantly beyond what we ask or think
  • the goal should be contentment, whether in plenty or in want
  • giving should be cheerful
  • stealing is against God’s law
  • giving is a function of loving our neighbor (see the story of the Good Samaritan)
  • storing up treasure in heaven is profitable
  • storing up treasure on earth may lead to losing it (James 5:1)
  • building a bigger barn to keep all our stuff is foolish

I’m sure there are others, but this sampling gives us enough to hold up as a standard by which to measure the actions and attitudes of the characters in Lost Mission.

For those of you who have read the book, here’s a question:

And now, take a look at yesterday’s post and check out what the other bloggers on the tour are saying about *Lost Mission.

*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.

Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 10:29 am  Comments (6)  
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