Who Wants to be a Millionaire is back, now with special celebrity guests and Jimmy Kimmel as host. People jump, scream, laugh and cry scratching their way for the opportunity to get the big prize. We are truly in love with these kinds of shows not to mention the reality shows that offer a million-dollar prize, recording contracts, and movie deals. To get to the top, to be called a multi-millionaire, is the obsession of so many people. ABBA was correct when they sang, “Money, money, money, must be funny in the rich man’s world money, money, money, always sunny, In the rich man’s world…All the things I could do if I had a little money, It’s a rich man’s world.” This is how so many of us think. If we only had some more money things would be a little sunnier, a lot less stressful and just a little bit better. The truth is, I also think like this.
Jesus, the master teacher, understood how much power, money, and possessions have over us. This is why money was one of the primary topics he engaged, and Jesus talked more about money/possessions than any other singular topic. In one of his parables, Jesus told a story about one man’s insatiable hunger for more. This is how Eugene Peterson puts this parable in the Message:
Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight, you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”
In Luke 12, Jesus is very clear about how foolish this man truly was to consume his life with the filling up of stuff and not with the things of God. This is the only parable in all of Jesus’ teaching that has God directly talking to a character in the story and calling him a fool because of how he lived. Those are sharp words from the creator of all things. The question then for all of us is what are we filling our life up with? And how can we combat the clear and present desire to always fill ourselves up with stuff and money? The first question requires of us to be brutally honest with ourselves.
Here are some helpful personal questions to evaluate if we are filling up ourselves with self focused stuff: Am I always concerned about losing what I have? Have I sacrificed my integrity to make more money or get a promotion? If I were to ask my spouse or closest friend what I love the most would they say my job (I hope you do like your vocation, but why?)? Do I purchase items that I don’t need and don’t have money for? Am I so in debt that I can’t even fathom the concept of giving generously? Do I have to build a bigger house, and rent a bigger storage unit to hold all my stuff? When I lay in bed at night am I always thinking about money and possessions? Do I give obediently to my church home? Am I growing in financial generosity? Let us assume that each of us discovers that we struggle in this area (basically almost all of us do, so let’s just be honest). How can I inoculate myself against the temptations of constantly wanting more? This is the hard part. It’s like a physician that tells you your blood pressure is dangerously high and you need to take medication, change your diet, and start exercising. You know how important it is but wow, how hard those things are to do.
Dealing appropriately with our money and possessions is challenging, but we must gain a Christ like perspective. As with all aspects of the journey of following Jesus, there is no 3-step strategy that will magically make us Christ like. Yet there are disciplines, relationships and learnings that can help us on the journey to being more like Christ. We all need our minds reprogrammed so start by reading and meditating on these passages of scripture:
Malachi 3:6-12, Luke 19:1-10, Matthew 19:16-30, Luke 3:7-14, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 12:13-21, Romans 14:12, Matthew 6:19-24.
In addition to these scriptures read the small and inexpensive book by Randy Alcorn called The Treasure Principle. Along with reprogramming our mind we need to be people of action. Choose to be a person of simplicity. Begin to give away those things that are just cluttering garages, storage units, basements, and attics to people who can really use it. This is not about making money on eBay. Just give it away to those in need (The Salvation Army, Kids Closet, etc.). Begin to give financially to God’s church. We are to give joyfully and generously to the church that we call home. If you are not giving, start giving. And if you are giving, consider increasing what you give. Get financial counseling (sign up for a Grow Group focused on finances). Sometimes we are so strapped by debt or financial worry and we end up feeling paralyzed (call us at CrossWay and we will connect you to a godly individual with financial acumen). Ask for an accountability person in this area. Open your finances to a trusted Christian friend and have them open their finances to you. Share what you are giving to the church, to missions, to compassion ministries and other ministries that God impresses on you to give. Many people have accountability relationships for sexual temptation, anger issues, and chemical dependency, so why not in the area of our finances?
As Alcorn writes, “Five minutes after we die we’ll understand what’s most important and what’s been most important all along. May what will be most important to us five minutes after we die become most important to us now.”