I want a career…

You know the moment.  The person across from you has been talking away and the moment is serious.  But your mind is light-years away from their concern.  Rather your mind has been hijacked by another concern.  In fact you showed up for the conversation with another agenda.  And finally the person takes a breath and you cross the threshold and carve out a doorway to your heart.  “I want… Please tell… Do this for me!”

People like me interrupted Jesus. He often used the moment to address the heart concerns of many other people.  In Luke 12 Jesus had been teaching the crowd to avoid hypocrisy by trusting God with their fears, when a man in the crowd revealed his distress.  “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.

Practical Security

An inheritance in Jesus’ day was most often held in the family property or land holdings.  Traditionally the first son would receive two-thirds of the property as his inheritance.  The remaining one third would likely be sold and divided among all else who had a claim to it.  The “wisdom” of this approach developed out of the desire to maintain the ability of at least one member of the family to secure a future, a lifestyle, and an income for the family through the property that remained.  This younger brother’s request was likely driven by the desire to also have some security for the future.

When I poll University students at UBC and in Vancouver as to why they are pursuing school, its most often because they “want a good job” in the future.  They want a career that will bring some sense of security for themselves and for their family.  Although “the career” may be fading as a sure promise of security, it still holds power over many–especially those who are about to graduate.  The stress created moves them into the realm of worry.  Worry habituates us to what Jesus calls greed and a view of life because it rules out God from the equation.  Worry moves us to the center and displaces Christ.

Greed Consumes

A flashback to Wall Street reminds us that our societal message is that greed is good.  However, Jesus tells us “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:13  A career can be a wonderful journey.  However, we can miss the joy of work and the real purpose of life when wealth position, and security become the end-goals.  The story Jesus told of a  successful rich man getting ready to retire, yet dying “prematurely” was meant to confront the prevailing narrative of both brothers and the rich and poor in the crowd.  Life is about more than securing wealth for ourselves; wealth will fail us; life is about being rich toward God.

What happens when greed dominates life?

1.  My wants exceed my needs and become supreme.
2.  I will use people rather than love people.
3.  I will sacrifice the most important for the mundane.
4.  I will have a shrinking faith in God and His providence.
5.  I will create a self-righteousness that allows me to judge others who have less.
6.  I will fail to enjoy giving.
7. I will view hospitality as a chore or a way to ingratiate myself to others.
8. I will be possessed by my possessions.
9. I will be deceived into become small and insignificant rather than great.
10. As greed is a form of violence I will become habituated to injustice.
11. I will be persistently pre-occupied with security and therefore fear-full.

Jesus secures life

Greed is contrary to the knowledge of God.  In fact Jesus’ view of life and career is so different from ours and He knows it.  In light of who God is Jesus then exhorts His disciples:

1.  Not to worry about their life; what they will eat, drink, or wear.

2.  Not to set their hearts on what they will eat, drink, or wear.

3.  To pursue the Kingdom of God.

4.  To live generously–to sell their possessions and give to the poor.

So when thinking about our careers, Jesus would have us re-examine the question of WHO we are living for.  If we are at the centre you can be sure greed will find open space to take root.  If Jesus and His rule and reign is at the centre greed will find little rest.  I pray that we would truly know Jesus.  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”  2 Corinthians 8:9  When Jesus tells us to pursue the Kingdom first, he then reminds us that our loving Heavenly Father has in fact and will continue to “give you the Kingdom.” Luke 12:32  Jesus has secured what a career will never give us.

money sex and power

“God gave us sex, money, and power to steward.  Yes, these are dangerous things to steward and we see the whole world obsessed with them.  But as we fear them, we abdicate our stewardship of them.  And what happens when we who are called to steward abdicate our role?  Hollywood took on the task to steward how the world should view sex;  Wall Street took on the task of how we should steward money; and Washington took over the task of how we should steward power.  These are unconnected governors and they haven’t done the job very well, but how could they if they are disconnected from the Creator of these things?”  p. 103  City Signals, Brad Smith.

The Challenge of Generosity

Here are the notes from Sunday’s message at Cityview in our series, The New Testament Challenge.  The audio will be available later this week.

“Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Luke 6:38

The Big Idea:  Generosity relies on the abundance of God.

1.  Jesus believes you can afford to be generous.
2.  Jesus confronts us with an alternative economy.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.   Matthew 6:19-24  NIV

See Luke 18:18-33

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”    23   When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a   man of great wealth. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!

Common Challenges to Generosity

A.  “I’m not sure I have enough.”

“Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his posses- sions.”  Luke 12:15

Generosity challenges our vision of success.

B.  “I’m in too much debt.”

“The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is servant to the
lender.”  Proverbs 22:7

Generosity challenges our addiction to stuff and lack of restraint.

C.  “I’m not sure the other person deserves it.”

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!   James 2:12-13

Generosity challenges our judgmental nature.

D.  “I’m overwhelmed; there are just too many people with needs.”

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but   has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.   James 2:14-17

Generosity challenges us to act now.

E.  “I don’t want to be part of the problem.”

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”  Galatians 6:1

Generosity challenges us to seek wisdom.

F.  “I didn’t know.”

“They will answer, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you.”  Matthew 25:44

Generosity challenges us to see Jesus.

G.  “I just need a little bit more.”

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with every thing for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.  1 Timothy 6:17-19
Generosity challenges our greed.

4. Beware the temptation to make godliness and generosity a formula for this world’s vision of success.  Beware the temptation to make generosity another system of divine credit.

3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.   1 Timothy 6:3-10

5.  Next Steps

A.  __________  Enter the Kingdom of Jesus and His new economy of the Abundant Life.

B.  __________  Memorize the verse.  “Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”   Luke 6:38
C.  __________  Determine to give from what you have.

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”  Matthew 5:42

D.  ___________________________________________

God’s Economy by Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove

godseconomy1Author Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove challenges people to enjoy the abundant life promised by Jesus Christ.  Jonathon’s book , God’s Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel, is not your typical Health and Wealth Gospel being flogged by many in the Church today.  Rather, it is an attempt to express what Jonathon and others who are living in new monastic communities are experiencing as they take Jesus at His Word.  Jonathon understands Jesus’ call into relationship with Him as a salvation that secures not only forgiveness of sin and eternal life but also a salvation that secures participation in an alternative economy so that the abundant life is lived now.

Each of the “tactics” of the alternative economy presented by Jonathon enliven me and make me nervous.  Fortunately they are not Jonathon’s tactics, but Jesus’ commands to those who follow him.  The alternative economy moves according to these commands:

Tactic 1:  Subversive Service: How God’s Economy Slips In.  “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  Mark 9:35

Tactic 2:  Eternal Investments: How God’s Children Plan Ahead.  “Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.”  Matthew 6:20

Tactic 3:  Economic Friendships: How Real Security Happens.  “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves.”  Luke 16:9

Tactic 4:  Relational Generosity: How We Share Good News.  “Give to the one who asks you.”  Mathew 5:42

Tactic 5: Gracious Politics: How to Live Under Occupation.  “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”  Mark 12:17
I only completed my first reading of Jonathon’s book today.  But, I heartedly recommend God’s Economy to anyone who has handled money, to anyone who has been troubled by their own selfishness and greed, to anyone who wonders if Jesus really means for us to live better on less, and to anyone who is committed to being a Acts 2 community with a group of Christians.  God’s Economy is not really a how-to manual.  It is a confessional work, full of stories and testimonies of others who have entered into a generous and abundant life with Jesus and sought out, sometimes painfully–, how to live by faith in the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.