Wednesday, January 24

Overwhelming Wealth

Here's lesson #7 on finances:
Passage: Eph. 3:1-13
1 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-- 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God's grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. 13 I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.

Lessons (especially related to God & Money):
At first blush this section looks unrelated to finances, but as I read it I am struck by the vast grace of the gospel and God's commission to Paul. The Kingdom overwhelms anything else which claims to have value--it's like a silver dollar in the Grand Canyon. While the coin has some value and worth, you would never trade it--really, you would not even pay attention to it while standing breathless overlooking the awe-inspiring vista of beauty.
In the same way it strikes me that the news of the boundless riches of Christ and the wisdom of God in its rich variety fill Paul's mind, soul, and imagination to the degree that he forgets all about personal wealth. His concerns about finances and daily need get swallowed up: all his resources, passion, and energy go towards this great commission.
Of course, we know that Paul paid attention to money in at least 4 contexts:
(1) tentmaking, in order to provide the gospel free of charge and not to be a burden on anyone;
(2) collecting money to send to the church in Jerusalem suffering under famine and persecution;
(3) often urging the communities to support various workers financially
(4) teaching people to stop worshipping money, to begin working hard and become liberal givers.
Each of these four underscores the same point: for Paul all monetary thoughts were subsumed completely to the overarching and overwhelming wealth of the Kingdom of God.
Principles: My money should serve the greater wealth of God's Kingdom. Deal with money thoughtfully, but always relate it to the big picture of that mountain of wealth.
How are you going to apply today's lesson to your life practically? Think of every financial transaction in light of the Kingdom of God. I have been doing better in this: today I bought a suit, last week a cell phone charger, and went grocery shopping several times, and each time I did have the thought of how that related to God's Kingdom and if God was pleased with the expenditure, but always after the fact. I think I shop along the lines of principles I set long ago to try to live within a Kingdom framework--no debt, simplicity rather than extravagance and comfort, need vs. want, durability for wise stewardship rather than the cheapest option, and so on. So in a deep sense my spending is already subordinated to the Kingdom of God.
Yet I would like to think consciously, before I make my purchase, about it (1) in light of the great treasure of the Kingdom and (2) submitting it to Jesus for approval. How can I do these practically?
(1) Years of training have inculcated in me a practice of rigorous evaluation and research before I buy any item--from a Palm Pilot or camera to a can of tomato sauce. I do comparison shopping for both price and quality before making my purchases, as well as a serious check of whether we need it or merely want it. I will work to include a third value in that process: price, quality, need, and the Kingdom of God.
(2) Jen and I have an agreement to check any purchase of a certain amount with each other (excepting grocery shopping and general houseware needs, like a Target or Costco run). When I do that I will also try to remember to submit it to Jesus for his approval, too. This is not a new practice for me, but I would like to do it consciously with every purchase so that it becomes a much more relational and interactive habit.


Alan Fadling said...


These biblical reflections are rich. Thank you for sharing them. You will be in our hearts next week as the Journey reconvenes up the hill at Forest Home.



Eternal Learner said...

Thanks, Alan!