Tuesday, April 3

Tied Together

Lesson 24 as I apply the teachings of Ephesians to money:

Paul's been teaching us about spiritual warfare: that God is angry about injustice and oppression in this world, and has put on his armor to fight it. Now that we are the body of Christ, we are to put on that same armor, for we enflesh God in this world.

It's important to point out that Paul's writing to us corporately as the church. It would be dangerous to say we individually enflesh God--Jesus did that, and maybe in a sense we do, but Ephesians is all written in the plural. We together are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.

Paul reemphasizes this communal sense in his armor imagery. For example, in verse 14 the word "belt" and "breastplate" are singular, but the words "you" and "your" are plural in Greek. Read this again and try to picture it in your mind:

Eph. 6:13-14
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.

The picture has to be something like this: a group of people standing together, with one belt around them. That's a funny image. Somehow, truth ties us together. 

Indeed, it's easy to see how lying divides us. On the other hand, I can deeply trust people who whose word I know is good, who have integrity.

The Roman armor Paul refers to also emphasizes the communal nature of spiritual battle: the armor was designed to work for a battalion together, but not for an individual soldier alone. For example, your shield would be almost body-length and would interlock with those of the soldiers on either side of you. If you held it alone it would protect half your body, and the other half would be sticking out on your left. 

But joined together the battalion was able to form a "human tank"--with a wall of shields around the outside and a roof of shields interlocking over the heads of all the soldiers not on the ends of the ranks. They were virtually impenetrable in that way.

Application to finances: 
I am convicted by how crucial community life and oneness in the body is--it is really both our protection (defense) and gives us the ability to stand and hold the enemy under seige (offense).

How does the belt of truth tie us together? I can apply this in a couple ways. Financially, is my life interlinked with my brothers and sisters? 

(1) Jen and I have been working recently to open our finances up to a couple friends who will be able to look at our resources and help us be wise stewards of the wealth of the Kingdom we control. This is hard--it flies in the face of both my own flesh and the ways of the world! But I am more convicted about how important that is.

(2) Being a person of integrity with finances seems deeply critical to unity. Can people trust my word about money? For example, if I owe money to anyone, do I pay it promptly? Or if I won't be able to do so, do I tell them and work out an arrangement?

(3) Being interlinked financially implies that my resources are available for your needs and my needs are open so that you can help me with your resources. Ouch. I don't like either--it feels safer to protect my resources so they'll be here when I and my family need them. And I really struggle with making my needs known to others--I have to swallow my pride. The Lord has been challenging me to do this more with our ministry needs . . . and our personal needs. I really need to choke down my ego's protests and obey my Lord!

Master, help me to be a person of truth and integrity. Help me to be honorable and trustworthy with my finances--and for me, most of all, that's hardest with those who I'm closest to--my wife and close friends. Help me also to die to myself, and to be willing to give open-handedly for today's needs even when I don't see my own provision for tomorrow. And help me to make my own needs known. Lord, I really don't like this. I desperately need your help.

No comments: