Indicted by scripture

These are not the kind of questions a pastor should be asking. Spiritual leaders are supposed to have worked these things out already. Perhaps it is okay in this case. I’m a part-time local pastor and a student, still. Maybe I don’t have to be a gleaming paragon of Christianity yet.

The readings from the gospel the last couple of weeks have been challenging for me.

I am not rich by the standards of America. But I am comfortable by the standards of nearly all the world. And while I would not consider my diet luxurious, my belly fat would indicate that I eat enough to support more than one starving child.

Of course, I don’t see these things about myself. Not at first. At first, I hear Christians and pastors talking about their sports cars and their expensive vacations and $10,000 wedding dresses and I cluck my tongue at their lack of gospel faithfulness. “They love money too much,” the voice in my head says.

And I feel pretty smug about it all.

Until I slow down long enough to study my own heart.

If I were a bachelor, maybe it would not be the case. I could live without much in the way of material comforts. But the life of a father and husband is not the life of a monk. So, how do you “earn all you can,” in Wesley’s terms without letting that get in the way of God? How do you do you trust enough in God to let go of anxiety about how your children will be taken care of or whether you’ll have somewhere to live that is clean and safe?

These questions remind me how far from Jesus I still am. By God’s grace I hope for wisdom and strength and faith.

Oh wait, that is next week’s gospel reading.


6 thoughts on “Indicted by scripture

  1. I always felt the 2nd and 3rd statements, save and give all you can, were Wesley’s way of keeping money behind God in terms of importance. Of course you have to earn to support a family. The question becomes what is unnecessary spending and what could be given away. Obviously that varies depending on family situation but I think all of us could identify some spending in our lives that could be gifted instead.

    1. Yes. Wesley, of course, has a very high standard for that. You need enough for plain food, simple clothing, a humble abode, education for children, and that is about it. The rest should be devoted to giving all you can.

      Of course, his first rule is to be in debt to know one. Still working on that one, too.

  2. Having read your post a few times…..what came to mind was when Jesus was asked once which commandment of the Law was the greatest. He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30–32; Matthew 22:37–39). What God wants revealed in anything we do is really quite simple: He wants us. All our service for God (including our motives for work and giving) must flow from those two commands to love, or it is not real service; it is fleshly effort and fleshly motives. And Romans 8:8 says that those who are “in the flesh cannot please God.”

    First Peter 1:14–15 says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.”

    I think for most Christians in America we’ve become much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Most of us, like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, try to put the external action before the inner heart change (Luke 11:42). We have created “formulas and traditions” as answers to the questions such as you have posed. We place all the focus on what we do rather than who we are. But, unless LOVE FOR GOD IS OUR MOTIVATION for why we work and how we give……outward displays of goodness only result in pride and legalism. And we know…..neither pleases God. When we surrender ourselves totally to Him, His Holy Spirit empowers us to love God fully and serve Him from the RIGHT MOTIVE. True service and holiness are simply the outworking of the Spirit, the overflowing of a life dedicated to the glory of God. When our focus is on loving God rather than simply serving Him, we end up doing both. If we skip the relationship, our service is of no use and benefits nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1–2).

    The prophet Micah says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

    God’s answer and desire for us concerning this question is really very simple. People complicate things, tacking on rules and man-made traditions and suggestions that ensure frustration and kill the joy in following Christ (2 Corinthians 3:6). What God wants us to do to find the truth to your question is to love Him with all our hearts and let our obedience stem from a heartfelt desire to be pleasing in His sight.

    Honestly…..if we honestly found our way to being honest with ourselves before God…..our giving would look much different……our motivation for working would look much different…..our life would look much different. The ONLY reason we ponder the question you asked in your post is because JUST like the Pharisees……to allow ourselves to hear the truth would require a response we just don’t want to do. A radical transformation of our lives, an actual renewing of our minds…….and most frightening to most of us….an accurate measure of our love for God and for our neighbor.


    1. Duane, thank you for the time and thought you’ve given what I wrote. I’m not sure if I wrote something that made you think I was advocating outward displays over inward change of heart. It is your final point that I am feeling convicted by in my own encounter with Scripture, though.

  3. Actually….I was simply writing the conviction being laid upon my own heart… I too often tend to the outward display…..because its easier. My post was a self portrait more than anything. One that I wanted to confess openly… order that the Holy Spirit might freely work in my own life. Just pressing forward.

    Thanks, John. Since stumbling upon your blog I have been challenged and my spirit has been quickened.

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