My Mum would always encourage me to endeavour and hard work by telling me that “money does not grow on trees.” Could it be that she was wrong? Those trees seem to be full on money at the moment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is harvesting from them with alacrity and bringing in an unprecedented crop. Relentlessly (see here) he is showing forth a wonderful crop.
But what if he is wrong? What if that money tree is after all an imaginary tree. That being so then surely there are going to be some major consequences down the track. The fundamental principle is that debt must be paid back or the loan is called in and bankruptcy inevitably follows. Servicing all these debts will mean the levying of significant taxes. And what if the taxes do not flow-in? Anyway no doubt the Chancellor and his mandarins know far better than me.
Three things present themselves to me, though:
- The danger of just living in the present. I do not want to downplay the predicament that many find themselves in at present through furloughing and inability to work. And the Chancellor should be lauded for his attempts to assist those in need. But it very much does seem to be a jam today approach. Indulging ourselves now without thought of the payback in the future is a dangerous approach.
- The impact on a future generation. It is an altruistic heart that wants the best for others and that includes the generation to follow. To enjoy blessings now, but to prejudice the welfare of the next generation through doing so, is not loving. A major tax burden must be the lot of the next generation from the present approach. Church leaders also, need to always have this in mind in their approach to church life. We need always be raising up the next generation for ministry so as to bless the oncoming church.
- Example. There is a significant issue to observe here and that is that of example. The government, with their largesse, are showing that you can borrow to your hearts content and it will all work out OK in the end. But will it? For the average punter it never does. So a terrible example is being set. In an already debt ridden economy an example is being set which is unhealthy. An example that if followed by many individuals will lead them to disaster. This reminds us that we all set an example for others. If we live in debt and encourage others to do the same it is most unsatisfactory. Lives may temporally be enhanced, but in the end there is the misery of bankruptcy etc.
Oh and to return to my Mum, she also would say “cut your garment according to your cloth”. The clear implication is that if you don’t, then you will end up with no garment! We need to be warned.
In Matthew 13:22 we read The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. These words are part of our Savior’s explanation of the parable of the sower (or soils). In reading the passage this morning, I was particularly struck by the phrase “the deceitfulness of wealth”. In our Lord’s explanation he is indicating that the good Word of God does not go on to bear fruit in the lives of certain people because, for one reason, it is choked by the deceitfulness of riches.
To be deceitful is to make false claims that deny reality. So how are riches deceitful?
- Riches offer us a happy contented life. However, they so often deliver stressful lives as we have so much property to care for and bank accounts to manage.
- Wealth offers happiness. However, the wealthiest people are often the most miserable people.
- Riches offer freedom to do what I wnat. However, health, relationships and force of circumstances mitigate against this.
- Wealth offers permanent blessings all “on tap” as I use my card and drain from my abundant bank account. However, eternity dawns and we find the riches of this world are useless to bring salvation to the soul.
- Wealth says that I can buy my way to perfect relationships. The wretchedness of my heart wrecks such dreams as so easily I sin against my nearest and dearest.
- Riches offer to be a friend to help me become what I should be. Alas in the end they become a tyrannical god and kill my soul in this world and the next.
Whether we have lots of money or little money we can still be duped into thinking that money will buy me anything. Money is a great friend, but a terrible master.
“You need to cut your garment according to your cloth” is some wisdom emanating from my mother and no doubt, form other people of wisdom over teh years. It indicates how we need to financially operate with our means. The whole premise is that you should not go into debt.
This thinking is foreign to how many operate nowadays. To use the imagery from my mother’s aphorism, they cut their garment and then are not too bothered whether there is enough cloth to make the garment. This approach was foreign to our forebears; being in debt was a thing frowned upon.
Why have things changed? I suggest three things:-
- “I deserve as much as everyone else has and so I will have it whatever the debt I end up in.” This is a prevalent attitude
- There has been the encouragement to borrow. So much of the financial industry operates on the basis of getting people to borrow from them.
- People, think that there will always be a bail out. Even if things turn bad “the nanny state” will always come to the rescue.
The total debt debt, on credit cards specifically, reached £70.35bn by the end of January 2018, which works out to £2,586 per household. (see here for details).
Will this all change? Will there be a reduction in these monstrous figures? I am not sure. As long as the system exists to perpetuate it; it will continue.
As Christians we need to be careful to properly arrange our finances. The word of Paul to the Romans is apposite here: Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Rom 13:7-8). And I say to you and myself; think about that Word form the Lord in arranging your finances.
Well it’s Black Friday today. Apparently the term originates with the Philadelphia police who derisively called it so because of the heavy traffic caused by shoppers flocking to the shops on the day after “Thanksgiving”. But in a sense it really is “Black Friday”.
I came across earlier a friend on Facebook who is celebrating “Buy Nothing Day” presumably as a degree of protest against the indulgence and excess of this day.
It is appropriately “Black Friday” because it reveals a lot which is bad about our culture:
- My happiness is in what I have.
- Pleasure-seeking through purchasing and possessions
- I must make the right purchases so I can present before others to the best effect. Then people will be impressed
- So much effort given to purchasing a commodity that is at best helpful and certainly not essential to my existence.
- The publicity it is given show that materiel pursuits are higher profile than spiritual pursuits.
I know that many can get a good bargain and save money on something that they appropriately require. That is all well and good. But it is what it reveals about the driving forces of our society that is the concern.
Christians, who are imbibing this atmosphere so easily succumb and go with the flow and evaluate what are we actually doing and what is motivating us. I conclude with the words of Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6-10
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 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.
We breathe in the air of secular humanism constantly in the West. It is the dominating philosophy and we as Christians are relentlessly exposed to its insidious teachings. Continually, we are told that God either does not exist or if He does He is not relevant. The message is that it is material goods and possessions which are vital in determining our welfare.
In such an atmosphere, all issues are viewed from a resource perspective. So governments are continually responding to matters by ‘throwing money’ at them. Politicians prove their success in dealing with a situation by how much resource has been put into a situation.
Having imbibed this culture we so easily follow suit in how we deal with matters in church. Accordingly, we look to bring blessing through bringing resources. Now, this of course has its place. Taking food resources to an impoverished family is going to bring blessing.
However, the reality is that the core problems of humanity are not to do with resources but to do with relationship. We were created to live in relationship with God and with other human beings. So much of the collapse of our society is to do with relationship breakdown. This may be on a macro scale when many people believe themselves disenfranchised from achieving in society. Or at a micro level with marriage and families in breakdown.
Resources do not rectify these breakdowns. There needs to be something deeper. It is only the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that can ultimately touch these issues and bring healing. When people are returning to a relationship with God then relationships with others start to heal.
……..and what do you really gain? History is littered with accounts of how the wealthiest people have been the most miserable. And here is a further one about the founder of Minecraft. What are we to say to this? Surely it is a reminder that the world offers so much and yet delivers so little. The world says “obsess with me and you will be fulfilled”. The reality is to the contrary. The best the world offers is generally considered to be associated with having lots of money. But the accumulation of monies still leads to the search for contentment being elusive. Money itself never brings satisfaction.
John sums up the character of the world when he says in 1 John 2:17a The world and its desires pass away. There is this fading character to all that the world offers. It is as if none of it ends up satisfying the inner needs of man.
Moreover there is an eternal perspective which needs to be considered. The interaction between the rich man’s perspectives and the Lord’s perspectives in Luke 12:13-21 is sobering. The rich man concentrated on his barns, but lost His soul. Consider these profound words from vv18-20 as the rich man reasons out his situation.
‘Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’” ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
Who will we obsess over God or money?
One of the lessons I am slow to learn in life is that, as a general rule, if something is cheap then it is cheap. And thereby it can be said that bargains are rare.
How many times have I bought something and it has looked good, and it has been a at a good price, and then after a while it is soon proving the adage that “if it is cheap then it is cheap”.
On the other hand we painted much of our house in 2008 with Dulux paint after receiving advice. Earlier in the week I was touching up the paintwork. It struck me how well the paint retained its colour on the wall and in the container where it had been stored for a long period. You pay extra for good quality, but you get good quality.
So Philip you must learn that a little more expenditure at the beginning can lead to the saving of much expenditure in the end. And therein is the wise use of the resources that the Lord has kindly given to us.