“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Where is Your Treasure?

This weekend we came to the place in Matthew where Jesus speaks of laying up treasure (Matthew 6). I find this interesting, that during the season of Thanksgiving we came across a passage regarding fasting, and now during a time often marked by rampant consumerism, we come to this passage:

Matthew 6:19 - 34 -- Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

During this time of year I am often discouraged by the constant complaints of Christians who, (it seems to me), want to force EVERYONE to say "Merry Christmas". All we have to do is reflect on the last few years of nonsense by 'Christians' to boycott, Wal*Mart (Not that I disagree with boycotting Wal*Mart, but for entirely different reasons!), Target, or any other store that has offended their sensibilities!

These self-same Christians are often eager participants in the consumerist orgies that take place around our country every year in the last quarter. I assume these folks want someone to say "Merry Christmas" to them, so they will feel 'comfortable', and remember why they are standing in line for 12 hours to buy a new Wii.

I am often amazed at how Christians eagerly participate in the ritual shopping sprees, taking joy in them, and talking about them at church as if they were something to be proud of. People who would not come to a prayer meeting because it is too late, or too early, are found standing in line at Mervyns at 4am in order to pick up the latest and greatest junk that will be outdated by January. People who could not give any money at church last week to help feed some of the community's needy, now shell out $$$$$, going into credit card debt, in order to appease the children they have weaned on materialism.

Yes, this is a time of year when I really struggle with the Christian community -- it seems that they want their cake and eat it too -- "You will say Merry Christmas to me while I sate my materialistic soul on junk, junk, junk". Here are a few stats that I found to be interesting:

(1) U.S. Evangelical Assets: Somewhere between 2 - 6 trillion dollars in assets are in the hands of American evangelicals, not including the value of their primary homes.

(2) U.S. Evangelical Income: In 2000, American evangelicals collectively made $2.66 trillion in income.

(3) Worldwide Income: Worldwide, Christians collectively have personal income totaling $6.8 trillion a year.

(4) Decline in Giving: Church members gave $2.8 million less to their churches in 2004 than in 2003.

(5) Then and Now: Giving by North American churchgoers was higher during the Great Depression (3.3 percent of per capita income in 1933) than it was after a half-century of unprecedented prosperity (2.5 percent in 2004).

(6) Sunday Offerings: The average amount of money given by a full or confirmed member of a U.S. Christian church in 2004 was $691.93. This comes to an average of $13.31 per week.

(7) Tithing: 9% of American “born-again” adults tithed in 2004. This means that the vast majority of God’s people are not financially supporting his work.

(8) Already Enough Wealth: Eighty percent of the world’s evangelical wealth is in North America—and the total represents way more than enough to fund the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

(9) Even a Little More Giving: There would have been an additional $164 billion available for the work of the church in 2004 had American church members given at least 10 percent of their incomes, instead of the 2.5 percent that was actually given.

You can find much more information at Generosity Giving where I gathered some of these statistics.

Now, you can rationalize about your shopping, as I can, but truth be told, we must ask ourselves a tough questions -- "Where are we storing our treasures up?"

Are we more concerned with building the Kingdom of God, or building a pool in our backyard? The world watches and waits...

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