Monthly Archives: June 2014

Money, Eternity, and Childlike Faith; Luke 18:17

childrenThis week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 18:17. In this verse, and the one that follows it (Luke 18:17 – 25), Jesus is giving clues about how to receive the Kingdom of God, and how money can be an obstacle.

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

In the couple of verses that precede this one; Luke 18:15-16, we see a beautiful description of Jesus calling the children to him. Jesus places his hands on them, probably as he is praying for their lives. And it seems as if he is just truly enjoying their company, specifically focused on them and not the entire crowd, as is often the case. Jesus went out of his way, even to the disappointment of the apostles, to call the children to him.

Did Jesus say this because the children were from good families, who had high social standing and wealth? Some people believe these are signs of God’s blessing and approval. However, children and women in that day in age, had little to no possessions or legal authority, to impress Jesus with. A Rich Ruler wondered about these things, as reported in Luke 18:18-25. He observed what Jesus did with the children, and what he said about them. I believe this poked his conscience. The man took stock of his own perfect performance in living a sinless life in verse 19, and voiced it. He wondered, comparing his life to that of child, what could he possibly do now, to gain eternal life? He’d done it all; perfect behavior, good career, wealth, and lots of responsibilities, but what must he do now to be like the child sitting before him in Jesus’ lap?

The children on the other hand clung to Jesus, and were not holding on to the their parents or toys; just enamored to be in his presence. Jesus tells the Rich Ruler, in Luke 18:22 that he should get rid of it all and cling to him, like the children were doing. That is the picture of the Christian life. We can’t cling to two masters (Matthew 6:24), as we walk through life with Jesus. We need both hands, to hold on. Without both hands holding on to his robe, we will slip and fall. If our other hand is holding on to money, possessions, success, power or position it will weigh us down, and we can’t hold on. Or the other master, will eventually walk a different path, and we will have to make a decision, and let go of one.

You can’t take anything with you to heaven. Job says we will enter heaven as we entered life, like children (Job 1:21). All of the things we worry about; your car {many of you will say good riddance}, house, wardrobe, timeshare in Cancun, and your career will be left behind and destroyed (2 Peter 3:10). Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:19-21, to invest in treasures that will be around for eternity; Jesus and people, especially young ones.

In summary: envision the picture of Jesus; him with children, and nothing else. We can carry around this picture in our hearts as we walk about throughout or days. Letting go, following him, clinging with both hands. Putting all of our stock in him. Going ‘all-in,’ moving all of our chips to Jesus. It’s a better life, one of freedom and peace.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-fourth post in this series.

Financial Performance & Relationship With Jesus, Luke 18:9-14

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 18:9-14. In these verses Jesus warns us to not base our relationship with him on living a good life and tithing.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

When you ‘read the red,’ words in the Bible, the red ink in some Bible versions, highlighted are the words Jesus spoke. Readers chewing on these words, will have all kinds of emotional responses. You may feel the love of the father caring for you so much, that he is giving you words of wisdom and coaching you to a better way of living. You may feel encouragement to follow the advice, because you know it is of caring and concern of a father, brother or friend. If you already are living the words, you may sense him telling you that you are doing a good job with what is being spoken, and it feels encouraging. You may sense that you are touching heavenly wisdom, and feel called to follow it.  Some people will feel discipline, or a rebuke, because they sense the correction is necessary, and is a wake-up call.

Jesus often spoke in parables, like he is in these verses, in part because stories communicate concepts better- they help the reader feel and understand on a much deeper level. I think there are additional benefits of story telling. One reason is that parables teach us hard things without ‘in-your-face’ confrontation. In a way, it is a very nice gentlemanly like way to communicate with people, and let them see the truth, as they mull it around in their minds, as opposed to being told what to do. Jesus is a master story-teller, communicator, and a gentleman; he tells parables to teach us, and lets the Holy Spirit breathe the words into our hearts, souls and minds that are applicable to us.

So back to the parable: “…Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ ” Luke 18:11 -12. I believe Jesus is speaking to anyone, but especially believers who are like the Pharisee here, that judge their relationship with God, on their good behavior like tithing money. They are probably doing okay financially too, and perhaps they see their success in life and religion as a blessing for good behavior and hard work. In this example, the Pharisee is looking down on someone not living up to their narrow standards. In Jesus we know our approval or salvation is not earned, but a gift, just like many of the blessings in life we may be fortunate enough to have. 

So what is Jesus saying to you and me right now as we read this. Do we think that “Wow I am a good tither, I have a good job and income,” and look down on and judge others not doing as well? A judgmental attitude is a sign that our hearts are not where they should be. In other words, what is your lens on your spirituality, or your relationship with Jesus? Is it the tithing record, bank account, income, or material things?  This is a call-out to greater devotion, surrender and relationship with Jesus, for some of us; a tender rebuke and wisdom from Jesus. I see parables as love letters too, from Jesus to us.

Summary: If our hearts are alight with Jesus, and we are walking in the Holy Spirit, then our relationship with him and others people is not one based on performance or judgement, but of love for God and mankind.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-third post in this series.