Monday morning devotional from the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. For the next several months I am going through those books chronologically and commenting about any verse that involves money and stewardship. In my personal journey it has been helpful to me to consider the new light that Jesus shines on money in his selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. The second post in this series:
The first mention of Jesus saying that he was bringing a totally new radical economic system into creation is Matthew 4:1-4, I’ve highlighted a few sections I find helpful:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
When Jesus dropped on the scene of humanity, we saw how in last week’s post, he disturbed an entire city even as a baby, on rumor only. Jesus was the most significant radical of all time. When some people think of radicals, they picture someone who isn’t following the most common viewpoints, sometimes visually striking by the clothes they wear, maybe an abundance of tattoos and piercings, far out political beliefs and going a different way than conventional society. The radicals we see in the news today might be the anarchists protesting at the G8 Summits or those at the Occupy Movement rallies. Merriam-Webster defines radical : adj 3 a : very different from the usual or traditional : extreme b : favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions c : associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change.
The testing of the radical Jesus came after not eating any food for 40 days. When a radical is deprived of food, human companionship, and physical pleasure for that long, as was Jesus, sometimes convictions are tested. Jesus was alone in the hot desert for almost 6 weeks without even the pleasure of cold water. Yet I imagine he wasn’t alone or without spiritual food to sustain him. Jesus feasted on God’s word and in companionship with his Father in prayer and the company of the Holy Spirit.
The systems in place during the height of the Roman empire nearly 2,000 years ago were not a whole lot different from today. There was constant political battles about how the empire should be run. There were rich and poor, and uncared for sick. Roman citizenship and racism; greater opportunity for those of privilege. Sometimes democratic governing. The economics of power and wealth, politics and business. These things were on the minds of the average person on the street. Much like today the populace struggled for money- people were concerned about food, shelter, widowhood, and having enough to live on if they got sick, or old.
Jesus cares about these things too, but the Radical Jesus, brought an entirely new system into play; pointing his finger to the satisfier. Jesus didn’t start by reforming politics or economics, he knew the best place to start was to reform the heart. Jesus in the desert turned all civilization on its head by taking the focus off of money and the things it brings to satisfy our thirsty souls.
Sometimes in my life I go through spiritual and physical deserts, and its there I learn that the things I had during abundance paled in comparison to the real bread God feeds me. The answers to many of the problems I face today aren’t financial, even though I sometimes think they are. Jesus made a radical stand at the very beginning of his ministry, in the face of the tempter, during difficulty. Christian marriage counselors find the best place to help fix difficulties in marriage, is to start off focusing on where they are in their walk with Christ. The same approach towards correcting financial difficulties works too.
Whether we are going through financial difficulty or not it is good to consider how we think about finances, and what gives life meaning. Jesus called himself the bread of life, replacing what we are inclined to pursue for what we want in life:
John 6:31 – 35 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.