This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 10:25-28 and Matthew 22:36-40 is about what we are to love.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The most important words ever spoken by Christ to all of mankind effecting one’s behavior are probably those words. Of the over 31,000 verses and 750,000 words in the entire Bible; these 5 verses made up of 58 words are the very most important of all: they communicate to man that in all things we should always put God’s concern first, and that of our neighbor second in tandem, and often before our own. These verses should be burned into our hearts and minds. When we wake in the morning, it is easy to automatically think about the day, and all of the things that we have to do, and how it will affect us. However, before all of that, maybe we should ask Lord how can I love you with all my heart, soul and mind today, and how can I love my neighbor as intensely as myself?
When we think about money and possessions though, do we think of God, neighbor and love first ? It always bugs me, when I pick up a Christian personal finance book, or read an article online, and the main underlying premise seems to be if I a practice some type of good financial behavior, that in return I will get something out of it for myself. For example, it is common hear that if we are good stewards, then God will bless me a certain way. There is even the generosity gospel that promises we will blessed with a lot of money if we tithe a lot, or help the poor, quoting Mark 10:30, Proverbs 22:9, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. This kind of thinking illustrates the heart of the author, and sometimes sadly mine too.
Almost every secular book on finances starts out that way, “If you do this, then you will have a lot of money!” Doesn’t Jesus preach a different message? I can’t find any verses about Jesus preaching about financial security and abundance. If anything he pushes that our of minds by declaring we are to love God intensely with all of our effort. Jesus doesn’t preach self-hate or total self-denial, but Jesus says we are to love others with as much concern as we do ourselves. This really takes the focus of of myself.
I know that when I am self absorbed, I’m not as happy; the more I am self consumed, I find myself down and more distant from God. It is easy to fall into the trap to think I have to provide for myself, and when I have done that quite well, then I will have time and money for God and others. However, some of the greatest ways I have been blessed is from those who didn’t have much. I still recall a dinner meal from friends in their home, and they were struggling to make ends meet. I remember this even though it happened in about 1981, when my wife (girl friend at that time) and I shared a great simple low cost meal of homemade bread and gazpacho with some friends, in their little apartment, and they loved us. It still makes me smile me to think about the fun we had and the warmth of God there.
A few days ago I stumbled upon 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, I like the wording in the NLT version: But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. 30 Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. 31 Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away. This really spoke to me, Paul was teaching the early church then, and us now, not to be absorbed by and attached to either our good and bad times and possessions, but by the good things in loving God and others.
*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 thirty seventh post in this series.