Keep yourselves free from the love of money, being content with what you have for He himself has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.’ – Hebrews 13:5

For the past year or so I’ve struggled with worry over my financial future.  My fears have been based largely around concern for having enough money into the future to put a roof over my head and food on the table, should I never be well enough to return to some kind of work.

In response to these fears I spent quite a bit of time studying the stock market  and very cautiously put a small amount of money there and promptly watched it go down in value.  I then looked at the housing market and quickly discovered that the only place I could afford would be in the most crime laden suburbs of the poorest parts of Tasmania where I don’t really know anyone.  (Not that this wouldn’t be a good place to live in some respects.  Such places need a christian presence and the good news of the gospel with it). Of course it’s not wrong to make plans so as to try to ensure as much as possible that one is not an unnecessary burden to others but it is wrong to trust in our money rather than God and the truth is I’ve been trusting in money rather than God in many instances and not once has such trust made me feel more secure.  In fact the more I learn about finance and investment, about asset bubbles, about fiat money, about inflation and deflation, about private and government debt, about bank  capital adequacy ratios, about the history of booms and busts, recessions and depressions, about all things monetary and economic, the more I realise that God was right when he said, ‘Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.  When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.  For it certainly makes itself wings, like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.’   There is no security in money.

I think in the past I have thought that the love of money is more of a problem when you are rich, because the more you have the more you are tempted to think that it is your money and not your God who looks after you.  However when we become poorer (and I know by world standards I’m still not really poor), there is an equally dangerous temptation.  That temptation is not just the temptation to believe that the money you have will look after you but the temptation to believe that the money you don’t have will ruin you, that only money and your ability to acquire it can deliver you from future or current distress.  This is a very great danger to our souls.  In the parable of the sower Jesus describes the seed that is choked by thorns as a picture of the person who hears God’s word but becomes unfruitful ‘because of the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.’  This is a danger for those of us that see ourselves as poorer just as much as for those who are richer.  There is a connection between worry and the deceitfulness of riches.  When worry arises we need to learn to take our worries to God instead of thinking that wealth and money will solve our problems.

I think I also need to learn to live more day to day and less for tomorrow.  I need to just pray and give thanks for today’s bread instead of incessantly worrying about tomorrow’s.  I need God’s grace for this. No doubt we all do.  Grace to believe that he cares for us and that he really will never leave us nor forsake us, that we don’t need more money, but rather faith in God, the provider of all things, the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  How silly we are to trust in our own little hobby farms that are only ever a drought or a flood away from destruction instead of our good and powerful God who spared not his own Son but gave him up for us all and who says, ‘how will he not also with him freely give us all things.’  I am sick and I am weak.  I have no earning power but ultimately I don’t need more earning power, I need the God who gives all things to weak and undeserving sinners.

Lord help me believe what I know to be true and help others like me to believe it too.


Up on a Mountain

Love this song.

Preserving Dignity

There is not much dignity for  a poor man.  He relies on others for help.  He never knows if that help will be granted and if it is granted he knows that he may well be despised for the burden he brings to his benefactor.

When we are rich and we have enough of a conscience and enough love in our hearts to reach out in kindness to the poor, it’s important that we do so in a way that not only meets their needs but  also maximises their dignity.  So how do we do that?  Well Deuteronomy 24 is not a bad place to go for ideas.

10 “When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. 11 You shall remain outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. 1

19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.

21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.

The requirement to leave the stray or forgotten grapes and sheaves for the poor might on a cursory reading be assumed to simply ensure that the poor are required to work for their needs.  Certainly it does serve the function of preventing a welfare mentality among those who are lazy and don’t want to work.  However there is more going on here.  Verse 10 has nothing to do with making people work.  The neighbour is obviously in need so he seeks a loan.   You go to him to get some sort of guarantee that he will make every effort to pay that loan back but the law requires you to stay outside while he gets something to give you as security.  Why?  Surely it’s to maintain his dignity.  Don’t put pressure on him while he tries to find something.  Don’t humiliate him as he looks around to find something that he deems valuable enough.  Make it appear like a dignified business transaction and not a great favour on your part.  Preserve his dignity.

In this same context we read about not retrieving forgotten sheaves or gathering fallen grapes and olives from the harvest.  It prevents unnecessary dependency but also preserves dignity.  The poor man goes home feeling he has earned his food.  While it might make the rich man feel better about himself if he were to gather these leftovers up and then hand them out to the poor, it is much less likely to make the poor man feel so good as he would if they were left behind for him to gather.

But what if you so love the poor that you want to give them more than such methods will allow?  Well the story of Ruth tells us to get creative.  Boaz instructs his workers to intentionally leave more grain lying in the field for Ruth than would normally occur when harvesting.  Ruth is more abundantly supplied but once again her dignity is preserved.  We must give to the poor but we should also think of creative ways to do so, ways that will preserve their dignity.

But what if the person you are helping can’t do ANYTHING?  What if they are an invalid who needs people to cook and clean and wash etc.  Well, get creative. Perhaps find things in them that are a benefit to you.   Tell them what you get out of spending time with them.  You might make them feel like you are benefiting from the excercise as much as they.     Indeed make them feel like serving them is a privilege, because guess what, it is.  It is being like Christ who came not to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many.

I can think of numerous people who have not only met my needs but also preserved my dignity during my illness.  There’s the woman who once told me her family ‘needed’ me to visit when I needed someone to look after me.  There’s the guy that drives 3 hrs to come and stay with me when my folks are away and tells me that he enjoys driving and that looking after me gives him a break from work (it also makes him considerably poorer).  There’s the girl who told me that helping me didn’t feel like service but a privilege.   There’s the retiree who offers to drive me anywhere I need to go because it gives him something to do as he has too much spare time as a retiree.  All ways of serving my needs while saving my dignity.

Although this blog is rather dormant and this post may never be read, if you are now reading it and can think of other ways that your dignity has also been preserved when needing help, feel free to share more ways of applying the wisdom of Deuteronomy 24.

Lift up your sorrows

God’s grace through disability

Christian love

We live in a society in which love and lust are often regarded to be more or less synonymous.  Love is often defined primarily in terms of a feeling or desire for someone or something.  In reaction to this I have sometimes found myself trying to define love more in terms of actions than feelings.  I would argue that it is something that acts in others interests rather than one’s own.  John 3:16 provides one of a number of biblical examples of such love.  ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.’   I have been tempted to go further and argue that this on its own is the sum and substance of love – that it is a sacrificial giving to others rather than any feeling or desire.

1 Corinthians 13 however gives short shrift to such a reductionistic view of christian love.  ‘If I give all I possess to feed the poor but do not have love it profits me nothing.’  If it’s possible to give in a sacrificial way without love then it is clear that sacrificial giving as a definition of love is rather inadequate.

Christian love it seems is much more than just a desire or feeling but it is also more than sacrificial service.  When it says in Genesis that Jacob loved Rachael it seems that he desired her and found her very attractive.  However the text also says that ‘because’ he loved her he didn’t mind giving up 14 years of his life working for her father to obtain her hand in marriage.  Love desires its object and willingly sacrifices for it.

In a sense the relationship between love and sacrifice is a bit like the relationship between faith and works.  A person can have works without faith but they can’t have a living faith without works (James 2).  Likewise a person may act sacrificially without love but they cannot love without acting sacrificially.

So what should we do if we’re having trouble loving someone, say a family member or someone at work or church?  Once upon a time I would have said we should serve the other person no matter how we feel and in time our feelings will come into line.  But unless our hearts are changing as we repent and look to Jesus our feelings may not change.  We love, not by a sheer act of the will against our feelings, but in response to God’s love for us in Jesus.  As we meditate on what Christ has done for us while we were still his enemies and we ask for him to change us, it becomes harder and harder to maintain bitter feelings towards others.

Begone Unbelief – Lori Sealy

Here is a great song to sing or listen to in the midst of trials or at any time for that matter. It’s a slightly modified version of a hymn originally written by John Newton. Below are the original words.

Begone, unbelief,
My Savior is near,
And for my relief
Will surely appear;
By prayer let me wrestle,
And He will perform;
With Christ in the vessel,
I smile at the storm.

Though dark be my way,
Since He is my Guide,
‘Tis mine to obey,
‘Tis His to provide;
Though cisterns be broken,
And creatures all fail,
The word He hath spoken
Shall surely prevail.

His love, in time past,
Forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last
In trouble to sink:
Each sweet Ebenezer
I have in review
Confirms His good pleasure
To help me quite through.

Why should I complain
Of want or distress,
Temptation or pain?
He told me no less;
The heirs of salvation,
I know from His Word,
Through much tribulation
Must follow their Lord.

How bitter that cup
No heart can conceive,
Which He drank quite up,
That sinners might live!
His way was much rougher
And darker than mine;
Did Christ, my Lord, suffer,
And shall I repine?

Since all that I meet
Shall work for my good,
The bitter is sweet,
The medicine, food;
Though painful at present,
‘Twill cease before long,
And then, oh, how pleasant
The conqueror’s song!