“What do you possess if you possess not God?” – Saint Augustine
I felt intimidated as I drove through the ivy-laden gates of one of the most prestigious golf courses in all of Canada. I had been invited by three very successful business owners to join them in a round of golf at this lavish golf course and now, here I was, driving my beat up, rusted out, Honda Civic along a tree-lined driveway into a parking lot filled with BMWs, Benzes and other expensive vehicles that made my car blush in comparison. Yes, even my car felt embarrassed when I pulled into the parking spot right next to the icy blue Bentley. I stepped out of my car hoping no one noticed me and dashed to my trunk for my old golf bag filled with used balls and clubs bought at weekend garage sales from my neighbourhood.
I have spent most of my life in some very tough neighbourhoods but I never experienced fear like I did that day. I felt like I didn’t belong at this course. It was way above my pay scale—plus, I’m not a very good golfer! Yet, here I was, a thorn among the roses, ready to put in a round of golf with my friends. It was on the fairway at the 16th hole when my friend asked me: “Is it wrong, as a Christian, to own a Maserati sports car?”
That’s a good question. Even though most of us reading this article lack the capacity to own a Maserati we still make day-to-day decisions concerning how we, as Christians, spend our money. This is especially magnified by the fact that Canadians are already rich by the rest of the world’s standards. As Christians we are citizens of the kingdom of God living in a world of great need and what we do with our money, resources and time matters—is a spiritual issue. Our Master told us that: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24
So, how can we, as disciples of Jesus, be obedient to His command to serve God over and above our possessions and money? How can we make proper and righteous decisions on how to live God pleasing lives in this ever-pressing consumerist-driven society?
GET A BIBLICAL WORLD VIEW CONCERNING CANADA
Most Christians read the book of Revelation to find fascinating prophetic predictions concerning end times. But by doing this we fail to understand that the Book of Revelation is more than just a prophetic letter.
John wrote “Revelation” after being exiled to the island of Patmos by the Emperor because of his Christian faith. He knew that to get his letter to churches living in the Roman Empire he would need to use “code words” to pass inspection of the guards watching over him who would look for derogatory accusations against the Empire. The code word John used to describe the Empire was Babylon and, according to John, Babylon was a great whore (Rev 17:5) that demanded worship from her citizens (Rev 13:4).
It is safe to say that “Babylon” represents any socio–political system Christians find themselves living in. In other words, Canada is a “Babylon” and John’s ugly code name “great whore” describes how she is set up to seduce us into a certain idolatrous lifestyle. All we have to do is look around us to see how our consumerist society easily seduces us into its prescribed manner of life. So much so that most of us are endlessly driven to exhaustion, sacrificing family, friends, spiritual vitality and health in pursuit of getting what our “Babylon” ceaselessly tries to sell us. When “Babylon” calls the shots in our life, it’s idolatry as we are serving money—not God. Make no doubt about it, Babylon is here and she can do great damage to our lives, families and faith. Therefore, it is of prime importance that we build a strong foundation of awareness concerning the seducing powers of Babylon in our lives.
UNDERSTAND JESUS IS LORD OF EVERYTHING
As we do battle with the intoxicating influences of Babylon we must also be aware of the Lordship of Christ. Recently, I was speaking with one of my leaders about how to disciple recovering drug addicts in his neighbourhood. Our premise on discipleship is that “Jesus is Lord” of everything including how we spend our money. For a recovering drug addict this has deep ramifications because it means that if he buys drugs he is spending Jesus’s money on drugs! This truth impacts all of us even if we are not addicts.
Here is the truth—as Christians we acknowledge that Jesus owns every cent we have and every possession we enjoy. You don’t own a house—Jesus does. You don’t own a car—Jesus does. Those clothes you buy—they are Jesus’ clothes. Your bank account isn’t yours, it’s His. We must acknowledge and act on the fact that Jesus is lord of everything—including our wallets.
TAKE ACTION NOW
In Jeremiah 22 the Prophet refers to King Shallum concerning his lavish lifestyle and warns future kings against such excessiveness. In opposition of the ways of Shallum, Jeremiah speaks of King Josiah as a model of how to deal with lifestyle choices by saying: Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord.“ Jeremiah 22:15-16
King Josiah had a nice palace made of cedar. He had great meals of food and drink. He had all the wonderful privileges that came with being king. But he did something about his place of privilege—“he defended the cause of the poor and needy” and this was a sign of someone who knows God. What a profound story for us today.
Most Canadians are privileged people and this place of privilege is a responsibility to use what we have to help the poor and needy. It is not a licence to do with it all we want. I often tell rich friends that they have a tremendous burden because they have a greater responsibility as stewards of what God has given them. The best way to handle money and resources is to do what King Josiah did— use them to defend the cause of the poor and needy. If you have money, invest it in ministries that serve the poor and needy. If you are a lawyer or doctor, volunteer some time at a legal or medical clinic that services the poor. If you are a carpenter or mechanic, use your skills in helping a single mother care for her apartment or car. There are countless ways you can give your time and money on behalf of the poor and needy for this is what it means to know God.