December 14, 2008

Impressing God

Current news is almost totally preoccupied with an economic downturn that seems to be affecting the entire world. Those who bow at the shrine of almighty dollar have seen their idol tip over and fall apart. What seemed a sure thing for many has become increasingly shaky and unstable.

From one end of the Bible to the other, I am warned not to be concerned about money, only that I’m to consider myself a steward and be prudent with whatever God provides. Money has a way of pulling hearts from devotion to God toward devotion to power, prestige, and possessions.

Idolatry, using a loose definition, could be anything that I value the most, or anything that I rely on for my sense of security and importance. That means cash is not the only thing that can pull me into shaky dependencies.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 warns me, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the Lord.”

When I was in school, I was fortunate to get excellent marks. I once gloried in that. I’ve never been what most people would call ‘mighty’ but when I work out, I’ve sometimes gloried in that by comparing myself to someone who doesn’t. (There would be no glory if I simply compared myself to the general population!)

While we are not rich by North American standards, these days I’m tempted to glory because our source of income has not changed and we are financially okay. There have been times though, when money was scarce, so I understand why some people think about it all the time and even make it their only reason for getting up in the morning.

Jesus also says something startling about human value systems in the New Testament. He was speaking about money management and finished His teaching with this:
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided (lit. turned their noses up at) Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination (detestable) in the sight of God” (Luke 16:13-15).
This astonishing statement repeats the thoughts of Jeremiah 9. God is not impressed with the things that impress people. Instead, He challenges me to value what He values — first, that I understand and know Him.

Having a relationship with Almighty God could be taken for granted if never given serious thought, but even as I write this, the very idea of it staggers me. Who am I to know God? Who am I that He came into my life? It was not because of my IQ, power, or money; it was because Jesus died for me, a sinner. That is amazing and a glory, yet even more amazing is that God values that. He puts me knowing Him ahead of all other things that the world might consider important.

In knowing Him, I know that God also delights in “exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.” I’m not worshiping a God who likes being harsh or who looks the other way when people sin. He delights in doing what is right, what is perfectly fair, and He delights in me when I do the same things.

I’m not sure how all of this plays out in the world’s financial crisis. I wonder if it is happening because a loving God is trying to wake up those who have made money their idol? I wonder if He has seen much unfairness and is trying to level the playing field? Whatever His plan, I do know that He is active and in sovereign control over this world. I also know that if I want to impress Him, I need to continually acknowledge that I know Him and remember that it is God who I worship, rely on, think about, and delight in — not money or any other thing.

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