Need We Be Concerned?
Mr. Donald L. Norbie of Greeley, Colorado, is a frequent contributor to “Food for the Flock” magazine. He serves the Lord in numerous ways, including a ministry among college students.
I watched the cars whipping by as we walked in an affluent suburb: Mercedes, Cadillacs, Porsches, luxury cars by the dozens. And I wondered what the Lord Jesus would say, how He would feel.
The affluence in some areas is amazing. The oppulence of homes in these posh suburbs and the leather-seated luxury of the cars is most impressive. Exotic vacations are viewed as deserved necessities: the Caribbean, Europe, the Far East. And the Church is subtly influenced by the culture and advertising of the age.
Elisha rebuked his servant Gehazi for his greed — the Lord’s servants have the same propensity toward this evil! Elisha said with a heavy heart, “Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?” (2 Kings 5:26) .
Elisha was saying what Jesus said centuries later, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…” (Mt. 6:33). God’s things, God’s interests, must be first in the thinking of the man of God.
The world and its culture are earth-centred. People are utterly self-centred, seeking their own “happiness,” their own “fulfilment.” Self sits at ease on the throne, served by materialism and pleasure. Moral absolutes are crucified that self may be gratified. Paul wrote, “Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things” (Phil. 3:19).
Marriage is preserved — as long as one’s happiness and egotism are gratified. But when one is not “Having his needs met” divorce is viewed as justified. My happiness comes first, regardless of the misery it may cost others. And now Christians are divorcing as readily as unbelievers.
In our churches we hear of the needs of God’s work at home and abroad — and finances are among them. We give a pittance in the offering, climb into our luxury automobiles and drive home to Snob Hill. We turn on our television and watch the evening news. Starvation is haunting millions. A gaunt mother holds her infant whose shrunken limbs, bloated belly and dull eyes proclaim his impending death.
Then we turn the TV off to eat our gourmet meal with its choice cuts of meat. We gorge on plenty while millions die.
We need to ask ourselves, “What was Jesus’ attitude? How about Peter? And Paul? What were their values? How would they spend their money?” And I feel deeply troubled.
I find in my own heart the same desire for things, the same love for pleasure that I see in the wealthy. It is a struggle when surrounded by a sea of affluence not to be overcome by it. It requires increasing discipline to bring one’s thoughts and desires into submission to Christ — “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
Here no one can lay down rules for another but each must work out the tension in himself. There is the responsibility to meet the needs of one’s own family (1 Tim. 5:8). There is the necessity for physical exercise and some recreation. The body requires a proper diet. I dare not neglect my own health.
And then there are the needs surrounding us. The financial needs of the local church and of those serving God require giving. Needy Christians at home and abroad should touch us — “distributing to the needs of the saints” (Rom. 12:13). And there are the awesome needs of the lost world.
Guilt should not oppress the Christian. He is told to enjoy the gifts God has given him (1 Tim. 6:17). But along with this gratitude and enjoyment there should be a keen sense of stewardship and a generous hand (1 Tim. 6:18). The driving thrust of life should be a longing to see the Gospel spread and sinners saved. “I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22) .
Self-denial of luxuries that others deem legitimate will enable one to give more to advance God’s kingdom. By so doing we follow in the train of One of whom it was said: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).