Living the high life

Who wouldn't want to be lying on a beach right now?

Who wouldn’t want to be lying on a beach right now?

So, lately, I have been thinking a lot about money.

I know, I know, you’re never faced with that temptation. Could you indulge me for a moment, though?

In a world full of bills, debt, moderate to high cost-of-living and the desire to establish a more pronounced lifestyle, my green friend has been attracting increasing amounts of my attention. While I am certainly not removed from the need to be able to earn a living, and the subsequent emotional and physical energy expended as a natural result, what I am describing is beyond that.

The word that best conveys my internal dialogue of late is used in the bible a few times: anxious. Anxious, as in, “do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6) and “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7); yeah, that’s the one.

Despite those admonishments from Scripture, my fixation on having enough money for tomorrow has managed to survive. This, in turn, leads me down the path of contemplating more ways to make money, or perhaps be less generous in order to preserve what I have.

Clearly, these are not God’s intentions on how our lives are to be lead. In fact, Jesus says in Luke 12:15 “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

While Jesus is the divine Son of God, he is also the Son of Man, and had very real needs when he walked the earth. He experienced hunger (Matthew 4:2), fatigue (John 4:6), paid taxes (Matt. 17:27) and even had to rely on the financial support of others for his ministry (Luke 8:1-3)! By no means was Jesus removed from the financial realities of living.

On the contrary, though, I think we are by-and-large removed from the reality of what it truly means to “live.” The aim of most is accumulating material wealth. We have this modeled for us on a daily basis, with the exploits of the rich and famous being paraded through publications, television and the internet. (Side note: does anybody remember that show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?)

Riches are vain according to Solomon (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11) and deceitful according to Jesus (Mark 4:19). Though riches themselves are not evil, their purpose is to be a means and never an end; to love money is to engage in an endless pursuit, where one is perpetually dissatisfied.

My friends, true “life” can be found in Christ alone, as he says famously in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Foundationally, life in Christ begins by acknowledging him as Lord and Savior, where we are “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). The very life of Jesus is coursing through the spiritual veins of every New Testament believer. Paul writes, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).

While the claim that the “life” Jesus speaks of in John 10:10 begins upon professing faith in him would probably go undisputed, there is some discrepancy as to what exactly it looks like to “have it abundantly.” What is this quality of life supposed to look like?

There are those with the belief that with this life comes the right to material privilege, and to an extent I agree. We are, after all, God’s children, and he faithfully provides for us. What better logic can you have than this: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32)?

Jesus, however, does not want us to live a life that consists in an abundance of possessions. He offers us an alternative, citing that unbelievers are those who should be expected to be preoccupied with material things (Matt. 6:31-32).

In order to live the “high life,” we have to look above the things in our immediate view—“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2)—and esteem the things which God values most above all else.

Scripture, then, admonishes us to value certain things more than gold, silver and precious jewels:

God’s Word 

The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)

In the preceding passage, the psalmist David expresses his profound love for the word of God. There is plenty to be gained from law of the Lord, so much so that we are to value it more than gold!

I don’t know about you, but anytime I hear of gold these days my mind immediately goes to those “Cash 4 Gold” commercials. The people in those commercials are always in such a frenzy to get you to bring them your old jewelry that it likely would have put Aaron to shame (Exodus 32:2-4). Why is this the case?

Quite simply, it is because of the sheer value of gold and the vacillating worth of our dollar. This company and others like it realize that they are getting the better end of the deal by making this exchange; if this was not the case, then they would not be in business.

When it comes to God’s word, we should be as eager to obtain the refreshing, wisdom, joy and revelation contained therein as these companies are to get their hands on grandpa’s old watch. After all, Scripture exhorts us to “buy the truth and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23), knowing that his word is truth (John 17:17).

Our Faith

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

From hearing God’s word, we receive faith as result (Romans 10:17); consequently, our faith also has a value that is greater than gold. However, the authenticity of this faith, much like the quality of gold, is revealed after time spent in the furnace of affliction.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego can definitely attest to the truth of this claim. Facing the decision to either bow down to a graven image or suffer death by fire for refusal to do so, the three Hebrew boys stood on their conviction to “worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matt. 4:10).

Even with the opportunity to recant, these three stood by their decision. Before King Nebuchadnezzar himself, they boldly declared, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand” (Daniel 3:17).

The faith that these three exuded was richly rewarded, not only with God’s keeping power in a furnace seven times hotter than usual, but with the presence of Jesus himself (v. 25). What Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego experienced was the “praise, glory and honor” that God desires for us when Jesus is revealed. Nevertheless, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth” (Luke 18:8)?

An Excellent Wife

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. (Proverbs 31:10 ESV)

This verse is dear to me because of the season of life that I’m in as a young man thinking about marriage. It is encouraging to know that God gives the green light in looking for a mate [one has to seek in order to find (Matt. 7:7)], and that he is so in favor of this pursuit that he says its end will yield a return greater than precious jewels.

When I think of living this “high life” in Christ, I cannot do so without the thought of marriage. The relationship shared with a husband and wife is one of God’s greatest gifts and was established from the very beginning (Matt. 19:4-6). It makes sense that the Lord would want us to experience this great gift of his now, seeing as it will not be available in the age to come (Matt. 22:30).

Moreover, the union between man and wife points dynamically to Christ and his church. Ephesians 5:31-32 records, “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

There are many blessings one receives from a godly wife, but the greatest of these is a unique opportunity to imitate Christ (Eph. 5:25-30).

The Heart

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart. (Proverbs 17:3 ESV)

Surely, there is nothing else that God values more than the heart. I think we should take our cue from him, then, and value the condition of our hearts above all else.

Proverbs 4:23 offers, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (ESV). That’s just it; this whole notion of living “abundantly” in Christ is so dependent on the condition of our hearts. Not only do we have to express belief in our hearts to receive salvation and begin this new life (Romans 10:10), but the integrity of our hearts must be maintained in order to see God in our everyday lives (Matt. 5:8).

Jesus says of the heart while telling the parable of the sower, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22).

Let it not be so of us! With undivided hearts (Ps. 86:11), let us purse God’s kingdom and righteousness and trust that all we need will be added unto us (Matt. 6:33).

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~ by christianballenger on July 31, 2014.

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