This is a topic that has been on my mind for . . . well, decades, if not longer. God has brought some interesting insights to me lately, and it seems it’s finally time to write this post, which will be in at least two parts (maybe more).
I need to go back to the beginning, or at least, to my beginning. I was raised in a family with a strong Yankee work ethic, a sense of do-for-yourself-and-keep-a-stiff-upper-lip. You earned something or you did without, and being financial savvy (read: making what the world says are smart decisions) was next to godliness. Heck, it might have even been godliness.
There is a still a large segment of today’s church who hold that same mindset, the idea that part of being a Christian is working hard at all costs to earn a lot of money and then investing wisely, being insured and passing that money onto the next generation. Sure, donations are part of that, and charitable giving is encouraged, but taking care of one’s self and one’s family is priority number one. That standard has been woven into the fabric of American Christianity until it seems impossible to extricate the church from the idea that God wants everyone to be successful–in terms of worldly success.
There are people who would never associate themselves with the term ‘prosperity gospel’, but who are in fact living it out, whether or not they are aware of it. They hold a subtle belief that God blesses us through material success. They hold those who achieve that success on a higher level of respect than they do those who do not.
Now let’s talk about how Jesus did it.
When the Son of God went looking for a group of guys with whom He would share His moments of deepest intimacy, instruction, and vulnerability, He didn’t seek out the movers and shakers of His day. He didn’t stop by the palace and ask Herod to hit the road with Him. He didn’t swing over to the synagogue to invite the Pharisees or scribes to be His wingmen. No, Jesus went to the edge of a lake and recruited simple fisherman. Laborers. Men who worked hard for a living and weren’t ashamed of it.
The disciples whom Jesus chose didn’t have bank accounts or 401(k)s. They didn’t wear rich robes or ride horses. They barely scraped by, and they walked everywhere.
Sure, Jesus did hobnob with some of the rich and famous of His day and area. The point isn’t that He focused on only poor or the ‘less successful’; the point is that He didn’t care about wealth or status–unless it stood in the way of salvation and redemption. See the meeting with the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27:
“As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words, he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.”
Jesus didn’t say that riches necessarily precluded inclusion in the Kingdom of Heaven, but in this case, He saw that money and property were an obstacle to redemption, and since His way is always to help us see what encumbers us and to cast it away, He offered the answer.
Somewhere along the line, we in the American church have forgotten that–or we’ve chosen to look the other way.
Like Jesus, I’m not saying that having money, property or material riches keeps anyone from being a passionate follower of the Way. No, it’s how we feel–our heart attitude–about such things that can cause the trouble.
God wants to provide for us. He wants us to be aware that everything we have comes from Him and His graciousness. I’m reminded of the sentence we used to utter at the offering, from 1 Chronicles 19:14: “For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”
When we begin to have a sense that we’ve done something right that has resulted in our blessings, material or otherwise, we’re starting down a dangerous path. When we have a sense that someone else has done something wrong that has resulted in a lacking, we’ve placed ourselves in the seat of God, the judgement seat, where He does not want us.
So that’s my point here in part one. God wants to provide for us. He wants to give us everything, and He wants to us to realize that He has done this, because a posture of gratitude is a healthy one. It’s a place where we are open to God’s leading and to being used by Him as He has planned.
This is a lesson we’ve learned yet again over the past eight months. Last year, we took a deep breath and committed to go where and how God would lead us. We made this vow with open hearts, knowing that sunshine and roses don’t always follow in the wake of this sort of choice.
God took us at our word. He asked if we would be faithful and trusting and obedient. That meant not seeking paid employment, even when we didn’t have a means of support. It meant humbling ourselves to ask for help, so that others can be part of His ministry and plan, too. It meant giving up the idol of a regular paycheck. It meant believing that when God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” He really means it. When He says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness and all these things will be added to you,” that’s for real.
Obedience and trust are daily decisions. There is no long-range plan, and that makes some people nervous. (We’d be lying if we didn’t say it can at times make us nervous!) After all, we’re not young kids with our lives in front of us. We are both in our fifties, and we have older kids, and we don’t have a trust fund or savings to fall back upon.
But what we do have is even more precious and trustworthy. We have the promises of our God, and His very near presence.
I have many stories I could share (and some I will, in the next parts), but this one is most recent. Just now, we’re doing okay, but not great. We’re waiting on some promised payments. The publisher who held most of my books until recently owes us money, and they are very late in paying. These are the times when trust becomes more difficult, and we begin to wonder again . . . are we really hearing from God? Is this truly what He is asking of us?
Last night, Clint preached at retirement village where he ministered as a hospice chaplain years ago and where he’s preached often in the past. A dear lady we’ve gotten to know there sat next to me, and apparently, at some point, she tucked a note into my purse. When I got home and pulled it out, the note read:
Dear Kandle Family,
You are all such a blessing to so many people. The Lord loves you and sends this gift to you through me.
Now, please know, we’ve never said anything to anyone here in this village about being in need. We have talked a bit about our ministry, but never in detail. But this is not the first time God has spoken to us through others, sending a word of encouragement and confirmation: Yes! You are hearing me. You are faithful, and I will never allow you to out-give me. I am faithful, too. I love you with an everlasting love, and I treasure your obedience. Follow me and trust me.
Follow . . . trust . . . obey . . . believe.
A component of our ministry is to give freely to all who seek help. We also welcome partnership with others in whatever way God leads, including donations if you feel God is leading you to do so.
Does God Provide? (Part Two) is coming soon. In that section, we’ll discuss HOW God provides for us . . . as in, what do we do when the rubber meets the road?