Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who Says Money Can't Buy You Love?

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Luke 16:9

There are plenty of instructions about how to relate to money and what to do with it in the Bible, but they are so well dispersed throughout the scriptures that unless we’re doing a concentrated study on Biblical money management, we could almost get the sense that what we do with our money is up to our own discretion. Sure, money management should fall under all those other guiding Biblical principles, but how that happens can be up to my discretion, right? And some of the clear instructions that do exist, we want to dismiss as being “Old Testament.” Jesus never commanded a tithe, did He?

Friends, your bank account would be better off with that Old Testament law of tithes and offerings than to defer to Jesus’ instructions on money. The new commandments on money that Jesus gives us are radical compared to a meager tithe. Maybe His words weren’t carved in stone and placed in the Ark of the Covenant, but when Jesus tells us something, it’s every bit a command as if it were written in stone. And just to be clear that He’s not making a suggestion here, He says, “I tell you…” Note He didn’t say, “It would be nice if…” or “Don’t you think you ought to…” or “Why don’t you think about…”
So what’s the command in this scripture? Use worldly wealth (money) to make friends. And thank you, Jesus, for explaining what the benefit of that will be: friends in heaven. Hmm.

Why would friends in heaven be important? Well, you didn’t think it was going to be just you up there, did you? I didn’t, but I guess I assumed that everyone would be my friend in Heaven. Won’t everyone like me when we live in a perfect world? All my irritating qualities will be gone, won’t they? I’m not one to speculate a lot about what Heaven will be like. I tend to rest on what the Scriptures say about it, and Jesus referred several times to an order in the Kingdom of Heaven: greatest to least (Matt. 5:19, 11:11, 19:30). If we could see now who falls where on that spectrum, it probably wouldn’t make sense to us, it’s all turned around – the last are first and the first are last (Matt. 10:31). Additionally, there will be rewards in Heaven (Mark 10:29-30, among many other verses). It’s simply not Biblical to envision an eternity that’s equalitarian in all ways.

So what can we do to come out ahead in the next life? There are some instructions in God’s word, but It’s complicated, because we can go along doing everything we think we need to do to get a big reward in Heaven and then on the day of judgment, we get disqualified for our Heavenly prize (I Cor. 9:27) because of some technicality, such as having been proud about our works (you know, showy, boastful). And so we get into Heaven by the skin of our teeth and become the eternal janitor! OK, I don’t have scripture to support celestial janitors, but in some way or another, there’s going to be a least in Heaven – just don’t let it be me, right?

And if it is me? Well, it would be nice to have some friends in high places – to every once in a while be invited into some nice eternal dwellings for dinner. Our verse tells me that I can ensure that for myself by using my money today to make friends for the long tomorrow. Let’s not get all shallow and go right to the absurd conclusion that Jesus is recommending bribing people to be our friends. There are some very simple practical and accessible ways to use our wealth to create eternal friends. I’m willing to bet you’ve had this very opportunity multiple times even this year (unless you’re reading this in January).

I don’t want to point any fingers, so let’s look at this practical application through a parable, shall we? Remember Lazarus, (Luke 16:19-31), the beggar who sat outside the rich man’s gate and begged every day? He would have been happy to have a crumb from the rich man’s table, but to be honest, he was disgusting to look at – he had these gross sores that he let dogs lick – eck! Why couldn’t he sit somewhere else to beg? His very presence affected the rich man’s property value! And why doesn’t he go to the free clinic and get those sores taken care of or go to the free meal they offer at the shelter?

But really, what would have it cost the rich man to carry out an extra piece of bread and some figs each morning to Lazarus. He was going past him anyway – such a minimal effort and expense. Instead, he probably thought, “He’ll just use it to buy beer” or “I don’t want to reward his lack of work” or “If I give him bread and figs, he’ll become dependent on me and expect it every day.” Sound familiar?

Could you ever believe that a disgusting, lazy beggar would end up as Father Abraham’s bosom buddy? Is this the kind of earthly loser that’s going to end up first in Heaven? Dang. Maybe I should start tossing a quarter to that guy on the corner who claims he’ll work for food. I just might need a heavenly friend in high places.

Contemplate this: Am I avoiding an opportunity today to make a friend for the long tomorrow?

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