Friday, August 19, 2016

Relationships a Mess Worth Making: Time and Money

"Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: 
he bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it." 
Psalm 39:6

This is the Scripture that opens the second to last chapter of the book, and the chapter we are going to be looking at called 'Time and Money". We can kind of get an idea what a person values by how they spend their time and how they spend their money. It is also tells us something about their relationship with God and with other people.

Both Ephesians 4:28 and 5:16 have important things to tell us about time and money. Let's look at them below:

"The thief [who has become a believer] must no longer steal, but instead must work hard [making an honest living], producing that which is good with his own hands, so that he will have something to share with those in need." Ephesians 4:28

"...making the very most of your time [on earth, recognizing, taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and dilligence], because the days are [filled with] evil." Ephesians 5:16

Paul teaches these things because HOW we use our time and money affects our relationships. It affects our vertical relationship AND our horizontal ones. The authors ask us to take a step back to look at the whole picture here. You know when you are visiting a museum, and you are looking at the pieces of art on the wall? Sometimes you cannot see the beauty of the art until you step back a few paces. That's what the authors are asking us to do here. You cannot understand this subject correctly until you see it as a whole and since God is the WHOLE we need to begin with HIM.

God is committed to establishing His perfect, glorious, kingdom over everything He has made.

He could do this instantaneously but to do that would mean that He must wipe out all of sinful humanity. Instead He emptied Heaven of its greatest treasure to redeem us so that WE could have a place in His kingdom when He comes to establish it once and for all. By dealing with the sin that separated us from Himself God, through Jesus demonstrated His love for us, and His commitment to make us a part of His kingdom.

Earlier, the authors had us look at Ephesians 4:28 but that is really just part of a larger discussion Paul was having about relationships. In Ephesians 4:25-32 Paul is saying, "Hey, you guys have to quit lying to each other and start being honest with one another. We are ALL members of the same body! When you are mad at each other, don't use it as an excuse to sin against each other, and never, ever, let the sun set while you are still angry with each other. When you do that? You give the enemy a chance to mess with you. If you have been stealing stuff, cut it out! You've got to work now to be a useful member of society and help those whom you once stole from!  And don't be talking ugly to each other! there is no reason for that. Speak only kind words to one another that will encourage each other. Don't make the Holy Spirit sad, He is the One Who sealed your redemption! Get rid of all that bitterness, rage and anger you've been carrying around. Quit fighting and gossiping, instead be kind to each other and compassionate. Forgive each other just as in Christ God forgave you." (paraphrase mine)

Paul is posing this question: "How can you tell if you love people?"

Take the example of the thief. Okay, so he is no longer stealing, and since he is employed he is told to take it a step further. Now he is compelled to help those in need. You see the thief hasn't stopped being a thief until part of his money goes to help someone other than himself. His heart still tries to get "stuff" for it's self until he begins to think of and believe that others are MORE than himself. Once  he begins to think of others as more than himself he ceases to be a thief in his heart. 

When you examine your relationship to money what can you see about your relationship with God?

Do you see God as the One Who provides for ALL of your needs? Do you trust Him for your security? What about your investments? Financial planning is a wise way to care for others in the future, but what are you investing in NOW. What things do you think are important to God or are you only filling YOUR storehouses?

I am not going to go into the tithe here, those of you that are Christians understand it, and in reality it really was at LEAST a tenth that they were required to give. If the church operated they way it is supposed to, there would be full time Pastors, ministering to the needs of the people, and there would be flocks who were well cared for, and there would be no need for a welfare system...but I digress...

Because of the extravagant grace we have received in Christ we should be overly generous with both our time and money. Sadly, I have met more people outside of the church who are generous in this manner than those who are line the pews each times the doors are open.

The church in Macedonia was a perfect example of generosity. Though they were a poor church, they gave, and gave happily out of their poverty to help those who were in need. They remembered what Christ had done for them and they wanted to DO whatever they could to help.The offering they took up was going to help poor Christians in Jerusalem.

Paul makes two comparisons on how we should view our giving:

First: Our giving promotes unity.

The Macedonians were Gentiles. As we said earlier the offering taken up and given out of their poverty was going to help Jewish Christians. Previously there existed a rift between the Jew and the Gentile. The authors remind us that EVERY SINGLE TIME we pool our resources for the kingdom of God, our experience of reconciling grace is expressed. We see this in America, often, when there is a tragedy and go-fund-me accounts are set up suddenly to provide for victims of terrible and horrific crimes or devastating natural disasters.

Second: The Giving of Jesus

Paul connects the dots between the Macedonians generous gift and the richness of the gift they received in Christ. Their generosity is only a dim reflection of Christ's generosity. Jesus gave up the riches of heaven to become poor in order that we could become rich.

Here, the authors ask us to remember what we were like BEFORE Christ. Some of us may remember, some of us may have put that part of our lives away for a bit, and some of may be thinking, "I wasn't THAT bad. I can tell ya'll this...I was not a nice person. I wasn't THE worst person you would ever want to meet, but I was prone to fighting, yes, with my fists. More often though, my sharp tongue would do the wounding. I cursed like a sailor and was unhappy all the time. I was always looking for whatever that THING was that would make me happy. I wouldn't say that SUDDENLY I was this joyous person skipping and singing all he time and that all of my troubles were gone after I encountered Jesus, Just that MY perspective changed. I POSSESSED JOY and suddenly I wasn't chasing happiness anymore. I stopped cursing entirely until the incident with the pastor (if you're new to the blog you can read about it here)

There was a SUDDEN and DRASTIC change in my life AFTER Christ.

The authors want us to remember our estate BEFORE Christ so that we can appreciate who we are AFTER Christ. If you read from the link I shared you saw how I was ministered to by another believer who remembered where she came from and how deep the riches she received from Christ were. Paul is asking us to do the same in every area of our lives, especially with our finances.BECAUSE our money is such an immensely personal part of our lives only an intensely personal relationship with the Redeemer would be able to loosen our grasp on those purses strings.

Time and People:

How do you spend the majority of your time? As with where you spend your precious money, where you spend your time reveals something about your heart. Each morning we are ALL given the same amount of time. It is not something we can recover or rewind. When it has been spent, it is gone forever. What do you spend YOUR time on. Paul says in Ephesians 5:15-16 to be careful with our time.

"Therefore see that each of you walk carefully [living life with honor, purpose, and courage; shunning those who tolerate and enable evil], not as the unwise, but as [sensible, intelligent, discerning people], making the most of your time [on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and dilligence], because the days are [filled with] evil."

The King James version translates this "Redeeming the time".

To redeem something means to regain possession of in exchange of payment. The authors point out that the call to "redeem the time" is similar to carpe diem which is the Latin term for "seize the day". The literal translation could read: "Buy up the time". The authors explain that the Geek word for "time"being used there is not"chronos"which refers to the passing of time in hours and months and years but rather "kairos"which the Bible uses to refer to the time between Jesus first and second coming. It is a time of unique opportunity for each of us to display the grace, love and mercy of Jesus to others, and it is a time that will have an end, when Christ returns to glory. The authors translate the verse like this:

"As you go about your life in this "in-between time", use it to its fullest to display the grace of Christ to others."

When I read that, I think I could be doing more...

It is NOT calling you to frenetic activity:

The authors remind us here that we are not called to  overload our schedule with church events, obligations, and turn normal relational moments into witnessing encounters. Here's a hint: if it feels forced, it probably is not a "God thing." Redeeming your time may look like going on a missions trip, teaching Sunday school, volunteering when and where you can. It is about a life that is committed to God's calling that encompasses ALL of the details of your every day life.

**Update** Louisiana has experienced massive flooding in recent weeks that has displaced thousands. Redeeming my time has meant I have helped out by making sack lunches, donated clothes and food, and helped with clean up of those flooded homes.

John Piper wrote a book in 2003 entitled "Don't Waste Your Life" in it he talks about our true purpose while we traverse this earth. Highly recommended reading for those who wish to redeem their time.

It means that you see your life in light of your various callings:

The passage is telling us to make the most of the station of life God has placed you in. Are you single? Married? Retired? A child? A friend? An employee? A student?A grandparent?These are all seasons of life, and unique opportunities to display the grace and mercy of Jesus.Too often we live with the attitude, "If I can just make it through THIS season, I will be ok."but there is a lesson to be learned for YOU in that season and a gift of grace you can bestow on others from your time in that season. DON'T WASTE IT.

There is a story called "Peter and the Golden Thread" that caught my attention when I heard it. The story goes that young Peter was always wishing for what came next. He never savored the moment he was IN. One day when he was out walking in a field he grew tired and stopped to rest, and soon fell asleep. Soon though, he heard someone calling his name. It was a very old woman and in her hand she held a magical ball with a hole in the center and hanging out of the hole was a golden thread. The woman explained, the thread is your life. If you pull on the thread just a bit, an hour will pass in seconds. If you pull harder days will pass in minutes. But if you pull with all your strength, months, even years will pass in just a few days. Peter was quite excited. "May I have it?", he asked. The old woman gave the ball to Peter . The next day during school Peter was feeling bored and suddenly remembered his new toy, so he reached in his pocket and gave it a slight tug. He suddenly sound he was playing in his garden! This was WONDERFUL! He suddenly realized the power he now possessed and having grown tired of being a mere school boy he tugged hard on the thread and instantly became a teenager!  He now had a pretty girlfriend named Elise, but still Peter wasn't satisfied. He had not learned to be content. He longed to be an adult, so once again he tugged on his magic thread and was transformed into a middle aged adult. Elise was now his wife and he had a house full of children. He noticed some alarming changes. His hair, once jet black, was now starting to grey around the edges and his once youthful mother, whom he loved dearly, had grown old and frail. Yet, he was still unsatisfied. He tugged on his magic thread and waited for the changes to appear. He was alarmed to see that his beautiful young wife had grown old and passed away and he was now a ninety year old man. All of his children had grown up and left home and were leading lives of their own. For the first time Peter realized he had not embraced the wonders of living. He had never fished with his children or taken a moonlit walk with his beautiful wife. He had never planted a garden or read any of the books his mother loved so much. He became sad at his realization and decided to go back to the woods where he met the old woman who gave him the little ball with the golden thread. While he walked he noticed the little saplings of his youth had grown into mighty oaks. He sat down and fell into a deep sleep, and as before he heard his name being called. "Peter! Have you enjoyed my special gift?" "It was fun at first.", he replied. "but now I hate it. My whole life passed before my eyes and I never had the chance to enjoy it." "You are quite ungrateful," said the old woman, "Still I will grant you one last wish." "I would like to go back and live my life over again," Peter quickly responded. Peter fell into a deep sleep and when he hear his name being called again this time it was his own dear mother standing over him, "Get up Peter! you will be late for school!" Peter dashed out of bed and began to live the way he had hoped. Maximize Every moment. The future will come soon enough.


So, can we see how money and time reveal our heart in relation to God? How we use those things in our human relationships says a lot about our relationship with the One who gave us those things to begin with. He lavishes us with His resources SO that WE can participate in His kingdom work. Don't force those opportunities, they will come naturally. He is THAT cool of a God.

Every day We ALL struggle with selfishness. It is in our nature. We are tired, we have limited funds, we are scared that if we give here we might not have there. The close of this chapter reminds us of this:

"He Who did not spare His Own Son, but gave Him up for us all--how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us ALL things?"Romans 8:32

It's something to think about when we are gripping our wallets thinking "I can't" I know that I in fact CAN because I have NEVER, EVER been hungry or homeless. His promises are YAY and AMEN. Will you trust Him with your time and money and redeem your time for His glory?