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From: "REVIVAL List" <revival_list@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2006 14:05:43 -0500
by Brother David.

Last [week's] E-Teaching about greed not being just an attitude
provoked several readers to request practical help on making
material adjustments in their lives---for which I thank God. It isn't
always easy to see the need to make any adjustments when
living in the Western World, where so many are drunk with the
delusion that, "He who dies with the most toys wins" (a bumper
sticker you may have seen). How blessed is that day when you
realize you've been living on an island of fantasy in an ocean of
reality. Compared to the one-half of the world that is living on less
than two dollars a day, we're living in Disneyland.

So what can you do to begin to obey Christ's clear command to
lay up treasures not on earth but in heaven? Jesus told us exactly
where to begin: "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make
yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in
heaven" (Luke 12:33). Jesus gave this commandment to all of His
disciples, not just to one wealthy man, and it could not be more
plain. Thus, the true disciple of Christ must take inventory of all he
or she possesses and determine what to sell, the proceeds of
which can then be laid up in heaven.

When you begin seriously to consider what to sell, you will likely
find resistance within you to the whole idea. That is a depressing
yet glorious moment, because you will begin to realize how much
all your stuff means to you...and how little Christ means to you.
At that moment of self-realization, the war begins. It is misery at
first, but with each step of obedience, joy increases as you prove
your love for Jesus.

Many, like myself, begin by focusing on selling the possessions
that they never use or enjoy, as they are the easiest to
dispossess. We have a garage sale and unload all the junk in our
attics and garages, and then give the money to some worthy
cause. That is a good start, but God is thinking bigger. While we
are selling a few old clothes to lay up a little bit of treasure in
heaven, the Holy Spirit helps us see that we could sell our house,
use the equity to pay cash for a smaller house, and never have to
make another mortgage payment, which would enable us to lay up
tens of thousands of dollars in heaven in the years ahead. Or we
realize that we could stop buying a new car every year and buy
one every eight years---or never buy another new car, and always
buy used ones---again enabling us to lay up tens of thousands of
dollars in heaven during the rest of our lives. Or we could unload
those luxuries that serve no other purpose than to impress other
people, swell our egos, or indulge our flesh. Or we can make a
decision to delay retirement or never retire, thus eliminating the
need for laying up so much treasure on earth, and thus enabling
the laying up of hundreds of thousands of dollars in heaven,
waiting for our eternal retirement.

So my first advice is to consider what you can do to cut your
expenses as quickly and as drastically as possible, thus enabling
you to lay up as much treasure as possible in heaven. Getting out
of debt would certainly be high up on the list, because any
periodic payment, once eliminated, can then be just as
periodically laid up in heaven. If there is one indication of the
greed and lack of contentment among us, consumer debt is it. As
one person said, "We buy things with money we don't have for
things we don't need to impress people we don't like." A bad
combination indeed. Christians are instructed in Scripture to be
content with what they have, even if it is only food and covering
(see 1 Tim. 6:8; Heb. 13:5).

Regarding debt, I am of course generally speaking, because
incurring debt for appreciating essentials, such as a home, or for
gaining an education or for business capital that will be used to
earn a living can be wise stewardship.

Credit card debt is the absolute worst kind of debt because the
interest is so high, so eliminate it first. If your credit card is not
paid off completely at the end of each monthly billing cycle, that is
a likely indication that you can't control your credit-card spending.
The solution is to take a pair of scissors and cut up all your credit
cards. That is called plastic surgery.

Another kind of surgery that can help is televisionectomy.
Advertisers pay millions to bombard us with images of happy
people getting new stuff. Every commercial is designed to create
discontentment. You can't be seduced by commercials you don't
see. Ask your doctor if a televisionectomy is right for you.

Jesus, of course, didn't lay down any specific commandments
meant to regulate our possessions. For example, He never
decreed the maximum allowable square footage of the homes of
His followers. But all of His followers should consider their homes
in light of His commandment not to lay up treasures on earth but
in heaven. When my wife and I began to wrestle with that
commandment, we ultimately arrived at the conclusion that we
needed to sell our home and scale down, which we did. It provided
us the opportunity to eliminate debt to have more to give. In loving
God and our neighbors as ourselves, the goal is to lay up as little
as possible on earth and as much as possible in heaven. Anything
less is short-sighted, greedy and foolish. But isn't tithing all that
God expects? As I have pointed out previously, one may tithe and
still lay up treasures on earth if one has an abundance. Remember,
the Pharisees scrupulously tithed and went to hell, lovers of
money (see Matt. 5:20; 23:15, 23, 33; Luke 18:12).

But does God expect you to sell your house to buy a smaller one?
Perhaps He does, but I don't know. Each one of us must work out
our own individual salvation with fear and trembling, and I can
assure you that I won't be the one sitting on the throne when you
stand at your judgment. So make sure your stewardship will stand
God's scrutiny. I suspect that there are more ways to deceive
ourselves regarding this than any other issue of obedience before God.

The important thing is to look at our homes, as well as every other
material possession, in the light of God's eternal kingdom and use
it accordingly. God may be leading you not to scale down to a
smaller house, but to purchase a larger one---if it is for some
kingdom purpose, like adopting orphans from another country,
raising a big tribe of radical disciples, or facilitating church
gatherings. One who does that is just as effectively "giving up his
house for Christ" as the one who sells his large home, buys a
smaller one, and gives the remaining equity to the poor.

Some who are currently renting a home might demonstrate better
stewardship if they saved money for a down payment in order to
purchase a home, allowing them to build equity that can eventually
be used to bless others. Generally speaking, rent money is money wasted.

Sharing your home in some fashion can be a great means to lay
up more treasure in heaven, either by freely giving room to a needy
person or by renting part of your home to a not-so-needy person
and giving away the rental payment to charity. As I write these
words, I'm ministering at a Christian community in Tennessee
where many families share quite large double-wide mobile homes
that they corporately own. All of their very adequate homes were
pre-owned and have cost them less than $40,000 each. Their per-
person investment in real estate, including homes and one-
hundred beautiful acres, is less than $5,000. Amazing.

Once you've taken care of the larger issues of stewardship that
will make the greatest impact on eternity, then you can focus on
the smaller issues without the hypocrisy of "straining out gnats to
swallow camels." Sell off everything you don't need that has any
worth. EBay is waiting for you. (Not too long ago, some friends
sold a pair of old Japanese binoculars, which they thought was
junk, for $600 on eBay. That money went to four missionaries.)
Then adjust your lifestyle. There are zillions of ways to live more
modestly and frugally that will enable you to lay up more treasures
in heaven, from eating less and eating out less (to know if you've
been wasting money on food, just check your wasteline!), to
turning down the thermostat, to ignoring fashion, to driving a
smaller, more gas-efficient vehicle, to keeping that old furniture
another five years, to not replacing the dog that died. Applying the
principles I've outlined in this article enables our family to live on
half of what we did six years ago. We now have so much more to give.

I must add that one reader, who hates to see God's money wasted,
has requested that I say something about giving intelligently, lest
all my efforts at motivating people to scale down be wasted. So I'm
saying it. Give intelligently. Don't waste God's money supporting
ministries that promote the American gospel or churches that are
social clubs sanctified by a few scriptures. Lay up treasures in
heaven by supporting those who are proclaiming truth, or those
who are helping the poor (Matt. 25:31-46 is great guide). There are
so many churches and ministries that qualify. The Holy Spirit will
help you to give strategically and fruitfully.

One more piece of advice for those of us who are trying to follow
Christ while living in Disneyland. It is good to frequently remind
ourselves of how different is our lifestyle compared to the half of
the world's people who live on less than $2 per day. [There] are
photos that might be good to print out and look at every day....

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