Christians and Culture by Dr. Tim Woodroof
Let me offer a few examples from Scripture. We don’t view death like “the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We don’t regard other people “from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16). What the world sees as wisdom, we understand to be foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19).
There is something distinct, something upside down, about the Christian perspective. There always has been. There always should be.
Jesus’ View of Money
Nothing illustrates this better than Christ’s views on money. Followers of Jesus look on material possessions in a distinctly unworldly way. Jesus talked to his disciples about this difference on numerous occasions. “Life does not consist in an abundance of [his] possessions” (Luke 12:15). “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Luke 16:13).
In the strange economic times we are now experiencing—lean times, uncertain times—there is a particular money-matter Jesus talked about that Christians need to hear again: the question of where we draw our security for taking care of physical needs.
“Store up earthly treasures,” says the worldly perspective. “Build bigger barns. Save and invest. Diversify your portfolio. And—when lean times come—take care of yourself, cut out unnecessary expenses (like generosity to others), and trust your possessions to take care of your needs.” The cost of such a perspective, of course, is a constant fixation on material things, a continual anxiety about the future, and a determined selfishness that puts “me and mine” above all others.
The perspective of Jesus would lead in a different direction. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).
“Keep kingdom things first,” Jesus tells his followers. “Build a bigger heart. Invest in heavenly matters. And—when the lean times come (as they surely will)—you can trust your Father to provide what you need. You can take care of others knowing God will take care of you. You don’t have to be anxious. You don’t need to feel insecure.”
The Right Perspective
Like most of what Jesus said about money, Christians have listened and smiled and then done the opposite. His admonition “Don’t worry” sounds unrealistic and impractical. His encouragement to “trust the Father” seems materially naïve. In lean times—especially in lean times—Christians have taken the advice of the world over the advice of their Lord.
But what if Jesus is right? What if the perspective he teaches is the best strategy for ensuring the necessities of life? What if, when the lean times come, we have an opportunity to show the world the difference Jesus makes by demonstrating a different response to economic stress?
Here are 10 suggestions for using the current downturn to live out the Christian difference:
• Keep focused on kingdom matters. Don’t be distracted by the merely physical. Let Jesus set your agenda, not economic troubles.
• Refuse to be anxious. Do not let worry take root in your heart or in your words.
• Demonstrate contentment at every opportunity. (Nothing says “faith” quite like peace and gratitude!)
• Resist selfishness. Don’t let hard times make you hard. Stay open to compassion and the needs of others.
• Be generous. Tip larger. Watch for opportunities to offer financial help. Live with an open hand and heart. Trust the maxim: “Give, and it will be given to you.”
• Open your home. Hospitality costs little and repays much.
• Count your blessings rather than listing your worries.
• Watch for God’s provision and testify to his care.
• Revisit what Jesus says about possessions and talk about his teachings with others.
• Pray for others in economic straits, trusting the Father to provide what they need.
Dr. Tim Woodroof is a freelance writer and speaker. He and his wife Julie make their home in Nashville, Tennessee.