God & Money

One general objection I have with some of the messages within the Christian faith is selective emphasis—that is, emphasizing certain verses of scriptures over others—in addition to selection bias: omitting certain verses from scripture.

Recently, there has been one verse that continually keeps coming into my life: “‘No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’” (Matthew 6:24, NLT). While I had heard this verse in messages before, it was infrequent and rarely the center of any serious analysis; however, in my personal life, I recently had felt a great sense of comfort not merely by reading this verse in isolation, but in its complete context, spanning Matthew 6:19-34. It was through the added context of Jesus’ words that I truly understood what was being said in verse 24; moreover, the context and rich examples that Jesus uses provided me with the comfort, guidance, and reassurance of faith that I needed.

In our world, especially in American culture, materialism, work, production, and success are all encultured into you; moreover, they are blended up and somehow attached to your self-worth. As Jefferson Bethke writes (playing off Descartes’ famous words), “America’s mantra is, ‘I produce, therefore I am.’” It seems that our lives somehow have become intertwined with what it is that we produce or can show others. This goes hand-in-hand with our media-driven culture—however, let us return to scripture.

In John 15:5, Jesus says, “‘I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.’” Here, is a clear verse illustrating that we are called to produce fruit, but what kind of fruit? Well, John 15:15 says, “lasting fruit” or “fruit that will remain.” And, how do we accomplish such a task? We do so by following Jesus’ command: “‘Don’t store up treasures here on earth…Store your treasures in heaven.’” (Matthew 6:20-21, NLV).

So, why is this all so important? The issue comes back to what is being emphasized. As Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34 say, “‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (NIV). This is a matter of our hearts and, thus, is of remarkable relevance; moreover, it is regarding how our relationship to the material world should be, which is of paramount importance in the current culture in which we live.

Unfortunately, this message seems to not receive as much attention as it deserves—in fact, the attention it has received by some leaders within the Christian faith has been to emphasize the opposite point, and conflate the idea that inner works can be manifested materially. I will speak more on this in my next post as I discuss the emergence and growth of the prosperity gospel.

Guide My Soul

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.” – Proverbs 23:7

Lord, please forgive my heart for ingesting so much evil under the claim of righteous indignation. It is not my call to rid this world of evil, but to have faith and to grow in my relationship with You. I have drifted from the way of You by being consumed in the politics of this world and letting my heart overflow with arguments, defenses, justifications and distractions. All of which serve to distract me from consuming myself with You — in the form of Love, Beauty and Grace. Such words are only given meaning through the Word made flesh Christ Jesus.

Redirect my path and prune me of the compulsion to look at the entertainment, to be consumed by half-truths and meaningless distractions. Lord Almighty, shield me from the business and trivialities of this life. Grant me serenity  through asylum in your garden. Let me visit the eternal springs and be overtaken by the ripples of calmness that resonate within my spirit. Instruct my hands to open up from their tense clasp onto reality and worldly knowledge and direct my gaze upon you and your fathomless nature.

You are the mystery which should consume me. Nothing of this world will last; so, too, will be the fate of me, if I let this world overtake me.

Lord,
Guard my heart;
Guide my mind;
Gild my soul.

Unrequited Love

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“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” – 1 John 3:22

It seems too good to be true to be able to ask for whatever you desire (that which is in accordance with God’s will) and receive it. The mind can run wild with the boundless possibilities and potentials that wait for us through prayer.

But, though we want to receive gifts, don’t we also feel a pressure to reciprocate when a gift is given to us? I think this can be especially understood with the Christmas season upon us. Receiving gifts is wonderful, but is a guilt associated with receiving. What if I can’t reciprocate appropriately and return the relationship back to balance through an appropriate response?

This may have merit in human exchanges, but it is impossible when regarding our relationship to God. From the beginning, the relationship was unbalanced: “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). There is nothing we can give back to God to ever even the score – but, this is not an issue; it is the shining example of God’s beautiful and boundless love and grace!

“In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves.

God wants to give to his children. He wants to love us, not just a little bit, but love in abundance because abundance of love is all that God knows. The gifts he graces us with our beyond even our wildest imaginings. As Matthew 7:9-11 states, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

Therefore, our jobs become to accept God’s grace, love and abundance and accept that we deserve none of it, but He, nevertheless, showers us with it. Then, we can begin to walk in perfect love without fear, guilt or doubt and share this pure love with one another. But, “let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:18).

Think What You Become

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“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” – Matthew 6:22

“For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” – Proverbs 23:7

Cathexis is a term used in psychoanalysis which is the act of placing energy into a person, object or idea. This is in reference to your mental and emotional energy, but can more easily be defined as your focus.

This verse from Matthew references how your eye is what will fill your body with health and light.

But what is this really saying?

Our eyes are how we view the world. We are primarily visual creatures; however, visual sight is not the only way we see. We have the gift of thought, imagination and mental creativity that all take place within the sight of the mind. These wild imaginings and thoughts about the future and past all take place, not in front of our physical eyes, but center stage in the theater of our minds.

So, now let us turn to the second verse and apply the idea of cathexis. We have the ability to place mental energy onto the world around us and we do so all the time. We are thinking about our loved ones; well, we are using this mental energy to focus on them. They are then becoming a part of us. We also can do this for objects. We might spend all our time thinking about some new car and using our cathexis on this car, so much so, that we become it.

And that is the main point: You become what you focus on. This may not seem like a novel concept, until I say that I mean it quite literally. Our thoughts and the energy we use to place a focus make up our lives. Of course, we usually spread this energy around into many different people, objects and ideas, but not always. Sometimes there is a central person, object or idea that we focus our lives around. And this can be dangerous, or it can be glorious.

For if we prize something so much that we let it consume us and all our mental and emotional energy becomes channeled into it, then we become whatever it is. Therefore, if it is some material manifestation of this earth, we become it and we become bound to this world. But, if we consume ourselves with the idea of love and that turns our focus to loving people and using objects to help people, then we have been consumed by something that is much more powerful than this earth and we are liberated.

 

 

 

Applications of Omnibenevolence

Let us revisit the omnipotence paradox. Simply stated it calls into to question the characteristics most often ascribed to the Christian God; that is, omnipotence (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (all present), and omnibenevolent (all loving).

The idea is that if God is all loving, then evil shouldn’t exist. Evil does exist. Therefore, he is either not powerful enough to stop it (not omnipotent) or allows it to happen and therefore not all loving.

Now, a quick rebuttal is that to have free will one would have to have the option to do evil. If you have free will to do anything, but you can’t kill, or hurt people then that is not truly free.

Some would argue that we are determined and do not have free will, but let us suppose that there is a drop of free will in all of us, and therefore evil is a natural byproduct, which does not affect God’s omnibenevolence.

So, if this is the case and evil exists and God remains all loving, then let us apply this concept to the world.

If God is all loving, then that is totally inclusive of everyone. It means God loves Hitler, Ted Bundy and Osama bin Laden. Moreover, he didn’t just love them after their crimes, he loved them during as well because he is all loving and there is no room in that definition for exceptions.

Now, it is possible that a being which is truly that powerful and loving is so beyond human understanding that it can transcend anything. Also, God being all knowing would obviously know and understand so much of this illusionary life that we live and what the true reality really is.

Regardless, it is a hard concept to wrap your mind and around. My main point of writing this is to not try and harm people’s faith or challenge the existence of God. I solely want to call into question the characteristics we ascribe to God and what they actually mean. Moreover, how these concepts such as all powerful and all loving and being infinite are truly concepts that our human minds really cannot understand and we are speaking about them while viewing them through a pinhole.