First things first

Week 11 (March)

"Is there anything wrong with Christians enjoying the same standard of living as non-Christians?" Her question was sincere.

Both she and her her husband came from a relatively low economic strata but they had worked hard and intelligently. Now they drove an expensive car and had a three-bedroom brick house in the country. As we talked, their children and ours were splashing around happily in their backyard swimming pool.

However, a passing remark by a Christian friend had recently began to trouble her. Was it wrong for Christians to have what they now possessed?

When Jesus said -- as Luke records in chapter 12 -- "Sell all you have and give it to the poor," was He talking only to His disciples at that given point in their lives? Or did He mean for those words to reach across the centuries and become a command to affluent American Christians?

My friend and I talked for a long time about her questions. We talked about what Jesus had to say in Luke 12 where He deals with materialism. We reminded ourselves of how Jesus always went to the heart of the issue, of how He was concerned more about one's attitude toward things rather than the actual possessing of those things,

The devil tries to push us into making our daily pursuits for a living our primary goal while we shift Kingdom of God issues to secondary status. Jesus knew that when He said, "Don't be anxious about your tomorrows."

Later that day, the lady's husband picked up the subject of their fairly recent affluence, So we talked some about priorities and primary goals in life. Then, he said, "Until we started tithing, nothing was going right financially with us. This has all come to us since we started putting the Lord first."

There was at least part of their answer. Jesus said, "Seek first His kingdom."(Matthew 6:33) Then He went on to say things like: "Your Father knows what you need,"(Matthew 6:8) and "these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

This Texas family had been attempting to follow this command of Jesus. In straightening up their lives spiritually, they had also re-arranged their priorities so that their lives now gave evidence of trust in Cod.

I couldn't tell this family exactly at what standard of living they should live as Christians. I could tell them that the Lord doesn't want to send us on a guilt trip if our priorities are right. What He does call us to do is to put first things first.

I have known believers who complained so much about money that they seemed to be in this "anxious" condition Jesus warned against. It didn't seemed to have penetrated their minds that God, who has given us the greater things (forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and sonship), may be expected to give us the smaller ones.

One of the enjoyable parts of a missionary's home assignment or furlough year is meeting American Christians who've discovered the joy of putting the Kingdom of God first in their lives, really first.

Many of them I've met have purposely chosen to spend less on themselves to give priority to the building of the Kingdom. They're actually giving such a percentage of their income to the church that it has affected their standard of living.

What a blessing it is to be with people like the Don Messers, the Carl Dueys, the Lloyd Silers or the Gene Phillips. They've all discovered a real sense of joy in trusting God with their future.

Anxious about tomorrow? Not them! They're seeking first the Kingdom of God, and He is seeing that their other needs are met.

I wrote these devotional thoughts while we were missionaries in Italy. They originally appeared in the March 16, 1980 edition of Standard, a take-home piece for adult Sunday school classes.

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Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132  |  Phone: 405-740-4149 - Fax: 405-491-6658

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