Ten Words to Live By
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If you went shopping on Black Friday or Green Saturday (and even if you have shopped on-line in advance of Cyber Monday) it is likely that you went about your purchases and business unconsciously aware of the many security devices that are now a common feature of our public life.
Consider the fact that we move past security cameras regularly in banks, stores, and public spaces. The items we buy are protected against tampering and shoplifting with plastic seals, magnetic strips, ink packets, and strapped-on sirens. When we check out check out or shop on-line our transactions are locked up in 128-bit encryption and initiated with PIN codes and passwords. All of these layers of security, and we are rarely conscious of them!
These facts of life indicate that our culture is conditioned to assume that someone is always stealing something. Doesnt that strike us as a natural outlook? Its not only the suburban teenager stuffing a sweater in her oversized bag that we imagine stealing from us. We have also learned the hard way that some of the richest and most powerful people in big business and government are also thieves. The image of the robber in a striped shirt and domino-mask with a dollar-sign bag has been replaced by a man in a $5,000 dollar suit and tie.
There are a few other facts we might draw from the reality of our high-security world:
- First, stealing costs us all. Who pays for all the cameras, metal detectors, and encryption? We all do. And it doesnt only cost us in cash, there is an erosion of public trust that is costing us dearly.
- Second, not only is public trust eroding, but the environment we live in is highly toxic to personal integrity. If there is theft going on everywhere, then who really notices our efforts to be completely honest does it really matter?
- Third, stealing in America is not typically motivated by material needs. Only in the rarest cases or in disasters do we hear of people stealing for food and water. When we consider that statistically, theft was less of a problem in the Great Depression than it is today, we might conclude that theft today is not based on need, but it is motivated by greed.
Greed is a problem for all classes. The wealthiest and poorest may be influenced by greed. Related to the greediness of our culture is the rampant materialism and consumerism of our age.
Do we really need to go shopping at 3 AM on the day after Thanksgiving? I always wonder what the hot item of the year is when I see people lined up and camped out in front of a store. Deck the Halls takes on new meaning at this time of year ever since people started throwing fists at each other trying to grab a limited supply of Cabbage Patch Dolls and Tickle-Me Elmos.
The long-lines, the early-bird shoppers, and the huge profits are often reported on the news with a wink and nod, but do we ever stop and realize how upside-down it may truly be? In our country we wait in lines for high-priced Playstations and Nintendos, but in many other nations the people wait in lines for food that may not be available. What we spend on our one purchase may be as much or more than what people in other nations make in a single year.
- Concept of Ownership
Giving counters Greed.
- God owns all things. The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. Psalm 24:1. Do we own anything that hasnt been given to us?
- Stealing is the false idea that you can take something and make it your own. That goes beyond legal and illegal. Even if you acquire something legally it may not be your own. Stealing can be more that theft.
Today is Always Thanksgiving. We have our holidays backwards. We gather around to give thanks for what we have on one day the fourth Thursday in November, then for the next month we are consumed with materialism. It seems like we should start the shopping season and have Christmas and then after we open all the presents the next day ought to be Thanksgiving. If we did that we might not scurry and scamper for so much stuff. We might realize that we are really just children over-doing it on too much Halloween Candy.
- Do we really think that God has no interest in how we spend all of our money as long as we give him a tenth? Stop and think about it: God doesnt care if we lose large sums of money at the casino as long as we paid our tithe? Money that could have been given to help others? Stop and think about it: God doesnt care that we have more houses, cars, and clothes than we need as long as we put our offering in the plate? Stop and think about it: God doesnt care that we have bought high-end tech gadgets which are marked up by 1000% as long as we pay him his cut?
- The 10% is not all that God owns or cares about. God has an opinion with the 90% too. In his parable of the seed and the sower, Jesus taught that the deceitfulness of wealth and desire for things chokes out the growth of the gospel in our lives (Mark 4). James issues a serious warning to those who live in self-indulgence (James 5). The message is clear that we should use all of our wealth to honor God.
- Giving counters greed and every act of giving is a rebellion against the desires and powers that makes us materialistic. How we give should lead how we spend.
- If we realize that all we have comes from God then we give thanks. Cultivating an attitude of thanksgiving transforms our attitude about things and ownership. It overcomes greed and it allows us to be more content. We learn to trust God by giving thanks. And it just might change our whole society starting with us ...
Theres something different about the community of believers that live with Christ among them. Theres no stealing among them. There are no PIN Codes or passwords. There are no metal detectors or magnetic sensors. There are no food lines or forgers. Why? Because they have overcome greed and need. Why? Because they dont own anything they will not share.
This could be us, if we have the spirit of Christ rather than the spirit of the age.
This could be us, if we devote ourselves to the apostles teaching, worship, and prayer.
This could be us, if we will truly meet together and eat together with glad and sincere hearts.
And if this could be us, we just might be filled with awe and wonder at what God can do through us!
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 25 November 2007
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