Values Clarification... Jesus Style
And Jesus was saying ... "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight." Luke 16:13-15. NIV
That last line really gets me. "What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight." The context of the passage tells us that what Jesus had in mind was the insatiable human desire for wealth. He was reminding us all that we cannot sell out to the world and the Lord at the same time. Only one true passion can rule our lives. His words are as timely and piercing today as when he uttered them. But God's way of thinking is so unlike ours that we find it next to impossible to absorb such a radical statement. Like the Pharisees of old, many today hope that earthly, human ambition can be successfully wedded to true devotion to Christ. But it just isn't so. There is an old Christian poem which says, "Only one life, t'will soon be passed; only what's done for Christ will last." True.
On the other hand, does this mean that our daily work is useless and meaningless? Most of us spend most of our time in the "mundane" -- the things which have to do with this world (the Latin word for world is mundus). We burn most of our sunlight hours in the activity of simply living, at times struggling to survive. We work at our careers, cultivate our families, raise our kids, and generally live our lives in a somewhat hostile environment where gravity will eventually have it's way with us. It doesn't seem very spiritual. Are we doomed to a sense of hopelessness, having to work to make money to live, yet always feeling faintly guilty about the whole thing because we might be doing something God despises? Earlier today I had to take a couple of hours and change the brake pads on my car. Was the Lord standing at distance holding His nose, waiting for me to finish this filthy task and get back to "true devotion"? I don't think so.
Jesus became a human and lived a much dustier and more mundane life than most Americans would dream of. He chose to be born ( He's the only one of us who can say that, by the way) at a time and in a place where life was brutally hard and terribly short. Many of us would faint dead away if we had to live like a first century Jewish peasant. Our idea of roughing it is eating bran muffins. He spent nine tenths of His life just growing and living and preparing for the last three years. And of those years he invested a sizable portion in relative obscurity with an unlikely group of disciples. He drew His metaphors from the honorable, but very mundane, world of agriculture -- farming and sheep tending to be precise -- two of the most difficult and "unspiritual" occupations imaginable. Jesus was not a monk. He lived in the real world and never told His people to run from it. What He taught was a radical way of living in the mundane, not a denial of it. He draws us into a discipleship which helps us to do the mundane with a sense of the transcendent.
The point to the Lord's teaching on priorities is not about feeling guilty for having to make a living. It's about the passion of life, what we really love, the reason for who we are. We were created for more than career advancement and toy buying. It's not that we should stop the daily work He has given us (provided it is honorable and honest work, of course). It's that the work must never be allowed to become the reason for our existence. In a sense, our work is simply a way He has given us of supporting our Christian habit. In heaven (where we Christians are headed, remember) the important thing about us will not be how much we earned, where we lived, what titles we were awarded, or how big or small a car we drove. The only thing that will matter is how we related to the Lord and whether or not our earthly life bore the brand of His Spirit. Did the life of Christ shine through ours? Most of what people think of us now simply won't be known or cared about at all.
In the late 18th century there lived a very well-respected American industrialist. He was born in 1735 in Massachusetts. Known to his world as a great metal craftsman and artisan, he pioneered a manufacturing company which is still flourishing today. He had quite a reputation as a successful businessman. But that's not how we know him.
We don't remember this man as a wealthy entrepreneur. He does not loom large in our minds for being a pioneer in manufacturing and metallurgy. He is a hero in our history, but not because he started a successful copper and brass company, even though it still bears his name: Revere Copper and Brass Incorporated. We remember Paul Revere for one brief, heroic ride early in the Revolutionary War.
What you will be glad of in eternity is not what most of your friends now might think. It won't be your position in the world or your personal achievements in this life. When you reflect on it, that's a great relief. It means that we are free to live with integrity and loyalty to Him in whatever soil he has planted us. It means we are at liberty to make any contributions to His kingdom that present themselves, and know that even our daily duties are redeemed and made holy in His sight. It sets us free to be good at the jobs He has given us and make the most of our witness, knowing that our life is eternal and that what we do in His service will last for ever.
Just a thought.