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Thriving in Tough Times 2

April 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

Putting Spiritual Priorities Ahead of Physical Priorities

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)

There was a time I lived in the corporate world. Early on in that career I attended my first upper management staff meeting. Our company president began the meeting by stating that the company’s mission and single priority was to make money. In the ignorance and idealism of my youth I spoke up that there were some things more important than money.

The room fell into a stunned silence; like I had just untied the string that held the universe in place.

“What is more important than money?” he asked. There wasn’t any sarcasm in his voice; he really wanted to know. It was like I had introduced a radical new concept. The other managers had already retreated into their fox holes; I wasn’t going to get any help from them.

“Well,” I started, “There’s keeping our promises to customers and employees and suppliers.” I kept going for a minute, but the didactic fizzled. I quit talking. There was a silent pause. Then we went back to our mission and single priority of making money. Boy, did I have a lot to learn.

*****

When things get tough in the ‘real’ world our survival mechanism kicks in. When our source of income, security or safety is threatened, all auxiliary systems shut down. Our mission and single priority is to deal with the threat – protect our source.

We become preoccupied with the threat – preoccupied with the need … or the idea that there might be a need. That’s what happens when our source is threatened.

But wait a minute …

What happened to, “… seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”? What’s the source we’re so worried about being threatened?

Remember last week I was talking about being reborn into a new spirit world and how that rebirth included dying to the old ‘spirit’ world our first birth landed us in? Remember I said that our bodies, for the time being, were still stuck in and affected by the old world? Well that’s true. But even though physical needs are met by the mechanisms of this world, those mechanisms are not our source.

A benefit to being reborn into a new spirit world – God’s kingdom – is that He promises to meet not just our spiritual needs, but our physical needs right here and now too. He becomes our source.

Jobs and savings accounts are great mechanisms for getting our physical needs met. In most cases I’m pretty safe telling you that your job and/or your savings account are the mechanisms God has given you for meeting your physical needs. They’re the mechanisms; God is the source.

If all that sounds more like a spiritual platitude to you than solid financial advice, let’s dig into the idea a little.

During the three years Jesus ministered on earth, he was continually providing for the physical needs of people. His first miracle was at a wedding. The party had run out of wine. Running out of wine at a wedding was a big deal. It was embarrassing to the hosts and could ruin the whole occasion. Jesus’ mom, already having an inkling of who he really was, instructed the servers, “Go get my son and do whatever he tells you.” Jesus told the servers to fill six stone jars nearby with water and bring them to the host of the party. The water the servers put into the jars turned into wine when the host dipped it out. Not just wine – really good wine; better wine than the wedding host had bought and run out of in the first place.

These jars were the kind Jews used for ceremonial washing; each jar held between twenty and thirty gallons. Think about that for a second. Six jars at twenty to thirty gallons each; that’s 120 – 180 gallons of wine – really good wine. I don’t know how many people were at that party, but my guess is that they were happy when they left.

Having to deal with his mother and the wedding servers at this point was more of a nuisance than a ministry. But he did what she asked, and all it took was a simple instruction to the servers. It wasn’t really a big deal to Jesus. Making 120 gallons of wine wasn’t any harder than making a gallon. Making really good wine wasn’t any harder than making cheap wine.

The stone jars weren’t anything special and the water was just well water – they weren’t the source – just the mechanism. I wonder how many times after that wedding party the host had those stone jars filled with water again and how many times he dipped it out hoping maybe …. just maybe ….

Twice Jesus fed thousands of people from a few fish and a few loaves of bread. Nothing special about the fish or the bread; they weren’t the source.

Trusting in your job or your savings account, whether times are good or times are tough, is taking your eyes off the source. Do you really think you were solely responsible for getting that job or putting that money in your account in the first place?

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) God provides for you even when you think that it’s you providing for you. The problem comes when you get the mechanism and the source mixed up. The job and the savings account you treasure so much – the one you’re so worried about losing – are just a mechanism, not the source.

*****

There was man lived who lived in a little cottage in the woods. Everyday he took his wooden cup off the shelf in his cottage and walked down to a spring of water nearby and dipped his wooden cup into spring and drank his fill of water. But what the man didn’t know was that there was a flaw in the grain of his wooden cup. One morning he woke up and went to the shelf to retrieve his cup, but alas, sometime in the night the cup had split in half! The man was devastated! His cup was split in half! How would he drink without the wooden cup! All day and all night he sat in his cottage and stared at the wooden cup that had split in half and grieved. The next day was no better, the cup was still split and the man remained in his cottage and grieved. “My cup, my cup! It has been split in half and I shall never drink from it again!” The poor man never recovered from the loss of his cup. He stayed in the cottage and grieved over his cup until eventually he died from thirst, when all he had to do was walk down to the spring and dip his hand into the water and drink.

*****

It’s not much of a parable, I know. I mean, how many of us would be so foolish as that man; mistaking mechanism for the source.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength … And my God shall meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:12-13, 19)

Tags: God's purpose · money · peace · success

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