Every four years at this time the world stops its bickering, well, mostly, and turns their eyes to the Olympic Games. The Opening Ceremonies are over and the competition has begun. We pay homage to these great athletes who make it to this amazing competition and somewhere in the back of our minds we wish we could be there, or, if you’re as old as me, wish we could have been there in our prime. We never stop to think how much we’re lying to ourselves with that wish. Those athletes that make it to the Games compete and focus with one goal in mind for years before they even try out. They sacrifice so many of the things that are “normal” in society with a single-minded devotion of becoming the best in the world at their sport. They spend more hours of practice and training in one week than we ever attempted in one month. They are focused on the goal.
Jesus reminds us of the need to focus on our goal of serving Him. As people who have made some kind of commitment in the past to follow Jesus, far too often we have been side-tracked. We get engrossed in our hobbies and end up missing time with God and His people. Our career beckons us and we seek success in our career at the expense of family, friends, and, worst, God. Oh, it’s easy to justify the pursuit of our careers because God needs people in every career, but far too often by the time we get to the top of our field, we are no longer the people God needs us to be there. Jesus reminded us of our priorities long ago. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
I think Jesus used the example of money because it seems to have universal and timeless appeal. The appeal of money is a subtle trap since it seems at times that God equates monetary success with His blessings. In the days of Jesus, the attitude could probably be seen as “money equals God’s blessings for doing right, poverty is God’s curse for doing wrong” and one’s place in the social strata was determined by how much God was blessing you. The pursuit of money began to supplant the pursuit of God and His ways. We seem to have that same problem, especially in church work. As “rich” westerners we recognize that our wealth places demands on us to share with those less fortunate. As we do that we often act as though our wealth gives us special spiritual insight so that we can tell those to whom we are ministering exactly what to do. In truth, the demands of Jesus are that we go, we support, and we listen to those who have been living and working in that area whose spiritual wealth may be greater than ours.
We have gotten used to listening to those preachers who tell us that we should be financially wealthy. The biggest problem with that type of preaching is that it turns us towards the game of counting money as a guide to spiritual health. We have forgotten our need to honor Jesus as our master, paying Him lip service in our pursuit of our real master: financial success. To be fair, there is nothing wrong with financial success if it is a byproduct of our commitment to Jesus. If it is, though, we will find ways to use that wealth to further God’s kingdom instead of making our own lives more comfortable. If you are reading this, you are probably in the top 1% of the world financially. How can you use that wealth to further God’s kingdom?
Oh Lord, we are so blessed in this world. Our greatest blessing is our relationship with You. Remind us of that every day. We have been blessed financially far beyond what we deserve. Remind us that You have entrusted us financially so that we can bless others. Help us to use that money is a tool, not a goal.