Thursday, June 22, 2006

If the Lord doesn’t provide it, I don’t want it.

How should a Christian use credit? How much debt can we really afford? One of the subtle things about credit is that it gives us power. The power to use other peoples money for our own purposes. The power to get things we need to improve our situation. That gives us a false sense of control because ultimately tied to that power is bondage and thorns. Jesus told us in Matthew 13:22 that riches (or other peoples money) are deceitful and has the ability to choke the fruitfulness of His word out of our lives. That verse should be digitally MP3 encoded on the magnetic strip of our credit cards so we have to hear them each time we swipe our cards. We must treat credit very soberly and not allow the power of it to intoxicate us.

What would Jesus do? In Matthew 4:1-11 we have the account of his temptation. One of the things I have always wondered about his temptation is what was the big deal about turning stones into bread? I mean how is that wrong? Jesus is the Son of God. He was hungry. Those rocks don’t belong to anyone, say the word and eat. What’s the problem? Who would it have hurt? Asking these questions illustrates a point. What is my sense of righteousness grounded in? Is it about being right or wrong or is it about depending on my relationship with my heavenly Father? It would not have been "wrong" in the right or wrong sense for Jesus to use his heavenly powers to feed himself. There is no prohibition in the Bible about turning stones into bread. The Pharisees knew all about right and wrong and were always quick to point it out to others. Jesus told us that our righteousness had to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (Matt 5:20). Jesus is calling his followers to a higher standard of righteousness. A standard based not on Law but on Grace, not on rules but on relationship. Jesus valued his dependence upon God more than saving his starving body.

The suggestion to use his heavenly powers to feed himself did not come from his Father but from the devil. As we work, live, and witness in this world we too need to be aware of the source of suggestions to use our credit that come to us. Since credit is so common in our society and almost needful on a daily basis we must only make use of it when it is provided by our heavenly Father. Credit is just a tool, used correctly it is a source of provision. Used incorrectly it is a source of bondage. How much do you value your dependence on God? How badly do you want Jesus’ dependence in you life? How badly do you want God’s fruitfulness? Jesus rebuked the devil with the word of God. That same word is ours for the taking, (Psalm 119:127) so much better than a good credit rating is your word O Lord!

2 Peter 1:3-8 says, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."