I looked in the pantry the other day for a box of pasta. Know what I found? Spaghetti, penne rigate, orzo, linguini, lasagna, shells, and elbow macaroni. I stood there at least five minutes trying to figure out which one I wanted to use. Then I needed vinegar. There was apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, and homemade rosemary vinegar. That took even longer.
I remember the old days when I had spaghetti and macaroni, apple cider vinegar and all purpose white. I didn’t have enough money in the grocery budget to play around with anything else. We still aren’t rich, but we are certainly better off than thirty years ago, and being better off has cost me a lot of time lately, trying to figure out what I want to use when instead of just grabbing the only thing available and throwing it in the pot.
That made me wonder what this economy and this culture is costing the Lord’s body. Things may be changing, but we can still worship without fear. So what do we do? Since we don’t face actual physical persecution, we find silly things to fight about among ourselves. Since we have plenty in the coffers due to our more affluent membership, we argue about what to do with it, and often wind up “burying our money” in bank accounts.
In the very old days, the brethren were too busy fighting pagan culture and hostile government to fight among themselves. In the more recent old days, money was hard to come by for everyone so when they got a little they were quick to share it. I’ve seen that in secular organizations. I was involved with a local music teacher’s group that regularly emptied its bank account giving to needy students for lessons and school music programs for supplies. Then we put together a community cookbook, made $1000 in one month and had to practically pry anything past several members who, once they had gotten a taste of financial security, didn’t want to give it up.
We often say, “Be careful what you wish for.” When we can read in the scriptures of churches so poor they didn’t have enough themselves but still begged to be a part of the giving, I think I understand why wealth is such a dangerous thing. When things are so easy for us that we look for petty things to fight about, Satan is using that wealth, that security, that life of ease to tear us apart and make us ineffective at the mission God has set before us.
Maybe that’s why persecution is looked at favorably in so many passages. Maybe that’s why wealth in the New Testament is never pictured as anything but dangerous.
I just looked in my pantry again. I have all-purpose flour, cake flour, bread flour, and whole wheat flour. Despite my protestations, I am too wealthy.
It’s time to go fix dinner. I don’t know whether to use the basmati rice, the brown rice, or the Arborio rice. Do you know what to do with the blessings you have?
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints-- and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5