Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Are you blessed? Don't feel guilty, but give thanks!

And He said to them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses' Luke 12:15

As we packed up our life in the UK, the headlines were filled with dreadful stories regarding the refugees fleeing from Syria. So many 'normal', 'respectable' families were leaving all they owned and making tremendously dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea. Weekly there were reports of overloaded boats capsizing and many men, women and children being drowned. As I heard these reports, I was in the process of deciding which possessions to bring in our luggage, which to pack into a 20 foot container, which to store and which to give away. I felt acutely aware of the discrepancy; that I had the luxury of more possessions than I actually need and the financial blessings to enable the shipment, in contrast to those who flee with nothing.

What should our response be? Are there any Biblical principles to consider?

'There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land' Deuteronomy 15:11

'Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give,  willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life'. 1 Tim 6:17-19

'From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked'. Luke 12:48

From these sections, I would draw several principles:

1) In any society there will be those who have more and those who have less. 

2) Rather than feeling guilty about what we have, we rather should prayerfully seek how we can best use these things for God's glory

3) Our confidence and security should never come from our material security, but from our confidence in God

4) We have a responsibility before God to see all things as a gift from Him, to be used for His glory

I think new Christians often feel this way - that they immediately want to sell everything they have and give the proceeds to the poor. Yet this is not usually their calling, and indeed by doing so, they might simply join the number of needy people in the population. Instead we need to consider all things as a gift, and possibly a transient gift.

Indeed, there may be times when it is right to spend slightly more on something in order to serve God more effectively - thinking of our field of work, that could be a reliable laptop computer which enables us to work effectively when we move between sites and countries and when there are powercuts, or a car which tough enough to not require frequent repairs from driving on low quality roads in the rainy season and which is large enough to be able to offer others lifts. Sometimes, the best use of your money (after giving/ tithing) is to spend a little more than you might naturally choose to in order to maximise the opportunities. (We are very frugal as a family, and often find the most efficient and economical approach, so it is quite difficult for us to make these choices. However living frugally can also become a kind of idol, and again requires a prayerful approach).

We don't know what the future holds. When my daughter and I were evacuated by air ambulance seven years ago, I was allowed to pack one small bag. My husband followed the following day with 20 Kg of baggage. But we did not know that we would ever return to our home after that. And you know, that didn't matter at all to us then. We were content to leave it all behind, knowing God was with us and would provide all we needed. Things were just things. Here, we are in an East African country, which at the present time is relatively stable. But other missionary friends in West Africa are facing a military coup and much uncertainty which seems to have come about quite suddenly. We do not know the day or the time when such things might happen. Yes, we are expecting many of our belongings to arrive by ship in a few months' time - books, toys, camping equipment and so forth; but that day might never come. And our desire in having all these things is to be able to serve God well, to encourage others, to raise and educate the boys in a godly way, and to use everything for His glory.

When my daughter was ill, and after she died, some friends expressed a feeling of guilt for having several healthy children. I used to counsel them not to feel guilty, but rather to rejoice in what they had. None of us know what tomorrow might bring, and Jesus tells us quite clearly not to worry about tomorrow. And we are clearly instructed that we are to 'give thanks in all circumstances'.

It might be your material blessings, maybe your health, maybe your family - but please don't feel guilty about the areas where you have been greatly blessed. You may well have friends who would long for what you have, there may be others on your street, in your church, in your workplaces, in your city who are struggling tremendously. May I encourage you to give thanks to God and prayerfully seek how to use His blessings for His kingdom.

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