| MOSAIC December 2011
This is a very good question – especially since the theme of this MOSAIC issue is Discipleship.
Christian discipleship is part of the journey by which we conform to the Image of our Christ. Discipleship is wanting to be like Jesus – and living it our in everyday life and relationships – including how we steward our time, talents and treasures.
“Does anyone want to be like you in your Debt?”
The Canadian household debt hit 1.4 Trillion dollars in 2010. In a report issued by the Vanier Institute, that is an average accumulated debt per household of over $100,000. According to the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada, if the debt were spread across all Canadians, each person would owe $41,740 (that’s two-and-a-half times more than two decades ago).
Our culture has been encouraging us to live well beyond our means – and turning to debt in order to pay for it. But the bible says that debt is like slavery. And Christ calls us to be free from all bondages – so that we can become His bondservants.
When you look at the amount of debt we may be carrying (whether as an individual, family or church) – and the stress, fear, and bondage it brings; you wonder why anyone would want to be like us. There is no lasting joy in this type of bondage.
No matter what you think of the “Occupy” movement going on, it is a response to the way we are living and the choices we are making. I read that in Occupy Calgary there was a banner at the site :
“Stop Spending. Start Living.”.
What strikes me about these words, is that they echo words spoken thousands of years earlier – stop coveting what your neigbour has and live thankfully with what your God has provided (paraphrased by me).
Living beyond our means is about being dissatisfied with what God has given us. It is about greed, envy, dissatisfaction. There is a reason it is part of the 10-commandments and therefore summed up in the greatest commands of “Loving God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul, and loving our neighbour as ourselves.” And it is one of the biggest obstacles in our Christian discipleship.
Even John Wesley disciples us to ‘stop spending and start living’. Wesley’s message of hope for transformation to a poverty-stricken working class, was to:
“Save all you can, by cutting off every expense which serves only to indulge foolish desire; and waste nothing on sin or folly, whether for yourself or your children.”
But this message is not just for those in bondage to debt. You can have no debt at all – but still be in bondage to materialism and consumerism – to your stuff. The need to have not just more but better stuff than your neighbour devalues them and holds your heart captive to selfishness. When you stop spending, and start living – living rich towards God – you are now free to be generous.
“Does anyone want to be like you in your Generosity?”
This might be the more important question to ask about our discipleship.
When we give, is it with conditions? Do we only give when the church is doing the ministry we think is important? Or do we give out of our left-overs – when all the bills, and toys are paid?
The reason why generosity is so important in our discipleship is because it is what God uses to root out selfishness from our hearts. We may first give as a discipline (training wheels), but as our hearts are freed from selfishness, we start to give from a blessed heart. We do not give in order to be blessed by God – but rather because we already are so blessed by God. Generosity is a critical part of our spiritual formation. It is how we are conformed into the image of His son.
So, we ask the question again…. Does anyone want to be like you in your generosity?