“As we live a life that is about as unlike Jesus as you can get, a life of comfort and coddling undreamed of by billions around the world—a lifestyle in the top 10 percent of the earth today (in debt up to our eyeballs all the while)—the fact is that we don’t really care that we have lost original Christianity, do we? We are too busy, man. Don’t bother us with that kind of talk.” ~Andrew Strom
Late at night when I can’t sleep, in the dark recesses of my mind, I design and build dream houses—I’m not an architect, just creative and imaginative—I lay out floor plans, choose window lights, and determine space, walls, and entrances. I build a whole house that way, from the ground up, then I landscape the building and tuck it into the property; but mostly I stay indoors. It’s the womb of the house I enjoy: its tranquillity.
My guess is that I think about things you don’t. My thoughts are not your thoughts.
Take, for instance, the fabulous lifestyle some preachers live, or, say less: the “affluent” lifestyle some preachers live. It bothers me. First, because some of the money, not all, comes from persons who live well below the preacher’s standard of living. Second, that the preacher’s tax-free housing allowance is even legit. And, in times past, when the public has complained about televangelists living like Eastern emirs, the IRS has supposedly audited them and found them squeaky clean. My guess is that either the televangelists are careful with their paperwork (not their ethics) or that some covert money is exchanging hands somewhere.
Too, the government wants to attract sleazy people into the ministry: it waters down the Christian message and Christian principle. And the IRS allows great latitude in the amounts “ministries”—501(c)(3) organizations—can personally pocket. I see it as a government scheme to destroy the church.
I look at these preachers and wonder that God would ever let them into His heaven. They’re going to have it all down here—all this—and heaven too? It’s not fair!
Of course, to poor people, living in Bangladesh or Cambodia, fresh water and sanitation would be “affluence,” don’t you think? Or paved roads and decent automobiles? Such luxuries! Though our average homes seem so ordinary compared to those of rich preachers, even we—with our central heat and air, our electric appliances, refrigerators, washers and dryers, and dishwashers—are blessed beyond the wildest dreams of primitive people.
I planned a modern home … a Korean said, “I have no home.”
I wanted a house in the country … an exile said, “I have no country.”
I decided on a new cupboard … a child of India said, “I have no cup.”
I selected a new washer … a Polish woman said, “I have nothing to wash.”
I wanted a freezer to store food … a poor Asian said, “I have no food.”
I saw a new car for my loved ones … an orphan said, “I have no loved one.”
I was contemplating a stained-glass window above the choir … a Mexican pastor said, “My church has no walls.”
If the poor could see us now, in our single-dwelling homes or townhouses, with automated garage doors, living in such ease—never getting our hands dirty or our clothes soiled from physical labor—perhaps they would be complaining to God, “All this—and heaven too? It’s not fair!”
Jesus knew and understood how unbalanced were the scales between rich and poor. Right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, that sermon that everyone thinks epitomizes the character of the Gospel, Jesus inserted, “Woe to you who are rich! you’ve received your consolation. Woe to you who are full! for you will hunger. Woe to you who laugh now! for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all men speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:24-26). We read the Beatitudes, the blessings. Do we ever read the curses, the woes?
Years ago, on a cold wintry day, a poor boy, out selling newspapers, dropped into a warm, cozy cottage. “Come in,” the lady said, “and dry off. Here, let me take your coat.” Then, “Sit down and have some tea and cookies with me.”
She smiled. “No, Child. I’m just an old lady living in a cottage … What made you say that?”
“Your cups and your saucers match.”
We Christians take our “little” too much for granted. In fact, Providence has provided us …
• abundant food (Joel 2:26)
• abundant water (Psalm 68:9)
• abundant goods (Deuteronomy 28:11)
• abundant work (Deuteronomy 30:9)
• abundant provision (Psalm 132:15)
• abundant store (Luke 15:17)
• abundant plenty (Jeremiah 2:7)
• abundant goodness and truth (Exodus 34:6)
• abundant mercy (Psalm 103:8)
• abundant pardon (Isaiah 55:7)
• abundant peace (Philippians 1:7)
• abundant joy (1 Peter 1:8)
• abundant redemption (Psalm 130:7)
• abundant grace (2 Corinthians 9:8)
• abundant blessings (Ephesians 3:20)
• abundant life (John 10:10)
• abundant future (2 Peter 1:11)
“Godliness with contentment is great gain … having therefore food and clothes, let us be content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).
“Live near to God so all things will appear to you little in comparison with eternal realities.” ~Robert Murray M’Cheyne
Copyright © 2013 Alexandra Lee