cheque books, property and god

I am sitting in the departure lounge at Hong Kong airport reflecting on the privilege that is mine over these days.

I've just had two days of listening to East Asian Christian leaders advise Langham's international staff team on our work with them. [The bishop who habitually and quietly wipes the tables after each meal will stay with me]. Now I am off to the Solomon Islands where pastors will gather for a four day preaching seminar. After that it is off to a South Asian country for more of the same. I'm sure a whole bunch of contrasts are ahead of me...

The Chinese world. Melanesia. The Islamic world. WOW.

All in a few days.
There is so much to learn from what God is doing elsewhere.

My mind goes back to the conversation a friend of mine recently had with a Christian leader visiting NZ. It was this person's first trip outside their country. They are from a country known all around the world for it's oppression and cruelty. It is often in the headlines. A place where it is very tough to be a Christian.

My friend asked, "What are your impressions of Christians in NZ?" Being a guest in our country this person would not comment. It would be improper. My friend kept pressing and pressing... I think he knew that first impressions are usually the biggest blindspot-exposers of all. If only he could draw an honest comment, it had the possibility of being a prophetic one.

Finally this guest in our country relented.

"Here in NZ Christians depend on their cheque books and their property. In my country we depend on God."


nice chatting



Heather said…
Hi Paul,

I have been pondering this very situation a lot recently. My husband preached a week ago from the renewal of the covenant at the end of Joshua where he challenges the people to give up their idols. We thought a lot as he prepared as to what our idols are, and concluded that they weren't so much the classic ones of 'what you give your time to', but more our fall-back options that prevented us from having to depend on God.

What are these 'fall-backs'? Retirement savings. Insurances. Technology. Medicine. All the crutches we build into our lives so we can cope on our own and avoid needing to depend on God.

And yet, what is the person who has been placed in the rich west, and who is relatively rich within that society, to do? If you have no resources, of course you depend on God. There is nothing else to depend on. But if you have resources, do you see them as God's provision for you (while holding them lightly), or do you reject them to make you dependent? Not providing for ourselves financially when we have the means to do so seems both irresponsible and, strangely, selfish (as it means we will burden others). Is that because I've been sucked in really badly and can't see the idolatory for what it is? And yet, depending on these things insulates us from God.

So every year we struggle when we write our budget to see where to draw the line. What is accepting God's provision, what is placing our dependence on the things of this world?

I am confident that I would depend on God willingly if he talk away Martin's good salary. God has tested me on this in the past. I know it would be hard re-jigging our current systems, but I am very confident to trust him, and that he will give us what we need. What I am less sure of is how to depend on God amidst this abundance.

What we have done, is to set various lines with respect to insurance, retirement savings, which expensive medical treatments we will seek and which we will not try (I am chronically ill and mostly bed-bound, but there are many expensive putatitive cures out there I could try) etc. Any money God gives us that could take us beyond those lines we instead simply pass on (and choosing where to pass it on to is another whole can of worms - it's quite something being given the power of life and death over other people you don't even know and then be called on to exercise it wisely). And we reexamine our choices each year when we write our annual budget, at which time we pray lots and then make judgement calls.

--Heather :-)
You ask some great questions, Heather ... and to be fair, I think you answer them pretty well too!

I think there is a space between having these things and depending on these things. But when it ceases to be a "struggle" and we cease to "examine" our choices etc etc - that is when we become vulnerable.

The only other comment I'd make - and I know this is part of your story as well (!) ... is that in a shrinking globe, where financial collapses spread as fast as swine flu, where communication and information is so easy
etc etc we Christians and church communities with 'cheque books and property' are increasingly without excuse when it comes to identifying with and supporting those who only have 'God' on which to depend.

I am not anti-wealth or anti-rich. Someone has to generate wealth in this world. But there are significant issues with distribution and I fear this is building, in the 21st century, as a blindspot of slavery proportions. (I am reading William Hague's brilliant biography of Wilberforce at the moment).

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