Getting Rid Of My Wealth Guilt

In my last post I gave a review of my friends new book Junkyard Wisdom. Today let me share with you a portion of the book where Roy addresses Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler in Mark 10. He wrestles with how this conversation relates to his own life as a wealthy man.

‘You’re still missing one thing, though, Roy. Go sell everything you have and give it to the poor. You’ll get your treasure back in heaven. And then come follow me.’ 

That is an answer. Even a seemingly easy one. My life is a wrestling match, so it would be simpler to give it all away.  But simple isn’t a synonym for best or wisest.

money5555Say I wake up tomorrow morning and decide to give it all away. Say I can somehow give all of my money to organizations and individuals who are making a tangible difference in the world, and that there are no unintended negative consequences or harm. That’s impossible, by the way, but for the sake of argument, say I figure it out. I’ve broken the power of wealth in my life the only way that works: by giving it away. As Andy Crouch writes, ‘the only real antidote to the temptations of money is lavish generosity.’ Consider the antidote administered.

I wake up the next morning as a cured man. And I have to admit: it feels good! Much better than the constant wrestling and reevaluating that usually describes my relationship with wealth. I eat a simple breakfast, and then I go to work.

I spend the first hour on the phone with my employees – scratch that, former employees – telling them they’re going to have a new boos or else they’ll need to find a new job. Then I begin calling my tenants, but this takes me a lot longer. I own – sorry, used to own – residential, commercial, and light industrial properties in a 150-mile radius. I notify everyone to expect some changes, some of which will undoubtedly be for the worse, since I consider myself to be a fair boss and a just landlord.

As the day ends, I sneak in a call to my accountant and my financial advisor. They’ll survive without my portfolio, of course, but will the client who replaces me ask them to make ethical decisions like I used to?

You tell me: would those (direct) dozens and (indirect) thousands of people affected be better off? Some might counter that different lives would be better off if I gave everything away. That might be true, though it’s setting a hypothetical good against an actual, known good.

And what about me? Would those relationships in my life be replaced with relationships that are as holy or more holy?

So the wrestling continues.

What do you think? Let me know. If you’re interest is piqued, please go out and buy Junkyard Wisdom


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Wisdom From A Junkyard

I’ve never had my quote and my name placed into somebody else’s book. You know the kind of quote I’m talking about? Those way-too-many quotes at the beginning of books where the person being quoted probably has only read the first chapter of a book draft and then wrote something that induces you to want to buy the book – something like; “This book contains the most amazing words ever recorded” followed by their important name. Never done that.

However this is my chance to write a book review because my friend Roy Goble has just written a book about wealth, faith, and God’s heart for the poor. Roy sent me a copy and asked me to write a review in my blog. Here goes . . . The book is called Junkyard Wisdom and I have to say it’s a book that does make you think. I’m not gonna write a review that is an over-reach, telling you how Roy’s insights have helped me lose weight, given me a six-pack, balanced by finances, and made me m51qsvlgsowl-_sx322_bo1204203200_ore generous and more like Jesus. Here’s what I can say. I’ve always enjoyed Roy’s mix of overt hubris (he doesn’t hide his opinion or his high opinion of his opinion) that also happens to sit right alongside of his overt desire to battle against his hubris. I mean, I know Roy asked me to write a review because he’s a type-A personality and is probably trying to get his book on Amazon’s top-seller list. Probably. But I kind of appreciate this part of his humanity because he brings all of it into his exploration of his own wealth and his own struggle with Jesus’ call to pay attention to the poor. His book does a good job reflecting his own humanity, not hiding from his own struggle with hubris and wealth and yet still wrestling to tangibly apply his faith. If you want to carefully think through the issues of wealth, and the issues of poverty in this world, and how we who are wealthy (yes you are probably wealthy) are asked to care for the poor – then I would encourage you to read the book. Roy gave me some good things to think about, and Roy is a living example of actually, tangibly caring for the poor out of the incredible wealth God has provided to him.

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A Deeper Look At Systemic Racism

Sadly far too many of us white folks remove ourselves from the conversation about racism with silly “What? My black friends love me” dismissals. In fact, people like us who live in a more progressive, PC-ville place like Santa Cruz California think of ourselves as “so past the evils of the racist south.” A140626092557-civil-rights-protest-file-large-169nd yet, because we have never been black, and we’ve never been part of any left out class, we don’t really understand the issues and the power of systemic racism – the kind of racism that goes beyond merely not liking a certain class of people due to the color of their skin.

Last week I watched this very good video about this issue and thought I would share it with you. Take the next nine minutes to watch this video interview between two influential American pastors: Bishop TD Jakes an African-American chats Bill Hybels a white American. Click on the following link where in this video these men explore some things I’d like my readers and the people of my church to consider carefully.

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One More Thank You

Go ahead and do it anyway. I know. There was that one person you planned to call, text, or email. You were going to tell them they are someone you are very thankful for, and you were going to tell them why. But the time got away, and you didn’t get to tell them. Now it’s the Monday after Thanksgiving 2016. I say go ahead and still tell them you are thankful for them, and why! You will produce a big smile on this Monday when all of us are dreading having to get back to work.

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Tears, Song, Joy And Clarity

All I was doing was driving along Graham Hill road listening to a new worship mix. I was blasting and singing the song “Cornerstone” (based on the old hymn “My Hope is built on nothing less”).  When the song got to the chorus, I started wailing out at the top of my lungs, the lyrics: “Christ alone / Cornerstone / Weak made Strong in the Savior’s love / Through the storm / He is Lord of all – He’s Lord of All.” Truthfully, I have to say that even my harmony was kindinexpressible_joy of a big deal! As I sang, my mind flooded with the goodness of God in my life, the hope of heaven, the faithful people who have preceded me home to heaven, my wife, my kids, and my church and I just began to cry tears of immense joy. Sure this world is filled with many sad things, troubling things I’m facing even as I write this blog, and yet – God has been so remarkably good. I LOVE moments of clarity like that moment in my car, because in those moments I know I’m actually tracking with the reality of God’s good reign in this broken world and in my life. I hope this week of Thanksgiving will be a week where you too will have these clear, whole mind-body-spirit moments of tears, song, joy and clarity! Happy Thanksgiving to you my dear readers. I won’t be posting anything else the rest of this week in order to enjoy more time with family. Catch you next week!

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A Heart Toward Others

Yesterday morning I joined our little team as we distributed fresh fruit and produce to people in our city. We have this partnership with 2nd Harvest Food Bank to provide a 10 minute cooking demonstration and then distribute food at our church parking lot twice a month. Every time I participate I say to myself, “I don’t know who gets more out of it, the people we serve, or me.” It’s an honor to serve our faithful shoppers who come so regularly to receive assistance and to see how much God cares for and cares about each person.

My experience makes me think of a portion out of my friend, Roy Goble’s, new book Junkyard Wisdom.  He observes:

All humans are natural-born objectifiers. The wealthy objectify the poor, and the poor objectify right back. Jesus, though never looked at a person and saw a label or an object. He always saw a particular life. If we want to follow Jesus, and live like Jesus, we need to start seeing otheimgresr people as Jesus sees them. The reality is that it can be profoundly difficult for the wealthy to truly follow Jesus. That is a hard truth, but a truth nonetheless. We wealthy can live as if we simply don’t need Jesus. We can buy products and services and experiences that would seem like miracles to the poor. We have access to those who influence the world. And we get caught up in the trappings and temptations of wealth. If we are wealthy, Jesus can be pushed to the margins of our lives – along with those who don’t share our lifestyle . . . The surprise I have been discovering, through sorrow and through joy, is that God is calling me to break down the walls I have created between myself and the poor, because there is something on the other side that I need to see.

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The Path Ahead

A troubling national election has come and gone, and those who love Jesus very much live in a post-Judeo-Christian culture. Is this a reason for fear? I don’t think so! Referencing the latest research from Larrypathway-wallpaper-2 Hurtado’s, Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor University Press, 2016) and Why on Earth Did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries? (Marquette University Press, 2016). Pastor Timothy Keller makes important observations about the path ahead for Christians in a pluralistic, and increasingly hostile culture.

In light of the enormous social costs of being a Christian in the first three centuries, why did anyone become a Christian? Why did Christianity grow so exponentially? What did Christianity offer that was so much greater than the costs? Hurtado and others have pointed out three things. 

First, Christians were called into a unique “social project” that both offended and attracted people. Christians forbade both abortion and the practice of “infant exposure,” in which unwanted infants were simply thrown out. Christians were a sexual counter-culture in that they abstained from any sex outside of heterosexual marriage. This was in the midst of a culture that thought that, especially for married men, sex with prostitutes, slaves, and children was perfectly fine. 

Also, Christians were unusually generous with their money, particularly to the poor and needy, and not just to their own family and racial group. Another striking difference was that Christian communities were multi-ethnic, since their common identity in Christ was more fundamental than their racial identities, and therefore created a multi-ethnic diversity, which was unprecedented for a religion. Finally, Christians believed in non-retaliation, forgiving their enemies, even those who were killing them. 

Second, Christianity offered a direct, personal, love relationship with the Creator God. People around the Christians wanted favor from the gods, and eastern religions spoke about experiences of enlightenment, but an actual love relationship with God was something that no one else was offering. 

Third, Christianity offered assurance of eternal life. Every other religion offered some version of salvation-through-human effort, and therefore no one could be sure of eternal life until death. But the gospel gives us the basis for a full assurance of salvation now because it is by grace not works and by Christ’s work not ours. 

I hope that by now you can see the relevance of these studies. The earliest church was seen as too exclusive and a threat to the social order because it would not honor all deities; today Christians are again being seen exclusive and a threat to the social order because it will not honor all identities. Yet the early church thrived in that situation. Why? 

One reason was that Christians were ridiculed as too exclusive and different. And yet many were drawn to Christianity because it was different. If a religion is not different from the surrounding culture, if it does not critique and offer an alternative to it, it dies because it is seen as unnecessary. If Christians today were also famous for and marked by social chastity, generosity and justice, multi-ethnicity, and peace making — would it not be compelling to many? Ironically, Christians were “out of step” with the culture on sex to begin with, and it was not the church but the culture that eventually changed. 

Another reason Christianity thrived was because it offered things that no other culture or religion even claimed to have — a love relationship with God and salvation by free grace. It is the same today. No other religion offers these things, nor does secularism. Nor can the “spiritual but not religious” option really capture them either. These are still unique “value offers” and can be lifted up to a spiritually hungry and thirsty population. 

The early church surely looked like it was on the “wrong side of history,” but instead it changed history with a dogged adherence to the biblical gospel. That should be our aspiration as well. 

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