01 Apr 2016
The Lo$t World
Sam Houston, a famous American politician (after whom the city in Texas was named) became a follower of Jesus Christ in the latter years of his life. When he was about to be baptized, his pastor noticed that he had his wallet in his pants, so he advised Houston to remove it. But Houston declined to do so, saying, “If there is any part of me that needs baptising, it is my wallet.” He would have agreed with Martin Luther who said that there are 3 conversions: conversion of the heart, conversion of the mind, and conversion of the wallet.
We can’t read other people’s minds or look into the true state of their hearts, but it is easy to see how they manage their money. For that reason, the way we handle our money provides the clearest indication of whether we have been genuinely converted. Jesus mercilessly exposed the religious hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and it is not surprising that the Bible tells us they were lovers of money as well. If we want to know our true spiritual condition, all we have to do is to ask ourselves how following Jesus Christ has transformed the way we view and use money. How does true conversion transform us financially?
First, true conversion causes us to understand money as a form of stewardship, not ownership. We are all fund managers and God is our client. Contrary to what many Christians think, He owns not just 10% of the assets under our management, but 100%. We are to administer whatever money, whether little or much, responsibly for His purposes and benefit, not our own. We begin to see money not as something to hoard or indulge as our own, but a means given by God to advance His kingdom, bless others and honour His name. We are acutely aware at all times that as stewards, we will be required to give an account in due course, and we are keen to be able to present an excellent financial report to the King.
Second, true conversion frees us to practise generosity, not greed. The Bible goes so far as to say that if anyone has material possessions but does not help a brother whom he sees is in need, he cannot possibly be a Christian. It is not just about helping the poor; anyone can do charity to make himself feel noble or feel less guilty, but Christians are people who humbly recognise that they have been undeservedly and lavishly enriched at Christ’s expense, and as a result, they are inspired to give recklessly, at great cost to themselves, and yet with cheerful hearts. Like what Jesus said, they sincerely believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Third, and most importantly, true conversion enables us to experience assurance, not anxiety. The hardest challenge of possessing money is preventing it from possessing us. Jesus gives us a powerful insight when he warned us that we cannot serve or love two masters. You would have expected him to strike a contrast between God and the devil, but instead, he identified our other potential lover and master as money. By doing so, he was in effect personifying money; he even calls it by its personal name: Mammon.
Money is not merely, as economists tell us, a medium of exchange or a store of value. It sets itself up to be a god that offers false security; but trusting in money will only bring you greater worry. Jesus’ followers need have no cause for worry because they trust in a loving heavenly Father who provides for their needs. This results not just in inner peace but also outward transfomation; it turns them around from self-centred pursuits to seeking first and foremost the kingdom of God and His righteousness. When people value above all else the development of Christ-like character, the salvation of sinners and the advancement of the church, you can be almost completely sure that they have been truly and gloriously converted.