The curse of riches

 Matt 19:24

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

  Putting a camel through an eye of a needle sounds like an impossible task! That is unless the needle is the size of a building. Will there be no rich men (or women) in heaven? These types of words are among those used by some who say Christianity is just to appease the masses and is otherwise useless. There argument goes like this:

Everyone who is currently poor (often as a result of those who are greedy and rich) would like to believe that the rich won’t be with them in heaven. They have had their rewards on this earth. The Bible has these types of verses to make the poor feel better about being poor.

Others say these words are meant to say show that God can do anything. Even pull a person through the head of a needle. I think the answer to this lies somewhere in the middle. That is, if a person becomes rich treating money as his god and has little or not concept of being their brothers keeper then he has replaced the real God with a worldly item and he has not taken the words of Jesus to heart. Among these type of people are Christians as well as non-Christians. They will definitely discover the error of their ways in the next life. But, then again this is probably one of those verses that will mean something different to me next week or next year. There are a lot of those types of red letters in the Bible. They keep us thinking and studying.

How about those mega-churches?

There is a wide disparity of opinion about how true to Christ mega-churches are. I probably fall somewhere in the middle of that opinion. As I see it, the pastor of the small church that I currently attend doesn’t have much good to say about any of them. He seems to say that, in order to appeal to the most number of people, they dilute the words of Christ almost beyond recognition. And, of course, they would never show a cross in their building because they believe is just too much of a downer. He doesn’t seem to differentiate one mega-church from another; as far as he is concerned they are all pretty much the same.

I do believe that some mega-churches are as my pastor describes but there are others who follow a truer path to Christ. Many churches become very large on the skills and personality of their pastors. As long as those pastors don’t let the sin of pride consume them, and many of them in the past have done just that, then they are indeed expanding Christ’s mission on this earth according to His will. Rick Warren is one of the very successful mega-church pastors. He is senior pastor at Saddlebrook Church in California. To the disdain of many in the homosexual community, he will be giving the invocation at the Obama inaugural coming up in a couple of weeks. He is the author of The Purpose Driven Life and several other similar themed books. He is also a reverse tither in that he gives 90% of his income back to God’s work. He doesn’t fixate on the “poor miserable sinner” aspect as many evangelical churches seem to but instead chooses to concentrate on viewing God as a benevolent father who loves us all. Just what mix of benevolent God/Vengeful God is proper I don’t know and I’m not sure anyone really knows.

I think the put downs on mega-churches by some is from a streak of envy rather than strict theological boundaries. It is hard to see your church shrinking while the mega-churches are growing and not have a tinge of pain. A book that I will soon be reviewing on this blog is entitled The Present Future by Reggie McNeal covers this topic in more detail. In the book Reggie McNeal questions the old notions of what the church is and should be in today’s world.

We who are in smaller churches should, instead of putting down the mega-churches, be trying to learn from them how to bring more people to Jesus Christ. All the glory be to God alone.

About Christmas

Most of the information about Christmas is found in the Gospel of Luke. Luke was probably a gentile by birth and was believe to be well educated in Greek culture. He was a physician and was probably a good friend to Paul. Luke’s account was believed to be the most accurate historically; it seems he took extra pains to be sure that everything was just right.

It would be interesting to learn where he got the Christmas information. Did he get it from on of the apostle’s lips, strictly from divine inspiration, or from verbal accounts of others? We will probably never know. Luke is the only writer to tell us that Jesus was born in a stable.

I don’t remember Jesus ever talking about his birth or childhood? I guess he left that to others. Anyway, let us all remember the true reason for the season. I thought I would close out this entry recognizing the prophetess Anna. She doesn’t get mentioned much in the Christmas texts today. I always find myself gravitating to those least recognized heroes of the past.

Luke 2:36-38

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.