Jesus Saves

Posted: June 29, 2009 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

By Matt Horangold-dollar-sign

            There’s a story you may have heard about the devil challenging Jesus to a contest of skill.  He challenged him over and over and over again, and finally, Jesus agrees.  He says, “We’ll let God decide what the contest should be.”
            So Jesus and the devil ask God to choose, and suddenly two computers appear before them.  God says, “The one who can type the most words in 24 hours will be the winner.”
            The devil springs forward, sits at the computer, and starts typing furiously.  Jesus calmly sits, and begins typing as well.  They went on like that for 11 hours, typing with miraculous speed, neither one really taking an upper hand. 
            All of a sudden, the power goes out.  Both computers shut down, and the devil screams with fury and anguish.  The power comes back on a couple seconds later, and both computers restart.  The devil’s tirade continued, however, stomping his feet, screaming obsceneties, etc.  Jesus, however, waits for the computer to boot back up, and then begins typing once again.
            God walks up at that point.  “How is it going, boys?”
            The devil looks at Jesus.  “The power just went out and we lost everything!  How come he’s so calm?”
            God looks at Jesus, then back at the devil.  He shrugs his shoulders and says, “Jesus saves.” 

            Surely we all know, perhaps now more than ever, that saving is a good idea.  Maybe you’re talking about data on your computer, but more likely these days, when we talk about saving, we’re referring to money.   John Wesley’s teachings on the subject in his sermon, “The Use of Money,” speak to this loud and clear.  But first, a disturbing story.
          Did you hear about the woman in Israel a couple weeks ago who surprised her elderly mother with a new mattress for her bed?  She’d brought the new mattress in while her mother was out, and put the old one out in the trash.  Her mother came home and noticed the bed, and she was thankful for it, but asked her daughter the next morning, “Where is the old mattress?”  When her daughter attmitted that she’d taken it to the curb for the garbage collection, the elderly woman informed her that she’d been stashing her life savings in that mattress, which by now had accumulated to over $1 million.  The daughter rushed out to the curb, but it was gone, and she’s been combing the garbage dumps of Israel looking for it ever since.
          What is remarkable is the response of the elderly woman.  When asked about losing the money, she said that you have to take the good with the bad.  She said, “It’s not like we were in a car accident or had a fatal disease or something.”
          “You have to take the good with the bad.” 
          This is a good leaping off point to look at John Wesley’s sermon #50, The Use of Money.  I confess from the start that, after reading this sermon, I am not there.   I am not even close. 
           The temptation is to back this teaching down a little—to explain this away and make it a little easier to swallow.  But God does not call us to preach safe sermons, and He doesn’t call us to go looking to hear safe sermons either.  Well, thanks to Mr. Wesley here, we have one unsafe sermon.  I hear it right alongside anybody, feeling the weight of the challenge that it offers us.
          “Having gained all you can, by honest wisdom and unwearied diligence, the second rule of Christian prudence is, ‘Save all you can.’ Do not throw the precious talent into the sea: Leave that folly to heathen philosophers. Do not throw it away in idle expenses, which is just the same as throwing it into the sea. Expend no part of it merely to gratify the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life.
          “Do not waste any part of so precious a talent merely in gratifying the desires of the flesh; in procuring the pleasures of sense of whatever kind; particularly, in enlarging the pleasure of tasting. I do not mean, avoid gluttony and drunkenness only: An honest heathen would condemn these. But there is a regular, reputable kind of sensuality, an elegant epicurism, which does not immediately disorder the stomach, nor (sensibly, at least) impair the understanding. And yet (to mention no other effects of it now) it cannot be maintained without considerable expense. Cut off all this expense! Despise delicacy and variety, and be content with what plain nature requires.”
          So I read this to my kids last night as their bedtime story, and they didn’t like it too much.  But I still think it’ll resurface.  Next time we’re at a store and they ask us to buy them something, we can ask, “Does plain nature require it?”
          I’ll admit that I struggle with this on a philosophical level.  What if we all started living this way.  In fact, people are already moving in this direction.  There are dire economic forecasts, so people are spending less, looking for bargains, using coupons, which then makes it more difficult for companies to turn a profit.  Then they can hire fewer workers, who in turn stay unemployed, and thus spend less.  The government is now bailing everybody out so that people will start buying stuff again, spending money again, so that we can get back to the good old days when people could afford to spend more money and buy all of the things that plain nature doesn’t require.
          So what do we do with this?  I look around my house and I see things everywhere that “plain nature doesn’t require,” as Wesley says.  I could see things everywhere that I’ve acquired over the years that show me that I have not learned to be content, as Paul says.  So what is Wesley saying?  What is Paul saying?  What is the Holy Spirit saying to us?  Am I supposed to ask myself every time I’m tempted to buy anything:
          “Does plain nature require this?”
          “Why am I not content without this?”
          “Do I need this?”
          I can’t imagine an economy working that operates that way.  I can’t imagine shopping that way.  I can’t imagine being that content all the time.  Is God asking us to totally overhaul the way that we approach all of our spening?
          I’m afraid so.

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Comments
  1. BDO says:

    Great thoughts. I think the key popular term is “sustainable”. People are starting to realize the current system we have is not sustainable. We can’t just buy all the time, because there isn’t enough money or debt to sustain all the consumption. Scarcity is still normal. The question, as you’ve mentioned, is what is a Christian perspective on this unsustainablity? Do we keep buying so the house of cards stays up just that much longer? Or do we become smart with our money, invest in cash instead of debt, and let the cards fall? No matter if the cards fall today or tomorrow, Christians are called to be the light during those dark times. But how can we be a light if we are entangled in the mess of debt just like everyone else?

  2. Kristy Harding says:

    This post has had me thinking a lot, especially the end where you said,

    “Is God asking us to totally overhaul the way that we approach all of our spending?
    I’m afraid so.”

    The Christian writer and theologian Dorothy Sayers wrote an essay in the 1940s called “Why Work?” In it she talked about the unsustainability of an economic system built on unnecessary consumption. She said that we essentially have two options if we want to see economic growth under the current system: 1. We either inflate the demand in the markets we already have or 2. Find new markets. In the former, the only thing that can really inflate demand enough to drive economic growth at the rate we need is war. So our options, according to Sayers, are either active colonization or war. She said that eventually we would run out of new markets for our goods, and we would be stuck with the former. In the end, all we would have to fuel growth is war.

    I’ve been thinking about it, though. I’m not an economist, but it seems like she couldn’t see far enough, to the point that, eventually, the system will grow such that even war won’t be able to provide enough waste to fuel the economic machine. We’ve certainly passed the point of being able to find new markets–pending finding alien life, of course. Maybe we’re at the stage where war can’t “save” us, either. We’re at war right now, and we’re still in a recession. I don’t know my economic history, but isn’t that rather unprecedented?

    Maybe it’s because we don’t want to think that we’re at war, and it’s that home-front thrift mentality that is as important as anything, but it makes me wonder if it’s really come time to pay the fiddler. We can’t just say one more song anymore.

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