Three Taverns Church

Another Terrifying Prayer, And A Test Of Our Faith

14 Comments

Terrifying for wealthy and middle-class Americans, perhaps.

Terrifying because it flies in the face of conventional wisdom, what we’re told on TV and what we’re taught by our fathers and mothers.

Terrifying because it forces us to literally put our money where our mouth is. Read the verse below, then watch a short clip from Francis Chan here.

Proverbs 30:7-9
“Two things I asked of You,
Do not refuse me before I die:
Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God.” (NASB)

Two important things to note. First: This  was not written by Solomon, the richest man of his time. Second, this person is not praying for poverty; he’s not asking to be penniless.

The author is asking for God to be his all in all. He seems to be asking God to let him live paycheck to paycheck. He doesn’t want to be so rich that he looks at his 401(k), his checking account, his Mercedes Benz or his home equity and say, “Jesus who?” He doesn’t want to be so poor that the thought of stealing to survive becomes tempting. He wants just enough.

Will you pray this prayer with me? Will you ask God to give you neither poverty nor riches? Will you pray with Jesus to receive your daily bread? Will you stop asking God to protect your assets or to increase your financial blessings? Will you stop treating your Father like a cosmic slot machine, and instead treat him like the Father none of us had as children: A Father who possesses infinite wisdom, compassion, love, and mercy?

My family and I are about to do just that: In 3-4 weeks we will be moving across the country to Florida. We will have to leave possessions behind in our foreclosed home. We will burn through our savings. We will have to trust that God is guiding our hearts toward a plan of His making. For the second time in our lives we are making a major life decision driven by faith.

There are some of you who think this plan is crazy, foolhardy, and impulsive. I hope and pray that this second test of our faith will prove once again to you (and to us!) that God Is who He says He Is.

14 thoughts on “Another Terrifying Prayer, And A Test Of Our Faith

  1. RM,
    What if I have a big paycheck? What if God has given me skills to benefit my family and the family’s of the world? Should I deny those gifts and try to determine what is the best level to live at? What if I’m wrong and I miscalculate? Will God forgive me if I turn to him?
    I noticed Reverend Chan was flying home from a vacation he had taken. Why was he taking a vacation at all? Was his trip with his daughter who was filming him necessary?
    He looked comfortable telling the rest of us to live paycheck to paycheck. Do you suppose he was doing that? Did you notice the date of the video? It was July, 2008. This was before all he’ll broke loose in our country’s economy. How did Reverend Chan get through these past five years? God has a plan for each one of His created. It is a good plan. Some people become wealthy and tend to their wealth to benefit themselves and others. Does a wealthy person sin? You bet! Do poor people or people in-between sin? You bet ?
    Can we judge from the outside what is in a person’s heart? I think that responsibility rests with God. We are supposed to encourage people to turn to God. God sends us out into the world to do that. God will continue the work needed. God gives us choices every day.
    Will we follow?

    • You’re kidding, right? Let me get home to a real keyboard so I can respond appropriately.

    • Don, first of all I want to thank your for reading the blog and for becoming a follower of this site. I appreciate that a lot.

      And I want to just say for the record that you’re better off targeting me and not Francis Chan; you don’t want to pick that fight.

      I’ve been trying to figure out how to best respond to your reply above…needless to say we don’t agree on this point. I want to make a strong case to you but I don’t want to offend you so badly that you don’t hear what I’m saying. To that end, I want to start with a verse of scripture:

      1 Corinthians 5:11 “But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister, but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” (NIV)

      I know that I am a sexually immoral person when I am in the grips of my addiction; I accept that and I am doing everything I can (medication, a 12-step program, counseling, prayer, etc.) to overcome my addiction. What I want you to accept, Don, is that your sin is also listed in this passage: Greed. Does this make you a “worse” sinner than me? Of course not. But what deeply troubles me is that you don’t see yourself in this list; you think you are doing God’s will by storing up for yourself treasure where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. So to try and prove this point to you I’m going to repeat your own words back to you, but instead of using words that reference money and greed I’m going to substitute my own addiction: Sex. Perhaps this will help you to see how utterly silly it is to claim a disciple of Christ could ever be wealthy. Here goes…

      “What if I have a big penis? What if God has given me sexual desire to benefit my family and the family’s (sic) of the world? Should I deny those gifts and try to determine what is the best level of sexual satisfaction to live at? What if I’m wrong and I miscalculate? Will God forgive me if I turn to him?
      (Comments related to Pastor Chan deleted because they’re not relevant.)
      God has a plan for each one of His created. It is a good plan. Some people become adulterers and tend to their sexual lives to benefit themselves and others. Does a sex addict sin? You bet! Do people who don’t have sex or people who only have sex with their spouses sin? You bet ? (sic)”

      Don, I need you to take a look deep inside and answer the following question honestly to yourself: When you study Scripture and meditate on the person of Jesus, do you really think He would agree that “Health and Wealth” has any place in the Gospel?

      Seriously, where do people learn this stuff? Oh, wait, never mind…I already know the answer: It’s easy to fill an American church when you’re ready and willing to preach that God wants people to be rich. Too bad there’s not a lot of Scriptural support for this point of view…

  2. Don, I’m gonna respond to your comment and take a slightly different tack from RM. And let me start by saying that I wholeheartedly agree that you should use your God-given gifts and talents to further the kingdom of God and bring His Word to all the corners of the earth. I also struggle off and on with the desire for wealth and the (false) sense of financial security that wealth can bring. That being said, in addition to the verses that RM referenced, I point you to 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

    “Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.”

    I do not think that wealth is inherently evil. However, I will say that it is VERY hard to depend solely on God for your daily bread when you have enough wealth to sustain you for 1,000 years. I think it is incredibly difficult to possess a level of wealth that is unfathomable to most of the world and remain humble before God. That’s why Jesus preached, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24-25) Contextually, you’ll remember that he had just asked a righteous rich man to sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him. He was asking the rich man to be humbly obedient to God, to help his poor brothers and sisters, and to take up a life of servitude to his fellow man.

    All this to say, I don’t think there is anything wrong with making a lot of money. I think there is something INCREDIBLY wrong with keeping a whole lot of money. I mean, just look at the conditions of people in Thailand who live in a landfill. Now try to justify owning a 5,000-square foot house for a family of four. It just can’t be done.

    We could go on for hours and hours on this. But the question I would pose is this: Is having a lot of money and possessions more likely to increase your love for God and your fellow man? Or is it more likely to cause you to increase your love for those possessions and for yourself?

  3. RM and fastmov4: You both seem to be assuming that Don has a problem with greed. I don’t see that in his comments. He’s just posing some questions regarding the issue.

    God is our source of all benefits, including temporal things. I believe Duet. 8:18, “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.”. I guess we might all have different definitions for the words “rich”, “riches”, “wealth”, “prosperity”, “blessings”, abundance”, and “benefits”, to name a few.

    We all seem to be in agreement that our lives and our temporal goods should be put to the service of God. I have come to realize that as God blesses us financially, He reveals more opportunities for us to bless others. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”. As I delight myself in the Lord, more and more over time, the Lord changes the desires of my heart so that they line up more and more with the desires of HIS heart—and I come into agreement with Him. As we seek the Lord and grow in His ways, He expands our heart and mind, heals our body and opens doors to fruitfulness for His Kingdom. Often this growth includes greater finances. To those who much has been given, much is required.

    Bottom line: We cannot serve God AND mammon. We cannot serve two masters. Therefore, serve God as your master. And let mammon be at God’s service.

    • Mary, excellent points. I think the tone of Don’s reply is what triggered my assumption, but I could very well be wrong.

      I really liked fastmov4’s response, particularly the part about earning vs. keeping. While I was thinking about how to best respond to Don’s reply, one of the thoughts that occurred to me is that we should each view our God-given resources like a P&L (profit and loss statement): Money comes in, money goes out. Net income & expenses. I sort of agree with fastmov4 that the issue is not how much we earn (net income); it’s how much we give away (net expense). Are we so wrapped up in the idea of tithing, for example, that we give 10%, and only 10%, of our income back to God? When we see someone in need do we reach out to them and bless them any way we can or do we think, “I already gave at the ‘office’.”

      As another example, Francis Chan has earned (net income) over $1 million in royalties of his book “Crazy Love”. Pastor Chan also gave away every cent of those royalties (net expense) to various churches, charities, and missions.

      Having said all that, I struggle with the idea of high earning. I know what the Old Testament says about money; I also know what the Old Testament says about multiple wives and concubines, animal sacrifice, and killing homosexuals. I need to write a series one of these days about the inconsistent pick-and-choose-game contemporary Christians play with Old Testament verses. But I digress…

      The Bible is a story about God; it’s not a story about us. When I read the Old Testament I’m not looking for justification for the way I live my life; I’m looking for a giant neon arrow pointing to God’s plan in the coming Messiah. And when that Messiah shows up in the person of Jesus I start paying real close attention to who He was and what He did in first century Palestine:
      – He was a blue-collar carpenter (and probably not a very good one)
      – He was completely uneducated
      – He probably lived in a one-room hovel with his mom until he was 30
      – He became an itinerant preacher
      – He “had no place to lay his head”
      – He routinely asked people to leave everything behind to follow him (which they routinely did)
      – Note: None of the followers we remember ever went back to their families or their businesses
      – At least once He convinced a rich man to give half of his possessions to the poor and to use the other half to pay back everyone he had wronged…four times over. This person also presumably left the lucrative position he was in
      – He was convicted by the Romans of leading a rebellion and crucified
      – He died alone, penniless and in terrible pain
      – One of his followers would later write: “Greater love has no one than this: That he lay his life down for his friends”
      – Note: This is not a metaphorical “laying down” of life. The author meant it literally: If you want to show the greatest love possible, die for your friends
      – After His resurrection Jesus’ closest followers all became itinerant preachers themselves, living off of the charity of others and laboring to scrape by

      I don’t see a lot of high earning going on in the life of Jesus or in the lives of His disciples. Is it possible that even high-earners who give back to God are so wrapped up in earning that they forget the Mission of making disciples?

      Are we reading the Gospel through an American lens? What would Christians in Haiti would say about this subject?

      • I see the Bible as being about God and us. It tells us who God is and what He did for us and why He did it for us. It tells us who we are without God and who we can be with God. It is the story of the relationship between God and man.

        Regarding your list about who Jesus was: there seems to be a lot of assumptions being made here, (e.g., that Jesus probably wasn’t a very good carpenter; he probably lived in a one-room hovel; Jesus was completely uneducated; Jesus died penniless). Do you just throw such statements in to stir up comments, or do really believe these things?

  4. RM,
    I have had some time to look over your reply to my questions. You failed to answer any of them. All you did was go on a Bully rant continuing your original post. Your reply made assuptions about me that said to me you are a very shallow person who wants anybody who replies to your posts to suffer the wrath of your pen.

    When you substituted your addiction into the scripture you initially quoted I was sickened beyond anything I have ever read!! Don’t EVER write that to me or any one again! That was so vile it profaned the Holy Scripture.

    The bible is full of God’s promises for wealth and health when we give God all the praise and glory for giving us the ability to gain health and wealth. The book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 8 is a great read. We must continue to give all the credit to God when we prosper.
    If we forget God and claim all the glory ourselves we will suffer severe consequences.

    I’m a person who came late to the understanding of God’s blessings. The knowledge of giving and God’s blessing have become an integral part of my life. I love noticing God’s blessings when I can. These blessings give me all the proof I need for the existence of God.

    Are you going to answer any of my questions? Or, are you going to be a bully pulpit preacher that needs to seriously look at what he is saying.

    P.S. If you use the word “Seriously” once more in your posts I will guarantee your status as a serious writer will come into question.

    • For the record, I do agree with you, Don, in your following statement:

      “The book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 8 is a great read. We must continue to give all the credit to God when we prosper. If we forget God and claim all the glory ourselves we will suffer severe consequences.”

  5. Don, you weren’t quoting Scripture in your first reply but were rather putting forth your personal opinion about what you think the Bible says, so to substitute my words for yours is hardly “profane”. And I’m not going to respond to your questions because they were either rhetorical or argumentative.

    Moving on: Have you even read Deuteronomy 8, Don? I mean the whole chapter, not just the following verses (to which I assume you were referring):

    Deuteronomy 8:7-10 “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” (ESV)

    First, for contextual purposes, this message was from YHWH to the people of Israel thousands of years ago. It is NOT a personal promise from God to you. It DOES reveal to us something of the nature and character of YHWH.

    After reading these verses I don’t see any mention of mansions, luxury cars or 401(k)’s. I see God sustaining His people on a daily basis. Are you suggesting that these verses are “proof” God wants us to be rich? Can you find the word “rich” in these verses? The closest I can come is the phrase, “in which you will lack nothing.” Are you assuming this means God’s giving you the green light to be rich? I didn’t lack for anything today, and I don’t feel rich (though compared to millions of people around the world I am). I was once on food stamps during an extended period of unemployment during the recession and yet somehow I still “lack(ed) nothing”.

    Can you try to help me out here by comparing these verses to some of the New Testament verses which have been quoted elsewhere in this reply string? How does your interpretation of Deut. 8 jive with the other verses of Scripture which have been quoted? You can’t just pick one set of verses to support a position and poo-poo the rest.

    Finally, did you read the entirety of Deut. chapter 8, or just these verses? Would you mind reading the very next paragraph, which I think sums up quite nicely the original quote from my post (Prov. 30:7-9):

    Deuteronomy 8:11-14 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (ESV)

    Can it be said any clearer than that? Did God bless Israel? Yes. But He also warned them that inherent in that blessing was the danger for them to forget God in favor of feeling secure in their flocks, houses, silver and gold.

    I put Christians in quotes above because I wonder if these people really are Christians. We don’t allow Mormons to call themselves Christians because they deny Jesus Is the Son of God. Maybe we should stop letting the “Health and Wealth” crowd call themselves Christians as well; these churches have demoted Jesus from the Son of God to Santa Claus.

    P.P.S., Don: I used the word “seriously” once in my response to you. Count it…I did.

    Seriously.

  6. RM : Deut. 8, the WHOLE chapter, blesses me. I believe that as long as I always remember that it is the Lord, my God, who gives me the ability to produce wealth, confirming His covenant, which He swore to our forefathers, The Lord, my God will continue to bless me abundantly. Sometimes I might have more or less temporal stuff, according to what part of my spiritual journey I’m passing through. I dare not deny God’s willingness to provide for me abundantly. Paul speaks of times experiencing lack AND plenty-Phil.4:11-13.

    • Mary, I think I see your point, and I don’t necessarily disagree. I really like your point that the focus isn’t necessarily more or less “temporal stuff”. At the end of the day I just want people to look inside themselves and to test their faith.

  7. Mary, I believe everything on that list, and rather than mere assumptions I like to think of them as educated guesses (though there is one thing on your ‘challenge list’ supported by Scripture so I consider it a fact). None of the items you challenge make Jesus any less worthy of our worship, of course, so I don’t really understand what the big deal is. But from a historical perspective, here is why I believe those things which you are challenging:

    1. Jesus probably wasn’t a very good carpenter
    He came from a small, poor town that had a terrible reputation among the surrounding cities. It’s hard to imagine Jesus being any better than an average carpenter growing up in a place like that. His dad wasn’t a renowned carpenter, and if he didn’t learn from His dad, where was He going to learn? If Jesus had been a supernaturally good carpenter I think it’s safe to assume we’d have read about that. And around the time when Jesus should have been burying himself in his father’s work, he was scampering off to Temple without telling anyone where he was going.

    2. Jesus probably lived in a one-room hovel with his mom
    Mary, I think it’s safe to assume that nearly EVERY working class Nazarene lived like that. Unless you think Jesus was secretly married, we can assume he lived with his mom because that’s what Jewish men did until they found a wife. The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus instructs John to care for Mary after Jesus’ imminent death. So if Mary wasn’t living with someone, and if Jesus wasn’t living with someone, and if Jesus was a poor carpenter living in a poor, small town, I think it’s safe to assume that Jesus still lived with his mom in the first century version of a studio apartment.

    3. Jesus was completely uneducated
    Mary, I’m surprised that this surprised you, because I know how much you know about Scripture. There was no educational system in first century Palestine; no Technical Colleges or even a University of Phoenix. The only place of ‘education’ was the synagogue, and we know Jesus wasn’t enrolled in the synagogue thanks to Scripture. I have to ask, where else do you think Jesus might have received an education? You may be reading into what I said, and implying something I did not intend. Education does not equal intelligence; just because Jesus was ‘uneducated’ doesn’t mean He was dumb. I’m just saying that he didn’t have a formal education.

    4. Jesus died penniless
    Again, I’m surprised that this surprised you. Jesus was an itinerant preacher for 3 1/2 years before being murdered by the Romans. Where do you imagine Jesus would have kept his cash on deposit, if He’d had any? And don’t we see clearly in Scripture that any money collected by Jesus and His disciples was pooled together in order to serve the ministry and help the poor, a precedent so strongly set that for many years after Pentecost the church in Jerusalem lived this same way? Are you suggesting that Jesus had a ‘secret stash of cash’, or that maybe He’d invested in a goat herd somewhere in Judah?

    I want to reiterate that none of these things, if true, make Jesus any less worthy of glory. His sacrifice on the cross, not His wealth, is what makes him worthy of our praise. My purpose in creating the list was, and continues to be, to take people out of their “American Church” comfort zones and really think about who Jesus was and Is, and what this means for living our lives each day.

  8. Reblogged this on Three Taverns Church and commented:

    Just re-read this post after reflecting on my post from earlier today. Well played, God, well played. I prayed this prayer, and it looks like God is answering it. Now I need to surrender my fear and realize He is with me as always.

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