I’ve heard this story preached til I’m pink in the face, which is no big deal since that’s my natural complexion. I’ve heard that the poor camel trying to stuff itself through the needle’s eye was either hyperbole, or that there was a gate called the Needle’s Eye Gate in Jerusalem’s wall that was man-sized rather than camel-sized. I’ve heard that accumulating worldly possessions is sinful, and that those who treasure their wealth cannot enter God’s kingdom.
Then there’s the widow’s mite, where a poor widow dropped her last cent into the collection box. And Lazarus, whose dinner was the droppings from the rich man’s table. That’s the guy who stood at heaven’s edge where the rich man could look up from hell and beg for a drop of water for his scorched lips. If I’d been Lazarus I would have been seriously tempted to gloat, and feel shame for my stinkin’ thinkin’.
But that’s another issue.
Usually I’ve heard these sermons delivered during Stewardship Month which, by an odd coincidence, is when guys go hunt’n or fish’n. Gotta fill that freezer, don’t y’know.
Please know that I’m not ridiculing sportsmen. Even though I’m not much for outdoor activities, I’m guilty of that same lousy attitude, and the stewardship preaching pricks my conscience such that I walk out of church feeling so small that I could pass through the needle’s eye with plenty of room to spare. I could list all my excuses for not giving freely, whether to the church or to the needy, but my list would be a carbon copy of most people’s. The real shame is that pastors have to beg and cajole us pew-sitters for enough funds to get by—barely.
Most of us respond to such appeals with something to the effect of, “If only I had a little extra at month’s end I’d be really generous. As it is, I give as much as the next guy.” Truth be told, that “little extra” would soon disappear into the coffers of some credit card company. And here’s another truth; if we spent less than we earned we would have no credit card debt, which for most families is the bulk of their “discretionary” spending. Most wage earners would be amazed at how easy it is to live on 90%, 70%, or even 50% of their income, just by being satisfied with that older model house, car, computer, TV, phone, or you name it. If the church(that’s you and me) lived that way, we’d have plenty to give to missions, evangelism, or any other need God would place before us.
All that’s easy for me to say, but my confession is that I lack the faith to give more than I think I can. If I trust God for my eternal destiny, why don’t I trust Him for the funds to give generously? My excuse is always the same, “I’m on a fixed income, and live in very basic circumstances.” Yet, God’s promise is to prosper those who put Him first in all things. Do I believe God, or not?
I mentioned shame earlier, and that shame lies squarely on my head. Please pray that God will fill me with the faith to live completely for Him. My abiding prayer is the same as the father who brought his son with the mute spirit to Jesus and said, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”(Mark 9:24)
Many conscientious believers are up to their necks treading debt, and many of those are in that situation through no fault of their own. The problem with teaching stewardship is those who would profit from the message aren’t listening, but those who listen are already doing their best to obey God’s clear commands. I’ve already asked for prayer for me, but also pray for revival in God’s church. God has always told His people, “Look! We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. It’s your choice.”