There are many unique concepts involved in Christianity.
When we read the teachings of Jesus in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, we
see how different these teachings are from any other religious teaching
in the world. It is these teachings that continuously attack the
problems of mankind and benefit all of the inhabitants of this planet.
An important positive attribute of Christianity that Jesus taught is
the attitude towards possessions and wealth. I have always enjoyed the
phrase “attitude of gratitude.” This is what we are taught in the
Christian system, and unfortunately many churches have totally missed
it. Jonathan Wells said it well: “We have never had so much, yet we
have never had so little. Churches are marching down the road of
commercialism in droves, marketing Christ as a therapeutic product to
meet all the self-centered, felt needs of consumer-oriented Americans.
The spirituality is nothing more than self-idolatry and is in
opposition to Christianity.”
Americans have moved from an attitude of gratitude to an attitude of
entitlement. There is no reason to give thanks for something if it was
owed to us in the first place, and we seem to jump from one “gimmie
festival” to another as we go through the various holidays. The result
of this is stress, worry, anxiety, and all of the physiological
disorders that go with this self-induced pressure. The hallmark of
ownership is worry. The hallmark of an attitude of gratitude or
stewardship is thanksgiving.
Dr. Stephen Post is a physician at Case Western Medical School. In Guideposts magazine (November 2007,
page 78) Dr. Post shared some data on how people who are thankful for
the things they have are benefitted by that attitude of gratitude. Here
are some of his findings:
- Just 15 minutes a day focusing on things you’re thankful for will
significantly increases your body’s natural antibodies.
- Naturally grateful people are more focused mentally and
measurably less vulnerable to clinical depression.
- A grateful state of mind induces a physiological state called
resonance that’s associated with healthier blood pressure and heart
- Caring for others is draining. But grateful caregivers are
healthier and more capable than less grateful ones.
- Recipients of donated organs who have the most grateful attitudes
How do Christians develop a natural gratitude that affords them these
benefits? There are some understandings that can lead us toward an
attitude of gratitude. We would like to attempt to share a few of these
GOD HAS A PLAN FOR OUR POSSESSIONS
God does not need us. If every human on the planet
decided this minute that they would never give a penny to God’s work or
to benefit their fellow man, God’s work would still get done. The
Christian view of money and possessions is that God has blessed us with
these things with the idea that we will use them in positive ways.
One of the best examples of this is in Luke 12:18-21 (NIV) where a rich
man is presented by Jesus as having been blessed with a great crop. God
blessed him and had a plan for the man to use the money that came from
the crop to relieve the hunger and poverty all around him. Instead of
doing that, this selfish man decides to tear down his barns and build
bigger barns so he can store the goods for his own consumption and he
then decides to take a long vacation saying “Take life easy; eat, drink
and be merry.” At this point God confronts him with the fact that his
life is ending and God says, “Then who gets what you have prepared for
In Matthew 19:20-26 a rich, young man comes to Jesus
asking what he needs to do to be perfect. Jesus tells him to get rid of
the things in his life which have consumed him at this point. The
message is not that we have to become destitute, but that when things
become the most important items in life we will not have the kind of
joy God wants us to have. Jesus tells us in that passage that it is
hard--like a camel trying to squeeze through the eye of a needle--but
with God it can be done.
In Revelation 3:17-18 (NIV) we see Christ challenging the church at
Laodicea whose wealth had given them an attitude of ownership. Jesus
says “You say ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth… .’ But you do not
realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” God’s
plan for what He blessed us with is that we use it in such a way that
brings us joy, fulfillment, contentment, and happiness and at the same
time relieves the pain and suffering in the world. When our selfishness
strangles that potential the result is misery, depression, stress, and
all the negative things that go with selfishness.
SOCIAL GIVING INCREASES OUR STRESS
When I was a child I can remember my parents arguing about how to
handle the United Way campaign. Their employer put huge pressure on
employees to give to United Way, and people were hounded to give. Your
name was printed and you were assigned a social tag in conjunction with
how much you gave. The top givers were called “Gold Givers” and were
printed in the company magazine in a gold colored page with beautiful
flowers around the edges. The next level was called “Silver Givers” and
had their names on an impressive silver page with flowers. The rest of
the staff were called “Patrons” and were on a very dull and lifeless
page. My mother wanted to be on the gold page, and my father could care
less if he was in the book at all, and resented the whole thing.
In the Bible in Acts 5:1-8 we see Ananias and Sapphira
apparently motivated in the same way. They wanted to be identified as
people who had given all they had in a most generous way, but they
saved back some of the money for selfish reasons. Lying to the Holy
Spirit in this way brought disastrous results. In Matthew 6:1-4 Jesus
emphasized the importance of giving in a way that does not call
attention to ourselves. If we understand that our possessions are only
loaned to us by God to use in positive ways, that is not a difficult
thing to do.
UNADULTERATED GRATITUDE IS THE PUREST FORM OF WORSHIP
In the Psalms the Hebrew word for thanks occurs 31 times. This is a
worship book and concentrates on praise to God--thanksgiving being a
vital part of that praise. In the New Testament there are 50
occurrences of “thanks.” The Hebrew word towdah and the Greek word eucharista convey a pure worship
and are translated thanks. Giving, being thankful, feeling gratitude
for our blessings is pure worship and is culminated in service to
others. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is
this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep
oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, NIV).
Materialism is a serious source of pollution to our spiritual living.
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Does God Exist?, SepOct09.