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blessings money rich wealth

Some Perspective, Please!

Neal Pollard

–I have taught a Bible study in the hut of a woman in a jungle village of southeast Asia. She had no furniture and only a couple of cooking vessels and utensils. Her one-room house was thatched in a place that averages an inch or more of rain each week. Her lifestyle reflected that of nearly all of her neighbors. 

–I have stayed in the house of a faithful, fruitful gospel preacher in west Africa. One night, the temperature in the house was 91 degrees overnight. The interior walls were made of styrofoam, thin enough to hear the rats scurrying around and scratching behind them. They were actually better off than most in their village. 

–I have stayed not far from the Bay of Bengal in a crowded city across from a leper colony. Taking a bath/shower consisted of using a large cup from a single spigot in a “bathroom” where the water ran a light brown color. Within a hundred miles of there, at least 100,000 people were living under cardboard boxes and old tarps.

–I met a man at a church service in east Africa who made his living working in a gem mine. He and his wife had four children of their own. Their neighbors both died of AIDS, leaving their three children orphaned. This Christian and his wife adopted them. He made $2 per day and Sunday was his only day off. He supported a household of nine on less than $15 per week. 

In every one of the examples above, I was only there for a couple of weeks and returned home to hot water, running water, reliable shelter and automobiles, and a thousand other amenities. 

Many of the people in our world, before the current pandemic, struggled to survive through subsistence farming, poor nutrition, virtually non-existent healthcare, and little access to education. This sets up a cycle of poverty and disease that lowers life expectancy to middle-age at best. Sports, vacations, retirement plans, and insurance are, for many, a pipe dream if even a concept they have ever entertained. I once drove past a slum in a capitol city that was part of 2.5 million homeless people living in what was essentially a trash dump. 

The current crisis is real and impactful. It has required adjustments, changes, and sacrifices. Yet, from a medical, monetary, and material standpoint, we still find ourselves at the top of over 200 nations in just about every earthly way things can be measured. This is a time for us to pause and humbly thank God for His abundant blessings, to ask forgiveness for complaining in the face of such generosity, and to seek His guidance in how we can use this time to focus on others’ needs and helping those who are truly unfortunate. Matthew 25:31-46 is a convicting text, where the Lord tells us He watches how we respond to the hungry, thirsty, naked, stranger, sick, and imprisoned among “the least” of the world. Perhaps what we are going through now is a door of opportunity, to sharpen our perspective on what is essential and what is extra. Let it begin with me!

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Categories
giving money sacrifice Uncategorized

They Saved $200, But What Did It Cost Them?

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Neal Pollard

I respectfully wade into Kentucky’s most hallowed sport (basketball) because of information passed along by some diehard Wildcat fans in the eastern part of the state. A brother shared with me that Pat Summitt almost became the university’s women’s basketball coach, but they refused to pay her moving expenses–calculated at about $200. Turns out, it was 1976 and the 24-year-old future Hall-of-fame women’s basketball coach was approached by the athletic brass from Lexington about her becoming their head coach. She was making $8900 at Tennessee, and Kentucky offered her $9000. She didn’t feel she could afford to move for a mere $100, so she asked for the extra expenses. Apparently, they refused and the rest is history. By the time she died (prematurely) at the age of 64 in 2016, Summitt was the winningest head coach in NCAA women’s basketball history with 1098 wins and eight national championships (via npr.org, kentuckysportsradio.com, and sbnation.com). 

Can you imagine the way that conversation may have gone, with someone in authority (who obviously, forever wished to remain unnamed) vetoing the offer because he didn’t want Kentucky paying those exorbitant moving expenses? Who knows? It may have been unanimous or perhaps unilateral, but someone changed the course of women’s college basketball history for what in 2019 dollars is $901.79. 

Do we ever suffer from the same kind of shortsightedness, as individuals and as churches? Have we ever said “no” to something because we were unwilling to count the cost? The matter may have involved the stewardship of money and material resources and the amount may have been proportionately bigger than $901.79, yet still discounted the aid of the One who owns it all. Have we ever failed to dare and do the very mission the Lord has us here to do because we counted the cost and felt it was more than we were willing to pay? Some will have never obeyed the gospel for this reason (Luke 9:57-62). Some will have never shared the gospel with a dear friend or family member for this reason (Matt. 10:37). Some will have never been more involved in the work of the church for this reason (Mark 8:34-36). Some will have never stood up for Christ in their daily lives for this reason (cf. 1 Peter).  Some will have never given generously of their livelihood for this reason (2 Cor. 8:1-8). The reason? The cost. 

We could focus on what we gain by self-sacrifice and sacrificial service. But let us also focus on what we lose by failing to give ourselves generously for His cause. It could be that our values are distorted and we are measuring the wrong way. Remember the words of Caleb Bradlee:

Count up the joys, and not the pains;
Think not of losses, but of gains;
Keep the clouds back; gaze at the sun;
Thus life will smoothly with you run.

Our gifts are more than all our blows,
And what is best we know God knows;
And He will send His blessings down,
Some veiled; but all will hide a crown.

If we could know the meaning grand
In tears that come by God’s command,
Then sweetly should we take the cross,
And count as gain what seems a loss.

But only let us wait and pray,
Then out of night will come the day;
And pearls long hid from human sight,
Will crown our brows with holy light.
(Via Library of Congress, 1888)

Categories
materialism money priorities priority Uncategorized wealth

What We Know About Recently Uncovered Ancient Viking Treasure

Neal Pollard

BBC reports that Historic Environment Scotland, Treasure Trove Unit, and the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrance’s conservation team have discovered an ancient Viking pot full of treasure, including six silver Anglo-Saxon disc brooches, a silver brooch from Ireland, Byzantine silk, a gold ingot, and gold and crystal objects wrapped in cloth bundles (read article here). The objects date from the 8th or 9th Century. The article goes on to tell us what the discover cannot tell us, at least without years of further research and theorizing. Stuart Campbell of the Treasure Trove Unit says, “”The complexity of the material in the hoard raises more questions than it answers, and like all the best archaeology, this find doesn’t give any easy answers. Questions about the motivations and cultural identity of the individuals who buried it will occupy scholars and researchers for years to come” (ibid.).

While we do not know whether the owner of this pot was a Christian or was more interested in laying up treasure in heaven, we do know that he (or she) was laying up treasure on this earth. We also know that this treasure did not continue to benefit the owner following his or her demise. The photographs released with the find also show that the objects have been worn and decayed with time.  It seems like a fitting illustration of what Jesus taught.

In the Sermon on the Mount, he wrote, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mat. 6:19-21).  He doesn’t condemn saving or even making money. He does continue to warn that one inevitably chooses God or money as master (Mat. 6:24). This find in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, reminds us of the ultimate futility in laying up treasures on the earth.  What’s held and hoarded isn’t stored in heaven, but it does reflect what’s in the heart. Later, Paul urges Timothy to teach the need to fix the hope on God rather than riches (1 Tim. 6:17).

It would be great to find out that this was the church treasury of a congregation of God’s people being taken and used to help the poor or preach the gospel or the personal portfolio of a person who put his riches to good use in the kingdom. It’s not statistically probable, but it’s possible. What I do know is that there is a Perfect, Heavenly Accountant who knows what we treasure most. May our legacy be that we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mat. 6:33).

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despair doctrine money Uncategorized

Deadly and Dangerous

Neal Pollard

The book of Proverbs is divided into 31 chapters and 915 verses. So, nearly 1,000, divinely-authored truisms are packed into this one book penned by Solomon and others. In Proverbs 13, the writer begins by talking about what a wise son does, then describes a prudent man, a lazy man, a righteous man, a wick man, a rich man, and a poor man (2-10). Then, in verses 11-13, an alarm is sounded against three deadly behaviors.

A warning is sounded against dishonest wealth (11). “Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase.”  Financial scandals, surrounding company presidents and CEOs, often dominate current headlines. Not all swindlers, defrauders, embezzlers, and cheats are found out—in this life (cf. 1 Tim. 5:24). Cheating, lying, misrepresenting, deceiving, and otherwise acting unethically to get gain causes one to forfeit the riches of eternal life (Ti. 3:7). Be careful how you get what you get.  “…Attend to your own business and work with your hands…” (1 Th. 4:11; see Rom. 12:17).

A warning is sounded against deferred hope (12). “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” This verse is not about choosing instant gratification over delayed gratification. It recognizes a principle played out daily. Look at an elderly person, relatively strong in body but who has “given up hope.” Such do not usually live very long. Consider a couple whose problems so overwhelm them that they surrender in some way to despair. Divorce cannot be too far off in the distance. For the human spirit to thrive, it must have hope. Hope anchors the soul (Heb. 6:19). Paul, oft-imprisoned, oft-persecuted, muses, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). What pulls the Christian through his or her troubles? It is the present help of hope. Those who throw it away often say goodbye to their faith, too!

A warning is sounded against despising the word (13). “He who despises the word will be destroyed, but he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” Few physically take their disgust for God’s will to the point Jehoiakim did, the wicked king who cut out with a penknife the portions of scripture he hated (Jer. 36:23). Not everyone is so bold as their atheist, the satanist, or the pagan in expressing their disdain for the Bible. Yet, everyone who transgresses against it in willful, habitual, and premeditated ways, despises the word. The price for such rebellion is eternal (2 Th. 1:7-9).

Interestingly, these three verses deal with three pitfalls—of deeds, depression, and doctrine. As God’s people, we must guard against the wiles of the devil as he seeks to destroy us. Our souls are at stake. Don’t let him win. Let Christ reign!

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