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The paradox of position and power

I have a nice house, two cars, and my kids went to college. Furthermore, I am a boss and have the power to hire and fire people. Am I in spiritual danger? If you look at Jesus’ message, the answer is “Yes.” There’s a very real danger that my access to resources and power will corrupt my heart. …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
I have a nice house, two cars, and my kids went to college. Furthermore, I am a boss and have the power to hire and fire people. Am I in spiritual danger? If you look at Jesus’ message, the answer is “Yes.” There’s a very real danger that my access to resources and power will corrupt my heart.
 
I want to play the issue down. And lest you come to my rescue by saying, “It’s not a question of the stuff you own or the power you wield per se, it’s about your heart,’ I sense God whispering this: “Don’t try to dodge the danger inherent in this issue. You need to pay close attention to Jesus’ perspective on this issue of wealth and power.”
If you look at what he says, you see Jesus continually tells those in power to lower themselves. He lays the Pharisees low. He tells the rich, young ruler to sell his belongings before following him. And then James builds the case further. He compares our attitudes toward the well-dressed as opposed to those who are filthy and he takes us to task. (see James 2) And he takes on rich people particularly when he says, “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.” (James 5)
 
In contrast, Jesus lifts up those who don’t have power. He speaks tenderly to the sick, the widow, and the poor. He targets them for encouragement and healing. He lifts their heads. James summarizes his perspective: “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be
rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5)
 
What does this mean for a nation of rich, young rulers? It’s a sobering question. Something is at stake here and I don’t think it’s that Jesus just likes to pick on powerful people. I think it’s that he loves them so much that he’s willing to go after the stuff that clogs their spiritual arteries – the things that keep them from depending on him.
 
What does it mean for you and me? Ask yourself: Am I open-handed with my stuff? Am I gracious with the power I wield? Do I treat those who are poor and powerless with respect? 
I pray that you do. We all work out our salvation with fear and trembling. 

Comments (9)

  • Like his overturning of the tables in the temple, Jesus is continually turning over the inappropriate things in our lives. Tearing down our idols. He didn’t have a problem with tables selling merchandise, just not in the temple.

    He doesn’t have a problem with us owning stuff…just as long as the stuff doesn’t own us.

  • Your explanation is powerful and right-on. Thank you for the way you examined this important issue. I worked in Africa for 8 years and found that the poorest people there were the ones who ministered most to me about their faith in God and His goodness. They are my spiritual role models. Those dear ones are who I thought of when I read your paragraph:

    “In contrast, Jesus lifts up those who don’t have power. He speaks tenderly to the sick, the widow, and the poor. He targets them for encouragement and healing. He lifts their heads. James summarizes his perspective: ‘Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?’”

    I’m wondering if you’d be interested in being a guest blogger on my blog, with me re-posting this on my blog. Your message is important.

    Linda

  • Great stuff, again…and one I think about plenty.

    I joke with people all the time that I “live in a development I don’t belong in, one that went uphill”. When we built our home seventeen years ago, only the lower portion of the development was built. Large homes, but nothing too over the top. Well, when the upper phase opened up that all changed…and bigger, grander homes went up, and my dis-ease grew…

    We would fall into the demographic that Jesus cautions about…and I pay attention to it closely and continue to thank God that he loosens my grip on things when they get a little too tight. I am criticized sometimes by others for being too generous without expecting anything back in return…and I certainly don’t want to enable, but isn’t that what Jesus does? He gave freely without expecting that he would be repaid? Not as tidy a message as some Sunday morning messages convey…

    But it is also a generosity of spirit, of attitude, of time and talents, and God will always provide opportunities for feedback as to whether your grip is loosening or not.

    Stupid, simple things that abruptly test our immediate ingrained reactions. Like when my son got our dogs all worked up and they jumped up in my lap and upended the last bit of red wine in my glass sloshing it everywhere over my new shirt, one that was not from the thrift store. But instead of freaking out I shrugged and viewed it as a laundry challenge and “happened to have” some Tide products that got it all out, and it was everywhere. I wasn’t optomistic…or my response to “Peter” in India with United who told me that without the original ticket number (sure, I know exactly where it is, long gone…) my flee flight reservation I needed to change would not be able to reinstated…in the past this would have sent me through the roof…but now I figure perhaps the reason was the ticket had expired and vanished as it had already been changed a couple of times, but whatever, I couldn’t do anything about it anyway.

    I guess this is kind of a tangent, but to me these are opportunities to continue to watch how tightly we hold things…hold them loosely and share them freely, areas in my life I hope grow stronger.

  • It’s true: dear saints, if you’re an American, we ARE the rich, so those words DO apply to us. Thanks Seth for the ongoing reminder: Jesus had (has) all position and power, yet He chooses to hang out with the meek.

  • I like this ’cause I felt a switch after living the simple and poor Race lifestyle to now being able to provide all my own needs financially. It is quite humbling. I want to give away more each day and love with greater compassion.
    Live simply – give generously…

  • I like this quote by Shane Claiborne:

    “I know there are people who there who say, ‘My life was such a mess. I was drinking, partying, sleeping around… and then I met Jesus and my whole life came together.’ God bless those people. But me, I had it together. I used to be cool. And then I met Jesus and he wrecked my life. The more I read the gospel, the more it messed me up, turning everything I believed in, valued, and hoped for upside-down. I am still recovering from my conversion.”

    Following Jesus is a process. Right now I feel Jesus is telling me to trade in my nice vehicle for a functional, yet less expensive one. And use the saved money for others.

    Seeing people who have so little gives perspective. I just returned from a week in Haiti, changed. Seth, I just saw that several posts back you wrote about having the spiritual authority to give widows and orphans hope. I blogged about my interactions with widows in Haiti (the Tent City post) and the hesitation I had in my Spirit wondering if God really was going to provide for them. I wish I had more faith, Seth.

    I echo the man’s plea to Jesus, “I believe, help me with my unbelief.”

  • Whaoh this is yet another massive truth we need to be very careful of. My wife and I came over to Jamaica with pretty loads of stuffs and we live in a nice neighbourhood but all of a sudden our house was burgled while we were out ministering to a woman who was ill and we lost 2 lap tops to mention a few and i was like God what are you saying here? Giving is our lifestyle and we thought God why, as my lap top was like my life? For us, we have come to a place where we have so much even though we give soo much and its like God you can have your way as we continue to obey you in all things..Amen

  • 2 Chronicles 7:14 14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. So many people are coming to the Lord at a rapid pace in other countries but we in America are having churches – founding churches closing their doors the Ships of Zion are not standing – why we think we can do it on our on – Habakkuk can shine some light here – he contends with God in the first 2 chapters – but in Chapter 3 he sparks an answer we have to seek the days of old and the beginning (God’s people, when in distress, and ready to despair, seek help by considering the days of old, and the years of ancient times, and by pleading them with God in prayer.) – the prayers of Abraham the closeness of God they meet in chicken house, their was no fancy choir, no building to go to, it was in back yards, in the road ways it was their people meet God – they had nothing and depended on God for everything (will we who have seek God the same – will we or are we becoming a Babylon)!!!!! Its the hedges the byways ministry – humble yourself seek after thirst after God (pray for a praise and prayer life of David – he was a man who had – yes he messed up we all mess up – but he thirst after God and he had many riches) – Oh Lord Help America to Revive its works.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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