YTL Community News, April 1, 2010
In his book, The Brief History of Time, Professor Stephen Hawking writes that if we could find the answer as to why we and the universe exist, “it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason, for then we should know the mind of God”
I pray Professor Hawking would allow himself to read 1 Corinthians 2 v 6-16 and be enlightened. He would find that the Apostle Paul already taught us this invaluable truth – that believers could know the secret wisdom of God, because His Holy Spirit dwells in us and that we can have the mind of Christ.
“A wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
“However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”
“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
And wisdom the Holy Spirit imparts to us as God’s children that even the rulers of all ages have not understood them!
For this Easter Celebration, the Holy Spirit prompted me to share this message with you, and this I share with full humility. “It is ‘Time’ to handle power righteously and it is in our ‘Power’ to handle time well.”
We are all aware that our Lord’s wisdom is boundless. This boundless wisdom is revealed through the scriptures. For this evening, I am humbled to have been given this particular insight into the significance of God’s wisdom in creating two mediums to display His glory. He created us human beings, as well as the medium of ‘time’. Like an artist uses a canvass for his artistic expression, the Lord uses us and time to reveal Himself to us.
But of course, we study the Word of God to ponder its meaning and application. But the Word remains a dead letter until the Holy Spirit breathes life into it. Just as Paul said to Timothy: “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this” (2 Timothy 2 v 7), we shall ponder this evening and the Lord will enlighten us.
“It is ‘Time’ to handle power”
Everyday, we hear of the word ‘power’ mentioned. More often than not, we hear of its abuse.
In both the Old and New Testament, there are more stories and lessons on how to handle power. God teaches us not to take this matter lightly. Because ‘power’ is always more than just means to an end or to get things done. The Bible teaches us how intricately linked is power to the reality of ruler-ship or control.
Creation, wealth and power
Humans were created in God’s image. We were subsequently given stewardship over His wealth, including power associated with the stewardship. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1 v 28). God did so that we may reflect His Glory in everything.
However, humans disobeyed God and fell tragically short of His Glory. In the process, we became slaves to sin, but also we had the power God granted us at creation, stolen from us by the devil. In other words, the devil was ‘empowered’ on this earth by our fall or by default. Hence, why he is the ‘prince’ of this world.
This is of course extremely good reason why we must never be careless with power. Or we may find ourselves dabbling in the devil’s domain. We only need to see what evil is perpetrated daily in this world in pursuit of power.
Praise the Lord that as Christians, our sins have been forgiven on account of Jesus’ death on the cross. The power of the cross broke the chains of sin that bound us and released us from the grip of the devil. We have freedom in Christ and He is our King alone. No longer do we fall under the devil’s power or authority, nor do we fear him.
But sadly, we Christians often find ourselves dabbling in the devil’s domain – consciously or subconsciously. Like the world, many Christians seem to have the same cravings for power. If not, we certainly appear inept and clumsy in handling power.
Wealth is Power
Power is invariably associated with money and wealth. Kings of old secured political allegiances and alliances with their wealth. Rulers paid for armies to die for their vanity.
For individuals, wealth is equally attractive because it is means to do what we want. Wealth is desirable because it gives the power to be independent, self-sufficient, comfortable and to control one’s destiny.
The problem is when we do have wealth, we may start to think we don’t need God. Like King Nebuchadnezzar who said, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Daniel 4 v 30).
My point is we love wealth because of the power it accords.
You could understand why our Lord Jesus was unequivocal in our handling of money. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “We cannot serve God and Mammon at the same time” (Matthew 6 v 24). Because, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6 v 21).
Jesus understood that our allegiance and devotion to God, is at the centre of how we handle money and wealth and ultimately, power! It all boils down to whether we want God to be in full control of our lives. Or we rather have control of our own lives.
Lucifer’s Fall and the Love of Money
Even Paul gave stern warning to Timothy, “For the love of Money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6 v 10).
Norm Franz, a Biblical economist, makes the compelling argument that Lucifer’s original sin is precisely his lust for money and material possessions.
Ezekiel Chapter 28 tells the story of Lucifer, the chief of all angels. Lucifer was in Eden and was involved in an abundance of business and trade that was being transacted in the Kingdom of Heaven. However, he became vain and proud. Soon, he decided to make up his own business rules and indulged in unrighteous trade.
The Lord said of Lucifer, “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned” (Ezekiel 28 v 13-16).
Or as Norm Franz puts it, “Lucifer’s abundant trade produced the root sin of lust to obtain wealth faster than righteous trading would allow.” Fiddling in not so many words!
And so, Lucifer was expelled from the Kingdom of Heaven and he is now ‘devil’ on this earth.
Let us think for a minute. Wouldn’t the chief of all angels be doing pretty well for himself – economically and in terms of his prominence? After all, he was involved in abundance of trade. But why did Lucifer want more?
Was God not generous to him? God made him “the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” “Lucifer was even in Eden, and every precious stone adorned him” (Ezekiel 28 v 12). God probably gave him an economy where he was the CEO, CFO and COO.
But Lucifer lusted. Why? I could only imagine because he wanted all that God had. May be ultimately, he became corrupt because he wanted to amass wealth quickly, so that he could supersede God. So that he could be God.
Isn’t this quite like how Adam and Eve fell in the first place? We read in Genesis 1 that God gave men ruler-ship or authority over everything He created. Every living creature, every seed bearing plant, etc. (v 28-31).
Wasn’t God generous enough to Adam and Eve? Yet the devil tempted them to think otherwise. He led them to believe God was stingy and kept the best tree to Himself. But ultimately, they were tempted by the false promise that they would be like God if they ate the fruit.
The love of money is the ‘root’ of all evil. And the ‘evil’ itself is trying to be God! Not just to be like God but to replace God! To consciously and subconsciously do without Him.
Dishonest Scales and Weights
But let me also draw your attention to this whole truth about ‘Dishonest Scales & Weights’.
When we choose not to have God fully in control of our lives, we invariably look to substitutes. The world worships mammon. Very naturally, it would adopt the lust of money as an ideology and turn it into a political economic system – enveloped by power and pride.
C.S. Lewis accurately described this as an addiction to the “sweet poison of the false infinite”. We allow substitute sacreds, or false infinites, to fill the vacuum of our disenchanted world.
This wealth and power is more intoxicating than alcohol, more addictive than drugs! It also has a momentum of its own, that leads to corruption. Like Lucifer, we would go towards the extent of dishonesty to feed our insatiable appetite for more of everything. And very quickly too! Why? Because the devil knows he has not got eternity in his control!
Look at the financial markets that crumbled less than two years ago. As Christians, we should not have been surprised or caught unaware by how banking, debt financing, loans and borrowing, stocks and shares, even insurance, were predominantly predicated on the ‘unfair trade’ as described in Ezekiel.
Our world markets were heavily distorted and manipulated. Governments, financial institutions, banks and lending agencies, rating agencies were fiddling non-stop with loans, debts, savings and money supplies. They were fiddling!!!
As such, global wealth was ‘dishonestly’ multiplied in a system without the backing of real tangible substance. This is the debauchery of currencies that God warned us against.
Do you know how close we were to an economic Armageddon? If not by the grace of God, we could have awakened to our bank accounts being wiped out, our stocks and shares greatly devalued, our savings made pointless, and millions losing their hard earned wealth if not livelihoods.
These financial fiddlers didn’t think they could ‘cheat the system’ and not cause its eventual collapse. It scares me that many were genuinely shocked by how bad things became. The fiddlers ended being fiddled by themselves!
My dear friends, are we Christians as guilty as the rest of the world in putting such prominence on wealth and ultimately, power? In fact, are we active perpetrators of this global economy predicated on dishonesty?
Are we honest in our conduct in the market place? Do we use ‘Dishonest Scales & Weights’ to cheat others, so that we could get rich quick?
Den of thieves
Let me also ask this painful question. Are our churches part of this evil system? Have we dragged our churches into it?
In fact, do we have ‘Dishonest Scales & Weights’ within our churches?
We read in the Gospels that Jesus kicked up a major fuss in the temple and called it a den of thieves? But have we ever wondered why when Jesus overturned the tables of money changers and the benches of those selling doves, the crowds did not gang up to have Jesus beaten up? Was Jesus not causing a disturbance in church? I would argue that the crowds were probably glad that Jesus did what He did.
To buy and sell items in the temple for religious sacrifices, worshippers all over needed to exchange their own currencies with temple currencies or temple coins. The money changers were known to provide unfair exchange rates and making indecent profits.
In fact, for the poorer worshippers, there was a double whammy. They had to use the ‘already’ inflated temple currencies to purchase highly priced doves for religious sacrifices. And the poor could only afford to purchase doves for sacrifice.
Could you imagine how angry Jesus was? But why? What’s a little bit of business?
Profiteering in God’s temple at the expense of the worshippers was simply not acceptable and it spelled serious fraud and fiddling! Jesus could also see how easily the devil corrupts the temple with material wealth.
But more so, such dishonesty robs God of His glory. It affected pure and undiluted adoration and worship to God. That is why Jesus was livid. And it all happened at His front yard. Could anything be more insulting and nauseating?
Of course, let us not forget that behind the scenes were the temple’s religious administrators. They must have been in collusion with the tax collectors and traders to enable the corrupt practices to thrive in the temple. It mirrors the subsequent collusion between the church and state through history. Often with disastrous consequences, both to the Body of Christ and the presentation of the Gospel.
But to imagine that all could get away with such evil before God and in His own house!
Very sadly, we see the same carelessness and abuse over wealth and power in some of our churches today. In top-level ecclesiastical power struggles, in denominational disputes, in others in which the clergy hold all reins of power and refuse to share it with the lay people and young people, in para-church organizations expanding into politics, and even in the pulpit.
This travesty extends beyond the walls of the Church, where Marketplace Christians are no less seduced by short term sinful thinking and practices.
The Scriptures contain such clear warnings about the abuse of power. And the apostle Peter clearly echoed this teaching when he urged church elders to shepherd God’s people, ‘not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock’ (1 Peter 5 v 2-3).