Halloween can be a fun form of fear as we put on mask and costumes. Those mask are easily recognizable. Less recognizable are the mask we carry with us into work, school, friendships and other interactions. Of these mask, the scariest one is the mask of affluence. So let’s explore what this mask is, three reasons to absolutely fear the mask of affluence, and how to overcome its influence.
What is the mask of affluence?
Ron Blue was speaking in Chicago, Friday. He is an author, financial advisor, and at 75 years young, someone with much wisdom and experience. Ron conveyed a startling discovery he’d made years ago in Africa when he asked an African pastor what the greatest fear he had for his people was. Ron expected to hear disease, poverty, etc. The pastor quickly responded, “Materialism.”
Ron connected the dots. The death of great nations in history come not from the outside, but from within. Affluence is the destroyer of people and nations.
Jesus said it this way, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Mt. 6:24
Reason 1: Money becomes Master
I like to talk a lot about the second most prominent theme in the Bible – justice for the poor. But do you know the first? Idolatry. That is anything we place before God. We are unable to fulfill the great command to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength because our affections lie elsewhere. Too often, we become slaves to a desire for affluence.
Think of it in Halloween terms. Doctor Jekyll began his experiments for good. We can pursue money for good reasons such as meeting basic needs. But often our heart wants more. We are no longer Dr. Jekyll, but quickly become Mr. Hyde. There is a war within us and Mr. Hyde is powerfully strong.
Paul says it this way, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 1 Tim. 6:9.
My Personal Mask
I understand. I used to wake up every morning and look at the business section of the paper. How was the stock market doing? Diversification. Growth. Work hard for that second vacation home. But my mind became fixed on all the things necessary to maintain these things. My heart was anxious with the increasing number of choices and decisions that had to be made. My soul was a slave to materialism.
Like the rich young ruler trying to follow Jesus while keeping the external commands, God looked into my heart and told me, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Lk 18:22.
I tried hiding behind a mask of affluence. Like this rich young ruler, my accounting ledger revealed my heart was fixed more on my present security than on eternal security. I laid up treasures on earth, not in heaven. While I gave a tenth of my dill, mint and cumin, I neglected the weightier matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. (Mt. 23:23).
Today I have great joy and peace. I am no longer a millionaire. I have no treasure on Earth outside of a small, old house and two old cars. But in giving up possessions, I gained freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from anxiety. I am no longer anxiously climbing a ladder of success. I have learned the secret of being content whatever my circumstances. (Phil. 4:11).
How about you?
I believe God ask EVERYONE to give EVERYTHING to Him. You must fully surrender. You must lay everything at the feet of our King. I also believe our King gives back most of those resources, and often much more, so that you will steward them well in His Kingdom.
Jesus told his disciples as much. He taught them how to prepare for His return. Wait expectantly like virgins with oil awaiting the return of the bridegroom. (Mt. 25: 1-13). Wait wisely and steward well what is entrusted to you – whether oil or talents. Don’t waste the oil or bury your time, talent or treasure. (Mt. 25:14-30). Rather expend them on behalf of the least of these (Mt. 25:31-46). We will be judged on this basis. Did we acquire wealth for our own benefit? Or did we generously invest in the lives of those in need?
Reason 2: Control is illusory.
I believed money would provide me security. But putting hope in money is making it an idol. Besides being my master, money became a false god. False because the promise of security, position, and prestige are all illusory.
Jesus told us this as two brothers were fighting over an inheritance. He shared the story of a successful business man who was intent on building bigger barns and expanding his influence. Jesus called him a fool. “You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?” (Lk. 12:20).
Every day the emergency room is filled with people who had no idea they would be there. The discovery of Cancer. The driver who was texting. Each day we face uncertainty. We do not know how much time we have been granted, so we should use our time wisely.
Like many we can fight against the inevitability. We can fight to control beauty or power. Or we can recognize beauty is found in relationship with our Creator and power is found in humbly serving others. No one is richer, more beautiful or powerful than our God. Yet he willingly gave all that up to die for us (Phil. 2:5-8). To die for me. I must either accept that truth or not. If I accept the gospel which restores me in relationship with God, then I must accept the call to justice which restores me in relationship with others.
Reason 3: Time is the great equalizer
I was blessed to represent many Christian business owners, early in my career. As a young man I was eager to be as successful as them. I wanted to make a name for myself. Then I realized the profound sadness these men and women experienced.
The world labeled them a success, but they lacked a lasting legacy. Families were fractured or broken. The business would continue or not, but was anything of eternal value accomplished?
Don’t wait until the end to ask that question! God has a bigger purpose for your life, family and business today.
Money is a terrible master. The mask of affluence is a destroyer of families, faith and legacy. But today is a new day. God wants to free us from being consumed by materialism. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23).
Removing the mask of affluence
Generous living is found in generous giving. Remove the mask of affluence. Give sacrificially of your time and treasure. Invest in others. God tells us what is required. “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” (Mic. 6:8).
That is how you remove the mask of affluence.
All that you have is a gift from God, including every breath you take. That should cause us to be humble, to look to the needs of others, and not miss an opportunity to serve a neighbor in need. We will love mercy. And we will do that through justice. We will seek to restore what is broken. We will want others to be restored in relationship with God and with neighbor.
The story could have been a Halloween story. It had lots of ghost. Filled with fear and uncertainty over the looming specter of death and of squandering one’s life simply to acquire wealth. But that is not the story. The story is a Christmas story. A Christmas Carol. The story of successful business man Ebenezer Scrooge who learns it is never too late to stop miserly living for oneself and invest in the lives of others. We cheer to see the transformation in Scrooge. But can we recognize the Scrooge in us?
Let’s take off our mask of affluence. Let’s live for others and generously support Kingdom work that humbly advances justice and mercy. The choice is yours. I choose to love my neighbor. I choose to follow the Samaritan, listen to Jesus and
Go and Do likewise.