In a world of non-commitment or partial commitment to God can a Christian go all in for God?
I want us to understand that our relationship with God involves our all.
We will discuss two kinds of Christian, the monetized church, those who sacrifice, honoring military heroes because it is Veteran’s Day, and we will discuss going all in for God.
2 kinds of Christian
Mark 12:38-44 reminds us of two kinds of Christian, takers who love power and wealth versus the givers. The description is a stark contrast. On the one hand are those who love fancy clothes, public acclaim, position and long verbose prayers, all the while exploiting the helpless. The contrast on that side includes the rich who give what seems to be generously but is a miserly percentage of what they could give. Both of these groups are contrasted with a poor and needy woman who gave extravagantly. A western pope once compared such giving from our abundance with giving of our substance. Giving a tiny part of our surplus wealth, even large amounts which would not be missed is puny compared to the woman who gave lavishly what she could not afford. To what would God compare our giving?
The monetized church
It seems that everything today is “monetized,” filled with annoying in your face advertisements. From the latest versions of software, to social media and news videos, we cannot escape the ubiquitous money-grubbing advertising. Even within the church there are those who have fallen prey to the false Gospel of Mammon. Just like certain ancient teachers of God’s law, some are not satisfied with the offering plate. In Mark 12:38-44 we find an ancient kind of the monetized church, those who devoured widows houses. Shamelessly cheating people out of property in the name of religion is nothing new. It is just one example of many ways to use religion as a scam for personal gain, to monetize the church. Jesus contrasted this greed amongst believers with those who are in it to follow Jesus’ own example by giving not taking.
Those who sacrifice
Why does a soldier do it, sacrifice his life in a faraway country for a complete stranger? That’s what Sergeant Dennis Weichel did in early 2012. A little Afghan girl ran into the road directly in front of a 16 ton truck and he ran to her rescue, saving her life, but sacrificing his own. He was run down and later died of his injuries. Soldiers are not given the moral choice between a just war and an unjust one. That’s for politicians to decide, but men like Dennis remind us of the morality of self-sacrifice regardless of politics. Christians are called to a life of sacrifice, something that even the ugly politics of church cannot erase. In heaven some names will rise above those with status or wealth. They are the names of those who sacrifice (Mark 12:38-44).
Power and wealth
Twin deceptions of power and wealth are central to the story in Mark 12:38-44. America has a low incidence of illegal corruption, but a high incidence of legal corruption like campaign contributions and lobbying. It is far worse in China, where crony capitalism goes hand-in-hand with party membership. In America, “Wall Street’s done a fabulous job of making the world safe for Wall Street.”* Powerful and wealthy people are usually more immoral than the average person because power and wealth corrupt. The problem of all our economies is to have a form of capitalism that creates wealth for all rather than for just a few. When the poor cry in pain, the wealthy often ignore them, but when the rich are asked to sacrifice they cry persecution. True Christians follow the example of the widow rather than the wealthy and powerful.
*Chrystia Freeland, Plutocrats, Penguin Group, 2012, p. 219
Sgt Mjr John Henry Quick
During the Spanish American War, Americans and Cubans fought together against the Spanish. During the 1898 battle for Guantanamo Bay, gunfire from the USS Dolphin had been misdirected and was landing on Americans. West Virginia Marine Sergeant Major John Quick found a large blue polka-dot cloth, tied it to a stick and without thought of his own life, climbed to the top of a ridge to signal the ship. He gave no regard to the shells and bullets flying all around him, but calmly faced the ship and did not stop until his message was complete. The ship answered and he returned to his place on the firing line. For his bravery he received the medal of honor, one of less than 100 West Virginians to do so. His is the name of one honored for sacrifice (Mark 12:38-44).
All in for God
“All in” is a poker term of total commitment. Can Christians go all in with very faulty churches? As a jaded Christian who has have been offended, disappointed and deeply hurt by church leadership, I was once pleasantly surprised to hear a theology professor openly admit that he and other church leaders are the modern equivalent of the Pharisees. Rather than run away from the church, I have also come to the conclusion that this shows Jesus’ remarkable grace, in that he chooses to work through such a faulty instrument as the church and even calls it his special treasure and his bride. In Mark 12:38-44 Jesus revealed some of the dirty underbelly of the Jewish church and a remarkable woman who, rather than walk away, focused on God behind the scenes and went “all in” with her offering.
There are two kinds of Christian, those in it for power and wealth and those who give their all in self-sacrifice. Which kind are we?