Sunday, 22 September 2013

Counterfeit Gods: Part 4 – Money Changes Everything

Hello All,
It is all too common for us to hear people asking situational questions such as ‘How far are you willing to go to obtain a million dollars?’ or ‘What would you do if a certain windfall brought you a million dollars?’
Many wage earners have worked hard all of their lives with hopes to save up as much they can but the amount is not even close to a million dollars.
With the ever increasing inflation rate, some even say that a million dollars does not worth as much as it used to in the past.
The fact is human greed has led to discontentment and ungratefulness for the things that we already possess.
The truth is even the richest man in the world would say that no amount of money is ever enough to bring true satisfaction.
Today we will be looking at a poem which is a narration of a Bible passage taken from Luke 19:1-9.

Counterfeit Gods: Part 4 – Money Changes Everything
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (12th July 2013)

There once was a shrewd and ruthless tax collector
Who, in the eyes of his people, was a traitor
Because he worked for the Roman authorities
And from his nation he extorted much money

So enslaved was he to wealth, riches and mammon
That he traded away his good reputation
He couldn’t care less about the scorn of his people
His increasing possessions made his eyes sparkle

One day, he heard that Jesus was in Jericho
‘I’ve heard so much about this man so I must go
To see who he really is’ he said thoughtfully
He set off to where Jesus was in the city

A massive crowd obscured his view to his dismay
He could not see Jesus and no one gave him way
His small stature was a major disadvantage
He did not lose heart but summoned up his courage

He caught sight of a towering sycamore tree
So he ran towards it and climbed up hastily
He was excited for now he could see Jesus
Jesus saw him and called out his name, ‘Zacchaeus!’

‘Hurry and come down from the tree’ Jesus urged him
‘For today at your house I must stay and dine in’
So Zacchaeus descended quickly from the tree
And he received Jesus as his guest joyfully

‘How could he dine with that man who is a sinner?’
Jesus’ actions were judged by indignant leaders
Who strove to follow every letter of the law
They didn’t know that self righteousness would be their fall

Zacchaeus prepared a sumptuous meal for Jesus
‘Lord, I now say in the presence of all of us
That I’ll give to the poor half of my possession
And restore up to fourfold of swindled mammon’

Jesus was pleased with Zacchaeus’ repentant heart
‘Today salvation has come and will not depart
From this house since he is also Abraham’s son
To seek and save the lost, the Son of Man has come’

Do you see a glimpse of yourself in Zacchaeus?
The love of money is evil and insidious
Are you treating mammon as your security?
Has materialism crept in unknowingly?

Do you envy and admire your rich neighbours?
Do you yearn to own all that life has to offer?
Cast away your vain idols of wealth and riches
Come and lay them all down at the feet of Jesus.

Points for Reflection:
·         The love of money is evil and insidious. There are some of us who might realize that money is one of our greatest idols but there are many who choose to deny it or do not even realize it.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10)
·         Have you been holding on to money as your source of security instead of God? Do your eyes gleam with delight each you see your bank account balances increasing? Do you love and desire materialistic things? Do you envy rich people for their wealth?
·         No amount of money could ever bring you satisfaction. Even Zacchaeus found a big void in his heart which he was trying in vain to fill with money. The idol, which he had sacrificed his integrity and nation for, promised him so much but delivered so little.
·         The emptiness in Zacchaeus’ heart made him look for something more. He was looking for Jesus and he did not even care if that meant casting aside his dignity by climbing up a tree. Even in modern days, we would think twice before climbing a tree especially if it is in front of a large crowd. In those days, dignity was held in very high esteem and climbing a tree was certainly considered a highly undignified act. But it was a climb worth making for it was a turning point for a terrible sinner who received Jesus, not only as his guest but most importantly, as his Lord and Saviour. The wonderful thing about this little man was that he did not return to his former sinful ways after his encounter with Jesus but he repented and forsook his greatest idolatry.  
·         Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Saviour as Zacchaeus had? Jesus has been knocking at the door of your heart but are you still refusing to let him come in and dine with you? What are the things that are preventing you from letting him into your heart?
Behold, I [Jesus] stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
·         If you are a Christian, have you truly turned away from your sinful ways? Are you still enslaved to the love of money? Do you really treat Jesus as the Lord of your life? Is money your god or is Jesus your Lord?
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)
·         Some of the people in the crowd were unhappy when Jesus offered to dine in Zacchaeus’ house. To have a meal with someone in those days signified friendship and they could not accept the fact that Jesus would treat such a great sinner as his friend.  Before we start condemning the Jews for being self righteous and ungracious let us try to put ourselves in their shoes. Being a tax collector for the Roman authorities in those days was as despicable as being a collaborator with the Japanese forces in their massacres of the Chinese people during World War 2. The way they reacted showed that they did not understand the depth and sufficiency of God’s grace and forgiveness for even the worst of sinners. For Jesus’ mission on earth was to die on the cross for sinners and not for those who considered themselves righteous based on their good works.
·         In what ways are you tempted to take pride in your good works and reputation? Are there people you would deem as unworthy of the gospel of Christ? Bearing in mind that you are a sinner yourself, how could you be more gracious to such people?
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)