Today we move into Part 2, "The Escape from Cultural Christianity." I really liked the quote from Carl Halberg on page 35, "The largest denomination in Western civilization is cultural Christianity." How true! There is a style of Christianity that permeates our culture. It isn't a strong faith. In fact, it is often a faith that doesn't even know what it believes.
But the size of cultural Christianity also presents an opportunity for us. Imagine for a moment what the world would be like if all of the people who say they are Christians loved like Christ, gave like Christ, helped like Christ, fed like Christ, encouraged like Christ... It is absolutely mind boggling! So let's see what Morley has to say about escaping from cultural Christianity.
Most of us have heard the story of the minister in a community where flood waters were coming. He did everything in his power to help others find their way to safety. When rescuers came, he insisted on giving all of the seats to others. When the last rescue truck was leaving, they offered him a seat, but he said, "God will provide." He was offered a place as the last boat pulled out of the community. Again he turned it down saying, "God will provide." He climbed onto a roof top to help others as the floods raged on. A helicopter offered help, but he urged them to find other victims and said, "God will provide." Finally, the floods increased. The minister drowned and his soul joined the other faithful in heaven. He turned to God and asked why his life had not been spared. God answered, "I sent a truck, and boat, and a helicopter. What more did you want?"
The humor in the story runs parallel to the example shared by Morley of the successful businessman who felt guilty over his wealth. Just as God sought to bless the minister with rescuers, God blesses some of his children with prosperity. It is not something to feel guilty about. It is something to rejoice about. More importantly, it is something to handle as a good steward.
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), I have seen very little time spent focusing on the first two servants, each of whom doubled their shares of the master's wealth. They are pictures of prosperity, though. No guilt is involved. In fact, the one who doubled the master's five talents was given the one talent that the third slave had never put to use.
The parable of the talents helps us to understand several things. First, God rewards faithfulness. We should put all of his resources to good use. Second, there is no reason to be ashamed of prosperity or of poverty. God will give more to some and less to others. We are simply expected to be good stewards of the resources we are given. Finally, there is no reward for poor stewardship. The master in the parable didn't do a quick check on the third steward's self esteem. He didn't say, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." He criticized the servant harshly and through him out!
Let's not get caught in a trap where God has given us resources but we fail to use them out of guilt or fear. Let's remember who the master is, remember what the master's business is, and surrender ourselves to good stewardship for the master's glory.
Dear Lord, you are truly great. Thank you for the many blessings you have given me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a witness for you in my work and in my community. Thank you for giving me my daily bread. Let me share that bread with your children. Thank you for forgiving my trespasses. Let me likewise forgive those who trespass against me. Deliver me from wickedness and laziness. Do not cast me out. All I have I surrender to you, for it is all for your kingdom, your power, and your glory. Amen.
Grace and peace--