As he exited the driver’s side of the car and moved to the passenger side, my dad said, “You drive.”
I could feel my heart beating with the enthusiasm of knowing that I would soon be driving on roads and not in the community center parking lot. I instantly imagined exciting scenarios: driving to school, going on dates, taking friends places, not being at the mercy of waiting on my parents to drive me somewhere, and a day sooner rather than later of getting a car of my own.
Then he commanded, “Put it into reverse.”
Did I hear that correctly? He repeated, “Put the car into reverse, son. You know where that is, don’t you?”
Then he explained, “Anyone can drive a car going forward, but to understand the power, the danger, and the need for careful control, you must first learn to drive it in reverse.”
And so, after an hour of driving in reverse, my father got out of the car, looked at me through the passenger window, and said with a smile, “Now put it in drive.” And the rest is history.
Most of us know the responsibility of driving, though we may take it for granted. Since the invention of the automobile, parents and the laws of the land have understood and explained the importance of learning and passing practical and knowledgeable tests before getting behind the wheel.
When our children encounter devices in their hands, on their laps, or in their classrooms, they need the same protecting adult to train them how to use the device responsibly as every past generation has trained teenagers how to use the automobile.
We live in the technological and digital age. There is no way around it. It seems that every day we are discovering more and more of the wonder of these devices in learning, communicating, playing, and connecting. And we are finding out that our children are quick to learn how to use them for both good and ill, but are not prepared to handle the responsibility we have given to them.
A recent study reported that 97% of teens aged 13-17 said they use at least one social media platform. While there may be some connectional benefit to such platforms, another study reported that 59% of US teens have been bullied or harassed online.
How do we live wisely and vigilantly in these tech times as parents, grandparents, families, and individuals?
As a staff, we have learned some best practices that everyone should consider as first faithful steps toward technological stewardship. By making them available to you, especially parents and grandparents, we hope to be a community that stewards our children’s safety well.
We implore parents to use the restrictive settings on your devices and make use of the two apps, “Bark” and “Disney Circle.” It is likely that this will add time and stress to the daily care for your children, especially the older children who might fuss over new restrictions. But I wasn’t always a careful, lawful driver, and when I wasn’t, my father would remind me that he owned the car that I was driving and would take the keys to remind me who the owner was. Who owns the device and services that your children are using?
Beloved relatives and friends become ill or disabled and die.
Our own bodies seem more and more our adversaries and less and less ourselves.
Treasured family in Christ turn from their once vibrant faith and walk away from God
Fruitful contribution and vocational flourishing become faint memories as “our seat at the table” is appropriately yielded to those younger than ourselves.
There is a loss less discussed but which seems perhaps the most painful of all, at least for the follower of Jesus. We have lost the ability to redo, repair, restore in those places where we have failed to do rightly, failed to act faithfully, failed to serve purely. The time to act is long gone. This loss leads to regret, and the wake left by regret can swamp the soul with utter despair.
What can possibly help with this ruinous regret? One of the few authors I have found who directly faces this soul-deep ache is a spiritual forefather, Archibald Alexander.
Alexander was born in 1772 near Lexington, Virginia, into a Presbyterian family. But he did not come to dependence upon Jesus for his salvation until he was in his late teens. He had begun a course of study under the Rev. William Graham and faced the fact that although he had studied the Westminster Confession and Catechism, he had never been reborn by the Spirit. Upon his personal encounter with Jesus, he almost immediately began to employ the amazing intellectual and spiritual gifts he had been given. He began a course of study that led to his becoming a pastor, and then president of Hampden-Sydney College, and finally a Princeton Theological Seminary professor.
When Alexander reached his 70s, he began to write about aging gracefully in his letters to beloved friends, students, and relatives. He brought deep comfort to those experiencing what Shakespeare described in his play, As You Like It, “the second childishness.”
The vulnerabilities and dependencies of childhood resurface in old age. The difference, of course, is the distressing impropriety sensed at these vulnerabilities now that we are older. They rest awkwardly upon the shoulders of the aging. The cuteness of a toddler’s dependencies are now the despondencies of the aged. This is, to the older servant of Jesus, a strange country; a foreign land; an uncharted isle of frightening proportion.
Alexander sought to equip those preparing to face or already facing this “second childishness.” He sought also to equip the younger to rightly assist the older as they ventured into this disquieting frontier.
For Alexander, the most vicious despondency of old age was regret. He writes: “The bitterest of all reflections to the aged is that of sins committed, duties omitted, time wasted, and opportunities for doing good neglected. Reflections of this kind at certain times become insufferably painful.” Now that kind of loss can be paralyzing!
Alexander makes it clear that there is only one cure. Since life does not permit a “redo,” we would be utterly hopeless were it not for the Gospel!
For every horrid regret over what we have left undone, or deep anguish over what we know we have wrongly done, we have but one recourse: “For this we must have the recourse to a fountain, even the blood of Christ, which cleanses from all unrighteousness.”
With Gospel-faith, Alexander argues that the painful conviction over innumerable past failures can actually help those who are older to be much more humble and trusting in Christ than our younger brothers and sisters.
“The recollection of such sins serves to convince them (the older) that they ought to place themselves among the ‘chief-sinners’ and the ‘least saints’” while simultaneously making most clear “the faithfulness and loving-kindness of God in the strongest possible light.”
Here is this veteran pastor’s counsel. “My aged friends, permit me to counsel you to not give way to despondency and unprofitable repining at the course of past events. Trust in the Lord and encourage your hearts to hope in his mercy and faithfulness…dismiss corroding cares and anxieties.”
Alexander commands the aging to believe their beliefs and doubt their doubts. If ever the Gospel is needed in all its rich and robust potency, it is when the decades of sins of omission and commission clamor for our heart’s attention. When one’s entire life rises in the court of the conscience, “We have an Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous!” (I John 2:1)
When we are younger, the weight of a life already inadequately spent seems far less foreboding. Not so to the older. Alexander counsels the veteran believer to “run to the Rock that is higher” and praise him. Embrace Gospel humility and enjoy Gospel safety.
We then help those who are younger in faith to see how the worst of life’s pains can in fact be addressed by the best of Christ’s provision.
As we approach this year’s missions conference, I am reminded of a trip I took to the UK in 2017. After four years of serving as the pastor of mission and vision here at LMPC, I was able to visit England and Scotland on a ten-day trip with the UK Partnership.
My time in the UK proved to be invaluable. Not only was I able to visit our supported missionaries and former LMPC staff members, Robbie and Lydia Sweet, but I was also able to meet with Reformed church planters working in large cities like Manchester, Glasgow, and Leeds.
One of the first things I noticed was the sheer size of the cities we were visiting, with Manchester now home to more than 2.7 million people, and London with an astounding 8 million people. The UK as a whole is home to more than 66 million people, with 70% of the population growth between 2001-2011 coming from foreign-born immigration. Its streets, schools, and even churches are filled with people from all over the world.
As I walked through the busy streets, immersed in the UK’s incredible diversity and burgeoning secularism, I couldn’t help noticing the darkness around me. The UK is a land that has grown cold to the Gospel.
Consider Leeds in the county of Yorkshire where we partner with church planter Jonty Rhodes at Christ Church Central. In Reflections on the Church in Great Britain, Don Carson writes: “In Yorkshire, the percentage that goes to church once a month or more is .9 percent; evangelicals account for only .4 percent. Both figures are still falling. This is comparable to the state of affairs in, say, Japan.”
In Manchester, where we partner with City Church Manchester led by Ralph Cunnington and Matt Waldock, only 4.7% of the population attends church, and less than 1% of those are at a Gospel-centered church.
A church planter in London described it to us this way: “Christianity is not even make-believe to people here in the United Kingdom. It is completely alien.”
These statements may seem like a depressing report on the bleak, hard spiritual winter in the UK, but seasons are changing. Spring is coming. The thaw is happening.
To see this, you have only to look at what has happened at City Church Manchester over the last four years. They have grown from 27 to 118 members, and their worship attendance, at 280, is at capacity. They have held 19 baptisms, now have 60 students attending their worship service, and have an astounding 163 people involved in their midweek connect groups. Additionally, 100 people are involved in their one-on-one and prayer groups. These are the drips and drops of renewal and revival.
Winter is becoming spring in Manchester, Leeds, London, Edinburgh and St. Andrews. Rejoice! Come, listen, and learn from the men and women serving in the UK at our 2019 World Missions Conference.
Join us in praying for the spiritual thaw in the land of the UK and that the rivers of spring will flow freely and swiftly throughout the land.
by Matt Waldock, co-pastor, City Church Manchester
You simply cannot avoid them! Whether it’s social media comments, blogs, or business articles, the subject of “millennials” is everywhere.
They are set to be the dominant demographic in most cultures by 2025, and they are markedly different from the generations before them, particularly in their values and spending habits. Most millennials are shunning the acquisition of material possessions, such as houses and cars. With the exception of technology, they would rather purchase intriguing experiences and unique memories.
As a result, millennials have ushered in the era of the “experience economy.” And a well-kept secret is that this group is better suited for radical mission than many previous modern generations.
In the UK, the rise of millennials has provided wonderful opportunities to recruit into church life high-caliber graduates who can be discipled to be the next generation of church leaders, church planters, and key influencers. One of the ways we’ve seen this impact is through young people wanting to participate in our church internship programs.
These programs offer young people a role to serve on the staff team of the church for 1-2 years, exploring both their gifts in building up the church, as well as receiving theological training and personal discipleship. Such is the level of Gospel need in the UK, we need a correspondingly large pool of trainees to become the next generation of pastors, planters, leaders and church members, and that will mean adapting internships to be more attractive to wider proportions of the millennial and generation Z populations.
In both the US and the UK there has been significant concern over surveys that suggest young people are abandoning the church once they leave home. Before we press the panic button, it is worth reflecting on the fact that millennials place a high value on authenticity and relationships. When it comes to “real life” experiences that contribute to the benefit of humanity, the great news is that the church has these in abundance.
I remember one prospective student asking what they could expect if he applied for our internship in Manchester, and my response was straightforward. You can expect to see the underside of life and weep with people during their darkest moments; equally, you will be there when they have those light-bulb, life-changing realizations they’ll never forget. That student signed up for two consecutive years to be an intern because that is exactly the type of experience he saw first-hand in the lives of numerous individuals in the church.
For those seeking to forego salary size for meaningful service, churches need to clearly leverage their significant market advantage. Now is the time to encourage young people in our congregations to consider participating more thoroughly in the life and service of the church, including being part of church plant launch teams.
When I graduated from university, I was persuaded by a friend to defer my career path into the British Foreign Office for 12 months in order to be part of the launch team of a small church plant in Liverpool. At the time, I would never have imagined that this would be more than a brief sojourn on my way to London. I stayed for more than 11 years and have never left the North West region of the UK since I arrived at university in 2001.
I am thankful for those leaders who took the risk of utilizing the unrefined enthusiasm of young person, and who took the time to patiently involve me in the inner workings of the church so that I could see its beauty and catch the vision from the front row. I still believe that such intentional and deliberate investment in involving young people in the service of the church is the best way to for each successive generation to catch the vision, too.
Jonathan de Groot is a church planter with Christ Church Glasgow in Scotland.
The prayer “Give me Scotland or I die” famously came from the lips of John Knox, the Scottish reformer. God used Knox to bring about the reformation of the church and the transformation of the nation. Such was the impact of his ministry that Mary, Queen of Scots is reputed to have said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.”
Knox had a great burden for the salvation of men and women in his beloved nation, so he prayed hard and worked hard over many years and against much opposition to advance the cause of Christ in Scotland. Knox would take no credit for the spiritual and social reformation but, in words applied to others, he explained: “God gave his Holy Spirit to simple men in great abundance.”
In Scotland today, we want to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ advance, impacting cities and towns as well as individual lives. While we depend upon our sovereign God to do his work, the spiritual need is so great that we can easily become overwhelmed by the task. Amid this we must remember what Jesus tells us. In the “other Lord’s prayer” he says: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:38). This is a prayer about the expansion of God’s Kingdom in the world. It is a prayer that Jesus commands his disciples to pray, so it is our prayer, too. When did we last pray and ask God to send out more workers into his harvest field?
This particular prayer comes at a significant moment in the ministry of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus had just been teaching and training his disciples and he is about to send them out on his mission, but before he sends them out for the first time he tells them to pray for more workers. Jesus had been going through the towns and villages, encountering a phenomenal amount of people.
His reaction is startling: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36). When we read that Jesus had “compassion,” the word used is very strong. Literally, Jesus was moved in his bowels or his guts. He was stirred deep down inside for all the troubled and helpless people who were lost. It is this compassion Jesus has for lost people which results in his call to pray this Kingdom-focused prayer.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Today, the world is still a vast harvest, whether in Scotland, the USA, or anywhere else; there are crowds of men and women in desperate need of salvation. Yet the task of gathering the people God is going to save needs more workers. Therefore, the call to pray for them is just as urgent today as it has ever been. Jesus tells us that it is God, as Lord of the harvest, who will send the workers, but we still have a crucial role to play in praying that God would send them out.
Does our compassion for those who are helpless and lost motivate us to pray this Kingdom-centered prayer? The danger is that if we are not moved deep down inside and burdened for those who are lost, Jesus-like, as John Knox was, then we will neglect to pray Jesus’ prayer. Only when we open our eyes to see the great need around us and open our hearts to feel compassion for the lost, will we open our mouths to pray as Jesus commands.
“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
I am so excited for this year’s World Mission Conference, and I want to share with you some of the reasons for my excitement!
In 1999, the LMPC World Missions Committee graciously allowed me to travel to the United Kingdom with my dear friend and fellow pastor Ed Norton of Independent Presbyterian Church of Memphis (where I grew up).
Although the UK has a rich Christian history, church attendance has fallen dramatically in the last 50 years. Ralph Cunnington of City Church Manchester (one of the churches LMPC supports) points out that, although the greater Manchester area is the 2nd largest metropolitan area in England (with 2.8 million residents), church attendance is only 4%. Compare that with church attendance rates in the American south of over 40%, and the difference is striking.
From that very first trip, we sensed a wonderful opportunity for US churches to partner with like-minded UK pastors and churches to support and encourage church growth and church planting. Over the next decade or so, we worked closely with Scottish pastors like David Meredith and David Robertson of the Free Church of Scotland.
This eventually led to the beginning of the UK Partnership in 2013, with what seemed like an aggressive goal at the time – investing $1 million over 10 years directly into the planting of indigenous, Reformed churches in the UK. What would make this partnership different from others was that the UKP would have no staff, no membership fees, and no overhead – 100% of every dollar would go directly to UK church planting. The plan was simple: the UKP would introduce PCA congregations to UK nationals to help facilitate church-to-church relationships that would result in church planting throughout the UK.
The UK Partnership meets every fall and alternates between meeting in the US one year and in the UK the next. LMPC had the opportunity to host the 2016 meeting, and PCA churches from around the region came together to hear gifted, winsome UK church planters share of wonderful Gospel opportunities for church planting.
Indeed, we have seen God work in amazing ways, and today, 20 PCA churches in the United States are partnered with churches (and church planters) in 4 different UK denominations. The 10-year goal of $1 million was reached at the five-year mark!
LMPC’s World Missions Conference this year will highlight several of these relationships with three of the church plants we support being represented at the conference. This year’s guests include:
Jonathan de Groot who is church planting in Glasgow, Scotland
Matt Waldock who is church planting in Manchester, England
Jonty Rhodes who is church planting in Leeds, England
Lydia and Robbie Sweet (former LMPC staff members) who are serving with MTW in St. Andrews, Scotland
Emma Kate (a lifelong LMPC member) who will be heading to Cardiff, Wales
David Stoddard who is the International Director for MTW Europe
Additionally, this spring we’ll be hosting an intern, Malc Clark, from City Church Manchester. Malc (and his wife Judy and their infant daughter) will join us on the mountain for a month beginning April 1. He will work alongside our pastoral staff, assisting with services, teaching Sunday school, and generally immersing himself in the life of our church.
As my friend Dr. Sean Lucas (senior pastor of IPC Memphis) says, “The Great Commission takes us across the street and around the world.” With all the exciting things going on in church planting in the UK, I would invite you to begin praying for our conference now and plan to attend the events throughout the weekend of March 1-3.
First, the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Second, wealth is defined as abundance, being well-supplied with more than we need. In the context of the world, most of us in the West and on Lookout Mountain are wealthy.
Simply put, folly makes the wealthy wicked, and wisdom makes the wealthy righteous. We desperately need God’s wisdom to shape us and change us. God’s wisdom is found in all of Scripture, but most emphatically in the Proverbs. As Bruce Waltke says, “Proverbs is not a how-to book but a how-to-become book. It deals with your character.” God’s wisdom leads us to become those who live according to his design.
First, biblical wisdom leads us to become those who give generously, refusing to accept a scarcity mentality.
Consider Proverbs 11:24 where it says, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more.”
Giving freely in this context is actually the agricultural word for scattering. In that world, seed was scattered broadly and generously rather than our present-day gardening customs where we carefully and prudently plant individual seeds. The agricultural image of widespread scattering points toward what God’s wisdom leads us to become: generous givers and free sowers. Indeed, we hope that something will happen when it hits the ground, but that’s really not our responsibility.
I love what C.S. Lewis wrote in “A Letter to an American Lady” regarding a way of scattering: “One thing that annoys me is when people say, ‘Why did you give that man money? He’ll probably go and drink it.’ My reply is, ‘If I had kept it, I would have drunk it.’” That’s a heart that’s been liberated to scatter freely.
So often, though, we hide behind cautiousness and prudence. What is the ROI – the return on my investment? Continuing on in Proverb 11:24, it says, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more. Another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Hold on tight and scatter carefully and cautiously with a scarcity mentality, and you’ll lack. Give freely, and you’ll gain.
Why is this the way of wisdom? It is because God delights when his image-bearers – humans – reflect who he is to others. And our God is a giver. God so loved the world that he GAVE! Wisdom, fixed on the truth about God, refuses to buy into a scarcity mentality that there will not be enough to give. God will supply because God delights in giving and in his image-bearers putting that on display.
Second, biblical wisdom enables us to attract others to God, rather than to distract or detract others from God.
It is written in Proverbs 11:26, “People curse the man who hoards grain, but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell. He who seeks good finds good will, but evil comes to him who searches for it.”
A generous person is attractive and received well by others. Again, as those made in the image of God, we are to show off what is true of God. When we hoard, we’re not merely being selfish, we are lying about who our God is. And that’s why blessing crowns the generous man, because people are attracted to a generous God.
Finally, biblical wisdom leads us to become people of vitality and refreshment in the midst of a desert world.
Proverbs 11:28 continues with the vision of how God’s wisdom fashions people when it says, “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” Also, Proverbs 11:25 states, “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
Consider that these Proverbs were written in a desert culture. Suddenly, in this Proverb, you read of the righteous being like a green leaf. When you find something green in the desert, it catches your attention because there is life and refreshment there.
Biblical wisdom leads us to become those who offer surprising vitality in the midst of a world that is thirsty for life. We become a green leaf in a desert patch. Ask those around you, am I a place of life or loss? You will then discover if wisdom is transforming you.
Ultimately, wisdom leads us to become more and more like the one who is the Wisdom of God in flesh, Jesus. Wisdom is more than propositions and platitudes. Wisdom is a person, Jesus Christ, described in 2 Corinthians 8:9 in this way: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
Jesus is the epitome of righteousness, disadvantaging himself to the advantage of undeserving others like us. The rich one became poor so that others might become rich. Christ’s sacrificial, self-giving, extravagant love is glorious wisdom. The wisdom of God, Christ in us, will liberate the most hoarding, careful, self-consumed heart. If we are not growing in glad, generous, and sacrificial giving, we do not understand the wisdom of God, the Gospel, deeply and wholeheartedly.
Folly and wisdom produce starkly different realities when it comes to the stewardship of our resources. Folly lures us into unimaginable loss and unbearable load, while wisdom liberates us unto secure and satisfying life. How does biblical wisdom liberate us unto life?
First, biblical wisdom frees us to anchor our security.
God’s wisdom is revealed in Proverbs 18:10-12: “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall. Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.”
Do you see the contrast? As mentioned in the lure of folly, the wicked are deceived into imagining their wealth as their security. But the righteous have security in the one who is invisible and yet immovable. The picture of the tower is one of security and safety from threat or war, showing that the righteous are secure in who they are in the Lord, not in what they possess in themselves.
In 1 Timothy 6:17, Paul writes, “Command those who are rich in this present world … to put their hope in God.” Notice that the Bible is not against the rich. But wisdom calls the rich to righteousness, to place their hope and security in God, not wealth. You have likely heard the phrase, “those who are loved best, love best.” Concerning stewardship, wisdom proclaims: “those who are most secure, share most freely.” True security frees us to live and give.
Second, biblical wisdom frees us to avoid pleasure in pleasure.
Proverbs 21:17 states, “He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.”
This is a play on words in the text, as it really says, “he who takes pleasure in pleasure will become poor.” If you take pleasure in pleasure, you will always be poor, because you will never have enough and you will spend everything you have to get more. Because of the knowledge of where true pleasure is, wisdom frees us to finally enjoy the Giver in the gifts rather than to be enslaved to the gifts.
Thus, Paul can say in 1 Timothy 6:17 that the rich should “put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” The Christian, rooted in wisdom and secured by the wealth of Jesus, no longer needs to stuff self with pleasure, but is able to steward stuff with joy. God frees us from finding pleasure in pleasure so that we can enjoy what we have because we don’t have to have it. The glory of the Gospel is that we are now empowered to enjoy and enrich God’s creation rather than be enslaved by created things.
To fight enslavement to wealth, consider what C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity:
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
Because wisdom frees us from pleasure for pleasure’s sake, we can embody generosity rather than greed. Frederick Buechner wrote, “Greed is based on the mathematical truism that the more you get, the more you have.” Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Gospel sets us free to live completely counter to greed with a life based on this truth: the more you have, the more you give.
Finally, biblical wisdom frees us to crave help and hope in God alone.
Proverbs 11:23 states, “The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath.”
The word desire here means the ambition, hunger, and craving of the righteous for good, that which God wants. The only prayer in Proverbs yearns for constant dependence on the Lord to provide:
“Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
Wealth is so intoxicating because it offers independence and self-sufficiency. And yet the one hungry prayer of wisdom is for dependence on God for his provision. With wisdom, wealth is no longer sought to provide independence, but is stewarded as Kingdom capital to enrich, enjoy, and extend.
Consider the ones closest to you. What would they say is the appetite and hunger of your life? Would it be an appetite of dependence or the craving of independence? The wisdom of God liberates us from the lure of folly by providing us with a new appetite for dependence, an ability to avoid pleasure in pleasure, and an anchor for our life’s security.
One of my very favorite movies, watched annually in my home, is the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life. It is a story that contrasts two men: George Bailey and the wicked, ornery old Mr. Potter. George Bailey is finally going to chase his ambition and leave the shackles of the small town of Bedford Falls and a dead-end career path at the Building and Loan.
Before leaving, however, his father dies and the board gathers to discuss the future of the Building and Loan in light of George’s impending departure and his father’s death. Just as George Bailey is about to leave the board meeting and head to school, Mr. Potter moves that they dissolve the Building and Loan. George stops, turns around, and exclaims, “Neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life he never once thought of himself…people were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!”
The contrast in the film is between the wicked way of Mr. Potter who used his resources to put everyone else at a disadvantage, and George Bailey who used his resources to give everyone else an advantage over himself. The book of Proverbs provides a similar contrast between the wicked and the righteous when it comes to stewarding resources.
In order to move toward the righteous way of life concerning our resources, we first must discover through Proverbs how folly lures us. Though the lure of folly might seem dark and daunting, there is hope as we also discover howGod’s wisdom liberates us. And hope extends even further as we discover what God’s wisdom make us. In three consecutive Pastor’s Corner articles, we will examine each of these categories.
Folly lures us into unimaginable loss and an unbearable load by falsely promising three things: security, satisfaction, and salvation.
Folly falsely promises security in riches.
Proverbs 11:28: “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” Folly says that you can bank on or trust in your wealth.
Proverbs 18:1: “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall.”
Folly markets wealth as a place for safe hiding, like that of a fortified city, but it is imaginary.
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:17, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not …to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” Riches are not a reliable place to hide your life but it is ever so tempting.
Also, in 1 Timothy 6:9, Paul writes, “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.” Folly traps us by voicing loudly and boldly that you can bank on, hide in, and rely on wealth. Wealth can be very lethal because it produces self-sufficiency and self-reliance and thus one’s ultimate security becomes the self.
Folly falsely promises satisfaction in riches.
It is written in Proverbs 15:16-17, “Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.” Not only is it clear that wealth is often lethal, but wealth is always limited. Folly presents wealth as providing unlimited satisfaction. But it always turns out to be the “fattened calf with hate” which is ultimately empty.
As Dr. Bruce Waltke says, “Money can put food on the table but it cannot give you fellowship around the table. Money can give you a house but it cannot give you a home. Money can give you luxuries but it cannot give you love.” Riches cannot deliver the true satisfaction that we chase. Folly makes promises that it cannot keep and leaves its victims with bankruptcy of heart and life.
Folly falsely promises salvation.
Proverbs 11:4 says, “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” Bluntly put, wealth cannot save anyone from wrath or death. It may rescue you from inconvenience and discomfort but it cannot provide eternal rescue.
An allegory was once told of an angel who appeared to a rich man, and he said, “What do you want?” The rich man said, “I want the newspaper one year from today.” He wanted to see the stock market page to know all the blue chips. While he was calculating what a killing he was going to make, his eyes glanced across the page and he saw his picture in the obituary column. He lost all interest in the stock market page.
The truth for all of us is that our picture is in some upcoming edition of the obituary column. No amount of money can save us from it. The only wealth that can rescue us from the wrath of God is the wealth of Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account by grace at his cost.
Folly falsely promises that wealth will deliver what only God can give: security, satisfaction, and salvation. Are we tuning in to folly more than wisdom when it comes to our money? Are we buying folly’s false offer concerning money and wealth? As we will gladly see in part two, wisdom is worthy of our full attention because it graciously frees us to live in light of all that God has given us – security, satisfaction, and salvation.
It is dangerously easy to view aging with foolish naïveté or bitter pessimism. Typically, authors and culture-shapers list or lean to one of these two extremes.
Admittedly, the multiple dimensions and opposing complexities of aging are hard to face simultaneously in a wise manner. However, the Word of God expresses a much-needed fusion in its teaching about the glorious purpose of creation and the shattering implications of the fall.
In the Bible we see this fusion less as a lamination and more of an “alloy of opposites.” Aging is the place where this fusion is most often magnified, intensified, and clarified. It is a tightly-woven braid of the harsh and the holy, the heaven-sent and the hurtful. The sweetest tastes of life reach the palate of the soul along with the bitterest and most sour difficulties.
Why would I say this so boldly?
Aging is the slow advance of some of the harshest marks of the fall. We are called to face our growing weakness and feel the worst we may have yet felt in our lives, while pushing back the marks of the fall with Gospel faith, profound repentance, and eschatologically-infused hope.
Aging is a savory blessing of God’s covenant faithfulness. He alone gives long life and crowns our days with gray hair. The long-term pleasurable fruit of preserved integrity, a good reputation, promises kept, relationships preserved, a life rich with encouragement and doing good in the face of evil, which are values so easily and often sarcastically mocked in youth, can now be seen for the priceless beauties that they actually are.
Aging is the context in which the long-term impact of sanctification is tested and richly manifested, or unmasked as sadly absent. Multiple years of mere moral restraint are exposed. Superficial social charm is shown to be no substitute for profound spiritual change. Faking one’s true condition in life is virtually impossible as we age. Sometimes a beautiful sheen and glow of godly delight glistens through the dimly lit eyes of age. At other times, tamped down rage roars to the surface with explosive force, and subterranean bitterness seeps through the cracks of thinly veneered social proprieties that slip away with age. Age pulls back the curtain on the person that we are. We learn and we show who lives within and behind the person we present to others.
Aging is the time in life when our bodies finally begin to resemble our true fallen spiritual state. Since the fall, not a single human, save Christ alone, is anything other than broken, weak, and childlike in need for God and others. All the illusions of the rugged independent individualist are shown to be mere folly and fantasy as we age. Such aspirations to human strength are seen to be a comedic “stage play” of sinful proportions.
Aging is the season in life that can reveal a lack of any sense of final honor or valor to fly the flag of Image Bearer of God, a privilege no angel was ever given. Reflecting God’s Son in our lives means nothing now and meant nothing to us before. We are just fine reflecting merely, sadly, and foolishly…ourselves. Or conversely, it is a time where humility as a priceless virtue is faithfully embraced in anticipation of being further and finally conformed to Christ’s image, disclosing a warrior within that carries the flag right into the fight with death itself, the last enemy.
Praise God for aging’s litmus test of the person who lives within and just behind the person that we present. That person who lives at the far end of our hand shake and just behind the quickly stated, “Hi! How you doin?” Age invites that person to step into the light. I so want for that person in me to resemble the Carpenter from Nazareth! I want the flag of his honor to fly when my last knee hits the ground for the last time.