It was a real pleasure to take some time just reading the scriptures on holiday without the pressure of talks to write, simply letting different things jump off the page and start me thinking. What hit me afresh was that consistently in many different places the writers of the New Testament are utterly convinced that to be a Christian is not just to think differently, not just to believe differently but to live differently.
I don’t know about anyone else but as I consider the church in the UK too often those differences are small if they’re there at all. OK so we give a little more to charity, we get divorced a little less, we probably smoke less but not so much as you’d be convinced that Jesus was really making a difference in our lives. Yet when you read the life of the early church what grabs me is that it was obvious to everyone that Christianity meant a new life and not just spiritually on the inside but lived out everyday!
So to take but one example (if I can I’ll work through others) in 1 Timothy 6/6-11, and in particular these words from St Paul
“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it”
If we believed that and I mean really believed it then surely we wouldn’t fill the middle with the pursuit of stuff. We start with nothing and we finish with nothing and the actions of most people is to say, ‘Well hey I should just get hold of much stuff as possible and enjoy it now because I can’t take it with me’ and if you look inside the lives, houses, garages, lofts of most Christians then you’ll see they think that too. But what Paul is saying is that because we can’t keep it we shouldn’t really bother with it other than what we need to survive (he lists food and clothing and I might add shelter). Everything else could become a trap because we see in it the path to a fulfilled life instead of being the path away from a fulfilled life which is only found in following Jesus. And he had food, clothing and shelter was a bit iffy. The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head remember.
Of course to really apply this passage to ourselves we need to be convinced that when the Bible talks about the rich it’s really talking to us. The biggest trap of all is to think I’m not rich, Bill Gates is rich or whoever. Well wealth is deceitful so I guess it’s no surprise that we think that.
So the next step is to be really think about that question – when the Bible talks about the rich is it really talking to me?