In Genesis Chapter 2, we see God planted a garden for Adam and Eve to live in. Somewhere for them to settle down and make their home.
In the very next chapter, after they had committed that first sin, God destined the two of them to a life of settling down outside of the garden. He banished them from the garden of Eden and said:
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground…”
Adam was told he would have to toil to make the ground produce crops, by which we can surmise that Adam and Eve would have to settle down somewhere to take the time to toil in the fields.
By our very nature, we need food. If we need food, we have to farm. If we have to farm, we have to stay in one place for a long period.
Even nomadic people stop and settle for a while when they find somewhere to get food and water.
It’s who we are.
On the other hand, I wrote the other day that I believe that we, as Christians, are wrong to ‘settle in’ because we’re just passing through.
So how can we reconcile the two?
It’s easy to get caught up in finding words and phrases here and there in the bible which can support our own view on this subject without fully understanding it.
Take what Jesus said to the seventy two when he sent them out:
“Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals;…”
If you read the rest of the storyt, it is clear that he is telling them not to take any provisions but to let God provide.
Some people could extrapolate from that passage that Christians should rely totally on God to provide what we need and not buy anything for ourselves.
But what happens if everyone gets saved? Do we then all starve because we’re all expecting someone else to feed us?
Of course not!
This was an instruction given very specifically to people going out as ‘missionaries’. God was certainly expecting people in the towns they visited to provide them food and shelter.
So what about the story of the Rich Young Man?
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.
Does this story tell us that we should all sell all of our worldly possessions and give our money away?
Many people think it does and they use this and other passages to suggest that we should live a life of poverty.
That’s really not what Jesus was saying though. Jesus was looking at the heart of the man and seeing that the money was worth more to him than his salvation.
His problem was not his wealth but his heart toward his wealth.
When I wrote about living your life right, recently, my Dad brought up the teaching that Jesus gave about not worrying about tomorrow:
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
At first glance, that seems to be in direct contradiction to when God told Adam that he would have to toil hard daily to be able to eat.
It seems that Jesus is telling us not to make plans for the future, not to plant seed now ready to harvest in six months time but to just leave all that up to him.
I think that is missing the point again though.
I don’t believe that Jesus was telling us to be lazy or neglectful toward those things but rather to change our ATTITUDE toward them.
There is a big difference between wisely storing up food to see you through the winter and giving yourself an ulcer worrying about whether or not you’ll have enough.
Jesus wasn’t saying don’t be diligent and don’t be good stewards of your resources but rather don’t WORRY about it.
Work, pray, pray, work, listen, obey and trust.
That’s what we should be doing.
We seem to spend all of our time seesawing between extremes.
At one end we devote all of our time, energy and worry toward amassing worldly wealth. At the other end, we devote too much time, energy and WORRY to dumping all of the trappings of being human and trying to become super-spiritual by rejecting everything God sends our way.
Being ‘in the world but not of the world’ is possible but it takes a conscious effort to not swing too far one way or the other.
Which side are you closest to at the moment? Are you trapped by a love of money or are you so obsessed with NOT getting into that trap that you don’t hold on to anything God does give you long enough for him to tell you how he wants you to use it?