I can’t believe Jesus said THIS about money!  OK, so I shouldn’t try to write clickbait headlines for a living.  But with the stock market up 20% in 2016 (which could change before this sees ink) and home values on the rise, money is talking.  Jesus didn’t hesitate to address topics as relevant today as 2000 years ago, including money.  Here are five of his challenging comments on the subject.

  1. “Calculate the cost.” When I was in Haiti, a friend started building a mud-walled house without figuring the cost first.  I reminded him of Jesus’ story about counting the cost before starting a building.  The point was about the cost of following Jesus.  “None of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions,” a very high cost.  Authentic discipleship means submitting to Divine priorities as we steward God’s possessions entrusted to us. (Luk. 14:28-33)
  2. “Render to Caesar.”  Which means pay your taxes.  If you include all local, state, and federal taxes, Americans worked until May 10 this year just to render to Caesar.  We pay more taxes than we spend on food, clothing, and housing combined.   We could mount an argument about what is reasonable and elect leaders that lower our taxes, but defrauding the tax collector is not an option.  (Mat. 22:15-22)
  3. “Give to the poor.”  In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Mr. Potter muttered to George Bailey that his mortgages to the poor just created “a discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class.”  That was not Jesus’ view of the poor.  Sure, many suffer the consequences of poor choices, but finding appropriate ways to help is our calling as Christians.  Jesus also said, “to the extent that you did it to one of the least, you did it to Me.”  (Mat. 6:1-4, 25:34-46)
  4. “Do not worry about tomorrow.”  But we do, and yes, this is about money.  Worry about financial matters, or any worry actually, leaves no room for faith.  Jesus noted that our heavenly Father knows what we need, so we should “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.”  We find freedom in letting tomorrow take care of itself.  (Mat. 6:25-34)
  5. “Not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”  In his story of the “Rich Fool,” Jesus warned about prioritizing wealth.  Fortune magazine (Jan. 2016) reported that 44% of lottery winners were broke within five years, and nearly a third declared bankruptcy and ended up worse off than before they became rich.  Be careful what you wish for.  Be “rich toward God.” (Luk. 12:13-21)

Money is the object of the sin of greed.  If you want to bend your heart Godward, invest in what matters to God.  What you do with your money is what you do with your life. “You cannot serve God and money” – Jesus.


The cultural mood of the day is that people can and should create their own identity. Anyone who fails to recognize that identity, even unknowingly, is a bigot.  It is bewildering.

I can’t imagine being a young person growing up in such an environment. Back in my day, my fellow students were known by what they were good at, or what they enjoyed doing, like sports, music, or academics.  Now it’s not what you do, it’s who you are that you must define and enforce.

Cameron McAllister, a young Christian speaker, recently talked with students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He was surprised by the questions students asked about meaning, purpose, and the nature of existence.  He notes, “Our culture has replaced self-discovery with self-construction.  Everybody is expected to create and manage his or her own identity.  The pressure that this mindset creates is devastating.”

In the movie “Catch Me,” Leonardo Dicaprio played a teenager that re-imagined himself in various ways. He found success in passing as a pilot, an attorney, and a doctor.  What became clear during the course of the movie is that his character was miserably tied up in knots trying to find elusive happiness in his next adopted identity.  But no identity could change what he really was, an unhappy, heartless, and destructive young man.

God offers us a new identity in Christ. This identity is secondary to none, including profession and work, sexuality and gender, politics and worldview.  Our identity in Christ is crafted by God and defines all others.  We are part of something larger than ourselves, the Providential work of our Father who is accomplishing his purposes for creation.  “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal 3:20).

The New Testament is replete with details of our identity. Just in Romans 8 we find that we are alive to God, the dwelling place of His Spirit, and heirs with Christ.  God leads us, turns all things to good for us, and calls us to join his purpose.  We have no fear and no condemnation. Nothing separates us from God’s great love.  The Holy Spirit prays for us and Jesus intercedes for us.  In short, we are children of God.  To embrace this identity is to remove dividing distinctions, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

As Christians our identity is Jesus Christ. He said, “Blessed are you when people insult you…because of me,” prescient and encouraging words since nowadays politically correct culture accepts almost any claimed identity but ours.


People like stories. Our lives are stories.  We don’t live in the abstract, so it makes sense that Jesus taught in stories.  We call them parables, and Jesus intended them mostly for the responsive, not the resistant.  He liked to say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Dr. Bernard Ramm taught seminary students that the golden rule of interpreting a parable is to determine the one central truth the parable is attempting to teach. We do not have the luxury of trying to pick apart a parable and make it an allegory since the single point is usually quite evident.  An exception is when Jesus unpacks the parable for us, such as the story about planting seeds in different soils.

The central truth of the “Good Samaritan” story is about being a loving neighbor, which might be a better name for it. Jesus spun this tale after agreeing that love of God has implications for how you treat your neighbor.  “Who is my neighbor?” the questioner responded, prompting the story telling.

Jesus told it better, but I would summarize the story (Lk 10:25-37) like this. Once upon a time robbers jumped a man, took everything he had, and beat him almost to death.  Religious people passed by without helping.  A man who came from a generally disrespected class of people went to great personal cost to help the victim.  It was an unexpected plot twist in the little story.  The religious people (like the ones he was chatting with) were not loving, but the despised man was.  Jesus challenged his hearers to note who treated the victim like a neighbor.

So let’s apply the central truth principal. If you want to demonstrate your love of God, then love your neighbor.  Your neighbor is someone who has a need that you can meet, and it may be costly.  It may be an opportunity to explain to your neighbor that your love of God compels you to be of service.

Jesus wasn’t trying to get to an “A-ha!” moment of intellectual enlightenment. He meant for his hearers to be affected.  “Go and do the same,” he challenged.  Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself are the Great Commandments according to Jesus (Mat. 22:36-40).

My challenge is for you to consider who your neighbor is, as defined by Jesus. In modern parlance, “paying it forward” or “making a difference” is nice, but why do that? For the Christian, the answer is that it is an expression of faith affecting life.  May your story be one that includes faith, love, and neighbors.

Stand Firm

It was my privilege to speak to one of America’s top gun fighter pilots. I heard a podcast program with a recent seminary graduate discussing his doctoral dissertation.  A few weeks later, I interviewed the author of that paper, John Marselus, a recipient of the USAF’s Top Professional Fighter Pilot award.

Dr. Marselus’ dissertation takes up a challenge for which he is uniquely qualified: find inspiration for Christian fathers from the experiences of a fighter pilot. Each chapter of his academic work has an epigraph recounting stories from his fighter pilot career, which illustrates his research and conclusions.

Perhaps the nose art on his A-10 Thunderbolt II in Desert Storm, “Ephesians 6:10-18,” inspired his thesis. The verses describe the armor of God and the spiritual enemy we face.  To summarize the application of his research, he writes, “Through taking up the roles and responsibilities of a husband and father in leading the family in priority, prayer, provision, protection, and preparation, a father and husband can experience the joy of marriage and the family as God created in the beginning in His grace and mercy. It is time for men to lead as they were designed to lead and as a flight lead would lead his formation into battle.”

As we talked, he described his life work. “Ministry is my heart, and flying is my tent-making.”  Now as Director of Aviation at San Diego Christian College, he trains professional aviators, “but number one is their walk with the Lord.”  His own walk started young in life as he pondered the loss of his 19-year-old brother.  At a Billy Graham meeting in Chicago, he took a stand for the truth of the gospel and placed his faith in Christ.  That set the course for his life.

He spoke of his best “wing man,” his wife, who is his inspiration. In his acceptance of the Top Gun Award in front of the “kings of the Air Force,” he declared, “If I did anything right, all glory and honor goes to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who gives me breath of life and gifts to succeed.  And I would not be the man I am without the love and support of my wife.  This award goes to them.”  Those gathered rewarded his courage with sincere, not just polite, applause.

His message for you, dear Christian, is that when you have opportunity, stand for Christ and Truth with courage! “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:13-14).

During our conversation, I never felt like I was talking to a stranger. I was speaking with a true American hero, a family man, a brother in Christ who knows what it means to lead with courage, speak truth to power, and stand firm in the faith.  By God’s help, we will do no less.

Moral Question

The mass shooting in Orlando was a horrible act.  Before the families could grieve and bury their dead, the questions began to fly.  What was the shooter’s motivation?  What laws and policies should the U.S. change?  In the midst of this, I heard a critical question that deserves some reflection.

It started with a friend pointing out that previous mass killers employed fertilizer and jetliners, so instead of blaming guns, blame godlessness. Another friend countered, “Anyone can be good and moral.”  So can we be good without God?

The question can only be asked after assuming answers to others. The first is, whose morals?  To the shooter, homosexuals are wrong and killing them is right.  To another, being gay is not wrong and killing them certainly is.  To yet another, homosexual behavior is wrong but so is killing them.  Three sets of moral values, each held sincerely.

We could discuss who gets to decide what is moral, but the more basic question is, where does morality come from? How is it, that humans are born with the capacity to determine what ought or ought not be?  You have heard young children declare, “That’s not fair!”  C.S. Lewis writes that humans “are haunted by the idea of a sort of behavior they ought to practice.”

Why does morality even matter? The answer is value.  Those Orlando victims were human beings.  Murder, theft, and dishonesty are wrong because they harm something valuable: people.  But if we are only a product of impersonal evolution, why do we have that intrinsic worth and how do we all happen to know it?

A rational conclusion from these questions is that a Moral Lawgiver exists outside of ourselves. God values humans and instills within us a sense of value and morality.  To say otherwise is to deny objective morality, and accept that each should do what is right in his own eyes.  Thinkers such as C.S. Lewis, Frances Collins, and Chuck Colson became former atheists because the God of the Bible was the only answer to the question of morality that made sense to them.

Sure, people can be moral without religion. Many non-Christians are decent, law-abiding citizens.  But the question points to a Sovereign God who values people even when we ignore our moral compass.  With that kind of heavenly Father, it is no surprise that He would send Jesus to fulfill the law on our behalf (Rom. 8:3,4) and save us by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8).  That is good news that sustains us when bad news and moral questions trouble us.