Tools are such an integral part of life that we would be incapacitated without them. How would you brush your teeth without a toothbrush? (use a twig, huh?) A mechanic can’t loosen a tight nut with bare hands. It would be impossible to write without a pen or pencil or feather...or something.
I use a machete almost every day to mow the lawn, cut grass for the cow, and split lighter wood for the cookfire—all with my machete. With it, I’ve killed an opossum, dozens of chickens, ducks, snakes...you get the idea. My machete is just about indispensable to me. What would I do without it?
All of us use tools. I have no doubt in my mind that you also have tools that accomplish important tasks for your style of life. There’s even a passage in Isaiah 28:23-29 that points out how God has put the intelligence in us to develop and use tools for the different things that we do.
The interesting thing about tools, indispensable though they are, is that many times they can be very dangerous. My left index finger is littered with scars from my beloved machete. More than one person I’ve seen has had huge scars over his face from some slashing machete. Thousands, if not millions of people have been killed in machete fights. So indispensable—so dangerous. Quite a paradox! But it’s easy to see that the fault lies, not in the machete itself, but in the person who uses it. Our solution to machete fights is not to take machetes off the market, but to change the people that use them.
So, although some tools have tremendous potential for killing (the pistol, for example), a tool is an innate object with no will of its own. It can only be used wrongly, not be wrong in itself.
Wrenches, ropes, hammers, and machetes aren’t the only tools we have access to. In fact, you have been entrusted with many other valuable tools— money, an education, books, communication, your abilities: a voice that can sing, a captivating style of preaching, wisdom in counseling, a friendly, outgoing personality, etc. Not everyone has the same variety of tools or the same amount of tools. God has given everyone different abilities and talents, but He has given you something!
What is more, you, because of your place of birth, have had singular opportunities. Materially speaking, you, by living in the USA, are among the most privileged people in the world. I could go into detail about that.... Face it—God has given you a lot of material resources, along with a rich Christian heritage. The results of a mix like that should only be good. But, as we have seen, indispensable though they are, tools are dangerous. In fact, Jesus put riches in the red, category 5, “pistol” bracket. “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:24).
Maybe our response is the same as those who responded to Jesus’ words. “Who then can be saved?” Will I be damned for having $100 too many? remember, use the tool for what it is destined, and it’s a beautiful picture. You and I are what determines either the constructiveness or destructiveness of riches. The way we use a tool makes the difference. If I keep riches here, my heart will stay here—destruction. But if I send them ahead, my heart will follow—construction. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34).
I’d like to point out several indicators that our riches are doing the wrong thing –tying our heart to this world and a wrong use of it as a tool. .
1. When I am not willing to “drop my nets” to follow Jesus.
The disciples would have never been chosen disciples if they would not have been willing to drop their nets immediately and follow Jesus. If I put temporal interests ahead of Jesus’ call, I have my treasure, and consequently my heart, in the wrong place.
2. When I want my part of the inheritance.
In Luke 12:13-15, we read of how Jesus was faced with a man asking for a fair share of his inheritance. Jesus replied with a warning, and then a story. Warning: “Beware of covetousness.” Story: a rich man who used plenty for his own ease. a fool. He kept his treasure in the trash, instead of sending it to a secure place. Jesus, in essence, was pointing out how foolish his desire for more things was. Just be content with what God has given you. Don’t desire more. It would be terrible to fall into that rich man’s trap, and it would be easy to do so with an inheritance.
3. When I live the life of the rich man, but ignore “Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31).
Can we ignore others’ needs and not be classed with the rich man?
4. When I get upset at someone taking something that is “mine” and ruining it or not bringing it back.
The whole problem with my attitude right here is that what I have is not actually “mine”. I’m fooling myself into thinking that I am the owner, and not God. Since I am not the owner, I don’t have to worry about “my” things, because they are not “mine”. Since they’re God’s, He rules. Luke 6:35 says that God’s will is to lend out, not expecting anything in return. Am I passing inspection? Is my heart at the right place?
5. When I give out of my abundance and still think that I’m giving.
Jesus saw those rich men (in Luke 21:1-4) and said they weren’t giving anything compared to the widow’s two mites. God doesn’t look at the amount we give—He looks at the percentage we’re giving.
6. When I am critical of someone else giving to Jesus.
In Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 12 we read the story of Mary coming and pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. The disciples indignantly criticized her for having wasted so much money. Jesus set them straight. What they hadn’t realized was that giving to Jesus could not be a waste—not even if it was perfume to be poured on His feet. Likewise for us—should we ever be critical of someone giving something to “Jesus”? are we not placing ourselves alongside Judas when we do so?
7. When I cater to my friends and rich neighbors instead of inviting “the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 8:7,14).
When we seek to do favors to he who can pay us back here, our treasure obviously must be here. But when we look for ways to do favors to those who cannot pay us back here, our heart is following our treasure to the right place.
8. When I, instead of pulling the “thorns” out, let them grow like weeds (Luke 8:7, 14).
The cares, riches, and pleasures of life grow like weeds. Isn’t it true that the more things we own, the more maintenance we have to do, and the more time goes down the drain? Cares grow. Clutter fills the empty spots of our attics and schedules. It is so important to maintain a life focused on God’s kingdom—otherwise we will be choked. Only those who pull the weeds have productive gardens. Only those who don’t allow the cares, riches and pleasures of life to block out eternity will prosper spiritually.
And the discourse could go on. There are countless warnings that God has given us—all for our own good.... Countless directives, so that we may use the tools He gave us for our eternal benefit. But all of the aforementioned points are things that I struggle with—traps that are easy to fall into. To get too involved in material pursuits; desiring more things; ignoring others’ needs; protecting “my” interests; giving just enough to make myself feel good—but not too much, so it won’t hurt; criticizing others’ giving; catering to those who can help me in return; letting my life get too full of things... these, and more, are all our human tendencies.
So let’s face it. God has endowed us with many privileges, thereby making us very responsible. We are constrained to use our talents for God’s glory. We are challenged to “make friends with our unjust riches” (Luke 16: 9-11) to gain eternal riches. God’s perfect will respecting what we “own” is here in our hands to read, analyze, and practice. Can we get away with anything less?
~El Naranjo, Honduras