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Hildegard of Bingen: How Much is Enough

“In the fear of God, get rid of everything that does not contribute to the health of your soul…also for the love of Christ, give up that stubborn part of your will which does not contribute to the refreshment of your soul, for the many riches of this world alienate mankind from the justice of God, and diminish it so much that it can scarcely be seen. Therefore, hold on to only so much as you can use to benefit others with the seed of your wisdom, and also only enough to stretch out your hand with alms to the needy and the poor.”

Hildegard of Bingen in The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, Volume 3 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) 146.

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J.I. Packer: Christian Living in a Materialistic World

“Now we can see hot tub religion for what is is–Christianity corrupted by the passion for pleasure. Hot tub religion is Christianity trying to beat materialism, Freudianism, humanism, and Hollywood at their own game, rather than challenge the errors that the rules of that game reflect. Christianity, in short, has fallen victim yet again (for this has happened many times before, in different ways) to the allure of this fallen world. Worldliness–that is, embracing the world’s values, in this case pleasure–is the source of hot tub religion’s distinctive outlook. “The place for the ship is in the sea,” said D.L. Moody, speaking of the church and the world, “but God help the ship if the sea gets into it.” His sentiment was surely just.

Symptoms of hot tub religion today include a skyrocketing divorce-and-remarriage rate among Christians; widespread indulgence of sexual aberrations; and overheated supernaturalism that seeks signs, wonders, visions, prophecies, and miracles; constant soothing syrup from electronic preachers and the liberal pulpit; anti-intellectual sentimentalism and emotional “highs” deliberately cultivated, the Christian equivalent of cannabis and coca; and an easy, thoughtless acceptance of luxury in everyday living. These are not healthy trends. They make the church look like the world, driven by the same unreasoning desire for pleasure seasoned with magic. Thus they undermine the credibility of the gospel of new life. If these trends are to be reversed, a new frame of reference will have to be established. To this task, therefore, we now move, following where Scripture leads.

The word from God that we need to hear on this subject was written by John the apostle: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting pride of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17).

J.I. Packer in Hot Tub Religion: Christian Living in a Materialistic World (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1987) 82-84.

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Ronald Wallace: The Right Use of this World

“The conditions, then, for a right use of this world are to pass through it as pilgrims should who have their minds fixed on another country to which they are traveling, to offer all that we possess and enjoy here in our open hands as a sacrifice to God to take from us whenever it pleases Him, to make such tokens of the divine love as we enjoy in the midst of this present creation whet our appetites for the fuller glory that is yet to be–in other words to use this world thankfully as a preparation for that which is to come. Under such circumstances it is right for us to indulge in a real and thankful love of this life. We thus have the paradoxical truth that we are able to love this life only when we have truly learned first to despise this life.”

Ronald Wallace in Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1959) 130.

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John Piper blows the whistle on the wealth and prosperity gospel

“A wealth-and-prosperity doctrine is afoot today, shaped by the half-truth that says, “We glorify God with our money by enjoying thankfully all the things He enables us to buy. Why should a son of the King live like a pauper?” And so on. The true half of this is that we should give thanks for every good thing God enables us to have. That does glorify Him. The false half is the subtle implication that God can be glorified in this way by all kinds of luxurious purchases.

If this were true, Jesus would not have said, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy” (Luke 12:33). He would not have said, “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink” (Luke 12:29). John the Baptist would not have said, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none” (Luke 3:11). The Son of Man would not have walked around with no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). And Zacchaeus would not have given half his goods to the poor (Luke 19:8).

God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves (no matter how thankfully) what we ought to be using to alleviate the misery of unevangelized, uneducated, unmedicated, and unfed millions. The evidence that many professional Christians have been deceived by this doctrine is how little they give and how much they own. God has prospered them. And by an almost irresistible law of consumer culture (baptized by a doctrine of health, wealth, and prosperity), they have bought bigger (and more) houses, newer (and more) cars, fancier (and more) clothes, better (and more) meat, and all manner of trinkets and gadgets and containers and devices and equipment to make life more fun.”

John Piper in Money: The Currency of Christian Hedonism (Chattanooga: Generous Giving, 2003) 17-18.

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Cyprian of Carthage: Despise riches and trust God for daily bread

“We who have renounced this world, and by the help of God’s grace, have forsaken the riches and pomps thereof, do hereby petition only for our food and sustenance, since our Lord hath taught us, That he who forsaketh not all, cannot be his disciple (Lk 14.33).

For he who is become a disciple of Christ, and according to the command of his Lord, hath forsaken all, ought to petition only for daily bread, and not be anxious and solicitous for the time to come, as our Lord hath taught, saying, Take no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself; sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matt 6.34).

‘Tis the duty therefore of a disciple of Christ, to petition for food only from day to day, since he is forbid to take thought for the morrow. For ‘tis absurd for us, who pray that the Kingdom of God may come quickly, to provide for a long life. To this purpose the blessed apostle, for the information and strengthening of our faith and hope hath taught us, That we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and rayment let us therewith be content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lists, which drown men in destruction and perdition; for the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have errer from the Faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Tim 6.7-10).

He teaches us that riches are not only to be despised, but counted dangerous, that they are the root of all the evils that do allure us, that they darken and deceive men’s understandings; for which reason God reproved the rich fool, who built his hopes upon the riches of this world, and boasted himself in the abundance of his fruits. Thou fool, this night shall they soul be required of thee, and then whose shall these things be which thou hast provided (Lk 12.20). The fool was delighting himself with the thoughts of his abundance the same night that he was to die and he whose life was at an end, was laying up stores for many years.

On the contrary, our Lord teaches us, that he is a perfect and consummate Christian, who selling all and distributing to the poor, doth lay up for himself treasure in heaven, and that he is fit to follow Christ, and to imitate his glorious sufferings, who being hindered by no worldly cares, is always ready and prepared both in body and soul, to serve the will of God, which that every one of us may be prepared to do it, let us learn thus to pray, and let the manner of our prayer inform us of our duty. Neither is it possible for a just man to want his daily bread, since it is written, That the Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish (Prov 10.3). And again, I have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread (Ps 37.25). And the Lord hath given us a gracious promise in these words. Take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt 6.31-33).

He does hereby promise, that those who seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness shall have all other things added; for since all things are God’s, he shall want nothing who is not without God. Thus when Daniel was cast into the Lions Den by the King’s command, God provided him food, and the man of God is fed even amongst hungry and devouring lions. And Elijah in his retirement and solitude during the time of persecution was fed by ravens. And oh the abominable wickedness and cruelty of man’s heart, that even the wild beasts should be tame to spare, and the birds to feed the prophets; but mankind only becomes ravenous and savage.”

St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage and Martyr in The Unity of the Church and Expediency of Forms of Prayer illustrated in Two Treatises (London: Franklin and Bettenham, 1719) 59-61.

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Abbot Christopher Jamison on Finding Sanctuary in a consumeristic culture

“In simple terms, the consumeristic lifestyle forces people to work too hard in order to fulfill their consumer ambitions. The desire for the bigger car or the better vacation drives people to overwork, and those caught up in this cycle have difficult decisions to make about whether to give up some of these ambitions in order to make room for sanctuary. Armed with this understanding, you can stand back from our culture and question it. You are a free person and you can choose how busy you want to be. Freely choosing to resist the urge to busyness is the frame of mind you need before you can take any steps toward finding sanctuary.”

Abbot Christopher Jamison in Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press) 17.

Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15

Has the insatiable appetite of affluence caused you to become so overly busy and exhausted that you long for sanctuary that can only be found in God?

What “kinds of greed” try to take hold in your life? What do you need to lose in your life right now so you can find sanctuary?

Take the next few days to contemplate this reading and Jesus warning in Luke 12:15. Journal what you believe Jesus may be saying to you about your life.

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Shepherd of Hermas: The Rich are positioned by God for service

“Blessed are they who have riches and who understand that they are from the Lord. For they who are of that mind will be able to do some good service.”

Shepherd of Hermas Similitude 2.10

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John Frank: Give to God first!

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops. Proverbs 3:9

“Giving first shows the attitude of our hearts, that we know this money is God’s and He has asked us to give to Him our first fruits, our best. We demonstrate that by giving to His work first. This is not easy and it may take time to develop. But once it is done it becomes an integral part of an ongoing and vibrant relationship with God.”

John Frank in The Ministry of Development (Dallas: EDM, 1996) 23.

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Julian of Norwich contemplates the cause of our unrest and the Only Source of True Rest

“Each man and woman who desires to live contemplatively needs to have knowledge of the littleness of creatures and to like as nought all things that are made, for to love and have God who is unmade. For this is the cause why we be not all in ease of heart and soul, for we who are occupied willfully in earthly business and evermore seek worldly wealth are not heirs of His in heart and in soul for to love and seek here rest, in these things that are so little wherein is no rest, and know not our God who is all mighty, all wise, all good. For He is the very rest. God will be known and He likes us to rest in Him, for all that is beneath Him does not suffice us. And this is the cause why no soul is rested, until it is noughted of all things that are made. When he is willfully noughted for love to have Him who is all, then is he able to receive spiritual rest.”

Julian of Norwich (translated by Julia Bolton Holloway) Showing of Love (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003) 9.

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From The Epistle to Diognetus: In understanding the love of God, let us imitate the generous kindness of God and grasp the real life of heaven!

“If this is the faith which you, too, desire, then you should, first of all, acquire a thorough knowledge of the Father. The fact is, God loved men, and it was for their sake that He made the world; at their service, He placed everything on earth; to them He gave reason and intelligence; them alone He endowed with the ability to look up to Him; them He formed after His own image; to them He sent His Only-begotten Son; to them He promised the kingdom in heaven, and this He will give to those that love Him. And when you have acquired this knowledge, with what joy do you think you will be filed. Or how intensely will you love Him who first loved you so! And once you love Him, you will be an imitator of His kindness. And you must not be surprised that man can become an imitator of God. He can, since He so wills. Certainly, to be happy does not mean to tyrannize over one’s neighbors, or to wish to have an advantage over the weaker ones, or to be rich and therefore able to use force against one’s inferiors. It is not in such matters that one can imitate God; no, such matters are foreign to His majesty. On the other hand, he who takes his neighbor’s burden upon himself, who is willing to benefit his inferior in a matter in which he is his superior, who provides the needy with what he himself has received from God and thus becomes the god of his recipients–he, I say, is an imitator of God. Then you will realize, while your lot is on earth, that God lives in heaven; then you will in good earnest discourse on the mysteries of God; then you will love and admire those who submit to punishment for their refusal to deny God; then you will condemn the deceitfulness of the world and its error once you understand the real life of heaven…”

The Epistle to Diognetus x.2-7

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