11 Mar 2001

It is not about money

Submitted by theshovel
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And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, 'Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.' Mark 12:41-44

If anyone else had even noticed the gift of this poverty-stricken woman I doubt they would have described it as Jesus had. Now most of us may have heard this story, but somehow I think we still don't get it. Why? Because we think it's talking about the giving of MONEY. But is that what Jesus had observed? And is that the lesson He was trying to get across to His disciples?


Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation. Mark 12:38-40

Consider the above and notice how it immediately preceded the scene of the widow's gift. Do you think it may have been fresh on their minds when He called His followers attention to it? The fact is that everything Jesus said and did conflicted with their ingrained perceptions of reality. What man calls money holds no value in the eyes of God because it is EMBEDDED into the concept of worth. Oh, you can try real hard to balance the financial perceptions of man and God, but it CAN'T be done, because they are fundamentally in conflict with each other.

What did Jesus observe? Man's measuring system of money not only cannot estimate true worth, it reinforces the false concept of worth.

Read the story, and put yourself into it - you may discover that you've already witnessed this conflict of value in your own experience. For you know full well that one's love for God has been judged countless times by the amount put into the basket (or offering plate). It is the reason behind the public ritual of The Offering. It is also the COMFORT found in the tithe. Comfort, I say? Oh, yeah! For in the flesh's attempt to define godliness we have latched on to the DIVINE percentage figure by which we might measure our love and dedication to God. You see, godliness can be judged by simple math! And we use the Bible to support our bankrupt theories.

But Jesus called attention to a gift that ranked so low on the monetary scale that it would have been considered an INSULT to God compared to the more valuable gifts of the important people. The point is that her gift didn't even rate. And yet Jesus boldly stated that this widow's gift of two copper coins was GREATER than all the money given by the wealthy. And how did Jesus come to this conclusion? The rich gave out of their stockpiles, while the woman gave of her very life!

And this brings me back to the reality of life. For what is our life? Jesus also said,

for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessionsLuke 12:15

So ... what is your life? If your answer leads you to EITHER despair and confusion, OR to an inflated sense of your own worth, you are considering the wrong concept of life! For true life is found ONLY in Christ. Whose life is it anyway? :)

I would love to hear from you concerning the subject of giving, but do me a very big favor: PLEASE don't send me any Mother Teresa kind of stories. Why not? Because they give an illusion of reality without having any real effect on your life. Tell me, instead, about YOU and YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES or YOUR PERSONAL STRUGGLES. A story about someone you don't know can easily be a cop-out, but a real-life story about YOU will be valuable to all who hear it!!

I will continue with more thoughts on Giving in the next Shoveletter ... look for it! :)

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These comments were all transferred over from the original website

Posted: March 12, 2001 by Richard

Dear Jim,

I love the unfolding of this story!

I was wondering if you would care to comment on the verses that follow; is there anything in them that ties directly or indirectly to your subject matter?

One of the # 1 things stressed to me in the "Ministry" was if I was going to be permitted to function in any kind of leadership capacity then "time, energy, and most definitely MONEY was on top of the list of DO's.

To this day it still makes my head spin just thinking about it. What a sad joke played on God's people!!

Matthew 22:20 Matthew 22 Matthew 22:19-21 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

Mark 12:16 Mark 12 Mark 12:15-17 And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's.

Luke 20:24 Luke 20 Luke 20:23-25 Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's

In light of your recent study on tithing or the giving of our substance, you rightly insist it is not about money. Money, the giving or not giving of it, does not make us worthy. However, believers do find their identity and sense of self-worth in the world's system ("Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's"). The world's evaluation of worth was found on that coin and in the image of Caesar. He was the most powerful man at that time; if I am not mistaken, he was even called Lord by many. Money is referred to as 'filthy lucre' yet it is not money, but the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil. It is a mirage, an illusion that we buy into. Did not the Lord say through Peter, that we have not been redeemed or purchased with silver or gold nor by the traditions and teachings of our forefathers but by the precious blood of God's lamb, Jesus Christ? I would look upon this scripture as cutting through this whole illusion of money being equating with worth and power. So getting back to "Whose image is on the coin?" (and did you notice that Jesus said, "Show me a PENNY"...a penny would have little worth or significance except for the fact that the image of CAESAR was stamped onto it) God had initially created us in HIS likeness and image but as you know the story is all downhill from there. But it also says in Romans that those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the LIKENESS and the IMAGE of his only begotten Son. My point is that there is something in the above scriptures that you may have already considered and that hopefully will be a blessing to you as this story continues to unfold. I do believe with all my heart that this is more than just a 'teaching' but in reality is 'history' (HIS STORY) unfolding before our very eyes. Please let me know if this makes any sense.

Love Richard

~~~~~|||||) Richard,

Thanks for writing ... it is always encouraging to hear from you. I'm very encouraged that you see this as an "unfolding" of the story, because that's exactly what I had written it to be. :) Yes, indeed, that is an amazing insight into the reality of the illusion behind money. I can remember back in the seventies when Chuck Swindoll came to my Bible college (I think it was him) and spoke on that passage. He brought up a few really cool points. One of which was that on the back side of that coin was also another image: Caesar's mother. The inscription said, "The mother of God". Those men must have been almost peeing their pants when He held up that coin and asked whose image was on it. If Jesus had been holding the coin so that they could see the image of Caesar then they knew that He was looking at the image of Caesar's mom ... or maybe Jesus was looking at the image of Caesar so that momma's picture was facing the crowd. Either way, their own attempt to catch Jesus totally backfired in their faces.

Everything the world perceives actually misses reality. Unfortunately, we have been taught by the religious world to focus upon the illusion in order to debate it. What a double-illusion that is. It's like fleas arguing over which one of them owns the dog.

Yes, I will be touching on those verses in upcoming Shoveletters. :)

Jim (|||||~~~~~

Posted: March 12, 2001 by Natalie

Dear Jim, You don't have to thank me for responding to the shoveletter. I just wanted you to know that sometimes I feel like you are my only link to sanity. Sometimes when I deal with all the stuff of life and I get sooo discouraged, I actually seek refuge (comfort) from things like church. It is like I can hide behind it and not deal with the stuff. But then I come away so empty. And I read things you write and I feel within my heart that it is TRUTH and it makes me cry. Almost like pulling out a thorn. So, i thank you...for sharing truth. I thank you for being you. love,

Posted: March 12, 2001 by Frank

Hi Jim,

I thought that I would reply to your latest shoveletter since you invited one to relate their own experiences. Your latest topics are one that still stir strong emotions in me and cause me to have to deal with a lot of anger and outrage. This is no fault of yours, the problem is mine and I'm still working things through even though it has been nearly 3 years since I angrily left my faith, organized religion, Christianity or whatever you want to call it and went back to a secular life.

I enjoy your shoveletter Jim,

regards, Frank

~~~~~|||||) Hello Frank,

I feel for you with the hurt and anger you still have over what has been done to you and your family through the ugliness of religion. Such bondage rapes those who are born of God. I am so glad that you have gotten out of that system. Know this, that your Father has graciously brought you through a divine appointment so that His freedom that you share with others is intensely real. When we are weak, then we are strong.

Jim (|||||~~~~~

Posted: March 12, 2001 by Chris


Cool shovel letter. I agree with it completely. I have a question though, not related to this shoveletter. A lot of our lives seem to be so wrapped up in "doing" for God, you go into missions for God, or you give money for God or whatever. What seems to bother me most about all of this is the concept that a lot of people have about living Godly lives here on Earth so that they may recieve some type of "award" in heaven, the whole crown issue I think. Some crowns will have jewels or whatever in them. This is some of the stuff that I remember learning in church and it never really bothered me until quite recently.

As I've been reading the shoveletter over the last several months and reflecting on being a Christian, I've become acutely aware of my shortcomings as a Christian, in fulfilling the "rules". It's been a constant source of discouragement for me, to see myself constantly failing. But I've come to realize that what I'm doing is essentially holding myself down to the Law and trying to fulfill it, which is why I become so discouraged. The harder I've tried to "be good", the more I relized that I wasn't. Last week I essentially had a meltdown and was questioning this whole Christianity thing. And what came to my mind and bothered my most was the concept people have of living "Godly" lives now, here on Earth, so they can get a crown in Heaven. Where does this crown thing come in, I know it's in Revelation, and what exactly is the true function. I looked it up online at Bible Gateway for a word search under crown, and all I've been able to find is references to your crown of life, which is also mentioned in James.

Furthermore, after thinking about the whole crown in Heaven thing, and also the "ruling" of planets, as I've also heard, I came to the conclusion that this was retarded. Why would God give control of something that is never going to fail to a person as a reward. Isn't that essentially babysitting a planet for all of eternity, a planet that is never going to have ANY problems, as sin will no longer be a factor? And doesn't this "planet" concept sound slightly Mormon? My friend Jeff mentioned this to me and I had to agree.

Well, looking forward to getting some response. Keep doing a great job with the Shovel, opening up things to our eyes that we've lost in the ritualization of the Church.


~~~~~|||||) Hello Chris!!

Wow, thanks for such a fantastic response. :) I love to see the reality of Christ making such an impact in you! The "meltdown" you have referred to is a wonderful thing ... really!! :) Until you come to the place where you question the whole thing you are living in a "Pollyanna" world where you're always trying to put the best face on it. Unfortunately, we have not only been taught an awful lot of garbage under the label of "Christianity", we have brought in basket loads of our own!!

When you question the whole thing then it comes down to simple propositions:
~ It is either is true or it is not
~ Christ is either the life of the believer or He is not
~ It is either a miraculous life or it is merely a facade.

What a wonderful thing to discover that what Christ did has changed everything forever.

Yes, the whole "crown" thing with its system of rewards has little to nothing to do with the mentions of it in the Bible. I'm glad that it is disturbing to you. I did a series of Shoveletters dealing with the issue of "Rewards" a while back ... I think it was before you were receiving them. Check 'em out here

Though the part about "rewards" comes up in page 3, I encourage you to read the whole thing in order to get more of a background because it will give you a clearer picture.

Thanx so much for writing! It means an awful lot to me.

Jim (|||||~~~~~

Posted: March 12, 2001 by Becki

«For you know full well that one's "love for God" has been judged countless times by the amount put into the basket (or "offering plate"). It is the reason behind the public ritual of "The Offering". It is also the COMFORT found in the "tithe".»

Comfort, yes comfort. This is one area of legalism that I bought into hook, line, and sinker. Giving back to God was very important to me. I calculated every gift down to the penny, totaled, balanced and carried over excesses. (If I paid 11% one month, I often paid 9% the next. I actually set up a budgeting account, just like I did for any of my accounts payables.)

Being a combination of impulsive and efficient, I knew that if I got paid on Monday but waited 'till Sunday morning to make an offering, I might not have any left after the bill collectors demanded their shares. So I used to write a check to pay my tithes and mail it directly to the church, right alongside my bills. It's interesting that I felt the same way about it. It was an obligation, a bill to be paid.

But then came the offering plate. I always hated the public offering plate. Sunday after Sunday I let it pass by me without dropping a thing in. *I* knew I had mailed in my check but no one else did. I used to squirm with discomfort, wanting to explain myself but of course, not having the opportunity. Sometimes, I'd drop one dollar bill in, folded carefully so no one could tell how much I was dropping in. They'd just see green. Pathetic, huh? Okay already. You can quit laughing.

Comfort and condemnation. Whenever finances got too tight, I would hastily review my records (and of course, I usually found my actual giving to be less than the 10% I aimed for). I'm only getting what I deserve, I'd assume. Hello guilt and condemnation! When things were going well, I'd feel pride. It's because I gave, I'd assume. Swagger in with a little self-righteousness. Ugh.

«It's not about money.» What a relief.

Isn't that interesting. There were many feasts, gifts, celebrations, shadows, and glimpses of the kingdom of heaven; however it's never about those things, and always about Jesus. It's a shame to put our hope in the religious things and miss the miraculous value of God with us.

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