|THE WASTED WATER AT THE BELLAGIO||Email | Print|
Date: Mar 10, 2014 Previous
“It’s my money and I can spend it any way I like.” Is that a true statement? Even for Christians? Some believers think – and forcefully tell the rest of us – that every spare nickel we have ought to go into the offering plate and that going out to eat or owning a can of tennis balls is a sin. How should a Christian plan for the next world while still living in this one?
A big Voice of Prophecy hello to all of you joining us for our Monday Bible study; I’m Connie Jeffery, and it’s great to have each of you on board. Lonnie’s just beginning a two-week study series entitled THE SPENDING OF PLANET EARTH, where we think about not only how we spend our salaries and allowances, but the fresh air and the oil reserves that are in our planetary bank account. Does the fact that we believe Jesus is coming soon allow us to them use up this world’s resources without worrying about a possible 22nd or 23rd century? Let’s join him right now with today’s topic: THE WASTED WATER AT THE BELLAGIO.
There’s a little bit of Paradise which, unfortunately, is found right smack dab in the middle of what we might call Purgatory. If you’ve ever had the chance to be a tourist walking by a hotel called the Bellagio, there’s a display of water fountains which is simply spectacular. Every fifteen minutes or so, this gloriously intricate pattern shoots up into the Nevada sky and hundreds of passers-by pause to enjoy the display.
My wife Jeannie and I usually try to schedule our vacations to take place in a setting where there’s a little more green grass and a little less green felt and neon. They say that Las Vegas is the city that never sleeps, and also that what happens there stays there – whatever that means. But I’m afraid that Pastor Lonnie gets sleepy around 9:30 even there; I’m not your prototypical tourist.
Friend, I’d like to invite you to join me this week in thinking about the Bible principle of stewardship. Is it all right to spend money to have fun? Is it all right for a hotel to spend so much money shooting up towers of water spray just for entertainment? What does God’s Word have to say about how much of this planet’s resources we should be able to use up just on ourselves and our vacation plans?
Since we’ve taken a little mental day trip on the 15 Interstate freeway, let me stay with this Nevada motif for a moment. Have you ever eaten at a buffet over there? Of course, we have HomeTown Buffet and Souplantation just around the corner here at home. But there certainly is a lot of food being gobbled down in places like that. I always try to make many trips through the line and just pick up a little bit on each one, hoping that all the calories I burn up on my many commutes back and forth will cancel out at least part of what I’m eating. And of course, we are sorely tempted by the dessert bars at these places. Many of us try to just take half of our favorite dessert, but it’s still true that six halves add up to three wholes and a lot of calories.
Then there’s this. Even twenty miles away from Las Vegas you can begin to see the bright neon lights burning and lighting up the skies. I’ve heard that one hotel has a spotlight shining up into the heavens that’s so bright the beam can be spotted from outer space. The marquees and the big-screen digital billboards are lit 365 nights a year no matter what kind of energy crisis the rest of the nation might be facing.
My second Nevada sermon illustration comes from the games of chance being played in the Silver State. Every now and then a “whale” will come through town, playing this and that for a thousand dollars a chip. Every turn of the cards, every roll of the dice, every spin of that roulette wheel means that ten one-hundred-dollar bills change hands. That could have been five hundred meals for starving people on skid row. That might have been inoculations for kids in Darfur. The Los Angeles Times just had a front-page story about children trying to go to school in Kenya. The average class has – get this – 84 kids. They have to share books; some kids end up sitting on the floor. Education is supposed to be free there now – a recent experiment – but the principal of one school had to send out a plea to parents to please contribute a penny each out of their meager salaries, so that they could buy some brooms and keep classrooms clean. Meanwhile, the high roller playing at the Mirage busts his blackjack hand and a hundred thousand of those pennies go into the dealer’s tray. Is this good stewardship?
Well, friend, let’s escape the decadent desert of southern Nevada and come back to the safe Word of God, shall we? What are the Bible principles regarding resources that should operate in our lives here in our Voice of Prophecy family? There are two interesting realities we find in Scripture, actually. First of all, you can hardly read two pages before you’re confronted with theology regarding money and possessions and stewardship. Did you know this? One out of every 16 verses in the New Testament deals with money or with helping the poor. In three of the gospels: one verse in ten. In Luke, it’s one verse in seven. In the Hebrew Old Testament, only idolatry is talked about more than the relationship between the haves and the have nots.
There’s a wonderfully insightful book we’ve mentioned before here on this program; it’s entitled God and Your Stuff. The author, Wesley Willmer, did some computer searching and informs us that Jesus told 38 parables; 17 of them were about – you guessed it – stewardship. We remember parables about a prodigal son who spent all his money, about servants who got money to invest, about people who wouldn’t forgive other people their debts, about workers who got paid disparate salaries at the end of the day, about builders who skimped and constructed new houses on sand instead of rocks, about jewelers who sacrificed to buy a pearl of great price. Possessions are talked about, Willmer tells us, 2,172 times in the Bible; that’s three times more than love, seven times more than prayer, and eight times more than belief.
So reality #1 is that this is a most appropriate sermon topic! The Bible has much to say to us as we plan our vacation trips and decide how often to eat out. Obedient Christians want to handle their pocketbooks wisely and also their planetary resources. The second truth is that the Bible grants us tremendous freedom and liberty in this area. I’m so glad about that. Listen, I love this about the Christian faith: It teaches balance and moderation and wholesomeness; beyond that we’re not told how much to give; we’re not given a list of charities we must support. The Bible doesn’t mandate that we should or should not buy or own this thing or that. This same writer, Willmer, cheerfully points out that God gives His children great latitude.
What’s more, we’re encouraged to work hard, earn abundantly, spend happily, and enjoy life. Vacations are good things; treats are a blessing; visual experiences like those Bellagio water fountains are part of the beautiful mosaic that God is pleased to see us enjoy. If what it costs for some corporation to coordinate that vast and intricate panoply of water jets amortizes down to twenty-five cents per tourist, that would seem to be good stewardship considering the visual beauty it provides.
I’ve always appreciated the delightful irony in C. S. Lewis’ classic book, The Screwtape Letters, where one devil complains to another that God – “the Enemy” – just does not mind all of His creatures on earth having a happy time. “He has a bourgeois mind,” Screwtape laments. “He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least – sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working” (p. 87). So as we try to prayerfully discern just how we may spend our resources, we can be thankful that God is a generous and pleasure-creating Deity.
At the same time we’re brought back to reality by the announcement that we all have to answer to God for how we spend the blessings that come our way. Did we buy meals for the homeless or hundred-dollar chips for our gaming pleasure? Several parables by Jesus have the master saying to the servants: “What did you do with the talents I entrusted to you?” And it says in Romans 14:12: Each of us will give an account of himself to God. The Bible has wonderful news for all trusting believers in that we who are in God’s family don’t face a saved-or-lost, heaven-or-hell judgment, but we still have to explain to God what we did in this life and why.
II Corinthians 5:10, clearly addressed to born-again Christians, says this: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Did we use more than our fair share? When God gives us five talents, do we work hard for His kingdom’s benefit and earn five more? He’s going to ask us if we did, and we need to have an answer ready.
I’d like to invite you right here to join me for this whole week as we grapple with some hard questions. Is it “An Inconvenient Truth” that this planet is slowly wearing out, and if so, should Christians be worried about it? It can be difficult for men and women who truly believe they are on their way to heaven to still be concerned for global warming down here. We think to ourselves, “So what if the world’s oil reserves are depleted in the next 150 years? We’ll be walking down streets of gold and riding on Jesus’ monorail transit system from one heavenly buffet meal to the next.” How do our convictions about the Second Coming of Christ meld with the Bible’s mandate to take good care of the oceans and streams of Planet Earth?
It should be a very lively week of study, and I expect the e-mails to come flooding in like one of those Bellagio fountains. Please do study with us.