“You do not have because you do not ask.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives,
so that you may spend what you request on your pleasures.“
~ James 4:2-3
Have you ever felt like you stand at the door and knock…and no one answers? Or perhaps that someone comes to the door and promises to help you, but minutes and hours go by and you’re still standing out in the cold, waiting? Have you ever looked around, and seen other people seemingly skipping through life, bumbling along from success to success, and you just can’t quite squelch that feeling of Why not me?
Most of us as believers have a kind of strange relationship with money. We see those who eschew it, who use every penny for ministry, and we admire them. The monks and the missionaries, right? I read the stories of George Muller or St. John of the Cross and just think, Wow. Their trust was so complete! But at the same time, we recognize that we have families with needs that must be met. Or we have dreams that need funding. We take it all before God and ask Him to provide…or maybe we do the traditional thing and get a job that pays well, to fund not only our lives but what we view as our callings.
Is there are a right or wrong way to approach these things? For that matter, are we dreaming the right things? Asking for the right reasons? Taking the right steps?
I’m not going to come to you today with any answers at all, LOL. But as the new year stretches out before us and my husband and I try to figure our what we will do and chase and dream in the year to come, we wanted to pause to ask these questions too, especially in light of a podcast we listened to together.
The podcast is called The Art of Accomplishment, and this episode was “Much Ado about Money,” in which one of the hosts told his story about having a love-hate relationship with money all through his early life, born of a resentment of how his father pursued financial success above his family. Joe told the tale about how, as an adult, he would vacillate between “job that raked it in” and then “rejection of it and being broke and in debt.” For him, what changed it was when he and his wife started a daily practice of gratitude.
This grabbed our attention as we listened. Though this host was raised in the church at least nominally, he doesn’t currently identify as Christian…and he certainly wasn’t offering a “prosperity gospel” approach. There was no, “Be a good Christian and God will reward you with money.” No, he had a very interesting, intriguing take. And it is this:
The more he and his wife appreciated what they had, the less they focused on what they didn’t have. The more they saw how blessed they already were, the less they felt the lack. And after a few months of retraining their spiritual and emotional eyes to see the abundance, the more potential for abundance they began to see. Simple, small opportunities that before they wouldn’t even have noticed began popping up. People they previously would have either resented or sneered at became friends, and those friendships opened doors. They didn’t then return to those jobs that had written a good paycheck. They chased dreams they just hadn’t seen before, when they were blinded by the “don’t have enough” outlook.
The podcast talks about a whole lot more than that, but this was the part that struck me and stuck with me. Because it fits so well with that passage from James quote above. We don’t have because we don’t ask. We ask and don’t get it because we’re not asking for the right reasons. We just want things selfishly, to bring us pleasure or happiness. But we need to ask for what HE wants for us, for the good of HIS kingdom.
And what’s more, we need to have eyes to see what’s around us. The opportunities and the needs. The people who so desperately need to hear the hope we can offer them, and the ones so desperate to help us if we’re humble enough to invite them in.
I’ve written before about how I hear (including in my own head!) so much complaining in this world today. I hear so often how people who have everything “don’t have enough” to chase their dreams. We’ve said it too! “We’d love to create this, but we just don’t have the funding.” Okay, sure. That’s simply true. But…what am I missing? First, am I pursuing things that will glorify God, and seeking them because they glorify God? If so, then what have I looked past that could have helped me? Am I trying to do it all on my own might…or just sitting back lazily waiting for God to drop something from the sky? Neither approach is right, I think.
Jesus talks to us about “having eyes to see” when He speaks of “healthy eyes” and “bad eyes.” Those “eyes” weren’t talking about our actual vision, but about the ability to see those in need around us. That fits here, too, I think.
Do we have eyes to see where He is already moving? Do we have eyes to see the answers and opportunities waiting all around us? Do we have eyes to see His footprints in our world and follow them?
In the coming months, my husband and I are going to be doing this daily practice of gratitude. We’re going to be examining each aspect of our lives and thanking God for all the good things He’s blessed us with in them. And then we’re going to pray that He opens our eyes. Not to what will benefit us…but to what will equip us to chase after Him.
I’ll let you know how it goes, LOL.