Demons make people do crazy things. Things like trample a man to death to get a good deal on a plasma screen TV at Walmart on black friday. Things like make people go into crazy amounts of consumer debt to buy gifts and keep the illusion that they aren’t financially strapped this Christmas. Things like stealing to provide Christmas presents for young kids, things going poorly and getting the death sentence for accidentally killing a man.
Recently, I read an article by Christian activist Shane Claiborne that actually had me in tears. Citing the reality that there are dark forces in this world that are working to enslave, depress and deceive us, Claiborne writes that “Mammon (the demonic personification of money that Jesus gives a name to)… has many faces and disguises as we see possessions possess us with the obsession of heroin addiction and occupy us with the fanatacism of demonic occupation.”
Before you get weirded out and click off this blog to play angry birds, ask yourself: why would people trample a man to death to get a few dollars off of a TV? What is it that makes me obsessively check amazon.com for deals on things that I’d like? What is it that though I have enough makes me feel like tiny tim before Scrooge saved the day and brought in the giant goose? Is there something in this world that would make generally kind people do crazy things for money and stuff?
I do believe in the reality of demonic powers. And because of my line of work as an evangelism consultant with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I often get a front row seat to the battle that goes on in hearts to follow God and trust him with money. Fundraising 100% of our budget for the work we do has been one of the best and worst parts of my life over the past 12 years. The best because it has been the single most important way for me to remember that all I have is provided by God. It teaches me to trust him “for my daily bread” as scripture says. It teaches me the importance of being in community and inviting others to care for our needs and remember that money can do more than just get us more stuff. It can actually make an eternal difference in peoples lives.
It’s been the worst part because it is the single most gut-wrenching, pride-crushing, riding the waves of despair and thankfulness roller coaster over the past 12 years. Amidst the worry that people will think I’m only calling them for money this December, the fear that I’ll be rejected, or that people won’t see the value in helping college students meet Jesus, I’m still grabbing my iPhone, opening up my contact list and pressing the send button.
It’s a battle that goes on in my heart and in the hearts of the people I invite to give: trust God to provide or trust myself? My temptation is to believe that money will make us secure. Perhaps the battle of many of the people I call is to believe that God is able to provide for their needs, financial strains and shortfalls even if they do decide to give to our ministry. It’s a battle that goes on in all of our hearts and the only remedy has been to pray, speak truth from scripture and believe that Jesus is more powerful than the demonically enslaving force of consumerism.
Why would I inflict this awkwardness on myself? I’ve become even more passionate about reaching the college campus during these past 10 years I’ve been with InterVarsity. When I read studies in books like UnChristian or the recent article in Christianity Today called The Leavers: more than in previous generations 20 and 30 somethings are abandoning the faith it reminds me of how incredibly strategic our ministry is at shaping the world during the next decades through shaping the lives of college students. And though there might be a battle in my heart and mind every time I pick up the phone, it’s worth it. It’s worth it for college students to learn how to live in the freedom that only Jesus can give. It’s worth it to help students learn to trust Jesus with their time, money and resources while they’re still eating ramen noodles every day. It’s worth it because these students will be the ones who lead others into helping friends, colleagues and neighbors believe that there is more to life than climbing the corporate ladder, keeping up with the joneses and accumulating as much as you can before you die.
If you’re the praying type blog friend, please join me in praying that the peace of God would rule my heart this season. Pray for others and yourself when you feel like you aren’t enough, don’t have enough and will never be enough. Speak truth to yourself when you feel despair. Pray for a thankful heart.
*I originally posted this blog in 2010 when my husband and I were in the painful process of foreclosing on our house. It was the first Christmas we had ever had where we couldn’t afford to buy one another Christmas presents and could barely afford to buy a present for our son. As I think back on what God has brought us through in the past 2 years I realize more than ever though presents are stacked under our tree that trusting in and following Jesus is worth more than a flush bank account. I hope it encourages you to be content this Christmas and to find treasure that will last forever.