17:3 He returned the money to her, and she said, "I now dedicate these silver coins to the Lord. In honor of my son, I will have an image carved and an idol cast." What's crazy to me is how seamlessly human nature worships God and idols, often in the same act. I'm going to go out on a limb here and give an example from something that happened to me today.
I'm visiting another state and my host took me by a "little" church in the area. This church has a sanctuary building that would rival my home state capital building, a huge workout facility, a regulation baseball field, a large bookstore, library, and it was on enough acreage to host a small town. Now I'm not going to make a judgment about how this church spends it's money, but as I saw elaborate stained glass all across the front of a several story elaborately constructed building, all I could think about was how we Americans bring our money to church to "dedicate it to the Lord," and then we dump it into buildings and programs and entertainments, and meanwhile more than 140 million orphans are starving on the streets without shoes, food, shelter, or love.
And I also thought about the statistics that in America, more than 30% of tithes go to building projects alone (103.3 billion), while 2% of tithes go to foreign missions (as in, orphans). In the article above, it also says that only 5% of Christian Americans tithe at all! And I thought how we do exactly what this woman did, dedicating our money to the Lord while building these shrines to ourselves that we come to enjoy every week in our comfy chairs in our nice air-conditioned buildings. And I have been no different most of my life, but by the grace of God, I have seen, touched, held, and loved the orphans, and now my heart is changed. So my question for churches today, is "How much is enough?" When is the money we're sinking into ourselves over the top?
3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born [from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God." This verse reads a little differently if you put in the Greek values:
Born: in a Jewish sense, of one who brings others over to his way of life, to convert someone
Again: from above or from Heaven (not quite the same as "again")
So I see that it is not so much something man does for himself, but something God does for him. "Unless someone is brought over to God's way of life from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."
Questions for reflection:
Can you think of anything in your life that you have tried to set aside for God that turned into at least a partial dedication to you instead? I think for me, I start out with good intentions on a lot of things, but I tend to mix me into the equation frequently. Here are a few examples: When I have fasted I the past, I would either be cranky with those around me or whine and complain. Both made it a shrine to Julie, instead of a full consecration to God. Or another "about me" thing I do is that when I want to give money someone (ministry), I feel good and happy about it. But when my husband wants to do the same, I sometimes balk. Oops.