Tag Archives: financial independence

What Would Jesus Say About The American Dream?

Evelyn Adams achieved the American dream: she won not one but two lotteries. In both 1985 and 1986 she won the New Jersey lottery to the tune of $US5.4 million. According to the Consumer Price Index, that’s equivalent to $US10.5 million today.

Today, Evelyn Adams comments that, “Winning the lottery isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.” Today the money is all gone and Adams lives in a trailer.

“I won the American dream but I lost it, too. It was a very hard fall. It’s called rock bottom,” says Adams. “Everybody wanted my money. Everybody had their hand out. I never learned one simple word in the English language—‘No.’ I wish I had the chance to do it all over again. I’d be much smarter about it now.”

Sure, Evelyn Adams gave her money away, but she’ll also admit that hedging her bets, she wasted most of her money on the slot machines in Atlantic City.

Jesus And The American Dream

Despite the fact that we make more money than 90% of the world, Americans are fascinated with becoming independently wealthy. Turn on your TV on a Saturday morning, and you’ll see dozens of programs promising to teach you how to become America’s next millionaire.

It’s the American Dream: to live in such a way that we don’t need anyone else. To do whatever we want and control our destinies.

But is that what we really want? Is that what we really need?

A man ran up to Jesus and, fell on his knees and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus rattled off a few commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Then, with eyes full of love, Jesus said to the earnest man, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The man was devastated because he was quite wealthy. Slowly he walked away from Jesus.

Jesus then turned to his disciples. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!…It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Astonished, the disciples looked at each other and said “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus replied, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

The Jesus Dream

Over the centuries, pastors, priests, and theologians have debated the meaning of this passage in Mark 10:17-31 (which also appears in Matthew 19 and Luke 18).

Does this mean that we’re all supposed to live in poverty? Is Jesus calling us to sell everything and give it to the poor? It’s passages like these that motivated people like Tony Campolo to say “You can’t be a follower of Jesus and drive a BMW at the same time.”

If all of us sold everything and lived in poverty, how would anyone pay their bills? Is God opposed to the wealthy? Are we all supposed to be homeless? Sounds a little unreasonable.

Other people say, “In this passage, Jesus is addressing the man’s god. The man was a good person, but his riches were standing in the way of following Jesus. So God wants us to abandon whatever it is that prevents us from following him completely.”

I agree with that, but it seems to subjective, and it doesn’t seem to reach far enough.

Selling Everything Means Selling Everything

So what is Jesus calling this man to—and what is he calling us to?

Jesus told the man to “Sell everything” Everything. Selling out to Jesus goes beyond our possessions. It means letting go of all attachments and attaching ourselves solely to him.

It means pledging allegiance solely to him. That’s why I’m uncomfortable with the Pledge of Allegiance. I understand the intention of it, but I trip over the words. I can’t pledge allegiance to the flag when I’ve pledged allegiance to Jesus because we can pledge our allegiance to only one person, entity, or thing.

Selling out means giving him our darkest secret, our dream of a comfortable life, our rights, reputation, comfort, desire for approval. It means giving up all dignity, propriety, respect, coolness, habits, addictions. It means attaching our self-worth to what Jesus says about us–and not the opinion of our parents, friends, or spouse.

Selling out is kind of a misnomer because we really own nothing. Everything we have already belongs to God.

Selling Out Places Us In The Position For God To Use Us

Deep down, I know this is the place God wants to bring me. The full awareness of my poverty-stricken condition, that I have nothing. Naked I came into this world and naked I depart.

And when I sell out, I can hear him saying, “I have you right where I want you. Now I can use you.”

Shovel my neighbors’ driveway after a big snowstorm? Okay, I’ll shovel. I’m not above that.

Make time to listen to my irritating co-worker whose life is falling apart? Yeah, I’ll do that.

Risk being transparent about my allegiance to him. I can do that.

Years ago, people used a different word for selling out: consecration. It means devoting something solely to God.

When the great 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody was a young man, his mentor challenged him, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him.”

D.L. Moody’s response: “By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Jesus Christ does not claim any of our possessions. One of the most subtle errors is that God wants our possessions. He does not; they are not of any use to Him. He does not want my property, He wants myself.”

What would your life look like if you sold out to Jesus?

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. For him, selling out means taking more risks to share his faith, and working less while trusting God more with his finances.


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Why You May Not Want To Be Rich

One of the perks of writing a blog is that you can go behind the scenes to monitor the viewing habits of your readers. Every day, I can monitor how many hits our blog receives and what websites pointed them in our direction. I can also see the phrases that brought people to the A Daily Bible Conversation.

One search engine phrase has recently introduced people to our blog: “Psalms to win the lottery.” Apparently, people are opening their Bibles to the Psalms in the attempt to strike it rich. Somehow, our July 17 blog post entitled “How To Win The Lottery Without Doing Anything” found its way into at least one search engine.

Right now the Mega Millions lottery drawing set for tomorrow night in my state is US$123 million. Sometimes while I’m driving and I pass a billboard advertising the lottery, I wonder to myself, What would I do with $123 million? I could:

  • Retire and travel the world
  • Buy a minor league baseball team
  • Pay off all my debt
  • Take my family on a vacation to Fiji
  • Start a philanthropic organization that gives generously to various charities
  • Form a church planting organization that plants churches around the world

Surely the people using the Psalms to determine their lotto numbers are dreaming of something along these lines. But really, I’m not sure I want to be rich.

Please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation to discover why.


Beginning January 1, the format of A Daily Bible Conversation is changing. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you’re invited to join us for a cup of coffee and conversation at The Neighborhood Café: A Faithblog Community. The focus will be to explore, in creative ways, the intersection between faith and life. Although every post will be a little different, they will all be undergirded by Scripture. Eugene and I are also excited to introduce to you a new contributor: Jadell Foreman. Jadell has extensive experience as a writer and sincere follower of Jesus. I’m sure you will receive her as warmly as you have received Eugene and me.

If you receive this as an email and you choose to opt out of this continuation of A Daily Bible Conversation, be sure to click unsubscribe at the bottom of your email before the end of the year.


Nahum 1:1-3:19
Revelation 8:1-13
Psalm 136:1-26
Proverbs 30:7-9


Nahum 1:1-3:19. Nahum is one of the more obscure books of the Bible. Little is known about the prophet, except that he comes from the town of Elkosh. Based on his prophecies concerning the fall of Thebes and the fall of Nineveh, scholars speculate that this specific prophecy occurred sometime between 663 and 612 B.C. This would make him a contemporary of King Josiah, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah. Apparently the people of Ninevah forgot Jonah’s message from 100 years before.

Revelation 8:1-13. The prayers of the saints ascend to God along with incense. What a great description of prayer!

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John and Sharna Coors are an amazing couple. The great-grandson of brewing magnate Adolph Coors whose brewery eventually became Molson Coors Brewing Company, John now serves as President and Chairman of CoorsTek. Years ago, his company invented the aluminum can. With seemingly limitless richness at their disposal, the Coors family has made an indelible imprint on my home state of Colorado. But few people have been able to navigate their wealth as well as them.

Rather than hoard the family riches, John and Sharna chose to channel their resources toward numerous worthy causes. Of their 10 children, 6 have been adopted from countries around the world. When the family gathers together, they look like an assembly of the United Nations. About ten years ago, the couple founded Community Uplift Ministries, which helps developing countries meet the physical, social, economic—and most importantly—spiritual needs of the poor. John once told me that his dream is to bring electricity to 100 million people in Africa. You read that right: 100 million people.

In my experience few people handle their wealth so well.

Stories of lottery winners are littered with bankruptcies, divorce, and drug abuse. Bernie Madoff swindled $65 billion through an elaborate Ponzi Scheme. Six days ago, his 48 year old son Mark Madoff committed suicide on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest.

While enjoying limitless amounts of wealth sounds good, I’m not sure I could handle it. Agur, who contributed to the book of Proverbs, wrote:

Two things I ask of you, O Lord;

do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

give me neither poverty nor riches,

but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you

and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal,

and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:7–9 (NIV)

The danger of poverty is that it may cause us to become overly fixated on making more money. Of course, that can also be a common pitfall for the wealthy. For this reason, Agur prays that he would be neither rich nor poor. “Give me only my daily bread,” he writes.

Interestingly enough, Jesus quoted Agur when he gave us what we call The Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day, our daily bread.” Of course, both Agur and Jesus were likely referring to the 40 years the children wandered in the wilderness, relying on God to give them their daily manna.

While important to function in our society, it seems to me that God doesn’t want us overly concerned with making money. If gaining wealth comes easily, fine, but being wealthy and “financially independent” isn’t the most important pursuit. I think people want to get rich to enjoy certain luxuries, but deeper than that, I think people don’t want to rely on anyone or anything. They don’t want to live at the whims of their employers and they don’t want to feel anxious whenever the economy goes south.

I think the greatest danger of wealth is that it removes the necessity of living by faith. Agur asked God to not make him wealthy or he might be tempted to say, “Who is the Lord?” Regardless of our circumstances, God wants to be a part of our lives. He wants us to look to him for our provision, just like the children of Israel in the wilderness who relied on him to provide their daily manna.

Of course, if God decided to pour an abundance of riches into my life, I wouldn’t refuse it. But I think it would scare me a little, because of what it might do to me.

God, make my prayer like Agur’s!


What spoke to you in today’s reading?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado


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What Paul and Jesus Would Say To Friedrich Nietzsche, Superman and Every Self-Made Person

In the late 18th century the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that the time had come for man to evolve into Superman, the self-determined individual who wills, who trusts only in himself, who needs no one else. A man who creates his own good and evil.

Nietzsche’s goal? To become better, stronger, faster, smarter, more self-sufficient. To extract all the enjoyment we can from this life and rely on no one.

In Nietzsche’s opinion, Jesus was too meek and too weak. How could we worship a man who died on a cross?

But what would Paul and Jesus say to Nietzsche?

Please join us as we engage in our daily Bible conversation.


Isaiah 3:1-5:30
2 Corinthians 11:1-15
Psalm 53:1-6
Proverbs 22:28-29


Isaiah 3:1-5:30. Yesterday we began reading through the prophets. Some people really identify with them, but for most of my life, I haven’t. However, I’ve learned that when I read them as if they were written for my generation, they begin speaking to my heart. The key is to realize that the idols of old still exist, but with new names and practices. We’ll help you identify this along the way. I’ve also noticed that I pick up momentum as my brain begins to adjust and understand the figurative language.

For those of you who already enjoy the prophets: never mind!

Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the “prince of the prophets” because Israel considered him their greatest prophet. A contemporary of Amos, Hosea, and Micah, his name means “the Lord Saves.” He began his ministry in 740 B.C., about 20 years before the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel.

So what are we to understand about today’s reading? Through Isaiah, God promised destruction for Jerusalem and Judah. He is confronting them for their self-absorbed lifestyles. They care more about living extravagantly for themselves than God. Ouch! So, he promises to bring it to an end.

Yet, in the middle of impending judgment, we’re given a ray of hope: a promise of restoration and forgiveness. The judgment promised isn’t punitive, but restorative. God loves us so much that he allows us to suffer the consequences of our sin, but he also sends a deliverer (the Branch of the Lord in Isaiah 4:2).

The theme of chapter 5 is striking. God will judge his beloved vineyard (a word picture for Judah) because their actions have failed to reflect their holy God.

The hell and brimstone preaching about God in the past has dulled our senses to the fact that God is indeed holy.

Psalm 53:1-6. This psalm seems to echo the message of Isaiah. “Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (verse 3).

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Don’t you hate cleaning up someone else’s mess? While getting the church of Ephesus off the ground, Paul was forced into some emergency clean-up work. Unfortunately, his only recourse was to write an epistle—which we know as 2 Corinthians.

After departing from the church of Corinth, some men showed up promising to continue where Paul left off. Instead, they undermined Paul’s integrity and message. Most disturbing of all, the Corinthians believed these false teachers.

Paul defended his credibility because he didn’t want the Corinthians to stray from his message. Then he writes this…

But I am afraid that…your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.  2 Corinthians 11:3-4

Paul lamented that the false teachers had proclaimed a different Jesus, a different gospel, and a different spirit.

So what was this message the false teachers proclaimed?

Reading between the lines, it appears that the false teachers criticized Paul for presenting Jesus as nice, tame, weak, and permissive. “We don’t need to carry the cross,” they claimed. “Live for yourself and follow your passions and compulsions.”

D. A. Carson comments that “Paul’s opponents prized highly evidences of power and authority, so it may be that they had induced the Corinthians to accept a Jesus, a spirit and a gospel in which there was no place for weakness, humiliation, suffering and death.”

Sounds like (post)modern times!!

And Nietzsche’s view of Jesus.

Here’s what I think Jesus and Paul would say in response to Nietzsche and the false teachers:

Your view of freedom and strength are completely backwards. Contrary to popular belief, living without restraints doesn’t bring freedom, it brings bondage. The “anything goes” philosophy only leads to destruction. “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it, but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

The gospel of Jesus is anything but weak. Anyone can follow their basest human inclinations and compulsions. Only the strong willingly carry the cross of Christ. And only the strongest willingly die on the cross for someone else. Jesus’ power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Although Friedrich Nietzsche aspired to become Superman, he couldn’t live up to his own beliefs. As he grew older,  he became increasingly irrational and ended up in an insane asylum. He spent the last twelve years of his life being cared for by his mother—a woman who loved Jesus.

Despite his attempts at being self-sufficient and self-determined, he became dependent, unable to make decisions on his own, and powerless.

On the other hand, weakness and reliance result in power and strength.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What would you say to Nietzsche?
  3. In what ways do you willingly or unwillingly follow Nietzsche’s philosophy?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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Your One And Only

Greek mythology tells us about a young man named Narcissus. Shortly after his birth, his mother realized her young son was exceptionally beautiful and was advised by a prophet that Narcissus would live to a ripe old age “if he never realized how beautiful he was.”

Throughout his life, his mother kept Narcissus from seeing himself in the mirror. By the time he reached 15 years of age, every girl in town was in love with him—but all the attention resulted in a very cruel, self-absorbed boy.

One day while hunting in the woods, he approached a pool of water. Thirsty from his long, hot day in the woods, he bent over to get a drink. And as he leaned over, he saw his reflection.

Immediately, he became transfixed with his beauty. What stared back at him from the water was so mesmerizing, so magnificent, that he couldn’t pull himself away.

So enamored he became with himself that he couldn’t eat or drink and he eventually died of thirst and starvation. Because of his utter and complete self-absorption, Greek mythology tells us his soul was sent to the “darkest hell.”

And where he died, the narcissus flower grew—to serve as a reminder of the boy who fell in love with himself. Greek mythology tells us that Narcissus still keeps gazing on his image in the waters of the river Styx.

Following Narcissus’ example, many of us struggle becoming self-absorbed. You could say we’ve made idols of ourselves…which is the subject of today’s daily conversation.


Deuteronomy 4:1-49
Luke 6:39-7:10
Psalm 68:1-18
Proverbs 11:28


Deuteronomy 4. The book of Deuteronomy entails the covenant God established with his people. In the first three chapters, God established the basis of their relationship. Chapter 4 consists of the prologue. In verse 1 we read, “Follow [God’s commands] so that you may live.” God doesn’t grant us salvation because we follow his ways, but following his ways do bring us life.

God sought to perpetuate the faith for generations to come. In verse 10 God tells his people, “Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” The primary location where our faith is perpetuated is not in church but at home. This brings a degree of responsibility on every parent (me included!). This keeps parents honest, because our children can compare what we say with what we do.

Verses 44-49 comprise the introduction to the covenant God entered into with Israel.

Luke 6:46-49. What’s the rock in Jesus’ parable? Many people refer to this parable and say Jesus is the rock—and while he is our rock, he isn’t talking about himself in this parable. The rock is obedience to his word. Jesus said the one who “hears my words and puts them into practice…is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock.” Obedience isn’t sexy. It rarely serves as the point of movies that break the box office. We gravitate to stories about the “rebel without a cause.” But in God’s economy, obedience is important. Doing what we know is right.

Psalm 68. Notice the object of God’s concern in this psalm: the fatherless, the widow, the poor. If you count yourself as one of these, be encouraged because God has special concern for you. If you don’t, pay attention to these people. If you’re interested in joining God in his work, then help them, too.

Proverbs 11:28. “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” Following the theme of our study in Deuteronomy, trusting in riches is a form of idolatry. Sometimes I dream about what it would be like to win the Lotto and never have another care in the world. But that wouldn’t be the case because rich people have struggles, too. Most importantly, I think I would struggle with trusting in my riches rather than God. Maybe God knows it’s best for me not to be rich.

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The single most important aspect of the Jewish faith that set Israel apart from the other nations was that it allowed no image to be made of God. God didn’t want us worshiping his creation…he wanted us worshiping him. Unfortunately, we still struggle with this temptation today. We look to creation—relationships, activity, stuff, ourselves—to fill the hole in our heart. Looking to anything or anyone but God for our identity and fulfillment is idolatry.

Worshipping a God who we cannot see requires faith. Hebrews 11:1,6 tell us “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.” All too often, we place our faith in something or someone we can see, knowing full well that the object of our faith will do little or nothing to fill the hole or meet our need. But it’s easier to place our faith in what we can see over what we cannot see.

My point is this: God wants to be the only one in whom we seek purpose, provision, fulfillment…everything. He doesn’t want to be the best version among a pantheon of gods. He wants to be our one and only.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What or who is your idol of choice? Why does it appeal to you? How can you live in such a way that he is your “one and only”?
  3. Why do the stories in our society gravitate toward rebels?
  4. What do today’s readings tell you about God?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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