Old Choctaw On Mansions

December 17, 2016


I have been rereading John Wesley’s journal and have come across many things that did not catch my eye on the first read.  There is an interesting dialogue with an old Choctaw man named Chicali.

Wesley asked him what he was made for and he replied,

"He that is above knows what He made us for. We know nothing. We are in the dark. But white men know much. And yet white men
   build great houses, as if they were to live forever. But white men
   cannot live forever.  In a little time, white men will be dust as well
   as I."

Chicali may not have known much of the life hereafter, but he did understand this life and the folly that most of us in the 1st World participate in.  Indeed, we believe that ultimately everything will be destroyed with fire.  So why spend most of our lives paying on a bigger building for the bonfire?  Think small and have a smaller mortgage payment, less taxes and more money and time for things your family really needs, like your presence.

1Timothy 6:
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

Note that shelter is not even mentioned.  I am not suggesting that we should move into tents or caves, but do you really need that ____ square foot house or could you do with far smaller?  Must you adorn it with costly ornaments that will go to the trash or a resale shop when your heirs take over and see no value in what you have since it is not compatible to their tastes?  Go to an estate sale sometime and see how cheaply many things are sold just to get rid of them.  Keep it simple and easier on your heirs by living simply and put the money in the bank or better yet invest it in missions or charity.  Those rewards are eternal and do not lose their value while escaping the tax men on all levels.

The same could be said for those who build church buildings that are like a Taj Mahal.  We are in the New Testament and we are the temple of God.  Even if He were still requiring a temple for the nation there would be only one, not thousands or hundreds of thousands.  Might not the tithe be better spent on the mission, the message and the masses instead of mansions that often become mausoleums?  They will not be here forever either and are just fancy bonfire material.  As much as Aggies love bonfires, they would never use such costly materials.

The ones who suffered most during the Great Depression were the ones with so much to lose.   They were the ones jumping out of windows because they did not know how they would live without their great wealth and stuff.  The poor folks did suffer, but they were already poor and knew how to make do with less.  They were usually more closely knit as a family and community.  They would help each other and were very creative.  One man who grew up on a farm at the time said that he did not even realize he was poor because very little changed after the Depression for him.  It was the folks in town that lost their jobs, homes and cars that had it worse.  They had to find kinfolk to take them in and move to big cities to find a job even though they hated city life.

There are many rumors about a huge economic crash coming.  If that is true, it will be the folks with the larger incomes, houses and such that will feel the impact emotionally and mentally more than folks who are already poor or even homeless.  The poor will adapt and survive as they have been doing for centuries.  I am afraid many teenagers and others will have great difficulty surviving without cable and the Net let alone a cutback on other items.   Because people are so far in debt, they will lose homes and cars.  This will blacken their credit report and make it hard to regroup even after an economic recovery.

If a wise man sees the evil and avoids it, it would make sense to start downsizing now.  Even if it doesn’t happen, getting out of debt will save you from stress that can cause all sorts of physical issues as well as maybe saving your marriage and your relationship with your kids.   The Word says that debtor is a slave to he lender.   Being free from slavery would do wonders for many Americans.   Indeed, going back to our ancestor’s philosophy of paying cash for things would go a long way in making us prosperous.

Do we need to become like the Amish and forsake all modern conveniences?  If you can do that, roll with it.  They have much more money than “Englishmen” because they do not have to pay for electricity, cable, phone, Internet, car payments, insurance and routine maintenance and so on.  There are no contractor fees as everyone helps everyone else build barns.  As much as their lifestyle appeals to me, I am not sure I could downsize that much at my age.  If the collapse comes, I may get to try that whether I like it or not.

We may not have to be that austere, but most of us could do with less and would be happier.   I have heard many people talk about the days when they were not as prosperous as now saying they were happy back then.  Speaking of prosperity, if you owe everything to the lenders they are prosperous, not you, and can take it all away from you in a heartbeat.  One co-worker always said, “Live modern! Go in debt!”  Well, modern ways are not always true progress and as in that phrase’s philosophy, unbiblical.  When God prospers His people they are the lender, not the borrower.  Indeed, look at the US.  When we were more godly, we were the lending nation and now we are the borrower and all of our prosperity is really a facade.   Christians are called to be givers and we cannot do as much when we are up to our necks in debt.

As goes the family, so goes the churches sinc families in debt cannot help churches that are crazy in debt and are so large or so small that a great deal of the giving goes into the building.   The other process that is being pursued today is to remove tax exemption from churches as a secular nations sees them as useless.  They want to expand their tax bases and since churches are not seen as contributing any real services to the community they should be taxed.  In one city, there was a move to tax closets and such areas that were not directly involved in ministry.  If the church had say a hundred square feet in such areas they would be taxed on that hundred square feet and I suspect they would using the higher corporate tax versus the residential rate.  That was stopped, but you see how creative folks are becoming and pushing towards a goal.  Indeed, as many issues are being made “hateful”, it would not take too long to have a church listed as a hate group and all exemptions taken away.

In essence, removing the tax exemption would be the way to close nearly every church in America as few would be able to handle the tax burden.  Find out your church’s appraisal worth and then figure out the tax it would be charged.  Then look at your budget.  Could you handle it if local, state and federal taxes were assessed?  What would you have to cut to survive, if you could cut enough?   Would missions go?  Most of the staff gone?  Pastor’s salary cut in half?  Would the building start to deteriorate because you could not keep up with repairs?  Would people give less since they could not declare it on their taxes?  Most, if not all, would have to fold.  Indeed, they may lose the buildings to taxes.  It might be wise to make all future church plants using portable buildings as that would lower the taxes just as sheds on skids are charged less than ones on a concrete foundation.

The upside of this would be that many churches would have to merge and spend less on stuff that is not important in the Kingdom. They may make new friends or learn to sit on the same pew as other people going to the same Heaven. How novel is that?  They may learn to like different genres of music. The young may have to sit with the elder and the suit person with the blue jeans and cowboy hat person.  You can sit next to an inked person without fear of it rubbing off on you and you may find they are an awesome brother or sister in Christ.  Your wife and daughter have pierced ears so why shy away from someone who has a pierced eyebrow or navel?  It is the same process as your lady’s ears. The only difference is location.  Man, with all those possibilities maybe we should pray for the exemption to be removed.  It could bring revival.

We will all be dust, if Jesus tarries.  We may leave our money to people who will squander it and throw away our stuff, so let’s make it easier for them and downsize.  Sell what you can and give away the stuff you have not used in years.  You may then have room for the stuff in your house that you are paying to have stored.  Really, in a year or so, much of what you have stored already has no profit value. The rent ate that up and it is worth less each month after that.  If you have not checked on it for awhile, you may find rust, mold and moth have had a field day with it.  The money you gain can get you out of debt so that when you see a need locally, you can give to it without a care.  It then becomes an investment with eternal returns.

To those churches that are already struggling to keep the doors open, don’t.  As good stewards, find another church that is not struggling and merge.  Sell the property and give it to missions or the poor.  Why wait and have to deal with all the trouble when you are down to the pastor and one family trying to dispose of it or take the risk of losing it to taxes or eminent domain depending on where it is located.  Memories are nice and warm, but there comes a time to realize that the ride is over.  For whatever reason, you are not growing and will not.  God is concerned about people, not buildings.  Maybe that building once held hundreds, but it is over.  Your talents may be needed elsewhere in the Body outside of that building.  Don’t wait for the hearse to get you to leave or the building to fall down.  There is most likely a church of like faith in a very close proximity to you.  If not, still leave the building behind and all its worries and meet in someone’s home.   God blesses unity so a merger is the best move.

To those churches are not yet struggling, it would be wise to assess a worst case scenario and have a plan to survive.  When planning your budget, be sure that most of it is going to the furtherance of the Gospel, not the comfort of the flock or the aspirations of the leadership for bigger and better.  Members, keep your leadership accountable for wise spending.  Do not be like the congregation who heard the pastor say how he was lead to build a 1.8 million dollar facility and then when finances got tight, he was called to another church out of state.  Be sure it is God’s vision for your church and not man’s.

Seek God to provide the funds for a project and not go into debt.  That is how God works. If He wants it, he provides for it.  That is why Wesley once said, “If the poor build the church, God builds it. If the rich build the church, man builds it.”  That has been true in many cases, but God does use the rich to do His floor plan, not man’s.  It is not inconceivable since banks sell loans that a loan could be bought by an adversary that demands instant payment or foreclosure.  Then it is time for a miracle or you are out the door.  We need to be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves.

The Church has had it fairly easy in the last two hundred years and I fear that has led us as members and churches into follies that our brethren in other countries have not had the luxury to do.  We will one day experience more persecution than we have in the last couple of decades.  We may have a reprieve with the new administration, but not amnesty forever.  Prepare now and it will be easier.  Be lax like we have been since the 60’s and it will be very rough.  The Native American lived simply because their focus was on needs.  We need far less in our lives and churches, but we focus on wants thus losing sight of the mission. We act like Jesus will never come or that we are a business that keeps changing their labels and slightly modifying the contents to keep customers or increase price.  Jesus actually turned more away than He drew because He dealt with truth and not just miracle feedings that satisfied the crowd’s bellies, but did not save their soul.

There are many questions that could be asked by, “If we are the Body…?”  Some would be in the arena of why we do things and others why are we not doing things.   It depends on if you know what you are made for and who made you.  That will determine what you will do with your mortality and its temporal assets.   Maranatha!!!

The Journal Of John Wesley

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