The Reader’s Digest, some years ago, told the story of a Jewish rabbi who was counseling a man about the role of money in his life. First, he took the man to his office window and asked him to look out and report what he saw. The man reported that he saw streets filled with people, all sorts of people – young, old, rich, poor, black, white, tall, short. Most of them seemed in a hurry. Some of them looked worried and lonely and frightened.
Then the rabbi took the man to a mirror and asked him what he now saw. “Nothing but myself, Sir,” the man replied. The rabbi then explained that the window and the mirror were made of the same kind of glass. The only difference between them was a little bit of silver that makes the mirror. That is the danger of money. A little bit of silver can blind a person to the larger issues of life, and lock us into a little world of mirrors where we can see nothing but ourselves.
Money, in and of itself, is neither good nor evil. It all depends on what we do with it and what we allow it to do to us. In the gospels, Jesus reminds us that we should get a new way of looking at money. We should see it as a servant, not as a master; as a means, never as an end in itself.
The reminder of Jesus might sound strange to us. It certainly would sound strange to our modern culture, which places such a premium on riches, pleasure and public acceptance. But we need to be careful to understand what Jesus is really saying. Jesus, of course, is not setting up a moral system in which money, fun and friends are always vices; and poverty, sorrow and persecution are always virtues. That would not make any sense, and we all know it. It is possible to be poor because we are lazy and would rather not go to work. Jesus was not suggesting that kind of a sick society. He was simply looking at life differently and encouraging His disciples – like us – to do the same.
Life always consists of two elements: first, the objective facts; second, our way of looking at and interpreting them. Poverty and riches, laughter and tears, acceptance and rejection are facts of life. We all experience them in our life. Christian discipleship will not necessarily change these facts; but it can and should change our way of looking at them.
So, it is important to understand that our Christianity can be compared to buying a new pair of eyeglasses. They’re not rose colored; they don’t make everything look sweet and nice. They’re realistic glasses. They bring life and all its issues into sharper focus and give us a new way of looking at things like money, and fun, and popularity. With the right focus, life can be lived to the fullest.