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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Just for Sidekicks”

Spike normally prides himself on being a great assistant and helpful asset to the Mane Six, but it’s pretty clear in this episode that he wasn’t volunteering himself to handle six rowdy pets at once purely out of the milk of human…er, dragon kindness. It was all about the gems he was going to get as payment, which he started thinking about using even before the pet managing had begun. As you noticed if you watched the episode, his greed soon led him into a situation beyond his control and ended up costing him all but one of the gems.

It shows something obvious about human nature…namely that if personal gain or “self interest” is on the line, we’re willing to do a lot more than we would normally. If someone asked me to paint their entire house over a weekend, I’d probably definitely say no and, in the best scenario, renegotiate for over a few weekends. If they offered me $5,000 for it, I’d probably be up for it because now I was getting quite a bit of money. There was a situation in the 1800s in which ship companies that were used in England to transport prisoners to Australia (then a penal colony) had horrible living and sanitation conditions for the prisoners, leading to numerous deaths. Political action, laws, charities, and even religious authorities stepping in didn’t do anything to improve the situation. Finally, someone got an idea: from now on the companies would no longer be paid by how many inmates went on to the boats, but rather on how many stepped off alive at the destination. Needless to say, living and sanitation conditions almost instantly improved. Once someone’s pocketbook was on the line, it resulted in action pretty quickly. Cases like this have led to the paradox situation in which pursuing one’s own self interest can ironically lead to the benefit of society, i.e. the slogan “greed is good”.

1 Timothy 6:10 is one of the most misquoted lines of the entire Bible. Most people think it reads “For money is the root of all evil.”, but the actual quote is “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” Money is fairly widespread in the Bible among both good and evil individuals alike, whether it be in the form of herds of cattle and sheep or the more silver and gold variety. Largely throughout the Old Testament, before there was hope for salvation, the way you were “blessed” by God was through material prosperity. People who were rich were often thought to be favored by the Lord. Yet even in the New Testament, which emphasizes swearing off possessions and greedy/illicit gain, money isn’t totally disparaged. Jesus still paid taxes. Paul refused to accept any contributions from the church communities while he was evangelizing until he was put in prison, always working to pay for his own way as well as preaching. In fact, Paul was staunchly against those who neglected to work for their own means and live off of church community charity. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, he tells the community: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Some people may believe in totally relying on God for support and sustenance, and doing so is having absolute trust and faith in him to provide for you. While it’s true that it’s important to believe that God will provide all things, God was kind enough to bless me with an able body, working hands and legs, and, most of all, the dignity to be able to provide for myself without needing anyone’s assistance. If nothing else, making your own living means you never have to inconvenience anyone else but, rather, you can provide for others and the Christian community; which I think would be something we’d all like.

But beyond that, the Bible gives clear warning. The Old Testament contains numerous cautionary lines against accepting bribes, with the biggest example being how Balaam in the Book of Numbers was tempted by the offers of Balak of Moab to curse the Israelites in exchange for wealth, and in spite of having the gift of prophesy from God had the gift taken away from him and was later killed for his greed. In the New Testament, Jesus clearly said in Matthew 6:24 (as well as in a similar verse in Luke 16:13) “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Acts 5:1-11 relates what happened in the early Christian community with two individuals named Ananias and Sapphira who sold a piece of property to give the proceeds to the Church, but kept some for themselves. While it happens more often in the Old Testament, that’s the only part in the New Testament I can find in which God strikes down two people dead. In a portion of the Bible filled with antagonists and persecutors of the early Church and Word of God, the only two individuals that God himself deals with are members of the Christian community who were greedy.

In all examples, the inherent danger for pursuing material gain is clear: eventually wealth itself supplanting God and becoming more favored than building up the Kingdom. We can all agree that while money may have its uses, acquiring it just to simply make ourselves rich or well off does only that…makes ourselves rich and well off and no good for anyone else.

Even more so than that, there’s something disconcerting about knowing that there are some things I would never do normally, but if I was paid enough money for it I would. Essentially, that shows that I myself can be “bought”. And even if self-interest is the way of the world, as Christians we are called to be more than that. The good we do and the generosity has to come from genuine desire and the call of God, lest we become like Balaam ourselves.

With the exception of our jobs (naturally), from time to time if we find ourselves engaged in something for someone else, it might be wise to pause and think about what we’re getting in return, if anything, and if we’d still be doing it if we weren’t getting anything back.

And when it comes to assessing whether or not we’re growing too reliant on “mammon” and not on God, I find the best test is to find what I consider my most prized possession, something I spend the most amount of time on…and then ask myself if I can give it away for nothing in a donation box, Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc. If I can, then great; I can say that I “own” that. Conversely, if I can’t, then that thing owns me.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, Lord Jesus warned ‘Do not store up treasures here on Earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal’ (Matthew 6:19). Help us to abide by this Word when worldly anxieties and material success come around. Help us to use our wealth for your Glory first and foremost. And let all of our action always be done with a pure motive out of a clean heart, and never to either gain a benefit or avoid a detriment. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”