Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The "White Elephant" of God's People

I recently read that in ancient days when the King of Siam had an enemy he wanted to torment and
slowly destroy, he would send that enemy an elaborate gift. While this may seem strange to send your enemy a gift, the King of Siam would send his enemy the gift of a rare, white, albino elephant. These animals were considered to be so rare that they were sacred and of great value. Therefore, in the culture of that day the recipient of the white elephant had not choice but to intentionally care for the animal. An elephant would and did live for many years and would require a great amount of energy, time, resources, emotions, and money from the enemy. Over time the enemy of the King of Siam would become burdened in every area of his life because of this rare gift. On the surface the white elephant was valuable, but underneath it was nothing more than a mechanism of torture, frustration, and robbery to the life of the recipient.

I found that to be very interesting and, of course, the source of the term "white elephant gift" often used at a Christmas party. I have started to think that our enemy, Satan, has given many believers and churches the gift of a white elephant. No...it isn't a real elephant, but one much more powerful and destructive. The white elephant of our churches is prosperity. The white elephant of the life of an American believer is prosperity.

Compared to the rest of the world's standards of living, American believers are by far among the richest of all. Our focus on consumption and achieving the "American Dream" is consuming the hearts, minds, families, and priorities of God's people. We are a people who work longer and longer so that we might acquire more and more. We have convinced ourselves that with more "stuff" we will receive the benefit of more happiness. However, our possessions which come from our white elephant of prosperity actually consume our free time, our money, our focus, our priorities, and use up our energy and skills just to maintain them.

As a pastor I know this to be true firsthand, even at a church as great as First Marion! It seems we have fewer and fewer volunteers who will give their time because they are too busy caring for the white elephant. We have less and less who will give anything, much less a tithe, because so much of their money is going to the white elephant. We have people with so many skills, talents, and abilities that we could make a huge difference in our community and world, but we are not making a great difference because the white elephant demands too much of our skills, talents, and abilities. In short, Satan is defeating God's people in small daily battles, keeping them so distracted by his gift of the the white elephant, that we are a people who have very little time, effort, energy, money, or even emotion left to offer to the Lord who saved us!

The answer is quite simple: It is time to starve the white elephant. Take away the money you are misplacing in things that have no eternal significance and begin to give to God through your church in a generous way. Starve it of your time and give more time to God, your church, your family, and doing things that matter. Starve it of your abilities, talents, and skills as you offer them first to God and then to your family. It is time to let the white elephant BE destroyed instead of being the source OF destruction in our lives! You can do it! Start today!