Peter, Cornelius and money

My mind was going ten to the dozen during the bible study. I saw something in the passage that I don’t think anyone else saw. We were looking at the story of Cornelius and Peter in Acts chapters 10 and 11.

In some ways it was reassuring but more of that later. Lets go over the main points of the story.

Main characters

Cornelius was someone who was God-fearing i.e. someone who saw the benefits of developing a good relationship with God. God decided that he was someone he wanted to draw into the fellowship of the church and sent an angel with instructions on how to find someone who could help him join the church.

Peter was a church leader who was trying to do his best to stay in step with what God wanted. He knew that there were some things that were not God’s best. One of those things was not to associate himself with things that were unclean. The idea was that if he stayed away from things that were unclean then he would not get dirty. God had a message for him as well. In his case it was that he would not come to harm by being in contact with some unclean things.

God the matchmaker

Both these men had something the other needed. Despite this God had to work on both of them to bring them together because in the normal course of events both of them would have stayed far apart from each other.

Cornelius needed to be assured that those who were causing a stir in the Jewish community were doing this because of God rather than just being mischief makers. After all some of the leaders of the Jewish community were trying to kill these people and so extinguish this movement.

Peter needed to be assured that there were some people who despite being outside the Jewish community had a good relationship with God. A relationship that God himself wanted to take further. It was as if some people had done the basic course but others had not. From Peter’s perspective only those who had done the basic course could go on and do the advanced course. God had to show Peter that although he held those opinions from the best of motives that they were not in line with what He, that is God, really wanted.

How does this apply to Christians and money?

Something that is common in the church is the attitude that money is something that is unclean. So someone might have a profitable business but then apologise for their connection to “filthy lucre”. Others have been told that making money is so wrong that they would not even try to do anything that would increase their income.

Many have had the idea that not having enough money is actually a good thing. They can actually become uncomfortable when they have enough money. In fact if they think they are at risk of being comfortable they will do something, like pay extra on a bill or give more away so that they cannot become comfortable.

Why did I find this story reassuring?

I could easily put myself in Peter’s shoes. Someone who had been trying to learn more what God wanted them to do and found themselves out of step. Someone who saw things in a different way to many others.

The number of times I have been saddened by the way other people see things is amazing. It is as if they have taken the negative teachings about money to heart and not realised that they were a response to things that they are not even doing. Do that and your attitude is certain to become unbalanced.

Yet this passage reminds us that God is willing to do some quite amazing things to make sure that his children get the right message. He will get us to the place where we can hear what He wants us to hear. The sticking point is do we want to hear what God wants to say. Many of those around Peter and thought they knew what God wanted and stuck with that even when God tried to show them otherwise.

May we be like Peter and Cornelius i.e. open and willing to listen and respond to what God wants, even if it challenges what we have been taught previously.

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