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What Christians Should Know (#WCSK): What God says about money
Start with stewardship
The best place to start when talking about the Bible and money is to explain the concept of stewardship. Why? Because stewardship is God’s prescription for how we use resources in general, and how we use money is a specific application of this principle. So what is steward and what does he or she do?
Start with stewardship (cont'd)
So, a steward acquires their title because of someone else, and a steward does not own the resources they manage. The principle of stewardship is well-rooted into the plan for humanity as described in the Bible. In the story of humanity’s beginning (in the Garden of Eden), God gave Adam and Eve the responsibility of managing and looking after what He had provided: a place to live and abundant resources (e.g., free food). So in Genesis 2:15-17, the Bible describes the responsibilities of being a steward of the Garden:
Stewardship: practical implications
The roots of the words for cultivate and keep respectively mean “to serve or to worship” and “to protect, preserve, and to be a watchman.” So when God created the Garden of Eden, did He really need Adam and Eve to perform routine upkeep? He did not, but He made them stewards regardless. How this applies to our lives today is very simple: God has placed all of us as stewards of “gardens” or places that need service and protection like families, churches, and jobs. So we must act keeping the end in mind and working to nurture an environment that bears good fruit. How we think and act as faithful stewards is a form of worship and to cultivate a garden that thrives requires intentional dedication to hedge against the thorns.
Biblical stewardship points away from the self and toward God. I Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
What a steward does
Stewards strive to honor God and their ultimate goal is not to win the praise of other people (Proverbs 16:3; Colossians 3:23). Because they are faithful in using their resources they are gifted with “true riches” (Luke 16:11). A steward is not self-centered (Titus 1:7-10), or power-hungry. They do not seek to exploit others (Luke 12:42-46). Basically, a steward takes a good hard look at all the things provided to them by God and then asks, “How can I bless the lives of others with this stuff?” (Proverbs 13:22; Acts 2:44-45).
What a steward does (cont'd)
A steward is content (I Timothy 6:7-8) and their lives are not consumed by endless want or comparison (Exodus 16:18; Proverbs 21:20). Certainty, this is an idea much easier said than done because dominant culture is based upon the pattern of competitive comparison and keeping score. Romans 12:2 (NIV) says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.”
Stewardship is the opposite of economic selfishness. This helps to clarify Christ’s words when He said, “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 wealth” (Matthew 6:24. See also Matthew 21:12 and John 2:15.)
What God says about money
Stewardship is the principle. Money is a resource. How we use and think about money is a specific method of living a Christian life based on the principle. At the end of the day, there are plenty of ways to get rich without God. If God is simply an intermediary to get to wealth, then once a person gets the money, there is no longer a need for Christ. So, what Christians should know is that the prosperity gospel is a fraud and Jesus Christ did not die to make anyone rich.
Where is the Biblical proof for these statements?
I Timothy 6:9-10 is the specific verse that dethrones the prosperity gospel. The text says:
“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Note that I Timothy 6:9-10 speaks to those who are in pursuit of riches, not to affluence itself. I Timothy 6:17-19 does speak to those who are already rich:
“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”
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What God says about being rich
What do these verses tell us? That there is nothing inherently wrong with being rich. That there is nothing incompatible with being wealthy and serving Christ. That people who are rich are actually in a better position to do more good works. So, the Bible teaches us that the rich are not a group to demonize but a group to encourage.
It is the love of money itself that is the source of “all sorts of evil” (see also Matthew 6:24). And of course, God never condones the misuse of others to secure monetary gain (Micah 2:1-2; James 5:1-6).
They key take-home point is that God isn’t concerned so much with if you have money. He is concerned with how you use it.
In fact, God has proven time and time again in the Bible that He is very much in favor of blessing people with riches: for example, consider the cases of wealthy people like Abraham (Genesis 13:2), Job (Job 1:1-3) and King Solomon (II Chronicles 9:20-22). God actually blessed Solomon more than any king in the history of existence (II Chronicles 1:11-12), and during his reign he acquired so much gold that silver lost value.
The “secret” to financial blessings
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells the parable of a master who goes away and entrusts his servants with different amounts of talents (money). When he returns, he rewards the servants who received the most because they made the most of their gift. In other words, the most faithful servants put their resources to work. The servant labeled “wicked and lazy” buried his money for “safekeeping” and did not put his money into action.
So what does this parable tell us? It explicitly tells us why God blesses people: because He knows they will leverage what He gives them to glorify and bring honor The Lord. This evidence is clear and plain for all to see, but is often neglected in ideologies that promote material gain as the crucial end result. If there ever was a “secret” to understanding God’s will in blessing you, it rests right here in Matthew 25.
Imagine God is a venture capitalist. He has many resources and isn’t necessarily stringy, but wants to invest in projects He knows will be profitable. So if He were to give you a big infusion of cash, but He had the keen sense that you will waste the money, what reason would He possibly have to give you anything?
Money is a multiplier. It augments what you’re already doing. It doesn’t create new virtue. So while money may solve short-term problems, a more pressing issue to consider in your situation is if money will augment any harmful tendencies and can cause long-term harm.
What God says about money: tithe
Stewardship is descriptive—it tells you how to use resources. The simplest way stewardship is measured is tithing. The tithe (Exodus 25:2; Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21, 26-28; Deuteronomy 14:22-26; Malachi 3:10) is defined as the giving of the first ten percent (Genesis 28:20-22; Leviticus 27:32; Hebrews 7:1-2) of gross earnings to God. In the New Testament, both in II Corinthians 8:1-15 and Matthew 12:41-44, the text describes people sacrificially giving more than ten percent.
Does God need your money? Of course not. God doesn’t have nor does He need a bank account. The gesture of tithing is both a sacrifice (Philippians 4:18) to God and a means of bringing glory to Him. And, since the reason we are alive and able to make money in the first place is because of God, we aren’t giving Him our first 10%. Instead, He allows us to graciously keep 90% of what is His.
Do you give the full tithe?
Why should I tithe?
Other than obedience, because God wants to bless you. Consider what Malachi 3:10 says:
“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of Heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.’”
Almost nowhere in the Bible does God say, “test Me,” but here He says just that. God is telling us that He seeks to bless us but that blessing requires obedience in the form of a tithe. Blessing without submission is not consistent with God’s words in Malachi.
What if I don’t tithe?
Tithing is an integral component of your spiritual health. So of course, if you don’t tithe, you will bear the consequences. In a similar way, eating properly will benefit your physical health. If you neglect your body and adopt unhealthy dietary habits, you will bear the burden of poor health. Not tithing (or not fully tithing) equates to robbing God (Malachi 3:8-9). Of course, if a person truly has nothing, it would be quite impossible to tithe. II Corinthians 8:12 it says, “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”
Haggai 1:3-6 speaks to the people who denied God the tithe and instead added their well-furnished houses. The text says:
“Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, ‘Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?’ Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.’”
Have you ever not fully tithed and felt as if you’re always playing catch-up with your finances? Have you ever felt as if you’re putting wages “into a purse with holes”? It is impossible to outmaneuver God and when it comes to money, a key lesson to be taken from Haggai is that if we always seek to receive and not give, then we will eventually reap what we sow.
What are your feelings about your money situation?
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© 2016 CH Elijah Sadaphal