Crossways Concepts

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Insights from the scripture as lead by the Holy Spirit

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Money Makes the World Go 'Round

Jesus did a lot of teaching about money.  Money was one of His most common topics for teaching.  I seems that money was a complex issue for God's people 2000 years ago and may even be more complicated today.

Money directly competes with God for our hearts, minds and souls.  When Jesus said, “No one can be a slave to two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot be slaves of God and of money” (Matthew 6:24), He spoke a truth that is all the more applicable today.  Many people that are slaves of money don't recognize it, but they are nevertheless enslaved.

The Bible never says that money is bad.  There is a verse frequently mis-quoted as, “money is the root of all evil”, but the verse really says that, “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10)  Money isn't bad.  In our world it is virtually impossible to live without it, but we must evaluate whether we are controlling it or it is controlling us.

There are several ways in which we should evaluate our relationship with money.

First, we should evaluate where we place our trust.  I was once involved in a discussion with a minister in an underground church in China.  He was describing some of the incredible things that were happening in his church.  The Americans I was with were excited to hear about how the Lord was working while being terrified by the threat that these people were living under.  They naturally wanted to help.  Looking back on the conversation is really convicting.  For the Americans, 'help' consisted of things that could be sent in an envelope or box.  The Chinese guy was asking for prayers, but the Americans wanted to 'really' help (which meant sending stuff and money).  The Chinese guy was placing his trust in what could make a real difference, while the Americans automatically assumed that making a difference meant money or the things money could buy.  When you consider God's work on earth, what do you consider as the most important resource: Him or money?  Can dollars compete with the Almighty God?  Of course not.  So where does our trust belong?

Next, we should look at what we cling to.  At various points in the new Testament, being rich is made to sound like something bad.  An example of this is found in Matthew 19:24 where Jesus says, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  While you might find reassurance in the feeling that you aren't rich, you might recognize that even the poorest Americans are in the top 10% wealthiest people in the world.  Obviously, looking at quantity of money to define 'rich' is very relative and elusive.  A better grasp on what it is to be 'rich' can be found in the following New Testament story.

    Just then someone came up and asked [Jesus], “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?”
    “Why do you ask Me about what is good?”  He said to him. “There is only One who is good.  If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
    “Which ones?” he asked Him.
    Jesus answered, “Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness;honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
    “I have kept all these,” the young man told Him. “What do I still lack?”
    “If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow Me.”
    When the young man heard that commandment, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.  (Matthew 19:16:22)

For this young man, he wanted to seek and know God, but not at the expense of his wealth.  This seems to constitute a Biblical definition for what it is to be 'rich.'  Do you want God more than you want money and the things that money can buy?  What is the value of citizenship in the eternal Kingdom of God? (See Matthew 13:44-45)

The next important question that we need to consider to examine our relationship with money is related to the ownership of it.  While it is easy to talk about “my money” or “my stuff” it is harder to live the idea that everything we have is there because God gave us an opportunity to use it.  While it would seem that when we go to work and we get a paycheck, then that money is ours; the truth is, if we truly surrender all of our lives to God, that includes money and possessions.  He gives us the capacity to earn money in the world that He has created.  What He gives, He can take away.  We do best with our money when we regard it as we do our life: that it is something He provided for us to use with the goal of bringing Him glory.  If a banker takes other people's money and spends it for his pleasure, he will get in big trouble.  Can we avoid trouble if we spend God's money to satisfy our selfish itches?

The next important question to understand how we relate to money is to look at our worrying.  In the 24th chapter of 2 Samuel we read the story of how King David got in trouble with God by ordering a census of all the able-bodied fighting men in Israel and Judea.  This was a problem because he replaced faith with statistics.  It is so easy to do this with our money.  When continually dwell on the accounting, it drives us crazy and this takes away from our faith in God to take care of us.  In Matthew 6, Jesus went into great detail about how worrying is contrary to real faith that God is going to do what He promises: to take care of us.  If we find ourselves worrying about financial issues, that may be a sign that God's kingship has been usurped by the dollar.

The last thing to be examined in the realm of money is our expectations of God relative to money.  There have been some modern teachers that promote the idea that God will give us financial prosperity and that this is a reason to seek God.  Although this teaching has gained popularity in recent years, it isn't new, apparently similar ideas existed in the first century.  Paul wrote to Timothy speaking of “men whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is way to material gain” (1 Timothy 6:5)  To truly seek the Lord is to sacrifice self and the interests of self, so it is impossible to rightly seek Jesus and expect Him to make you prosper at the same time.  If you find yourself disappointed that God hasn't given you blessings, perhaps you need to reexamine God's role in your life, who is to be served and who is the servant?

All of the biblical teachings on money are difficult.  They are tough because of the huge gap between the word's view and god's view.  Consider this story from the Gospel of Mark:

Sitting across from the temple treasury, [Jesus] watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury.  Many rich people were putting in large sums.  And a poor widow came dropped in two tiny coins worth very little.  Summoning His disciples, He said to them, “I assure you: This poor widow has put more than all those giving to the temple treasury.  For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she possessed – all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44)

I have never heard of any financial advisor that would suggest that when you are strapped for funds, you should just give it away.  Any financial advisor that makes these recommendations will not be in business very long.  What this widow did was an act of love, faith and trust.  I'm sure she didn't do it expecting something in return, she just knew that she wanted to give this gift to show her love and gratitude to a faithful God,  This woman is financially poor, but spiritually rich.  This makes no sense to the world.  This type of love, faith and trust are what being a Christian is all about.  This action put God above money.  

This story is not a suggestion that all good Christians should give all their money away.  The point of this story is that we should “kick to the curb” all of the world's ideas about money and instead seek eternal treasure.  As with all aspects of our lives, we are to be obedient to the Holy Spirit with our money.  The Holy Spirit will guide each of us in God's perfect plan for our lives, this plan includes how we will meet our needs and what we should do with our money,

You can only love one, God or money.  Which do you love?

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Lexington, Ky