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Last week I taught the first priority that makes ‘fishing people’ for God’s Kingdom a daily practice: learning to live our Kingdom vocation (calling) through our daily occupation (work). This obviously does not mean that we use the work place to talk about Jesus all the time! You have to BE the good news to win respect, so that when you SPEAK the good news – invited by your friends and colleagues – they are ready to listen and receive.
Work is what ‘occupies’ our daily time, energy, gifts and skills (training), in a formal or informal job. But work is also about money. Human resources = time, energy & money. We put our time and energy (labour) to work, in order to earn and generate money for our living (food, home, etc), so that we’re not dependent on others as Paul says (1 Thess 4:11). But money is also for our life and work with God in the world – it’s all from him in the first place! Jesus taught on work and money; e.g. God gives various talents (gifts, money) to each of us, to be used to “occupy till I come” (Lk 19:13, read 12-27). Jesus will call us to account for how we used (worked), or did not use, the resources God gives us. We will be rewarded accordingly, either given more, or loose what we had. So, our relationship to money is our stewardship of resources as a God-given means of ‘fishing the world’ for him.
How should we view money (resources)?
Many people think that money ‘is the root of all evil.’ Not true! It is a misquote of Paul – he said, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10). Money is ‘neutral’. The issue is our relationship to money. It’s not what’s in your hand but what’s in our heart that counts. It’s what we do with money that is right or wrong. Money and possessions have no value in itself; it only has the value we give to it by our attitude to it, how we use it, what we spend it on. Some wrong attitudes to money:
- Money is deceptive, even evil – manage it with legalistic control… or similarly…
- To be acceptable to God you must give your money away and identify with the poor
- There’s nothing wrong with money, it makes you secure and happy, or similarly…
- It’s MY money – I worked hard for it and I can do what I want with it
The love of money is when it becomes your security (i.e. your god), so that you always need more, and want to be rich to either, a) accumulate and protect it – be miserly, or b) to use it lavishly for your lifestyle happiness – to ‘live the good life’ of the gods. Few people who want to become rich in order to be generous and help others, whether in God’s name or human (pride) philanthropy, succeed with their integrity in tack – before God!
Biblically, money and all resources are from God, given for use in his Kingdom, which includes our personal and family wellbeing (within reason). God will hold us accountable as stewards of HIS money that HE gives and entrusts to us. Money is simply a means to an end, a servant of God’s good purposes – or the devil’s purposes – the devil can also give money to people!! Money is a great test of character. Does money own you? Or is it your servant, under your ownership as a faithful steward, for God’s Kingdom purposes?
Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, taught indifference to material resources: “human beings are created to praise, reverence and serve God… the other things are created for humans to help them in the pursuit of the end for which we are created. From this it follows that we ought to use these things to the extent they help us toward our end, and free ourselves from them to the extent they hinder us from it. To attain this, it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things…” (in The Spiritual Exercises).
God’s ownership = our worship of him = tithes and offerings
The first biblical mention of tithes is when Abraham returned from a victorious battle and met Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God, and gave him a tenth of all he had gained (Gen 14:18-20). It was an act of worship, thanksgiving for provision, of acknowledgement of God’s redemptive calling and ownership of him (Gen 12:1f). This worship of YHWH, with tithes and freewill offerings, continued in Israel – an antidote against idolatry! When we believe we own ourselves and/or created things, we worship Self and/or Things as god. Worshipping God always included joyful tithing and free-will offerings as thanksgiving and trust in God for his care and provision. It was a spiritual discipline regularly reminding the worshipper that, “God, you own me and all I have. You provide it all. My giving to you declares that YOU are my provider, my security, my resource, my life, my God.”
Many Christians practice tithing as in: “I give to God what belongs to him, my 10%, and the rest is mine… to do with as I want!” But 100% of who we are and have belongs to God – we will account for the other 90%! So there IS ‘freewill offerings’, beyond tithing, that God calls on us to do from time to time, and often to the poor (Matt 6:2-4). Some believe Jesus abolished ‘tithes and offerings’ – “because it was a corrupt institution, a ceremonial law, a social tax, legalistic, etc. Jesus brought the Kingdom and we’re free from all that!” Not true! The coming of the Kingdom fulfills and liberates giving (tithes and offerings) to a higher level of generosity because of the gift of eternal salvation and the life of the Spirit in us. Paul bases his entire teaching on giving on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, became poor, that we who are poor, might become rich… so give!! (2 Cor 8:9).
Thus, if I had to give advise on stewardship of finances, based on Jesus and Paul’s teachings, with application to our lives in the modern world, it would go like this:
- Decide to worship and serve only God and not Mammon (money, materialism, Matt 6:24). You cannot serve two masters, it doesn’t work! What does this mean for you?
- Set a goal and make a five or ten year plan to get out of debt, and live debt-free. Paul says, “Owe no person anything, except the continuing debt to love” (Rom 13:8).
- Wrestle down your lifestyle appetites/wants (different to needs) to live within your means, i.e. set your lifestyle expenses at a simple level and be content (Phil 4:11-13).
- Set a monthly budget and stick to it – hold yourself accountable to a trusted friend.
- Budget your tithes – commit to regular tithing – and give ‘offerings’ when prompted.
- Build up treasures in heaven (Matt 6:19-21) by being a giving and prayerful person (Matt 6:1-18), learning NOT to worry, but to trust God for your needs (Matt 6:25-34).
- Be wise and shrewd in the use of money and resources, using it to win people for God through empowering friendships (Lk 16:1-15, read this amazing parable: v.9 is key, vv.10-13 are the derived principles: trustworthy/honesty with little money leads to more; trustworthiness with material resources leads to spiritual riches; trust-worthy with some one else’s things/property leads to being given your own).
- Let your motivation in giving be worship of God and faith in his provision, and not to give in order to get from God as some teach (e.g. Lk 6:38). God indeed does bless the generous giver (2 Cor 9:8), but that must never become the motivation in giving.
- Some have the charism (git) of giving: let them give generously (Rom 12:8), not out of guilt or obligation – God loves a “cheerful giver” – see it as sowing seed (2 Cor 9:5-11).
For Personal Reflection and Home Group Discussion:
What is your attitude to money? How do you use it? What do you spend it on?
What do you think of Ignatius’ quote regarding the end for which we are created, and the consequent attitude of indifference we ought to have toward material things?
What do you (dis)agree with re my points on how to be a good steward of God’s money?