The subject of stewardship and giving can be a sensitive topic. Not surprisingly, this sensitivity is not new.
In Matthew 19, a rich young man comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to be saved. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. The young man says he has done so from his youth. So far so good. But then Jesus tells the rich young man to go and sell everything and follow Him. The rich young man walks away in despair. Whoa!
So, what does this mean for us? Does this mean that all of us should go and sell everything? No. But, Christ knew the young man’s heart. Christ knew that the young man’s possessions interfered in his relationship with Him - they were in effect an idol
to the young man. He depended upon and placed his trust in his wealth - rather than in the Lord. Christ wanted him to get rid of those things that interfered in their relationship - all his stuff. But the wealthy young man couldn’t do it and walked away from Christ in despair.
In Luke 12 Christ speaks of another rich man who said to himself “I have laid up goods for many years to come - I will take ease and eat, drink and be merry.” God responded “You fool - this very night your soul is required of you.” Christ goes on to say “So is the man (a fool) who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
So, where have we placed our trust? How would we have responded - would we have walked away in despair? Is there something we depend upon rather than the Lord? Is there something - anything in our life that interferes with our relationship with the Lord or comes between us and Him?
Matthew 6 tells us that we cannot serve two masters (God and wealth) and that we are to seek first the kingdom of God - that where our treasure is, there will our heart be. This begs another question we need to ask ourselves:
So which is it - God or wealth?
1st Timothy 6 cautions us that those who want to get rich fall into temptation and that the love of money is the root of all evil - even causing some to fall away from the faith.
As believers we need to be mindful of the responsibility that God has entrusted to us as His stewards.
Responses to a recent survey conducted by the Harvard Divinity School provided interesting observations: “How we relate to money is a central issue of discipleship. Greed and stewardship seem to be glossed-over as too personal to touch from the
pulpit, yet giving generously is one of the most profound and impactful spiritual practices.”
Now let’s stop for a second.
Again, this is not to say we should sell our home and ignore legitimate financial needs. Back up one chapter to 1st Timothy 5. Paul makes it clear that we are to provide for our own household. In fact, not doing so makes us worse than an unbeliever - pretty strong words! Providing for our families is not only appropriate but a God given responsibility.
And certainly it is appropriate - even wise to save - putting aside funds for a rainy day and the unexpected (like hurricanes), for the kids’ college, for retirement. Those are all appropriate. But, too often we worry that we won’t have enough. A recent survey by
Chapman University listed Americans’ top 10 worries. “Not having enough money for the future” came in at number 4.
Yet, both Matthew 6 and Luke 12 are comforting, reminding us that we are not to worry - that God knows we need these things. But do we trust Him?
So then the tough question - how much is enough?
That can be a difficult question to answer. We may think we need more - but have we confused our needs with wants? Distinguishing between needs and wants can get foggy - perhaps especially challenging living in an affluent area. And it can even lead us to take on more debt than we should.
Are we like the rich young man in Matthew or the rich man in Luke - placing our dependence on our income, our savings, our investments, our 401(k) - even our abilities that brought us success - rather than placing our trust in the Lord?
In a recent commentary following the tragic suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade, Franklin Graham noted a CNN article which commented how “it seems to constantly surprise us that money or success do not solve all of our problems.” So true. Graham rightly noted that the answer to life’s problems is not found in money or success, but only in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
As noted, in Matthew 6 Jesus tells us not to worry about life - what we will eat or wear (our needs). He goes on to say God knows we need these things, but we are to first seek His kingdom and His righteousness before and above anything else.
In 1st Timothy 6 we are told that godliness with contentment is great gain. A similar thought is repeated in Hebrews 13 where we are told to be sure that our character is free from the love of money, and we are to be content with what we have. Paul tells
us in Philippians 4 that he had learned the secret to being content - regardless of financial circumstances - is depending upon God.
Yet, placing our dependence on the Lord does not relieve us of the responsibility of properly budgeting and living within our means - we are to be good stewards of all that the Lord has entrusted to us.
More to come...
Do you have questions about managing your finances from a Biblical perspective?
For help and guidance feel free to call Kent Anderson at (239)597-6057 x254.