You can skip the next couple paragraphs if you’re following from Part 1. For those of you who are just seeing this blog, the next two paragraphs give some context to where this blog is coming from. If you’re now joining the soapbox, you can read Part 1 – It all started with Abraham… or just pick up where we are. Depends how much brain power you’re willing to spend on the subject.
Someone recently posted an article on my Facebook that was so… I had many responses, I needed to respond with more than a Facebook post. This subject required a blog, which became a series of blogs. I will preface these blogs by saying that I take what I post here very seriously. I will someday stand before God and give an account for everything I say, so I say none of this lightly. As always, I pray that everything I write would bring glory to God, the Creator and Possessor of all things, the King of Heaven and Earth.
The article in question, called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, asserts that Christians should not consider material blessing a blessing at all because 1) “God is not a behavioral psychologist” who uses positive reinforcement to reward his followers, 2) calling ourselves “blessed” is wrong and offensive because there are many Christians who live in poverty around the world, and 3) the beatitudes defines who is blessed and the rich did not make the list. The author closes by saying that material blessing creates a “burden” in that those who are materially blessed are faced with questions about how to use their blessings. He ends with the statement that the true blessing is found in our knowledge of God and that we should ask God to use us as we are blessed.
Money, like all other things on this earth, is governed by the law of sowing and reaping.
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” This is the proclamation God makes at the end of the flood in Genesis 8:22. These are laws that we live by on the earth today. Before I go any further, let’s get something straight. The law of sowing and reaping applies to both spiritual things and physical things. You cannot take all the places in the Bible where the Lord talks about physical harvest and spiritualize it, just like you can’t ignore that actions have spiritual consequences as well as physical ones.
The law of sowing and reaping works as powerfully in the earth as does the law of gravity. For this reason, we see echoes of this solidly Biblical principle in other Eastern religions (i.e. karma) and in modern culture (“you get what you give,” “what goes around comes around,” etc.). Again, sowing and reaping can be physical or spiritual or both.
“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” – Hosea 10:12
This is a word spoken of spiritual harvest in a time when Israel was seeking after idols and pridefully trusting in its own strength.
“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” – Matthew 13:23
In Yeshua’s famous parable of the sower, the Word of God – the Good News – is that which is sowed. The harvest comes in the fruit of his life. We are not saved by our actions – being “good” will NEVER get you to heaven – but your place in the Kingdom of God is determined by what you do in this life. We who believe in Yeshua should be set apart in this world because of our actions.
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:38
Here is where people start to stumble. This verse comes at the end of Luke’s account of the beatitudes. In v. 20, Jesus starts the beatitudes by comforting the poor, because the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. In v. 22 and 23, He says “When people hate… exclude… revile… and spurn your name on account of the Son of Man” (not just for any old reason, but because you stood up for Yeshua’s name and Gospel), “then your reward is great in heaven.” In v. 24 and 25 “woe” to the “rich” and the “full” because “you have received your consolation” and “you will be hungry.” If this is condemnation to those who have material wealth as opposed to those who take their comfort in the security of their riches, then v. 38 does not work. If, however, you follow the mandates set out in v. 30-36, you believe in and follow Yeshua, and you do not cling to your wealth, then you will receive the good measure.
Furthermore, Malachi 3 says that your money is the one area in which you can test God. In speaking about the judgement that he is bringing on Israel, He says,”Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts” (v.5). “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you” (v.7b – 9). What are we to do to become right with God? “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts” (v. 10-12).
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were a nation with no need? But God doesn’t stop there, He says that he will rebuke the devourer – indicating that He himself is not destroying the fruit of their labor, but has withdrawn His protection due to their actions – and that all nations will call them blessed because they will be a land of delight.
As my review of the patriarchs in the first blog demonstrated, God does reward us with material blessing for turning our hearts toward him. God repeatedly withdraws His material blessing from Israel and allows other nations to overtake their land – even sending them into Babylon – because they were not faithfully serving Him and turned away to other gods. God equates this practice with adultery and, as laid out in the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy, God blesses them when they follow Him and withdraws His blessing when they don’t. In this way, we sow spiritual things and reap physical ones.
We live in a nation experiencing unparalleled blessing. Few times in history have been marked by a country experiencing the level of material comfort that we do in this nation. Only God knows why that is right now. He makes His plans in ways that we do not understand. However, it is clear throughout the Scriptures that God moves nations around as He sees fit. When one becomes prideful or destructive, especially towards Israel, He uses another one to bring it down. When one has shown mercy and kindness to His people Israel, He blesses it. This was laid out in the original blessing to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you.” That is for nations as a whole.
For individual Christians living in places afflicted with poverty, disease, persecution and other trials, here is what the Bible says:
First of all, everyone who boldly proclaims the Name of Jesus and His Gospel will experience persecution. Period. Even those who are wealthy and use their money to further the Kingdom of God. There is no escape from persecution and trials if you are a bold witness for God. That is what Jesus said would happen and it is part of the cost we count when we put our faith in Him. It’s not the standard Sunday school message because people want to keep seats filled, but that’s what the Word of God says.
Second, while we will all experience trials, God means for everyone to be provided for. While we may live in areas affected by famine and lack, God still wants to provide for us. It is His delight. He provides for us at all times (Psalm 37:4, 18-19; 23-26)
Psalm 37 paints a beautiful picture of how the Lord cares for those who follow Him. God says He will give them the desires of their hearts (v. 4), they will not be put to shame in evil times and will have abundance in famine (v. 19), they might fall, but the Lord will uphold their hand (v. 24), the righteous will not be forsaken or left begging for bread (v. 25), He helps them and delivers them because they take their refuge in Him. Psalm 145:15 says that God gives them their food in due season. Matthew 6:25-34 reminds us that God will supply our every need, even as He does those of the birds and the grass of the field. We need only trust in His provision.
God provides for His children through miracles and wonders that we do not even hear of in this country. God provides for His children through the support and assistance of many different organizations that bring food, clothing and other forms of material support to those in need. Compassion International and Voice of the Martyrs are two organizations in particular that labor to bring support to the darkest of places. God provides for His children when we of greater means go to other countries to dig wells, build houses, plant fields, and physically help our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Regarding God giving us the desires of our hearts, another short story. A few months ago, when my husband and I were in the depths of financial hardship, we had no money for extras. I had really wanted to get a balance bike for our son. I didn’t tell anyone about this desire. One day, I sat looking at wooden balance bikes on Amazon. The cheapest one I found was $80-plus. I thought to myself, “Well, that’s not happening,” and closed the window. Less than a week later, my husband came home from a job (he works in construction) and told me that a customer had given him two bottles of wine, a book for our son, and – you guessed it – a wooden balance bike. I was so overwhelmed with love that God would give me exactly what I asked for so quickly for nothing. I promise you that experiences like this are the norm among those who are faithful to God with their money.
Third, the law of sowing and reaping works even if you don’t have a lot to sow. 2 Corinthians 9 explains how we are to give and what we are to expect in return. “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (v. 6-11).
It is not up to me to compare what something in my country costs to what it costs in another country. To compare different countries’ salaries in dollars is a useless practice because, at the end of the day, our needs are the same no matter what paper you use to pay for it. If we were paid $10 a day for work in this country, we would not have enough to live on. However, since money represents a system by which we exchange useless paper for usable goods necessary to live, it doesn’t matter what number is printed on your paper or what your paper would be worth in another country. What matters is that God supplies our needs where you are and the desires of our hearts. The Word of God does not return void. God backs up His Word.
Finally, God uses people to accomplish His purposes on the earth. When Jesus gave bread to thousands of people from a few loaves and fishes (twice), He demonstrated that He is more than capable of providing for people by miraculous means. I have no doubt that miracles like this continue to this day where there is need. However, we are called to support the orphans, the widows, the downtrodden, the stranger, the poor, and all of those persecuted for the Name of Christ. We are to consider ourselves in chains with those in prison. Idle talk is not enough.
Beyond the law of sowing and reaping our material gains as we seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness by backing up our faith with deeds, is the fullness of what God wants from those He blesses.
If you can handle more… Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 3: The Radical Giver.