You can skip the next couple paragraphs if you’re following from Parts 1 or 2. 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… and Part 2: Sowing and Reaping, 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.
Yeshua had a lot to say about money, as did Paul, as did the entirety of the Scriptures. Wealth is a powerful thing. It is can be a sacred and wonderful thing when wielded in the hands of one who knows and loves God. It can be a twisted and perverted thing in the hands of those who don’t acknowledge God and use it for selfish aggrandizement. Money, in and of itself, is a creation of God. It is how we now place value on things and barter in the common marketplace. Before there was “money” in the current sense, God spoke of abundance, harvest, rain in due season, fruit on the trees and vines, livestock, etc. God still works in all of these areas, but most of us don’t ride donkeys or plant grapes, so money is what we use in place of these things.
Here are the most quoted phrases of Yeshua in regards to money: “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” (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30). People love to throw this verse around. However, after this, Yeshua says that with God all things are possible. Even after Peter points out that they (the disciples) gave up everything to follow Him, Yeshua says that they will receive “in this time” houses, lands and family, in addition to the age to come because they followed Him. The reason it is so difficult for the rich to enter heaven is the second most quoted of Yeshua regarding money, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). If you continue reading, Yeshua goes on to another famous passage about how we should not worry because God will take care of our needs. He says “seek first” His Kingdom and His righteousness.
God’s Kingdom and the possession of wealth are not mutually exclusive things. When we make use of these things for the Kingdom of God, wealth becomes a powerful means of working God’s purposes in the world. Yeshua Himself relied on material support for His ministry, so if money was a terrible thing by all means, surely He would not have made use of it. Luke 8:3 references, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s household manager, another woman names Susanna, “and many others, who provided for them out of their means.” In addition to using their means, Joanna is also named as one of the women who went to put spices on the body of Jesus and found the empty tomb. Clearly, she ministered not only out of her checkbook, but with her hands as well. Judas is referenced as having charge of the money in John 13:19, so we know that Jesus handled money and used it for His ministry. When He sent Judas out after dipping the bread in the bowl with him, the Word says that the disciples thought he was buying something for the festival or giving something to the poor, meaning that Yeshua Himself gave to the poor on a regular basis.
The way that God calls us to give is a little understood thing.
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Most people get this verse on a cerebral level. I should give and I get back. That makes sense, right? The chapter continues in v. 10, “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.” God will “supply and multiply your seed for sowing.”
If you are committed to sowing your seed into the Kingdom of God, He will supply you and multiply you with more seed, so that you may continue sowing into His Kingdom, and thus “increase the harvest of your righteousness.” In v. 12, Paul goes on to say, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others.”
This chapter should make one thing abundantly clear. We are not in any way “burdened” by our ability to give. We are blessed materially, spiritually and “in every way” (v. 11). We are to be cheerful, not reluntant (v. 7), overflowing in many thanksgivings to God (v. 12), submitted through our faith in Yeshua, and – most importantly – bringing glory to God (v. 13).
None of these are new concepts. Yeshua and Paul are only reiterating and expounding on the laws and wisdom put forth in the Law of Moses and repeated throughout the prophets and writings. “You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land’” (Deuteronomy 15:10-11). Psalms and Proverbs speak extensively about how to take care of the needy and give justice to the poor (Psalm 41:1, Psalm 82:3-4, Proverbs 14:21, Proverbs 22:9, Proverbs 29:7 ).
Another book of the Bible that brings great insight on how we are to give is James. James 1:9-11 says that the rich should glory in his being made low, because he will pass away like the grass of the field and fade away in his pursuits. It is not necessary to say this of the poor because no one takes note of them. However, the rich men are the ones people pay attention to, so James reminds them of the inescapable fact that everyone will return to the dust regardless of how high and mighty their position may be today. In James 1:13-15, he explains that temptation is not something that God puts us through, but that we are instead tempted because of our own desires. We desire wealth. It is not wealth itself that is sinful, it is not even being tempted by what wealth offers that is sinful – as Jesus was tempted and did not sin – it is giving into temptation and allowing wealth to become your focus that is sinful. In James 3:13-17, he says that “jealousy and selfish ambition” are “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” and that they result in “disorder and every vile practice”. It is so easy to be consumed by these things when you think about your money and what you can obtain with it. We need to realize that it’s not just acting out our faith with works that God wants for us, but for us to be “unstained by the world” (James 1:27) in every way.
James 5 begins with a searing rebuke on the rich. However, again, this is not a warning to everyone who has material wealth. The verses clearly say why they are receiving a rebuke. “You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.” Clearly, he is speaking to people who were only interested in their own selfish gain, who abused others to keep what they wanted, did not pay what they owed and did not lift their hand to help the righteous.
“You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2-3). If we are truly invested in the will of God, we are not asking for our own sakes, but we are asking for the sake of His Kingdom.
Your tithe is the minimum you give to God’s house. Let me repeat that. Ten percent of everything that comes into your hand does not belong to you, it belongs to God. You are not “giving” anything. If you do not give it to God’s ministers, you are stealing it from God (Genesis 14:20, Genesis 28:22, Leviticus 27:30-33, Deuteronomy 14:22, Numbers 18:21, 26, Malachi 3:8-9). In the absence of a temple, your tithe belongs to your Church or Synagogue. Paul states clearly that the worker of God is worthy of his wages (2 Thessalonians 3:8-9, 1 Corinthians 9:3-14) and our tithes are one of the means by which we pay them. If the widow was praised for giving all she had, let us so be praised. I promise you, she did not go hungry for sowing her seed into God’s Kingdom.
We should supply those doing the work of God above and beyond our tithe, as Paul says in Galatians 6, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
One of Yeshua’s “woes” to the Pharisees was because they tithed, but they “neglect[ed] justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42). Let us commit ourselves to joyfully sowing into the Kingdom of God by every means that we have available to us – with our money, with our time, with our words, with everything that we have in us, that God may multiply our seed for the sowing and that Yeshua’s Name may be glorified in all the world by our faith and deeds.
Luke 12:48 is the final word on what God entrusts into our hands. In this life, whatever He gives you, be it talent, money, gifts, wisdom, whatever – it is all to be used for the Kingdom of God. It all comes with responsibility. You will give an account to God for everything you did in this life and your position in eternity will be given accordingly (Romans 14:12, Matthew 16:27). But don’t labor for your position – either here or in heaven. Don’t put your focus on anything your eyes see, because it’s all dust. Don’t put value on your wisdom, your perceived control or your current position in life. In an instant it’s gone.
At the end of the day, all things come back to the same place. We need the Holy Spirit in our lives every second. Our relationship with Him needs to be most important things in our lives. He is life. He’s here. In the room. Right now. Belief in the saving power of Yeshua’s sacrifice and constant attendance to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit – the allowance of God’s will to be our will, the putting away of our own desires to do whatever He tells us – is the only way we will get through this life and be told “well done”. There is no other way.
Throw off your chains, be they of money or mud. He’s calling you right now, if you would only hear His voice. Let us put aside any hindrances that would keep us from Him. As He leads us into all truth, let us be faithful with all He puts into our hands.
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