Help For Your Family: Finances

tired-woman-paying-bills

 

Money, they say, can’t buy happiness.  Of course, like so many axioms, this one is also false.  Money can buy happiness.  And depending on how much money you have, you can buy a lot of happiness.  The downside is that happiness, like money, is hard to hold onto.  Being happy is addictive, and it isn’t long before it takes more and more of your resources to feed that addiction.  The problem, you see, is that happiness is terribly temporary; it’s not a permanent state of being.  Most of us have a mistaken idea that our happiness depends on our circumstances.  Or a relationship.  Or a job.  Or even the weather.  If you are a Christian and think this way, hold onto your hat and read these verses:

Be delighted with the Lord. Then he will give you all your heart’s desires.  (Psalm 37:4  TLB)

God blesses those who obey him; happy the man who puts his trust in the Lord.  (Proverbs 16:20  TLB)

Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.  (Proverbs 14:13)

For the Christian, happiness—abiding happiness—is not found anywhere but in the Lord.  It is not found in the blessings of the Lord, although they can make you happy.  Certainly lasting happiness is not found in money, even though prosperity (and money) are blessings from the Lord.

What is your attitude toward money?  Do you think you achieved your prosperity and success by using your talent and hard work?  Did you know that you own nothing?  Let’s see how we should be thinking about money.

1.  Having the right perspective, Matthew 6:19—24

(a)  Treasures, verses 19—21

Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value and are safe from thieves. If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too.

Jesus said a lot in these verses that would have hit His listeners right between the eyes.  Back in those days, “treasures” included fine robes and costly garments.  We haven’t changed much in the intervening 2,000 years.  Our treasures today may include fine clothing, but also big screen TV’s, new cars, social position, and so on.  Jesus taught that acquiring these kinds of treasures was pure folly.  Why?  Because all those things are temporary; they can be destroyed, lost, stolen, or they just wear out.

Jesus gave His listeners, and us, an important principle:  “If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there also.”  What did our Lord mean?  He simply meant that if all you want are earthly, temporary treasures, that’s all you have.  But if we live our lives with one eye on Heaven, then we will give to the work of the Lord.  Believe it or not, your preacher is doing you a great service when he gives you a chance to give your offerings every Sunday morning, because where your money goes, there also your heart will go.  It’s a Biblical principle that can’t be avoided.

(b)  Light and darkness, verses 22, 23

If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul. But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be!

Jesus taught that a good eye brings light—goodness—into the whole body but an evil eye leaves the body in darkness.  Jesus’ point is sometimes lost, yet it’s a very simple one.  Only singleness of purpose, or purity of intention, can keep the inner man in the light of God’s truth.

It’s about a proper perspective.  If your spiritual vision is out of focus and blurred, your understanding of the truth will also be out of focus.  This is why it’s so important to see the importance of service to God as a pathway to happiness.

(c)  Two masters, verse 24

You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.

Verse 24 is all about money.  God claims absolute loyalty from those who claim to be serving Him.  A true child of God cannot have a divided heart; he cannot divide his loyalty between God and the pursuit of worldly possessions.

2.  Make wise financial choices

(a)  Honoring God brings blessing, Proverbs 3:9, 10

Honor the Lord by giving him the first part of all your income, and he will fill your barns with wheat and barley and overflow your wine vats with the finest wines.

These verses come as part of a package of teaching on being faithful, which began back at verse 5:

…trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself.

When we trust the Lord, we can’t trust ourselves.  This is a long-standing Biblical idea:

The heart is the most deceitful thing there is and desperately wicked. No one can really know how bad it is!  (Jeremiah 17:9  TLB)

The rest of the admonitions build on this foundation.  To trust the Lord means to avoid evil, which is hard to do because we are all inclined toward evil; it always looks good to us.  But we can’t trust ourselves.  Also part of trusting God is giving back to God some of your wealth as a way of showing Him that you understand that He gave it to you in the first place.  Your heart may tell you, “I can’t afford to give an offering this week,” but we know that you can’t trust yourself—you can’t trust your heart because it’s deceitful.

(b)  Honorable work brings prosperity, Proverbs 13:11

Wealth from gambling quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows.

Solomon well understood that steady and wise work and investment produces prosperity.  This is a warning against gambling and speculation.  The “hard work” of The Living Bible comes from the Hebrew “hand by hand,” stressing slow and diligent work or growth of one’s investment.  In other words, wealth that comes too quickly, or with little effort often disappears in the blink of an eye.

(c)  Debt equals slavery, Proverbs 22:7

Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.

Anybody who has ever had a mortgage or a car loan understands the wisdom behind this verse!  The reason is simple:  debt (or poverty) makes you dependent upon others.  Borrowers are quite literally subservient to the lender.  Now, contextually, this verse probably has a reference to the practice of the Israelites selling themselves into slavery in order to pay off a debt.  But what’s the difference between that and paying out 30% of your paycheck to your mortgage company?  Debt of any kind puts you at a distinct disadvantage.  As A.L. Williams once said, “Nobody is free until they are financially free.”

(d)  Faithfulness brings reward, Luke 16:1—12

This is the called “the parable of the unjust steward,” and is often misunderstood because it seems like Jesus is actually commending a crook.  But Luke often used these kinds of parables as a way of contrasting something with something else.  Matthew and Mark, on the other hand, use Jesus’ parables to show a comparison.  The point of the parable of the unjust steward is not that “greed is good” or anything like that.  It’s that very often worldly people—unjust stewards—are more consistent with their beliefs and practices and work harder to achieve their ends than do Christians.  They aim low but they aim better; they work hard at making the most of their opportunities and doing the hard work that is needed to succeed and prosper.

The key word is probably found in verse 8:

The rich man had to admire the rascal for being so shrewd.  And it is true that the citizens of this world are more clever in dishonesty than the godly are.

Believers need to learn to be as clever in honoring God as a crook is in finding ways to be dishonest.

3.  Become a generous person

(a)  Help others, Proverbs 11:16, 24, 25

It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself.  (vs. 24, 25  TLB)

This seems like a real paradox!  But Jesus said essentially the same thing:  if you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly.  It’s another divine principle that can never change and works for anybody.  The general principle is that if you are generous with the resources you have, you will have more resources.  This certainly applies to giving to your church and giving to the work of the Lord.

Ironside wrote this:

Bunyan’s quaint rhyme, propounded as a riddle by Old Honest, and explained by Gaius, is in itself a suited commentary on these verses—

A man there was, though some did count him mad,  The more he cast away, the more he had.  He that bestows his goods upon the poor shall have as much again, and ten times more!

You can never lose out in helping others.  What goes around, comes around. You really do reap what you sow.  When you bless others, you will be blessed.

(b)  Give cheerfully, 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7

But remember this—if you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much. Everyone must make up his own mind as to how much he should give. Don’t force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for cheerful givers are the ones God prizes.

These are powerful verses.  Notice that the Christian giver is like a farmer:  he sows.  This is a remarkable statement.  A farmer plants seeds to reap a harvest.  A Christian is supposed to give for the same reason.  Proper Christian giving will NEVER result in poverty or destitution because proper Christian giving will always result in a harvest.

The world gets richer by taking from others.  But the Christian enriches himself by giving to others and to the work of the Lord.  The key is to be generous with what you have.  It’s not only the rich that are able to be generous, “everyone,” according to Paul, is to give generously.  And God especially loves those who give “cheerfully.”  The Greek puts the emphasis on “cheerful” and “God.”  Hilaron is the Greek word translated “cheerful,” but we get our “hilarious” from it.  God loves hilarious givers!  They impress Him greatly.

(c) God will be generous with you, 2 Corinthians 9:8—11

God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.  (vs. 8 TLB)

Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much, and when we take your gifts to those who need them they will break out into thanksgiving and praise to God for your help.  (vs. 11  TLB)

God is able to give you both the motivation and the means for generous giving.  If you want to become a generous giver, if it’s truly your heart’s desire, God will give you the ability and the resources to be that kind of giver.  It’s a grace from God.  The Christian who has the grace to get along with less has more for others!  And God can and He will give that giver all that he needs, both spiritual and material blessings.

Verse 11 describes a kind of single-minded spirit of generosity from which comes selfless living so that the needs of others may be met.  This kind of giving—real money in the form of offerings collected from the church—would result in God being praised.  When Christians behave like Christians, when we give generously as we are able, and as we give with a smile on our faces, God is the One who will be praised.

It was Daniel Webster who famously observed—

The most serious thought that has ever occupied my mind was that of my individual responsibility to God.

How seriously have we considered our responsibility to God in terms of our giving?  We should all think about this because we will all be held accountable to God.

 

 

 

 

 

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