HOW WE HANDLE MONEY IMPACTS OUR FELLOWSHIP WITH THE LORD
Two economic systems operate in the world, God’s economy and the economy that people devise. Scripture reveals God’s economy to us in great detail.
The way most people handle money is in sharp contrast to God’s financial principles. This should not surprise us. Isaiah 55:8 reads, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways’ declares the Lord”. The most significant difference between these economic systems is that in God’s economy the living Lord plays the dominant role. This distinction has profound practical implications.
Most people view God’s economy as being based upon an irrational “leap of faith”. Because God has chosen to be invisible and operates in the unseen, supernatural realm, God’s economy appears to have no logical foundation. The person who does not yet know the Lord has a hard time comprehending God’s economy. Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things” (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).
THE BIBLE AND MONEY
It’s surprising to learn just how much the bible says about finances. There are approximately 500 verses on prayer, fewer than 500 on faith, but more than 2,350 verses on how to handle money. We need to ask ourselves why Jesus Christ Himself said more about it than almost any other subject. He lived in a much simpler society than ours, He never had to deal with the temptations of a credit card or check his balance at the ATM to make sure he had enough money for the coming week!
There are at least three reasons why money and material possessions were a constant theme in his teaching.
1. How we handle our money impacts our fellowship with the Lord. Jesus equates how we handle our money with the quality of our spiritual life. In Luke 16:11 we read, “If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of worldly wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” If we handle our money properly according to the principles of Scripture, our fellowship with Christ is going to grow closer. If we are unfaithful with it, our fellowship with Him will suffer.
This is clearly illustrated in the parable of the talents. The master commends the servant who had managed money faithfully: “well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21). Scripture is very clear; those who faithfully handle money have the opportunity to enter into the joy of a more intimate relationship with our Lord. Sadly, this is a fundamental biblical truth which most people have failed to grasp.
2. Possessions compete with the Lord for mastery of our lives. That is why Jesus had so much to say about money. He tells us we must choose to serve only one of these two masters.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other.You cannot serve God and mammon (money)” (Matthew 6:24).
It is impossible for us to serve money – even in a small way – and still serve the Lord.
When the Crusades were being fought during the 12th century, the Crusaders purchased the services of mercenaries to fight in their behalf. Because it was a “religious” war, the Crusaders insisted that the mercenaries be baptized before fighting. As they were being baptized, the mercenaries would take their swords and hold them out of the water to symbolize that Jesus Christ was not in control of their swords. They had the freedom to use their weapons in anyway they wished.
Though not as blatant about it as were the mercenaries, many people today handle their money in a similar fashion. Some Christians hold their wallets or purses “out of the water” in effect saying, “God, you can be the Lord of my entire life except in the area of money – that is my right, and I am perfectly capable of handling it myself”.
3. Much of life revolves around the use of money. The Lord talked so much about money because He also knew that much of our lives would revolve around its use. Fortunately, He has adequately prepared us for that task by giving us the Bible as His blueprint for living.
A DIVISION OF FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES
A close friend of Howard Dayton, Jim Seneff, challenged him to join him in a study of Scripture to find out exactly what the Lord said about handling money. They read the entire Bible, identified each of the 2,350 verses, and then arranged them by categories according to their various topics. Not only were they astounded at how practical the Word of God is in this area, but they discovered there is a division of responsibilities in the handling of our money. Simply put: God has a part, and we have a part!
God has retained certain responsibilities and has delegated other responsibilities to us. Most of the frustration we experience in handling money is because we do not realize which responsibilities are ours and which are not. However, when we learn God’s part and then discharge our part faithfully, we can experience contentment.
LEARNING TO BE CONTENT
Contentment is mentioned seven times in the entire Bible, and six times it has to do with money. One of our goals during this study will be that you will learn to become financially content. In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul writes, “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity.”
Examine these verses carefully. We are not born with the instinct of contentment; rather, it is something we must learn.
Next week’s homework assignment will address God’s Part & Our Part. Let me caution you that as you complete this homework, it may seem as if God does everything. However, we are not to adopt a passive or fatalistic attitude. The Lord has given us specific authority and responsibilities to fulfill. We will be studying our various responsibilities throughout this study!