Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Why God Needs Our Money (Part 2)

It’s not comfortable to delve into scriptures about money, but the Lord is gracious and his word will change and equip us if we will open our hearts to his truths. Do we want to experience the fullness of God? Then we must give. Let’s continue our exploration of God’s word to discover additional reasons for giving.

4.     We’re supposed to help others in need.

This is an obvious reason to many people, but do we consciously go without to help others? Are we willing to sacrifice luxuries, wants, or what we perceive as needs? It’s important to first mention that God’s word never condones the abuse of generosity, especially if the abuser claims to be a Christ-follower. We find in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that Paul addressed the issue of idleness and commanded, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” The noteworthy aspect of this rule is the distinction that an unwillingness to work is different than an inability to work. Therefore, we have every right as stewards of God’s provisions to insure that benefactors of our generosity are truly in need. The Lord certainly does not expect us to give haphazardly toward a need or cause that has proven to be untrustworthy.

However, it’s not biblical to put on blinders either. Proverbs 28:27 says, “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.” Deliberately ignoring the needs around us inhibits us from being a glorious, shining light for Christ. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to help us discern the difference between honest needs and illegitimate requests. The fear of an abuse of generosity shouldn’t make us hold so tightly to our money that we are unwilling to share. We can trust God to lead us toward where he would have us contribute.

We see a remarkable example of sacrifice for the benefits of others in Acts 4:32-35. The verses recall that, “All the believers were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions were their own, but they shared everything they had.” The believers were so in tune with God’s grace toward them that it motivated them to action, and the result was the absence of needs! Some of them even sold property to provide for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. What a picture of love and humility! God is exemplified when his people choose sacrifice over selfishness. While this passage deals with giving among God’s people, it sets an amazing charge of generosity than can also be extended to unbelievers. Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” While there is certainly a precedent to care for fellow believers, we cannot get so caught up in ourselves that we fail to help others in our midst. The command to help the brethren is sure, yet the guidance to extend our generosity to the world cannot be forgotten. It can certainly be emotionally and spiritually overwhelming to evaluate our ability to provide for others, but the Lord is faithful in revealing his desires if we will only ask. We very often are the solution.

5.     It’s our responsibility to financially support ministers of the gospel.

Recently I discovered that some believers actually think ministers shouldn’t be paid for doing the Lord’s work. I was disgusted (to say the least) because scripture is significantly clear that we are to physically support the ministers who have dedicated their lives to spiritual leadership. 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 reminds us that the servants within the temple received portions of the offerings, so “those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” Can church leaders serve God without accepting pay? Certainly if it is what the Lord has asked of them. But we rob ourselves of joy through obedience when we refuse to contribute towards the provision of ministers.

Paul explains in Philippians 4:16-19 that his motivation wasn’t to receive gifts, but to see fellow believers have rewards, “credited to [their] account.” And the same is true for any God-fearing church leader. Genuine ministers of the faith have an understanding that God supplies their needs, and our own needs will also be met “according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” when we accept our responsibility to support those who serve. This is not an excuse for ministerial excess but an encouragement toward pleasing God.

Numbers 18 gives the amazing account of the Lord’s provision for the Levites who were responsible for making sacrifices and taking care of the tabernacle. Their inheritance wasn’t in the land like the other tribes of Israel but in the first fruits and offerings provided by the people. Verse 12 announces God’s desire for the Levites to receive “the finest olive oil and the finest new wine and grain,” and further clarifies in verse 14 that “everything in Israel that is devoted to the Lord,” was part of their inheritance. It’s also noteworthy to add that this command was given to benefit all the servants of the tabernacle and not just the priests! In today’s world that means each church, as much as it is able, should not only bless lead ministers with gifts of sacrifice but other dedicated and uniquely called servants as well.

6.     Changing the world requires money.
A typical week’s worth of groceries for our family of five averages $200. I do a lot to cut costs each week including searching for coupons, submitting online rebates, and choosing off-brands. However, the total at the register still bothers me. Money is necessary for today’s world, but it just never seems like I’m getting the best trade for each dollar. Yet when I consider the investment – providing for the needs of my family – it becomes clear that any amount is worth it. The cost becomes worth it when I change my perspective.
The same is true when it comes to supporting efforts across the world to reach others for Christ. Why is it easy to spend $25 on a meal but hard to give $25 away? Because of perspective. The plain fact of the matter is the world isn’t going to change for the better without our money. And it sure feels easier to spend money when we get something in return (such as food or possessions). However, sin expertly blinds us to the reality that we get so many more benefits, including eternal rewards, when we use money as a tool to bless the world.

Jesus explained in Matthew 25:31-46 that a divide that will one day occur. This “Sheep and Goats” passage tells us the difference between the righteous (sheep) who have an inheritance in God’s kingdom and the unrighteous (goats) who will face flaming, eternal punishment. The sheep are world-changers whose faith leads them to action and caring for the needy. The goats are obviously unbelievers because their lack of faith keeps them from helping others. The direct distinction is that the righteous extend generosity on God’s behalf and the unrighteous withhold generosity for their own comfort. So, which do we choose: Faith or comfort? Are we living like sheep or goats?

The preeminent world-changer of all time never even had a home. He left his family, chose twelve misfits to mentor, and willingly endured everything life handed him while knowing he would die. He gave up his rights to make demands and live comfortably in order to carry out God’s will for his life. He gave all for everyone, and he tells us to love like he loves (John 13:34-35). So if we truly want our lives to identify with Christ – not just as flickering flashlights for the gospel but as heat lamps that draw others to him – then we must live like him.

We must live like him.

We have the power to change the world, and that power is held in our wallets. The God of heaven asks us to trust him and loosen our grip on what we think we control. The Holy Lamb beckons us to choose the spreading of his gospel over the accumulation of possessions and wealth. The Spirit pleads for us to finally start living. Let’s make a new commitment today, friends, to entrust not only our money but everything we have to the eternal God who will forever be praised.

Amen, and glory to you forever, Lord! To you we give eternal praise.