This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 16:10-13. In the verses previous to these, Jesus illustrated his approval of a shrewd and dishonest manager to communicate wisdom, but he immediately followed it with a strong directive to be honest with money and possessions. These are heart surgery verses, and Jesus is a most excellent cardiovascular surgeon:
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
Research and anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that Christians have just as much difficulty, and they often fail being honest when it comes to the issues of money and possessions, as do the rest of the population. Are we always honest on our tax forms, at the return counter, with our spouses, employers, and ourselves when it comes to money? If you answer “yes always,” then you probably don’t struggle with issues of putting your faith in Christ on matters of money and possessions.
There are three levels of honesty: with ourselves, with everyone else, and with God:
- Self honesty is below the surface integrity–integrity that no one can see most of the time. It is honesty in its truest form–where beliefs are in alignment with behavior when no one is looking. A test of this is to look into the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I always honest on my taxes, at the store, with my spouse or close friend, and with the company I work for (if self employed “with my employees”)? Do I fudge on tax deductions, return an item to the store that I broke because of misuse, turn in false expense reimbursement forms to my employer? Do I hide purchases from my spouse, or take advantage of friends’ generosity by claiming I have no money? Do I spend too much money on myself and neglect my family, friends and those in poverty? Do I believe in the tithe (10%) and consistently observe it?
- Outward honesty is what everyone sees you demonstrate, or what you claim to do. Stay at the mirror and ask yourself some more questions. “Do I spend too much money trying to keep up with my friends and neighbors, trying to look good on the outside while below the surface my finances are a mess? When making financial transactions in the marketplace and business, am I always honest? Do I talk a good religious life, tell others that I have the utmost financial integrity, but in secret my answers to these tough questions are not all good?
- Honesty with God is saying that I love him and believe in him and his goodness. Furthermore, it means that I have put all of my trust in him, and I believe he will provide adequately all that I need, both today and in the future. It means that I believe what God provides me with is enough. When I am honest with God, I gladly accept and live by these truths. It doesn’t mean that at times I might like to have more for my comfort and to look good to those around me. However, it does mean that I will be content with what the Lord blesses me with, and I will not be a bad steward or act dishonestly to get what God hasn’t provided for me in the period of time I expected to have it.
13″ No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Repentance is being honest with God. It is letting Jesus descend more deeply into our hearts to show us that we may at times be living the negative side of Luke 16:13, that we are more devoted to and in love with ourselves, and that we serve money and possessions to please us instead of putting our trust in him to live with full integrity for God’s good pleasure, having faith that he will provide and please us. Repentance is always good for financial change; it is a natural thing, and it is a basic regular requirement for getting to some of the root causes for financial problems. Repentance is surrender to Christ and his ways, putting our full trust in him.
Transformation is key for change. This article may weigh heavily on the hearts of some people because of the difficulty of changing habits that have become very ingrained in one’s personality over many years. You may have resolved to lose weight, or to quit smoking or biting your nails–and no matter how hard you tried, you failed. Moving into full financial integrity and fully trusting God in these areas isn’t any easier than these resolutions. Effort and repentance are very necessary, but so is heart change. Romans 12:1-2 indicates that the life of the believer is a process of our hearts being transformed into Christ’s likeness. Money touches nearly every aspect of life; therefore, it’s a wonderful place to start in this journey.
Financial freedom is how it feels when we walk this out. When we are free from serving money, trying to endlessly please ourselves, or to maintain or achieve an appearance of something we aren’t, it feels good, and we sleep better. I believe when we walk with integrity, trusting in him, we are much more prepared to handle the blessings God will entrust to us.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the forty-eighth post in this series.