Category Archives: Bible on Money

You May Have Financial Difficulty

How encouraging is that title?  I talk to people all of the time who are struggling with finances. Its hard to go through financial difficulty, when you remember prosperity and abundance Bible verses, and while we live in the great land of the American Dream; a glittery  Disney Land like consumerism driven world.

Maybe they have done all the right things, pursuing education, working hard, but they are stuck in a seemingly dead-end job of low income, and increasing costs for groceries, gasoline and health-care. Sometimes there is blame on a bad economy, or disadvantaged education- situations, or maybe bad financial and career decisions.

People cry out; “Why am I going through financial difficulty. Is God picking on me, is he testing me, or punishing me for bad decisions? Of all the hundreds of Bible verses, maybe I missed a key one, that if I followed it, things would be much better.  I see people all around me, seemingly doing much better than me financially, yet they are no smarter, and made the same bad decisions- maybe much worse, why me God?”

Thinking this way is not uncommon, it’s maybe that you need make changes and learn and practice better money habits. However this perspective leaves out some key things: God is sovereign, and doesn’t follow our Biblical mathematical formulas; rarely is he in our debt, except for Proverbs 19:17. It forgets that God is just, kind and he abundantly blesses us all throughout the day, ways that we don’t see, or avail ourselves to take in, like spiritual peace and joy. It forgets that we follow God’s financial principles, because it is right and of integrity, following his heart, because we love him. It is not for what we get out financially, but showing him our gratefulness for all that he has done, and promises in eternity.

Lastly, it forgets the promises of Jesus, that we will suffer. My pastor recently wrote a wonderful letter to the congregation, part of which hits on this issue better than I could word it:

Jesus said, “I’ve told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Why don’t we paste that on our bathroom mirrors as a promise for each day? “In this world you will have trouble.”

Likewise, the apostle Paul said, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).”

Peter puts it plainly when he says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12).”

I like the way The Message version of the Bible puts it, “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process with glory just around the corner.”

What I observe in America, however, is alongside of this extraordinarily unBiblical and unrealistic idea that life is supposed to be pain free is an incredible fragility in most people that I meet. People today are exceptionally fragile. We’ve become the eggshell generation.

I hope that you will prosper financially, today and or in the future. I encourage you to be of a thankful mind, for God is lavishing much on you- stop and take time to spend time with him, listing it out, thanking him. Living this way has so many benefits to us practically and spiritually, and in time often financially too.

Does Less Money Mean More Happiness?

Rather than consider how much money we need to be happy, why not turn the question on its head and think about how too much money could make us unhappy. It may be a cliché, but there is truth in the saying, “money can’t buy happiness.”

In a recent study profiled on the New York Times, researchers found that above a comfortable standard (defined as an annual income of  $75,000), more money did not translate into greater happiness. While many of us think higher salaries can buy us the latest technology, a better house, and even an excellent education, it turns out the hard work and sacrifice we make to acquire that money could prevent us from having the time to really enjoy any of those things, or more importantly, our relationships with the people around us.

It is no surprise that people who make enough money to live comfortably are much happier than those who live in poverty. It seems that money impacts our happiness most when we don’t have enough to enable us to do the things we need and want to do to be fulfilled. If we’re worried about how to put the next meal on the table, there really is no time to ask the question, “Am I satisfied with my choice of career? Am I following God’s call?”

But too much money can also negatively impact our happiness. Continuously working extra long hours inevitably takes it toll after a while. Sacrificing a more flexible work schedule for a higher salary might not be the right choice in terms of happiness. And with more money also comes the stress of managing it well. In short, when we have too much money, we can easily desire more of it, until we lose track of our true priorities and become blind to life’s more abstract aspects.

Especially for those in comfortable financial situations, how we spend our money matters a lot more for our happiness than exactly how much of it we have.

As we already know from the Bible, and as this study reaffirms, there’s something to be said for under-indulgence, or occasionally depriving ourselves of small pleasures that we come to take for granted. It is through these small deprivations that we can get back in touch with the essence of our lives. Through under-indulgence, we become more aware of ourselves. If we eat ice cream every day, it becomes easy to think that we must eat it in order to be happy. Not eating the ice cream for a while gives us the opportunity to realize what in life actually does make us happy (or to deal with feelings of unhappiness, without burying them under spoonfuls of Ben and Jerry’s). Eventually, we can go back to that half-pint of Phish Food and appreciate it in all its fatty, sugary glory. It will taste even better if we’ve stayed away for a week or two.

It turns out that spending money on others brings us a level of happiness that we can’t even come close to when buying things for ourselves. This is part of the beauty of being made in the image of Jesus: we derive happiness from sharing our bounty with others, just as Jesus selflessly sacrificed for us. No matter what income bracket we fall into, maintaining this spirit of giving will increase our fulfillment with our lives and our sense of community with each other and God. Rather than lament the fact that we cannot make an annual contribution of thousands of dollars to charity, why not give time in the form of service, or even a smile or kind words to a stranger?

Deriving happiness from money is only possible when we realize that it’s all about what we make of what we have – and not about more, more, more.

Angie Picard is a writer for NerdWallet, a financial literacy website where you can find advice to better answer the question, “am I saving enough?”

The Pros and Cons of Gambling

Gambling has been more in the news it seems over the last few years, with mega-lotteries, more states legalizing casinos, and ex-mayor of San Diego, Maureen O’Connor, losing over a billion dollars playing video poker. In this era of a rapidly growing gambling industry, we are going to see more stories in the news like this, and more people we know will be affected by its negatives.

In the United States we have casinos (commercial and Indian), sport wagering, horse and dog racing, racinos or a combination of animal betting and casino light (often only slot machines), so-called ‘Internet Cafe’ gambling, private online gambling, charitable (often non-profit bingo) and lotteries–both state and national. According to the Wiki about gambling in the USA, all states have some form of legal gambling with the exception of Hawaii and Utah. I should have covered this subject earlier, because I have met many people damaged by their own gambling or by that of their loved ones.

What does the Bible say about Gambling?

The Bible does not directly address gambling, but primarily it warns us about some of the issues around it, such as greed, covetousness, contentment, love of money, and selfishness–in fact it warns us big time about these things. So primarily for Christians it is a matter of conscience and self evaluation. When Christians consider buying a lottery ticket or walking into a casino to gamble or wager on sports, what is going through their hearts and minds?  Are they doing it for simple entertainment value, expecting to spend only a few dollars? Conversely, it might be their thinking that for a few dollars they have the chance to make a lot of money. Perhaps they consider what good they can do for themselves and their families, and of course for society by being great philanthropists. For major monotheistic religions with sacred scriptures, Judaism and Christianity viewpoints are similar. Islam forbids gambling.

What is really going on in inside me when I gamble?

My emotions tempt me to buy a lottery ticket when the mega lotteries are hitting 100’s of millions. Isn’t it good stewardship, or investing, to wager one dollar for the chance to win a billion dollars? (The record in the U.S. is $1.3 billion 1/2016.) If I am on a business trip in Las Vegas, what is the harm in gambling a little, for I might win big. Looking within, I know that basically I am a sinful man, just like everyone else. I am putting my hope in money and not in God by walking that path. It is saying that I don’t trust God, who owns everything, to bless me the way he intends to, however great or humble that might be. It is walking outside of the way I see God’s plan for my life.

Why I don’t gamble.

  • I don’t do it, for as a director of a financial ministry in a church, it totally goes against what I teach and believe–it would be wrong for me to do so.
  • Secondly, as I said in the prior section, it is walking outside God’s plan for my life.
  • It would be bad stewardship of the money God has entrusted me with to manage according to his purposes, since first God doesn’t want me to do it, and secondly the odds are extremely high that I will not win, that I am wasting that money.
  • It supports an industry that profits mainly on the backs of the poor, often may have organized crime associated with it, but I am contributing to hurting others; the profits they derive from my contribution sustain and grow it, which may end up hurting more people than would be affected if I didn’t give them any money.
  • It is a bad investment, a waste of money, since the odds of losing are very high.
  • Lastly, I am not good at it, I’ve always lost on lotteries, at friendly neighborhood card games, and once when I bet about $50 in Las Vegas.
  • The Casino environment is depressing, false and gross, and I might become addicted to it.
  • Medical science says it produces a drug for our brain, which is probably unhealthy.

Why I am against the proliferation of legalized gambling.

  • Research shows that profiting on false hope, more people become addicted to it; it leads to the breakdown of families in areas where it occurs.
  • As gambling grows, crimes such as human trafficking, domestic violence, and driving under the influence of alcohol, increases.
  • Gambling is also a tax on the poor, since a higher percentage of gamblers are those of modest to very low incomes. In my position of counseling people with financial problems, and looking at research, I have discovered that more than 50% live paycheck to paycheck, have excessive debt, and have no savings–gambling increases the likelihood of personal financial failure to those on modest incomes, and it increases their dependency on social programs. 
  • Gambling destroys self-sufficiency work ethic, causing dependence on chance instead of on hard work. The Twentieth Century Fund research group commented, “Gambling’s get-rich-quick appeal appears to mock capitalism’s core values: disciplined work habits, thrift, prudence, adherence to routine, and the relationship between effort and reward.”
  • I think it invites more corruption in government both at the high levels and locally. It puts more money, and thus power, into the hands of institutions and the powers behind them, to affect all sorts of public policies, some of which may be bad.
  • Elderly people with extra time and access to gambling often deplete reserves needed for their own survival and reduce or does away with funds they might have left as inheritances. I see older and disabled people all the time buying hundreds of dollars in lottery tickets at Kroger, when I’m in the checkout line.
  • Big windfall lottery winnings, more often than not, increase the likelihood of major depression, bankruptcy and divorce. Long-term slow accumulation of wealth develops character traits that aid in the management of large sums of money. Instant wealth often ruins high paid athlete’s and lottery winner’s lives.

Some of the positives or other points of view regarding legalized gambling

To give balance to this article, it is only fair to look at these too.

  • Some people may win big, but there’s a one in over a hundred million chance of losing.
  • People are going to gamble anyway, why not legalize it so that it is controlled and taxed heavily? Some people take this viewpoint, but some say the cost to society both in social services, breakdown of families, and corruption outweighs the benefits.
  • The taxes from gambling or profits from lotteries often go to help schools and other societal needs.  This may be true, but often funds are diverted elsewhere in government budgets, so it’s quite possible there is no real financial benefit. Plus, if the funds come from those in poverty, like research shows, it’s another unfair tax on the poor, something Christians shouldn’t support.
  • It is an innocent form of entertainment and government shouldn’t restrict people’s freedom or mandate laws based on one’s particular religious beliefs. Government has always made laws and regulations, often derived from beliefs based in religion or non-religious beliefs. Vices have always been regulated, restricted, taxed and or prohibited–including alcohol, prostitution, pornography, and gambling. Sometimes it is easier and cheaper to legalize, tax and treat medically. However, we’ve moved way beyond that, with this growing industry.
  • It’s good for the local economy.  Gambling establishments employ a lot of people and pay well. Their construction and growth of business in their areas have often been seen. While on this subject…

Is it okay to have a job working for the legalized gambling industry?

  • Some may say that working in a casino or for a related business as a Christian is an additional opportunity for them to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) to all parts of the world around them. I respect Christians who prayerfully consider working in a gambling institution, or a related industry, such as raising race horses, and decide to do so based on their own discernment and understanding.
  • On the other hand, others may say that it isn’t good for people to expose themselves to an environment that is at the least negative, and at the worst demonic. Somewhere in the middle is the argument that it could even detract them from maturing in their walk with Christ.
  • Whether one decides to seek or accept this kind of employment, it should be a matter of prayer, evaluating various scriptures about money, and seeking counsel from others (Proverbs 15:22).

In Conclusion, how should Christians respond to the proliferation of gambling?

  • Engage people in conversations about faith and money, bringing up key Bible verses like Matthew 6:19 – 24 and Proverbs 23:4.
  • Consider abstaining from it, so you don’t contribute to the industry that is harmful.
  • Perhaps, avoid investing in companies in the gaming industry.
  • Be politically active in movements against legalizing it, vote against it and don’t support politicians that do. Christians often act very un-Christ-like in the political marketplace, so they should be very conscious of their emotions and behaviors so that they don’t cast a bad light on Christianity.
  • Provide various ministry opportunities to those caught in gambling.
  • Provide financial education classes teaching wise personal financial management as a preventative measure.

Getting Financially Fit For Life

The past weekend my Pastor, Rich Nathan, of Vineyard Columbus preached an outstanding sermon about money, called Getting Financially Fit for Life. Click the link to watch, listen to, or read it. You can easily download it onto your device for podcast listening too.

He taught quite a bit out of Matthew 6:19-21, 24-33. I particularly liked how Rich pointed out the “your” in 19 and 21. I find it encouraging that Christ is talking about how much he is concerned about what treasure he wants for us.

19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

24 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

25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Do You Worry About Money?

Can you imagine what it would feel like if you had one day without worries?

Does the thought of not having enough money worry you?  Are you anxious about what would happen if you lost your job? Are you fearful that when retirement comes, that you won’t have enough or you will run out of money?  Do you have so much money that you fear what your life would look like if investments fared poorly, or a lawsuit left you high and dry?

Personal and business finances are probably the area of life people worry about the most. People from developed industrialized countries worry more about money than people in developing countries. Worry is not good for our health; stress is right up their with smoking and obesity as big causes of health problems.

How do you stop worrying? If you listen to any advertisements, all of your worries can be alleviated if you buy the advertised products. The financial industry will take care of your retirement when you get too old, the bank if you need to borrow quick cash, and investment firms if you will just trust them. You can insure everything you own: insurance is available for your health, life, auto, income (disability), house, belongings, and even your cat. If you have enough money, you can be insured against any calamity: fire, theft, death, sickness, earthquake, flood, hurricane, law suit, error or omission and even your own mistakes or stupidity. But at the end of the day, you will still worry even if you have all of these things- life is still uncertain.

I have only met about three types of people who don’t worry–those with strong religious faiths, sociopaths, or those that generally don’t seem to care about much. Christians worry and are anxious quite a bit of the time, but they don’t have to worry; start by reading Matthew 6:25-34:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Worry is future tense, but it is impossible to live in the future. It is smart to make financial plans and insure for your future. It would be ignorant to not plan and not worry. Even people who have good plans still worry. All you can do today is only what you can do today, and that is it. You can’t change tomorrow. You can minimize problems tomorrow by making good plans today. No wonder Jesus says we can’t do anything about tomorrow by stirring it up in our heads. We can pray for tomorrow, but we should also really pray about what we are doing, thinking and saying today, and we should live at peace in our minds.

Last week my pastor preached the best sermon I have ever heard on this subject, “Why Do You Worry?”. Click the link to listen to it. Rich Nathan said the Greek basis of the word means divided. To worry means to have divided thoughts–thinking in the flesh with half our brain, and thinking God-like in the other half. People in turmoil worry.  To worry means to divide our thoughts between today and the future. Having a divided mind means to have hidden agendas if God’s agenda doesn’t work so well.

Financially peaceful, worry-free minds don’t come from having a lot of money so that we don’t worry. Jesus covered this in Luke 12:19-20, talking to the rich who say to themselves “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” God’s response is, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

Likewise he never says to have no plans for the future and consume all of your money today, but to be wise to save for rainy days:  Proverbs 6:6-8: 6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

To not worry means to follow Jesus and stop worrying. It means seeking first his Kingdom. It means working on the troubles, challenges and today’s work–even planning and budgeting. Not worrying requires mindful discipline, work, and not yielding to the what-ifs of tomorrow. Not worrying is freeing and life changing–another one of the beautiful gifts of Jesus.

Financial Thanksgiving

The attitude of being thankful is one of the foundational feelings we can have for helping us do well financially. When we are thankful for the things we have, we are content and are not in the “I’ll just be happy if I have…” mindset. Contentment and satisfaction are internal feelings; they can’t be obtained from external sources other than God.

When I want something that is beyond my basic needs, I am telling myself that I will be more happy and satisfied when I have obtained it. We all know that after we have purchased something we desperately wanted, in a short while we will want something else again. It seems as if the cycle never ends. Emotions really come into play in this game, much more than logic (except of course when I want new tools 🙂 ). Marketing firms know just how to craft ads to make us feel incomplete, and to suggest filling that gap with their products. We are emotional beings, and our emotions can often fool us.

If I had been a more thankful person, I would have avoided purchasing many things I have over the years, and I would have borrowed a whole lot less money. In the end I would have had more money in savings and investments, and I probably would have given more money away too- bringing more joy to others, to God, and to myself. When I own fewer things, I love having more time on hand, since everything comes with a maintenance schedule. Thanksgiving might be the best American holiday, for it is a great reminder for us to be thankful for all the things we have. Being thankful and content with what we have makes us happier people, something we all want. It is really sad that the day after Thanksgiving is the largest shopping day of the year. In addition, it can be one of the worst times to buy things, since I reported earlier that prices go up on many items during the Holidays.

The most quoted Bible verse of all times is probably the 23rd Psalm, which starts: “The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want” (NKJV) and “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (NIV). Most versions have worded it similarly to these two–either I shouldn’t want beyond my basic needs, or what the Lord provides is totally satisfactory and in him I don’t lack anything I need to feel content. Both ways of looking at it speak volumes to me in the way I need to think about material things and possessions.

My Pastor, Rich Nathan, wrote about Thanksgiving recently in his monthly congregational e-mail:

Like Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, Thanksgiving offers an important rhythm in our year to practice something essential to human happiness – in Thanksgiving’s case, gratitude!

Thanksgiving: Our Response to God’s Extravagant Grace

The author, Os Guinness, quotes a famous artist who said, “The worst moment in the world for an atheist is when she is genuinely thankful, but has nobody to thank.” When your heart bursts with gratitude at the birth of one of your children or grandchildren, or you look at a gorgeous sunset, or you hold your spouse and you are so happy that you cry tears of joy, or you have a prayer miraculously answered – how horrible it would be to be filled with gratitude and have no one to whom to say “thank you.” Christians have someone to say “thank you” to – Jesus Christ.

It is often said that for Christians salvation is all grace and obedience is all gratitude. My love for you, Jesus, is my grateful response to your love for me. I love you, Jesus. You have been so good to me. My tithe is my way for me to say thanks to you. Whenever you write a check and put it in the offering basket, whenever you serve in inconvenience, whenever you make the hard choice of showing kindness to someone who has treated you shabbily, you are saying, “Thank you, Jesus.”

Michelangelo once did a pencil drawing of the Pieta for a friend. With the dead body of Jesus supported by angels at her feet, Mary doesn’t cradle her son as in Michelangelo’s other renderings. In the pencil drawing of the Pieta, Mary raises her hands and her eyes are lifted towards heaven. On the vertical beam of the cross, Michelangelo inscribed a line from Dante’s Paradise, which is the focus of the drawing. The line is this: No one thinks of how much blood it cost.

It is very rare that we kneel with our eyes turned upward to heaven and say:

I haven’t said thank you recently for how much blood it cost for me to know you. I haven’t said thank you recently for how much blood it cost for your church to exist. I haven’t said thank you recently for how much blood it cost to forgive my many sins and to show me grace despite my frequent disobedience.

Gratitude – a recognition that we have nothing that we haven’t received – will keep us as a large church from becoming full of ourselves. It is gratitude that will get our eyes off of our accomplishments and onto Christ’s accomplishments. St. Augustine once said that the Christian life was supposed to be a Hallelujah from head to toe- the praise of God saturating our lives.

Thanksgiving: The Neglected Key to Joy

One of the biggest happiness boosters (this was discovered through a grant from the National Institute of Health) is through practicing gratitude. How do you practice gratitude?

One of the exercises that psychologists gave to people was a gratitude journal; taking time every day to write in a gratitude journal things for which they were thankful. What psychologists found was that if people took time to conscientiously count their blessings every day, life satisfaction markedly increased in just six weeks.

Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology, has tested similar practices at the University of Pennsylvania and in huge experiments that he’s conducted over the Internet. Seligman believes that the single most effective way to turbo-charge our joy is to make what he calls a “gratitude visit.” This means writing out a testimonial thanking a teacher, or a pastor, or a grandparent, or anyone to whom you owe a debt of gratitude. Then visit that person and read your letter of appreciation to him or her. Seligman said that the remarkable thing was that people were measurably happier a month after they paid a gratitude visit to the person to whom a debt of gratitude was owed. Saying thanks produces ongoing joy.

Seligman also recommends what he calls “three blessings,” taking time each day to write down three things that went well that day (in other words, counting your blessings), taking time to journal what’s going well and intentionally savoring good moments by journaling them. Why not consider creating a gratitude journal, paying a gratitude visit, or savoring good things in your life by journaling them?

Thanksgiving: The Need to Practice Becoming a Thankful Person

Thankfulness is something we have to practice. It is like learning how to play the piano. Just as anyone who wishes to play piano well has to practice scales over and over again, thanksgiving must be practiced continually. One thing our family does is to go around the table at Thanksgiving and share at least one thing for which we are grateful. Saying “thank you” does not come naturally to us self-centered people, who believe that all good things are ours by way of entitlement; who are naturally greedy; or who are forgetful. You know you have practiced the scales of thankfulness long enough when you can play the really difficult melody of “thankfulness in all situations” (Philippians 4.11-12). You have become a skilled giver of thanks when, instead of grumbling and complaining, instead of sinking into self-pity and depression, you are able to give thanks in all circumstances!

The New Economy, Matthew 6:19-34

Jesus Money Monday: The New Economy

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the Four Gospels is from Matthew 6:19-34.*

For the past several weeks this devotional has covered some of the references to money in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This teaching is early in his ministry, and it was groundbreaking, for he taught a totally new, radical way of thinking and living. If you were to try to describe Jesus’ approach to money, you could say it was Kingdom oriented and not self centered, and it taught us to rely on Jesus to provide–a new economic system.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 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.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Looking back 2,000 years, we see that it is obvious little has changed in terms of man’s striving after economic resources. We worry about having enough money to buy more clothes, shelter, and food. It is not bad to build wealth–in fact it is a good thing. Accumulating wealth is good for alleviating poverty, avoiding debt, helping our families and society. However, what Jesus was concerned about for his kids was a life with wealth at the center. He used the image of a slave and its master. Jesus’ words are pretty sharp indicating that we can’t have two masters. Considering times of forced slavery prior to emancipation in America, or for those captured today in the sexual slave industry, no one could have two slave masters or two pimps. If we try to do so, Jesus advised, we will love one of the masters and hate the other. Jesus indicated that we should choose to serve  either him or something else, and we are slaves to those things we choose to serve.

This is perhaps one of the most difficult things for Christians to conquer in America today. We live in a society dominated by consumerism and greed. Economic issues are one of the top 5 news stories every day, right up there with war, sports, politics and celebrities. Finances affect our decisions about careers, where we live and go to school, and often our friendships. We live in a society of great material expectations where many strive for the American Dream. We are guilty of wanting the materially good life as well as wanting to serve Christ, so we often go after both and risk trying to serve two masters. Jesus says it can’t be done.

Jesus goes on to encourage us in verses 25 – 34 by telling everyone about his new economic system–one that is not based upon worry for self and striving for material things, but on going after his Kingdom and righteousness. Jesus promises that he will take care of the rest. Seeking his Kingdom and his righteousness, means turning from the world and giving our hearts to him. It means being obedient to his word and following him in the new abundant life he calls us to. For some believers it may mean repenting of greed, or of trying to serve two masters. The exciting part is living a life no longer consumed by worry and anxiety but a life based on trusting God, who is always good and reliable.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves  money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in his selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the seventh post in this series.

The Lord’s Prayer about Money, Matthew 6:9-14

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the Four Gospels is from Matthew 6:9-14.*

Early in Jesus’ ministry, he taught a very large crowd many things, including how to talk to God in prayer. Until now I didn’t realize it had some strong financial elements.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.'”

Bread could have several meanings, both material and spiritual. Jesus refers to himself as the living water and bread of life in other verses, so the reference to bread could mean spiritual food, as well as the bread our body needs for energy. Bible scholars often say that words are sometimes left intentionally vague to allow for more than one meaning, and in this example I think it quite fair to pray for the material aspect as well as for spiritual food.

Praying for our daily bread is a strange thing to pray for, isn’t it?  When we have a steady paycheck, do we pray for this earnestly?  When the Social Security or other retirement check shows up regularly, do we think about praying for food as much? When the grocery store always has food, or the food pantry or government food card gets replenished monthly, do we pray for our material needs and those of others with grave effort?  We probably pray for this harder when we are out of work and our savings are running out.  Let’s be honest, we really take it for granted that we are going to have enough food. It might cross our minds to be tempted to say to ourselves that it isn’t Jesus baking our bread or growing our crops. So we go to work each day, thinking that we and not Jesus are the ones exerting the efforts to earn money to buy food at the grocery store. So why should we pray for bread? That was a first century thing, before our modern food supply system evolved to what it is today!

When drought conditions threaten the world food supply like they have this year, we might think about this more. When recessions hit and the effects are felt for many years, and we or people we know go through tough times, we tend to pray about it more. When public and private pension systems talk about running out of money (e.g., when Social Security is going to go broke), or many state pension plans are underwater, we might have more concern.

The fact of the matter is that Bible verses are timeless. The magic of them is that throughout history the truths that are taught are steady as a rock. People might argue evolution and intelligent design, from relatively a few words in Genesis, but at the end of the day the things Jesus said are timeless and applicable to how we face life and treat others more now than ever. It seems that Jesus never wants us to take even the things like food, shelter, transportation, healthcare and utilities for granted. He indicates that he wants us to pray for these things every day. This is because in doing so we recognize that we might not have any of these things tomorrow, and that he is the actual creator and supplier of these goods: Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made John 1:3. I think praying for these things keeps our eyes on him and not on our employer, our paycheck, our business or our bank account.

When I pray verse 12: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”, for the first time I am considering the possible financial guidance Jesus is offering here. Some versions have trespass or sin instead of debt. I am no Bible scholar or a student of languages that many of them study to derive the essential meaning of a word. To check on this a little more, I looked up 25 Bible versions online at Bible Gateway, since I don’t own them. Interestingly, most use the word debt, so I think it is fine to also think about what we might pray in relation to financial debt. Debt is bondage (Proverbs 22:7) and Jesus doesn’t want us to be shackled by it. When I pray this verse, I ought not only to think about the aspects of sin to God and others, but to pray that God will forgive me for going into too much debt, and I should ask for his help to get out of it. Conversely, if we have loaned money to others, we might want to consider ways for us to help them get out of debt. Sometimes debt is so high that forgiveness might be an option (Bankruptcy), but this verse indicates that we should pray about it. Those considering this option should talk to qualified advisors and make every effort for repayment (Psalms 37:21) before choosing it.

One last thought–there seems to be a connection when the word ‘and’ is used to connect daily bread and debt. It would take more words than I have space here to delve into the connection of these two prayers. However it is obvious that materially there is a definite connection between praying over our financial condition and our debt, and praying for spiritual blessings and our state of forgiveness with God and with others.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves  money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in his selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the sixth post in this series.

Reconciliation Makes Financial Sense, Matthew 5:23-26

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the Four Gospels is from Matthew 5:23-26.*

Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

5:25-26 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

These verses are from Jesus’ sermon on the mount, where he is teaching his followers to conduct their lives in a totally different way from the rest of mankind. I find these verses particulary convicting. The messages might not be linked, but they could be.

Jesus wisely instructs his followers to do heart surgery before approaching God in a public setting. In those days taking a gift to the temple of God could be giving a financial offering or some other offering, such as grain or an animal. It was a done for such things as thanksgiving, or perhaps it involved repentance from sin. He doesn’t want us to go through religious motions, especially in public, to make a mockery of the giver or of the recipient–God. Sin usually involves some kind of act involving another person. Jesus cares more about the relationships between his kids than he ever does about the gift being made at church, even a really big financial donation. We can be the most generous people on the planet, but if we are not reconciled to someone we have offended or who has offended us, then our faith falls short. The gift of unified friendship is worth more than any gift, and the gift given after reconciliation is sweeter, and it shows praise to our heavenly father for forgiving us.

Is it possible that our financial situation shelters our heart from where it really is with people? Can we hide within our comfortable financial zone and not worry about those we have problems with, since we are self sufficient and don’t need the other persons? Equally we can be in financial difficulty and consider that the person who hurt us, or whom we have hurt, is in a different financial class. So why should we bother. Do we feel better when we make a financial gift and think that our conscious is quelled? Interestingly, Jesus is after reconciled community, and reconciliation with him.

Getting to Matthew 5:25-26 now, if things between people have elevated to the point that lawsuits are being written up, the legal war has heightened to want of blood letting. Mutual reconciliation from contrite hearts seems to be out of the possibility. When you walk into court, how much money you will lose or gain is an unknown. You could be in the right, but lose in court and end up penniless. Even two thousand years ago, it made a lot of sense to settle matters early between parties, before emotions got heightened; attorneys make their fees from months and years of litigation. Settle matters and reconcile if possible. It honors God, and it is good for our souls, good for our giving, and good for our personal finances.

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves  money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in his selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fourth post in this series.

What is Jesus’ Financial Plan?

Many Christian financial books have attempted to answer the question: “What is the Biblical way for managing personal finances?” Probably the best book ever written on the subject is Randy Alcorn’s “Money Possession and Eternity.” If you haven’t read it you should. It provides the wisest approach for Godly management of money. Although this and other wonderful books are really great at giving people the solid foundation they need, at the end of the day they leave me ‘wanting,’ as my 11th grade English teacher described some of my writings. This isn’t a criticism at all, but an opportunity, I think, to dig deeper into what Jesus thinks about money. You see, it seems to me that Jesus brings a lot more to this conversation. I guess that is why I’ve titled my blog “JesusMoney.”

I counsel people who are trying to survive financial crisis, such as job loss and too much debt.  There are two questions I try to steer towards: What is the Biblical way to manage finances? What is the path? A road map can simply, but not easily, be put together. There is a third question:  What is Jesus doing in this mess? He is often right there in our quagmires, comforting and guiding us through them all. However, there is often heart surgery and healing to be done with his help.

At this point I wonder in my mind: “Jesus, what is your philosophy on money?” As with most direct questions, he wisely doesn’t answer simply. This is because his answers spider out into so many more areas of life. Also, he knows we would try to formulate some Biblical equation for financial successand many try. The following is my attempt to formulate how I think Jesus would answer this question.

  1. Not self centered: Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. Jesus declared in Luke 17:33 his radical departure from a life centered on concern for self. Jesus’ approach is often incompatible with the American culture of consumerism,  self-satisfaction and fulfillment.
  2. Grace-filled. Jesus blessed countless people (sometimes setting them free from demons, raising some from the dead and healing others), and rarely did he justify his blessings on the performance of those who were blessed. Sometimes Jesus recognized their faith, but grace and forgiveness ran cross current to the “cause and effect, reap what you sow” rule of life. Jesus knows we have difficulties and failures with money, and he extends grace to us so that we can make progress despite them.
  3. Kingdom oriented. A majority of Jesus’ teaching did not center on reaching a personal dream of prosperity, but on getting in line with his plan for humanity. He wants us to have this as our main plan.
  4. Holy Spirit led and empowered. Jesus prayed for direction and strength, and he followed God’s will all of his days. We have the same connection to God, so we are not left to our own energy and ideas to handle the financial challenges and stresses facing us today.
  5. God is the provider; money and the things it brings are not our comfort. He wants us to seek him and his kingdom for our needs.  Matthew 6:18-21, 28-33: 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
  6. Miraculous. Jesus did many economic miracles (bread, fish and wine), as well as hundreds of healings, and he also walked on the water. He has the power to provide us with financial miracles and set us free from things like materialism and debt. Jesus wants us to ask for these things too.
  7. Participatory. God chooses to work with and through us to redeem creation and all of its institutions, including government and business. We are to consider that we are active players in this co-creation, and our personal finances and business practices are key elements.
  8. Eternal reward. Jesus exemplifies in the Parable of the Talents the blessing “Well done good and faithful servant.” In Matthew 25:23, he promises to bless those who are good managers/stewards of the things he entrusts to them. Therefore Jesus wants us to have eternal focus, to recognize that we will be asked to give an account. He will reward us for good, wise, entegrity-filled management.
  9. Generosity: Jesus life was full of giving things and not accumulating anything for himself. He loved, healed, saved, led, taught, and participated in community. He didn’t set up his own castle. He didn’t teach directly to tithe, but he indicated that tithing is a practice we should continue. Jesus people are naturally generous, especially to those in need.  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23
  10. Financial success? God provides no Biblical formula or guarantee of riches; in fact we may go through bad financial times, sometimes not caused by our own actions. Jesus promised that rain would fall on the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45 and John 15:20), but financial freedom and peace is a form of contentment (Philippians 4) whether we have an abundance of money or not. Many who apply the right principles will do well financially, but at the end of the day either way, he wants us to have the right approach.

The above list isn’t complete.There are three other foundational principles regarding personal finances: (1) God is the owner and we are temporary stewards, (2) Wisdom: There are hundreds of principles throughout the Bible  that we are to follow with regard to the wise use of money. (3) How we manage our personal finances can lead us to reap blessings and curses, sometimes in a cause and effect fashion, but considering the 10 principles above we can approach this challenge not self-centeredly or with fright, but in a new way.

For me having this balanced Jesus point of view towards money helps me to have a solid basis for approaching this difficult and stressful subject. This also helps me when I consider things I read about finances, or take classes, whether they be from Christians or others. I am able to filter things out, using the good aspects and leaving the bad behind.

I also need this filter because there are all sorts of preachers teaching erroneously. There are those  in the vein of health and wealth, or positive thinking (e.g., Robert Schuler, Joel Osteen, or Norman Vincent Peal), or faith and financial success (Gary Keese), or generosity ‘give-to-get’ theologiesbut at the end of the day, following Jesus in my finances will give me the freedom and peace he promises.

Dave Ramsey’s FPU Class, Week 6 Lesson: Insurance

The Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University multi-week class has an entire lesson on insurance, or risk management. On the surface this subject doesn’t seem all that spiritual, but protecting our family and the property God has given us, using as few dollars as possible is very good stewardship. To underline a few items from this lesson, and a few things that need a little more information…

  • Evaluate your life insurance Amount: if you have minor children and a mortgage a good rule of thumb is 10 times income (an insurance expert or financial planner can help you calculate your amount). You can subtract from that number your group life amount and other insurance, savings and investments. If your spouse doesn’t work outside of the home, she probably needs it too.
  • Life Insurance Type: Most personal finance experts, and financial planners recommend term insurance since it is pretty inexpensive, and buy as long a term as you can afford usually, such as 10 – 25 year level term. The length of the term will depend upon your age, affordability and overall financial plan.
  • Permanent Life Insurance: Dave and other financial experts recommend against using permanent (also known as whole life, universal and variable life) as an investment vehicle. This is because the fees are high, the net overall rate of return is modest, and the need for permanent insurance declines as we get older, as well as your savings and investments build up. Sometimes life doesn’t always go according to a neat plan with careers, business or family (e.g., death, divorce, starting families when we are older, and step families). Also, the ‘buy term and invest the rest’ depends upon exhibiting great personal finance habits throughout life. Considering these last two points…
  • Replacing permanent insurance with term: If someone evaluates their financial plan, and decides to replace their existing permanent insurance with term, they should be careful.  First of all the new policy has a period of waiting for incontestability and suicide. Secondly, being able to switch to low cost term is dependent on one’s health- so before you switch, make sure that you are insurable and at a good rate, and the new policy is in force until you drop the old one. Lastly, especially if the permanent policy has been in force for a long time, it is good to consider its overall net cost (examine’s its dividends {that could pay the premium} and cash value annual increases. Obtain an inforce ledger first of the existing policy to examine, and get second or third opinions before dropping- you have incurred a lot of upfront cost in the permanent, so don’t be hasty to drop it too quickly.
  • Competitive casualty insurance: If you haven’t shopped your auto and homeowners insurance in a while, call some independent and captive agents for quotes for various deductibles, you may be able to save a goodly amount.  Be sure to have your policy’s declaration page or description of coverage handy to refer to.
  • Umbrella coverage: Talk to your agent about ‘personal catastrophe’ or ‘umbrella’ insurance to protect you from excess liability. A few million dollars of coverage costs less than $200 usually.
  • Replacement cost: Ask your agent about your homeowner’s ‘replacement cost’ coverage for dwelling and contents.
  • Riders: Look into riders for increased limits on certain kinds of property, collectibles, and jewellery, as well to be covered if a sump pump fails or sewage backs up.
  • Long term care insurance (LTCi): If you are in your 50’s it is okay to consider this coverage now before age 60. Dave recommends this age, since that is usually the best time statistically considering normal life plans, accomplishing the baby-steps, and premiums. Rates go up with age, and sometimes our health changes more as we age, so if your financial plan permits LTCi, before age 60, that is okay.
  • Disability Insurance: Review your short-term and long-term disability coverage at work, even if you have it, it may be a good idea to consider supplemental since group DI is usually taxable.
  • Estate Planning: Dave recommends good estate planning. Be sure to contact an attorney about having a will, power of attorney written for you. If you believe in end-of-life planning, ask about living wills and health care power of attorney. Trust planning makes good sense for asset protection, and to take care of minor children, not including privacy and tax and probate cost minimization.

Conclusion, we can have insurance to protect us financially from almost everything that can happen to us, however the most effective protection is prayer:

  • Matthew 6:9-13 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one.
  • Ephesians 6:11-13 “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
  • Psalm 27:1-3 “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident.”

Monday Launch, Work Hard

Monday is a hard day for a lot of people. After a few day weekend, of some work, leisure and sleeping in, we are up at the break of day, with fatigue we head off to work. We look forward to the day of retirement, when we can go at a slower pace. Yet when we go to work, we are obeying the Lord, and when we obey him he blesses us.

  • WORK HARD:  Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might . . . (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
  • GOD WORKS: By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. . . all His work which God had created and made (Genesis 2:2-3). And the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden . . . (Genesis 2:8). But He [Jesus] answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17).
  • REQUIRED: Six days you shall labor and do all your work . . . (Exodus 20:9).
  • WORK NOT RESULT OF THE FALL: Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it (Genesis 2:15).
  • NOT SELFISH: . . . we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent from the body, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ . . . (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). But you [Baruch], are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them . . . (Jeremiah 45:5).
  • NOT OVERWORK: It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep (Psalm 127:2).
  • FAITHFUL EMPLOYEES: Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful . . . (Daniel 6:4).
  • WORK AS UNTO THE LORD: Whether, then, you eat of drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

THE LORD IS WITH US ALL DAY: We don’t go to work to labor alone and then drag ourself home at the end of the day, but we can be encouraged by Psalm 16:8: I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

Monday AM Launch, Fear and Love of Money

This week’s financial devotional verse is Hebrews 13:5-9

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.

Fear and the love of money seem to be juxtaposed in these verses, making the reader wonder.

  • Free from the love of money: when we love something, we have a passion for it, for in our heart we are drawn to it, tied to it, and can’t live without it. We want more of the things we love, because of how it makes us feel, and sense that more is only better. Some even fear they won’t have enough money to satisfy them.
  • Be content with what you have: this is a foreign concept for the American diet of be all you can be, going for the gusto and the constant stream of the latest models coming to market daily, as evidenced by the public’s appetite for the latest and greatest iPhone.  When we aren’t content, we fear what life will be like in the void.
  • Never will I leave you;  never will I forsake you: God indicates that he is enough for us, that his presence in our lives satisfies us more than money or anything that we hope would bring us safety and contentment.
  • The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid: Sometimes it is easier to have faith in the things we can see, like money or our careers- tangible things. It is difficult to let go, and walk in faith. I can do so, without being afraid because I know he is my helper.
  • What can mere mortals do to me? Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life: Millions of men and women of excellent faith have come before me, they walked the same walk of faith and contentment, and the outcome of their life, either in this life or the next was glorious. That is the evidence and promise I have, and he and his promises don’t change: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 
  • Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. In the course of life we will encounter wonderfully sounding financial teachings, either in seminars, books or on the internet. We must be careful to stay on the path, not to let fear creep in when things don’t seem to be happening quickly enough, and not carried away by something that makes it sound like there is a better easier way.

Monday AM Launch: Giving

For this morning’s devotional, I am using an excerpt from The NIV Stewardship Study Bible:

“God created both soul and body, and the resurrection of Jesus shows that he is going to redeem both the spiritual and the material. Therefore God is concerned not only for the salvation of souls but also for the relief of poverty, hunger and injustice. The gospel opens our eyes to the fact that all our wealth (even wealth for which we worked hard) is an unmerited gift from God. Therefore the person who does not generously give away his or her wealth to others is not merely lacking in compassion, but is unjust. Christ wins our salvation through losing, achieves power through weakness and service and comes to wealth through giving it all away. Those who achieve his salvation are not the strong and accomplished but those who admit they are weak and lost. We cannot look at the poor and the oppressed and callously call them to pull themselves out of their own difficulty. Jesus did not treat us that way.The gospel replaces superiority toward the poor with mercy and compassion… Indifference to the poor and disadvantaged means there has not been a true grasp of our salvation and grace.” (NIV Stewardship Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009. p 635.) 

I think that this describes the heart of giving so well, giving emulates Christs model of behavior, giving redirects the focus of wealth from our selfishness, giving extends love and salvation to the poor and disadvantaged, and last but not least giving is in response to the grace we have been given, hope we have in and love for Christ.

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

God, I want to buy _______, is it okay?

Is there something you want to buy for yourself?  Now that the weather is nice, would you like to buy something that you don’t need, but is a pure want?  How about a convertible or a motorcycle to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Wouldn’t a new Ping driver be nice to tee off with at Saturday morning’s golf outing. I would love a fancy new mountain bicycle to hit the trails with tomorrow morning at day break, or a boat or jet ski to hit to lake with.

Christians are afraid to ask God if it is okay to take the money out of savings to purchase the item, what if God says no, we don’t want to hear that. I friend of mine said a good question to ask ourselves; where are we resisting the Spirit?  We often do it by turning a deaf ear to him, when we don’t allow him in to our financial decisions.

What would be some good questions to ask yourself prior to buying a new shiny want:

  • Are we tithing on all of our income?
  • Will we go into debt if we purchase it?
  • Have we paid off the debt from the last purchases, in other words are we carrying a balance on our credit cards or have outstanding car loans?
  • Have we looked at our cash flow plan for the month and year, and have we overspent in any areas beyond our limits?
  • If we purchase this item and use savings, will it deplete them under safe levels?
  • Are there things my family needs instead like food and clothing?
  • If married have I talked and prayed about it with my spouse?
  • What is our motivation for the purchase, is it practical or emotional?

You may be asking yourself; why all the deliberation, if I have the money why shouldn’t I just be able to go out and buy it?  Are we approaching the purchase as stewards or consumers, do we believe that:

Okay, lets say we passed those two rounds of questions or scriptures, the next few questions can be thought provocative:

  • Have we asked the Master, what He wants us to do with the Master’s money?
  • Will the item we want to purchase contribute to the Kingdom?
  • Will it be another thing for us to maintain?
  • Will owning this thing provide the opportunity to draw us closer to Christ, or to others he wants us to be in relationship with?
  • Is there danger associated with the item, and are we being a good steward of our holy temple by purchasing it?
  • Have we shopped around and found the very best deal?

Howard Dayton of Compass Ministries has listed extensive Bible verses about our role with money, I find them very convicting to read when considering this subject. What do you do when you want to purchase something that you don’t need, but really want it?- I would love to know your experiences.

Monday Launch: The Hunger Games

Scripture Verse: Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

I’ve now seen the movie the Hunger Games, having read the book last year. Pretty entertaining reading and watching, mainly because it is much more creative and different from most formula novels, and a unique intertwining of science fiction and fantasy during a post-apocalyptic world. The movie was a little difficult for me to watch due to many close up shots, choppy editing, and the moving camera style of movie making- I got a headache. After about a half hour either I got used to it, or it was toned down. Children on children violence is always hard to take. I sometimes recall Todd Rundgren’s lyrics from The Wheel “if kids were left to their own devices would they ever come up with a thing like war? Having been around many small children, I have little doubt that they would: Cain killed Abel so many years ago. True just hard to watch.

Without giving anything away, one of the central themes is a war like contest, and the winner becomes rich. The majority of people are living in squalor where food is scarce. Lately it has been on mind who we work for when we go to work each day, week, month, year and decade. I worked in private industry either self-employed or for a company most of the last 30 years, only lately in a full-time ministry capacity. Whatever you do I think it is always a great question to ask yourself: who or what do you work for? In the Hunger Games, they either had laborious tasks like mining, or they were literally fighting for food. Do you work for your boss or your company? Do you work for money for what it brings? If you are self-employed do you work for yourself or your company? We must serve our company and clients well, or we will lose our job, or our company will eventually go out of business, but is there more?

Sometimes retirement is that day we look forward to being free of employment, when the tension of time clocks, deadlines, and satisfying corporations and bosses is gone. We yearn for that day, but we don’t have to, thinking of Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Whatever we do, we are to do in service to the Lord. The first thing that comes to mind, is that it is even harder serving God then working at my job, for God seems to be a real task master, but that couldn’t be more wrong: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For  My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

Lord help me to walk with you today and serve you joyously, for you are gentle, humble and love me. Let my life be a blessing to you.

Monday AM Launch: Luke 8:4-15 Parable of the Sower

Do you ever think of the things that go wonderfully in life financially and with your career, and think wow I must be living right for the Lord to bless me this way?  Conversely when there seems to be more bad things happening to you with money, do you wonder if God is punishing you? Not to say we might be enjoying blessing or consequences for our actions, but perhaps something else might be going on. I think that many Americans have a performance mind-set, and look  at their life through the lense of accomplishments and winning.

Consider the Parable of the Sower found in Luke 8:4-15
As a large crowd was gathering, and people were flocking to Him from every town, He said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. As he was sowing, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Other seed fell on the rock; when it sprang up, it withered, since it lacked moisture. Other seed fell among thorns; the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. Still other seed fell on good ground; when it sprang up, it produced a crop: 100 times what was sown.” As He said this, He called out, “Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!”Then His disciples asked Him, “What does this parable mean?” So He said, “The secrets of the kingdom of God have been given for you(I) to know, but to the rest it is in parables, so that Looking they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. The seed along the path are those who have heard and then the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the seed on the rock are those who, when they hear, welcome the word with joy. Having no root, these believe for a while and depart in a time of testing. As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit. But the seed in the good ground—these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, bear fruit.

You may have read or been taught that this is a kind of missionary Bible verse, but in my reading it looks altogether something different. Re-read it a few times, contemplating this message. I think you will see Jesus explaining that some do not believe Him, and others do. Those that do believe fall into three camps: 1. The first group are those with shallow beliefs; during difficulty they can’t endure testing (no root), so when life doesn’t work out for them their faith falters. 2. The second group are the babies; they try to live dualistic lives, either consumed by the worries or riches and pleasures (not mature), they want it all; Jesus, riches and comforts. 3. The last group have heavenly foresight; they know their lives don’t consist of what happens to them. They have heard “with a good heart,”  not thinking of themselves. When they encounter difficulty, they think of what is best for Jesus, eternity and for the change and refinement in our hearts that difficulty will bring.

The strange news is we are all of these folks; our faith falters because we have not taken the time to let our roots go deep. We try to live dualistic lives and we don’t grow, and see little Godly fruit in our lives, and when difficulty or riches happen, we look at our lives through performance mentality instead of what God is trying to teach us.  When difficulty comes, and it will to everyone, God in his is ultimate grace allows it to, so that we will start to have that good heart, and walk a different and better path of faith, that grows mature fruit. This painfully has happened to me and feel that he has in many ways saved my life.

Lord help me to have a heavenly, eternal and Kingdom perspective in all that I do.

Monday 1/30/11 Liftoff: Who do we look to?

If you watch or read as much news as I do, you may also come to the conclusion, that the world is looking for something to save us. There is desperation on the evening news, and people look to something to solve the world’s problems of recession, war and terrorism, food shortages, corrupt politicians, bankrupt countries, broken families, crime, and drugs. We look to President or political movements and campaigns. We think more spent on business, environment and social programs is the answer. Talking to the wonderful spouse of a relative of mine, a self-proclaimed atheist and socialist. She cares and ministers deeply to the people in her life, and she cares where the world is heading. Anyone that looks outside of their own cocoon for a moment can’t help but to notice the injustice, poverty and suffering around the world and be concerned. This relative who I admire and love, thinks that perhaps many of the problems could be solved by repositioning of wealth.

Bringing it home, we think of our own financial condition, or the injustices we see or face, our comfort and wonder where our help is going to come from? I ask myself, who or what do you or I look to? Do I live in peace, walking by faith, living for eternity? Is my security in politics, money- income, retirement funds, government programs? The following Bible verse put things in the proper perspective:

 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
   where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
   the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1,2

I am not advocating heads in the sand Christianity, far from it, I believe Christians are to be salt and light in every walks of life, and be about Kingdom work. God is calling us to be engaged in partnership with him. Don’t believe it, read the old testament and you see it throughout. However when countries, and people and myself go astray is when we look to the wrong things, and not lifting our eyes up the mountain, away from ourselves and surroundings, but to God our helper.

Lord help me to live this way, constantly looking to you and not false things.