June 13, 2003
The Bible on Money
These teachings are to give glory to Abba, through Jesus, and in the Spirit. They teach us how to glorify the Father through our use of money and material possessions. Read these teachings one at a time. Pray before and after each one. Be sure to read the Scriptures quoted or referred to. Repent. Let the Spirit work in You. We thank you for accepting God's call to read this book. We thank Mary for her intercession and faithful help in preparing these teachings.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better
Finances Mean Fatherhood
The ABCs of Tithing
The Credit Card Blues
Savings and Saved
How To Make Money (Part 1)
How To Make Money (Part 2)
Fund Raising and Faith Raising
He Ate the Whole Thing
The Spiritual Gift of Poverty
The Spiritual Gift of Administration
Finances and Community
"Do not live in fear, little flock. It has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32
The Lord wants us to have financial freedom. He does not want our hearts to be troubled (Jn 14:1). "Stop worrying, then, over questions like, `what are we to eat, or what are we to drink, or what are we to wear?' The unbelievers are always running after these things. Your heavenly Father knows all that you need" (Mt 6:31-32). Financial freedom is attained not by getting so much money that we feel safe or by getting a big pension or retirement plan. "Tell those who are rich in this world's goods not to be proud, and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth" (1 Tm 6:17).
Finances that depend on circumstances are enslaved to circumstances and always in jeopardy. No matter how much we have, we always wonder if it's enough. True financial freedom must transcend circumstances and be based on relationship with our all-loving and all-powerful Father. He loves us more than a father ever loved a child. He even sent Jesus to die for us. "What shall we say after that? If God is for us, who can be against us? Is it possible that He Who did not spare His own Son but Who handed Him over for the sake of us all will not grant us all things besides?" (Rm 8:31-32)
Our heavenly Father loves us and can do more than we can ever ask or imagine (Eph 3:20). If we have a strong relationship with Abba, we are financially free (Jn 8:36). The Spirit is sent into our hearts to cry out "Abba" (Gal 4:6). Then we have financial freedom that will not change with circumstances but change circumstances.
Prayer: Father, I don't need an IRA but INRI, that is, Jesus, the only
Way to You (Jn 14:6).
Promise: "When you pray, say: `Father...give us each day our daily bread.'" Lk 11:2-3
Praise: John quit working overtime to give Abba some prime time. Now he's got more peace and more money.
"Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God's will, what is good, pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:2
Modern people assume they are more advanced than the people of Biblical times. Our reasoning is that, since we are technologically more sophisticated, we are automatically better in everything. We call ancient people primitive and think we know more about life, relationships, sexuality, and even finances and money. If we are going to let God speak to us through the Scriptures, we'll have to take the chip off our shoulders.
The Bible is above all the cultures of all time. We are to submit to God's Word rather than submit it to our rationalizations. The Bible challenges our financial system. It makes a vice out of the supposed virtue of saving for a rainy day. It "flat-out" condemns interest (see Ex 22:24ff; Ps 15:5; Prv 18:8; Ez 18:13,17: 22:12; Dt 23:20). What we call "wise", the Bible calls "foolish" (Lk 12:19-20). We are called to admit we are wrong, or we relegate our lives to be bound by cultural blind spots. Does our financial system have anything to brag about? Two world wars, an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, starvation in the midst of plenty these are the facts and symptoms of an economy not under God's word and not in God's will.
Prayer: Father, may I not think I'm so smart.
Promise: "This is the one whom I approve: the lowly and afflicted man who trembles at My word." Is 66:2
Praise: John started reading the Bible more than the Wall Street Journal.
"Your heavenly Father knows all that you need." Matthew 6:32
When we teach on tithing, almsgiving, interest, credit cards, and the lottery, we may think we're talking about our money but really we're talking about our relationship with our heavenly Father. Tithing tests God's promise to father us. Almsgiving helps us grow in our relationship with our heavenly Father. That is why almsgiving has been traditionally considered as the most important penitential practice, even more important than prayer and fasting (Tb 12:8, Lk 11:41). Almsgiving is a chance to be alone with Abba, provided we keep our almsgiving secret and not let our left hand know what our right is doing (Mt 6:3). If we sow bountifully with our money, we'll appear to put ourselves in financial jeopardy. Our Abba will be a good Provider and come to our rescue. And it will certainly be God because no one else knows our need. "Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father Who sees in secret will repay you" (Mt 6:4). We must let ourselves be put in a position to be fathered. Let's not try to be self-sufficient and independent.
Let Abba run up to embrace, kiss, and gift you. Let Him give you the robe, the ring, and the shoes, and throw a party in your honor (Lk 15:20-24). "Seek first His kingship over you, His way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides" (Mt 6:33). Financing is only an effect of fathering.
Prayer: Abba, may I accept Your adoption of me and expect Your fathering
in practical details.
Promise: "Stop worrying, then, over questions like, `what are we to eat, or what are we to drink, or what are we to wear?' " Mt 6:31
Praise: Terry had a bad relationship with his earthly father. He forgave his dad, was healed, and never worried again about finances. He now trusts his heavenly Father.
"If you can trust a man in little things, you can also trust him in greater." Luke 16:10
Jesus considers money to be a little thing. It is kindergarten in His kingdom. We must pass this elementary test to move on to greater things. When God gives us His money to manage, it may seem like a lot in our eyes. But it is really like a father giving his son a dollar, just to see what he'll do with it. As a child thinks a dollar is "big money", so an adult thinks a million dollars is "big money". However, with God, the Creator of universes, a dollar or a million dollars is chicken feed. The money we have is not so valuable but the way we use money can be important in so far as it leads to greater things. If our Father can't trust us with the use of money, how can He entrust us with peoples' lives, salvation, marriages, families, and spiritual needs? How can He trust us with ministry if we haven't been able to pass kingdom kindergarten? Maybe that's why Judas held the purse for Jesus' disciples (Jn 13:29). Possibly he never grew beyond spiritual kindergarten. Maybe that's why Jesus started discipling the rich young man by challenging the youth to be possessed no longer by possessions (Mk 10:21). Possibly that's why Zacchaeus instantly recognized that to deal with his financial dealings was the first step in following Jesus (Lk 19:8).
Prayer: Father, may I pass kingdom kindergarten.
Promise: "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other or be attentive to the one and despise the other. You cannot give yourself to God and money." Lk 16:13
Praise: Charlie wrote a $50 check to the church. It was the first time he ever put more than $10 in the collection, although he was 35 years old and making $15,000 a year.
"The manager thought to himself, `What shall I do next?' " Luke 16:3
As stewards, we accept the fact that God owns everything, including us (see 1 Cor 6:20; 1 Chr 29:16). He tells us not to own but to manage things for Him.
A good manager moves as much merchandise as quickly as possible. He should be enterprising and aggressive (Lk 16:8). A manager is a failure if not constantly emptying and re-stocking the store. It doesn't matter if we start with five talents or two talents, $5,000 or the widow's mite, just as long as we move it for God's kingdom (Mt 25:14-30).
We do not have to compare ourselves to others. We are all equal in His sight no matter how many talents we have. For example, someone severely retarded can be a better steward than a multimillionaire. It's not how much we manage but how well we manage. On judgment day, one person can go before Jesus with ten talents, another with one talent. To the person with one talent, Jesus may say: "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Mt 25:21 our transl.). To the persons with ten talents, He may say: "Get out of my sight you evildoers" (Mt 7:23, our transl.). As God's stewards, we're not under pressure to produce. All we need do is be faithful.
Prayer: Father, sometimes I take over ownership from You and thereby
overburden myself. I repent. Forgive me.
Promise: "While we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we die as His servants. Both in life and in death we are the Lord's." Rm 14:8
Praise: Harry turned over his finances to God and then took them back. This happened ten times over five years. One Easter, Harry finally left it in God's hands.
"Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. Yet you say, `How must we return?' " Malachi 3:7
Tithing is a way of returning to the Lord. It is 10% of our gross income. It is not a contribution but more like a tax or a bill. It is something owed. For example, we do not contribute to the gas and electric company; we pay our bill.
Tithing is the first lesson in kingdom kindergarten. We don't work our way up to tithing. As a Christian under the lordship of Jesus, we obey God's word to pay our tithe. When we tithe, we test God (Mal 3:10). He opens the floodgates of heaven. This strengthens our faith, and then we move past tithing to almsgiving (over 10%). Abraham (Gn 14:20), Jacob (Gn 28:22), Moses (Dt 14:22, 26:12; Num 18:21-32, Lev 27:30), Amos (Am 4:4), and Nehemiah (Neh 10:38) stressed the importance of paying our tithes. Jesus Himself (Mt 23:23) stated we should not neglect paying our tithe. He emphasized going beyond tithing to living the "weightier" matters of the law.
The tithe is to be brought to the priests for the temple worship. The tithe of the third year is given to the poor (Dt 14:28). In the new covenant, the temple is the Christian believer and the whole body of Christ. Therefore, some believe the whole tithe need not go to the local church but can be sent to any ministries that are building Jesus' kingdom. Some send 5% to the local church and 5% to other works of God. The Spirit will direct us.
Prayer: Loving Father, may I return to You in tithing.
Promise: "We will not neglect the house of our God." Neh 10:40
Praise: Rick and Rita didn't have enough left for the month's food after they tithed. Someone, unaware of their situation, gave them several boxes of free food.
"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me in this, says the Lord of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?" Malachi 3:10
Since tithing is like owing a bill, we are thieves and robbers when we don't tithe. "Dare a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! And you say, `How do we rob You?' In tithes!" (Mal 3:8) We not only rob God but deprive ourselves of having the floodgates of heaven opened for us. Furthermore, when we tithe, God prevents any sudden catastrophe that would drain us of our finances. "For your sake, I will forbid the locust to destroy your crops" (Mal 3:11). The money we refuse to tithe is eventually taken from us by circumstances beyond our control. If God doesn't get the tithe, the doctor, car mechanic, IRS, rest-home, or hospital will get it. We put our money in a bag with holes in it (Hag 1:6). By not tithing, we deprive ourselves of getting the benefit of our resources and become victims of circumstances. Some may say: "Thank God I didn't tithe; I needed the money because my car suddenly broke down. I better not tithe just in case something unforeseen occurs." This is backwards. The world will try to convince us to doubt God's word and believe in man's word. But don't fail the test. Test God in tithing. He'll pass, and the world will fail. And you'll know God's word is true.
Prayer: Abba, Abba, Abba...
Promise: "Consider your ways! Go up into the hill country; bring timber, and build the house that I may take pleasure in it and receive My glory, says the Lord. You expected much, but it came to little; and what you brought home, I blew away. For what cause? says the Lord of hosts. Because My house lies in ruins." Hag 1:7-9
Praise: Loretta had to go to the hospital in 10 of 12 years. She started to tithe and went 10 years without hospitalization.
"When you give alms, for example, do not blow a horn before you in synagogues and streets like hypocrites looking for applause." Matthew 6:2
Many Christians have put money in the collection basket or plate for years, but they have never given a cent to the church. We never give a thing to the church until we put in more than 10% of our income. The first 10% is not a gift but the payment of our bill.
The Lord calls us to break the 10% barrier. The measure with which we measure will be measured back to us, and more besides (Mk 4:24). If we sow bountifully, we will reap bountifully (2 Cor 9:6). God will provide enough for all our needs and even a surplus for good works (2 Cor 9:8).
Once we know this secret, we are highly motivated to give. After Moses called for a collection, the complaint of the "finance committee" was that the people were giving too much. They told Moses to give a sermon to stop the people from giving anymore (Ex 36:5). Has your pastor ever had to give that sermon? The Macedonians begged Paul for the privilege of contributing to the collection (2 Cor 8:4). They gave beyond their means even though they were in deep poverty (2 Cor 8:2-3). Do they know something we don't know? Do they believe something we don't believe?
Prayer: Father, may I break the 10% barrier and give for the first time.
Promise: "You need to recall the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, Who said, 'There is more happiness in giving than receiving.'" Acts 20:35
Praise: Mary gave her house for use in a Christian ministry.
"With each contribution show a cheerful countenance." Sirach 35:8
Because we trust our heavenly Father and because we know He will always outgive us sevenfold (Sir 35:10), a hundredfold (Mk 10:28-30), we give with a smile on our face. We are cheerful givers (2 Cor 9:7) with "overflowing joy" (2 Cor 8:2).
We give in style to give God the glory. "Because of your praiseworthy service they are glorifying God for your obedient faith in the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them" (2 Cor 9:13). We give in style because God gives in style. "My God in turn will supply your needs fully, in a way worthy of His magnificent riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:19). God does more than supply our needs fully. He does it in style, in a royal way, as befits His place as Creator and Lord of all. For example, He doesn't just send a loaf of bread; He rains down manna from the sky. He even gives us Jesus, the Bread come down from heaven (Jn 6:41).
So we should not be groveling and compromising for money. Our churches should not be begging, or selling their souls by gambling or pushing alcohol. Those methods are not worthy of God's "magnificent riches in Christ Jesus." We should give and receive in style, God's style.
Prayer: By my faith, may I show off Your faithful love.
Promise: "What I say to you is this: Make friends for yourselves through your use of this world's goods." Lk 16:9
Praise: George used to hate the collection at Mass. Now it's often a great time of prayer.
"Owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another." Romans 13:8
God, in the Bible, tells us not to owe any debts. In the old covenant, Sirach counsels us to lend freely but be careful (Sir 29:1-7). Proverbs discourages loans and warns they will cause us to be enslaved (Prv 22:7). Leviticus commands the chosen people to adopt the jubilee year (Lev 25:8). In this system, no one can be in debt or lose his inheritance for longer than 50 years. In the new covenant, Jesus takes it further. He says: "Lend without expecting repayment" (Lk 6:35). Instead of giving loans, we should give gifts.
The reason we don't loan it is that we don't own it. The Bible teaches that no one owns land (Ps 24:1). It all belongs to God. Also, we don't own our bodies (1 Cor 6:19) or money. So no one has the right either to give a loan or take one without God's permission; it's His money. But usually this is what we do through loans, interest, and credit cards. How many people have asked God's permission to give or take a loan. If we don't ask God's permission, we may be enslaved to the world and forced to ask its permission to function financially. The book of Revelation prophesied that it would come to a point that a person would not be allowed to buy or sell anything until he or she had sold out to the system of the beast (Rv 13:16-17). We're almost to that point now.
Prayer: Father, get me out of today's economic system before it destroys
Promise: "Love your enemy and do good; lend without expecting repayment. Then will your recompense be great. You will rightly be called sons of the Most High." Lk 6:35
Praise: John and Debbie brought daily prayer into their marriage. They agreed after two weeks of prayer to cut up their four credit cards.
"If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among My people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him." Exodus 22:24
Do not exact interest from your countryman either in money or in kind" (Lev 25:36). "You shall not demand interest from your countrymen on a loan of money or of food or of anything else (Dt 23:20). When a person can make money just by having money, then the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Ezekiel lists taking interest as one of the abominations which caused death to a person or a nation (Ez 18:13), and is an indication of having forgotten God (Ez 22:12). Nehemiah was "extremely angry" at the nobles and magistrates for obstructing the restoration of God's people by exacting interest from their kinsmen (Neh 5:7).
In the Old testament, the prohibition against taking interest was for the chosen people among themselves. They were to "lend to many nations and borrow from none" (Dt 28:12). But in the new covenant, our compassion and love extends beyond our own people to all nations.
Prayer: Father, may I act like Your child and not let myself be programmed
by the world's economy.
Promise: "He who increases his wealth by interest and overcharge gathers it for him who is kind to the poor." Prv 28:8
Praise: Terry never could save up much money because of constant car repairs. He took out his money from the bank and gave most of it to the starving. He has had only $35 of car repairs in one and a half years.
"To whom will all this piled-up wealth of yours go?" Luke 12:20
If we're not paying or receiving interest, we may wonder how we can save enough to get ahead. The Lord may answer that question by saying we can throw out savings accounts along with our unbiblical notions of debts and interest. Contrary to what we may have been taught, Jesus is generally against saving money. He implies it is a form of greed (Lk 12:15ff). Jesus calls the man, who has "blessings in reserve for years to come" (Lk 12:19), a fool. We call a person who doesn't save, a fool; Jesus is just the opposite.
Savings do not fit in with God's system. Since He is all-powerful, He doesn't have to save for a rainy day and neither do His children. He operates on a "daily" system. Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily bread (Mt 6:11). He says to let tomorrow take care of itself (Mt 6:34). For example, when the chosen people collect extra manna (just in case God didn't come through the next day), it became wormy and rotten (Ex 16:20). When we save for a rainy day, we may be making rainy days happen or more precisely not making sunny days. If we look hard enough, we may find some veiled references to savings in Proverbs. Also, God called His people to save to prepare for famines (Gn 41:35-36, Acts 11:28-29). But usually our heavenly Father does not approve of saving. Jesus is our Savings and Savior; we are to trust Him.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, cry out in me "Abba". Give me the grace to trust.
Promise: "Seek first His kingship over you, His way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides. Enough, then, of worrying about tomorrow." Mt 6:33-34
Praise: Kim, 10 years old, opened her piggy bank and gave to the starving. Now she doesn't put anything in the bank; she just sends it straight to Africa.
"Give, and it shall be given to you. Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over." Luke 6:38
In Jesus' kingdom, we make money not by amassing capital but by giving money away. Therefore, we are to take initiative in moving God's resources (Lk 16:8). "`Here we have put everything aside to follow You. What can we expect from it?' (Mt 19:27)...Jesus answered, `I give you My word, there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children or property, for Me and for the gospel who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as many'" (Mk 10:29-30). Nobody returns a hundredfold but God. That is why "it is better to give alms than to store up gold" (Tb 12:8). It's better to give than to have a bank account on earth. "Do not lay up for yourselves an earthly treasure" (Mt 6:19). "Make it your practice instead to store up heavenly treasure" (Mt 6:20). We must withdraw our money from the earthly account and deposit it in the heavenly account by giving it to the poor. Jesus said to the young rich man: "There is one thing more you must do. Go and sell what you have and give to the poor, you will then have treasure in heaven" (Mk 10:21).
This teaching seems foolish to many people, even Christians. They trust man's word more than they do God's word. They trust an earthly bank more than God. But who's really the fool? "Then I will say to myself: `You have blessings in reserve for years to come. Relax! Eat heartily, drink well. Enjoy yourself.' But God said to him. `You fool!' " (Lk 12:19-20)
Prayer: Father, may I not be foolish enough to save my money in an earthly
Promise: "He who has compassion on the poor lends to the Lord." Prov 19:17
Praise: John laughed at the faith-preacher on TV. Later he cried and repented.
"I do believe! Help my lack of trust!" Mark 9:24
When we put God's money in an earthly bank, we only get a few percent interest. We could get 100 times as much from the heavenly account. Most people make the extremely foolish mistake of using an earthly bank because they don't believe Jesus is serious.
But He means what He says. For example, Jesus did give Peter 100 times as many houses. "All who owned property or houses sold them and donated the proceeds. They used to lay them at the feet of the apostles" (Acts 4:34). Peter didn't have his name on the deed, but he had at his disposal all these houses, properties, and farms. That's better than owning them. This doesn't mean Peter was "filthy rich" because he had to keep moving the property out for God to keep moving it in. A lot of property and money passed through his hands, but he didn't own them legally.
Every Christian is to live simply. "Those things I used to consider gain I have now reappraised as loss in the light of Christ" (Phil 3:7). We have been chosen out of this world (Jn 15:19). Although we still live in the midst of plenty, we don't hold on to it. For example, there are two bodies of water in the holy land: the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Both have the same source, but the Dead Sea doesn't let the water flow through. That is why it is dead. We are to be the Sea of Galilee.
Prayer: Jesus my lack of faith is costing Your people money. Forgive
Promise: "Fear is useless. What is needed is trust."Mk 5:36
Praise: Jerry needed money desperately. He searched through his house and found $2.38. He immediately gave it away. His finances began to flow after that.
"God can multiply His favors among you." 2 Corinthians 9:8
The ultimate almsgiving is giving all to Jesus. Whether it's one loaf and two fish or thousands of loaves and fish, we ask Jesus to give thanks, bless, break, and multiply our "all" (Mt 14:19;15:36). A multipliable penny is worth much more than a million dollars. That's why the widow's mite was a greater contribution than that of the wealthy (Lk 21:4). Money that makes money and multiplies is the most valuable.
The Bible recounts the multiplication of the loaves and fish six times. Also, this is the only passage appearing in all four gospels. God repeatedly challenges us to give the multipliable portion because He looks at us "with love" (Mk 10:21). Like the widow of Zarephath, we are told to give up what will soon run out to begin a multiplication process that will sustain ourselves and others for years (1 Kgs 17:13-16). She only made a cupcake for Elijah but it was her "all" given in faith and therefore multipliable.
Prayer: Lord, I've always been involved in addition, subtraction, and
division. By faith may I let You get me into multiplication.
Promise: "Neither in my youth, nor now that I am old, have I seen a just man forsaken nor his descendants begging bread." Ps 37:25
Praise: Norm debated whether to give his last dollars to the starving of Africa or buy a lottery ticket. He gave it to the starving and the money just keeps on coming.
"When you harken to the voice of the Lord, your God, all these blessings will come upon you and overwhelm you." Deuteronomy 28:2
Did you ever notice that most churches are constantly raising funds instead of raising faith? Churches usually trivialize or even prostitute themselves. They get into hard-core compulsive behavior, such as promoting gambling and drinking alcohol. They also try "Mickey Mouse" fund-raising such as car washes, bake sales, magazine sales, penny raffles, etc. Can you imagine Jesus raffling off a ham at the beer booth to cover the cost of the disciples' next trip to Jerusalem? Is our heavenly Father a real provider or just a myth? (see Gn 22:14) Is Jesus King of kings, and are we a royal priesthood? Or is that just religious jargon?
Since we're not doing God's will, we raise these funds for a bag with holes in them (Hag 1:6). We keep raising funds, but there's never an end to it. Fund-raising gradually escalates each year while the real issue, faith, deteriorates. Eventually we serve such things as church buildings and finances rather than serving God and His people. Caught in our own trap, we lose our way and conceal rather than reveal the gospel.
Prayer: Father, I repent for myself and my church. I repent of making
You look like a bad father and provider.
Promise: "The Lord in reply said to her: `Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; one thing only is required.' " Lk 10:41
Praise: Fr. Kuharic stopped festivals and bingo at his church. At first, many left the church, but within two years the church had grown to be larger than ever.
"...to present to Himself a glorious church, holy and immaculate, without stain or wrinkle or anything of that sort." Ephesians 5:27
What would happen to a church that obeyed the Bible's commandments on finances? Those who doubt God's word might expect the church to go bankrupt. But in fact the church would receive the multitude of blessings promised to the obedient (Dt 28:1ff). There would be no reason for fund-raising. There would be nothing to do but be Jesus' body and do His word. The church's emphasis would switch from maintenance of buildings to saving souls, reconciling marriages, and sanctifying homes. The church would not be such a "Mickey Mouse" operation promoting gambling and drinking, washing cars, holding bake sales, and in general, losing credibility with an already skeptical world.
When we read the average church bulletin, we don't know whether to laugh or cry. If we would obey God, the faith level of the church would rise. There would be a great hunger to know God's all-powerful word. People would complain about short sermons. Ushers would have problems with people clamoring to sow bountifully at the collection. Christian community would be real, and the movement of the Spirit in our day would make the Acts of the Apostles look rather mild. Does this sound far-fetched? It's already happening in the underground of China, Africa, parts of South America, South Korea, and the Philippines. Repent! The kingdom of God is at hand (Mk 1:15).
Prayer: Jesus, I'm missing out. May I not let You pass me by.
Promise: "At these words the man's face fell. He went away sad, for he had many possessions." Mk 10:22
Praise: Fr. Smith banned drinking and gambling at his parish's festivals. The festival made little money, but the church did better financially.
"Say `yes' when you mean `yes' and `no' when you mean `no'. Anything beyond that is from the evil one." Matthew 5:37
When we are faced with the uncompromised word of God on tithing, almsgiving, interest, and savings, we tend to play games. We may try to evade the issue by questioning the interpretation of a Bible passage. We may rationalize that an Old Testament passage has been superseded by the new covenant. But Jesus did not come to abolish even the smallest part of a letter of the old law but to fulfill it (Mt 5:17-18). We may try to get around applying God's word by pretending it's symbolic, although the text and context of the passage gives no reason to take it other than literally.
If we tire of playing Bible games, we may get into word-games. Those who preach the "prosperity gospel" redefine "prosperity", "needs", and "luxuries" in terms of modern American life-style. That's a great change from the Biblical use of these words. Of course, God wants us to be prosperous (Ps 1:3; 3 Jn 2), but what He means by "prosperity" would look like poverty to the modern person. What we call "simple living" would make Herod envious. Let's not play games with the living God. Our relationship with our Abba is too precious for that.
Prayer: Father, You've always been honest with me. May I not try to
deceive You or me.
Promise: "The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye." Ps 19:9
Praise: George, a priest, never took the Bible seriously. After a time of frustration, he turned his life over to God. Now the Bible makes sense.
"There was also His tunic, but this tunic was woven in one piece from top to bottom and had no seam." John 19:23
These teachings concerning finances and life-style make sense only in the context of the whole Christian life. If a person is not under the lordship of Jesus and submissive to the Spirit, these commands and teachings may be misinterpreted as merely a burden to escape from. If a person hasn't tested God in tithing, then he probably hasn't experienced the opening of the floodgates of heaven (Mal 3:10). Deprived of this, a person would probably be too threatened and afraid to get out of the interest and banking system. He would hold on to his savings with clenched fists. Someone without Christian community probably would not have the teaching and direction to break free from the world's system. The Bible and this particular series of teachings is like a seamless garment that cannot be torn apart. We need to live the "full gospel", if we're going to live the gospel at all. But don't use this as an excuse not to begin or not to make progress. Begin with tithing, and then move on to live God's full revelation on financial freedom and victory.
Prayer: Father, I can live the full gospel, not by my power but by the
Spirit (Zec 4:6). May I not rely on my own strength but on Your grace (2 Cor
Promise: "Whoever falls into sin on one point of the law, even though he keeps the entire remainder, has become guilty on all counts." Jas 2:10
Praise: George learned in school that sometimes you didn't have to take the Bible literally. He repented of misapplying this and using it as an excuse to disobey.
"How blest are the poor in spirit: the reign of God is theirs." Matthew
"Did not God choose those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom?" James 2:5
Although all Christians are called to a simple life-style, some can choose to accept the special spiritual gift of poverty. Gospel poverty is both a gift and a choice. Those poor in spirit are actually materially poor, not because they are victims of circumstances, but by choice. They choose to walk in the footsteps of the Master in a special way and put themselves in situations which make obvious our total dependence on the Father.
Poverty was not understood in the old covenant (Prv 30:8). Only in Christ is it appreciated. Jesus chose to be materially poor. He had nowhere to lay His head (Lk 9:58). Some women paid His expenses (Lk 8:3). If He needed any money, He would have to ask Judas for it (Jn 12:6). He was even buried in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea (Mt 27:60). Jesus lived a life of radical dependence on His Father.
We have become rich by His poverty (2 Cor 8:9). Therefore gospel poverty and prosperity are not opposites but complements. The floodgates of heaven must be opened for poverty to be chosen and not enforced by crushing circumstances. Gospel poverty is a form of prophecy, keeping us in touch with God's kingdom and calling us to forsake the deadly life-style of the world.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the prophetic witness of the saints, living
and dead. Inspired by them, may I make a bold act of faith in You.
Promise: "For your sake He made Himself poor though He was rich, so that you might become rich by His poverty." 2 Cor 8:9
Praise: Jan, a single lay woman in America, lives a life-style that would not be out of place in the slums of Calcutta. Jesus changes many lives through her.
"The first requirement of an administrator is that he prove trustworthy." 1 Corinthians 4:2
All are called by God to be stewards, but a few are given the special spiritual gift of administration (1 Cor 12:28). This is different than a natural gift of administration. The spiritual administrator will be used by God in ways impossible for the best natural administrator. With the spiritual gift of administration, one can make decisions in which the Spirit takes account of the future, reads the hearts of people, and gives information that can not be humanly known. A spiritual administrator will motivate others to live in Christian community. Like the early church, we will be willing to share "all things in common" (Acts 2:44). Inspired by anointed spiritual leadership, we will even sell property, houses, and farms; and lay the proceeds at the feet of the apostles (Acts 4:34-37).
A church with anointed administrators will be transformed. It will not waste God's time with fund-raisers. Jesus didn't have a raffle, bake sale, car wash, ice cream social, or spaghetti dinner to raise funds for His ministry. His heavenly Father knew what Jesus needed and provided it. He'll do the same for us. If God doesn't send the financial backing, possibly our plans are not His will at this time. Our church may not be committed to God's kingdom. It may be rebelling against God by failing to tithe and give alms. To raise funds would be refusing to face the real issues of sin and rebellion.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for not working for You. I wasted my time
by raising the funds You promised You would provide.
Promise: "The love of money is the root of all evil." 1 Tm 6:10
Praise: St. Charles Church quit fund-raising and started proclaiming God's kingdom by teaching His word, interceding, and healing. They have more money than ever.
"The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common." Acts 4:32
All these teachings are like a seamless garment, woven together in a personal relationship with Jesus. Christian community is one of the most integral aspects of the unity of these teachings and the Christian life. Without Christian community, it doesn't work. Community is not an option but a necessity. "Those who believed shared all things in common; they would sell their property and goods, dividing everything on the basis of each one's need" (Acts 2:44-45). They not only shared finances but meals, eucharist, and prayer (Acts 2:46). They shared life.
This communal sharing of life, including finances, speaks powerfully to the world so hung-up on money (Acts 4:32-33). This is part of the unity Jesus prays for so the world will believe the Father sent Him (Jn 17:21). The witness of sharing things in common was part of the evangelism explosion in the early Church.
Christian community not only increases our evangelistic power but also our financial power. In community, we can use our spiritual gifts and make use of others' gifts, such as wisdom, knowledge, faith, prophecy, discernment of spirits, encouragement, and poverty. In this context, we will not make mistakes financially but be overwhelmed by God's blessings (Dt 28:2).
Prayer: Holy Spirit, may I follow Your leadings into daily, meaningful
Promise: "If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored all the members share its joy." 1 Cor 12:26
Praise: Terri went to a church for 15 years and only knew 15 people. She opened herself to the Spirit and now has a large family of brothers and sisters.
"There is, of course, great gain in religion provided one is content with a sufficiency." 1 Timothy 6:6
There is great gain in religion and in applying these Biblical principles on finances. But these are not just principles that work, they are expressions of our heavenly Father's love for us. This book is not primarily about money but about our relationship with Abba. Let's not focus on the blessings but on the Blesser, not so much on His miracles as on the Miracle-Worker. We are honored and privileged to be given the responsibility of returning God's money and possessions to Him. Our Father loved us so much that "He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). Let us give our lives to Him. Tithing, almsgiving, and stewardship are just a part of the total giving of ourselves to the Lord. "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tm 6:10), but the love of God is the root of all good.
In conclusion, let us pray together:
Prayer: Jesus, I give my life to You. You gave Your life for me.
Forgive me of my sins. I turn over my life, including my finances, to You. You are Lord. Alleluia!
Promise: "Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. What profit does he show who gains the whole world and destroys himself in the process?" Lk 9:24-25
Praise: Abba chose you to read this book. "Act on this word" (Jas 1:22).
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert Hagedorn, July 9, 1995
Imprimatur: Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati, July 25, 1995.