problem of wealth in America is largely confined to the middle class. The rich
feel it in different ways; the poor have so little that they must trust God.
But it is almost a definition of the American middle class that they see in
their finances clear and present danger. It shows up in (at least) these three
desire for security. To know that you have enough money packed away so
that you won’t have to worry. You have to worry now, of course, but later
you won’t have to. (Big surprise coming on that theory).
desire for saving face. If you have money problems, and we all do at one
time or another, you don’t want to let it show. Otherwise, people will
conclude you do have money problems. Then they might offer to help – and
how would that make you feel?
desire for the “right stuff.” We want so much to be accepted in the
group; we therefore want to buy the right thing. The slightest mistake in
constructing the look (or the rebuild on the house) is worse than death.
let us see what our Lord has to say about all this:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth
and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. "But store
up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys,
and where thieves do not break in or steal; for
where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. "The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is
clear, your whole body will be full of light. "But
if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light
that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate
the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and wealth. "For this
reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat
or what you will drink; nor for your body, as
to what you will put on. Is not life more
than food, and the body more than clothing? "Look
at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns,
your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe
how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory
clothed himself like one of these. "But if
God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow
is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! "Do
not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What
will we wear for clothing?' "For the
Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you
need all these things. "But seek first His
kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will
care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(Mat 6:19-34 NASB)
doesn’t cost to look.” Yes it does. If you’re looking for security in the
form of your money (or pension, or Social Security, or whatever), just looking
can give you problems:
get to worry about what might be. It is a fact that God will not take
your worries from you if you’ve borrowed them. God does not deal in
“might be” but “is.”
become, in fact, less secure. If you put your heart where your money is,
you transfer what is valuable to a place where it can be stolen or used
also divides you – for a while. Usually the Christian will try to serve
two masters, and it works for a while. The deciding point is often
unnoticeable. That’s why Christ tells us to seek first the kingdom.
wife’s father tells me that money is a fine servant but a poor master. He is
wealthy in this world’s things, so I suppose he knows it from experience.
Think back upon your own experience, see with path you have followed:
who put their faith in God experience a “trust relationship.” That’s a
relationship in which each party must have trust for the other. Each
knows the other to be trustworthy; promises will be kept.
who put their faith in money have a “service relationship.” Neither party
can trust the other, so precautions must be taken, progress monitored
carefully and audits run to catch anything going astray.
these are methods of managing the future. Now, knowing that the future, like
the past, belongs to God, just which method do you think is going to work?
of us see out tithes as provision for the preacher. This is good; your tithe
says that you support your church.
your tithe also tells this story: you believe in God’s providence. No matter
what else may occur, you believe that 90% with God will be more secure than
100% without Him.
the math of that does not seem to work. But math is very short on trust.
If you want to measure the results, get a calculator. If you want the results
to measure, tithe.
don’t have any money problems – at least not that I’d want you know about.”
When money troubles arrive we don’t want anyone to know. We’ll do almost
anything to save face.
example, here’s something that happened to me – and stuck so that I put it into
in our society, are somewhat a symbol of hard times, of poverty. We
sometimes say that a person is "down to their last bean." I know the
feeling. The layoff
is the cloud over the aerospace industry, and when I was laid off, we ate
of beans, particularly in Navy Bean Soup. We were a young couple, with one
another on the way, and it was rather a difficult time. The church we
mostly middle class, and being out of work was somehow not quite
when anyone asked, "How are things going?" I always answered,
"Fine." My pride was
not going to allow me to say what I was really thinking: "I'm worried
stiff, don't have two
nickels to make change for a dime, and I have a wife who's pregnant and a small
to care for."
a small church, however. In a small group you notice these
things. So one day
the minister's wife (a sweet soul) came up to me (privately) and handed me a
You want to know what pride is? It's wondering how you're going to pay for next
week's groceries, and still saying "Give it to somebody who needs
it." It sounds so
generous, so self-sacrificing, so "Christian" and it's so false.
Praise God, the lady was
wiser and gentler than I. "John," she said, "how are they going
to learn to give if you
will not receive?"
what God gives us
occasionally gets the complaint that God not very forthcoming in providing.
Why is it that all those promises about prayer seem to go unfulfilled?
reason is that you may be using God as an means to your end. “Oh Lord,
make me the smartest investor in the stock market,” is not going to be met
with the answer you want. It may, however, cause you to lose enough that
you begin to pay attention to the God you pray to.
reason is that you might not be giving faithful stewardship of the money
you have. If He can’t trust you with a little, will He give you a lot?
contentment in the kingdom of God first. Then He will provide for you.
is well to review some of the symptoms first:
you misusing what He has given you, in order that you may have “more?”
This can be as obvious as the heroin addict stealing to support his habit
or as subtle as a man buying a car for the status it gives. If you only
shop at the Mercedes dealership you’re pretty certain to come away with a
others, impulse buying is best done by credit card. Don’t think; want.
Grab it now! This is a sinkhole for money.
for many of us there are times when the money is tight through no fault of our
own. (Any father who has given his daughter in marriage knows this story).
Medical bills often can cause this. If so, are we still too proud to admit the
of the sure symptoms of saving face is envy. Your neighbors all have big,
powerful, high speed cabin cruisers. You have a rowboat. Obviously, you need
a cabin cruiser, right? That’s what the world will tell you. But let’s see if
your neighbors understand your problem. The test? They are constantly telling
you that you’ll get a great deal on a boat down at their dealership.
what do you do about it? Worry – about how you’ll ever keep up.
along, go along
we want what the other guy has; other times we just want to be one of the
boys. It is amazing what people will spend just to be thought one of the right
the thrust of Christ’s point when he speaks about the eye being the light of
the body. He, and his hearers, would have been familiar with the thought that
“the eye is to the body as the mind is to the soul.” So the question might be
asked, just what am I looking for? Sometimes it is our personal gain, but more
often it is our own glory. “I am so cool.” If our eyes are constantly
comparing us with others (who, of course, define “cool”) then they are not
looking for the things of God. You know it, of course:
desire for the “right” things, such as the right clothes, the right car,
the right neighborhood.
unthinking purchase: it looked cool, so I bought it. I didn’t even look
at the price.
unthinkable purchase: I had the abortion because being pregnant and
(insert excuse here) is definitely not cool.
your treasure is, there your heart is also.
Christian is taught to be holy, as God is holy. Sometimes this drives us away
from the saving face or social acceptability. The way we remain holy starts
with “lead us not into temptation.” We balk at that when it comes to money; we
know what our wallets should look like. Perhaps we should find out what he
wants our wallets to look like. He is sovereign; do you believe it?
I have installed a personal finance program on my computer. Setting it up
means that I have to get all the records into it. It’s a great reminder of how
much I have. It also brings up temptation: I have so much, what could a
little more hurt?