Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
– 1 Timothy 6:9-10
“God is looking over the entire earth for men who have the proper attitude toward money and who will use it according to His direction and not according to their own interests.”
– Larry Burkett
Okay, this might look like a stewardship message, but those usually happen in the Fall. They schedule them then so that they can collect pledge cards in order to establish a budget for the next year. It’s odd that they avoid talking about guilt for eleven months, but they pour on the guilt in late-October and early-November, because the church is in the red and the members aren’t ponying up. It may not be every church, but I have had the experience.
I love going to church. I love a good sermon that makes me squirm in the pew a bit, letting me know that God isn’t done with me. I love to learn that I have areas in which I can improve. But I dislike going to church during stewardship season.
When I first graduated college I gave a tithe based on before tax withholding. Upon getting married, we immediately had money problems. I kept ignoring the 1 Timothy lesson. I was doing nothing against God’s commandments, but starting a family was costly. But the more I worked harder to impress the boss, the smaller the raises became, and we fell further behind with regards to the cost of living increase. I rejected all the get-rich-quick schemes due to the fact that they took advantage of others. But the long hours weren’t getting me anywhere either. I was dishonoring God, because I thought of money problems instead of resting in His arms. God would and did provide.
Of course, now in retirement, I have plenty of time to look back and see that God was teaching me valuable lessons. I learned to do a lot with little. I learned to be gracious and generous with what I had. But mostly, I learned that hanging on to what you have makes you a very sad person. There is no joy in having a thick wallet when you see others starving. Okay, my wallet is thick with plastic and store loyalty cards, but if it is thick with cash, it’s all ones. I have had a one dollar bill from each of the twelve federal reserve banks in my wallet on two or three occasions. I cheer when I reach that accomplishment. That is until the jar to sponsor Haiti children for their education comes around.
My apologies to Deborah Ann and Kathy, who write such beautiful poetry:
Gone are Boston and New York.
Instead of steak, we’ll eat pork.
Phillie and Cleveland are long forgotten.
Eat leftovers quick, before they are rotten.
And please, no, please, no please, don’t go,
Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco.
I left out the ones in the middle: Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis and Minneapolis. Kathy, what rhymes with Minneapolis anyway?
When I first read the quote above from Larry Burkett, I got a very naughty idea. ‘Does God look for men who will give large sums to the church, but those men do not have a saving knowledge of Jesus?’ Okay, the answer is ‘no,’ but we might need to go through the logic. If God deceived people in order to trick them into thinking that they could buy their way into heaven, God would be working against His own character. God would not be God. God does not deceive. God does not tempt.
But aren’t there a lot of people who think that they can buy their way into heaven? Oh, yes, there are. There are also people who think that they can work their way into heaven. They look at their life as a balanced scale, good versus evil. No matter how many sermons they hear to the contrary, they live to tip the balance toward the good side. Neither do they have nor do they want a relationship with God, they just want the reward. I was like that once in my youth, although I had no money at the time. So, how do they get that idea?
In their own minds, being money-centric people, they think that money can buy anything and everything. This is just what the Apostle Paul is telling Timothy in the Scripture verses above. But then, the Devil encourages them to join the church. Wait! Isn’t that what the Devil does not want? No, the Devil wants apathy and misconceptions in the pews. With apathy in the pews, the Devil has his most powerful recruitment ground possible.
Let’s say you are like that. You sit in the pews and drop a check into the offering. You feel uneasy all week, so you drop a bigger check in the offering plate the next week, but the uneasiness comes from not living the Christian life for the 167 hours of the week when you are not at church. But what of the one hour when you are at church? You are there to be noticed when you place the check into the offering plate. I think that Jesus said that the Pharisee had already gotten his reward when he did that.
For most reading this, this description does not apply. It doesn’t even describe the men that Larry Burkett was talking about. Those men are those to whom God has called to be the great stewards of their age.
So, how do we respond when we look upon the well-dressed man or woman in the pew that flourishes his or her checkbook? We don’t know how many hours the man or woman spends on their knees during the week.
Jesus said not to judge. He also warned his disciples about others who perform a miracle in the name of Jesus.
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
– Mark 9:38-41
To those who have a healthy attitude about money, give more. God will provide your needs. For those who hold onto every cent, remember the words of Peter Marshall (the former Chaplain of the US Congress, not the TV game show host), “Let us give according to our incomes, lest God make our incomes match our gifts.”
But Billy Graham gets to the bottom line without mentioning the word ‘money.’
“If the glories of heaven were more real to us, if we lived less for material things and more for things eternal and spiritual, we would be less easily disturbed in this present life.”