A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)
God and man are at odds over a lot of things, especially in matters of drive and direction. Man seeks power and position, God desires submission. Man demands his rights and freedoms, God asks him to accept responsibility for his behavior. Man’s chief aim is self gain, God wants him to consider the needs of others. Man seeks immediate fulfillment, God is more interested in lasting achievement. Man covets the praise of men where God wants man to desire His approval. Man wants to be served, God wants him to serve others. Man strives to push ahead, God counsels patience. Man wants to lead other men, God wants man to follow Him. Man thrives on competition, God seeks cooperation. Man is after self glorification, God created man to glorify Him. The list goes on.
Perhaps the most dramatic way in which our motives differ from God’s is in the area of money. Man’s purpose in acquiring money is four-fold; to provide security, establish independence, create power and influence, and most of all to guarantee freedom.
God’s four-fold purpose is for provision (to sustain man), direction (to nudge him along the path God has ordained for him), to promote the fellowship of believers (keeping man focused on Him), and to illustrate His power (showing man He’s dependable).
It is God who grants man the ability to acquire wealth (Deut. 8:18). He does it to fulfill His purpose, but man with his free agency nearly always uses the wealth he’s given to fulfill his own purpose instead, and when he does he discovers he never has enough.
What Religion Are You?
It’s been said that we become like the God we worship. Actions taken solely in the pursuit of money usually create habits of greed, stinginess, and situational ethics and morality. For example, I’ve watched businessmen who routinely make millions in a year decline employee requests for raises of 25 cents an hour because “times are tough.” 25 cents an hour amounts to $500 in a year, 1/2 of which the employer gets back in the form of reduced taxes.
Is It Worth It?
How long do you suppose it will take for a disgruntled employee to cost his boss $500 in reduced productivity or waste or even theft? How much more motivated would an employee be if he or she knew that the likelihood of gaining even a small reward for going the extra mile was great? Would a company full of energized, motivated employees help change tough times into good times? Even generate enough extra income to more than cover their raises? A greedy, stingy boss creates lazy, resentful employees and the tough times get worse.
I’ve also watched men who already have all the money they can ever use steal nickels and dimes from their customers, their vendors, their employees, and their government, all in the name of profit, just because they can. The cumulative effect of this “nickel and diming” nets them hundreds of thousands but because each individual theft is so small they don’t count it as sin. “And besides,” they say, “Everybody does it. Its business.”
The Joy Of Giving
Man’s greed is the main reason God instituted the principle of tithing. In the first place, having given man the ability to earn wealth, God reserves for Himself the first fruits, 1/10th of the return. But tithing is the antidote for greed as well. Giving away the Lord’s portion of our wealth brings feelings of generosity. “You’ll be made rich in every way so you can be generous on every occasion,” He told us. (2 Cor. 9:11)
Tithing is also a test of faith. It’s the only area in Scripture where God says, “Test Me,” encouraging us to make Him prove Himself to us. And finally tithing is the solution for all our financial problems. “Give me my due,” He says, “And see if I don’t pour out so much blessing that you will not have room for it.” (Malachi 3:10
So much of what God taught us through His people was designed to increase our faith. “Let your land lie fallow one year in seven,” He said, “And I will make the land yield enough in the sixth year to carry you through the next three.” (Lev.25:1-7, 20-22) “In the seventh year, forgive all debts and release all indentured servants.” (Deut 15:1-2, 12-15) “Once every fifty years, release all the slaves you’ve acquired and return all the land you’ve gained control over to its original owner.” (Lev.25:1-13) Following these faith building principles would have had the additional benefit of eliminating the motivation for most wars in the world, and preventing the oppressive poverty so many endure, by making futile all attempts at empire building.
Through all his instructions to us He says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:5-6).
Remember His advice in the Parable of the Shrewd Manager. “Use the wealth and position you’ve been given to gain favorable attention in Heaven. If you can’t be trusted with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16: 9-11)
Who’re You Calling Rich?
Many of you reading this are wealthy by world standards. If you’re an average person living in the USA you’re wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of the average non-American. So don’t think the Lord’s only talking to Bill Gates, Baron von Rothschild or the Sultan of Brunei about these things. He’s talking to you and me as well. Use whatever wealth and position He’s given you to earn honorable mention at the seat of His Throne. It will bring you eternal riches.
But you don’t even have to wait that long. Man says, “I’m giving all I can afford.” God says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) He will never be in your debt, so you can’t out give Him. Repeat after me, “With the measure I use, it will be measured to me.”
Enough Is Enough
Now with all the poverty in the world, how can you ever say you’ve done enough? Well, the Lord has an answer for this, too.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” (1 John 3:17-22)
If we obey His commands and do what pleases Him with the money He’s given us, one of our rewards, in addition to more money, is a sense of peace about our giving. Because most of the world has rejected God’s ways there will always be more need than we can meet, and unless we’re clearly called to do so even giving away everything we have will not begin to alleviate it. But if we’re paying our tithing and sharing our windfall blessings with Him, we’re doing all that’s expected, and the peace we feel in our hearts will tell us so.
Abundance Or Scarcity?
God is a great believer in the abundance mentality, that there’s more than enough to go around. (Don’t forget, He controls the riches of the Universe.) In contrast, many humans subscribe to the scarcity mentality, that in order for one person to get a bigger share, another has to accept a smaller one.
Obviously, our mentality affects our giving. Man says, “I only have so much, and if I give too much of it away, I won’t have enough left for myself.” God says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap,” and, “You will be made rich in every way so you can be generous on every occasion.”
Now let’s not confuse this with the “give to get” heresy, where we’re admonished to give in order to receive. “If you need a thousand dollars,” the TV evangelist says, “Send me a hundred, and the Lord will bless your gift tenfold.” That’s the opposite of God’s way because it makes greed the motive for giving.
No, the Lord loves a cheerful giver, someone who gives because he already has received, and who knows there’s plenty more where that came from. The cheerful giver’s motive is one of gratitude, not greed. He remembers the promise from Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
Paul was reminding the men of Philippi that God would bless them because of their past generosity toward him. Their “attitude of gratitude” was opening the purse-strings of Heaven as the One Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills repaid their generosity with some of His own. Why would He do less for us? Selah 3-14-04