Jesus taught us to love people and use things. Sadly, our materialistic society has reversed this teaching and now we tend to love things and use people to acquire them. What is even more disappointing is that, in general terms, it would appear that Christians in the West handle their money no differently from other people. We have become caught in the consumerist trap.
In Luke 12 v 15-21 Jesus tells us of the parable of the rich man and his barns. This story about selfishness could have been especially written today - and it is aimed at people like you and me! For along time I thought those verses were for millionaires; I had the idea that a rich person was someone who had a lot more than I do. Then one day I heard someone say that, in world terms, if you own a book you are rich! So some of these verses apply to me, and probably to you. As you read through the passage make a note of how many times the words 'I' and 'my' are used. The rich man does not perceive that everything is not 'mine' but Gods.
Luke 12: 15-21
Jesus said "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. " And he told them this parable "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said 'This is what I shall do. I shall tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself 'You have many good things laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink and be merry.'
But God said to him 'You fool, this very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for himself, but is not rich towards God."
It is important that we grasp some key elements when handling money and possessions. First - God owns everything - we are just stewards. We must also acknowledge that these things need to be talked about openly. At Credit Action, we frequently find that Christians feel guilty if they have money, and equally so if they haven't. This is why it is so vital that Christians receive adequate teaching on this subject. After all it is one of the main themes in the Bible and Jesus taught more about it than anything else.
Our Money is far more useful for tomorrow's needs than today's wants.
We also need to grasp some basic realities. In recent years the growth of credit has been phenominal and many now use it extensively, but it carries great dangers. We must remember that God has perfect plans for our lives and if he suddenly forces us out of a highly paid job, which we had assumes would continue, we can be piling up real trouble for ourselves if we have heavy credit commitments. It is important to grasp too, that our money is far more useful for tomorrow's needs than todays wants.
Our society says 'spend,spend,spend' it assumes that more is always better, that happiness is based on the acquisition of things. And so many of us buy things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't like! Why we will even buy T-Shirts with the manufacturers name on the outside, that we can pay more for advertising their product! We are frantically searching for status symbols - a glamourous partner, an expensive home and an ever increasing array of possessions. We are desperately competing for social esteem as we try to keep up with, or just ahead of, our neibours. Ultimately we feel a deeper and more widespread discontent as we realise that we have not acheived happiness.
This lifestyle is a sin, for a while we are buying lots of unnessesary wants, there are millions of hungry, homeless and hopeless people in our world who are forced to go without basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. There are many in the third world, but there are also some in your country and your own community. Do you know the needs of the people in your church?
The Christian approach needs to be so different.We should not be covetous: we should be content. Christians can and should develop their personal significance and security through Jesus. If a person is a Christian, the key question is 'Is Jesus enough for you in every area of your life? Christians do not need to bolster their self-image by acquiring the world's trinkets. We know we have value and significance because Jesus, God's only Son, died for us. As Paul told the Philippians, 'I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well - fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4 12-13.
I believe contentment is crucial. If we are constantly praying about our lifestyle, what we give and what we spend, and God gives us peace of mind, then that is a tremendous blessing.
Money can buy almost anything on earth, but it can't buy entrance to Heaven
Proverbs 14: 30 reminds us that 'A heart of peace gives life to the body; but envy rots the bones.' Remember too that money can buy medicine but not health; cosmetics, but not beauty; ; a bed, but not sleep; books, but not intelligence and amusement but not happiness. Indeed, money can buy almost anything on earth, but it cannot buy entry into Heaven.
The warning in 2 Tim: 3 is clear:
"There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money....lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God. Having a form of godliness, but denying its power. If we really believe we are going to Heaven and we are going to be there for eternity, we have to defend our commitment and start taking on Heaven's values. God does not care about how much we earn or where we live. He cares about our relationship with Jesus, and our compassion for others in a needy and suffering world.
And there will be many needy on our own doorstep. So many people in our churches and communities are getting into debt. Usually it will be caused by changes circumstances, such as loss of job or a rise in interest rates. Sickness can be another major factor. And with debt comes enormous emotional pressure. Probably the main emotion felt is fear. People being petrified to open the post, or even answer the phone. People feeling guilty, perhaps because of the way they had spent so lavishly in the past. People feeling stigmatised, people feeling lonely, or seeing no hope in sight. And so many feel too ashamed to talk about it. One of the biggest problems we have in our churches today is that we are not honest and vulnerable with one another. We go around with plastic smiles on our faces, and if anyone asks how we are, we just say 'fine' even though inside we are breaking up. We really must learn to express our weeknesses, but also, really listen, and not judge the weaknesses of others.
The problems of debt are causing a catastrophic situation in our churches and communities. Marriage Guidnence Agencies tell us that money troubles account for the breakdown of over 70% of marriages. It is also a major factor in child abuse, health problems and suicide. It is affecting millions, but let me give you just two personal examples.
At one church at which I preached, the Minister told me afterwards that he was glad that I had preached on money, rather than debt, because his was a wealthy parish. Over the following two weeks, Credit Action received requests for help from 43 members of his own church!
Another case shows the desperation of debt. A lady working in full-time christian ministry called our helpline. She had just received a phone call from her 18 year old son, saying bailiffs had entered her home and were repossessing it. Her husband had given no indication there was anything wrong. There was a complete breakdown in trust, and although the wife eventually forgave her husband, he could not forgive himself and their 24 year old marriage did not survive.
Sadly this case if far too typical and is likely to get worse. As society ticks at an ever increasing pace, more and more jobs, which were once thought secure, will disappear. I no longer believe that many people can get a job for life. Most people leaving school or college today are likely to face redundancy at least once in their lifetime. This is another reason to save in the good times to help with the bad.
But more importantly, there is another emement here, and it comes back to how much we really are trusting God. Are we putting God first in our lives? Are we giving to him first, before we spend on our own passing wants? This is the most important principle in handling your money. In fact it is the only time in the Bible, that God invites us to 'test' him. Malachi 3:10. What he is saying is that we cannot afford not to tithe! Now the purpose of this tithe, giving one tenth of one's income to the church is.. you do not give so you can get more back to spend. You give so you can get more to give to the needy in our world.
Giving is not about an amount, it's about an attitude, which is why the widow's mite is so important
Giving to a church or the needy is charity. Giving cheerfully to the Lord is worship. Giving is also, not God's way of raising money. As God, he can raise money any way he likes. Rather it is God's way of raising you and me to be more like his precious Son Jesus. Giving is not about an amount, it's about an attitude - God looks at our hearts. He does not look at what we give. He looks at what we keep for ourselves. That is why the story of the widows mite is so important. When Jesus died on the cross, he died for me. He gave everything for me. And I want to give as much back to Him as I possibly can. Giving is not giving without sacrifice, and when we are giving in God's will, we will have joy and peace in a way that is impossible to equal.
Acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for our sins means we are going to Heaven and we are going to be there for ever. Therefore we need to be storing up permanent treasures in Heaven, and not temporary ones on Earth. I can tell you that the richest house, car, holiday on earth will not be fit to grace a rubbish tip in Heaven. But we can store up treasures in Heaven because every time we lead someone to the Lord, we are doing just that. So it is vital that everything we do with our money and possessions on Earth is geared to bringing as many people as we can into His kingdom.
And to do so I have to ask myself some questions. Am I going to chase after money and things, or follow God completely? Am I going to give Jesus lip service or life-service? Am I prepared to give my time, effort and money to help further his Kingdom and bring help to others in our suffering world? Am I prepared to say, from now on, the only treasure I want is his treasure, his heart, his compassion, to see things His way and act accordingly? Am I in fact prepared to lay down my life for Jesus, just as he has already done for me? Am I? Are you?
Keith Tondeur & Steve Pierce's book:
'Your Money and Your Life'
Can be obtained from SPCK Publishers. Keep visiting.. A link should be here very shortly.
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In Christian Service
Helping the homeless
Night Shelter Practicalities
Praise the Lord, more and more ministries now let the homeless sleep in their church halls over winter.
Depending on the venue the 'guests' can be treated like royalty, enjoying new clean designer clothes and bedwear provided daily, gormet food and heated floors to aid a decent nights sleep.
Coming soon... advice on those extra health & safety steps your church can take to ensure a healthy, happy homeless night shelter with minimum difficulties.
To celebrate, LIGHT INTERNATIONAL looks back at her rather special visit to Christian - run Rehabilitation Centre Teen Challenge.
Page 15 Visions & Creativity Section..
We are delighted to present LIGHT INTERNATIONAL - The Global Review of Christianity to the world once more in 2018 - an important time in our history...
A huge thanks for your patience while we upload more and more articles from the five sections of LIGHT INTERNATIONAL within the coming weeks.
The sections are:
1. Business of Ministry
For pastors /ministers, curates, worship team members, church administrators, Junior Church teachers, church wardens and many others..
Covers the day to day running of Churches in different parts of the world.
Includes applications of sound technology, building resourses, flooring, heating, pews & seating, communion wine.. the list goes on and on..
2. Ministry of Business
For business people... The I.C.C.C. International Christian Chamber of Commerce and others demonstrate the miraculous new dimension of Jesus at work.
3. Spiritual Realm
Deeply spiritual articles on gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. Includes Spiritual and Praise Warfare, Intercession on a Global scale, and 'forgotten' teachings like 'The Witness of the Spirit' by David Wilkerson.
4. Visions & Creativity
Especially gifted and often larger ministries sharing with us how our own faith and churches can grow beyond belief... Includes The Largest Sunday School in the World and The adoption of Third world orphans.
5. Lifestyle Faith & Fame
Billy Graham on how we should live our life, lifestyle, including travel, and taking your church on a pilgrimage. World class sportsmen with faith and other celebrities etc sharing with us...
In Christian Service,
LIGHT INTERNATIONAL - The Global Review of Christianity 2018