Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christians and Wealth

How can Christians be rich and believe the Bible?

Almost all of my life I have heard the passage in I Timothy 6:10 quoted any time money is the subject, “Money is the root of all evil.”  First, that is not what the verse says. Let’s look at it in plain English, “The love of money causes all kinds of evil. Some people have turned away from what we believe because they want to get more and more money. But they have caused themselves a lot of pain and sorrow.”
I highly applaud money because it is a product that is pretty difficult to live without.  You see, money is a necessary part of life and is certainly not intrinsically bad or good. It’s one of the many areas in the life of a Christian that the Lord actually owns, but allows us to use as His stewards. When we properly utilize the money that He places for our use, and maintain the proper attitude toward it, He very often multiplies it. It is when we adopt the wrong attitude toward money and wealth that we get in trouble. If we allow ourselves to develop a love an excessive desire for money and wealth, it becomes sinful. Again, money and other material things are not sinful in and of themselves. Actually, they are a blessing from God when we practice good stewardship. 
The "prosperity gospel" that some have been preaching is the actions of sinful and wicked “preachers”.  While it is true that wealth is a blessing from God, poverty should not be seen conversely as God’s disfavor because poverty often comes from a lack of knowledge or lack of resources.  Jesus told his disciples that there would always be the poor.  Which reminds me of what my father once told me when I was talking about making a lot of money.  He said, “Son you have been poor all your life, so get used to it.”  It is true that I have been poor for part of my life, but I am richly blessed to be in the upper 25% of American household income.  As I have gained knowledge about the principles in God’s Word and applied those principles to my life, God has prospered me.  It was not by sending some TV evangelist “seed money” for them to gain wealth, but by applying the principles from God’s Word.  It has taken several years to understand that God wants us to prosper. 
In His parable of the "Seed and the Sower", the Lord in Luke chapter 8 11 “This is what the story means: The seed is God’s teaching. 12 Some people are like the seed that fell beside the path. They hear God’s teaching, but then the devil comes and causes them to stop thinking about it. They get caught up in listening to devil, and cannot hear the truth.
This keeps them from believing it and being saved. 13 Others are like the seed that fell on rock. That is like the people who hear God’s teaching and gladly accept it. But they don’t have deep roots. They believe for a while. But when trouble comes, they turn away from God.  How often have you seen people get caught up in their own troubles that they forget God and go about trying to solve their problems on their own?  It never works!
14 “What about the seed that fell among the thorny weeds? That is like the people who hear God’s teaching, but they let the worries, riches, and pleasures of this life stop them from growing. So they never produce a crop. These individuals are seeking the material life rather than the spiritual.  They forgot that seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness is the principle of growth.
15 And what about the seed that fell on the good ground? That is like the people who hear God’s teaching with a good, honest heart. They obey it and patiently produce a good crop.
In verse 11 the Lord tells us that the seed is the Word of God and when people hear it and allow the anxieties, cares, riches, and pleasures of this life to dilute its message, they fail to mature in the faith. As Christians, God’s Word must be more precious to us than anything this world has to offer, if we are to make any progress in our walk with Christ.
As He opens the "doors" we will be able to walk through them. Unfortunately, many Christians do not understand when God has opened a door for their freedom from the bondage of the curse of sin.  This is underscored by the words of Christ in Luke 12:15: "And He said to them, Guard yourselves and keep free from all covetousness the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more; for a man’s life does not consist and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance, or that which is over and above his needs" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
The underlying spiritual danger associated with money and possessions is that they may easily become idols in our lives. I trust you realize that an idol does not have to be some sort of figure made of wood or stone sitting in a temple, surrounded by worshippers. No, an idol is anything that we allow to come between our God and us! He demands our total allegiance, just as a husband and wife demand it of each other. When our love and attention is drawn to anything or anyone other than God, He is offended and we should understand why. 
This concept is outlined in Matthew 6:24: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [that is, deceitful riches, money, possessions or what is trusted in]" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
The apostle Paul had quite a bit to say about money and material things, and in his first letter to Timothy he cautions Christians and particularly preachers against the misuse of them. In 1 Timothy 6 we start our reading in the middle of verse 5 and continue through verse 9, then to verse 17:“. . .men who are corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, who imagine that godliness or righteousness is a source of profit a money-making business, a means of livelihood. From such withdraw. [And it is, indeed, a source of immense profit, for] godliness, accompanied with contentment that contentment which is a sense of inward sufficiency is great and abundant gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and obviously we cannot take anything out of the world; But if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content (satisfied). But those who crave to be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing." 
" As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God, Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for enjoyment" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary,.
Our society is one in which a premium is placed upon wealth and material things. People are classified socially according to their income: lower class middle class upper class, or some variation thereof. We are being constantly bombarded with advertising propaganda that is designed to appeal to our desires to have a fine home, nice cars, trucks and boats, along with all the “toys” that are the latest craze and all of this for just one “low monthly payment.”
As Christians, we must constantly be on guard against this urge to possess and gain social status as well as those who will take full advantage of it.  It is heartbreaking to learn of Christians who do not have the will-power to practice proper stewardship over what God has given them. The desire to have and get and use has grown to such a degree that millions are hopelessly in debt and many Christians are among them. Satan has allowed easy credit to ruin the testimonies of countless Christians across the land and it is not getting any better. Nobody should ever go in debt beyond their ability to pay back and especially those who name the name of Christ. To do so is to bring reproach upon yourself and your Lord. Those little plastic cards are awfully easy to come by, but they sure can act like a drug to some people and the first thing you know the interest begins to pile up. Owing what you cannot pay back is wrong and sinful if your lack of self-control caused the debt. When we consider the fact that we are the Lord’s stewards and are misusing His money we are most defiantly an unprofitable servant to the LORD and His Kingdom. 
I am grateful that we were able to kick the credit card habit.  It took us a few years to pay off the credit cards and get out of the bondage of credit card debt.  We have been free of the credit card for over ten years. It is a relief when student loans, car payments, and other debts are gone.  The stress and worry that take up a large part of your daily life is over when you find that financial freedom.
In the culture we live in debt is the accepted way of acquiring what we want in life.  From our house, our education, our cars, our leisure activities, even our vacations is based on debt.  The thought is can we make the payment and will we have money left over?  We have become a society that is in financial bondage.  Our nation is $18 trillion dollar in debt and as individuals we have an average credit debt of $7,529,140; a mortgage debt of $155,361 and student loans of $31,946.  The total, American consumers owe $11.85 trillion in debt, and increase of 1.7%from last year.  The total credit card debt is $890.9 billion dollars.  The total indebtedness for our mortgages is $8.17 trillion dollars.  Our student loans is $1.19 trillion dollars, which is increasing every year.  
As a nation we are in bondage because we have forgotten God.  Many Christians are in bondage because they failed to trust the LORD, keep his commandments and walk in righteousness and holiness. My advice to you is that if you are in debt, get out of debt just as quickly as humanly possible even if it means selling some of the "things" that got you there. (Mortgages are not what I am talking about because they are backed by collateral) When faced with insurmountable debt, the easy way out is to declare bankruptcy and leave the creditors hanging. Yes, it’s legal, but is it right when you made the decision to live beyond your income? If you are facing such a situation, please do the right thing and try to work with your creditors about repayment. They did not twist your arm and make you pile up the debt.  The least that you can do is make an honest effort to repay them. 
Stop for just a moment and put the first verse we talked about in perspective.  The “love of money.”   When people do not have the income to provide for the necessities of life, but are given the means through credit, to live beyond their means, it is no more than the love of money or material things that puts them in bondage.  It starts by coveting what others have—keeping up with the Jones will put you on the road to bondage.  The Law of Sowing and Harvesting is, if you sow credit you will reap debt.  The problem with sowing credit is that it reaps a greater harvest, because of the interest on the debt.
The apostle Paul, has this advice for us: “But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing" (1 Timothy 6:6-9, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
When our life’s emphasis is rightly placed upon godliness, personal contentment will be one of the wonderful by-products. This is what we are promised in the Word of God in Psalm 112:1-3  Praise the Lord!  Great blessings belong to those who fear and respect the Lord, who are happy to do what he commands. Their descendants will be given power on earth. Those who do right will be greatly blessed. Their family will be very rich, and their goodness will continue forever.