An introduction to a series of articles dealing with the believer and financial responsibility.
Money! We possibly spend more time acquiring it than anything else we do. We probably spend more time planning for its growth and safe investment than anything else for which we plan. We likely experience more anxiety over how to spend it and whether we will have enough, than over any other issue in our lives. How to get it! How to keep it! How to use it! How to pass it on to our heirs!
There are days we are compelled to utter a grudging “Amen!” with the wise man of Proverbs who said, ” … riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle” (Prov 23:5). On other days we happily applaud the wisdom which said, “The hand of the diligent maketh rich” (Prov 10:4).
We are advised by some that as believers we should not have bank accounts; we should eschew savings and pension plans. Money is, after all, filthy lucre, and (incorrectly quoted) the root of every form of evil. How can a believer stockpile money since we are pilgrims and strangers here?
But some might counter by reminding us that Abraham was not exactly a beggar going from place to place. “Abraham was very rich.” David, when referring to himself as “strangers before Thee, and sojourners …” (1 Chron 29:15), was at the same time investing millions of dollars in the construction materials of the Temple. He must have been saving!
What does the Word of God tell us about the believer and his finances?
There are Proverbs which touch on riches, covetousness, greed, and poverty. There are expressions and warnings concerning materialism in Paul’s closing letters to Timothy. All of these contain valuable insights. But it is to the words of the Lord Jesus that we turn in our consideration. Luke 16 is, perhaps, the clearest and fullest teaching on material wealth. The background of the chapter is vital to grasp. There is no question that His words were directed at the prevailing mentality of the day as seen in the “Pharisees who were covetous” (v 14). The teaching they promulgated was that riches were an indication of divine favor and approval. Hence, the more you had, the higher was the reading on the God-pleasing meter. Riches were a sign of righteousness, spirituality, and spiritual-elitism.
Against the background of this warped thinking, the Lord Jesus related the story of the rich man and Lazarus. What a blow to their thinking!
But prior to this, He gave helpful teaching on the subject of our finances.
Stewardship and Present Opportunity
The Lord Jesus related “The Parable of the Unjust Steward.” The principle which He extracted from this and applied to His own is the principle of using the present in light of the future.
Perhaps unnoticed in His teaching is the fact that we are STEWARDS of our material blessings. As stewards, we must give an account someday (v 2). Have I been faithful with what has been committed to me?
The wisdom of the unjust steward is, that when faced with the prospects of the future, he used the present to insure the future. This is the wisdom which the Lord drew upon when He said, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness … ” ( v 9). This much is at least certain: the Lord is teaching that we are to use our material blessings for the good of others.
Stewardship and a Patent Reality
Notice how the Lord refers to money: “the least” (v 10). Most people would say that money is the “most” important thing; the Lord Jesus says that, in contrast with eternal values and the “much,” it really is the least thing.
His words help to regulate our view of money. It is only a means to an end; never does God intend it to be an end in itself. The overriding consideration in that end should be the welfare of others. For a parent, husband, father, it might well be the physical well-being of his family or spouse. We are responsible for the welfare of those whom God has committed to our care. With that responsibility, God has also provided the material means to meet needs and carry out responsibilities.
Stewardship and a Passing Opportunity
Verse 12 underlines another consideration relative to our stewardship of material things. It really is “another’s” and not our own. What did the Lord mean by this? How can it be another’s? Reality is that everything which I now call “mine” will someday belong to another. I must leave all earthly, material things, when I leave for heaven. What is really “mine” is the spiritual wealth which I will take from earth: what I have learned of God; the progress I have made into knowing and becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ, the Scriptures which I have learned and obeyed, and what I have wrought for God. These are “my own.”
Stewardship and Personal Spirituality
Consideration of the solemn words of the Lord Jesus Christ shows us that money and material things are, among other things, a trust, a treasure, a temptation, and temporary. But perhaps the most solemn aspect is that they are also a test. How men in the Scriptures dealt with riches is insightful. It revealed their spiritual condition as few other things did. The first mention of wealth, concerning Abraham and Lot in Genesis 13, reminds us of the possibility of friction and problems between brethren over money. David, Moses, Abraham, and others shared the spoils of war and did not cling to material things. Achan, Gehazi, and Ananaias and Sapphira allowed money and material things to rule them.
Stewardship and a Proper Mentality
What then should our relationship to money be? We are stewards and will have to give an account of how we have used the material things which God has given to us. This means far more than, “Did I give 10% to the Lord or 12%?” Money is a trust which God has placed in my hands to use for others: my family, believers, and the Lord’s work. Have I been responsible and wise in this? It is temporary and is not really my own. Have I hoarded it as though it were my own? It is the “least” and I should not allow it to assume a value in my life and thinking which is above what Scripture assigns it. Have I allowed it to rule me or do I rule it? A man cannot “serve” (as a bond-servant), both God and mammon.
No rules, no regulations. Only Scriptural principles to guide the spiritual man and woman. Because, in the end, it is a test.