God is absolutely sovereign over all history, and yet He has set up His Kingdom in partnership with His Church and, in general, will not move apart from her committed involvement. There are times when God intervenes in spite of the actions of His body, yet these are the exception and not the rule.
This is not to say that God needs our finances, as it is all His from the beginning. (Psalm 50:10; Haggai 2:8) He is, however, in red-hot pursuit of our joyful and voluntary commitment with Him. If this is true, and God calls us to be wholeheartedly involved with Him in financing the greatest rescue effort of all time, then what are some of the underlying issues of why we are not doing so?
“And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses!’” – Luke 12:15
“And do not seek what you should eat or drink nor have an anxious mind (about your provisions). For all these things the Gentiles seek after and your Father knows you have need of them. But seek the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you!” – Luke 12:29-31
A Look Back
Over 100 years ago, a cross-denominational and cross-organizational global missionary conference took place in New York. The following statements were but a few spoken, relating to the capability of the Church in that day to accomplish the Great Commission:
“If members of protestant churches in Britain and America gave in like proportion [speaking of the historic Moravian movement], missionary contributions would aggregate a fourfold increase…. if the roughly six million members of the young people’s organizations were properly educated and guided, they would be able to raise each year enough money to support all of the foreign missionaries!”
“Great as are the results of foreign missions, over which we rejoice and give thanks, they would have been a hundredfold greater if the Church had been what she ought to be in the two great matters of prayer and giving!”
Partnering With Jesus
Notice the word “if” in each of the above comments. Such a word indicates that there is something amiss in reference to the church’s faithfulness in following Jesus’ command to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
These statements are as applicable to us today as they were when spoken in the year 1900. As we allow our hearts to consider Jesus’ commands in comparison with how most of us are living, we come to the same heart-wrenching conclusions as those who spoke the above comments. Our high calling in the realm of giving is critical to the plans of the Lord to bring forth His purposes in the earth.
An Indicting Statistic
Today, 5.4 % of all giving in the church of Jesus Christ globally goes toward mission activities. Of this amount, only 1% goes towards those works serving among the unreached. This reality confirms that today, we are no different then what was spoken in the year 1900.
There are message bearers and pastors serving in difficult areas of the world at this very moment, living on just a few dollars a day. Yet they are adorning the gospel faithfully and living in sacrificial simplicity.
What is so heart-breaking is the number of these servants of God who get sick and die due to the squalor and inhumane circumstances where they live, simply because of a lack of funds. These are our brothers and sisters responding in obedience to the mandate of carrying the love of Jesus to the lost.
Our Calling as Stewards
Let us consider our calling before the Lord as stewards of the material blessings He gives to us. We should view our responsibility to manage the resources God has entrusted from the perspective of stewardship, rather than personal ownership. He is the owner, and we are those who have been entrusted (Luke 12:42).
As such, stewards are to be faithful to accomplish the will of their masters. (1 Corinthians 4:2) God’s will is not left ambiguous in the Bible regarding material blessings. His purpose in blessing is motivated by His burden for others spiritually. We are blessed in every way, including materially to be a blessing, as we find so clearly articulated in God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis. (Genesis 12:2)
God desires and intends the wealth He provides to His people to be used for His glory, by making His name great and worshipped in all the earth and among all peoples. (Proverbs 3:9; 2 Corinthians 9:6-12) Thus, stewards are empowered by the Lord to use their material blessings for one purpose alone.
Called To Inter-Dependence
It is God Himself who has given us the capacity to make money. (Deuteronomy 8:18) Apart from His enabling, we can do absolutely nothing. (John 15:5)
We are never to see our wealth as a sign of superiority or a reason for arrogance toward others. We have all received from God’s hand alone, and it should be seen in light of what He wills as its purpose.
Furthermore, Jesus has mandated that His people live in complete interdependence with other members of His body. Our completeness in the Lord comes as we walk together with others and receive the benefits which they add to our lives and ministries. (1 Corinthians 12:14-26) Paul recognized the central place that finances played in this type of “fellowship” in Christ’s body. (Philippians 4:14-20) Even Jesus Himself was supported from the livelihood of the women who followed Him. (Luke 8:3)
As material blessings range from season to season within the body of Christ globally, the abundance of one member is intended to help meet the needs of others, in order to maintain the important measure of equality. Such a calling from God does not in any way rely on one being poor or rich. Each is able and called to give, though not necessarily in the same proportions. Though the rich may give in greater amounts, the sacrificial giving of the poor is given special significance in God’s upside-down Kingdom.
The Early Church’s Example
In Scripture, we find that only thieves (Malachi 3:8-10) and rich fools (Luke 12:16-21) believe it to be profitable to acquire as much as possible, and to hoard this instead of sharing it with others in need as God commands. We are called to be those who put others needs above our own. (Philippians 2:4) This includes the material needs of people.
I am reminded of the example of the early church which had “all things in common.” (Acts 4:32-37) Their action was motivated by the deep and fervent love these disciples possessed for each-other. They were of one heart and one soul, and were willing to forsake their individuality for the good of the community. The desire for possession of property, which the world is jealous for, was laid aside in favor of the hope of a greater inheritance in the age to come before the Lord.
No one clung to property or land, and it is important to grasp that they were never forced to live this way. Peter nor John ever drew up a policy that such a communal way of living was to be the norm. The people were simply indifferent to their possessions, as they realized they had forsaken all to follow Jesus and given up all rights to things, consistently expecting them to be stripped due to their faithful adherence to following Jesus.
Living For the Temporal or Eternal?
What we as individuals, churches, and ministries do with the money God has entrusted to us shows more about our loyalty to Him than anything else. I have been challenged in my own life to see dollars as individual people, served with the love of Jesus and won to Christ’s Kingdom. This mindset has changed my entire approach to giving.
God is watching ever so closely to see how we’re spending our finances, what we are giving away to others, what lifestyles we’re choosing, and so on. Let me be as clear as possible that these items are very important to the Lord because He is ever aware of the negative grasp of money on the human heart and soul. He is assessing such things constantly under His watchful gaze. This reveals whether or not we are living for the temporal, or have caught His vision of living our lives with eternity alone in mind.
If we are looking honestly within and finding ourselves struggling with allowing our resources to be fixed on eternity, we can inevitably pinpoint our greed and covetousness as the reason. Yet these are not easy sins from which to get free. It takes consistent action and daily choices to allow the Spirit to untangle the web of false security found in money.
These areas of sin are often based in a root issue of fear. The enemy seeks to enslave us with a spirit of fear in every way possible, and fear over not having enough finances is chief among these. This fear causes us to hoard and hold finances close instead of releasing and giving them away. It is a principle of Jesus’ Kingdom that when we give, we will receive sufficiently back. (Luke 6:38; Mark 8:35) Faith-filled action, in direct opposition to the spirit of fear, destroys the greed and covetousness spawned by the fear. Let us repent of our deep-seeded fear, resulting in greed and covetousness, and cling to Jesus as our one and only reliable source.
What is God Saying?
In the current economic climate, it is important to ask some questions of the Lord to gain understanding. I have been posturing my heart to grasp His understanding and wisdom. We know of His promise that He will shake everything that can be shaken. (Haggai 2:6) This refers to the judgment of God toward the various “idols” in our lives that crowd out our abandoned devotion to Jesus. We can expect that in time, our jealous God will knock out from under us such crutches that we rely upon too heavily.
Could our trust as believers in the global community in our material blessings, instead of in Him alone, have provoked Him to action? Could our greed and materialism finally have required the Lord to respond?
It is my conviction that greed and covetousness among believers is one of the greatest areas of sin and brokenness affecting the expansion of God’s Kingdom globally. It seems that Satan has come in with his half-truths, and caused multitudes of believers to hunker down in preservation mode when they are called to be cheerful and extravagant givers. He has sown confusion regarding the purpose of wealth in Jesus’ body, and caused many to cling to selfish and inward-looking stances, justified by a false understanding of the purpose of God’s “blessing.”
The Place to Start
The Bible tells us that anything that is not done in faith is sin. Faith and trust in God regarding one’s livelihood demonstrates a full surrender and abandonment to Him. This is what He is after, yet most of us find ourselves living far from such a standard in practicality.
The tithe is obviously the place to start in our giving. Yet, there is a mentality today that 10% is all God asks of us. This is a wrong way to understand the biblical call to giving and to understanding the implementation of His command to tithe given in the Old Testament Law.
Ten percent is the bare minimum of what God requires. This is Christianity 101. Because God knew our hearts and our proneness to self, He instituted the tithe to help us see that He is our source and that we are not to fear but to give joyfully and extravagantly. Our giving is never to remain at this level, but to continue to increase according to our corresponding levels of faith (not our incomes). Through the tithe, we are given the opportunity to not only give back to God in joyful gratitude, but to exercise a measure of trust in His capacity to provide for our needs. As we faithfully give at a particular level, our hearts are buoyed up within us to be able to trust Him for an increasing level.
I’ve known people who increase their tithe 3-5 percentage points each year. By the time they are in their 60’s and 70’s they are living on only a small percentage of their income and giving the rest to the Lord.
Learn Lessons Now!
Students and student ministries are in a prime time of life to learn these lessons of giving and trusting God. Such habits instilled now will bear fruit for 5, 10, 20 and 30 years down the road. Learning to live by faith with a little now will prepare the way for a potential job as a doctor or lawyer later, where you can give 50-60% of your income to the poor serving as Jesus’ hands and feet around the world.
What if for one year, 1,000 students in your nation who love God committed to give the equivalent of $5 every month to message bearers or pastors serving in an unreached area of the world? This alone would provide $60,000 to such servants of God.
Remember, let’s see dollars as souls served and reached with the love of Jesus. What a wonderful potential return on $5.