Integrating Church into Everyday Life!
by Larry C. Hamner
December 8, 2009
The Word in Our Finances
The struggling economy has left many Christians with overwhelming financial burdens. Like many of their neighbors Christian are feeling the housing crunch and resulting underwater mortgage situation. High interest rates, skyrocketing gas prices, and high unemployment are all concerns that many of us are dealing with daily. Hard working honest tithe payers are perplexed by the condition they find themselves in. Where have I gone wrong they say? I've paid my tithe. In the words of Jesus, “that you should have done and not left the other undone”. Too often we put all our hope of material blessing in the single act of paying tithe. Let me remind you of an oft quoted scripture and put it in some context.
“And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”(Luke 4:4 KJV)
God wants us to understand that putting our hope of continued success and blessing in a single act of obedience is unrealistic; and that at best success will be limited. The Word of God has more than one thing to say about opening the windows of heaven. The promise of prosperity and blessing belongs to us, when we employ all the biblical principles of stewardship and integrate them in our daily financial dealings. Wise money management and aligning our approach to finances with the word of God is the best way to change the direction of our financial condition. Permit me to suggest a biblically sound approach to finances that will open the flood gates of heaven and endow you with unlimited opportunity for financial success and prosperity.
Principle #1 - Financial success starts with a good sound work ethic. “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:” (Exodus 20:9 KJV)
“The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (Deuteronomy 28:8 KJV)
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 KJV) “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Timothy 5:8 KJV) Principle #2 - Success doesn't just happen you must have goals and a plan for achieving them, a wise man once said, “a goal without a plan is simply a wish”. In the financial world such a plan is called a budget. “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.”(Proverbs 27:23 KJV) “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,”(Luke 14:28 - 29 KJV) Principle #3 - The bible teaches that a slothful individual should learn from the ant work in summer and save for winter. Saving is a big part of the biblical financial system. “Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.” (Deuteronomny 28:5 KJV)
“And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.” (Genesis 41:35 - 36 KJV)
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” (Proverbs 6:6 - 8 KJV) “There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.” (Proverbs 21:20 KJV)
Principle #4 - The bible is also an advocate for investing, that is to say making your money grow. “Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury: unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.”(Deuteronomy 23:19 KJV)
“Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.”(Matthew 25:27 KJV)
“And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: for I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?” (Luke 19:1 - 23 KJV)
Principle #5a.(our mind-set for giving) - No component of God's blessing plan exceeds giving in importance; giving primes the blessing pump and causes blessings to flow freely. “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” (Proverbs 11:24 NIV)
“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 NIV)
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV)
Principle #5b.(our prescription for giving - Firstfruits, tithes and offerings, all belong to God and are his commanded method for his people to show their gratitude to him for being their provider. “peak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:” (Leviticus 23:10 KJV)
“All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.”(Numbers 18:12 KJV)
“Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meat offering unto the LORD, after your weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work:”(Numbers 28:26 KJV)
“Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” (Provebs 3:9 - 10 KJV)
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”(Malachi 3:8 - 10 KJV)
“An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.” (Exodus 20:24 KJV)
It is rather obvious that in today's church our system of giving cannot and will not be an exact replica of the Old Testament system However, it is imperative that we model our giving structure after God's holy design and not create our own system predicated on the beliefs and values of men. This holds true not only for giving but for any of our beliefs and values. Any system not patterned after God's holy designs will not work properly.
Principle #6 - Another important idea in bible based financial management is that of needs and wants. Needs are things that are required. This would include food, clothing, shelter and health care. Wants are things that are not necessary but that we desire or wish for. For example, we need clothes, but we do not need designer clothes. We do not need games, toys, entertainment, jewelry, etc... We need food; however, we do not have to have steak. We do not need extravagances of any kind such as glamorous trips, shopping spires, etc...“Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:” (Proverbs 30:8 KJV)
“Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”(Romans 12:16 KJV)
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Phlippians 4:11 KJV)
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5 KJV)
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;” (1Timothy 2:9 KJV)
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1Timothy 6:6 - 8 KJV)
Principle #7 - Our financial goals and aspirations must be in harmony with those that God has for us. “The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.”(Deuteronomy 28:12 KJV)
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”(Romans 13:8 KJV)
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”(3John 1:2 KJV)
By understanding and integrating the Word into our financial plans we can avoid debt problems and gain financial freedom. The principles given above are general in nature and aim to show the connection between the Word of God and how we manage our finances. It is not intended as God's final words on your finances; for He will have mercy on whom He will. We follow these general guidelines because they are God's will; we do not seek to be rich; because God must always be the center of everything we do and not the quest for riches.
As Christians we must view life as a unity, rather than separate compartments, some of which is devoted to God, some of which is devoted to everyday life. We cannot compartmentalize our lives and our various roles. We must be Christians at all times and in all places. For example, if I am a pastor who is married with children I'm not a pastor at church, but a husband and father at home. Each role follows me everywhere I go. So then I am a Christian pastor, a Christian husband and a Christian father, in all places at all times. These roles help us to know our duties, which change based on our responsibilities within each, and we are not split in our allegiance nor our integrity. Christians of integrity serve God with heart, body, and mind in every calling in life.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”(Proverbs 3:5 - 6 KJV)
There is continuity between the Sabbath day and our six days of labor. We serve God as a whole, integrated person with our faith shaping our lives every day, at all times, in every place. We must be Christians who integrate our faith in real situations we encounter every day. How is this done? We must obey the instructions of our heavenly Father and his son Jesus.
But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.”(Psalms 50:16 - 23 KJV)
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7 KJV)
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1John 2:3 - 6 KJV)
“I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.”(2John 1:4 KJV)
In his letter to the Church in Roman Paul seeks to empower the church, by instructing them in the spirituality of everyday Life, the ethics of everyday Life, and the like. He exhorts them to live their lives day by day in the following manner.
“Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. Ask God to bless those who persecute you---yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God's anger do it. For the scripture says,“I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord.”Instead, as the scripture says: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this you will make them burn with shame. Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12:9 - 21 GNB)
Reflecting on and growing stronger in such practices, gives depth and meaning to daily life. By integrating these ethics of everyday life into our interpersonal relationships we put God in the middle of our busy and overstuffed lives. With God in the center of who we are and what we do, we gain a sense of awe and wonder about ourselves and cultivate the healing practices that lead to joyful, mindful, Christ-Centered Living.
As Christians the most important thing we can do is to engage the Spirit inspired sermons and messages we hear in our own lives. We must come to know and appreciate that by putting Christ into all aspects of our lives, our lives will change. I think we sometimes forget this simple truth. The Apostle James, the first of The Twelve to be martyred, puts it best.
“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:23 - 25 KJV)
We forget or maybe get lax in bringing the weekly sermon into our everyday lives. Consequently the effectiveness of the Word in our daily affairs is at best minimized. We are a freed, forgiven, inspired and empowered people who often suffer needlessly; simply because we are hearers of the Word of God and not doers. God's Word should not just move us on Sabbath afternoon. It must influence our actions in the car on the way to work, in our home when we argue with our spouse or kids, and when we choose to pay or not pay our bills each month. A heightened awareness and integration of our worship experience in our everyday lives will help us achieve the successes and promises of godly a lifestyle. Don't you think it's time to get your actions lined up with God's words?
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