Finances for the Faithful
Ecclesiastes 10:16-18 compares the state of two nations. One is woefully prepared, having a child as king and princes feasting in the morning. The other is blessed, having a mature king of noble birth and princes feasting at the appropriate time. The conclusion, then, is that a nation needs appropriate controls in order to thrive. Verse 19 explains, “A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry; but money answers everything.” While feasts and wine might be enjoyable, we must consider what happens when the feast is over, the wine is dried up, and the house is falling apart. The woeful nation does not recognize the consequences of their merriment. This principle can be applied to the individual.
We live in a society that sees life as something to be lived for the pleasures of feasting and merriment. Very little thought goes into purchase decisions. Just a few years ago individuals were financing their futures for the “ideal” home of their dreams. They thought the feasting, laughter, wine, and merriment would never end. Because of ill-formed decisions many lost their homes, their jobs, and their reputation. When we do not govern our resources wisely, we are like the woeful nation not recognizing the consequences of our decisions.
Many examples throughout the scriptures prove that living life for feasting and pleasure ends miserably. II Kings 5 particularly conveys this idea. Through the power of God, Elisha provided the means for Naaman to receive healing from his leprous condition (5:1-15), and in exchange for receiving this great blessing, Naaman desired to give him a gift (5:16-19). Elisha would not accept this gift, instead approving Naaman to offer sacrifices to the Lord, saying to him, “go in peace.” Gehazi, though, saw a great investment opportunity in his own well-being. Naaman was from a nation which had just recently raided portions of Israel (5:2), and he was loaded down with bounteous goods for the taking. Gehazi runs after Naaman saying, “My master has sent me, saying, ‘Indeed, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the mountains of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of garments.’” Naaman more than granted his request, giving him above and beyond his ‘humble’ plea. Upon returning, Elisha chided Gehazi for his sinful behavior, asking him in verse 26, “Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?” Gehazi’s imprudent decision stained him with a life consuming disease.
Elisha responds very instructively by asking Gehazi, “is it time…” Elisha understood there is a time for joy, a time for gain, and a time for pleasure in this life. There is a time for a man to rule as king. There is a time for princes to feast. Money has its time and place in our lives. Ecclesiastes 2:8-26 explain this clearly, concluding in verses 24-26 that labor, and the good produced by labor (including wealth), are to be enjoyed by man as a gift from God.
What would one think appropriate to do with a handmade quilt from their grandmother? Would they place it on the ground as the entry mat, so everyone’s muddy shoes would be cleaned by it, or would they hang it in a place of honor? If we would treat our gifts from men with such esteem, what ought to be our response to the gifts from God? Should we lavishly spend our gift till we are left with nothing, or should we honor our work and the goods provided through that work by wisely utilizing them to God’s glory?
In Matthew 25:14-30 three men were given three distinct measures (talents) from their master, according to their ability. The master charged each servant to put that measure to work while he was away, so that upon his return, he would have his original investment back plus the gain from their labor. While this passage may not directly relate to finances, consider God’s measure provided to us. We have been given a blessing that does not belong to us (Psalm 50:12), in order that we might maximize its usefulness in order to return positive benefit to the One to whom it truly belongs.
How, then, can we maximize our financial blessings to return positive gains to God?
BE CONTENT: I Timothy 6:6 states, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” God is especially interested in the return of our heart. How will we respond to the finite blessings we receive? Do we begrudge God for not providing enough for us? “…For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” (Matthew 6:32) Being content with the supply provided to us is great gain to us and God. To us, in that we respond with thanksgiving in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). To God, in that He is glorified by our actions (I Peter 2:12).
BE PRUDENT: God’s expectations are laid out in I Timothy 5:8, where the one who does not provide for his household is said to be worse than an infidel. God is well pleased when we wisely weigh the needs of our family above our own desires. Faithful servants gain much by providing for the needs of their home. Prudently consider the consequences of each decision, weighing their benefit to God and to your family.
BE GIVING: II Corinthians 9:6-15 encourages us to be generous of heart. When opportunities arise, we should give generously, lovingly, and cheerfully. By our action, God is glorified by both us and the recipients. Your heart emulates God’s nature, and the recipients, who pray to God on your behalf, strengthen your soul. Paul describes this as God’s “indescribable gift.”
Truly our wealth is an indescribable gift from God. Are you using your blessings for treasures on earth or riches in heaven? Teach your heart to be content, set your priorities to please God, and generously and cheerfully share the wonderful blessing God has entrusted to you.