An in-law recently asked my wife to do them a small favor. They offered to pay us. We said, “don’t be silly” then they insisted – you know the drill. When my wife told me she didn’t feel comfortable taking money from them, she couldn’t verbalize why which got me thinking. We see this couple at nearly every family event but we don’t consider each other family. They each make a good living so the money doesn’t mean anything. So why offer payment in a form which means so little to them and even less to us? They could have invited us over for dinner which would possibly draw us closer together. Such an act would honor the recipient. Making payment reduces someone to the status of an employee.
The couple had no intention of using the money to do anything but say thanks, but such disconnects are likely due to a matter of faith; when one embraces man’s economic system while the other trusts in God’s.
Man’s economy revolves around currency which has no value itself, but merely represents something with actual or perceived value. Therefore, currency is neither an end nor a beginning. Earning money, therefore, requires a certain type of education and training which in turn requires a willingness to conform for the sake of a tangible reward.
Man’s economic system is limited to its chief representation of value while God’s system accounts for the stewardship of money rather than the money itself. It also accounts for the investment in relationships, faith and the procurement of God’s most precious asset, the human soul. Moreover, Godly men use money, time and talent to glorify God while ungodly men use these same things to glorify themselves.
The ungodly relish convenience. Being saddled with the burden with knowing the names and reputations of lowly cashiers and small businesses is a thing of the past. Concerning oneself on how or where a product is being manufactured is irrelevant. The paramount objective must be free from such distractions in order to focus on what is most important – getting what we want at the least possible cost. Even our method of payment has shifted from relational to whatever is most convenient evidenced in our own growing aversion toward lengthy transactions.
All successful men value Godly attributes in the beginning (i.e. truth, knowledge, understanding and wisdom). At some point, however, most buy into the viewpoint, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” This belief states, to be truly successful, you must put your faith in men. To utilize God’s economy you must be in right standing with and put your trust in God.
Man’s economy challenges us to make as much money as possible, and, when we’ve accumulated far more than enough, we can elevate ourselves further by giving some away. Through philanthropy we can feel good about ourselves and receive tax breaks as well. Man’s way reinforces the principle of taking and conditional giving. Unfortunately, those who satisfy the goal of monetary wealth do so by feeding their ego and not their soul since such a lifestyle rarely leaves room for faith in God.
Christians tend to value life in the same way as non-Christians in spite of the fact Jesus said (John 14:6) I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. And Paul wrote, (Ephesians 2:1) And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Jesus and Paul echo the oldest theme in the Bible: Non-believers are dead; walking zombies unaware of their condition.
From a spiritually economic standpoint what does it matter if a mother is convinced not to abort her child if the child grows up in the same Godless environment? Such a child will be doomed to follow the same fruitless pattern of the parent and end up generation after generation uneducated, unemployed, unwed and uninspired, and, if they are female, most likely pregnant. There will be no souls credited to such an account. This, in spite of our inclination to keep something alive, is a bad investment. The objective therefore should not be to prolong the life of a zombie but rather to inject life into a dead soul. In order to do this one must be willing to get up close and personal.
Most relationships are based on what we can get out of them. If two people do nothing but make withdrawals bankruptcy is inevitable. Since giving as a means to achieve success is counter intuitive by man’s way of thinking, he must be retrained. Bringing Tithes and making offerings are two exercises God has placed in his plan in order to transform takers into givers. Only those trained in the art of giving will be capable of maintaining healthy relationships.
If the tithe strengthens the immediate community, the offering is the seed God uses for the sake of the relationships beyond the community of believers. A person who cheerfully gives to the cause of saving souls is credited for the number of souls saved by association regardless of the size of the gift. God empowers these sponsors, through their giving, to bless everyone who invested time, talent and treasure into them, as well as everyone who is saved directly or indirectly by those converted ad infinitum.
Without an ongoing relationship, the investment will not prosper long. Jesus said, Matthew 18: 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. This stresses the importance of relationships, not just with God but with each other. Jesus also instructed not to give an offering until you are right with your brother (Matthew 5:22-24). Therefore one is unlikely to experience the benefits of the Kingdom of God without sound relationships.
In God’s economy there is a blessing for being obedient. Unfortunately, hearing from God often means receiving information offensive to the carnally minded. The prophets of old spent their lives spreading disturbing news to folks who invariably rejected it. From the perspective of the people God wants to reach, to hear anything disagreeable – even for their benefit, would mean stepping out of their comfort zone and exposing their addictions, which, St. Augustine observed, we desire to have satisfied not extinguished.
Yes, Steven was stoned for his faith, but what he did with his last breath influenced Saul who became Paul and led the gentiles to Jesus Christ. Yes, Paul was imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned and beaten, but while imprisoned he counted it all joy and wrote much of the New Testament which continues to draw people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ to this day. Most of the prophets were ostracized and punished for telling the truth, but in God’s economy there are multipliers applied when you love those who hate you. Matthew 5: 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.
To summarize, if money is neither the beginning or the end and Jesus is the alpha and omega, it would be wise to focus on what is rather than what is not. In God’s economy we begin with empowering principles which we receive either directly or indirectly from God’s word. By applying Godly principles we procure value which may often include money. Through the good stewardship of things which hold value: money, time and talent, we initiate God’s blessing both forward and back and become transformed into mature givers. As givers we are now able to build healthy relationships. Through these relationships we can successfully participate in Kingdom business.
If God protects his own while they live, as so many of us are living proof, you can safely say he will protect the influence his children have built with even greater fervor, not because the influence is ours, but because we are his. Before we can be his we must love our enemies (e.g. the unsaved). Before we can love our enemies we must bind ourselves with those on the front lines through making regular offerings. Before we can make an offering we must learn to give. In order to take hold of a greater calling we must first let go of a lesser one. In order to do such a difficult thing for so great a reward, we must take a first step which begins with a tithe.