Friday, June 10, 2005


Money and the Christian

Many Christians are sensitive about appeals for financial donations. We might resent hearing about needs and opportunities that require money, or we might respond out of a sense of guilt. Most of us do not like others telling us what to do with our money.

The Book of Hebrews gives us an outstanding example of a proper attitude toward money: Moses. In the list of those who believed “that God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him,” Moses was looking forward to his reward.

Hebrews 11:24-26 tells us he “refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to be mistreated along with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt.”

This does not mean that the treasures of Egypt have no value. Egyptian money could buy the necessities of life, and luxuries to ease the life of the wealthy. In a sense the treasures of Egypt were even a factor in the kingdom of God, since the Egyptians gave valuables to the departing Israelites, and these valuables were used to build the Tabernacle. But Moses knew that in comparison to the values of eternity, money does not amount to much.

Obviously, no one can be right with God by having money or things; nor can anyone be justified by renouncing materialism. Only the righteousness of Christ can make us acceptable to a holy God. But wise Christians will recognize, as Moses did, that eternal value and eternal comfort are more important than this world’s stuff. Our reward is received in the resurrection rather than now.

The treasures of this world are beguiling. We know they are less important than treasure in heaven; we know they are not ultimately satisfying; we know they are unreliable as a means of security. Yet we still find our hearts desiring earthly possessions. We still neglect the truly valuable pursuits of personal holiness, evangelizing the lost, and supporting missions—as we try to increase our wealth.

Jacob’s brother Esau did not live “by faith” to the extent of being included in Hebrews 11. He did not live as a sojourner in the land of promise, looking forward to his reward. He did make it into the Book of Hebrews, though, in chapter 12. He is mentioned as a bad example and as a warning.

Hebrews 12:16-17 points us to Esau who for a single meal sold his inheritance. In human terms he was not an especially bad man, and he probably did a lot of good things. He stands, though, as an opposite to Moses. His immorality focused his attention on the here and now, his physical appetite, and instant gratification.

Esau may have acknowledged God in the religious aspect of life, but when it came to earthly wealth, possessions, and satisfaction he lived as if there was no God. He was godless when it came to his finances and his indulgences. No person has ever heard God say, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau.” By living for this world and despising the kingdom of God, Esau wrote himself out of the inheritance of faith. Can we learn from this?

1. Beware of the lure of the treasures of the world. They are not a trustworthy basis of security for the future. Certainly they cannot insure an eternal reward. They do not give the fulfillment and satisfaction they promise. They are not a friend of sanctification. How much like Christ can we become while setting our hearts on earthly wealth, when he refused to accumulate any of the world’s treasure?

2. Accomplish eternal good by the proper use of the world’s money. Use the money God entrusts to you to meet the needs of your family and other people he allows you to help. Be diligent in your work, prudent in your spending, generous in your giving, and wise in your investing. By investing in the kingdom of God we can store up treasure in heaven. Ask God to make you aware of needs and opportunities to spread the gospel. The things we accumulate for ourselves will be lost forever; the things we invest in the Lord’s work will be ours forever.

3. Live in light of eternity. Remember that God owns us and all our possessions. He promised to provide what we need, but our ultimate reward is still future. Some day we will stand before God and give an account of our handling of money and property. Will we resemble Moses because we had a proper perspective on earthly treasure? Or will we be more like Esau because we put too high a premium on earthly treasure?

May God give us the courage to live out our convictions about money. What a difference it would make for the church and missions if we would all apply the teaching of Scripture consistently. And, what a difference to us.

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