Undoubtedly, Americans live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. We are bombarded with print and broadcast advertising which depict images of what appear to be successful people driving fancy cars, wearing expensive clothing, and traveling to exotic places. While none of these things are wrong, the love for and pursuit of them can be a temptation to sin (1 Tim 6:10). The intense desire to get rich and accumulate the things money can buy will cause us to fall into sinful behaviors such as covetousness, gluttony and selfishness.
Christians must be cognizant of the fact that God has something to say about how we use the physical and monetary blessings He gives us. With any blessing God gives us, He expects something in return. He expects us to use these blessings for His glory and our benefit. When we do not handle our physical and monetary blessings as God directs, our marriages can suffer, we may lose the opportunity to come to the aid of those in need, and it may prohibit us from giving of our means to God as He has commanded.
God’s goal for His disciples is not that they be rich with material wealth. In fact, He has promised nothing more than to provide for our basic necessities to sustain life. In His sermon on the mountain, Jesus pointed out the fallacy of becoming anxious about having enough food and clothing. He said, “do not be anxious, saying ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we drink? or ‘What shall we wear?’…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Mat 6:31, 32). In another instance, He warned that misplaced trust in the abundance of possessions can result in covetousness, and He says we should guard against this (Luke 12:15).
We would do well to heed what Paul told Timothy regarding instructions he should give the rich. He said, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17). In simple terms, Paul was teaching that God’s people must have the right attitude concerning earthly wealth. If we are to develop a godly attitude concerning the stewardship of our physical blessings, we must consider the following guidelines from God’s Word:
- Be content with what we have. Contentment is not an attitude we are born with; it is a learned behavior. Someone once said, “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.” The apostle Paul displayed this type of attitude. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul told the saints to practice all the things they learned, received, heard and saw in him. He goes on to say, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil 4:11, 12). Paul was not born with special skill that enabled him to find contentment, but rather he learned from his experiences to be content. He came to realize his circumstances did not determine his happiness or satisfaction. He also recognized contentment is a state of being and not a state of doing. Paul found contentment by developing a mind-set focused on the spiritual blessings that come from God (see Gal 5:16-26).
2. Be careful with our blessings. God intends for us to budget our resources, no matter how great or small they may be. Solomon once said, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” (Prov 21:5). Jesus also recognized the importance of properly allocating resources. While teaching crowds of people about the commitment required to be disciples, He asked, “which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Lk 14:28). In this instance he was teaching a spiritual concept using the laws of financial budgeting. When we realistically budget our resources, we enable ourselves to be good stewards of the blessings God has given us. Budgeting involves accurately allocating our resources to meet expected expenses. Responsible stewardship also involves returning a portion of our blessings to God on each first day of the week as He has commanded (1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 9:7). When we use our blessings properly, we will have the peace of mind knowing we are being good stewards of God’s gifts.
3. Avoid instantly satisfying our desires. Our natural tendency is get what we want, when we want it. In the parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15:11-32), Jesus describes a young man who had such a desire. He demanded that his father immediately give him his inheritance. The father complied and the young man went away with his riches, sinfully squandering them in riotous living. He soon found himself literally mired in sin and was forced to face his problems and return to his father. Paul also identified the dangers of immediately gratifying our desires. He says this desire will lead us into temptation, a snare, and will plunge us into ruin and destruction. Further, he says the craving of money can cause us to wander away from the faith and produces much pain and suffering (1 Tim 6:9, 10).
Does God care about money? Yes He does. God gives us everything we need to live in this world, including things we can enjoy, and He expects us to handle these blessings correctly. However, God would rather we be poor in body, but rich in good works, to have a generous heart, and be ready to share with others. If we follow His will, we build a good foundation for the future and grasp that which is life indeed (1 Tim 6:18, 19).
By Lance Bowman