Although Jesus spoke often about money, we often delegate those teachings to a long ago time in the Mid-East instead of applying them to life here and now. It seems that many of us have allowed our 21st century American values distort Jesus’ teachings. How about you? I challenge you to read of fictional Jim and Judy below, then, before continuing, ask yourself these two questions:
- Which of these do I most admire?
- What would Jesus say about these two?
Jim started his own company, manages it well and continues to pump profits back into his firm. Because his savings and investments will generate a substantial income for the rest of his life, Jim plans to do whatever boating, golfing and vacationing he so desires.
Judy is destitute; a widow whose bank account hovers near zero. She recently gave her last two dollars to the Salvation Army.
How did you answer? Want to know what Jesus thinks? Read on.
Then He told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”‘
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” (Mark 12: 41-44)
How did you do?
How well did your answers align with Jesus’ thoughts? My hunch is that most of us would congratulate the entrepreneur for his enterprising spirit while warning the widow about squandering what little she had. However, according to Jesus, we need to ask ourselves how we can better emulate the widow while distancing ourselves from the rich man. How can we do this? These tips will help:
- Recognize that everything belongs to God. This means EVERYTHING…not just a 10% tithe, but 100% of everything in our possession. Once this truth infiltrates the depth of our being, we will openly seek God’s plans for what He wants done with His money. The widow gave everything to God. We should too. Normally God will let us keep enough of his money to live on, but make no mistake: it is all His.
- Recognize that money is not your source of security. The rich man’s financial success gave him a feeling of security, but he was nevertheless a fool. Why? Because he had planned for this life only while giving no thought to what might happen to him after he died. True security, of course, is a rich relationship with God.
- Consider yourself a conduit. As God’s money flows to you, it will also flow from you. Keep that conduit clean so the flow will be unimpeded.
- Cap your standard of living. This is very much an individual choice, but once you set that standard of living, you won’t be thinking you need a newer car or bigger house every time you get a pay raise. John Piper, in his book “Desiring God", says, “The issue is not how much money a person makes. The evil is in being deceived into thinking that a $100,000 salary must be accompanied by a $100,000 lifestyle."
- Cap your savings. Again, this is an individual choice, but once you determine how much of God’s money you should hang on to, do so and give the rest away. To allow that retirement account, for example, go grow unhindered is tantamount to hoarding. Is this not what the rich fool was doing?
- Plan for trepidation. Being a property manager for another means that the true owner, at any time, may ask you to give away huge chunks of his assets. At times, doing so may stretch our faith and spike our anxiety level, but this is a good thing. If we never allow ourselves to be the least bit nervous, we are probably not living close enough to the edge.
Right now, we may be more like the rich fool than we are the poor widow. However, by thinking through our priorities and acting on them, we will grow closer to the widow… and to the heart of Jesus.
Readers: any thoughts about the wealthy entrepreneur and the destitute widow?