Avoiding An Insignificant Life!

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A Little Vacation Time

-A Culture Of Consumption!

Let me share something, with you, that you may not know about the average 5-year old in America—the average 5-year old, in America, has 250 toys! Yes! I said 250 toys! Now, let’s apply some math to that. A 5-year old has only lived on planet Earth roughly 250 weeks. So, that 5-year old has grown up getting 1 new toy every week—on average—for their entire life! That’s just the AVERAGE! Some have 500 toys! Others have 1000! And, why are we surprised that they are rarely satisfied? That they are always wanting more? We’ve trained them to be “consumers”, haven’t we? We’re a culture that’s consumed by a desire for more stuff!

-The Stuff We Don’t Have!

We’re constantly exposed to commercials that advertise all the stuff we don’t have; and, telling us that we need it! “Our friends went to Best Buy, on Black Friday, and, got a new 70” Smart TV & our puny 55” TV just doesn’t cut it anymore”—that’s the general mindset of the average American! You take a ride in your friends new car & you love that new car smell! You get back in your old car and it smells like french fries & damp, moldy soccer cleats! You walk through SAMS or Target or COSTCO and you see all this new stuff that you NEED! You didn’t know you need it until you got there & saw what you were missing! Now, I may be exaggerating a bit; but, not by much!

-Managing God’s Estate!

If we’re followers, of Jesus, we can’t tolerate that selfish, consumerism controlling our lives! We must see ourselves—as Scripture tells us—as faithful “stewards” of God’s resources! We “manage” a portion of God’s “estate” that He’s entrusted to our care! How are we doing with that? If you live your life like you think you “own” your stuff, you’ll waste it all on building your own “little kingdom”—you’ll live an insignificant life! For the one, claiming to follow Jesus, we should not fear failure as much as we should fear success at something that really doesn’t matter in light of eternity! We need a constant reminder, from God’s Holy Spirit, that NOTHING we have is truly our own! It all belongs to God! And, whatever He’s given us, He’s trusting us to manage it well for Him; or, to leverage it in a way that builds His “big kingdom”! That’s how we avoid an insignificant life!

-How To Beat Consumerism!

In the Apostle Paul’s 1st letter, to Timothy, he instructed him to: “Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real” 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Here’s how I would paraphrase Paul’s challenge—You beat consumerism by denying your flesh & by chasing a new passion! It’s not just enough to deny your flesh! You need to live for a new passion! To the rich, he says, don’t be arrogant (v.17). So, a key, to avoiding the insignificant life, is to renounce the financial pride that can over take us! Remember, it’s not ours!

 

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God Loves Generosity!

-He Loves The Cheerful Giver!

In fact, to quote the words of the Apostle Paul, to the Church of Corinth, accurately, “…God loves a cheerful giver…” 2 Corinthians 9:7.  God is generous! He gives us everything we “need” the Scripture says; and, an awful lot of our “wants” also! He is a good God! And, His expectation is that we would become more and more generous as we are sanctified & made a new creation in the image of His generous Son, Jesus!

-There Are Expectations!

And, He has those expectations, of us, with good reason—He has given us His Holy Spirit to indwell us & change us! That means we can give “in the flesh”—giving sparingly or reluctantly! Or, we can give “in the Spirit”—to give willingly & generously & cheerfully as a work of the Spirit in our life! Generous giving is the supernatural work of God’s indwelling Spirit! That “in the flesh” attitude comes from a belief that God is a TAKER rather than a GIVER!

-A Giver Or A Taker?

If we believe that God is a TAKER, we’ll also give sparingly & reluctantly! We’ll see His requirements of a tithe & offering as taking away something that’s “MINE”; or, something “I’ve WORKED for.” But if, in our heart, we see God as a GIVER we’ll see all our financial blessings as coming from God; not, from ourselves! Our financial decisions ultimately reveal what we think about God! God is a GIVER! That is His nature! He gave life to Adam & Eve. He gave them a beautiful garden home! He gave them a choice! And, when they made the wrong choice & sinned against Him, He gave His Son—because, “God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son…” So, He gave the world a 2nd chance at redemption through Jesus & the Cross!

-He Gives So We Can Give!

And, as followers of Jesus, He gives to us so we can be a blessing; and, give to others! This is an amazing truth from God’s Word! Whether you’re rich, by the world’s standards; or, poor like the widow who gave her mite, God has given us our stuff to make givers out of us. That’s exactly what Paul told the Church of Corinth: “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance [or: make every grace abound to you], so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” 2 Corinthians 9:8. Get that? God gives us what we have so we can be generous!

-It’s All His Anyway!

He gives us enough, so, that if we manage it rightly, we’ll have what we need to be GIVERS! Now, the implication is that if we say we don’t have enough to give, that we’re mismanaging what He’s given us! Or, God’s Word is incorrect! Paul actually expands on this in v.10— “…the One (GOD) who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” In other words, God gives on BOTH sides of our giving! He gives us “seed” before we give; and, He multiplies it & provides a harvest for all the righteous deeds we can do in regard to giving! That’s God’s promise! He gives all of us what we need to BE GIVERS! Though, in His Sovereignty He may give more to some than to others; so, that they can give MORE! But, we’ve all been GIVEN to GIVE! That brings God glory!

 

Don’t Give Out Of Extortion!

-Give It As A Gift!

When I was a Bible College student, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need to give a “tithe” or an “offering”, in church, because I was paying my tuition to a “Christian” college! So, I thought, that was like just as good as giving it to my church! Apparently NOT! I remember needing some repair work done on my car—and, it was a sizeable amount! I remember sensing a Holy Spirit “inspired” thought like God telling me, “I WILL get your offering even if I have to TAKE it through an auto repair!

-Taken By Coercion!

In Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth, he made an interesting statement, “Therefore I considered it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance the generous gift you promised, so that it will be ready as a gift and not as an extortion” 2 Corinthians 9:5.  That’s an interesting choice of words! Paul’s like saying, “Don’t MAKE me TAKE that from you”; or, “Don’t MAKE me EXTORT it…or, take it by COERCION.” Literally, he’s saying, “Don’t make me STEAL it from you.” That’s NOT how you give an offering to the Lord! That’s NOT how you give to the work of the Gospel! That’s NOT how you give to needy people! “Don’t give,” Paul says, “ONLY because your FORCED to give.” God won’t bless your gift if He has to EXTORT it from you!

-Sow Generously! Reap Generously!

In the next verse, Paul continues, “Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously” 2 Corinthians 9:6.  Don’t give “sparingly.” So, what exactly does that word mean? We don’t use the word “sparingly” very often. We’re more familiar with the word “spare.” If someone begs you to spare their life, they mean, “Let me keep it! Don’t take it from me!” If a coach tells his team, “Spare no effort” he means, “Don’t hold back any of your effort! Give ALL your effort!” In Romans 8:32 it says, “God did not even SPARE His own Son, but offered Him up for us all.” That means that God didn’t hold Him back! He didn’t keep Jesus for himself! He SHARED Him with us! So, if we give “sparingly” it means, in our heart, that we want to HOLD BACK! We don’t want to SHARE!

-How “Not” To Give!

When we give “sparingly”, we’re not thinking about how much we can GIVE; but, about how much we can KEEP & HOLD onto! In the next verse, Paul tells the Corinthian believers not to give “reluctantly”—“Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Corinthians 9:7. Some translations use the word “GRUDGINGLY”—don’t give your offering with a “grudge.” Don’t hold it against God like He’s asking too much from us! If we’re not careful, it’s easy to harbor a bitter spirit against God about His giving requirements! However, that’s acting like an “OWNER”—which we are NOT! We’re a “steward” or a “manager” of a portion of God’s estate! It’s all His! Nothing belongs to us—”You brought nothing into this world & you can’t take anything out” 1 Tim 6:7.

 

Do I Really Own My Stuff?

-Or, Am I A Manager?

You don’t want to be on the wrong side of that question! If you don’t listen to the Word of God—when it comes to your finances & your stuff—you’ll forfeit something. God will oppose you as long as you live like an “owner” of YOUR stuff rather than a “steward” or a “manager” of HIS. The prophet, Malachi, was inspired by God’s Spirit to write: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed ME! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse” Malachi 3:8,9.

-God Owns It All!

Clearly, God means for us to understand that our resources are not ours to use however we may wish! In my last post I challenged you with Scripture that makes it clear that God owns ALL of it! He doesn’t just get our tithe & offerings; and, the rest is ours to spend on ourselves! He owns it ALL—Deuteronomy 10:14; Haggai 2:8; 1 Corinthians 10:26. As stewards, we are responsible for managing the portion of HIS “estate”—that He has entrusted to us—the way that HE wants it to be managed! We don’t really have the freedom to do what we want with it! Our responsibility is to spend it the way He directs us! We have to get this right, Church! You’re the STEWARD of your stuff, not the OWNER! Repeat that our loud! You need to convince yourself of that!

-Do A Financial Audit!

Here’s what you need to do—you need to do an AUDIT of your finances! And, if God’s Spirit shows you that you’ve been living like an owner instead of a steward, you need to “repent.” Literally, to “repent” means to “change your mind” about something. If you’ve not been obedient, in this area, you need to repent & change your mind about the way you’ve been living! And, I would challenge you to make it a matter of prayer, every day, to release your stuff back to God! Talk to Him every day, about it, and, give it all back to Him. And, how will you know if you’re making progress? Well, you’ll begin to experience freedom from greed, first of all! When it’s part of your mindset that none of your stuff is really yours, you’ll also begin to experience a freedom from the anxiety that a love of money can bring. It’s all Gods anyway; and, He’s promised to take care of you! So, your dependence transfers from your IRA to God, right?

-Don’t Wander From The Faith!

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, his son in the faith, with these words: “But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Catch the gravity of Paul’s warning to young Timothy? He tells him that the way he looks at his money & his stuff has a direct correlation to his relationship with God! And, if he gets it wrong he’s in danger of “financial apostasy”; or, wandering from the faith! Don’t do that!

 

Why Am I So Discontent?

-Hoping To Strike It Rich!

One of the most embarrassing financial decisions I ever made was getting into the beef jerky vending machine business! It was like the late ‘90’s, as I recall; and, I spent $10,000 for 20 machines. I trusted the company to place them in high traffic areas; but, it didn’t work out that way! My kids benefited—the boys, especially, enjoyed lots of beef jerky snacks! Then, there were all the “Publisher’s Clearing House” and “Reader’s Digest” sweepstakes entries I filled out religiously in hopes of striking it rich! But, perhaps my most embarrassing financial “scheme” was one of those “Chain Letters” where you write 1000 strangers, asking them to send you $10; and, then they send 1000 letters. And, if no one breaks the chain everyone will have like a million dollars in 30 days—it didn’t work! I lost a lot of money on postage! Yea, I did that! Only once! I was a dirt poor college student, and, I was easily manipulated! Don’t judge me!

-Greed Masqueraded!

Now, let me tell you why I’m willing to embarrass myself with those true stories! I wanted to illustrate how greed & covetousness can masquerade themselves! I’m NOT saying that buying into the beef jerky vending business; or, any kind of vending business is greedy! I’m NOT saying that filling out the “Publisher’s Clearing House” entries is greedy and covetous! But, FOR ME, it was! All those activities, FOR ME, were a hoped for “get rich scheme.” I was greedy and covetous! I saw someone wearing a t-shirt once that read, “All I Want Is A Little Bit More Than I’ll Ever Have.” That was ME! I had bought into that worldly attitude that to be happy, I needed more STUFF!

-Advertisers Appeal To Our Greed!

That’s the assumption behind most advertising, isn’t it— “You can’t be totally happy ‘til you own our product. If you wanna enjoy life, you need this & you can buy now, pay later, on our easy credit plan!” It’s my hope, over the next few posts, to search the Scriptures with you and seek the Holy Spirit’s help to determine what we ought to value in life! There’s no denying that God has a lot to say about money and wealth and stuff; and, generally speaking, this is what He says: “Everything belongs to ME!” It all belongs to HIM! None of our stuff is truly ours! How much do we leave behind at death? ALL of it!

-God Owns It All!

Consider these Scripture verses—”To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it” Deut 10:14. “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the LORD Almighty” Haggai 2:8. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” 1 Cor. 10:26. We are NOT owners! We are “stewards” and “managers” of God’s stuff! Let me tell you why that’s so important—If you think YOU own your stuff, you’ll use your income to build your “Little Kingdom”; when, it’s God’s will that you leverage it to build His “BIG Kingdom.” You’ll be guilty of robbing from God. That was one of Israel’s sins: “Will a man rob God?” He ASKS, “Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse” Malachi 3:8,9. It’s a serious crime to “rob” God—they were cursed!

 

Best Investment Advice!

The Connection Between Our Faith & Our Finances

No one offers better “investment advice” than Jesus does in His “Parable Of The Unjust Steward” in Luke 16:1-13.  In v.11 He makes a significant connection between our faith and the way we handle our financial resources: “…if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine?” Seek after the “genuine” spiritual wealth & riches of a God-focused life; NOT, the temporal wealth of this world! If you cannot be trusted with the temporary wealth of this world, how can God trust you with the true riches of a deep relationship with Him? As long as your passion is the stuff of this world, you’ll never grow deep in your faith and your walk with the Lord!

The Problem With Earthly Treasures

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus put it like this:  “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.” Jesus offers additional “investment advice” when He uses the unjust steward to remind us that one day we’ll be “…called in to give an account…” (v.2) Every year I hire the services of an accountant to prepare my taxes for the day I must “give an account”—April 15th.  In the parable, the Master—the real owner—calls in the steward to “give an account” of the way he had managed his Master’s resources. “If you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own?” Jesus asks (v.12)

Managing God’s Stuff

The Apostle Paul warned the believers in Corinth, “ We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may give an account for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless” (2 Cor 5:10) So, spend your Master’s resources as one who must “give an account”; not, as autonomous! If you see yourself as an owner you’ll live as though you’re autonomous; that, you have the freedom to do with your stuff as you please; like, you’re the Sovereign! The judgment seat of Christ will determine how faithful you were in the management of all the stuff God gave you to steward for Him!

Whose Slave Are You?

Jesus concludes the “Parable Of The Unjust Servant” like this: “…you can’t be slaves to both God and money.” v.13 You will choose one or the other! Everyone does! And, the judgment will reveal it— “good stewards” or “worthless stewards”? Enslaved to money & stuff? Be a worthless steward to God! Or, make God your Master & leverage the money & stuff for His kingdom purposes! We need to regularly, intentionally give everything back to God! Tell yourself, “I need to emotionally pry my fingers off everything I own…God, this is Your house…Your car…Your job…Your 401k; How do You want me to manage it for You?”

 

Actually, God Does Own Your Stuff!

How Much Do We Have To Give?

The “tithing” question almost always revolves around “how much do we have to give?” Do we still have to give 10%? Isn’t that just in the Old Testament? I’ve heard people argue that it’s their money and they’ll give to causes or projects that they believe in; while, others claim they don’t give because churches & pastors have misused church offerings and can’t be trusted! Some have told me that they can’t tithe because they can’t afford it— “There’s always too much month left at the end of our money,” they say. Others say that they’re afraid to tithe— “What happens if we fall on hard times & we’ve given all that money to the church?”

It’s All About Your Heart

In counseling people about their finances, I’ve found that it’s ultimately not a “tithing” question; but, a “heart” issue! Where is your heart? God addresses money matters so frequently—it’s estimated there are over 2000 verses speaking on money—because our financial interests have a way of stealing our heart more than anything else in life! I’ll just admit right now that I probably won’t satisfy your curiosity about tithing in this post. If we just focus on whether to tithe or not to tithe it can quickly turn into legalism and a fulfilling of the letter of the law. I’ll just say this much: I believe there is Scriptural support that if O.T. giving was a tenth under law, that nothing less than that would be the starting point under grace!

Are You A Steward Or An Owner?

In Luke 16, Jesus unpacks some financial principles in His parable about the unjust steward. I’ll only deal with one of those principles here—Jesus teaches us to think like a steward of our stuff; not an owner! God is like the rich man in the story & we’re the steward! The reason the steward was unjust? Because he handled his master’s money as though it were his own! The psalmist wrote:  “The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him” Psalm 24:1. See also Psalm 50:10 & 1 Corinthians 4:7. This is bigger than a tithing question! God says it’s not 10% His and 90 % ours! It’s ALL HIS! ALL of it! We’re just managing God’s stuff? Are you acting like a steward over your stuff or an owner?

Faithful In Little; Faithful In Much

Take a look at v.10 in that Luke 16 passage—Jesus teaches us to also be content with the stuff He’s given us to manage, not covetous!Whoever is faithful in very little is faithful in much.” I’ve heard people say they can’t tithe because they don’t make enough money. That’s backward thinking! The tithe comes 1st— “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops” Prov. 3:9. Jesus is ultimately saying here that if you don’t tithe with your current income you wouldn’t if you made twice as much— if you’re unrighteous in little you’ll be unrighteous in much! And, I’ve seen that played out way too often!