Become Rich Toward God by Giving
By far the wisest and most rewarding investments of all we can make when we are on this earth are those that are given to God for the furtherance of His work. If you are wealthy, you are under an obligation to use some of that to advance the cause of Jesus Christ.
Scripture is replete with commands and promises regarding the need to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. If Jesus walked into our churches today in the same way as he did in the synagogues when he was here on earth, I think we would hear him say this to today’s consumer society:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19 –21)
This saying of Jesus is one of the most countercultural statements in the whole of Scripture. Our Lord is telling us first that if we are going to be right on money, then we have got to have the right storehouse. It is not wrong to store up money. In fact Christ commands it. But the crux of the matter is where we store our money. Store it up in heaven, says Jesus, not on earth. By that He means making investments in the things that will endure in eternity.
Our Lord makes three significant points in the statement quoted above: (1) Treasure on earth is susceptible to corruption decay and theft. Money stored in heaven is safe and secure. (2) Treasure in heaven gets a high yield. Here we may get 5%, 15%, 25% or, in a huge economic boom, as much as 30%. Scripture talks about a 30, 60 or even hundredfold return. (3) Treasure and our hearts interact together. Initially your treasure goes where your heart goes. If you have your heart set on a new car or a bigger house or a computer upgrade, then there is little doubt in due course your money is going to follow your heart. Your money goes in that direction, and then your heart goes all the more to that thing. We are going to have to lead our hearts to heaven by investing our resources there.
People often ask me if it is a scriptural principle to save. Most definitely. “Look to the ants,” says the book of Proverbs, “who in good seasons store up for the lean times to come.” There is biblical wisdom in saving. But millions? Why sacrifice present kingdom impact for a future on earth that has no guarantee it will ever come? We must let Jesus speak with full force into our lives. We are not just being wicked if we pile up treasures on earth; we are simply being stupid!
So stop storing up resources on earth. If you have enough then why want more? Enough is enough. Use that money for investing in God’s Kingdom. One man I heard of, having read the phenomenally popular The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkerson, added another room to his house just to show his neighbors how God was prospering him. He didn’t need the extra room, so in my opinion, it was shameful waste of the Lord’s money.
Many people spent the first half of their lives expending health to gain wealth and then the last part of their lives expending wealth to gain health.
A pastor I know tells the story of how a farmer gave $5 a year to the work of the church. One day as the pastor visited the farm, the man said, “Whilst you are here I will write you out my annual gift to the church.” The minister said as he watched him write out the check for $5, “All that God has done for you in this farm, which is clearly prospering, and you give this. You ought to give God $500 as a thank offering.” And he added, “God gives sunlight, soil, rain and atmosphere to bring forth a crop. That’s about 93% of the work, leaving only 7% dependent upon you. I’m surprised God doesn’t paralyze your arm when you write out such a miserly amount.”
Now, I’m not saying that this is the best way to approach someone, but in his case, it worked. Those blunt words struck home. He dropped to his knees and surrendered both himself and his money to God. He went into the house and told his wife what had happened. Her response was, “I have been praying for this for years.” His whole life was loosed. The pastor said that for years to come, the man gave to the church not $5 a year, but $5,000.
Be rich toward God. That is where the greatest riches are. You may not be a millionaire on earth but you can be a millionaire in heaven.
Another important thing Jesus said was this:
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)
Now what that means is quite simple. There’s light in the place where you are reading this, either daylight or artificial light. If your eye works and takes light in then by that light you are able to read. If your eye does not work, then though there may be light all around you are in a sense in darkness.
Our generosity will determine how much spiritual light we have within our being. If we have a greedy eye, our whole being will be filled with spiritual darkness; but if we have a generous eye, our whole being will be filled with spiritual light. Our bodies go where our eyes are looking. “The love of money is the root of all evil,” says Paul to Timothy. Not money itself, but the love of it. “Some people, eager for money [with eyes for money] have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” We have to know what’s important and what’s not. As Christians, we must start acting like people who are going to live forever.
How do we keep from amassing money and getting pulled into its orbit? Don’t stockpile it on earth. Send it on to heaven. Invest it in Kingdom ministry, and your heart is going to start getting pulled there. Send the rest of it ahead so there is no gravitational pull to this world. Why would you need a stack of notes in heaven? We are only here for a short time, so send it on ahead because that is where we will be spending eternity.
Greed is different from other sins; that is why Jesus describes it as an “eye” sin. It darkens our eye spiritually. Greed hides itself. It blinds you in a way that other things do not. Hardly anyone considers himself greedy. If you want to know whether you are greedy then ask yourself how much you dislike it in others. We can’t see it. It blinds us to our own condition.
David Livingstone said these immortal words:
If anything I have will advance that kingdom it shall be given or kept, as by giving or keeping it I shall best promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes both for time and eternity.
That should be the motto of every Christian put up somewhere and repeated to oneself every day. I came across this some time ago, which I wrote down in my notebook of pertinent sayings: “Some give like a rock only when they are struck. Others give like a sponge only when they are squeezed. Others give like the flowers because they love to give.” What kind of giving characterizes you?
If you dislike rich people, or feel superior to them, this shows money has power over you. I live in a flat, but I confess there are times when I wish I had a pool I could swim in every morning, a house with a large garden and enough money to pay a gardener to look after things. At such times I read Psalm 73 and come back to the biblical realization that the greatest blessing in life is to be a child of the living God.
Give enough money away that sacrifices your lifestyle. If there is not sacrifice in our lives, there is no joy in our lives. If there is no cross in our economic life, then there is no true elation. Jesus gave his all for us. Not one tenth of his life but all. There has, therefore, to be a cross in our giving. If we give away money and it doesn’t cut into the way we live and make a difference in our lifestyles, then it is possible we are not responding to Jesus in the way he responds to us.
Develop a Worldwide Vision
So many Christians lack a worldwide vision. A Christian should have a vision for the world even though he or she is not able to go to every part of the world. Our trouble today is that we are far too parochial in our vision. The apostle Paul when writing to Timothy calls the church to prayer and shows that our concerns should cover more than just the people in our own community – but everybody.
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior. (I Timothy 2:1-3)
The Church then is to take everybody into the embrace of its concern and prayer. Now I am afraid this immediately rebukes many of our evangelical churches whose perspective, if we are frank, is more parochial than global.
The British preacher and writer John Stott tells of visiting a village church whilst he was on holiday and slipped into the back incognito. The pastor was away and one of the leaders was taking the meeting. He prayed that the pastor might have a good holiday, mentioned certain members who were sick, and that was it. No prayer for the needs of the world, the tension in different countries. Stott thought to himself, “This is a village church with a village God.” There was no thinking about the oppressed, the poor, the refugees, the place of violence, world evangelization, famines… things that ought to concern us.
Does your local church have a worldwide vision? Then fine. Get behind it. If it doesn’t then pray that it will. It is of prime importance that you support the work of your local church but be open to the needs of parachurch organizations also. There are things a parachurch organization can do that a local church cannot.
Not all Christians will fall within the category of my next suggestion, and if you find that you are not included don’t skip over it as the point being made may apply to you at some later date.