When God converts us, he changes our attitudes to everything. Our attitude changes to the Bible, entertainment, dating, politics, work and money. Before we became Christians money was a god to be worshipped at any cost and we would sacrifice all before the altar of success, but now we see all we have as entrusted to us by God. We see the value of being content and we seek to be generous just as God has been generous to us. Being a Christian changes everything. In fact, the Bible tells us there is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money.
John the Baptiser
When John the Baptiser appeared on the scene to prepare people for the coming of God’s king, he said their repentance towards God would be demonstrated by their attitude to money and their willingness to share. For example, he said people must share their clothes and food with the poor; tax-collectors must not take extra money; and soldiers should be content with their wages and not extort any money from citizens. John said repentance is demonstrated particularly in how we handle money and our willingness to give and share.
On one occasion Jesus told his listeners what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Jesus said its like the CEO of De Beers discovering through his geological research unit that there is a small farm in the Karoo with diamond deposits such as the world has never seen before. The CEO is only too happy to write out a cheque for a R100 million because he knows that whatever the cost of the land, whatever the cost of setting up infrastructure, and what ever the cost of importing of equipment, he will still make a fortune and walk away rich. The tremendous value of the diamonds far outweigh any expense, any cost, any sacrifice, or any hardship. In Matthew 13:44 Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” The man in Jesus’ parable was willing to spend whatever he needed to in order to gain the treasure, the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, if you know how much the Kingdom of God is worth, that it is priceless and of infinite value, you will hold on very loosely to your present riches. Anything we could give for or to the kingdom of Heaven is a bargain because we will be far better off at the end.
Jesus and the Revenue Service
On another occasion Jesus met with a rich, corrupt, fraudulent tax collector. Zaccheus was tight-fisted, stingy, loved money and worshipped at the altar of financial success. He was even willing to defraud people to gain more wealth. Yet after his encounter with Jesus his life changed. He experienced true joy – joy that money couldn’t buy him. He gave back all the money he defrauded – and more. His encounter with Jesus radically transformed him.
Spiritual litmus test
The Bible in many places shows us that our attitude to money and giving is an indicator of our spiritual condition. As we grow spiritually as Christians, we should grow in our giving. Just as we grow in our godliness, in our understanding of the Bible, and in our patience; so too we should grow in our giving.
Our approach to money is not just important, it’s central to our spiritual lives because it reveals where our hearts are. Jesus said that one’s heart will be where one’s treasure is. Where is your treasure? To put it differently, what will upset you the most, if someone took away your faith or your share portfolio? If someone took away your church or your retirement annuity? Obviously it’s not wrong to have a share portfolio or an annuity, but the issue is in what does your hope and security rest?
Being rich, but poor
On yet another occasion Jesus told of a rich man who spent all his wealth on himself. The rich man kept buying bigger storage units and more shares on the JSE, but rejected God as king. Luke 12:16-21 says,
16 ….Jesus told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Financial advisers tell us that we should have a long-term view when investing our money and not sell every time the market dips. Jesus said we must make sure we have a long enough long-term view, a view that takes into account eternity and the world to come. Imagine having all the wealth, all the new cars and all the latest technology, but God calls you a fool when he ushers you in to the world to come. The rich man was a fool because was not rich towards God. His non-existent relationship with God was evidenced by his spending of money only on himself and the hoarding of his wealth
Matthew 6:21 is the underlying principle: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What or where is your treasure? Your bank account or Jesus? Our attitude to money and giving is not just important, it’s central to our spiritual lives because it reveals where our hearts are. Do we give generously of our time, treasure and talents to our church?
The next post is “How much should I give to my church?”