God and Money, a 50 year perspective...
Growing up I often heard the story of the rich farmer who was sitting on his porch one evening following a day of labor. A neighbor came up and said, "God has certainly been good to you. My, my just look at what all he's given and done for you." The farmer answered without hesitation, "Yeah, that's true, but you should have seen what this place looked like before I started working on it. There was nothing here."
So goes the conventional wisdom, "with diligence and hard work one comes to great wealth." My grandfather, for one was a strong proponent of this ideal. And believe me, he practiced what he preached. Raising himself up from nothing he amassed a great deal of wealth, bring himself to be one of the wealthiest men in our community. This ideal has served me well throughout my life, but there's a perverse side to this I'd like to explore.
Throughout my grandfather's life, he scoffed at the thought of any of this wealth belonging to God. Of course we continually tried to tell him about Jesus, but he hardened his heart, often saying blasphemous things. He continued to store up and build his fortune. He never had enough. One day when we were all out for the day, my mother bought us kids some shaved ice, "snow cones". I got my cherry flavored snow cone and couldn't wait to bite into it.
This happy experience was soon destroyed because my grandfather began to yell and severely chastise my mother for wasting money on ice covered with syrup. A nickle saved is a nickle earned. And this is exactly what my snow cone cost mom.. 5 cents..
Grandfather saved and saved and saved. He would take me and my brother to the bank after he'd paid us for doing some chore and watch us deposit our money into our savings accounts. He would always smile and say, "This is how you get rich. You save your money.. A nickle saved is a nickle earned."
At age 7 I was aware of money and the connection to money with God when I would put my change into the offering plate. Mother would tell me that if grandfather knew about this he'd be extremely angry. During a Billy Graham crusade in Denver Colorado in 1965, I put a $5. bill into this white bucket they passed around. I had to keep this a secret for sure because honestly grandfather would have gone berserk.
Then one day dear grandfather suffered a severe stroke, losing his speech and ability to walk, at a relatively young age, mid sixties or so, and spent his final days in a resting home being sodomized by a sexual pervert, male orderly named John, who'd removed grandfather's treasured ring from his finger and began wearing it. And watching his wife, who often cursed him and he her, burn through his cash like there was no tomorrow.
I realized even at the age of 14 that something was severely wrong and that Grandfather really wanted to kill that orderly. One particular day when we were trying to address the issue of the ring, the orderly, growing increasingly angry, with veiled threats, insisted grandfather gave him the ring for caring for him and addressed my grandfather, saying, "this is my gift, from you to me, isn't that right?" At this point my grandfather became hysterical crying and trying to talk.
Mom and I complained to the officials saying we were certain her father was being abused by this strange orderly. But, all seemed to get brushed under the proverbial carpet. This man after all was their top guy. Thereafter, life just seemed to move on to other concerns. Grandfather died soon after. I draw comfort in that Mom told me she knows her father accepted Jesus before he died. I certainly hope so.
This experience definitely left an indelible mark on me and not only about how I saw a man's brilliant life ending so terribly, but how money seemed to play a major part and for 50 years I've never articulated this.
It's been apparent that this terrible experience with my grandfather wasn't enough for God to show me the futility of money if perverted in it's use.
In 3 separate other "EXTREMELY EMOTIONAL" "SEVERELY SHOCKING TO THE PSYCHE" experiences, ranging from my deceased sister's wealthy, ex-husband digging up her body and hiding it, to watching another multi-millionaire habitually, psychologically dismantle people, especially prostitutes for pleasure while dining at expensive restaurants, to watching another wealthy man manipulate and destroy people's lives with his money while enjoying every moment of it. All three of these individuals worked hard to get more and the more they had, the more they wanted and all withheld their wealth for anything that even had anything to do with God as given to us in the Bible.
God allowed me to get into close proximity to these people in a close, often long term, working relationship only to witness the folly, the tragedy, the emptiness, the hell of it all.
In hindsight, it all sickens me. They say if you like sausage, don't ever visit a meat processing plant.
I can see clearly where even if the saying, "with diligence and hard work one comes to great wealth." were true, which it is not, since countless of souls have lived and toiled and died penniless, there is something missing. Something sinister is at work here. The problem is God has been taken out of the picture. Although God intends for us to work and gain, he truly must be, he demands to be and is the source and end of our wealth. Alpha and Omega. Why? One of several reasons is because money belongs to him and only allows us to manage it. We are only stewards of God's property. Make no mistake, all of the Gold and Silver and all belongs to God. (Haggai 2:8) The Devil deceives man into thinking it belongs to him and mankind 's fallen nature desires to grab all they can manage in their brief lifetime.
Money has eternal consequences. God takes a serious look at money and what we do with it here on earth. Here's an excellent study on this subject based on solid Biblical evidence:
But here is the problem. Any time the word "God" comes into context with the word "money" one immediately thinks of the T.V. preacher with his hands in your pocket, promising you heaven on earth. This has become a sad reality of perversion. Through the power of the information age, these false teachers have quickly turned the union of God and Money into a stench. The same way Hollywood has perverted sex.
To buy the false teachings given to us by the "Prosperity Ministry" is like believing the phrase "diligence and hard work lead to great wealth" as an absolute, when we know it is not. It's true that the Prosperity Ministry is based on a lot of biblical truth, but the enemy, Satan, got in and through his agents, the false teachers, have sprinkled a lot of leaven and has destroyed the whole lump. Galatians 5:9.
I quickly got up and opened my Bible to Luke 16:9 and found that this was one of the most complex, confusing verses in all of the Bible to me. I even had some strange notes in my Bible like, "learn from the world how to manage money wisely" (which is EXACTLY NOT what Jesus was talking about) yet I've always known that as Jesus hid great truths in his parables from the wisdom of man, yet reveals them to his children, I knew God was going to take me through this and I was going to learn a very good lesson.
Task: Understanding Luke 16:9 within the context of a. the entire Chapter of Luke 16. b. Luke 12:16-21; c. Ecclesiastes 5:15
Result: God treats money (included as material wealth), and in particular what we do with the money we are entrusted with, as a very serious matter, so serious, that it has DIRECT, ETERNAL consequences on each one of us personally. God is personally interested in how we handle money during our brief time here on earth. In other words he watches and takes note and judges us accordingly in the eternal life.
- God is clearly telling us to carefully study unrighteous people of this world (even the ones who pretend to be holy and act holy, but their fruit stands as a testimony against them) who are more concerned about building fortunes in this life than their security in life after death.
- We are to study these people to see that they seriously work and toil with diligence and hard work to gain great wealth and scheme and usually by doing dishonest things strive to build and amass their fortunes. The more they make, the more they store it up.... These people store up as if they were going to take it with them when they die. The Pharaoh's stored up all the treasures in their tomb, including throwing in a few virgin maidens, so when they went into the afterlife, they'd still have their possessions.
- We are not only to study the lives of the unrighteous, we are to USE THEM AS AN EXAMPLE AND COPY THEIR SAME ZEAL TO STORE UP FOR OURSELVES, BUT IN A MUCH DIFFERENT MANNER FOR A MUCH DIFFERENT END PURPOSE.
- Our purpose is using the assets, wealth, money God has given us for eternal purposes of which all that Christ Jesus confirmed and taught from caring for the poor, blessing the saints, to proclaiming the gospel. Amen.
- We are incapable of handling money with the end purpose, however justified is to use it for ourselves. Of course we're to take care of ourselves and enjoy the fruit of our labor, but we must use our money to help others with the end goal of God's kingdom.
Looking back Fifty years, I am sitting here in a small flat sitting in front of my laptop and an old fan is blowing on me. I've walked away from several business opportunities ranging from lucrative contracts in the Defense Industry to Commercial Ventures. I'm not saying pursuit of these careers is wrong, but my Lord called me out of this to follow him out of that.
My assets total less than $2,000. I have a couple hundred dollars in cash. I owe money to some friends that exceeds my total assets to cover an emergency last year. I'm the happiest man alive because I've learned not to focus on my bank account but rather to trust and thank God for each and every day.
God showed me clearly in 2005 that I'd be a hub, or sorts through which tremendous wealth would flow to the saints. God made it very clear not to touch the money for myself above anything greater than 10 % as a Levite. And, at the same time showed me I'd be broken down to having no possessions and being reliant on people and to follow him to Vietnam.
I don't know where God will lead or whether this vision he showed me in 2005 is for the millennium kingdom or perhaps both there and here, I don't know, but I trust my Lord and I pray.I'm not focused on anything other than pleasing my Lord, taking the cross and following him. I'm afraid of what money has done and can do to anyone who doesn't seek first the kingdom of God and understand that money doesn't belong to them, but rather it belongs to God.
I haven't seriously asked God where's my money that I've sown all these years. Even though Oral Roberts, Kenneth and even a former mentor, who left the ministry because he told me his wife and kids had to take a higher priority in his life, told me I'd be cashing in big time (here and now and not in the by and by, afterlife) because I was sowing big time, I'm still not asking God to "Show me the Money".
I must admit, however, that I did call Kenneth Copeland Ministries the night before they took my house in 2006 and asked them to pray for me. (God literally was moving me to move out on what he told me in 2005. My ex-wife had balked and within one year she'd lost her job, her side business', the house, cars our memberships, all possessions.) I didn't even think to ask them for an emergency loan because I was sure they wouldn't be able to do that. I was deeply relieved relieved, however, when they told me that this was all part of God's plan.
Some of the prosperity ministry would be telling me that I haven't had the faith. Or, there's been other disobedience in my life, or perhaps I need to get in God's face a little and ask him to "show me the Money!"
Nonetheless, during a a recent 3 days fast to draw closer to the Lord following some very difficult events in my life involving finances which were coming in the midst of my daughter's birth which happened to be one of the most incredible times of my life I AM OVERWHELMED WITH JOY IN SERVICE TO MY LORD JESUS CHRIST.. AMEN.
Luke 16 is one of the more complex parables in the Bible. I STAYED CLOSE TO Matthew Henry Commentary on Luke 16. which is my primary source of study as well as Commentary provided by Bible Gateway and Good News.
In my study of Luke 16 I'd like to note how important to understand how God sometimes speaks to us by dreams, visions, other people, events, even our pet cat. But in today's high tech noise we often forget the most important food for our soul and the principal way God speaks to us and that is through scripture, the Holy Bible, King James Version (KJV) (See this video to understand why KJV is important compared to other translations.
It's not my purpose here to get into a discussion on why the KJV is the only translation considered by reputable "Godly" scholars as true, but I'm saying please read the KJV. A perfect reason not to read the NIV or other translations of the bible except the King James Version is to watch this video and pray that God teach you from this video.
The NIV version of Luke 16:9 which is complete GARBAGE: "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. This is not what this scripture is talking about whatsoever. Why would God tell us to use worldly wealth to gain friends:???? "
Here's the KJV: "And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
In this verse - 33:11 - the writer is giving you an understanding of the type of relationship Moses had with God.His was a relationship that went beyond the norm - "....as a man speaketh unto his friend." - That was the relationship God desired to have and so in the new testament in Jn 15:15 Yeshuah speaks of the relationship between God and man.
Now in Ex 33:20 - God tells Moses that he cannot see His face and live but that as He passed by Moses would see His 'back parts'. In the 'back parts' is located the back bone ,
which is a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ.The back bone or the spine contains 33 bones and Christ was 33 years old when He completed the work Abba sent Him to do - the salvation of the soul of man.Therefore the spine or backbone is a symbol of Christ. So we see in Ex 33:20 God was directing Moses to see His Son - also in Jn 14:9 Yeshua tells His desciples that if they've seen Him then they have seen the Father.
The purpose God wants us to get acquainted with the worldly system of wealth is to study it FOR THE PURPOSE OF ETERNITY after we die or change into the next life...
First, let me say, I'm not against money. I'm not one who would ever say, "Money is of the devil, etc, when In fact, in truth, all the money in the world all belongs to God. (Psalm 24:1). Not the devil.
There is no doubt that $ money $ is not only important to us, but also to God. Throughout the Bible God clearly ties in money or wealth to man's blessings, i.e., in being blessed by God and how man shows his obedience and love to God. And of course, God knows that most things in this world short of a miracle, require money.
Since creation, it has always been God's will that mankind be blessed and be fruitful (prosperous), etc. (Genesis 1:28) . I've found over 70 Bible scriptures that refer to God either prospering his children or expressing His desire that His children are prosperous. Some verse are very explicit like 3 John 1:2 = Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers.
The Bible is full of vivid examples of Abraham's immense wealth and King Solomon's immeasurable wealth and others. It's hard to imagine that the father of King Solomon, King David, contributed gold and silver that would amount to close to $100 billion dollars to build God's temple. This didn't even count the value of iron, cedar, and stone David contributed.
The best resource material I've found on the subject of God and Money is the "Generous Giving Organization" site. I strongly encourage you to read this extensive information. I love one of their quotes: "Whatever we have has come from the Lord’s hand, and only indirectly by our earning it (1 Chronicles 29:14). Our wealth belongs to us in the same way that a child’s bedroom belongs to the child. The room actually belongs to the parent, but the child is given temporary, accountable charge over it. This is especially the case for Christians, who have been bought at the price of Jesus’ death(1 Corinthians 6:20). Our lives and all our stuff is utterly at the disposal of the God who bought us."
Bible Gateway sums it up in a great way, "The use of wealth is the major topic of Luke 16. Wealth can be a blessing or a curse, depending on whether it is used as a means to exercise power, a tool of self-indulgence or a resource to serve others. Wealth's danger is that it can turn our focus toward our own enjoyment, as the rich fool showed in 12:13-21 and as the rich man of 16:19-31 will show. Money is a tool. It is an excellent resource when put to the right use. It can help to build many things of use to others. But to possess money is also to hold a sacred stewardship. Our resources are not to be privately held and consumed but are to be used as a means of generosity, as a way of showing care for our neighbor, as the good Samaritan showed in 10:25-37 and as a restored Zacchaeus will show in 19:1-10."
So, where did the "prosperity ministry" miss the turn? I believe it was simply the old sin of covetousness. Any time someone touches money with a thought of loving money for the sake of money itself, we're taken in the snare.
I believe false teachers and wolves in sheep's clothing, came to the fork in the road called wealth, where that great snare awaits us all (1 Timothy 6:9). The very instant they pondered wealth as something that could belong to them; i.e., considered even in the slightest that it belonged to them and not to God, they were snared and covetousness took them and that's when they began to sprinkle in the leaven (1Cor 5:7), false teaching, with biblical truth in their own teaching. As the money streamed in they decided to set a little more aside for themselves, not realizing that this money belonged to others AND NOT... REPEAT... NOT TO THEM........
My whole life I've heard that God blesses us if we sow (plant; i.e. give money to him, i.e. give money to his works and that means his projects, his people who are doing the Lord's work. In other words Tithing: Leviticus 27:30. Malachi 3:9 ; and some would argue that the New Testament covers this under 2 Corinthians 8:12, etc. Basically the purpose of tithing, found in Deuteronomy 14:22-23, is made clear: to “teach you always to fear the Lord your God.” By practicing good tithing habits, scripture tells us we are showing God our desire to put him first place in our lives. I believe these are biblical truths taken into context as clarified by a very good reference: http://library.generousgiving.org/page.asp?sec=8&page=586
I grew up with the "Prosperity Ministry" going back to the golden age of Oral Roberts' "seed ministry" and the other "prosperity ministries" like Kenneth Copeland, and the list goes on and on and on...I was completely caught up into this for several years and in my life I've sown tens of thousands of dollars into God's kingdom going back to when I was 7 years old putting my coins into the offering plate. Most memorable was when I was 9 years old and put a $5. bill into this large white plastic bucket during a Billy Graham crusade in Denver, Colorado in the summer of 1965. In relative terms to my perception at that time, that 5 dollar bill was like me today dropping $500.. into the bucket.
In 2005, things really started to change. At the time I was very comfortable financially. My wife and I had a very comfortable lifestyle with golf course membership and holidays to five star resorts in Hawaii a couple times a year. It was while on holiday in Hawaii when God had called me to sell all and follow him to Vietnam, and virtually a few days later during this same holiday period, I was also told within a day or so later through The Holy Spirit that I'd be a conduit or a vessel through which would flow great wealth for the Kingdom of God. I had also received separate confirmation from other sources later on.
My wife balked at the idea suggesting we help others by our giving and perhaps set up some sort of foundation. I figured maybe I really hadn't heard it right from God. After all, the paradox was too severe, too much for me to comprehend. Why would God call me to sell all and go to Vietnam and yet tell me I'd be a major conduit through which wealth for the Kingdom would flow. I even had exact details on how I was to build an altar in the form of a multifunctional website that would act as a distribution switchboard where funds coming in would match requirements and be expended accordingly.
Over and over again one night, the Holy Spirit kept telling me in very strong audible thoughts that I was to manage the wealth coming onto the altar (figurative speaking) which would literally be the software funds management system set up within a completely accountable website that would act as a distribution center. The Holy Spirit told me that I could set aside 10 percent for me and my families needs
in the same manner as the Levite priests doing their functions in
the Holy Temple at
THE KEY HERE IS: GOD MADE IT VERY CLEAR TO ME
THAT IF WE PREOCCUPY OURSELVES WITH MONEY
FOR OUR OWN PURPOSES, IT WILL SNARE US AND
WE WILL FALL VICTIM TO COVETOUSNESS; I.E.
So, we went to work on developing a website and started giving money to God (ministries and poor people, etc.) like crazy. A one time spiritual mentor of mine, who was one of the benefactors of our giving, and who's now since left the ministry to pursue business ventures because he said he had to put his family first, told me that because of me and my ex-wife's extreme tithing, we needed to stand by because we were waiting for a super huge return.
He was so emphatic that for a while there I was any day we'd get a ring on the door bell with a man standing there from Publishers Clearing House, etc. or a mysterious check would show up.
But it didn't happen. In fact just the opposite. Things went from bad to worse and in a year we found ourselves in the middle of a perfect storm, the 2008 financial melt down. My wife lost her job and side business. Our website came to a screeching halt. The bank closed our line of credit and demanded full payment. We were soon declaring bankruptcy. It seemed like days we were standing in our house watching someone come in and change the locks..
I remember telling God, "God, I guess what I thought I heard might happen in our life hereafter (the millennium kingdom) where I'd be rewarded. And I left it at that. Some months later we were sitting in Vietnam with only a few bags of belongings.
Four years later, I'm still here in Vietnam teaching English and other ventures experiencing God's blessings yet going through difficult trials. God's grace is sufficient.