Christianity 201

October 16, 2022

Achievement by the Right Metrics

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Last year at this time we introduced you to Rev. Taylor Mertins  who writes at Think and Let Think, has co-authored three books, and hosts the Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast, and the Strangely Warmed Lectionary Podcast. Click the title below to read this where it first appeared.

When Is Enough, Enough?

1 Timothy 6.6-9

Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and fearful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 

A recent study noted that at least 80% of Americans experience daily stress regarding the economy and their personal finances. More than 50% are worried about being able to provide for their families basic needs. 56% are fearful about job security. And 52% report lying awake at night thinking about one thing and one thing only: $$$

Admittedly, those statistics probably aren’t that shocking considering how much of our daily lives revolve around our wallets. With the ubiquity of online banking we can figure out exactly how much, or how little, we have at any given moment.

And yet, the “we have” in that sentence betrays the basic Christian conviction that our money doesn’t belong to us: it belongs to God.

A professor of mine once opined about how different the church would be if, when individuals took vows of membership, they read their tax return aloud from the year before. Can you imagine the fervor that would follow if the church announced personal financial disclosures as new membership requirements? And yet, to do so would be faithful!

Jesus talks about money/possessions, and the use of them for others, almost more than any other single subject in the New Testament, and yet (outside a stewardship campaign) we rarely talk about them in church.

Instead, wealth is something so privatized that we can scarcely imagine what it would mean to share it with others, let alone the church. We hoard it, like the man with his store houses in one of Jesus’ parables. Or, we spend it with such reckless abandon that we go into a debt we have no hope of ever repaying.

A relevant question for anyone, particularly those who are part of a faith community, is: when is enough, enough?

The gifted preacher Fred Craddock tells the story of a time when he and his wife had a guest in their home who was spending the night. As Craddock read from the newspaper in the corner of the room, consumed by the movement of the Market, the guest was rolling around on the floor with Craddock’s kids teaching them a new game. And Craddock thought to himself, “How long has it been since I came home from work, got down on the floor, and had fun with my kids?”

Later, after dinner, the guest declared, “That’s just about one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.” And Craddock thought to himself, “When was the last time I thanked my wife for our dinner?”

Craddock was merely going through the familiar patterns of life, keeping up with the rat race of all things: coming home from work, reading the paper, eating dinner. And then, through the guest, everything started to look different. Craddock said to himself, “Where in the world have I been?”

God has richly blessed each and every single one of us in a variety of ways. From the air we breathe, to the food we eat, to the friends we love.

Sometimes it takes a guest in our home, or a particularly striking passage from scripture, for us to finally ask ourselves the same question, “Where in the world have I been?” Which is just another version of, “When is enough, enough?”


From last year: A Roman Catholic writer on material possessions.

 

October 4, 2022

What Jesus Said about the “Stuff” We Own

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

NIV.Luke.12.32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.

Today we have a special treat; a new source for you, the website Stained Glass Rebel from Niles First United Methodist Church in Ohio. You have a choice today as well of reading the devotional, or watching the sermon on which it is based on the YouTube video linked below. The author today is Shane Russo.

What Did Jesus Say About Material Things?

I play a lot of video games. I prefer RPGs (role-playing games). Those are the types that give you all kinds of weapons, potions, collectibles, and other stuff throughout the gameplay. But, I have a problem. I save up up video game items in my inventory or bank because I want to save them until I need them… only to have them remain unused at the end of the game. I end up holding onto these things because I am afraid to use them at the wrong time.

How does this relate to the scripture cited? It comes down to perspective, and I think ours is skewed more often than not.

As followers of Jesus, we should view our stuff the way Jesus viewed stuff. That means we should constantly evaluate how we view our stuff to make sure it’s in line with what God expects.

Are we viewing our possessions and resources the way God expects us to? Or do we tend to view things from a limited perspective of mortal creatures?

We don’t like to let go of something once we have it because we become afraid that we may not have it again.

We feel compelled to hold on to what we have because it gives us a false sense of permanence and security. But nothing on this earth is permanent, and the more “secure” we try to make ourselves, the more isolated and separated from others we become.

Currency is called currency because it moves from one place to another. The word is based on the Latin word that means “to run” or “to flow.” Trying to hold on to money is like trying to grab the ocean with your bare hands. Yeah, you’re going to get wet. But if you take in too much, you’re going to drown in it.

But whether it’s our personal lives or in our spiritual lives, once we have something in our possession, we keep a grip on it because we are afraid that we will not have enough. We are afraid that if we let go of what we have, we may not get it again.

But no matter how safe we think we are, no matter how secure we find our position, situations change. So we should not put our trust in the material things of this world.

By placing our trust in the things of this world to provide and sustain us, we are reducing or eliminating our trust in God to provide and sustain.

Now don’t hear me wrong. It is not evil to have things. But from the first page of scripture to the last, the overriding narrative on possessions is that we have been gifted them from God for a purpose. And the purpose is this. We have been gifted every resource and possession in order that we might live life abundantly and to the fullest. AND by “we” I mean every person on this planet.

God did not create in Genesis and then say, “Go. Compete for everything I have made…and the one with the most at the end wins!.” No. God gave and continues to give freely for the betterment of the whole of humanity.

This is why I acknowledge this every single week during the offering when I say, “God everything we have has been given to us.” And I know that when I say that it stinks of Obama to some of us. Remember when he made that comment years ago about everything we have is given to us? And remember how mad some people got because “No one gave me anything! I earned all I have.”

Working to earn what you get is a good thing. But we can still acknowledge that everything we have the possibility to gain was made available to us because of the creative act of God, and the free gift of that creation to us.

In Jesus Christ, humanity got to experience the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. What does that mean? It simply means than when we look at how Jesus lived and the example he set, we see the kind of person that will inhabit creation under God’s full reign. It means those who place their trust in his leadership will receive the blessing of God’s reign.

God gave us the gift of the kingdom when Jesus came on the scene, and because of that gift we are free to live as kingdom citizens.

But what does that mean? What is the kingdom of God really? What does it look like to live as a citizen of that kingdom?

Well, as commentator Robert H. Stein writes:

“These teachings on stewardship must be understood in light of the coming of the kingdom and in the sharing in its blessings. Because of the kingdom’s surpassing worth believers should practice such magnificent almsgiving as Luke proposed in 12:33 and recorded in Acts [2, 4, and 5]. By so doing, the great reversal is even now taking place. The ‘poor’ (Luke 6:20) have treasure in heaven, and the rich, like the fool in the parable (cf. 16:19–31), lose all: their possessions and their very lives.”

What is the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is this world recreated into glorious newness. It is a world where there is no want because every need is met. It is a world where the selfless giving of Jesus is the norm.

What does it look like to live as a citizen of that kingdom? It looks like taking only what you need for now and giving everything else to those who need right now. In that way, every need is met, and no one wants for anything.

If living as citizens of God’s kingdom means valuing our possessions the way God does, then why do we get into a conservation mentality, or what might be called survival mode?

Many of us in our churches are in this mode right now. Why? I honestly do not think it is greed. Not usually. I do not look around our churches and see a bunch of greedy people. Not usually. Absolutely not. Quite the contrary. What I see in our churches that get into survival mode, those churches who have resources and are afraid to part with them, is not greed but fear.

Even though Jesus showed us what free and fearless kingdom living looks like, we get concerned at letting go of what we have because we do not know how long we are going be here.

That’s how this passage wraps up: Be ready for the master because you never know when he will arrive.

Another way to say that is that we never know when we are going to meet Jesus. And so, like I always do in my video games, we hold onto what we have because we want to make sure we have it for the right moment.

But also, just like my video games, we hold on to it until we can no longer use it. We live in fear of never having enough. We live in worry over outliving what we currently have. And so, we remained shackled to the illusion of security and control that holding onto our stuff gives us.

But Jesus showed us that God’s will for us is to, to quote a bumper sticker, “let go and let God.”

When we place our trust in God and not in our possessions, then we get to live in the blessing of heaven that our ours as kingdom citizens. And one of those blessings is that as servants and givers, we will be served and given abundant life in Christ.

We may not know how long we are going to be here, and that may compel us to hold onto things, but as servants of Christs that give freely as we have been given, we will end up with everything we need…which is more than we could ever hope to imagine.

And no, this isn’t a prosperity “name it and claim it” gospel I’m preaching to you. This is literally what this parable in the text is pointing to. When the master returns and sees his servants going about the business he set before them, the master becomes the servant, and the servants are themselves served. But that only happens because they were going about the business of preparing for his arrival whenever that would be.

As commentator Gavin Childress writes, ““Everyone knows what it means for the boss to be away. Most people take advantage of such a time to relax and ‘go slow’ for a while. After all, no one is closely watching! Yet for the Christian, there should be a continual awareness of God, and an hour by hour anticipation of the Lord’s return. The faithful and watchful servant would be served by his master (v. 37), for he lived in constant readiness for his return.”

And this statement by Jesus is as counter-cultural now as it was when he said it, as Craig Keener points out in his commentary on this passage. He says,

“Although a few philosophers argued that slaves were the moral equals of their masters, and one well-to-do Roman is known to have eaten on the same level as his freed slaves, masters’ serving slaves was unheard of. (The exception among Romans for the festival of Saturnalia was a deliberate inversion of normal reality.) Such an image would offend the well-to-do but would be a powerful symbol of how Jesus would treat those who remained faithful to the end.”

And so, we do not want to give us what we have because we are afraid we won’t have enough, or we won’t have it again, or that we might outlive what we have….but at the very beginning of today’s passage we have a direct command from Jesus to his disciples concerning all of this: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

And then he follows it up with the hard task: Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”

Imagine what it would look like for our churches to live fearlessly as kingdom citizens where we used all of our possessions and resources the way God expects us to.

Imagine what it would look like if we only took what we needed for today and used the rest to do kingdom work.

February 25, 2022

Contentment at Both Ends of the Financial Spectrum

Today we have another author’s writing to highlight and another blog to feature for the first time. Simply going by the name Wills, his site is named With Wills. He grew up in Southern California and now lives in Portland, OR, and has been involved in various types of ministry. Clicking the header which follows will take you to the place where we located it, which we encourage you to do.

Financial Satisfaction

In Hebrews 13, the author ends a string of extremely practical commands with this verse:

“Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you (Hebrews 13:5).

In this verse, he gives us two “whats” and a “why.” The “whats” are commands for believers to follow and the “why” explains why we should obey these commands.

The first “what” teaches us that we, as believers in Jesus, are to keep our lives free from the “love of money.” The love of money was an issue in the early church and it can be for us, as well, today. When we love money, we determine our value by it; we find our satisfaction in it; we find our sense of security in it. And in doing so, we lose our faith in God. God wants our love: he is the one who has determined our value (and it can’t be counted in dollars); he is the one who provides ultimate satisfaction; he is the one we should look to for security. He is worthy of our trust. We should love him instead of money. (See Matthew 6:24).

The second “what” tells us to “be satisfied with what [we] have.” This can be applied to anyone, but let’s consider it in relation to two groups: the poor and the rich.

If a poor Christian, or one suffering from persecution or discrimination, were to read this, he should take the command literally: “be satisfied with what you have.” Most of us have a desire to get out of difficult situations as quickly as possible. If we are struggling financially, we usually want to get just a little bit (or a lot) more so we don’t feel the pressure that comes with looming bills that we can’t afford to pay and pending purchases that we can’t afford to pay for at the moment. Yet, God does not command us to, necessarily, “work harder so we can pay for those things.” He commands us, instead, to “be satisfied with what we have.” (We will see the “why” in a little bit. But, now, let’s consider how the rich are supposed to apply this verse.)

If a rich believer reads this, they should also take the command literally: “be satisfied with what you have.” Those who have wealth tend to want to increase their wealth. This often comes from a desire to “keep up with the Jones’” or to be “responsible” with what God has given them. Unfortunately, both desires have the tendency of revealing an underlying “love of money.” Instead of striving to “store up treasures” (Matthew 6:19), well-off Christians should strive to “be satisfied with what they have” and put their faith in action by using their wealth for the direct benefit of those around them who are in need. (See James 2:14-26, Luke 12:13-21; 18:17-23.)

The “why” explains that we should keep our lives free from the love of money and be satisfied with what we have because, “[The Lord] will never leave or abandon [us].” It’s that simple. God is with us and he wants to be our provider. He has already provided so much for us- our lives, our talents, and our salvation- just to name a few. And he is infinitely capable of meeting our every need. He wants to free us from the love of money so that we can love him. He wants to free us from the anxiety of not having- because he is infinitely wealthy, he is with us, and he will never leave us. He wants to free us from the anxiety that comes with storing up earthly treasures- because he knows what we need and he is able to provide for us as we go. He is omniscient, sovereign, and he will never abandon us.

So, brother or sister, if you see the love of money in your life or you find yourself feeling dissatisfied with what you have, remember that God wants you to be free from these sinful dispositions. He wants you to be satisfied. He knows what you need and has already provided it or he will provide it. He wants you to remember that he will always be with you: he will never leave you or abandon you. Abandon your self-sufficiency, greed, and dissatisfaction and trust him.


Some additional, unrelated resources:

First, some of you are often called upon to read the scriptures in your local churches, and hit a passage with a proper noun (usually a person or place name) that leaves you lost as to how to pronounce it correctly. Here are three supports for that situation:

  • The online tool BibleSpeak lets you actually hear someone saying the word in question.
  • In September of 2020, we wrote a slightly lighthearted piece On Pronouncing Bible Names in which we stressed you don’t want to stumble and give people the impression the Bible is a difficult book to read, study and enjoy. Or that it’s simply ancient, uses an ancient vocabulary, and is therefore irrelevant.
  • In a much older article, from September, 2011; we encouraged you to add some dramatic reading elements to the printed copy you’re speaking from, to make the reading of the scripture more impactful. Check out the short article, When It’s Your Turn to Lead the Scripture Reading.

The second additional resource today introduces a new book containing prayers inspired by the first 75 Psalms. I’m hoping we can include an excerpt here at some point. Check out my review.

November 5, 2021

Possessions: We’re Stewards, Not Masters

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

 

In a frequently recurring statement on this site, we note that C201 is a melting pot of devotional material across a wide denominational spectrum. For today’s thoughts, we’re taking you to the site, Catholic Daily Reflections: My Catholic Life. Click the header which follows to get there, where you’ll also find a video and audio for today’s reading.

Stewards of Earthly Riches

Jesus said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’” Luke 16:1–2

There is much to ponder in this parable and many lessons from which we can learn. To begin, the rich man should be understood as God and you as the steward. This is an important first lesson to learn because it reveals to us that, when it comes to material things in this world, God is the true owner of all—we are only stewards. Think about that carefully. When it comes to all that you own, all your money and possessions, do you hold on to it as if you were the complete master of these material items?

Clearly most people do think this way. They may work hard to earn a living, save and buy this and that, build up their bank accounts, and then remain very attached to these material things, seeing them as “mine” rather than as God’s. So the first very challenging lesson we should look at is that all we “own” is actually the possession of God. He only permits us to be stewards of the things of this world. Do you believe that?

As stewards, we must be committed to use the riches within our stewardship only in the way that God wants it used. In this parable, the steward was reported to the rich man for “squandering his property.” We also are guilty of squandering the possessions of God when we use money in accord with our own will and desires rather than those of God’s. This is an exceptionally common tendency, especially for those who have become the stewards of much money. Therefore, the more money that one has stewardship over, the more they will be tempted to squander it, meaning, use it for selfish purposes rather than for the glory of God in accord with His will. This is a hard teaching to accept and live. But these truths are indeed revealed to us by this parable, so it is essential that we listen.

The words spoken by the rich man, “Prepare a full account of your stewardship,” are words that we must all anticipate hearing one day. If that day were today, what would that “full account of your stewardship” look like? Have you worked hard for selfish gain? Or have you worked hard to act with great responsibility over the things God has entrusted to your care?

As the parable continues, we read that the steward acted “prudently” in that he devised a plan to make sure his material needs were met once he lost his position as steward. The “prudence,” however, that is spoken of here is a reference to the worldly, and therefore, evil ingenuity, cleverness, hard work and commitment many people have regarding the material wealth they seek to obtain in this world. Though it is good to be diligent and hardworking in life, too often this is done for the purpose of selfish gain. Just imagine if everyone who worked so hard at getting rich put even more effort into building up the Kingdom of God on earth! How different this world would be if we had so many hard workers for God’s mission.

Reflect, today, upon the simple truth that when it comes to the riches of this world, you are only the steward of what you possess, not its master. God wants you free from the attachment to material wealth so that you will be free to use all that you have for His glory and in accord with His purpose. That does not mean that you must donate all you have to charities.

Instead, it means that you continually offer all that you have to God and seek to use it in accord with His will and His will alone. If that means you discern that God wants you to buy something new, then buy something new. If that means giving more away, then give more away. If that means living more simply as a holy sacrifice, then do just that. Money cannot buy happiness. Only embracing God’s will to the fullest will result in the happiness and fulfillment you deeply desire.

My Lord of all riches, You and You alone are the Master of all things created. All that I have and possess are Yours, dear Lord. Help me to believe this and to live my life purely as a steward of the possessions I have. Free me from squandering that which You have entrusted to my care. May I use all for Your glory and only in accord with Your holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.

July 13, 2021

Financial Security vs. Eternal Security

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

James.5.1.NIV Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.* You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

*Or yourselves as in a day of feasting

A year later, we’re checking back in with Meanderings of a Minister by Pastor Jack Jacob. This devotional study begins, “Have you ever taken the time to look at a dollar bill?” For our UK readers, think pound note, and in Europe think Euro note. Where he writes “401k” think pension scheme. Click the header which follows to read this at his site.

From Where Does Your Security Come?

Have you ever taken the time to look at a dollar bill? They really are not that remarkable. They are green and many are wrinkled. If you were to look at one under a microscope, you would find they are laden with all sorts of bacteria. There are reminders all over the bill that it is not really your property, but the property of the United States of America. They have reminders of their denomination. A dollar bill is not that remarkable. Did I say that already?

So, if the dollar bill is not that remarkable, then why is it that we tend to put our security in how many of them we have? Security is defined as freedom from danger, fear, and anxiety. Why do we think dollar bills can provide this? Why do we think we must even use the dollar bills of a credit card company to be happy? Why is it that we sacrifice our time, marriages and even health in pursuing them? Why is it that we want to build a house with them and clothe ourselves with them and yet come away feeling so empty? Maybe it is because we have forgotten where they come from and whose they are.

In James 5:1-6, James tells the rich people of his day (and yes, they were believers) that getting their security from their riches instead of finding their security in Christ would mean that their source of security would make them insecure. He says they should howl and weep because misery would come on them. Before we think that James just does not understand our circumstances, think of the rich farmer of Luke 12:16-21. He thought that he ought to tear down his barns to make room for the riches that were pouring in. Because he thought that his crops were his security, God called him a fool and his life ended the very night he was standing on the security he had chosen. When we think that riches are our security, we are putting ourselves in a precarious position at best. Just ask those that have lost their 401K’s to the failing stock market!

James goes on to say that placing our security in wealth will cause us to want to hoard it and keep it where it can be consumed by pests and where other things can become attached to those riches that make them not as flashy and brilliant as we thought they were in verses 2 and 3. In verse 4, he goes even further to say that our misunderstanding of where our security should come from will cause us not only to hoard it, but will also cause us to keep it from others. In this verse, James accuses the rich believers of withholding wages from those that had earned them. Psalm 37 reminds us that a fool borrows and does not pay back. For many of us that get our security from the wrong place, we tend to hold on to our money and not pay bills right away, or pay the minimum. We rationalize this by saying we are managing our money wisely, but the truth so often is that we are afraid that, if we pay our bills as soon as we receive them, we will not have money for something that might come up. If we pay more than the minimum due, we will not have enough for something else we might “need”. We have gotten our security from the wrong place.

Lastly, James warns his listeners that getting our security from the wrong place with both cause us to think that all we have is for us (verse 5) and can lead us into doing anything to get it (verse 6). I cannot tell you how many honorable people ended up in jail because they got their security from the wrong place. They never dreamed they would steal from the company, cheat on their taxes, or even break into someone’s house, but they needed money because they thought that was the source of their security. This is one of the problems with some folks who have bought into the health and welfare movement that is so prevalent in some churches today. Those that buy into this belief system have never really had a change in their security base. They have just gotten religious about how they will go about getting it. James warns that this will only lead to misery. We would do well to heed his warning.

So if money is not sufficient for security, then what is? Simply this: “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” (Luke 10:20) Our security can only come from Him Who is the chief cornerstone in the temple of our Eternal Father. Place your faith, trust, and security in Him!


Bonus devotional: Sometimes it’s hard to choose among good articles. Here’s one by the same author; check out Protecting Your Testimony.

February 22, 2021

Reaping Where You Did Not Sow

Titus 1:7

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.
(NIV)

dollar signNot wanting to overstate this, but in the past year we’ve watched as people who were stewards of ministry organizations, including those responsible for the finances of those same organizations, have proved themselves to be less than good stewards of what well-meaning donors had entrusted to them. Some have shown themselves, in their other endeavors to be “pursuing dishonest gain.”

This should not be. The ESV version of today’s verse says, “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain.

In a world of capitalism, there is a sense in which person “A” is exploiting person “B” by way of their possession of a scarce resource or a unique talent. My plumber or electrician (both Christians who have been very fair with us over the years) have skills and abilities that I do not have and the KJV scripture reminds us that “the workman is worthy of his hire.” (NIV/NLT: deserves his/their wages/pay.)

When found out, we sometimes expect God will just step in and seize control of the situation, but sometimes he allows things to go unchecked. One of the more interesting articles here at C201 is a 2014 one called “Why Did Jesus Allow Judas to Manage the Petty Cash?” Matt Perman wrote,

Why did Jesus let Judas carry the money bag during his ministry, knowing in his omniscience that he was stealing from it (John 12:6)? One blogger humorously points out “one is tempted to offer the Lord some consulting on good stewardship.”

But then goes further,

…If it’s surprising that Jesus would have let Judas carry the money bag, it should be even more shocking that he let Judas be an apostle at all. For the task of going out and preaching the gospel, which Judas participated in, is even more significant than carrying the moneybag.

(Now you want to read the whole article, right?)

While we’re reminiscing about previous articles, a 2013 article from (re)Versing Verses which we called “Two Different Measures” looked at this verse:

You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 25:15 NIV

and noted:

The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him [Proverbs 11:1]. This is a matter of integrity, and often it’s so easy to gain a little here and there that we tend to do it naturally and think of it as harmless. It isn’t harmless though. It harms your integrity. The Lord frowns on it. It incurs the Lord’s wrath – For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly [Deu 25:16]. Let us learn to be honest and have integrity in small things and big things alike.

How do I know if my “gain” is “unjust”? A page at Knowing Jesus provides some scriptures to help us make the call. (They have 12 key verses, I added #3 and #7)

  1. It has come about through violence. “So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors.” Prov. 1.19
  2. It is achieved through misrepresentation and lies. “The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue Is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.” Prov 21.6
  3. It is accomplished through trickery and deception. “The LORD detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.” Prov 11.1
  4. It exploits the poor. “He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself Or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” Prov 22.16
  5. It exploits done by others. “As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid, So is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly; In the midst of his days it will forsake him, And in the end he will be a fool.” Jeremiah 17.11
  6. It involves not properly paying staff or contractors. “Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness and his upper rooms without justice, Who uses his neighbor’s services without pay and does not give him his wages” Jeremiah 22.13 also “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord” James 5.4
  7. There are underlying, unjust motives. “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” Prov. 16.2

I think the word “pursues” is not to be overlooked in this phrase as well. See resources on this at OpenBible.info.

  1. It exhausts you. “Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. Prov. 23.4
  2. There is never contentment. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
  3. It can cost you your soul. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8.36 also Luke 18.25 “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
  4. It may cause you to neglect the poor. “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.” Prov. 28.27
  5. It will divide your loyalties. “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Prov 16.13
  6. Achieving it may be elusive or temporary. “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Luke 12 18-20
  7. It can leave you miserable. “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Rev. 3:17

Growing up in the church founded by Dr. Oswald J. Smith, people were encouraged to invest their money, time and talents in world missions with this motto,

You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.

In other words, you can invest it in the Kingdom of God (“where moth and rust do not corrupt“) and where it lasts.

Someone else also shared with me that

The main thing that Bible teaching has against money is that it perishes with use.

A 2015 C201 post, “Proverbs on Poverty…and Riches” contained a number of scriptures on this (unfortunately without references) and ended with this one:

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

So while we may have determined we have not pursued dishonest gain, we need to be careful we haven’t become caught up in pursuing gain itself.

March 19, 2020

Investing Wisely (According to Jesus)

Today we’re taking a break from the special series of devotions we’ve been running in light of the world situation; though, with financial markets being the collateral damage of the pandemic, this is in its own way very timely.

by Clarke Dixon

With the markets being so volatile, there are those who are having trouble knowing what to invest in. I have no idea how my pension plan is doing day to day, I am just happy to have one! Many don’t. When we think of investments, we need not just think of wealth and money. We can also think of how we invest our time. The well-to-do and not-so-well-to-do alike have the same amount of time to invest. We can also think of how we invest our abilities and “gifts.” The well-to-do and not-so-well-to-do alike have much to offer, abilities to invest. So is there good advice for how we should invest? Should we invest in Apple, or in gold? Well, Jesus has something to tell us about investments:

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT)

Jesus would have us choose investments in heaven. What does that mean? What it does not mean, is giving away all your money so that you will receive a bigger reward when you get to heaven. That is not the point. The point is, whatever wealth you accumulate on earth will not last. It can be destroyed by moths when it is precious fabric, a valuable investment in ancient times, it can be destroyed by rust when it is precious metal, another valuable investment in ancient times, and of course it can be destroyed by a market crash. And if our investments do not lose value in those ways, they will certainly be of no value to us when we are dead:

Those who are wise must finally die,
just like the foolish and senseless,
leaving all their wealth behind . . . .
People who boast of their wealth don’t understand;
they will die, just like animals. Psalms 49:10,20 (NLT)

“Treasures in heaven” are investments that last. They are not affected by moth, or rust, or market crashes. “Treasures in heaven” are investments of real heavenly value. We store up treasures in heaven when we invest in justice and peace, things that result in a lasting impact on people. We store up treasures in heaven when we invest in someone’s walk with Jesus, which will have a lasting impact on them plus the people in their sphere of influence. We store up treasures in heaven when we invest in someone’s opportunity to experience peace with God. That is a treasure that can never be taken away!

Jesus has more to say on the matter:

Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! Matthew 6:22-23 (NLT)

This is one of those sayings that would make perfect sense to the people of Jesus’ day, but is harder for us to understand. Basically, a bright eye, or rather a “simple,” or “generous” eye, is an eye that can really see what is going on. I remember when the headlight burned out on my motorcycle. Since I only had one, it was dark, and how deep that darkness was! People with good eyes can see far down the road. They can see what their investments will accomplish. They can see the difference generosity will make.

Let us give an example. Suppose you invent something really useful, the best thing since sliced bread. From your invention you earn one million dollars every year for the next 100 years. You decide to invest all of it in a super-high interest account. Now just imagine how much that would be worth in 100 years! Now think how much it will actually be worth to you in 100 years. If you have a healthy eye, you will see that it will ultimately be of no worth to you, for you will be gone! And by the way, your grandchildren will fight tooth and nail over it. Now, what if it was invested in God’s great kingdom purposes? What good would it do? How many lives might it touch? How many families might be positively impacted when people learn to walk wth Jesus in faith, hope, and love? How many people might spend eternity with God as a result of investing in God’s purposes? Can we see the future returns on our investments? Let us keep in mind that our investments are more than just money, but also time and abilities. Do we see the future impact our investments can have?

Jesus has yet more to say on the matter:

No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:24 (NRSV)

Let us note what Jesus did not say. He did not say “You cannot pursue both God and wealth.” Jesus is not commending here a vow of poverty. We can pursue both. But we can only serve one. Consider again the example given above about earning a million dollars a year. We can do that. It is not wrong to earn money. But where will we invest it? Will we serve God with our wealth? Or will we serve the wealth itself?

We can worship God every Sunday, be vocal about our trust in God for salvation, and follow all the rules. But we could be missing the mark in our priorities regarding wealth. We can be a people who worship wealth, trust it more than God, and fail to love people through it. Jesus is leading us to choose generosity toward God’s great kingdom purposes. Jesus is leading us to be the kind of people who worship God with our wealth, trust God more than our wealth, and love people with our wealth. Do we love the wealth we have? Or do we love people using the wealth we have?

Jesus had a great investment strategy. Jesus himself chose to store up treasures in heaven:

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NLT)

Jesus is the ultimate example of one who chose to store up treasures in heaven, who had a healthy eye seeing the impact of his investment, who served the Father, not wealth. He invested in us at the cross. That treasure can never be eaten by moths, destroyed by rust, or affected by stock market crashes. That was an investment with returns that last for eternity! Whatever we have that we can invest, whether financial wealth, time, or abilities and talents, let us invest like Jesus.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario; a small town about an hour east of Toronto, Canada.  He appears here most Thursdays.

For a limited time, the full sermon can be heard at https://podpoint.com/calvary-baptist-church-cobourg-podcast)

February 6, 2017

Avoiding Dishonest Gain

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Titus 1:7

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.
 (NIV)

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,
 (ESV)

dollar signI had bookmarked this verse in my computer to return to later, but a month later I can’t remember what particular feature of this had caught my attention. This time around I locked onto the phrase, “pursuing dishonest gain.”

In a world of capitalism, there is a sense in which person “A” is exploiting person “B” by way of their possession of a scarce resource or a unique talent. My plumber or electrician (both Christians who have been very fair with us over the years) have skills and abilities that I do not have and the KJV scripture reminds us that “the workman is worthy of his hire.” (NIV/NLT: deserves his/their wages/pay.)

How do I know if my “gain” is “unjust”? A page at Knowing Jesus provides some scriptures to help us make the call.  (They have 12 key verses, I added #3 and #7)

  1. It has come about through violence. “So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors.” Prov. 1.19
  2. It is achieved through misrepresentation and lies.   “The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue Is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.” Prov 21.6
  3. It is accomplished through trickery and deception. “The LORD detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.”  Prov 11.1
  4. It exploits the poor. “He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself Or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” Prov 22.16
  5. It exploits done by others. “As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid, So is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly; In the midst of his days it will forsake him, And in the end he will be a fool.” Jeremiah 17.11
  6. It involves not properly paying staff or contractors. “Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness and his upper rooms without justice, Who uses his neighbor’s services without pay and does not give him his wages”  Jeremiah 22.13 also “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord” James 5.4
  7. There are underlying, unjust motives. “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” Prov. 16.2

I think the word “pursues” is not to be overlooked in this phrase as well. See resources on this at OpenBible.info.

  1. It exhausts you. “Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. Prov. 23.4
  2. There is never contentment. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
  3. It can cost you your soul. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8.36  also Luke 18.25 “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
  4. It may cause you to neglect the poor. “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.” Prov. 28.27
  5. It will divide your loyalties. “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Prov 16.13
  6. Achieving it may be elusive or temporary. “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Luke 12 18-20
  7. It can leave you miserable. “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Rev. 3:17

You’ve heard the phrase, “You can’t take it with you.” Growing up in the church founded by Dr. Oswald J. Smith, people were encouraged to invest their money, time and talents in world missions with this motto,

You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.

In other words, you can invest it in the Kingdom of God (“where moth and rust do not corrupt”) and where it lasts.

Someone else also shared with me that

The main thing that Bible teaching has against money is that it perishes with use.

So while we may determined we have not pursued dishonest gain, we need to be careful we haven’t become caught up in pursuing gain itself.

July 17, 2015

Proverbs on Poverty…

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

dollar sign…and Riches

Today we pay a return visit to the daily devotional blog Christian Blessings. This post is from Dr. Bob Dellinger. Click the title below to read at source.

Proverbs 22-23 – Rich Man, Poor Man

Today’s reading: Proverbs 22-23.

Don’t jump to conclusions about riches and poverty. The Bible doesn’t present a simple black-and-white picture, but a full canvas of colorful details. Both conditions have their dangers and opportunities. Read carefully to understand God’s wisdom about wealth.

Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.

God is the creator of all people and he shows no favoritism. All of them are sinners and need forgiveness. Each one, rich and poor, will live one life and then face judgment, but Jesus died for each one so that they could have eternal life.

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Wealth is not the most important possession. Many things are more valuable, including the esteem of a good name. Such esteem is the result of a life lived wisely and righteously. God isn’t condemning riches, however. He’s just pointing out that they aren’t the ultimate goal in life and you shouldn’t let a desire for wealth interfere with a godly life.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Economic facts are as real and unavoidable as gravity. Wealth gives power and influence that inevitably lead to domination of the disadvantaged. A godly and wealthy people could use their power to help the poor, but unfortunately the opposite often happens. As an obstacle to wealth and a cause of further loss of power, nothing stands out like debt.

A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

Poverty is a fact of life in every generation. I’ve spoken previously about Bryant Myers’ description of how broken relationships cause poverty. The spiritual poverty of separation from God, the economic distress of oppression by other men, the personal destruction of abusing one’s own mind or body, the hazards of living in a dangerous environment – all these contribute to or cause poverty. God cautions us that there will always be poverty, but also exhorts us to show mercy to the poor.

Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.

I said earlier that God didn’t show favoritism to the rich or poor, but he repeatedly states that he will stand up for those who are treated unjustly. That usually means the poor or disadvantaged. The wealthy who oppress are warned that their day in court is coming, and God will be sure to mete out justice.

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

Money and possessions are temporary. We may lose them due to the ups and downs of life, but it’s certain that we will lose them when life ends. Even so, money tempts us to do things that we shouldn’t. We work too many hours to the detriment of our family life. We hoard money or else spend it selfishly on ourselves rather than sharing it with the needy. We fail to give back to God. We deal dishonestly in order to get richer. In all these ways and others we lack the wisdom to restrain our interest in money. But, as Jesus said, what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? The love of money can blind a person to the spiritual or eternal truths of life.


After formatting and posting this, I discovered that just as we do, Christian Blessings borrows material from other sites. The original post for this was found at Bob Dellinger’s Bible in a Year Blog.