Christianity 201

February 6, 2017

Avoiding Dishonest Gain

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

November 1, 2016

Do You Need That Bigger House?

img-103116

Ever had a verse just jump off the page? We’re not currently in the housing market, but live in a part of the world where house prices have escalated greatly in some areas. It’s also a time when many are converting existing houses into what are termed monster homes. Does the Bible speak to buying a new dwelling? I realized I was rushing past this too quickly and needed to slow down and consider it more carefully.

Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.  ~Isaiah 5:8

So what’s being said here?  BibleHub.com offers many different commentaries on this verse.

Matthew Henry:

Here is a woe to those who set their hearts on the wealth of the world. Not that it is sinful for those who have a house and a field to purchase another; but the fault is, that they never know when they have enough. Covetousness is idolatry; and while many envy the prosperous, wretched man, the Lord denounces awful woes upon him. How applicable to many among us! God has many ways to empty the most populous cities. Those who set their hearts upon the world, will justly be disappointed.

Benson Commentary:

Not that this was in itself absolutely unlawful, but because they did it from an inordinate desire of riches, and with the injury of their brethren. That they alone may be the lords and owners, and all others only their tenants and servants. Thus, “the first crime condemned is avarice and rapacity; which is strongly described in this verse, and which prevailed remarkably among the Jews. Its punishment, even the desolation of those houses which they coveted, and the devastation of those fields which they obtained so rapaciously, is set forth in the two following verses.”

Pett’s Bible Commentary begins with this summary:

The first woe is on those who have bought up or seized by force the fields of the people, so as to form for themselves large estates, actions which will finally bring desolation on them.

and then continues in great depth:

The picture here is of the man of influence and wealth taking over surrounding land by fair means or foul, and adding it to his own, and then turning his house into a Great House by adding buildings (compare Micah 2:2; Micah 2:4; Micah 2:9). As a result, instead of enjoying covenant fellowship with his close neighbours he dwells in solitary splendour, for all his one-time neighbours have been expelled. They would then have had to become servants or even bondmen. Their ‘glory’ has been taken away for ever (Micah 2:9).

This was directly contrary to what Israel was all about. When the land was originally allocated as God’s gift to His people (Leviticus 25:2) the intention was that each man should have his own piece of land in perpetuity. All were to be free men. And although the land may have to be mortgaged in hard times, always in the end it was to revert to its original owner. (See Leviticus 25:13; Leviticus 25:23-24; Numbers 27:1-11; Numbers 36:1-12; Ruth 4:1-4). But now unreasonable influence, unfair means and dishonest pressure were being exerted by powerful men to acquire and permanently possess such land, and permanently subject their fellow Israelites to servitude. God’s covenant was being overturned, and His people degraded. And we need not doubt that the fifty year rule was being set aside. God’s will was being thwarted.

The gradual accumulation of wealth is never in itself condemned, unless it interferes with a man’s responsiveness to God. But doing so at the expense of others and especially when it was in direct disobedience to God’s will, is constantly condemned.

God’s concern about this is a reminder that God watches over all men’s business dealings, whether corrupt or just purely greedy, and will call men to account for them. It will be no good in that day saying, ‘it was business’. God will reply, ‘no, it was gross iniquity’.

‘In my ears, the ears of Yahweh of hosts, of a truth, many houses will be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.’ ‘In my ears’ may refer back to Isaiah 5:7 bringing out again that the cries of the oppressed reach His ears. Or it may refer to the very cry of the fields at the mistreatment of their owners (compare Genesis 4:10) as reaching His ears. Either way the cries of distress reach His ears, and they are the ears of Yahweh of hosts. (The Hebrew is literally, ‘In my ears Yahweh of hosts’). Thus the great and fair houses that have resulted will assuredly be desolated, their inhabitants removed, their widespread fields yielding but a pittance. As they have done to others, so will be done to them.

‘For ten acres of vineyard will yield one bath, and a homer of seed will yield but an ephah.’ An ‘acre’ was literally ‘a yoke’, the amount that could be ploughed by a yoke of oxen in one day. Thus ten such large areas will produce only one bath (about twenty seven litres or six gallons). We are possibly to see in this that the expectation was that one acre would normally produce a bath. An ephah is a dry measure and is the tenth part of a homer (Exodus 16:36). Thus again what is sown produces only one tenth. Thus all activity in the fields will only produce a small proportion of what should have been produced.

We’ll stop there; but you might want to go deeper with this.


Related verses:

They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes, they rob them of their inheritance.
 ~Micah 2:2

Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin!
~Habakkuk 2:9

Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.
 ~Jeremiah 22:13

 

July 17, 2015

Proverbs on Poverty…

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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.

 

May 10, 2012

Money and Wealth: It’s All His

Today we’re zooming in on part two of a two part series about money… so you might want to read part one.

[visual: me leaning on one foot, and then the other, waiting for your return]

…Okay, we’re back.  So you already know that this is by David P. Kreklau who combines something that sounds really exciting with something that sounds rather boring — he’s a CPA with the US Air Force.  Part two (click the title to link direct) is:

Awkward! …the Impact of Sovereignty on Our Money

Have you ever been in that awkward situation where somebody wants to give you money but you are embarrassed to receive it… or maybe you want to give money to someone but they are too embarrassed to take it?  As my daughter would say, it feels “awkward…!”

In my last blog I talked about how we take pride in our money and we allow it to bleed into our identity… making us feel like we have all the control over our money, which can create these awkward situations where we convey feelings of pride either in giving or receiving.

But the point I made was that God is sovereign over all things, including whatever it was that helped you obtain your wealth… whether your choices or upbringing, etc.  And therefore, whatever amount of money you have, that is what God has chosen to distribute to you.  Thus, you need not tie your identity to your wealth.

The Impact of Sovereignty

Here are some practical ways that this understanding should affect our money.

1)      Humility.  Knowing that it is God who distributes to whom He wills should disarm our pride over our wealth and lend us to feel humble in knowing that what we have is only of grace… not ourselves.  And let’s face it, we could all use more humility.

2)      Gratitude.  This humility should naturally flow into gratitude, recognizing that this grace is not deserved and that we actually deserve nothing.  Yet, God gives to us lavishly.

3)      Giving.  Just as we model everything we do after the Gospel of Jesus Christ – how He gave Himself for us when we deserved nothing good – we ought to give graciously to those in need, despite what they “deserve.”

4)      Stewardship/Redistribution.  Remember that since God decides in His sovereignty who gets what, then those who have been given much must remember that they have been given much for a reason.  You have been made a steward by God, and it is up to you to redistribute to those in need.  This is easier to do when you remember that it is not your money.  It is God’s… given to you to use for the kingdom in bringing about His good purposes.  This knowledge should also directly impact how you spend your money.

 5)      Receiving.  We need not feel embarrassed when receiving charity, as this is what God has appointed.  His way of you obtaining that money in this instance just happens to be a gift of love from someone as opposed to a wage.  Is there a better way of feeling the Gospel than receiving a gift instead of earning it yourself?

As you can see, this understanding of our wealth brings profound consequences to how we view money.  You can stop looking inward in terms of valuing yourself by your wealth and start looking outward by trying to breathe value into others.

If God gives abundantly to you, use that money to glorify Him.  If He gives you a nice home, use it to entertain in a Christ-exalting way.  If you are short of cash and someone helps you out, use that money to His glory and see the Christ-like quality of giving in that moment and worship Him.

If the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10)… then the love of each other will disarm that evil.

~David P. Kreklau

November 2, 2011

The Occupy Protests: Don’t Store Up Treasure

This devotional thought by Shane Claiborne appeared last week at Out of Ur, a Christianity Today website.   You’re encouraged to read it there; but whether you stay there or here, it reads better if you’ve heard Shane and can imagine his voice speaking…

A reporter recently asked me, “As a Christian leader, does your faith have anything to say about Wall Street?” I said, “How much time do you have?”

Theologian Karl Barth said, “We have to read the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.” For too long we Christians have used our faith as a ticket out of this world rather than fuel to engage it.

In his parables, Jesus wasn’t offering pie-in-the-sky theology… he was talking about the real stuff of earth. He talks about wages, debt, widows and orphans, unjust business owners and bad politicians. In fact Woody Guthrie breaks it all down in his song “Jesus Christ.” The song ends with Woody singing, “This song was written in New York City. If Jesus were to preach what he preached in Galilee, they would lay him in his grave again.”

The more I read the Gospels, the more they seem to confront the very patterns of the world we live in. At one point Mary, pregnant with Jesus cries out: “God casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly… God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty…”. You can’t help but think if she were alive in contemporary America some folks would try to accuse the Virgin Mother of being Marxist or promoting class warfare. But all through Scripture we see this–over 2000 verses about how God cares for the poor and most vulnerable.

What would Jesus say about Wall Street?

It doesn’t get much better than Luke chapter 12. Jesus begins by saying, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And then, as per usual, he tells a story. The story is about a rich man whose business makes it big. He has so much stuff he doesn’t know where to put it all. So he decides, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones… 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 Jesus says God looks down and is not happy.

God says to the rich man, “You fool! This very night you will die–and what will happen to all your stuff?” And Jesus ends the teaching by saying this is how things will be for folks who store up stuff for themselves.

It does make you wonder what to do about 401k’s and pensions. But it seems pretty clear that Jesus isn’t a big fan of stockpiling stuff in barns and banks, especially when folks are dying of starvation and preventable diseases.

One of the constant threads of Scripture is “Give us this day our daily bread.” Nothing more, nothing less. Underneath this admonition is the assumption that the more we store up for tomorrow the less people will have for today. And in a world where 1% of the world owns half the world’s stuff, we are beginning to realize that there is enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed. Lots of folks are beginning to say, “Maybe God has a different dream for the world than the Wall Street dream.”

Maybe God’s dream is for us to live simply so that others may simply live. Maybe God’s dream is for the bankers to empty their banks and barns so folks have enough food for today.

Woody Guthrie may be right. If Jesus came to Wall Street preaching the same message that he preached in Galilee… he might land himself on a cross again.

~Shane Claiborne