The Other Side of the Coin

“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:8)

I have a somewhat cavalier and nonchalant attitude when it comes to money and finances. Don’t get me wrong, I save and I budget (maybe a little) and give and spend wisely. But when it comes to “squeez[ing] every last drop” (to quote Prince John from Robin Hood) of usage out of my money, I sort-of, uh, turn off. Blame it on the fact that I am predisposed to live in the moment and you might understand that, while I know I have a future, I’m not overly concerned with “making it in this world”. But before I go any further and lest you think I don’t “get it”, let me quote Jesus here (Luke 16:9):

“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.”

Almost sounds scandalous doesn’t it? Here, Jesus is talking about dealing wisely with reference to money and finance and capital and whatnot. I suppose the gentleman (Jesus; I was gonna say “guy”, but that sounded a shade disrespectful) who can tell Peter to go drop a line and pull up, not just dinner, but both of their taxes as well, needn’t worry about such things (see Matthew 17:23-27). Think about how He calls it “the mammon of unrighteousness”. The context of the verse quoted doesn’t really flesh out the idea of our failing as an inevitability (“when ye fail”). It’s the unique individual in this world who isn’t under some sort of financial auspice or in the employ of a person “signing the check”. Yes, the man in the parable “had done wisely” (16:8) but there are all sorts of unwise things that we do with money—things that don’t play into the future the Father wants to give us—when we know deep down that there are other, better ways to spend and to save. That being said, here’s the next verse in the parable (Luke 16:10):

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”

Quick question: Does that have to refer only to money? What about time and patience and joy and a thousand other beautiful intangibles we have flowing out our ears because our God is just so generous? If you tithe regularly but look the other way when passing a person who might need a smile, what does that mean? I think often of Paul’s response to the chief captain’s declaration of “With a great sum obtained I this freedom” (referring, of course to citizenship in the Roman Empire). Paul says: “But I was free born.” In other words, Paul did nothing but emerge from the womb in order to be at the same privileged level for which the chief captain had to give God-knows-how-much (probably a lot) in order to procure. By the same token, I did nothing to get the look in my eyes and the smile on my face—two of the things that God uses to bless others. These things are of inestimable value. They’re also the very things that glaze over and become gray, dry and ineffectual when once we get our focus too far out on things like money and status. Seriously, don’t lose the light in your eyes.

“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

Paul went one further and informed the world that, while love may make the world go ‘round, if one, uh, invests that love in money, said person gets pulled down to the center of the earth by way of some evil gravity (I’m not kidding). Referring again to what Jesus said about “Mak[ing] to [ourselves] friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, depending on what phrase you heard first growing up, you might not get what He said. Jesus isn’t saying to “love money”, He’s saying that it needs to be respected for the tool it is.

“Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:5)

What about memories? Even if I make a costly mistake, I get the privilege of living through it and watching it work together for my good (Romans 8:28). Not only do I get a story to tell, but I also gain a window on the inner workings of a system I’d not get to experience otherwise. The truth is, we don’t know where all the money’s going (see Psalm 39:6). Even that bottom layer of our bank account that we don’t have to touch because payday rolls around sooner than later is like some sort of miraculous dimension wherein God can work miracles in the lives of those less fortunate. Think about it. I’m not telling you what to do with your finances: just be wise.

“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)

This World’s Good

“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)

A certain—how-can-I-say-this—patina of confidence, a swagger, if you will, begins to tell when once you reach a certain threshold in the realm of finances. When the worries that still beset you surround, not “Am I gonna make it paycheck to paycheck?” but, “Can I afford a better brand (with cooler logo, no doubt) of the thing I’ve been wanting for some time now?”, you know you’ve made it. The Word of God is full of examples (some might even look to be counterintuitive to the way of thinking that comes with a beat-down and penniless way of thinking and of life). In other words, it’s easy to run roughshod over other people (regardless of their financial situation) if the confidence in which you walk around springs from your bank account. Because this world isn’t good (see Matthew 19:17), not in the slightest. It’s actually quite nasty, wholly antagonistic to the things of Jesus Christ. The King James wording in the passage up top calls an abundance of finances or provision “this world’s good”. But think about it: it’s at least one if not several steps removed from “God’s good”. And God is good all the time. When you walk around with the confidence of being able to throw a line in the lake and reel in, not just dinner (the fish), but enough money to pay taxes for two people (see Matthew 17:24-27), I’d say you have more than the aforementioned “world’s good”. Amazing. That’s when you’ve truly “made it”.

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Yes, charge them. Charge them double. Actually, I’m not sure if that’s scriptural. Perhaps found in some Old Testament annal, either way, I’m being facetious. But notice this. I find, if I may, that Paul encapsulates the point of my prior paragraph more succinctly and elegantly than I and with fewer words. But he makes another interesting point: namely “God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy”. God is lavish with His gifts and all He asks is that we get to know Him—a loaded statement if ever there was one. I was walking through a neighborhood tonight as the sun set. As I approached the back end of a strip mall (most of whose spaces were vacant), I looked across the street to my left and noticed a couple sparrows hopping on some pebbled concrete steps leading up to a real estate office. They chittered in the golden light. All around the scene was a stillness and beauty that you could not buy. The leaves reflecting a beautiful orange that offset the deep green of the shrubbery in which they made their nest. I felt that if I were to sit on the steps as the sun went down (be willing to wait, in other words), I’d be privy to some secret that only they and the Father knew. He gives us richly all things to enjoy.

“For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance many be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14)

There’s a lot to this. If you struggle with bills and anxiety and money-related issues, please understand that God is taking care of you. Though there is a hard-won pragmatism that comes from struggling to make ends meet even as you work toward carving out a better life for yourself. God feeds the sparrows, says Jesus (or thereabouts, see Matthew 10:29-31). He will most certainly take care of you. And not that I look to add anything to what the Lord said—He, too, puts things simpler and more succinct than do I, what’s up with that?—but never lose sight of the little things of beauty that God wants to show you. Things—thousands upon thousands of them, if you’re paying attention—that bring joy to your heart and His. And with reference to giving and money and finances and all that? Here’s a good guideline:

“Every man (and woman) according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)