God and Money
What was the grace (the good gift) of God that He gave to these extremely poor Macedonians? It was "rich generosity" that was beyond their ability. Note their attitude: they imploringly begged Paul that he would extend to them the gift of allowing them to fellowship with the Jerusalem church by giving money out of their extreme poverty.
And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. Now just as you excel in everything-- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us--see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. (II Cor 8:5-9)
Paul talks about the grace (the gift) of being able to give to others. In verse 9, Paul urges the Corinthians to follow Jesus' example. Although Jesus was rich, He became poor for my sake so that I through His poverty might become rich so that although I am consequently rich, I might become poor so that others through my poverty might become rich. In the Kingdom of God, I am rich because Jesus impoverished Himself, and my great opportunity as a follower of Jesus–-as one who wants to cooperate with God in remaking me into Jesus' likeness–-is to impoverish myself so that others may become rich. Notice the phrase grace of giving: To the one who has resources, the opportunity to give them away is a grace-–a gift from God.
And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He that gathered much did not have too much, and he that gathered little did not have too little." (II Cor 8:10-15)
In verse 13 Paul says that they should give until there is equality between the churches in Jerusalem and Corinth.
What does that mean today? Our wealth in the United States relative to the poverty of our inner cities and relative to the third world is many, many times greater than the wealth of the Macedonians who were extremely impoverished relative to the even poorer church in Jerusalem. In verse 14, Paul is literally saying that the Corinthians should give so much that the church in Jerusalem is able to regain its economic self-sufficiency so that in a future time the church in Jerusalem will be able to financially help the church in Corinth. Note that Paul doesn't say "if"; he says "when". He is sure that if the Corinthians give all the way to equality, they will have given away all their savings, and that without that safety net of money in the bank or stocks and other investments the Corinthians will someday be impoverished themselves. Paul says that at this time the Corinthians plenty will supply what the believers in Jerusalem need, so that in turn their plenty wil
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (II Cor 9:6-11)
In verse 6 Paul explains the principle of giving by the law of sowing and reaping. If you sow generously you will reap generously. If you give generously, God will give you an abundance of grace. Verse 8 says that God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times having all self-sufficiency, you will also have an abundance for every good work. In verse 9 Paul reminds them of the man in Psalm 112 who fears the Lord and is ardently devoted to His commands who we read about earlier: He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteous kindness endures forever.
Do you see the picture of this man broadcasting by hand his seed generously and broadly? His righteous kindness lasting forever is a fulfillment of Jesus' command to store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Verse 10 is a commentary on verse 9. God who supplies seed (capital) to the sower and bread (production) for food will also increase your store of seed and will enlarge your harvest of righteousness that lasts forever. Verse 11 is a commentary on verse 8. You will be made rich in every way–-spiritually, financially, and socially so that you can be generous on every occasion and so that your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. Verses 8-11 are the only justification for wealth in the New Testament: You will be made rich so that you can be continually generous so that God will be thanked. This is the only place in the New Testament where it says that God makes us rich in an economic sense. Notice that God makes us rich
Verses 12-15 explain how my generosity results in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (II Cor 12-15)
Paul in Romans 12:8 identifies financial giving as a spiritual gift. Paul says if your spiritual gift is giving or sharing, give generously and openhandedly with a singleness of purpose with no expectation of return benefit. If you blink you will miss this in Paul's list of spiritual gifts. Giving is not included in the two other lists of spiritual gifts. This is hardly an encouragement to accumulate economic wealth. This is as positive as it gets for wealth accumulation in the New Testament. I think you can now understand why I asked God not to make me wealthy.
In closing let me summarize what we have covered:
1. In Israel, God's economic system, including Jubilee, provided every family with the equal opportunity to own and pass on to the next generation modest wealth, but it eliminated the opportunity to become exceedingly wealthy.
2. God condemned those who became exceedingly wealthy and denounced their attempt to worship Him with their wealth as an abomination.
3. Jesus presents us with a decision: If I serve, love and am devoted to God, I will hate and despise Money.
4. When I serve, love, and am devoted to God, I will not store up treasure for myself on earth, and I don't need to worry about life.
5. Jesus never in any way encouraged wealth accumulation for oneself on earth.
6. If I do store up treasure on earth, it is for the sole purpose of giving it away. It must not be for myself.
Continued on next page
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- Bibliography for "God and Money" and "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger"