Church of God, New World Ministries

Your Best Investment - Part 2

Well over half of the 6th chapter of Matthew (the heart of the Sermon on the Mount) is taken up with Jesus’ message about money and overconcern for material possessions. He said: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matt. 6:19-20).

Jesus Christ of Nazareth warns us very sternly not to put our trust and confidence in physical representations of wealth that we have laid up where “moth and rust corrupt” (and He might well have added “where inflation and the potential collapse of an economy render worthless”), but to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.

This is not just an ecclesiastical phrase or a gimmick to generate financial support for the clergy. It is a statement from your Savior emphasizing that your total trust, your absolute confidence, must be in the God who made all things, and not in any physical symbols of wealth whose worth is dictated by fellow human beings.

Those of us who have dedicated our hearts and our treasures to God with complete trust can approach with confidence that time in human history when all the economies of the nations will dissolve into nothingness. At that time the great treasure which God has in heaven will be brought with Him from heaven to this earth and given freely, abundantly and overflowing in the currency of true wealth the possession and sharing of the heavens and the earth among His sons and daughters.

But for those who are continually worried about “one more month’s” survival, the Sermon on the Mount is an awfully big pill to swallow.

What good is that one month’s supply when it is finished, done with and used up, and that month is just so much history? Those who seek to put off an event find that all too soon there it is staring them right in the face.

People think to themselves: I’ve got to have an emergency supply of money so I can perpetuate my existence for one, two or six months. But would they really be satisfied at the end of a specified time no matter how long it was? The truth is that we can never lay up quite enough for such an emergency.

The best way to store up for an emergency is to put your money where it can never be corrupted, stolen, inflated, or diminished to the tiniest extent where total, ultimate, maximum and absolute security exists!

Jesus continued: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). Where is your treasure? Is it in a bank account? In gold stocks? Under the mattress? “Safely” stashed away in the ground? Wrapped up in a sack?

Or is it in God’s coming Kingdom doing His work today that precedes His Kingdom?

This is not to say that God does not approve of savings or being frugal and careful with one’s material goods with an eye toward the future! The Bible plainly endorses laying up even for grandchildren’s needs, and the example of a righteous woman “considering a field” in Proverbs 31 is well known. But there is an obvious difference between saving for a “rainy day” and the overanxious, worried concern over the future to the point of hoarding either money or goods. Balance is the key and the right balance is possible only when the right attitude is maintained.

Jesus talked about attitude when he spoke of the eye being “single.” “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single (single-hearted, single in purpose), thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other” (Matt. 6:22-24).

Jesus then uttered one of the most profound truths in all of the Bible: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (v. 24). The very essence of this age can be summed up in one word-- mammon. Webster defines it as “material wealth or possessions, esp. having an evil power or debasing influence” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary).

Mammon is where it’s at. It embodies all the competition, strife, greed and lust attendant to this world’s way all the debasing elements that are attached to the love of money. But Jesus says that you cannot serve God and mammon. You have to choose one or the other! God always gives us a choice. But He always advises us to “choose life, that both you and your children may live” (Deut. 30:19).

Jesus’ advice is no different. He continues: “Therefore (in the light of the fact that you cannot serve God and mammon) I say unto you, take no (anxious) thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink: nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat (food), and the body than raiment (clothing)? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns: yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothed the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you. O ye of little faith” (vs. 25-26, 28-30)?

Jesus continued: “Take therefore (in the light of the sure promise that God will eventually add the material dimension) no (anxious) thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (v. 34). We should live daily in the sense of tackling each problem as it comes to us even with regard to procuring food, clothing, and shelter. But anxiety, concern, apprehension, worry and fear over the future, a lingering desire for total security none of these negative emotions reflect any faith in God Almighty and His ability to back up His Word and look out for the physical necessities of His children.

Total, absolute security is a myth! This basic truth is nowhere better illustrated than in Jesus’ short parable in the 12th chapter of the book of Luke.

Jesus prefaced this parable with a great overall principle. “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses” (v. 15). If people in this money-mad materialistically oriented society could only understand and heed this one principle!

Then Jesus went right into the parable: “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself saying. What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, this will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, soul, thou hath much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease (take it easy), eat, drink, and be merry” (vs. 16-19).

This man thought he had it made; his emergency fund was almost perpetual. But notice God’s reaction to his totally selfish attitude: “God said unto him, thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee (he was to die): then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided” (v. 20)?

This particular rich man, just exactly like the one in the parable about the beggar named Lazarus, apparently had no concern whatsoever for his fellowmen. He was so totally out of tune with the needs of others that the thought of giving away a small portion of his goods probably never crossed his mind.

Then Jesus added this thought at the end of the parable: “So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (v. 21). This rich man’s sad plight is the end result of total self-concern to the exclusion of God and neighbor.

On the opposite side of the coin is the giving attitude illustrated by yet another vital maxim which Jesus enunciated: “Give to him that asks thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matt. 5:42). Luke’s account expounds on this particular aspect of the giving spirit: “And if ye lend (or give) to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again (the true giving spirit); and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest (have eternal life in God’s Kingdom): for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:34-35).

And then Jesus goes on to show that the true giving spirit brings an automatic boomerang like effect. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (v. 38). This verse just repeats, in different words, the time-tested principle restated by many writers throughout the Bible: “What you sow you shall reap.”

Solomon, several times in his writings, reiterates the very same axiom. Notice just one example in the Proverbs: “One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer: another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” (Prov. 11:24-25).

The giving spirit and honest handling of material possessions ae principles which have everything to do with entering into the Kingdom of God. In many of His parables, Jesus likened the proper use of and attitude toward money to both getting into and being rewarded in the coming government of God.

Forgiveness of monetary debts and forgiveness of spiritual sin are compared in a parabolic analogy in the 18th chapter of Matthew. “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made” (vs. 23-25).

The story goes on to show how the servant begged his creditor to be patient with him, and how the latter had compassion and forgave every bit of the debt (vs. 26-27). At this juncture the account clearly displays the illogical, tortuous twists and turns human nature sometimes take: “But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence (a very, very paltry sum by comparisons): and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying. Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservants fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying. Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt” (vs. 28-30). Instead of shoveling out mercy with a giant scoop shovel as his master had (and as God does), that servant absolutely refused to forgive a minor, petty debt against him.

The spiritual analogy ought to be obvious. When God has totally forgiven us of incredible, uncountable sins, the least we can do is to forgive our fellow human beings. Do you think God casually looks the other way when our conduct is otherwise? “Then the lord said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desireth me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservants, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors” (vs. 32-34).

Jesus caps off the parable by explaining its meaning in the very plainest of language: “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses” (v. 35).

Here Jesus uses the analogy of the payment of debt and handling of money as an example of a means of getting into God’s Kingdom. Almost every time Jesus Christ talks about the Kingdom of God and a righteous attitude a spirit of mercy and forgiveness He speaks about talents, pounds, pennies, trading, buying and selling, hiring, the unrighteous mammon, a creditor that releases debts, etc.

On one particular occasion, Jesus was having dinner at the home of one of the Pharisees (Luke 7:37). “And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner (a prostitute), when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisees’ house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears. Now when the Pharisees which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying. This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touches him: for she is a sinner.”

“And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered I supposed that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him. Thou hast rightly judged” (vs. 37-43).

Simon knew the answer: obviously, it would be the one who owed the biggest debt who would be the most grateful for his release. Jesus continued the discourse: “Simon, see thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with (her) tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven: for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (vs. 44, 47).

Christian stewardship entails a many-faceted set of responsibilities going far beyond just the willingness to forgive a brother of a debt in a hardship case, or even, in the related spiritual analogy, of releasing a spiritual sin. Other parables bring out different aspects of the same overall theme of proper handling of money and material possessions. One such parable is found in Matthew 25: “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to very man according to his several (natural) ability; and straightway (immediately) took his journey” (vs. 14-15).

The word “talent” means a certain monetary unit and is only spiritually analogous to an ability or proclivity. These servants were to invest the man’s money wisely, and see to it that the investment improved to the best of their individual abilities. They were supposed to put the money to work to make money with money even to put it out to earn interest if they themselves didn’t know how to use it otherwise.

Talents were given according to their innate and developed abilities, and those three servants were expected to improve upon and increase those talents.

Two of them did just that. “Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two” (vs. 16-17). This example shows that trading, buying, selling and working in business is a right principle in God’s sight. Once again Jesus Christ is shown to believe in the free enterprise system, minus, of course, its evils and abuses.

Both of these servants, though they started with different amounts, doubled their talents in trading a 100% increase! By spiritual analogy they overcame exactly to the same degree. According to God’s righteous judgment, their reward will be the same in God’s Kingdom.

God judges us individually based on how much we do with our own unique, natural abilities, not on someone else’s natural talents and abilities. And God judges the worth of how much we give based on our own individual financial capacities. He does not expect us to give what we have not got!

Now notice the negative example of the servant that had been given but one talent: “But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money” v. 18). How like this example is that of the frightened hoarder salting away his emergency funds somewhere under the vegetable garden or hiding them in his mattress? This fellow was a timorous penny-pincher type, afraid to take a little bit of risk and launch into a venture with potential opportunities and rewards.

After the two servants, who had doubled their talents in trading, received their rewards with a “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (vs. 20-23), reckoning time came for the hoarder, who was soundly and sternly rebuked: “Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew that thou are an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou has not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid (buried) thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine: (vs. 24-25). All he needed was one more talent and he would have received the identical “Well done.”

Notice especially verse 27: “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury (interest).” According to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, it is a right and godly principle for money to earn interest! The least this person could have done is to have put his master’s money into an interest-earning savings account and let someone else use the money to make money. Money means nothing to any society by its mere presence. Money is of value only as it is circulated put to work! Even in the Bible, there are plain statements against burying money or hiding it away in a napkin, that is, taking it out of circulation so it is not even used by others to earn interest.

In the end, the one that possessed the ten talents (five given and five gained) was also given the one talent of the unprofitable servant (vs. 28-29).

In this parable, Jesus is equating, by analogy, the earning of monetary profits (and even interest) with character improvement (as verses 31 through 46, which follow this parable, when taken in context strongly indicate). But the theme of the parable is centered around a monetary unit a means of fiduciary payment a medium of exchange.

Jesus has invested, so to speak, a little bit of His Spirit in each of us, and He expects an increase!

John the Baptist taught the Pharisees and the people to repent of covetousness, which is material idolatry (breaking of the first as well as the 10th commandment): “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance. And the people asked him saying, what shall we do then? He answered and said unto them. He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat (food), let him do likewise” (Luke 3:8, 10-11). Is that not plain and clear advice for any Christian wanting to live a life that leads to God’s Kingdom?

The account continues with John’s advice to the tax collectors of that day: “Exact no more (money) than that which is appointed you” (v. 13). He was telling them in modern vernacular: “Don’t extort. Don’t pad the rate even a little bit. Don’t pull the wool over the eyes of these poor widows and peasants who really don’t comprehend all these forms and shoptalk. Don’t take advantages of their ignorance of the ins and outs of the rate structure.” How many of us today fully understand all the ins and outs of the IRS?

The soldiers in John’s audience wanted to know about their responsibilities. How could they “Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance?” And he (John) said unto them. “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (v. 14). John hit directly on the condition that has led to more discontent than perhaps any other in the military services from time immemorial-- low wages.

Here we see three different types of people who came to John the Baptist asking what were the fruits of a Christian life. And John answered: “Give of your clothing; give of your food; don’t extort; be content with your income.”

The apostle Paul expanded on these concepts in Hebrews 13:5: “Let your conversation (conduct) be without covetousness; and be content (not only with your wages but) with such things as ye have (Why?) For he (Jesus) hath said. I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

These scriptures bear down on the idolatrous sin of covetousness; but they do not mean, taken in context with the many other plain scriptures on the subject, that a person cannot with honesty and hard work increase his material possessions.

The apostle Paul also wrote: “Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs” (Eph. 4:28). In order to give, in a material sense, you have to have something to offer.

Romans 12 is one of the most important Christian-living chapters in all of the Bible. Paul instructs: “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us (by God), whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith. Or he that exhorts, on exhortation: he that gives, let him do it with simplicity (liberally) (vs. 6-8).

Giving is a proportionate proposition: the amount is in ratio to how much you have to give, both materially and spiritually. Again, God does not expect you to “give what you have not got”! The attitude is the important thing! The true spirit of liberal giving is far more important and transcends the exact dollar figure!

But generosity is commanded! A generous spirit and attitude in proportion to the amount of your resources are basic to God’s “give” way of life. God Himself is a very generous giver! He expects His children to reflect a comparable generosity with their limited means.

Paul made this vital point clear: “He which sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully Every man according as he purposed in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver’ (II Cor. 9:6-7). This truly is Your Best Investment!

 
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