by Ron Bare
In Part 2 of True Stewardship, we talked about our time and what a precious asset this is in our lives. We also discussed the fact that how we spend our time will largely determine our success of being a faithful steward in other areas of our life. As I examine scripture and the purpose of wealth, a few things become clear.
First, there is no defined Biblical lifestyle that lays out exactly what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in regards to how we should live. We are blessed in the United States – and even more so in Southeastern PA – to live in an area of the world that has provided opportunities to not only have religious freedoms, but to also have freedoms to be rewarded for our hard work and risk taking in business. Capitalism is a true benefit to society and has done more to help eliminate poverty in the world than any other avenue – including charity. But that is not our focus of today’s writing…perhaps another time!
We can be faithful stewards whether we have little (such as the widow’s offering) or whether we have abundance (such as King Solomon for much of his life). It comes down to whether we use wealth according to how God directs. Knowing this, let’s examine what the purpose of wealth is from a Biblical stewardship backdrop.
Provision for our family – The Bible teaches that those who do not provide for their families are worse than an unbeliever. Work is encouraged and part of God’s plan for our lives – even in the Garden of Eden. God directed Adam and Eve to care for and work the garden prior to the introduction of sin in the world. Work is the avenue that God created to provide for our families. The Bible also teaches that those who are lazy and do not want to work will not eat and enjoy the benefits of hard work. The tricky part here in America is getting our provision mixed up with our enjoyments and wants….
Enjoyment – In 1 Timothy 6, Paul mentions that all things in earth have been given to us for our enjoyment. I believe that we should enjoy some of what we have been given and we do not need to feel guilty about enjoying wealth. Clearly, the nation of Israel enjoyed the wealth that God provided in victory as they took over the Promised Land….a land flowing with milk and honey. This land sounds like being described as more than just provision but also enjoyment. God promised many times to the nation of Israel that they will prosper financially, if they obediently follow and obey His commands. The item we can’t miss in this teaching, is the purpose God had for the nation of Israel….
To be a blessing – In the above Timothy reference, the context is that our focus should not be on worldly wealth but rather a focus on eternal values. Likewise the nation of Israel was Gods chosen nation to be a testimony to his goodness and Him being the one true God. In I Timothy 6, Paul’s focus is to encourage us to be generous and ready to share. I love the proactive tone of “ready to share”. This is not passive but rather an intentional act as God leads us, which goes back to the primary question we need to be asking daily: “God, what do you want me to do with what you have entrusted to my management?” We should be actively looking to answer this question and be ready to act when prompted, particularly in the pursuit of blessing others and fulfilling our purpose.
A tool to accomplish our purpose – The final thought on the purpose of wealth is to use it as a tool to accomplish the purpose God has given to us on earth. Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life sold over 30 million copies and is the second most translated book in the world only to the Bible. I believe he spoke to our hearts in that we want to know why we are on this earth. If we each have a unique purpose with a primary mission to help God carry out His work on earth, then we should each look to use our unique abilities and gifts to accomplish this purpose. This includes our financial resources – well beyond giving or tithing! It means we should intentionally define our life’s purpose and use everything possible to accomplish this: our abilities, relationships, education, wealth, time, our experiences in life. When we do this, I believe we wake up each day with clarity on our tasks, that we will be content financially, and that we will receive a whole new level of fulfillment in life because we will know we are living a life we were designed to live. It’s time to align our time, talents, and wealth to our God-given purpose.