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As an aspiring minister in the PRCA, I will inevitably face many questions from members within the congregation. Three questions face us presently. First, how do we treat other true churches of Jesus Christ that differ in doctrine? Second, how do we treat the members of those churches? Third, how can we teach those around us in the church to do that?

The first question assumes that we belong to a true church. Do we? Before we turn our spotlight of inspection on others, we ought to look at ourselves. We ought to examine the church that we belong to and verify that we are members of a true church. If we cannot say we belong to a true church, the first question really becomes a command to belong to a true church of Jesus Christ.

So what then is a true church of Jesus Christ? Many reading this article may immediately think of Question 83 of the Heidelberg Catechism, which answers that the keys of the kingdom of heaven are the preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline.1 To think of these as the definition of a true church would be correct, but there is more. To complete the explanation and define what a true church is, we need to read Belgic Confession Article 29, which gives us the marks of the true church.2 There are three.

First, is the pure doctrine of the gospel preached?

Second, does the church maintain the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Jesus Christ?

Third, is church discipline exercised in the punishing of sin?

Back to the question: are WE members of a true church? Each one of us should take a moment to reflect on his own congregation and think about the three marks just cited. Hopefully we can say, “Yes, I belong to a true church of Jesus Christ.”

Being able to say that we belong to a true church of Jesus Christ gives us confidence. We have no doubt about our position on the truth. We are assured that what we believe is in harmony with the Bible.

However, we must not let this confidence turn into pride. Our pride is checked when we consider our confidence in light of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Westminster Confession says that “the purest churches under heaven are subject to both mixture and error.”3 What is true for a church is true for an individual. As individuals we are not perfect. We are also subject to mixture and error. We haven’t cornered the market on truth. Sure, we are confident, yes, we confess the truth, but we need to acknowledge that there may be places where we are wrong. We know this to be our personal experience because we are always growing in the knowledge of the truth. We are always learning, correcting our misconceptions, and gaining a fuller understanding of the truth.

The Westminster quotation points to the attitude we must have while answering the question of whether or not we belong to a true church. Our attitude needs to be one of thankfulness and humility. The truth we have been given is a free gift of grace. We don’t deserve to have the truth, yet we have it. We must be profoundly thankful for it.

So we belong to a true church, but are we THE only true church? There is a difference between a single true church of Jesus Christ and THE church of Jesus Christ. The church of Jesus Christ is comprised of the elect, those who are called out, those who are found in every nation, tribe, and tongue.

The fact that the church is universal means there are many individual true churches of Jesus Christ. Who might those be? Two examples of other true churches of Jesus Christ come to mind.

First, churches that are overseas, ones not in the USA. Those true churches confess and practice all the marks of the true church, but they live out their confession in a different way. They have different cultures. They have different histories. They come out of different backgrounds. They hold to the same doctrines we do but emphasize different aspects.

Second, those churches that are less pure in doctrine. They still preach the gospel, administer the sacraments, and exercise discipline; but with less purity. Who might be an example of this? How about a church that holds to common grace? Would this be a true church?

To answer this, let’s back up and consider what a false church is. According to Belgic Confession Article 29, a false church has marks as well. A false church will not submit to the word of God, does not administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ, relies more upon men than upon God, and persecutes those who live holy lives.4

There is a difference between a true and a false church. To use an analogy, on a scale of 1 to 10, a false church being a 1 and a true church being a 10, it is reasonable that there are churches in the middle. Our experience bears out that there are such churches. We intuitively know that there are all sorts of churches with all sorts of doctrinal positions.

Churches in the middle of the scale will be either apostatizing or reforming churches. Consider a church that is in the middle due to impure common-grace preaching. Is this church casting off the pure preaching of the word in favor of man’s ideas? Is the church apostatizing in the area of its preaching? Or is this church reforming in the area of its preaching?

So back to the question: can we use as an example of a true church one that is less pure in doctrine, one that holds to common grace? Without digging deeply into the particulars of the church in question, we can’t say whether the church in question would be apostatizing or reforming, but we can make a definitive statement about it. Quoting David Engelsma, “The Protestant Reformed Churches do not regard churches that hold the well-meant gospel offer and common grace as false churches.”5

Now we have a very clear case in mind to deal with. For the sake of argument, let’s consider a church that is almost the same as ours; one that preaches the word, administers the sacraments, and exercises discipline. Yet these things are not done quite so purely because this church holds to common grace. How are we to treat this church?

On the one hand, we would certainly want to support and affirm the positive. We would compliment and support this church for preaching every Sunday, for administering the sacraments, and for exercising discipline. On the other hand, we would be compelled to be firm and to condemn the error found in the doctrine of common grace. We would need to call the church to reform in this area and sound out the truth of God’s word citing how common grace is wrong, while vigorously defending and fighting for God’s honor in this area of doctrine.

The biblical example is found in Revelation 2 and 3. Here Jesus is speaking to the seven churches. He commands those churches with impure doctrine to repent. He is adamant; he warns of judgment to come if they do not.

So how should we treat a person in this common-grace church? We ought not to treat a member of a common-grace church the same as the church itself. A church member is not the same as a church. People often have different thoughts or are ignorant of official policies or doctrines. Churches have official doctrinal positions. A person may or may not agree with that position. So we need to have a conversation with the person. We need to talk to him or her. Primarily, we need to listen.

So when we listen to people, we do not treat them in an adversarial way. If we were to breath out threatenings like Saul did (Acts 9:1), we would cause them to run away from us. An adversarial tone will automatically trigger a negative response. Either they will respond in kind and fight back, or they will avoid us and be driven even further from the truth.

When we listen, we need to stop talking. This may seem obvious, but it needs to be stressed. If all we are doing is waiting for the other person to finish so we can get our point of rebuttal in, we do everyone a disservice. Implied in not talking is to be slow to judge. Casting immediate condemnation on another person will end the conversation. Conversations, done wrongly, will alienate others from us. Our experience tells us that this is so. No one wants to talk to a condescending know-it-all. What’s the point? He knows everything. No matter what is said to the know-it-all, he has a better answer, a better story, a better way of doing it.

When we listen, we need to seek to understand what the other person is saying and thinking, why that person is saying it, and the context of the situation. Listening is more than just hearing. Listening is comprehending. Listening involves complete, undivided attention. Listening is being able to articulate what the person just said to us. We need to listen in meekness and fear. Meekness is what 1 Peter 3:15 stresses. Meekness is speaking not with pride, arrogance, or self-justification, but with gentleness, kindness, and humility. Meekness should remind us of Moses, who was the meekest man (Num. 12:3). Moses listened and was very patient with the people.

We need to listen in a spirit of love. Consider Jesus’ treatment of the rich young ruler. Jesus was teaching. The rich young ruler barged right in and interrupted. So what did Jesus do? Jesus listened patiently to him. Jesus loved him (Mark 10:21). Jesus then instructed him on what he must do next.

This kind of listening creates trust and respect in the person we are talking with. This kind of listening shows that we are taking the other person seriously and placing value on his thoughts.

Having the trust of another person means that we will be approachable and gain credibility. Trust earns us the opportunity to speak. With that credibility we will have the right to ask questions—again done in a spirit of meekness. When we fully understand another person’s view, we will be able to present our alternate, correct view. We will have the opportunity to explain our position. We will have the opportunity to explain the truth. At this point we need to be ready to give the answer of 1 Peter 3:15, which in this case would be to articulate our position on common grace clearly and succinctly.

The result of all these things will be that by listening and teaching, by asking questions in a humble way, and by seeking to understand the other person, we will be creating a positive example. This positive example will serve us well. It will give instruction and guidance not only to this theoretical common-grace-believing person, but also our friends, family members, or anyone else we come into contact with. This positive example will allow us to explain the truth. A positive example, listening meekly, will allow us to explain the truth more often. Instead of being a hindrance to the advancement of God’s church and kingdom, we will be, by our witness, sounding out the truth and glorifying his name.

 

1 Heidelberg Catechism Q 83, in The Psalter with Doctrinal Standards, Liturgy, Church Order, and added Chorale Section, reprinted and revised edition of the 1912 United Presbyterian Psalter (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1927; rev. ed 1995), 18.

2 Belgic Confession Article 29, in The Psalter with Doctrinal Standards, Liturgy, Church Order, and added Chorale Section, 49.

3 The Westminster Confession of Faith 25.5, in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom with a History and Critical Notes, 6th ed., 3 vols. (New York: Harper and Row, 1931; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books 2007), 3:658.

4 Belgic Confession Article 29, in The Psalter with Doctrinal Standards, Liturgy, Church Order, and added Chorale Section, 49.

5 David J. Engelsma, Bound to Join (Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2010), 10.

I am at a crossroads in life. What’s next? Where am I going? What am I going to do next? More school or go to work? This job or that job? Marriage? How many kids? These are the types of questions that make your head hurt! Where do I turn? So much indecision and uncertainty! How can I know what path to take? What’s God’s will for my life? Does the Bible speak to these things? Yes, it does. Indirectly, but it does. God does have a will and a purpose for each of our lives, and we can know it.

The first thing we need to understand is that there are two types of will. There is God’s decretive will and there is his desire. God’s decretive will is his providential decree. It is what he has determined will happen from all eternity. An example of this is found in Daniel 4:24: “This is the decree of the most high,” where Daniel pronounces God’s judgment on Nebuchadnezzar.

Although this first type of will is certainly going to happen, it doesn’t assist us in figuring out what path we are to take on our earthly journey. This leads us to the second type of God’s will, his desire. This can be described as what God wants us to do. He has given us the ten commandments, and he wants us to follow those. We face a choice concerning our desires. Just aswhen Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (24:15), so we too must choose daily to follow the path laid out for us in the ten commandments.

Regarding God’s desire, how do we find out what God’s desire (will) is in our lives? Are we going to find it in the world? Does God make himself known in the institutions of men? Will we be able to find it in secular writings? No, we must be connected to God in order to know what he desires for our life. It is impossible to find God’s will apart from the Bible. There is great value in his word. It is in scripture that we find written, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Determining God’s will in our lives is always connected to his word.

In the Bible we find wisdom. Isn’t this what we are really seeking? We are looking for wisdom in our life, looking to make the right decision. So what is wisdom? Wisdom is the opposite of foolishness. It is not found in philosophy or in the world. A good working definition of wisdom we can use is “the proper apprehension of and adaptation of one’s self to reality.”[i]We need to grasp reality clearly in our minds and then act according to it.

In order to grasp reality clearly we need to have a proper view of it. We need to understand reality. We need to put all the pieces together in the right way, similar to a puzzle. This is difficult, but it can be done through the lens of God’s scripture. God shows us the way things really are in his word, and we see these things properly and understand them rightly only when viewed through the spectacles of scripture.

In order to have this understanding we must be knowledgeable. Knowledge is a set of facts. We can spend our time on all kinds of subjects that are quite useless, gaining knowledge about things that do us no good with respect to knowing the direction God would have us go, but we are called to study the creation and his word in order to grow. One simple fact is that God created Adam and Eve. We know this because we study the Bible. The world might tell us about evolution, but that’s not truth. Knowledge, which is connected to the truth, is found in the Bible.

When we gain a set of facts, we can put them together in a way that makes sense, a way that is according to the principles given in God’s word. Only then, with knowledge based on his word, can we have a right understanding. In turn, only with this understanding can we apply our hearts to wisdom. Finally, only with this type of wisdom will we act in accordance with reality.

So how does one do this? How can I obtain these three most important virtues of life: knowledge, understanding, and then wisdom?

The first thing we must do is be willing to work. These virtues are not obtained by osmosis. They are not obtained through laziness or sluggishness. We must be willing to apply ourselves in the good and busy work of study. Isn’t this part of what the apostle Paul means in Philippians 2:12: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”? He means there is a certain work that we must take up. We work; God leads, guides, and blesses our work.  Only in the way of our working and being faithful to his word will we be blessed with his wisdom.

This work is in particular a being busy with personal study of the Bible. What does study look like? Is study opening up the Bible to a random page, putting your finger in, and expecting an answer at that spot? Of course not; you could potentially justify anything that way by taking it out of context. Is personal study a real quick sit down and expect an answer? No, it is more than that. To study the Bible means to set all aside and treat scripture as if it is the most important thing in our life—because it is. We sit in a quiet place, open the Bible, and read with our minds open, ready to receive what God has to say to us.

Where does one start looking in the Bible? Does your Bible have an index? Start there. Look up a key word. For example, in connection with dating you might look up marriage or wedding. A few of the passages you run across might be the marriage feast in Matthew 22, the wedding at Cana, or Proverbs 31. With these passages you will be off to a good start.

Let’s face it: some passages are difficult, so how can we better understand their meanings? Is the best way to Google it? Certainly you will gain some sort of understanding, but maybe not the right one. When struggling to understand a passage, find a good, trustworthy commentary. Read it slowly, consider what it says, and pray with that in mind.

A second way to gain understanding of a passage will be to ask others. Whom will you ask? You will want to ask those with experience, with wisdom, those who care for you, those who will be honest with you, and those who love you so much they will hurt your feelings for your own good. You should ask your parents, your pastor, the elders in your church. These are the ones who have been, who are, and who will continue to look out for you and your needs.

Another thing you gain by asking others is that as you explain your situation to them and they gain a better understanding of it, they will ask questions of you. “Did you think of this possibility?” Or, “What will you do if the situation turns out this way?” These questions give you another opinion, another set of eyes, another viewpoint. Others’ experience helps you think ahead and see how a situation might play out in ways that you might not necessarily anticipate. When we speak with those who are older, we have the benefit of their experience of life. The fact that they have been around longer means that they have been through many more situations.

Truly this is what is meant when Solomon says in Proverbs 11:14, “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” In this verse the Holy Spirit through Solomon gives practical advice on speaking with others and shows us the benefits of doing that.

This experience is compounded for the better because when you ask parents or teachers, you have the benefit of someone who knows you and your character. They have watched you grow up. They see you for who you really are and will give advice accordingly. All of us are made different, so the solution may not be the same for every problem each of us encounter.

The final thing that we should be doing is praying. We must be praying throughout the whole process. Lord’s Day 45 of the Heidelberg Catechism states that prayer is necessary because only through prayer will God give his grace and Holy Spirit.[ii] Prayer takes our needs before the throne of God’s grace, whereby we confess by our actions that he is Lord and sovereign over all. We actively seek his blessing on our lives. We connect with him. We thank him throughout the process. When children of the Father come before him with humble hearts, asking, seeking, and knocking, they will be blessed by receiving, finding, and being answered.

A couple of questions arise at this point. The first is, after a long search, how do you know that you have found his will? How can you be totally, one hundred percent confident? Confidence comes as the answer to much prayer. When we pray we can be assured that the answer will come. With the answer will come peace. Jesus says in John 14:27, “My peace I give unto you.” God will give us his peace.

What if you aren’t at peace? What if you haven’t obtained peace through this process? If you haven’t found peace, then first repeat the process. Talk to a few more people, search the scriptures more, listen to another sermon, and pray—and pray, pray, pray, and pray: bleed before God in prayer. Pour out your soul to him in prayer. Does not James 5:16 say that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”? Continue to pray; God will answer.

The other thing to remember about not being at peace is that we must consider our conscience. If we are not at peace, we should never move forward in that area of life while violating our conscience. Our conscience is the witness of the Holy Spirit in our minds of the truth of God’s word. Though we may not understand it at the moment of the decision, though we may not have it in the front of our minds at the time, a troubled conscience is the Holy Spirit taking the words of the Bible that we have heard somewhere in the past, whether from our studies, our devotions, a sermon, or a commentary, and bearing witness to those words in our minds so that we are not at peace. “Something just isn’t right about this,” we often say. We know the truth but can’t put our finger on it. We should never violate our conscience.

The second question that comes to mind is, after a long search, what if I never find the answer? What if I am still not at peace? What if peace never comes? Though a difficult question, what we are doing is complaining about God’s timing. How many times do I want an answer, and I want it right now. Doesn’t the internet itself condition us to that response? With worlds full of information at our fingertips, we so easily become impatient. God has his timing.

Recall the words found in Lord’s Day 49: “Grant that we and all men may renounce our own will, and without murmuring obey thy will.”[iii] Included in God’s will is timing. God will reveal his will, but only when he desires to do so. Consider how many believers in the Old Testament were looking for the promised one to appear, but they died without seeing him. Then one day when God was ready, in God’s timing, he made known to Mary that she would carry the Christ child. In the same way it just might be that we never see God’s timing on this earth, and only when we get to heaven will all things be made clear to us.

If we think about this for a moment, there is comfort. God’s timing is a good thing. Our timing may be correct, but when we align our wills with God’s will, our timing with God’s timing, our plans with God’s plan, we are placing ourselves, our futures, our lives, and all of our beings into the most trustworthy place possible: into the hands of God. We then will truly be hidden under the shadow of God’s wings and have no fear.

Being at a crossroads in life is natural. We are all there at one point or another. When we seek God through prayer, careful study of his word, and communion with him through his saints, he will abundantly bless us through Jesus Christ. He will grant the wisdom to direct all our paths toward him and will also grant the wisdom and contentment to say with the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

 

[i] Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1966), 100.

[ii] Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 116, in The Psalter with Doctrinal Standards, Liturgy, Church Order, and Added Chorale Section, reprinted and revised edition of the 1912 United Presbyterian Psalter (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1927), 16.

[iii] Heidelberg Catechism A124, in The Psalter, 18.

 

 

According to George Barna, only 3-5% of Americans tithe. Also according to George Barna, the average donation by adults who attend U.S. Protestant churches is about $17 a week. According to Ron Blue, incomes have gone up 9-10 times in the last 20 years while giving has gone down about 50%. According to Ron and Sylvia Ronsvalle, if members of historically Christian churches in the United States had raised their giving to the Old Testament’s minimum standard of giving (10% of income) in 2000, an additional $139 billion a year would become available.

These are a few statistics on the current state of giving. They are not very encouraging. The trend in society today is toward getting, not giving.

Giving is the highest thing that we can do with our money. Luke tells us in Acts 20:35 that to give is better than to receive. When we spend money, we are receiving something. When we are saving money, it is with a goal in mind. When we give money, we receive no physical, material possessions.

What does it mean to give? A good definition of giving is to let go, to deliberately choose to receive nothing in return for our money. When we give we expect no compensation. When we give we place our money in someone else’s care. When we give we transfer possession, relinquish, or surrender our money.

We ought to keep in mind here that we are stewards. We are not really giving. We are managing on behalf of God and giving to others on his behalf. When we say that we give it is true only to the extent that God first gave to us.

What explains the statistics in the introduction? Why is giving so low? What hinders giving? There are several reasons. The primary reason is debt. People wake up in the morning and sing the little song “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” Credit cards, student loans, cars, and houses all have payments. It is hard to give to charity when all of our income is going to pay for our stuff. The second reason is poor money management. When there is no plan of spending, i.e. no budget, the income we earn just goes in every direction until it’s gone. The third major reason is not enough money. Jesus said in Matthew 26:11 that the poor will always be with us.

There are many good reasons to give, but first let’s look at why we shouldn’t give. We should never give so that we can get more. Do not be greedy. There is no financial formula in Scripture that says that the more money you give the more money God will bless you with. We should never give as a form of a bribe. There are many references in Scripture that associate bribery with the ungodly. We should never give for our prestige. We are instructed very graphically what God thinks of us when we try this. Ananias and Sapphira tried this in Acts 5 and paid for it with their lives.

There are many reasons why we should give. The primary reason we should give is exactly because we are stewards. When we give we remind ourselves of our position of steward. We remember that what we give is not ours, but God’s.

Another reason to give is that the act of giving makes us less selfish and more Christ-like. We place others higher than ourselves. We humble ourselves just as Jesus did, and we become similar to him.

A third reason to give is because it is an act of praise and worship. All giving is an act of worship, but giving is explicitly commanded to take place on the Lord’s Day. Giving is a part of keeping the Sabbath day holy.

A final reason to give is because we have been given so much! Not one of us can say that our needs are not met. We live in the United States, the richest country in the history of our planet.

God has placed promises in his Word to those who give. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10). Here God both throws down a challenge to his people and a promise to those who take up this challenge. God says that when you give he will provide and bless.

This leads to the second idea, which is found in Matthew 6. Jesus tells us to lay up treasure in heaven and not to worry about our earthly possessions. We are shown here that Jesus will provide for us while on this earth. We are also shown that when we give our money, which is part of our whole walk in life, we are laying up treasures in heaven. Just as in Malachi, God tells us here that when you give he will provide and bless.

We all agree to give, but how much should we give? Some have been given much and some little. What guidelines can we use? We can come close to the proper mindset by asking some questions from the point of view of a steward. The owner will ask, “How much of my money will I give to God?” but the steward will ask, “How much of God’s money will I keep?” The owner will ask, “Do I want to buy this?” but the steward will ask, “How will this purchase affect my ability to advance God’s kingdom?”

There is disagreement on how much we should give today. The Old Testament clearly teaches tithing. Jesus agrees with the practice in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42. In the middle of his railing on the hypocritical Pharisees, he actually commends them on one thing: the tithe. He approves of the giving of 10%. I Corinthians 16:2 is often cited as a rebuttal. It reads, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” It is said that we are to give as “God hath prospered” us and that this does away with the tithe.

The way I view I Corinthians 16:2 is that it does not do away with anything, but merely implies that our giving should be proportionate to our income. What proportion then? I find no other proportion mentioned in the New Testament, so I fall back on the only proportion mentioned, the tithe. Also, I have heard it said (and agree), “When in doubt, give, because you can’t outgive God.”

Who should the tithe go to? The church. The church then has the responsibility to give to those who are in need. Those in need are the widow (I Tim. 5:16), the poor (Matt. 26:11), and the pastor (I Cor. 9:14).

It is not enough to know that we have to give, how much to give, and who to give to, but it is also very important that we give the right way. We need to have the proper attitude when we give. There are three attitudes that we need when giving. The first is that we fulfill the great commandment while giving. We need to give out of love for God and love for others. This is thankful giving. This is willingly giving to God because he gave so much for us. The second attitude is to give cheerfully. “God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Cor. 9:7). This again emphasizes thankful giving. The third reason is to give purposefully. Again, II Corinthians 9:7 says, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give.” Giving should be a conscious and deliberate action.

Giving God’s money away is the best thing we can do with it. Placing God first is the most rewarding thing we can do with God’s money. When we meditate on the gift of salvation God has given to us and consider again how much material prosperity we have been given in this country, we can’t help but be thankful for the love and goodness he has showed to us. We prove through our actions that we are a grateful people, grateful for the death and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ. It is because of him that we have, and it is to him that we give.

Bibliography

Larry Burkett, Business by the Book (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998).

Larry Burkett, Your Finances In Changing Times (Chicago: Moody, 1993).

“The Christian and Money,” Southwest Summer Seminar 2002.

Crown Ministries, Inc., Practical Application Workbook (Longwood, FL: Crown Ministries, Inc., 1996).

Dr. David Jeremiah, Investing for Eternity (San Diego: Turning Point for God, 2003).

  1. W. Pink, “Tithing,” http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Tithing/tithing_01.htm, http://www. pbministries.org/books/pink/Tithing/tithing_02.htm.

Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace Revisited (New York: Viking, 2003).

According to a study released by Public Agenda, 46% of all Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 96% of all Americans will retire financially dependent on the government, family, or charity. A 1992 Federal Reserve study showed that 43% of U.S. families spent more than they earned.

We stated earlier that spending money was a problem. Saving money is also a problem. These two ideas are closely tied together. If you don’t quit spending money, you can’t save money.

As stewards what is our responsibility in saving money? How much should we save? Where should we save our money? Why should we save? A lot of questions surround this topic. Thank God that he has given us his Word to answer these questions.

Should a steward save money? Yes. We turn again to Joseph. When he was Pharaoh’s steward he saved for seven years. He knew that a famine was coming. This shows us an important principle: save for emergencies.

Emergencies happen all the time. How are you going to pay for a new furnace? A new transmission for the car? An accident that causes medical bills? We never plan on these events, but common sense tells us that they will happen. When will an emergency happen? Probably when you least want or expect it. When we have some money saved and set aside, emergencies aren’t so bad. Let’s say the car breaks down, and it is going to cost $500 to get fixed. There are two problems in fixing the car: the first is the inconvenience of a car that doesn’t run, and the second is paying the mechanic. It is much less stressful to have saved a little out of every paycheck than to have the stress of two problems at once.

There is a different kind of saving promoted in the Bible other than for emergencies. That is to save in anticipation of a need in the future. When David was preparing for the building of the temple, he saved. He collected every type of material needed for it.

Some of the things that we might save for are a house, car, furniture, or retirement and inheritance. Long-term planning is needed. We need to think about the future and plan ahead.

In Bible times the people lived in an agricultural society. Much of their money was in the form of grain. When they saved “money” they placed it in storehouses. In what type of “storehouse” should a steward place his money? Should he buy CDs? Or place it in the bank? Should he invest in the stock market? Or real estate? Or should he just place it under his mattress?

There are two ideas given to us in the Bible. The first is that we should do something. We can’t just bury it. Jesus made this clear in the parable of the talents. The man who was given one talent was told that he should have at least put his to the exchangers for usury (Matt. 25:27). This rules out the idea of placing our savings under the mattress.

The second principle the Bible shows us about where to save for future purchases is diversification. Diversification is a big word that tells us that we should not put all of our money in one spot. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 11:2, “Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.” To put all your eggs in one basket is not a wise idea. It should be spread around because disasters may hit.

There is a danger associated with saving money. Some people hoard money. Hoarding money is a bad idea. When hoarding money the focus of a person’s life is on material possessions. Money becomes an idol for them. They look at money as a scorecard: the more they get, the better the score. They use it for bragging rights. They use it to buy pleasure. They use it for their own consumption rather than for the kingdom. What does Jesus say? “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:20). At some point saving money will do us no good at all.

This idea is illustrated in the parable of the rich fool found in Luke 12. He had a very good crop. He was going to store it away and have many good years of ease and luxury. Of course it did not work because his life was required of him.

When we die we can’t take any money with us. Money doesn’t do us any good after we die. (I never saw a U-haul following a hearse). Money is just a tool. We need it, but we need it in context of the greater reality that we are not of this earth. We are here for a while, and then we go home. We use money to meet our needs and the needs of the kingdom here, then we go home.

One of the main reasons people save money today is for retirement. What is biblical retirement? Can a steward just sit back and relax? No. Why? A steward is a manager. If you are only relaxing, taking it easy, you are, by definition, not managing.

When we think about biblical retirement, we must think work. The Bible sets the calling before us to work. We have work to do. We need to be busy in that work. We may not quit but must persevere. We must continue to teach and train. There are many opportunities to serve in the kingdom; we need only ask: what can I do?

When we think biblical retirement we must keep in mind the type of work to be done. It should be obvious that the work of the parent with small children will be significantly different than the work of the great-grandparent. We are called to work as we are able. As we grow older it is OK to slow the pace.

Maybe there are some stewards who are reading this and thinking, “Retirement? I do a budget, I make good money, I even send my kids to a Christian school! I don’t have enough money left over to save!”

This is a legitimate concern. Two things should be pointed out to those who have this concern. First, the good manager also realizes that there are events that are outside our control, and no matter how much we save we will not be able to cover those events. That is where we have peace in trusting God. We can be thankful that no matter what happens we confess that God is sovereign. He is in control of all things. If it is his will that our lives mirror Job, then we must have the confession of Job also. Job 1:21 says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

The second thing is that the Bible addresses this concern in Proverbs 30:7-9. Agur desires neither poverty nor riches. Both extremes lead to danger. If you have just enough to meet your obligations, be thankful. God has provided. He provides for the birds of the air. He provides for the grass in the field. He will provide for you.

There are, in general, two problems that stand in the way of saving money. The first is lack of work. The second is overspending.

Lack of work can happen due to many reasons. In any case the Lord calls us to provide for our family (1 Tim. 5:8). If there is some reason that we have fallen on hard times we can be thankful that God has given us his Word to give us direction. It says that first we are to first go to our family for our needs. If our family can’t help, then we should go to the deacons of the church; it is their responsibility before God to help. If there is a reason why you can’t get a job, they will be able to help with that too. It is not their obligation to give you employment, or to give you contacts of people to talk to, but they can take a fresh look at your situation, and with compassion, give some insight and wisdom on some ideas that you can take up to help yourself.

The second reason we can’t save money is due to overspending. There is a symptom of overspending: debt. Debt occurs any time that you owe. If you are making payments you are in debt. Credit cards, student loans, car loans, and mortgages are all forms of debt. Many people today think that these are not debt because they can make the payments. Payments are part of a contract to repay debt. What happens if payments stop? Harassing phone calls, lawsuits, garnished wages, repossessed cars, and foreclosures will happen.

Debt, like money, is amoral. The Bible does not prohibit debt. The Bible does not say that having debt is a sin. The Bible does not say that if you are in debt you are sinning. However, the Bible does have many things to say about debt. In fact, there is not one positive reference about debt in the Bible. The Bible says:

—it is not wise to be in debt (Matt. 18:23-35).

—we should not be surety for another (cosign for another) (Prov. 6:1-5).

—we should get out of debt (Rom. 13:8).

—we have the obligation to repay our debts (Matt. 18:23-35).

Another thing the Bible says about debt is that it changes relationships. Consider Proverbs 22:7: “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” God says, through Solomon, that those who are in debt are servants. As soon as someone goes into debt to another, the relationship between the two is immediately defined. There is one master. There is one servant. Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to servanthood?

Debt (borrowing) is associated with not obeying God’s commandments. We read in Deuteronomy 28:15, 43-44, “If thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments… The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail.” To be in debt is the result of not following God’s commandments.

Debt, although not a sin, is a problem. In the church we are not immune to this problem. When we go into debt we feel the pain of it. This pain includes uneasiness and anxiety over bill paying.

As stewards what can we do to cure the problem of debt? Ask the question this way: what can we do to cure the problem of overspending? Or this way: how is a Christian steward supposed to save money?

We need to realize that there is a symptom and a root problem. Think about it this way. If you have cancer and take some aspirin you may feel better. The aspirin makes the pain go away, but it does not make the cancer go away. Using this analogy, debt is the symptom of a deeper problem: overspending. We can take care of the symptom and pay off all of our debt (cars, loans, mortgages), but if we do not cut out the root of the problem (overspending) the symptom (debt) will grow back.

We have mental perceptions of borrowing. These perceptions come from the world. Our thought process has been influenced by the world. Our senses have been appealed to by marketing. We see, then buy. If we can’t afford something we justify the “need,” take a loan, then buy.

An example of our perception being altered is through professors in the universities. They teach us to borrow, take that money, and invest it.

Another example of our perception being altered is through peer pressure. Everyone around us has the best stuff, like a house, car, or clothes. So we want to fit in. We want to be liked. What do we do? We go buy the newest designer clothes, or the fancy sports car, or the brand new house.

Again, how do we cure the problem of debt? How do we cure the problem of overspending and start saving? We need to take our mental perceptions and turn them on their head. We need to say no to the world’s way of handling money. We need to handle money God’s way.

We need to say “NO.” It’s just that easy. But it’s that hard! It takes discipline to say “NO.” It takes self-control to say “NO.”

To say “NO” to debt, to say “NO” to stuff, takes nothing less than God’s grace. The first thing that we need to do is acknowledge that our way of handling money isn’t working. Start by saying, “Yes, God, you are right on this whole money thing. The way I’ve been using money is wrong. Lord, help me to be a better steward.”

We need to pray. We need to bring our problems to God in prayer. We need to seek out his help. We need to study his Word. We need to start today by making three commitments.

The first commitment was stated earlier: budget. Review your finances. Start writing things down and prioritize them in order of importance. Do a budget.

Second, make a commitment to educate yourself. Go to your Christian book store and buy something to read. Take a class. There is a ton of excellent material out there on how to handle money God’s way. Go dig some up and educate yourself.

Third, make a commitment to never, ever, ever, ever borrow any money for anything ever, ever, ever again. The borrower is a slave. Instead of strapping yourself with debt and payments, be free from slavery. Debt is the broad, easy to follow, well-traveled road. Do not take it. Do not borrow.

Saving money is a good thing. When we save we are managing God’s way. There should normally be a little left over. This little should have a defined use. Whether it is for an emergency, a house, some type of biblical retirement, or an inheritance, all of these types of saving can be done out of love. Love for the neighbor and the fellow saint can be shown through biblical saving of money.

Bibliography

Larry Burkett, Your Finances In Changing Times (Chicago: Moody, 1993).

“The Christian and Money,” Southwest Summer Seminar 2002.

Crown Ministries, Inc., Practical Application Workbook (Longwood, FL: Crown Ministries, Inc., 1996).

Dr. David Jeremiah, Investing for Eternity (San Diego: Turning Point for God, 2003).

Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace Revisited (New York: Viking, 2003).

Larry Burkett, Business by the Book (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998).

Peter Y. De Jong, The Ministry of Mercy for Today (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2003).

According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. As Americans we have no problem spending money. We are the richest society in the history of the world. We are also the most marketed to society in the history of the world.

You can’t open a newspaper without seeing advertisements. You can’t drive down the road without seeing billboards. You can’t brush your teeth without noticing the type of toothpaste. You can’t cook a meal, get a snack, or even refer to a snack without marketing. Marketing is everywhere you look, it is on everything you touch, when you smell something you think of a brand name, when tasting you think of a company, you even recognize different tunes and associate them with products.

We are very good at ignoring all this marketing. We tend to overlook it. We don’t see it or just throw it in the trash.

This marketing is successful. The proof is all the money that is spent on it. It is successful because it tends to take our money a dollar or two at a time. We spend, spend, spend, and before you know it some marketing firm teams up with the Wall Street Journal to point out that 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck!

This is just one piece of evidence that tells us that as a society we spend too much. As Christians we live in this society and are subject to its same pressures. We too can easily get into the unconscious habit of spending money.

As stewards we are managers of God’s money. We need to be conscious of the pressures society places on us. We also need to be proactive in taking steps to ensure that when we spend our God given money, it is for his use and the advancement of his kingdom.

When a steward spends too much, this is due to mismanagement. The single most common type of mismanagement is of our resources.

Before we look at mismanagement, we should look at a unique case. There are those who manage properly but still need to spend more than they can earn. Those individuals can point to circumstances that could include a long history of poor health or lack of employment. To those people God gave the helping hands of their family and their church. God always provides for his own.

It is good to point out here that those who find themselves in a pinch financially have the church. God has given those who need relief the ministry of the diaconate. God, through his church, will make sure those that need support will get it. (On the other hand, if you are acting like a lazy schlub, they will make you get your act together!)

Mismanagement of resources and spending are often the same thing. Part of the reason there is so much spending today is due to marketing. Another part of the reason there is so much spending today is addiction to stuff. You could call this a spiritual disease called “stuffitis.” Stuffitis is the condition where you want more stuff, you think you need more stuff, you want bigger and better stuff, you want the latest and greatest stuff, you just can’t get enough stuff.

Stuffitis is a spiritual condition linked with covetousness. Covetousness is a spiritual disease running rampant in our affluent society today. Stuffitis is a physical manifestation of a spiritual reality.

The process is this. People are shown some stuff through marketing. People perceive this stuff as a “need.” Being constantly bombarded with this marketing, people cave in to this want and buy stuff. This stuff makes them feel good both because they own it and because they can show it off to their friends. The next week they perceive another “need.” They go buy more stuff. The cycle continues. There is no end to the spending.

This spiritual condition plagues our society today. Another statistic is that the savings rate in 2000 was -2.2%. People just can’t wait to spend all that they have and then some more! They are spending on things that are not necessities. Very few of the luxuries are helping out God’s kingdom. How can most people say, “I loved God and my neighbor with all my heart, and soul, and strength when I bought that”?

Stuffitis is a lack of contentment. When we see something we wish to have for our own, we borrow to buy it and justify it by saying, “I deserve a break every once in a while.” But we are instructed in I Timothy 6:6 , “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” The covetous man forgets the fact that the money is not his! The covetous man forgets that he is a steward.

Everywhere we turn we are mercilessly hit with marketing. We all have a weak spot. What can we do? How can we control our spending? There are a few practical things that we can do to manage our spending.

The first thing we can do is care. Remember Joseph; it took a lot of effort to manage the whole land of Egypt. Now, obviously God has not called us to manage a whole country, but we each do have an individual responsibility. If we do not show ourselves worthy in managing a few things, how can God trust us in the managing of greater things?

Look at the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 . Those stewards were given talents (money) just as we have. Some were given a little, some more, and some much. They, knowing their master, did not just spend all the money. There is no principle difference in the stewards of that parable and us. They had in their head who their master was and how he dealt with those who were unfaithful. We too, once we get in our head who our master is, will not find it difficult to stop spending all our money.

It should be pointed out that knowing our master gives us incentive. Knowing our master gives us motivation to care. We need to learn who the master is. We need to understand him. Once we know who he is—sovereign, creator, ruler, sustainer, good, loving, caring, and giving—we have no problem being motivated to obey. When we are filled with knowledge of him, we are filled with the knowledge both of our own shortcomings and how much he has done for us. With this knowledge it is easy to care because we are so thankful.

How can we show our thankfulness? As a steward we can show our thankfulness by doing a budget.

A budget is a tool used to help us manage what we own. Just like a carpenter uses tools to build a home, we need financial tools. You wouldn’t think of eating soup without a tool called a spoon, would you? So too, we should not think of managing God’s possessions without using a tool called a budget. A budget helps us figure out what a need is and a want is.

A budget is the essence of planning with money. Stewards need to plan.

Jesus advocated good long-term planning in Luke 14:28-30 . Count the cost of being a disciple of his. Be a steward who plans the future. He gives a very practical earthly example of a heavenly truth. When anticipating what may happen in the future, we would be foolish to not count the cost ahead of time.

We can prove to God that we are stewards who care by doing a budget. A budget will help us to understand our money. We will understand how much we make. We will understand how much we spend. We will also understand where we are spending. A budget is a means to an end. A budget takes work. It doesn’t come automatically. Money is fluid, and marketing is rampant; a budget takes work.

A budget is not a bad thing. It is good. There are rewards for budgeting. There are rewards for sticking to a budget.

The first reward for sticking to a budget is that managed money goes further. I experienced this myself. When I started budgeting I immediately felt like I received a 10% raise. When you budget you realize where your money is going. When you actively manage it you control where it goes. You apply it to where it needs to be most.

The second reward of budgeting is communication. When you do a budget you are placing your priorities on paper. It has been said, “Show me your checkbook, and I will show you what your priorities are.” You tell me where you spend your money, and I will tell you what the most important things in your life are. You write everything down. You think about the future. What bills are we going to have next month? It shows you how much you have coming in and going out, and it helps you manage what you have, making it go farther.

A budget is a great communication tool for those who are married. Both the husband and the wife get together and agree on the next month’s spending. By so doing they come into agreement on common goals. When they talk about these goals they are talking about the future. They end up communicating about their hopes, their goals, their fears, and their dreams.

The third reward of budgeting is accountability. Do you overspend? If you had every receipt for every purchase you made in the last year, could you take all of them and spread them out across the table for others to look at? God sees. It also creates accountability in the sense that when we have a written budget, it is then “in stone.” We are accountable to it, and if married, to each other.

The fourth reward of budgeting is giving. As our money is managed well, we can give more. Many times in the Old Testament we read of “tithes and offerings.” The tithe is a good standard to go by. As we manage our money well we are going to be able to take some of the extra and be financially able to offer it for the use of the kingdom.

To do a budget you need to figure out how much you really spend. Take away all the luxuries and get down to the basics. Start by asking yourself, “How little could I live on?” Although it is not my intent to show all the particulars on how a budget works, I will include the budget basics. (To look at any particulars of budgeting pick up a copy of one of the works cited books.) A budget has many parts.

Tithe. We start with the tithe. Remember, have faith in God. Place him first. He has proved himself faithful and deserves our firstfruits. “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase” ( Prov. 3:19 ).

Food. Before you do anything else, buy food. Not Mc-Burgers, not fancy eating out, but food. Take care of this first. Eating out is not wrong, but before we spend luxuriously on ourselves we need to take care of first things first. We need to know how much we really need so we can do an accurate tally of how far our money will really go.

Shelter. You need someplace to sleep: a house or an apartment. No one, even in the USA, needs a 4,000 square foot house. Again, it is not wrong to have that, but it can’t be justified as a necessity.

Transportation. You need reliable transportation. Notice that I did not say a $38,000 SUV. In most cases, for most people, that would be an extreme luxury.

Utilities. Part of the basic necessities of life is having running water, having the electric bill paid, and having the trash picked up each week.

When we spend money on the tithe, food, shelter, transportation, and utilities, a lot of what we do is the same as those in society around us. So what’s the difference? Attitude. Why you do it. It comes from the heart. We are told to work for the Lord and not for men ( Eph. 6:7 ). That includes our spending: when we shop for food, when we cook the food, when we buy a home or a car, and when we pay our utility bills. Why are we doing it?

God cares about what house you buy, he cares about why you bought that car, and he cares about how you do it. All things must be toward God’s glory. God cares about your attitude when you spend money. He cares about your motive in spending money. This is what makes our spending different from that of the world. When we buy groceries or cook a meal we can be conscious of doing those things out of love for our family.

So think about why you are buying your next car. Are you doing it to look cool? Are you just sick of your old one (and not content)? Are you only looking at the payment and not the sticker price? Or do you need something safe and reliable?

When we spend God’s way we manage money wisely. We know what we are spending: God’s money. We know how much we are spending: enough to cover necessities. We know why we are spending: we are spending thankfully and out of love for those around us.

Bibliography

Larry Burkett, Your Finances In Changing Times (Chicago: Moody, 1993).

“The Christian and Money,” Southwest Summer Seminar 2002.

Crown Ministries, Inc., Practical Application Workbook (Longwood, FL: Crown Ministries, Inc., 1996).

Dr. David Jeremiah, Investing for Eternity (San Diego: Turning Point for God, 2003).

Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace Revisited (New York: Viking, 2003).

STOP, DO NOT READ THIS ARTICLE UNTIL YOU HAVE BLANK PAPER AND SOMETHING TO WRITE WITH!! Take the paper and write down the five most valuable things that you have. Next, write down five things that are in your living room.

What is stewardship? Stewardship is a gift of God to us whereby we are to manage the possessions given to us in a responsible way. A steward works on behalf of another. A steward has been given the responsibility of managing some or all of the possessions of another. A steward does not own anything.

Let’s look at the idea of ownership. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” There are two principles about ownership in this verse.

The first principle is that the Lord owns the world. He created it and can do with it what he pleases. When we are given possessions by God, we must realize that they are not our own but belong to him. Everything we have belongs to God. Our house, cars, furniture, every appliance in the kitchen, every electronic gadget, our retirement accounts, every dollar, every dime, every last penny you have: it’s all his. None of it is yours. Some examples of these things given to us are what you wrote down on your two lists.

The second principle is that the Lord owns all the people in the world. God owns you and me. God owns every part of you and every part of me. He owns our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength. Since he created us and owns us, he has the authority to tell us what to do.

We can see an example of a steward in Joseph (Gen. 39:1-6). Joseph had a rough start by being sold into slavery, but “the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man.” Joseph was made “overseer” of his master’s house. The story continues with the Lord blessing “all that he had in the house, and in the field.”

Joseph was treated unjustly but rose again to be a steward in the house of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:40-45). He was set over all the people of Egypt. He was given rule over every person and every thing except Pharaoh himself.

What did he do that was different than everyone else in the land of Egypt? There were multitudes of people in Egypt, but there was something different about Joseph that set him apart.

A second example of a steward is Daniel. Like Joseph, he started out as a slave. Through his ability he rose to be the second in command in Babylon (Dan. 2:48). After Babylon was conquered by Darius, king of the Medes and Persians, Daniel proved to be an excellent steward. He was to be set over all the land.

What did Daniel do to set himself apart from the millions of people in Babylon? Even after Babylon fell, King Darius recognized Daniel as the most capable man in the whole land. What did he do differently than everyone else? How did he conduct himself? What kind of character did he have?

The first thing any steward does is to put God first. Stewards put God first by placing their faith in him. As Christians and stewards, we have the example and testimony of our forefathers. God gave us these examples so that we could look at and study them. As we look and study, we can follow the examples of faith.

We see a great example of the faith Joseph had in Genesis 41:16. Before he even heard Pharaoh’s dream, he said that God would give an answer. He was so confident that he told Pharaoh he knew that God would provide an answer. He didn’t even know what the question was!

We take this lesson of faith for our lives too. To place faith in God is to trust him. Can we follow Joseph’s example? Can we, before we hear any of the particulars of what it means to be a steward, trust God in this? God has given us many commands in the Bible, but each one of his commands is designed for our spiritual well being. Certainly, God as our loving Father in heaven would never command us to do anything that would be to our hurt (see Matt. 7:9-11). God is a trustworthy God. With this kind of God, we can be confident, just as Joseph was confident.

Confidence, which is part of faith, shows itself through prayer. Prayer is communication with God. Prayer is where we make our requests known to God. Prayer is where we ask for God’s help in our lives. Prayer is where we thank God for everything he has given us. It is where we thank God for everything he has done for us.

Daniel showed this confidence when he desired God’s mercy. Because Nebuchadnezzar had decided to kill all the wise men in the land, Daniel needed to know both a dream and its interpretation. He prayed. He made his request known to God. He was told the dream and its interpretation. When given the answer he praised God and gave thanks (Dan. 2:16-23).

We should follow Daniel’s example of faith and pray. We need to give thanks for the abundance of possessions God gave us to manage. We need to ask what God will have us to do with all our possessions. We should look for an answer. When we pray, when we ask in faith, God will answer.

Following prayer, faith in stewardship will also show itself by listening to God. To listen is to hear. But how do we hear? We look to see what God says. And what does God say? He says many things. He has written them down in the Bible. In order to listen to God, we must read and study the Bible. Reading and studying should be done as an individual, as a family, and with fellow saints at church. When this is done, faith, part of which is knowledge, increases.

We look again to the example of Daniel. Daniel had faith. Daniel listened. “And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm” (Dan. 1:20). The only way that Daniel could have been found better is because he was granted true wisdom. This type of wisdom comes from God through prayer (James 1:5). Daniel knew the Word of God. He had education, and he had the majority of what we know as the Old Testament. He prayed over the Word every day. He studied the Word every day. Through daily study he listened to God and became wiser than all those around him.

We too can understand our role as steward better by following the example of Daniel. When we study, we are listening to what God has to say. When we have personal devotions, we meditate on what God says. When we sit with the family or in a Bible study, we have the opportunity to ask questions, the opportunity to listen to others, and the opportunity to grow in our understanding.

What is one of the things we hear? WORK! A good manager doesn’t do just enough to get by but will exert himself. This requires a lot of effort. This effort will keep us very busy. The details of our work will keep us busy from when we wake up to when we go to bed. We have many possessions that we have to manage for God. Our houses need repair, our cars need oil changes, and our family needs to be fed. There is no end to the details of the work to do.

Joseph “went throughout all the land of Egypt” (Gen. 41:46). He was busy on Pharaoh’s behalf in Genesis 47:13-26. He was in charge of the storehouses of corn. He traded the surpluses of corn for money. When the money ran out, he traded for cattle. When Pharaoh owned all the cattle, Joseph traded for labor. Day after day, year after year, he had to attend to all the details.

To see some of the results of the work of a steward, we turn yet again to the life of Daniel. We see that his work has three results. First, we see him praising God (Dan. 2:19-23). After he received an answer to prayer he praised God.

Second, we see his actions leading others to praise God. Nebuchadnezzar, in Daniel 2:47 says, “Your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings.”

A little later in Daniel’s life, we see a third result. The kingdom of God was advanced after Daniel was pulled out of the den of lions. In Daniel 6:25-27, king Darius wrote a decree to “all the earth.” This decree set God apart from all other gods. This decree showed to everyone in the known world who God was and what he was capable of.

These three results of work in the life of Daniel also serve as examples for us to follow. First, as managers we must praise God. We have been given so much. Where do we start? Since you probably skipped right over it, reread and follow the instructions in the first paragraph of this article. Now, start your praise with the list of the five most valuable things that you wrote down. Next, look around you. Look in your living room (did you write these five things down yet?), your bedroom, your car, your savings account, your—these are some of the things you can put a price tag on. Praise God for these things! Some things without a price tag are your ability to read, to think, to work, and to love others. Praise God for these too!

The second result of our managing is praise to God on the part of other people. Others look at us. They see us. They see our walk. They see our lifestyle. They hear our conversation. What do they say? Do they praise God for having you in their lives? Do they give thanks to God for the many various ways that you have helped out? We cannot control how others react to what we say and do, but it must be clear to all around us that we are different, set apart; in a word: Christian.

The third result of our work is that the kingdom of God should be advanced. What we say and do will either help or hinder the kingdom of God. Everything we do sets an example. We are stewards of our time; how are we using it? We can teach others. We can lead others. We can give in so many ways: of our time, our talents, and our money. All these things can be put to good use in the kingdom.

What a great responsibility we have with those possessions we have been given to manage on behalf of God. What are we going to do with our possessions to advance the kingdom? Specifically, what are we going to do with our money to advance the kingdom?

Stewardship applies to our money. Each of us has been given money to manage. There are countless uses of our money. Each use, though, must have one common result: it must advance the kingdom of God.

There are countless uses of our money, but those uses can be broken down into three categories. We can spend it, we can save it, or we can give it. We will take a specific look at these three aspects of stewardship in upcoming articles.

Bibliography

Larry Burkett, Your Finances In Changing Times (Chicago: Moody, 1993).

“The Christian and Money,” Southwest Summer Seminar 2002.

Crown Ministries, Inc., Practical Application Workbook (Longwood, FL: Crown Ministries, Inc., 1996).

Dr. David Jeremiah, Investing for Eternity (San Diego: Turning Point for God, 2003).

Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace Revisited (New York: Viking, 2003).

The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]

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The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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