Money and Motives
- Thursday, September 04, 2008
It was Martin Luther who said, "There are three conversions a person needs to experience: The conversion of the head, the conversion of the heart, and the conversion of the pocketbook."
It is worth noting that money is such an important topic in the Bible that it is the main subject of nearly half of the parables Jesus told. In addition, one in every seven verses in the New Testament deals with this topic. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, fewer than 500 verses on faith, and more than 2,000 verses on money.
In fact, 15 percent of everything Jesus ever taught was on the topic of money and possessions-more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined.
Why such an emphasis on money and possessions? There is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money.
When Zaccheus the tax collector converted, he wanted to right his wrongs. He declared to Jesus that he would give half his possessions to the poor and would pay back four times the amount he had overcharged anyone on their taxes. Zacchaeus' encounter with Christ affected every aspect of his life, including his pocketbook.
We might recoil from any teaching on money, because such teaching is sometimes abused and used for personal gain. But we need to get a proper biblical perspective on this important subject. Let's consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:
"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly." (Matthew 6:1-4 NKJV).
In other words, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. Over and over again, our Lord comes back to motive, and He addresses it here when He speaks of giving.
Every believer should be giving a portion of his or her finances to the Lord on a regular basis, but it should not be done in an ostentatious way or in a manner that would draw unnecessary attention. When people want to be noticed because of their giving, they want others to think they are more spiritual than they really are. This is hypocrisy.
When we give, when we pray, when we worship, or whatever we do, God is looking at our hearts. Motive is everything. When you give, realize that God is aware of it. It comes down to this: If we remember, God will forget. If we forget, God will remember. Leave the bookkeeping to God.
In the same chapter, Jesus addressed the subject of possessions: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . "(Matthew 6:19-20 NKJV).
The above phrase literally could be translated, "to lay up something horizontally, as in storing it permanently." This verse isn't saying that it is wrong to save or invest your money. What it is saying is that it is wrong to accumulate possessions for the sake of accumulating them and, more specifically, for the purpose of impressing others.
Jesus was not teaching against being blessed with material things. Of the many instructions He gave, only once did He tell an individual to sell his possessions and give them to the poor. This person was the rich, young ruler, and Jesus recognized that he was possessed by his possessions.
The point is, we are to keep things in perspective, recognizing that everything we have comes from God and that He provides it for us with a purpose in mind. Don't put your hope in material things. They will all be gone some day. If your primary ambition is material things and then you try to make your primary ambition the things of God, it won't work. You can't do both.
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