Great Wealth

1 Timothy 6:2-10

Teach these things, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

I grew up in a stereotypical affluent city in Southern California. Many of the kids I went to school with came from wealthy families who lived in huge houses (they were mansions to me), drove top of the line cars and wore every name brand item that hung on the rack. Unbeknownst to me, my dad made pretty good money back in those days, but like many kids in America, I felt neglected because my parents refused to give me everything my little greedy heart desired. Still, I always had enough food and plenty of clothing…

25 years later, Doug & I are now the parents who are trying to train our children (Proverbs 22:6) to be content.  Fortunately, God’s Word provides all the answers we need. Unfortunately, however, there is much division among biblical teachers & preachers in regards to how God’s truth is to be applied. According to some, we, God’s children are heirs in His Kingdom; therefore, we should have faith for wealth, health and prosperity (just to name a few). Because, after all, God loves His children and wants to bless us…right?

According to Matthew 7:7-11, God DOES love us and wants to give us good gifts, but these gifts are of His Spirit, not treasures that are temporal (Matthew 6:19-21).

So what if all this great wealth is a test for His children, instead of a platform for an inspirational teaching about the accrual of treasure?

Imagine if we, His heirs chose to worship Him by giving 10% to the church to Advance His Kingdom in our communities, nation and throughout the world. Imagine if we also gave above the tithe to others whom God has prompted us to serve. Imagine if we were good stewards and spent less than the numbers on our paycheck each month.  Imagine if we saved for the future. Imagine if we paid cash for big purchases instead of accruing a larger balance on our credit cards. Imagine if we stopped comparing our lives to the Jones’ (whoever they are) in the Kingdom and in the world and choose to be content with what God has given us!

How could those few things change the world for Christ? I can only speak from personal experience and say that it has radically changed my husband’s life and mine. When Doug and I were DINKS (Dual Income No Kids), we made good money, but squandered most of it. When I became a stay-at-home unpaid mom, we were somehow able to live on less money with more people to support. We were able to tithe 10% of our gross income to our local church. We were able to give to others out of an overflow. We were able to sacrifice our wants to get out of credit card debt. We were able to pay cash for unexpected emergencies. And we were able to afford to have a little fun, too.

How were we able? By loving Jesus.

John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, obey[a] my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[b] who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.[c] 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

I wish I could say that I am no longer tempted by great wealth. I am. Comparison to the Jones’ can do that to you…but thankfully, as I continue to pursue an attitude of gratitude towards Our Provider by daily surrendering to His will through Worship, Prayer & His Word, I have been able to avoid all kinds of evil.

Father, would you help me know your truth about wealth and how that applies to my life? Thank you for blessing me with the gifts of your Spirit- and for the abundance of food, clothing and material objects we possess. May your Spirit always keep my heart content, whether our bank account dwindles or expands.

Amen

Infinitely More

Ephesians 3:14-20

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[a] 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[b] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

I’ll admit it: when something breaks in our household, it ticks me off! The inconvenience of an item not functioning properly, the amount of time it will take to fix it, and the extra money invested in parts and repairs can sometimes turn me into Oscar the Grouch.

During the last few weeks, however, God has been showing me a different perspective of life’s little inconveniences.

Item #1:

After we installed a new deck, purchased a used hot tub and paid a licensed electrician to wire it, the dang thing wouldn’t turn on! Somehow I knew that God had a lesson in all of it, so I prayed: Lord, please help me not to blame the electrician…let this install somehow be a blessing to him. Would you pleeeeeease miraculously fix the wiring so we don’t have to hire anyone else.”

He didn’t answer my prayer exactly as I asked, but He did send a friend over who switched the wires and POOF! The jets turned on. As the kids (they too had been praying for the Jacuzzi to be miraculously fixed) and I went screaming into the backyard, shouting “Thank you, God! Hallelujah!” our friend smiled, realizing that God had answered our prayers.

infinitely more than we might ask or think…..

(I won’t go into great detail of the leak that started pudding inside the frame of the hot tub a week later…because God sent another friend to fix that in about 2 seconds and the rest of the night we sat encouraging one another, as we all are enduring an extremely busy and difficult season in life).

infinitely more than we might ask or think…..

Item #2:

When the 2nd time in 4 months that our fridge stopped cooling, I had had it! “Lord, would you pleeeease fix this supernaturally- or send us a new one FREE of charge!” After the repairman came to assess the damage, we realized we just needed to replace another part that had worn out. So, I changed my prayer “Lord, let us not have to pay for the repair- at all! (since the same company had worked on it 4 months before, I assumed this was their fault. Boy, was my heart completely wrong.) Two days later, once the part was replaced, the service man turned to Doug and said, “Hey, man- I hope you don’t mind me eavesdropping, but I overheard your family praying together the other day. It encouraged me. Normally, I only pray at meal time- but now I’m praying at other times too!”

“All glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think!”

AND, if that wasn’t enough…..the repairman didn’t charge us for labor- just the part and the service call.

The Rich Fool

Luke 12:13-21

13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” 15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

16 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

I’ve heard many a story about families being divided over a relative’s possessions after (sometimes even before) they’ve died. Even when the deceased has given specific instructions in their will, the remaining descendants can feel entitled and their greed can drive them into a bitter court battle over who should get what. The ridiculous thing is, those who inherit will one-day die as well, then who will get everything they fought so hard for?

Jesus told several parables about wealth:

The Rich Fool

The Great Feast

The Shrew Manager

Why was it so important for Him to re-emphasize these life lessons over and over again?

1 Timothy 6:10

10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

Jesus knew that great wealth could be used by the enemy to quickly turn our hearts from grateful to greedy. He also knew that at the bottom of every root of greed is a spirit of PRIDE. Pride is what keeps us from having a right relationship with Him- and a right relationship towards money. As we strive to make more cash, buy more stuff and inherit more family heirlooms we are trying to ensure that WE are always provided for…therefore, WE don’t need to depend on God. As WE continue to produce fine crops and tear down our barns to build bigger ones (aka: houses, garages, attics, sheds, storage units…) WE are storing up earthly treasures at the expense of bankrupting our relationship with the One who provides everything for us.

I have lived at various levels of greed all my life. When I was a child I thought dollar bills grew on trees and credit cards equaled FREE money. I would stomp my feet (sometimes literally) when told “no” after asking my parents to buy me something. As a teenager, when moving from CA to NC I was ticked that my mom didn’t choose the biggest house in the ritziest neighborhood. I resented that I had to earn scholarships for college and take a work-study job to have money to spend. When I got married and was slapped with the real world; taxes, insurance, bills….I just opened up another credit card so I could get whatever my little greedy heart desired.

That is, until God began uprooting my greed…..

He was merciful, and did it over a period of years. First it was tithing, then it was getting out of debt, and then it was giving to others. By the time my husband lost his job- and our sole means of income went with it- I had begun to understand that true riches aren’t based in my possessions, but in the most important relationship I will ever encounter on this earth- or for eternity.

Father,

Thank you for the revelation that YOU are my provider. Not only do you supply me with everything I need to be sustained every day- you pour out your Spirit on me, giving life to my spirit and my soul. Thank you, Lord for continuing to uproot the lies in my life and helping me to seek an eternal inheritance instead of an earthly one. You alone deserve all the glory and praise for filling my life with riches far greater than I could ever strive for.

Amen

Dream Killer

Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
 but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

While staying in hotels when traveling for business last year, Doug began noticing items, which he thought would be a great asset to our home. One in particular was the outdoor sofa and chairs that awaited guests after a long days work or travel. Frequently, he would plop down on one, kick up his feet and face time me at the end of the day, showing me the courtyard and all the amenities that created an oasis in the middle of the dormitory of rooms. Around the same time, Doug began recalling one of his landscape dreams; adding a patio off our existing deck in order to make our backyard more comfortable for our family and friends. As he day dreamed….talking about his vision, I listened & occasionally give my 2 cents worth (but in the back of my mind, I thought it probably would never happen…..).

When Doug’s birthday rolled around, God proved me wrong by providing brick pavers at half price through a friend who wanted to get rid of their patio! Another friend helped me and our girls load those heavy suckers onto his trailer and hide them until the day of the surprise. After Doug’s shock and awe we began the planning phase of the dream, but the first, second….fifth drafts didn’t quite work for the topography of our yard. Finally, though, with some new vision and creativity, we completed the project…5 months later than expected. Then came phase 2; furniture. Doug day dreamed about a sofa and chairs… and I listened, giving my 3 cents worth this time (but again, in the back of my mind, I thought it probably would never happen…..) so I suggested that since we had 6 people in our family, and only table seating for 4 we should use our existing chairs and build a table to accommodate 8. Plus, I cautioned him…we had already gone over budget on building his patio- so we shouldn’t spend any more money than was absolutely necessary. He agreed- and a month later the project was finally done (at least, I thought it was…).

About a month ago I noticed Doug bringing our broken Adirondack chairs from the front to the back yard to sit in the evenings. Why? When we had seating for 8 around the patio table and seating for 4 more on the deck?!? “Well,” he said, “they just aren’t comfortable.” I agreed- but didn’t think much more about it. Until last weekend……

We were chatting during lunch (at our kitchen table that seats 10- can you tell that I have a thing for tables?!?) when my mind began racing through all the times I would see Doug melt into the cushy furniture at the hotels he stayed in, looking contented and relaxed, or how he would gush over the outdoor furniture section every time we walked into home improvement stores. Then it hit me like a ton of brick pavers: I had killed his dream!!!

Uggg.

Immediately, I looked across the table at my husband and said something that is completely out of character for me: “let’s go to Lowes!”

“Huh?!?” he muttered.

“I killed your dream- I’m so sorry.” I was just trying to be practical…but I totally ignored what you wanted. I’m soooo sorry. Let’s go to Lowe’s and look at their outdoor sofa and chairs!”

If you could have seen my husbands face you would have looked upon a 4 year old little boy on Christmas morning who got that Red Ryder Bb gun he’d hoped for.

Unfortunately, when we got to Lowe’s, the options were scarce, since it was the end of the summer season. Sadly, I watched as Doug’s exuberance turned to disappointment. “Well,” he said “we’ll just have to keep looking…..” But for some reason, I felt compelled to go down the aisles one more time. Wouldn’t ya know it…there, hidden right in front of me was a box I hadn’t seen before. When Doug flagged an employee down to check the inventory we discovered they had one full set left; a love seat, coffee table, and 2 chairs- with cushions and throw pillows INCLUDED! It was also not a coincidence that it was less expensive than the floor models, we liked the design more than the ones on display, AND it fit our current backyard project budget!

After Doug finished assembling the furniture we placed them on the back deck and plopped down. For the next few hours we sat contented and relaxed as we talked about the lesson we’d learned: we had not honestly communicated all of our expectations to each other. After our “aha” moments & apologies, I realized that even though I had totally screwed up and killed Doug’s dream, God still knew it-  and in His perfect timing, He supplied the space, the money & the exact furniture to fulfill it…..and He included table seating for 8 too!

Our God is so good.

Romans 8:28

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God…

“(Dream killers) look you in the eye and offer a dozen reasons why your dreams won’t work. In fact, the more they talk, the more you begin to hear your own voice echo their thoughts.

Truth is, wherever you find dreamers, you find dream killers. The church is filled with them. They grew up with you, live in your house, and sometimes they….are you. Maybe you’re a victim of a dream killer and regret having listened to them.

At the same time, I realize the life-giving power of dream fanners. They refresh you, and you feel drawn to them like moths to a flame.”

 

Dream Big, but BEWARE of DREAM KILLERS

-Todd Wilson

 

Holes

Matthew 25:14-30

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver[a] to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together![b]

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

During the first decade of our marriage, we dug holes and hid our Masters money. Although Doug and I had been taught about tithing and good stewardship from our parents, we didn’t heed their wisdom. Like millions of Americans, we lived paycheck to paycheck and paid only the minimum balance on our credit cards, car payments & mortgage. We had no budget and no boundaries. If we wanted it, we bought it. Every year, when the tax return came in, we’d pay down our debt- then reward ourselves by buying something else! We lived in bondage to our lenders for far to long…

Proverbs 22:7

Just as the rich rule the poor,
so the borrower is servant to the lender.

It wasn’t until Doug felt convicted to give to the church that the Lord began to change our hearts about money (notice, I said “give”- we didn’t believe we could actually afford to tithe, so we dropped $50 or $100 bucks in the plate each month for a few years until we gradually increased to 10% of our net income). Shortly after we began tithing regularly, God convicted us again to give Him 10% of our gross income. After fighting it for a while, we finally realized that the IRS and the State of North Carolina was just another bill we owed, after God received what was due Him. The next thing the Holy Spirit convicted us about (are you seeing a trend here?!?) was our poor stewardship of the remaining 90%. So, we created a plan to retrieve the money out of the holes we’d dug and pay back those lenders! Once Doug set his mind to do this, applying it was not too difficult for him. I, on the other hand really had to wrestle between needs & wants. Countless times I can remember going shopping and filling my cart with items that weren’t necessities…and on the way to check out, I would get a pang in my gutt, stop abruptly, turn around, and return all of the items back to their shelves. This went on for years- but eventually, the demons of greed & debt got frustrated and left!

When I was wiling to submit to God’s purposes for our finances and Doug’s plan for tithing, saving, investing and spending I no longer saw my Master as being harsh. Instead, I began to see His true heart towards me and how He wanted to throw open the windows of heaven and bless me and our family! 7 years later, we now have only 1 hole remaining; our mortgage, and a plan is in place to pay that lender back as soon as possible.

By following His guidelines about money we have miraculously been able to tithe, save, invest and give generously to others. Without being workaholics or striving to constantly make more money, HE has provided our every need and blessed us (spiritually, emotionally & financially) abundantly with many of our wants.

As He continues to entrust His money to us, I pray that we will continue to use it wisely and continue to hear Him say:

‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’