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God Is Very Generous, and Other Reflections On Money

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1. God is very generous. In Genesis 1:29 God says that he gave Adam and Eve “every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” God enriched Abraham, Joseph, David and Solomon greatly. In Deuteronomy 14 God told his people to eat and enjoy the tithe they were offering. He gave the Promised Land to the Israelites. Jesus told us to seek God and His kingdom first and foremost and all things needful for us would be given us as well. Jesus also said: “How much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him?” St. Paul told the Philippians, “My God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Also, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8). Indeed, “all things belong to you.” And finally, God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 

2. God gives generously to His people so that we might generously bless others with God’s gifts, not hoard them for ourselves. God gave Israel the Promised Land so they could bless others. In Luke 6:34-35, Jesus tells us to lend, expecting nothing in return. Jesus says to “win friends for yourselves through the use of money.” Christians are to use their resources to further God’s “Great Commission” to “go and make disciples of all the nations.” Jesus has told us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). God gives to us in abundance so that we might be equipped for every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8). St. Paul exhorts Timothy to “command the rich to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” (1 Tim. 6:18).

3. God expects people to work to gain money, and work is good, not a necessary evil. Genesis 2:15 states that God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to “cultivate it and keep it.” In Proverbs 10:4, God says that the slack hand leads to poverty “but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” “He who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” (Prov. 18:9). “The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has nothing.” (Prov. 20:4). “The desire of the sluggard puts him to death for his hands refuse to work.” (Prov. 21:25). St. Paul says that the thief should quit his thieving and labor for good with his own hands so that he might have something to share with those in need. (Eph. 4:28). Paul also says, “Even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.”

4. A sign of a redeemed person is that he or she is a faithful steward of God’s material gifts, sharing with those in need. God gave Old Testament laws about not plowing to the edge of your field, not going over your field more than once, paying wages as they were needed by the laborer, not charging interest to fellow Israelites, obeying the Jubilee statutes about freed slaves and returned land, etc. God tells us to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God,” which certainly includes doing justice with our resources. Jesus tells us not to lay up treasures here on earth, but to sow generously. St. James asks the question: “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (James 2:15-16). St. John says: “Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:17-18). Our Lord tells us: Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? (Luke 16:10-12).

5. The desire to get rich and the pursuit of being rich is foolish, ultimately futile and spiritually deadly. Remember that God is the one who provides for us, “otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deut. 8:17-18). Jesus exhorted us about the following: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” “You cannot serve God and money.” “The worries of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” “How hard it will be for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” “You fool! Tonight your life is required of you, and all your things, whose will they be?” St. Paul reminds us: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6). St. John tells us to “love not the world, neither the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…The world is passing away and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17).

6. Jesus does not promise us riches in this life; in fact, he promises and commands us suffering and loss for the sake of the gospel. Jesus says, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” “Whoever does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” “Blessed are you poor” “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it for eternal life.” St. Paul said, “Have the same attitude among yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus . . . who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.” The author of Hebrews reminds us that faithful men like Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; they shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength, and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (Heb. 11:32-38).

7. Our ultimate motivation and joy in all matters economic and financial should be to glorify God by making others glad in God. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31). “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. chs. 8-9). “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24).

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

March 28, 2015 at 3:36 pm

The Fear of Humiliation

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LBJBy the accounts of those who knew him well, Lyndon Johnson was largely ruled by a fear of humiliation. This does explain a lot about his life as a politician, and though it’s not always the case that what we fear comes upon us, humiliation was a good part of Johnson’s lot. As Senate Majority Leader in the late 1950s, Johnson was literally large and in charge. He ruled the roost and ran the Senate like a boss. He was a master of all the parliamentary and procedural tricks, and he commanded persuasive respect and power. According to Robert Caro, he knew how to read others as well as anyone, but the one man he failed to read correctly was John F. Kennedy. This meant underestimating Kennedy in 1960, and having to settle for becoming Kennedy’s vice-president, which also meant that Johnson suffered a fall from the tremendous power and influence he wielded in the Senate to a largely meaningless position as the number two man. Of course, Johnson ultimately got his hands on the big prize, but even then, he was brought to his knees by his escalation of Vietnam and the domestic strife connected with it that spiraled out of control in the late 1960s. I have to wonder what role Johnson’s fear of humiliation played in his inability to extricate the country from Vietnam.

Three of the Ten Commandments have something to do with money and possessions: You shall not steal, do not work on the Sabbath, and do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

John Piper has an interesting thought about gratitude. He wonders what happens to a people when ingratitude settles into the human springs in the high mountains of a culture and begins to trickle down into the lowlands, as it were. In other words, what is the practical outworking of a large scale rejection of gratitude within individuals, families, institutions and the culture as a whole? What kind of people do we become over the decades, particularly if, as Piper says, ingratitude amounts to a lack of dependence on God?

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 18, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Who Is Responsible for the Condition of the World?

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The Christian family will be committed to intentionally practicing hospitality in practical ways. “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. . . Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality . . . Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers . . . A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him.”

Dallas Willard writes that “the responsibility for the condition of the world in the years or centuries to come rests upon the leaders and teachers of the Christian church. They alone have at their disposal the means to bring the world effectively under the rule of God” (The Spirit of the Disciplines). Yet I do not think we generally believe this. We do not see the church as the primary force in history for human flourishing and the bringing about of God’s ultimate purposes for humankind. We may think that the government or our educational institutions or some learned, technocratic elite are the real drivers of our human condition, for better or worse. But the church? Can’t be. We don’t have that kind of power and ability, do we? Yet as the historian, Christopher Dawson, remarks in his book, Dynamics of World History, “the inner significance of history was to be found in the apparently insignificant development of the people of God” (italics mine). It is the people of God who will be used of God to bring about the salvation of the nations through the gospel of Christ. If we begin to grasp this, what would it mean for the kind of Christian communities and culture we intend to create? How might we seek to educate our children? What would be the focus of our ministries?

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 17, 2015 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Duenes, Money

Because We Don’t Want To

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A15225.jpgThe way that parents provide for their family should direct the family’s attention on the infinite value of eternal life in God’s kingdom and toward the glad commendation of God’s kingdom to neighbors and the nations. “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, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. . . Do not love the world, nor the things in the world . . . Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death . . . Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf . . . As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. . . If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. . . Give me neither poverty nor riches.”

I watched a National Geographic documentary yesterday on the construction of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. It’s astounding. The building is over 2,700 feet tall, surpassing the Freedom Tower in New York City by almost 1,000 feet. One guy got out on the spire on top of it in order to cement in some lights. I almost got sick just watching him. Window washers had to hang on the outside of every window and wash them by hand before they would open the building. It’s crazy. I would almost be willing to travel to Dubai someday just to see that building up close.

“And you do not want to come to me that you might have life” (John 5:40). This is the issue. I don’t come to Jesus because I don’t want to. Jesus is talking to the religious leaders, and he says that they “search the Scriptures” because they think that in the Scriptures they have eternal life. But the Scriptures did not profit them because the Scriptures bear witness to Jesus, and that was just too much. They didn’t want to have to come to Jesus, even if it meant denying the Scriptures in their truth. Anything but Jesus. And when I am refusing to come to Jesus, it’s the same rebellion, the same spiritual hardness. I can do all the searching in the Scriptures I want, but the question is always, do I want Jesus and the life He offers?

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 16, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Posted in Duenes, Economics, Money

Providing for One’s Family

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Providing for one’s family is central to the genuineness of one’s faith, and thus, should be a central priority. This begins with basics such as shelter, clothing and food, but also includes providing for the education of one’s children and for the nurture of their souls in matters pertaining to goodness, truth and beauty generally. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. . . Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. . . A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children . . . A good wife rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.”

St. John, in his first letter, says that Jesus is a sacrifice of atonement not only for his readers’ sins, but for those of the whole world as well. However, I do not take this to mean that Jesus died for all people in the same way. In other words, I believe in what is historically called “limited atonement,” or more appropriately, “particular atonement.” This means I believe that Jesus’ death was an atoning death only for those whom God has chosen for salvation, and not for every individual on the planet earth. This sounds horribly undemocratic and unfair to modern ears, but when one considers the the alternative, it comes out a whole lot better, at least to me. If Jesus died for every individual on this planet, and yet some of these individuals are judged forever in hell, then what did Jesus’ death do for these lost people? It clearly did not save them, or they would trust in Jesus and be in heaven. The most that can be said is that Jesus’ death gave them the “opportunity” to be saved, which is to say, it has no saving power in their lives. But this is to empty Jesus’ death of all of its power and efficacy. By contrast, I agree with J.I. Packer when he says that “the cross saves.” But we can only say that Jesus’ death actually saves sinners if we believe that all sinners for whom Christ is an atonement go to heaven. Further, if we say that Jesus died only for those whom God has chosen for salvation, we must also say that Jesus’ death for them purchased their conversion to Christ, their faith, their reconciliation with God, their adoption into God’s family, their sanctification, the application of all of God’s promises to their lives, and all things that would be good for them. I hold to particular atonement because I believe that Jesus’ death actually produces and purchases all these things for sinners like me, rather than only “potentially” obtaining them for me, as the alternative view holds. Thus, particular atonement is glorious because it actually buys dead sinners and quickens them into Christ’s kingdom life and all its attendant blessings.

My wife has many beautiful qualities, but one of the most valuable and endearing to me is this: She gives me every reason to trust her and no reasons to distrust her. She is trustworthy. There is no guile. There is also no way to convey what reassurance this brings to our marriage, and to my soul. It is a very precious gift indeed!

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 14, 2015 at 9:13 am

Posted in Duenes, Marriage, Money, Theology