EXPLORING THE WORD
What does the Bible say about giving and saving?
By Richard Martin
"So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:33This is a tricky verse. It seems to say that in order to follow Christ, we must give up everything else. But there's a parable right before that sheds some light on the issue.
Starting in Luke 14:15, we read about the Parable of the Great Banquet. Here, Jesus tells a story of certain man who had prepared a great feast and invited many people to come and dine with him. As soon as the final preparations were made, he told his servant to call all the invitees in to the supper. But each one of them made up an excuse as a reason for not attending. In each case, the invitee had some sort of personal situation to take care of instead of coming to the feast. When the master heard the negative report from his servant, he was angry. He then commanded the servant to move on from those on the original guest list, and instead seek after folks of a lower social standing who would be glad to come to the banquet.
One application, among many, that can be taken from this passage is that each of the people on the original guest list were too consumed by their own interests to be bothered with the interests of the master. One person had purchased a piece of land and needed to inspect it. Another had just purchased five oxen and was too busy tending to them. Another had just gotten married, and he was too busy tending to his new wife to be concerned with the banquet. Because of these excuses, and the priorities that drove them, none of these individuals would ever have fellowship with the master.
This last part is important, because in Luke 4:25-33, Jesus further explains that those who won't give up all that they have will never be His disciples. The point was never about the actual objects of possession, or about having a wife, a family, etc. The point was, and still remains today, that if any of those things ever take precedence over your relationship to Christ, you cannot be His disciple. Why? — Because, if you allow them, all of those things can keep your focus away from the Lord, and just like those people originally invited to the banquet, you'll never have fellowship with the Master. Having possessions is not a sin. Having a family is not a sin. Having money is not a sin. But when any of these things becomes the driving force behind our lives, we get into trouble. When our possessions consume us to the point where we focus more on them, than on Jesus, we are in sin.
The story of the rich, young ruler teaches a similar lesson (Matthew 19:16-23; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18–23). What we see in all three accounts is that the rich ruler had come to Jesus to see what was next for him in life. He told Jesus about how good he was and how he had kept all the commandments from his youth on up. But Jesus, knowing the man's true heart, brought up something that he loved more than God, which was his wealth. In Luke 18:22, Jesus said, "Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." The young man's response is recorded in Luke 18:23, "But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich."
The truth of Luke 14:33 applies here. Jesus told this man to sell all that he had and follow Him. Jesus wasn't against wealth, but the young rich ruler loved his wealth more than God. This young man was not willing to forsake all that he had to be Jesus' disciple. Jesus knew the true condition of the man's heart, and was quick to bring it to his attention. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is quick to convict the hearts of men regarding anything they love more than the Lord. Once God brings sin to your attention, the question is how will you respond to it?
The reality is that whatever we love more than God becomes our god. When that happens, we are in sin. Jesus told the young rich ruler to give up that which he loved more than God and to follow Him. Forsaking his idols and following after Jesus would have signified a change in the man's heart. Rather than serve money and possession and strive after such things, Jesus wants us to serve God, and strive after Him.
Although we aren't called to give everything away, we are called to give. The Old Testament sets forth a general principle of giving 10 percent of what you have to tithes and offerings (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5). However, in the New Testament, the principle is expanded so that we would give abundantly of all that we have (1 Corinthians 16:2). We don't have to be set at a 10 percent cap, but can freely give beyond it. Some Christians believe that 10 percent of your income should be given, at a minimum, at all costs. Some Christians believe that you should only give what you can afford. I believe that both camps are missing the point.
The purpose of giving tithes and offerings is not that God needs your money, but rather He is teaching us to let go of what really isn't ours anyway. Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein." Simply put, this means that God owns everything. Anything in your possession is something that God has allowed you to temporarily hold on to, so that you can be a steward, or manager, over it. So often we resist giving anything to anyone, and we stand with clenched fists, holding tight. When we come to the understanding that God owns everything, and He alone is responsible for providing such things (James 1:17), it becomes easier to let go of that which is not really ours. God is in the business of conforming us to the image of His son (Romans 8:29), and one way that He does this is through teaching us to let go.
To be sure, it is wise to save your money, and it is biblical to provide for your family. However, if in your endeavor to do such it becomes your driving force for living, then you have erred and must repent. In everything you do, stay in close communion with the Lord. Talk to Him about your concerns over money, and tithing, and offering, etc. Ask Him how much He would have you return to Him. The point is, through prayer, ask Him to show you how He would have you manage your funds. He is faithful and will show you what to do through His Word.
Image Credit: kschneider2991; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Controversial-Issues | God-Father
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