One of Jesus’ famous lessons, while He was on earth walking and teaching His disciples, was that it is impossible to serve two masters. Specifically, He said, No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth (Luke 16:13). In another lesson, when asked by the Pharisees if it was lawful to pay taxes, He replies, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s (Mark 12:17).
We might conclude that Jesus didn’t care much about the monetary systems of the world; we must be devoted to God instead of pursuing wealth, and the world’s money belongs to the world. In fact, though, God is very interested in what we do with our money. He just wants us to use it for kingdom purposes, instead of seeing it as something that belongs to us and is separate from “spiritual things.” This is the whole point of the parable Jesus told His disciples about the unrighteous steward in Luke 16. The moral of the story was that believers ought to be just as clever as people who do not know God and have a knack for building up wealth and padding their own pockets. Christ-followers need to have the same passion, but for eternal things, and use the unrighteous wealth of this world to make disciples for God’s kingdom. After all, God has put us in this world that functions on money; why not use it to His advantage?
Ultimately, our attitude toward money should be that it all belongs to God, and we are simply managing it for Him.
In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul turns his attention to addressing the issue of money with the Corinthian believers. They had made promises to collect a sum of money to help support other believers whom Paul planned to visit – believers that were in need. He is preparing to send Titus and another member of his team to pick it up, and he wants them to be ready.
Here are ten principles of managing God’s resources that I see in this passage.
- We are to give in all circumstances, whether we are in a time of abundance, or a time of poverty ourselves. (8:2)
- We are to give according to our ability, or even beyond our ability (8:3).
- Giving is a privilege, an opportunity to participate in ministry (8:4).
- Giving our money starts with giving ourselves first to God, and then to His people (8:5).
- Giving is one way we can imitate Christ, as He was once rich, but became poor for our sakes. Giving is an act of grace (8:9).
- If we commit to giving, we should fulfill that commitment (8:10-11).
- Those who have an abundance can give more; those who have less give less, but all should give (8:12,15).
- The idea behind giving is not to make life easy for some and cause affliction for others, but so that all needs are met equally (8:13-14).
- Giving should be done with integrity and accountability of those who manage the funds given (8:16-24).
- We can’t out-give God; if we give generously and willingly to His work, He promises to meet our every need in abundance (9:6-11).
Concerning the harvest that results from our willingness to give, the last few verses of 2 Corinthians 9 reveal five things we can expect. (Credit to John MacArthur’s commentary for these!)
- Love from God, as He loves a cheerful giver (9:7)
- Generosity from God, as He makes all grace abound to us (9:8-11a)
- Glory to God, as others give thanks and glorify God for our gifts (9:11b-13)
- Friends from God, as mutual prayers are asked and answered for one another within the body of Christ (9:14)
- Likeness to God as we give because He gave His Son to us (9:15)
I’ve seen over and over in both our personal lives and in the lives of the churches we’ve served in that we simply can’t outgive God. If we are generous and faithful with what God gives us, He does some amazing things as He provides for our needs and multiplies our giving. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, the last thing you need to do is eliminate giving to God. At all times, in poverty or in wealth, Christ-followers are called to trust God with ALL our money. The truth is, He is far better than Merrill Lynch at managing the resources He gives us, and His investment plan pays eternal dividends.