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Sunday LeftoversWith all the cultural talk about the economy, it’s easy to get confused about financial priorities.  And it’s hard to keep a biblical perspective for why we have money and material possessions.

But the Apostle John won’t let us forget.

“But 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?” (1 John 3:17)

The money I have in my wallet and bank account are for me to provide for my family, both today and in the future.  But my possessions are for much more than that.  The resources I have are a gift from God for me to share with others, as John makes clear.

In an affluent culture like America (even with a “down” economy), we don’t always see financial hardship around us on a daily or regular basis. But economic hardship and poverty was common in the New Testament church.  Many had financial problems because they were day laborers, dependent on finding work every day in a system that was akin to a temporary laborer today, and too many days they didn’t work, didn’t get paid, and didn’t eat.  And others in the church had financial problems because they were persecuted and had their possessions taken from them (e.g., 2 Cor. 8-9; Heb. 10:32-34).  That there was a significant need for members of these early churches is obvious from all the exhortations to assist other church members and examples of those who did help others (e.g., Acts 2:45; 4:35; 20:34; Rom. 12:13; Eph. 4:28; Tt. 3:14; 2 Cor. 8:4ff).

So we do well to remember why it is that God has given us material wealth (2 Cor. 9:6-12).  Our possessions are not ultimately given to make us comfortable personally.  God gives us material goods to meet our needs and to enable us to be vessels of kindness and grace towards others (Lk. 10:30-37; Phil. 2:30).

John Piper summarizes it well:

God increases our yield so that by giving we can prove that our yield is not our god. God does not prosper a man’s business so he can move from a Ford to a Cadillac. God prospers a business so that thousands of unreached peoples can be reached with the gospel. He prospers a business so that 20 percent of the world’s population can move a step back from the precipice of starvation.…

In Ephesians 4:28, Paul says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” In other words, there are three levels of how to live with things: (1) you can steal to get; (2) or you can work to get; (3) or you can work to get in order to give.

Too many professing Christians live on level two. Almost all the forces of our culture urge them to live on level two. But the Bible pushes us relentlessly to level three. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Why does God bless us with abundance? So we can have enough to live on, and then use the rest for all manner of good works that alleviate spiritual and physical misery. Enough for us; abundance for others.

The issue is not how much a person makes. Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil. The evil is in being deceived into thinking a six-digit salary must be accompanied by a six-digit lifestyle. God has made us to be conduits of His grace. The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn’t. Copper will do. [Desiring God]

So this week as you think about what you have financially, remember to look for fellow believers in your church body who have real financial and material needs and look for opportunities to genuinely help them as an expression of your love for them and your love for Christ.