Jesus and Money
Through his actions and words, Christ had much to say about money while on earth. He spoke of “mammon”,its uses, abuses, and deceits. He pointed out the sacrifice of the widow who gave only a mite; she gave more than the rich who made a big show of their giving.
The money changers exploited the religious devotion of temple worshippers; and in righteous anger, Christ turned over the tables and scattered the coins. Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’, but you have made it a ‘den of thieves’. (Matthew 21:12-13)
He defended Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who poured the costly perfume over his head, ‘anointing him for his burial’. However, others in the room criticized her waste.
Did Peter laugh or question his Lord sent him to hook one particular fish? He needed money to pay their temple tax. Christ suggested Peter check the mouth of his first catch.…go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you. (Matthew 17:27)
Christ knew which fish had the coin, and the incident showed his omniscience and omnipotence, for He made it come to Peter’s hook. He demonstrated his supernatural abilities to supply all our needs, temporal or eternal.
The disciples learned their views of giving from him. They learned to trust His concern for human needs while placing kingdom work on a higher value than earthly concerns.
Lack of Generosity
The New Testament describes a giving spirit based on Christ where he laid aside his wealth and position to give his life a ransom for many. Giving was not commanded, only encouraged because of Christ.
Giving in the New Testament is not a duty, an act of penance, or a way to buy our way into heaven. Christ left all his riches in glory to come down to us. If we’re cold, far from God, indifferent to Him and His work on earth, it will show in our lack of generosity.
When it came to tithing, Christ commended those who did it. Jesus spoke of the scribes and Pharisees tithing their herbs while neglecting law, justice, and mercy. He supported tithing with the words, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23).
The motives and state of the heart are laid bare in New Testament generosity. How we view giving shines an uncomfortable light on our spiritual condition. Those who fail to honor God with their money and possessions demonstrate that they are spiritually impoverished. What pleases God is a heart filled with gratitude for Christ and His work of redemption.
We learn to hang on to money, not give it away. Trusting God with even a tiny portion challenges our faith.
Perhaps we don’t realize how much trust we have in the economy, financial institutions, government, the job market, and our skills. But all these can fail and have throughout time. So it’s financial wisdom to acknowledge God’s provisions through the lean years.
Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17)
The New Testament indicates something supernatural is happening between God and our money. He asks us to give it, makes promises around it, and says, “Test me”.
Giving is an acknowledgment that it was all here for us to use, the elements of the earth, lands, seed, soil, trees, and the mind to use them. As the fish with the coin in his mouth, all was at the hand of the master of the universe.
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16-17)
To not show gratitude, to not give back even a small portion, is to deny God’s part in our abundance. Yes, the rain falls on the just and the unjust, but the just turn around and say thank you.
Grace Giving is inspired by contemplating God's goodness in our sinful state. Grace is God's free, divine, unmerited favor bestowed upon sinful and undeserving individuals who could never merit a right relationship with God. God, in His mercy, gives us what we do not deserve. It is an act of pure love on the part of God and emphasizes man's helpless abject spiritual poverty. It is always undeserved, as opposed to works and free. If giving is about anything but worship and gratitude, it’s easy to slip into salvation-by-good-works thinking. But our money cannot buy our salvation or assure our place in heaven.
For asmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
We are blessed to reside in one of the few countries where church contributions are tax-deductible, and many Americans give generously to various philanthropic causes.
Regular church giving is hard to inspire. Pastors used to say when they took the Sunday offerings, "Let's worship with our giving today." Somehow it felt like worship. And it was brought to help the church continue its weekly ministry of meeting people's spiritual needs. God's work is not of mason and stone but of spirit. The massive European cathedrals from another time are cold and empty of hearts and souls.
The Faithful simply believe what Jesus said: Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)
If we do not see an immediate benefit in our bank accounts, it’s hard to keep sowing the seed and visualize those treasures in heaven. We wonder how to fill our gas tank or buy groceries this week. But if it were only treasures and riches in the life to come, does that mean anything to us? Therein lies where our heart is.
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 destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
We need to keep our eyes on Christ as the supreme example of generosity. "For though He was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.” Paul is thinking of the riches of Christ’s heavenly existence, which included equality with God. Yet, Christ entered into a state of poverty for our sakes.
Paul’s Special Offering
There are some insights into New Testament generosity from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. First, he recites how he made preparations for that offering by encouraging them to “store up as they may prosper,” bring the money to the storehouse, and have it on hand as needed. Prepare.
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. (1 Corinthians 6:1-2)
Here he encourages them to prepare in advance, save for it, give as you can, abound in this grace of giving. Paul did some tent making but he was also dependent on their offerings to travel to the many churches he visited.
Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you if the Lord permits. (1 Corinthians 16:5-9)
In preparing the special offering in 1 Corinthians 16:2, he wanted them to be ready when he came, and each one was to put something aside, store it up, and give as they could. He mentioned the Macedonians giving out of their poverty.
Paul describes new ministry opportunity. When I come don’t worry about taking special offerings, it will be in the store house: “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”
Satan hinders the spread of the gospel by blocking giving. When a great and effective door opens, a lack of resources is Satan’s way of shutting it. Paul said, “and there are many adversaries.” Freeing mammon for the kingdom of God requires prayer to battle Satan’s power over the root of all evil: money!
Abundance for Every Good Work
The Bible teaches us to give out of our abundance, as the Lord prospers us. The Holy Spirit speaks to us personally about our offering in amount or the destination.
The storehouses of many churches were depleted through COVID-19, and sadly, many have closed. We praise God for supplying the needs at the warehouse for the past two years through your devoted, faithful offerings. Because of you we are prepared to “bound in every good work” and ready for the opportunities ahead.
And 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)
© Mary Katherine Neely, 2022
© Mary Katherine Neely, 2022