Everything we do to better ourselves in this world is really of no value. What I mean is that the life that we live now is temporal and nothing that we gain physically will we be able to take with us eternally. All the effort we place in receiving that which will pass away is in vain. I know we have needs in order to survive, but God himself promised that if we seek first his kingdom he would supply our needs. Just where the boundary is for us to work, not out of the law, but for provision versus receiving from God I am still on a journey to discover. Trying to believing and receiving everything God has promised, and Jesus has provided by giving of himself, is honoring God and that is what we are to do. So why do we dishonor him by trying to provide for ourselves that which he has promised to?
Has I started receiving this revelation the first scripture that popped into my mind was that of Paul. He made a very harsh comment on his accomplishments, the works that he had done up to that point to make him the man who he was, Saul.
Philippians 3:6-9 KJV Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Paul had said that in all of his own effort to earn righteousness everything he had worked so hard for to accomplish was dung. Yes manure or whatever you want to call it. I know that he specifically was relating to his own efforts in attaining life eternal by works righteousness of the law versus the only way, which is by receiving Jesus as Lord and savior. My question though is we know that there is no greater reward or miracle than salvation yet God has not only promised and has given us salvation though Jesus but health, prosperity, provision all to be free from lack in our lives. If we receive the greatest then why would we earn the lesser. I will say one other thing on this in that it is more of a Western mindset, that is influencing much of the world to separate these issues. In the traditional Jewish way of thinking salvation, health,peace, prosperity all the good qualities of life are coequals. We tend to qualify them to greater or lesser degrees but they are meant to all be part of one synergetic relationship.
I know Paul had great revelation about the relationship we have between us and God. About God’s promises and faithfulness. I know that there are instances where he worked himself so as to not be a burden but a blessing. But in these instances he worked to be able to be a benefit to others, not trying to get from them anything so that people would stay focused on God and not think of him as prosperity preacher. You know those who prosper by receiving but not rightly teaching so those who give suffer. I know for a fact we are all to be prosperous, but just as with all things of God there is his way, which is the right way, and then the perverted way, which many teach at the expense of others.
What I am getting at is we know we all need to work, and I truly believe we are designed to do so. Even Adam and Eve in the idea situation tended the garden. Here is where I think though there are differences, and that is the motive in which we work for. If we are working so that we can have wonderful things and nice vacations then our motives are wrong. Why? Not because there is anything wrong with that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a nice house, car, furnishings, clothing, vacations etc. but if that is the only reason you are working then that is wrong. We are then being only selfish, focusing on having the best temporary experience possible but not being conscious of what is eternal.
The way I am looking at this now is that there is nothing wrong with living a life having a nice house, car, possessions etc. But was it all out of our own efforts or was it as a result of receiving the blessing of God? When you look at the life you live and the possessions you have were they all out of your own hard work or do you see the hand of God thinking to yourself that there is no way you could of attained all of this without God? This is only part of the coin though. The other side is our main focus should not be working to provide for only our families, but to minister to others.
Here is a reality check folks in that God does not print money. He works through those who will so that he can. There are several people who have great financial wealth and they know that it was only by the grace of God that they have received it. They also understand it’s purpose and that is to help share the gospel. Whether to give to those in need, so that that person in need can physically experience the love of God, or to give to those who minister to teach the word, they have learned to look at their provision in life from the correct perspective.
To me the bottom line is God said, not Tom, the following:
Matthew 6:19-34 KJV Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven,shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Before I expound upon this I want to reiterate that there is nothing wrong with having things. What I am wanting to help you think about though is what is truly important. Jesus said that our focus should not be acquiring the treasures of this world but treasure in heaven. There are a couple of good points to come out of this. The first is that you cannot ever find true happiness by acquiring things. This does not mean that you cannot enjoy them. There is a difference though. Happiness comes about as a fulfillment of a need being met. It is a mental state of well-being. If your desire is to just keep getting bigger, better or more than you cannot be happy because you are not a peace. Enjoyment comes though from the use or possession of something beneficial or pleasurable. Interestingly though we can store treasures in heaven though and find both happiness and enjoyment in doing so. When you give to others, not only those in need, but to everyone and anyone, expecting absolutely nothing in return from them this is when you are storing up treasures in heaven. It can become almost like a game. One of the neat ways of doing it is giving your gift in secret with a simple note saying something like, “Just because your heavenly Father loves you he has given this to you.” Then sign it Jesus. This is not blasphemous either. Everything we do we are to do unto the Lord and give him the glory.
Verse 21 said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I have no doubt for at face value this is talking about your assets, and most likely specifically our money. But one day I was thinking about this and I honestly told God that I really could care less about money anymore. That the most important thing to me was understanding who I was as a child of God and developing that relationship. The response I got was, “Wherever your treasure is, is where your heart is at.” See God at that moment was my treasure and God had my heart. Just something to think about. I am not saying that it is wrong to teach that where ever we give our money to or what we spend it on is what is most important to us because there is truth to that, but there is just another way of looking at it.
Verses 22 and 23 about the light of body are the eyes, is not about what you allow to influence your life. Although I have heard this taught umpteen times as such the focus here in context is money or assets. There is a truth that what you see and expose yourself to you can allow to influence your heart but that does not make any since in the teaching of Jesus. Have you ever heard the term idiom? Every culture uses them and they may change over time. We have one that use to be real common in that when it was raining real hard out we would say, “it is raining cats and dogs”. Could you imagine someone a thousand years from now reading something written by us who had never heard of such a phrase? They might think that God was raining some sort of plague upon the people. Well to have a good eye or an eye full of light is to be a generous person. One who gives to whoever is in need. It is an older Jewish idiom. On the contrary to have and evil eye or and eye not full of light but darkness is to be greedy or stingy. This may help you out when you read some of the gospels.
Verse 24 is pretty straight up. You can only have one god and who is it going to be? If it is money then it is not the creator of the universe, the one true God. But if it is our God, our Father, then don’t be concerned about gaining vast fortunes on your own.
In the rest of this scripture, verses 25 thru 34, Jesus really breaks it down to a simple fact. He declares that the other life forms on this earth such as birds and plants, do not sow and reap or are concerned with what they wear, so then why do we? The focus being that outside of man nothing invests in its own efforts to gain but relies on God’s provision to sustain. I was watching a great example of this with some bears out in the wild. They were eating berries that they had not grown, and catching fish that they did not farm. They were playing and wrestling as cubs. But the bottom line is they solely relied on God’s provision. Now they did not just sit around and do nothing. They had to receive God’s provision by harvesting the berries and catching the fish. But this reminds me of Adam and Eve. They did not plant the garden of Eden but they tended to it and ate of it’s provision.
I know the scripture is very clear that we are to work and not be lazy. In fact it says let him who steals steal no more so that he may have to give to those in need. I really take this to heart meaning that he who does not work is a thief. My hope though is this will aid in helping you to start focusing your heart as to why you are working and what for.
As a different example on provision versus personal gain. I personally know a family who occasionally voluntarily ministered. The husband worked at least two jobs all the time, and they were good jobs. The wife also worked full time. I honestly have no idea of what kind of offerings they gave and that is not the point. These people did have a nice home, family, cars and vacations. Sort of the American dream type of life. But I fail to see how this is God’s provision and this is why. They obtained everything by what they did through a lot of work. In appearance they were no better of than some of their neighbors, where only one spouse worked or maybe both but not multiple jobs. The area they lived was nice but not some super high end area, just nice. Looking at scripture when I see God’s provision it is like getting gifts, or if you want to legal about it reward for no real investment. There are millions of non-believers who are millionaires. They have worked hard, invested or cheated but they have acquired great fortunes. And yes regardless of the drama you hear on the news there is no shortage money. There literally are millions of millionaires and over 1,200 billionaires. There has not yet been the first trillionaire in the world but if Bill Gates had continued as he was progressing years ago it was projected he would have been. I am laughing because my spellchecker did not even recognize the word trillionaire.
When you look at the lives at several of these individuals they are smart, hard working and good investors. Most of them are great philanthropists and this is why many think they are “blessed” to have such wealth. But I beg to differ. There is no doubt that they are doing many good works. That they are helping out many individuals who are in dire need. But they are not giving God the credit. Now in various cases God may be working through them to answer the prayers of others and fulfill his promises. But they are not wealthy because of God’s provision but by their own efforts. Face it it really is not that impressive to someone if another individual works hard and attains wealth because that it what we would expect, but if you see someone enjoying life and not killing themselves working to be prosperous and they give God the glory who would you want to be more like? Do you want to be stressed out working long hours making sure every penny is accounted for or would you want to have God just bless and multiply everything you put your hands to and speak over so that you have an abundance and can give to others?
At the end of the verses we mentioned earlier Jesus said that non-believers, Gentiles at that time, sought after the things of this world that they needed and or desired to have. But as believers we are not to do so, we are to have them, but we are to receive them from God as part of his provision for us. Meanwhile we are to stay focus on the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Not us being righteous but his righteousness, which is his faithfulness to his covenant.
I know many many many Christians who are prosperous, but in reality I wonder how many have just earned everything they have and labeled it has being blessed by God. I think of Peter and when Jesus showed his the prosperity of God versus man.
Luke 5:1-9 KJV And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
Seasoned fisherman who had fished the way that in the natural was the best way they could and yet out of all their labor for the whole evening they had caught nothing. But by acting on the Word of God they had prospered, with almost no effort, more than they ever had in their entire lives. There used to be a little joke that this hauled allowed them to pay off the boats, sell the business and finance he ministry. What really happened God only knows but we way under estimate God’s ability, his willingness and desire to work in such magnificent ways in our own lives. I think we just feel like Peter, so unworthy of such things. The truth is we are not worthy and thank God we do not get what we deserve. Instead we get his grace, mercy and unconditional love. We get the opportunity to receive of his goodness and kindness. Not only so we have all we could need but so we can boast of our Father and share his abundance with others.
Paul has taught me something very important. We are to give, but never to give out of our own need or begrudgingly. Paul, nor anyone else, commanded anyone to keep the tithe after the cross because that was of the law. But as we do give out of our abundance with a joyful heart, a willingness to share God’s love in a special way I believe we learn to become better receivers. If we give out of our lack then we can open to door to becoming bitter towards God without even desiring to become so. If you give expecting God to be an ATM and just give it back to you then you are giving out of the wrong motive. I know that is not what is commonly taught, but I have studied and experienced this. Every time I have had God personally do something for me it was never out of giving but just believing God is faithful and he loves me. I have listened to his leading, because sometimes you have to go to your provision. When I have missed it, I can honestly say it is because I have missed it. I got my eyes focused off of God and onto my need or want.
Looking back in scripture though don’t think that prosperity is literally just about money. Look at the children of Israel when Moses led them out of Egypt. For 40 years there was no lack. Everyone was healthy, their clothes never wore out and God provided their food. I am just as guilty as others, but I find it funny that God provided for these people for 40 years all of their needs and they were wealthy to boot, yet we hope god can provide a meal, or a car or a house for us. God if you could just please help me out with this, as if God was in some sort of shortage. No one knows definitively how many people he led out of Egypt. It is fair to say that up to 2 million is not unreasonable since we now based on scripture there were 600,000 men able to fight alone. Ironically these people complained when they thought they weren’t being provided for and many of us are afraid to ask God for provision. Getting back to the main point though, these people were wealthy, but all that wealth was not going to do them a bit of good in the middle of the desert. They needed God’s divine provision in materialistic things and they received it.
Getting back to the title of this little sermon, “What are you working for?” Are you seeing what has been motivating you as we have been going over this? You know from God’s perspective he loves you regardless of your motives, but he also wants what is best for you. You should never feel condemned about what you are doing, even if you are just focused on you or your family. But you should find comfort in knowing that you do not have to go at it alone. You can choose to help meet the needs of others and also receive of God to meet your needs. Again this does not always have to be monetarily. You can give of your time and abilities in doing things possibly that you like to do anyhow. The real point is are you going to totally trust in yourself, which you have a right to do, or are you going to trust in God?