By Donald French, Pastor, Church of Christ, Rio Linda, California
Summary: God expects us, His children, to be selfless about possessions. When we don’t repay our debts, it is the same as stealing in the eyes of the Lord.
1 John 3:16, 17
A Diligent and Grateful Heart (Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #639)
Our world encourages us to spend, spend, spend. We are bombarded by commercials that try to convince us that we are unloved, unpopular, or weird--and that we need a certain product to fix the situation. We are encouraged to charge, to borrow, to purchase on delayed payment plans. We are tempted to fall for buying schemes that companies come up with to enable us to buy things now.
The result? Personal debts are at an all time high, bankruptcies are rampant, and financial worries are entering even the church. Christians today have gotten themselves into financial difficulties. The Bible talks about the church and our responsibility to help one another. Biblical principles dictate how God wants us to handle our finances.
Money provides for necessities
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (I Tim 5:8). God expects a Christian to labor to provide for his family. Providing for necessities is part of keeping the faith. Give us today our daily bread (Matt 6:11). We need to recognize that God provides our daily necessities and labor to make sure our families’ daily needs are met. Most importantly, we need to know the difference between needs of the day and the desires of the heart.
Many young people starting out on their own today look at how their parents labored for years to accumulate the little they have. So wanting to be better off than their parents, wanting to have it all now, they begin adult life charging, borrowing, and going into debt beyond their ability to earn. We need to recognize the difference between needs and wants, between necessities and luxuries. We need to remember the principle: I don’t get it if I can’t afford it.
Money helps others
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need (Eph 4:28). God expects us, His children, to be selfless about possessions. When we don’t repay our debts, it is the same as stealing in the eyes of the Lord. The Bible teaches us that not paying your debts is sin.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (1 Jn 3:16, 17). How you share reveals your character. You cannot claim God’s love when you do not share with others.
There was a man who went about helping others. One day he lost his job and was faced with a shortage of money. In order to continue helping others, he began robbing banks. Most of the money he stole, he used to help others. Is God pleased with such Robin Hood acts of robbing from the rich to give to the poor? How we get the money must be as pleasing to God as what we do with money.
Honesty is your guide
Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law (Rom. 13:7, 8). Pay what you owe. Owe no man anything. This, of course, does not mean that you are not to borrow at all or never use credit, or never have a mortgage on your house. This means you must pay your bills on time and never buy or make a commitment to something you cannot afford.
Let your ‘Yes’ be yes, and your ‘No’ no, or you will be condemned (Jm 5:12). Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you commit to paying a bill and don’t pay, you have lied. In other words, if I do not have the money to pay my bills, but I have the money to purchase luxury items, to take my wife out to dinner, to splurge, I am stealing from others for my own pleasure and I am lying to others. When Christians deliberately lie to their creditors about their plans to repay them, when they deliberately buy unnecessary things they cannot afford, they bring shame upon themselves, the church, and God, and they are lying and stealing. What kind of image do you project of yourself and the church by the way you deal with your creditors?
Give God what belongs to God
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mk 12:17). We are to render to the government what we owe them. We are to render to God, the things that we owe God.
On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made (1 Cor 16:2). God has commanded that we give back to God as we have been prospered. Some of us have quit paying God what we owe him. What does God say about this? (Mal 3:7-12). We rob God when we cease contributing as we should.
Be content with what you can afford
Don’t exhort money and don’t accuse people falsely--be content with your pay (Lk 3:14). We must be content with what we earn. If we cannot afford something, we ought to be able to do without it.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ (Heb 13:5). We are not to be covetous, desiring things we cannot afford. Instead, we must be content with what God has provided us.
If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that (1 Tim 6:8). Do you have enough to eat? Do you have a place to live? Do you have clothes to wear? These are the necessities. We should not purchase more things unless we can afford them.
- We must work to provide the necessities of our family.
- A lazy person who does not work is worse than one who does not believe in God.
- We should be satisfied with our daily necessities.
- Our work must help others.
- Our giving must reflect our compassion.
- We should not resort to stealing to pay our bills
- All our dealings must be honest.
- A delayed or missed payment is equivalent to lying and stealing.
- Set aside God’s tithe as soon as you get your paycheck.
- Withholding tithe is the same as stealing from God.
- Not returning tithe is an indication of an unbalanced spiritual life
- God demands the first fruits of our labors.
- We are to be content with food, clothing, and a place to live.