By Randy Alcorn, Director
Eternal Perspective Ministries
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Summary: The Scriptures make it clear that there is a fundamental connection between a person’s spiritual life and his attitudes and actions concerning money and possessions. Though we often divorce the two, Christ sees them as essentially related to one another.
Fundamental connection. Fifteen percent of everything Jesus said related to money and possessions. Our Lord made more references to money and possessions than to prayer or faith. He spoke about money and possessions more than heaven and hell combined.
Why? Because the Scriptures make it clear that there is a fundamental connection between a person’s spiritual life and his attitudes and actions concerning money and possessions. Though we often divorce the two, Christ sees them as essentially related to one another. In Luke 19:1-10, the tax collector Zaccheus tells Jesus he will pay back four times and give half of what he has to the poor. Jesus replies: ?Today salvation has come to this house.? How does Jesus judge this fundamental change in Zaccheus’ heart? By the fundamental change in his attitudes and actions concerning money and possessions; changes that didn’t earn his salvation, but demonstrated it.
An attitude revealed. In Matthew 19:16-26, we read of the rich young ruler, a counterpart to Zaccheus. Jesus knows that what’s keeping him away from God is his attachment to his money and possessions. So Jesus reveals, ?? Give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me.? The man regretfully says ?No.? Christ talks about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. He knows this man is not saved; he has not changed. On what basis does He conclude this? His attitude and actions concerning money and possessions have not changed.
A proper perspective. There are two streamlined descriptions of the early church in Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32-35 which also offer insight on the proper perspective a believer should have regarding possessions. These passages feature only the church’s most essential spiritual core, including Bible teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer. We read,
?They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved? (Ac 2:42-47).
?All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need? (Ac 4:32-35).
A radical change. Only a profound work of God could account for the radical change in these new believers in attitude and actions concerning money and possessions. Generous sharing, the giving of money and possessions, and liquidating assets for the good of others are not only signs of individuals with a proper perspective on giving, but these behaviors are food for thought for ?church growth? experts. It’s worth noting the church growth recorded here.
Elsewhere, in Acts 19:18-20, we read of the Ephesian occultists who came to faith in Christ. Even though they had magic books that were rare and extremely valuable, they burned them. Proof, again, of the change that occurs in the heart when a person develops a proper view of giving—resulting from a life-changing decision to believe in and trust Jesus Christ.
There are others stories. In Mark 12, we read of the poor widow who gave everything. What demonstrated her devotion to and trust in God and, hence, her true spiritual condition was her attitude and her actions concerning money and possessions. Contrast that with the rich fool we read of in Luke 12. He built his own kingdom. He saved up everything for retirement, but he spent on himself. Scripture refers to him as a fool, for he died that night. The evidence of his lacking spiritual condition was that he was rich toward himself, but not rich toward God. Again, what revealed his true spiritual state was his attitude and actions concerning money and possessions.
Two treasuries? Matthew 6:19-25 is the key passage in understanding the challenge facing us. We cannot have two ?treasuries?—one in heaven and one on earth. For we read, ?Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also? (Mt 6:21). Whenever we put our earnings into something, we develop a vested interest in that thing. Ideally our treasures will go where our heart is. So if our heart is changed, it will change where we put our treasures. But it works the other way also; where we put our treasures our heart will follow.
If your treasure is in house and lands and cars and boats and electronic equipment, where will your heart be? Your heart is wherever you put your treasure. Do you want your heart to be with the things of God? There is a simple solution; commit your treasure to the things of God. Develop vested interests in His kingdom. Do you want to feel more a part of your church? Then be more of a part of it. Invest yourself in what this church is all about. That’s how you gain vested interest in what’s going on.
A treasure found. Do you want to have a heart for missions? Then put your money in missions. As a pastor many years ago, I felt I didn’t have the concern for missions I needed to have. So I started giving more and more money to missions. And guess what? Jesus was right. My heart followed my treasure. In the same way a person gains a deep interest in IBM or Apple or General Motors by investing his or her money there, a person gains a deep interest in the kingdom of God—by investing there. Two treasuries, two perspectives, two masters. Choose yours.