Erika F. Puni, Director, General Conference Stewardship

Summary: With hope diminished in the financial institutions of this world, we are again reminded in these difficult times that the only constant factor in the world is God.

When our family moved to the United States in 2006, we decided to purchase a townhouse. The cost of real estate at that time in the Washington DC area and the surrounding counties was quite high but prices started to decline soon after. From 2006 until now our property has probably lost value by 10 percent. This loss in our investment is part of the larger financial crisis that is crippling the economy of many countries today and affecting millions of lives around the world. Christians are not immune from this crisis and are looking to Scripture to find answers to this difficult global situation. So let me share some biblical perspectives on this matter from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7).

1. Only one investment that is eternally secure. In the cultural context of his time, Jesus made this statement “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal”Matthew 6:19 (NIV). The “moth” and “rust” imageries communicate pictures of destruction and deterioration while the “thieves” reference conjures up scenes of looting and piracy which sometimes are accompanied with the loss of human lives. Such is the end result of financial investment that focuses only on this world where the risk factors are unstable.

Given these earthly realities, Jesus then makes the point that his disciples (his primary audience on this occasion) must invest with someone (God) that is trustworthy and in a place (heaven) where their personal investment is secure (Matthew 6:20). It is important to note, however, that Jesus in these Bible verses is not speaking against saving and investing per se, but rather He is contrasting the effects and outcomes of investing on earth and investing in heaven. The choice is ours.

2. Money is only a “means” of worship. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” Matthew 6:24 (NIV). On the surface, these words can be viewed as “hard” because they challenge the hearer towards action and into making a decision either for God or money. But beyond this service decision, Jesus is also calling his disciples into a proper understanding of the use of monetary resources.

Money has its place in the larger scheme of life, but it must not take the rightful place of God as the object of our worship. Unlike God who is the Creator himself, money is a service tool created by humans to assist people in the exchange of goods and services. In this sense, money has limited value but it cannot save us or the planet. It has no life! And while it is a “gift” of God, it is only a “means” of worshipping Him.

3. God will provide even in hard times. Jesus recognized the human anxiety of His disciples about the things of this world when He said to them, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” Matthew 6:25 (NIV). And using the objects of their natural surroundings He assured them that the God of the Universe who provides for the “birds” and the “grass of the field” will also provide for their daily substance and needs. “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6:30 (NIV). In these words, Jesus affirmed to the twelve that they were more important to God than all of nature put together, and they needed to trust Him more. Faith in God is the essence of Christian living.

4. Jesus is the best investment with eternal value. Money has temporal value and benefit and will be affected from time to time by many financial market factors. And like the grass of the field it will eventually pass away. With this picture in their minds, Jesus called the disciples into a life of surrender to the things of God where Jesus is Lord (Matthew 6:33). Seeking the “kingdom” of God means that the followers of Jesus will allow Him to take control of every facet of their lives including the management and use of their finances. And even if they don’t receive the full benefits of their monetary investment on this side of the Second Coming, or experience great loss as a consequence of living on this planet, they still have Him and to have Jesus as Savior and Lord is to have everything!

And so in these times when personal resources are scare and cash flow is limited; when millions of people are losing jobs and unable to pay their mortgages; when retirement funds once thought as safe and secured lost their worth overnight, leaving thousands of contributors uncertain of their life at retirement; when individuals and families lost their lifetime investments through greedy and dishonest investors; there is only one way to turn, and that “Way” is Jesus who is “the Truth and Life” (John 14:6). With hope diminished in the financial institutions of this world, we are again reminded in these difficult times that the only constant factor in the world is God Himself who is Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer and Provider.
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July–September, 2009

Money Management