Even Christians tend to put a lot of emphasis on "stuff," don't we? We like to drive up to church in the best vehicle, walk in wearing the best outfit, and have everyone know we live in the nicest house or neighborhood. But is this what the Bible teaches us to be like? Not even close, y'all.
No, there's nothing wrong with doing well financially. The Father frequently delights in bestowing material blessings on the believer who is obediently following God's specific path for his life. But when affluence comes from credit spending, that's certainly not from the Lord. And when monetary gain comes from dishonesty, God definitely isn't honored.
Yes, we should work diligently, but we should do so at whatever the Lord has called us to do. Trust me, I've had a few serious money-making jobs in my lifetime, but none of these were the places where the Lord had called me to use the gifts and talents He bestowed on me. And because they weren't, I never felt fulfilled in any of these occupations. I always knew that something, somehow, just wasn't right.
Now I write and speak in a ministry that only God could have brought to fruition. Sometimes I go to a church and receive no honorarium at all; sometimes it's not even enough to reimburse what I spent on gasoline; and sometimes I am overwhelmed with the generosity extended to me. But most of all, I'm amazed at the correlation I've learned.
What do I mean? The deeper the devotion to the Lord, the more generous the giving. Like the widow's mite (see Mark 12:41-44), it's not a matter of how much you give - it's a matter of what you have left after the giving. It's a matter of how deeply you desire to honor the Lord.
Jesus said in pointing out to His disciples a woman's act of devotion, "[T]his poor widow has put in more than all those giving to the temple treasury. For they gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she possessed...." (Mark 12:43-44).
This widow brought joy to Jesus. He saw her generous spirit and commended her. All believers are to give their all in that they should be 100 percent devoted to Jesus, but rarely does the Lord direct a person to give away all his material possessions. But I will say this: if He tells you to, obey Him.
If the Holy Spirit prompts you to give a specific amount to any worthwhile cause, trust Him enough to believe that He "will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). When a believer holds onto whatever the Lord has told him to give – be it time, talent or money – that disobedience becomes a dam stopping the flow of God's blessings into that believer's life.
"Better a little with righteousness than great income with injustice" (Proverbs 16:8). There is no greater "injustice" than stealing from Jesus. I actually had someone tell me, "We can't afford to tithe. Do you realize how much money that would be?" Their problem was resolved a year or so later when the lucrative job folded. Folks, you can't "rob God" (Malachi 3:8) and get away with it.
Does the Bible tell us that after the widow gave her offering, she received a proposal from a rich man? Won the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes? No. The only comment we read is about how the Lord will deal with those who mistreat people such as this widow (see Mark 12:38-40).
The point is God takes care of those who obediently serve Him. As the old song says, "Little is much when God is in it." If you don't believe me, read the account of the feeding of the 5,000 in John 6:1-13. What are you entrusting to God? Give Him your ALL and watch Him multiply your blessings. Financially? Maybe. But I guarantee your priceless blessings will see an overflowing increase.
Judy Woodward Bates is a Christian speaker; author of "The Gospel Truth about Money Management"; and creator of Bargainomics(r), a Bible-based time and money management philosophy. Visit her website at: www.bargainomics.com.