Most every time I send out an article, I get a passel of emails back from people who are essentially chiding me for being too materialistic and not spiritually-minded enough. In general, these people hold to the belief that more or less goes along the lines of, “Godliness equals poverty and insignificance“…and so they feel the need to correct me…to point out that I am off-track and misguided. Interestingly, pretty much all of these people are very open to and interested in “charity” from a wealthy person…they don’t mind receiving some “filthy lucre” from the kind of people they condemn as materialistic.
Now, anyone who knows me…or who has met me…knows that I am about the least materialistic person they know or have ever met. Actually, I perceive that most people are kind of shocked when they first meet me…I get the sense that they have built up some kind of flamboyant Richy Rich picture of me in their own mind…and that is not the kind of person I am at all.
However, I AM very much a believer that God’s people should be successful and blessed…I AM very much a believer that God’s people should be wealthy and significant…I AM very much a believer that God’s people should OCCUPY our world until Christ returns.
How did I come to believe this? Well, I…like most others from my generation…grew up under the teaching that “Godliness equals poverty and insignificance“…and LOOK WHERE THAT MODEL HAS BROUGHT OUR WORLD?
While God’s people have foolishly groveled along in poverty and insignificance, they have opened the door wide open to satan and his minions to take over every important part of our lives and world.
This should have NEVER happened!
If God’s people had of been doing all along what they SHOULD have been doing…if God’s people had of been doing what the Bible teaches in its entirety…our world would NOT be in the shape it is in today.
Thankfully, more and more of God’s people are waking up…especially after we got past the year 2000…and are realizing that yes, Christ is going to return for His Bride…and yes, His return is sooner than ever…but, until He returns, His words, “Occupy till I come” IS what we are supposed to be doing…because the more God’s people occupy, the more they squeeze out satan and his minions…the more God’s people occupy, the more God’s Kingdom is built up and satan’s kingdom is destroyed.
Anyway, in the interest of expanding people’s awareness…or at least giving people an alternate perspective to consider…I am going to share and respond to a comment sent to me:
Hi, I just read your letter “The Path To Success“. At times, I can see that God works like this. But, He knows our hearts and at other times he uses other people to test our walk and to find out where our heart truly is (He knows). If we are blessed by Him, and a Brother comes to us in need, and we can help him, but we don’t – He sees that (1 John 3:17). Our true heart is what matters, not just what we say. Sometimes it is God’s will for us to help someone come out of a snare the devil laid for him or her. We own nothing here. It all belongs to God. I do not put God in a box that He does things in one way only. Our understanding falls short of His. Words are words. In the Book of Acts, they helped each other and no one went without. That is how we are to still to be one to another. It is not about the money. It is about His people (how we treat the least of His). So, sometime it’s not about them. Rather, it is a test for us…to find out where we really put our trust. Christ did not die on that cross for us to have a big house and three cars. Your brother in the Lord.
I completely agree that God does not fit into the box of our understanding…and I completely agree that in most things, God has a multitude of ways in which He can do things. I also agree that God tests us to see where our love and loyalty lies (Jeremiah 17:10, Revelations 2:23). Next, I agree that if a brother or sister has been caught in a snare set by satan, then Galations 6:1 is God’s commandment to us. And, speaking for myself, I can CERTAINLY agree that my understanding falls way short of God’s understanding.
With regard to the rest of what you say, let’s explore. Based upon my understanding, experience, and view, the key phrase in your comment is: “at times”.
Let’s spell out the verse you mention in 1 John 3:17…”But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”
Similarly, James 2:15-16 tells us, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled, notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”
Without argument, these verses are a SLIVER of God’s word…and the Bible teaches us that we will be judged according to God’s word…and therefore, it IS important that we know and honor these verses wherever applicable.
However, Jesus ALSO made it clear to us that we are to live by EVERY word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). That means we are to have the wisdom and discretion to consider the big picture of what we are dealing with and do our best to match that up with the entirety of God’s word, nature, and will.
To clarify, let’s consider other SLIVERS of God’s word…
2 Thessalonians 3:10 tells us, “if any would not work, neither should he eat“.
Matthew 7:6 tells us, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
I could go on…but these verses are enough to illustrate that it is our duty and obligation to consider WHY and HOW someone is in need, naked, or destitute…and to wisely respond accordingly.
As the Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 7:12, “wisdom giveth life to them that have it.” The reason MOST people have troubles and problems in life is because they have imprudently lived and operated without wisdom. And, it is important to understand that unless such people suffer from the consequences that correspond with their choices and actions, they will not learn to live and operate in wisdom. They will simply continue to be a non-contributing drain on society as a result of their unwise choices and actions.
Now, let’s consider the example of a person who is drowning. Should you swim out and try to rescue them? Absolutely not! Does that mean you are a bad person? Nope! Again, wisdom giveth life to them that have it…and to swim out to a drowning person means that they are likely to drown you too. The point is, there is a wise and proper way to administer charity…and a LOT of unwise, foolish, and DESTRUCTIVE ways to administer charity.
There is another dimension that is particularly important for us to keep in mind as well…and this references right back to 1 John 3:17 and James 2:15-16. There are a LOT of people who “claim” they are Christians…there are a LOT of people who hang out in Christian circles to take advantage of Christian benefits and charity…but, the fact of the matter is that they are NOT a true Brother or Sister in Christ…they are NOT living according to the commandments and precepts God gives us…AND THAT IS WHAT THEIR “FRUIT” REVEALS (Matthew 7:16,20).
In your own life and experience, I challenge you to find a case where a true, Bible-honoring, Bible-living BROTHER or a SISTER is truly in need or destitute.
Assuming you live in a developed country (more on this later), I am confident you will find it VERY HARD to find such a person…because after all, as David said in Psalms 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I NOT seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”
Now, you will certainly find all kinds of NON-brothers and NON-sisters destitute and in need…as a result of their bad choices and bad actions…as a result of their non-learning and non-working.
You will certainly find people who go to church…who are poor and and in financial hardship…as a result of them having settled for living just a PORTION of what the Bible teaches…people who ignore scriptures like, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)
You will certainly find people in hardship sitting in a worn-out Lazy-Boy chair in a dumpy little house during the middle of the day watching their just-released, biggest-screen-ever TV and chatting on their brand-new iPhone or iPad…people who are not the least bit interested in hearing about scriptures like, “labour, it is the GIFT of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13)
But, finding a true brother or sister…someone who lives and operates according to ALL of the principles the Bible teaches…someone who makes wise choices, acts wisely, and who pursues knowledge and wisdom as instructed in the Bible…and yet is still destitute and in need?
Hmmm…that doesn’t quite ring true, does it? That seems to be an oxymoron, doesn’t it?
In fact, in my experience…certainly within the realm of a developed country…and often even in a less-developed country…the ONLY time you will find a true Brother or Sister struggling in hardship is during their short season of testing…their season of testing where God is proving them and determining where their love and loyalty lies…and that is a whole different matter…that is a matter between that person and God…and it is never wise to meddle or interfere with something going on between God and another person.
The FACT is, God’s Word that He purposely and specifically provided to us IS SOUND, WHOLE, AND COMPLETE! Nothing is missing. Everything we need to thrive and succeed on every level…both spiritually and in the natural…is included. And, ANY person who studies, honors, obeys, and applies God’s Word to us cannot help but thrive and succeed…because God’s Word IS the very essence and nature of God articulated (John 1:1)…and the nature of God is unyielding, unstoppable, increase, expansion, riches, health, and so on…just read the Bible and you can see that it is so.
And so, IF there is a failure somewhere in our lives, it is because somewhere, we have failed to absorb, implement, and apply God’s Word in its entirety.
Now, let’s consider the incidence you mentioned in Acts chapter 2. This DEFINITELY falls under the umbrella of your phrase “at times”. Specifically, this was a time when there was extreme persecution from the Jews against Christians. As a result, the only way Christians could survive at that time…and simultaneously allow the brand-new gospel to be birthed, delivered, and established…was to band together and support each other. We can find other “special circumstances” in the Bible where “having all things in common” was the appropriate situation for survival. Moreover, there are cases in our world today…in certain nations and regions…where it is still the appropriate solution for Christians. And, I believe that as we continue into the unfolding of prophecy, there will be even more cases where it becomes necessary and appropriate.
However, when we take the Bible as a whole to determine how God wants things to be in “normal” circumstances, we very much find that the capitalistic, individualistic model is God’s model. It is the model that made the United States of America so great…all the way up until they decided to forget God’s warning in Deuteronomy 8.
Ecclesiastes 3:13 is an excellent expression of God’s model…”every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour“.
As another example of what I am talking about, part of God’s aggravation with the Children of Israel when they wanted a King was that it would undermine the individualistic model that God had them operating successfully in. You can read about that in 1 Samuel 8.
I could give other examples…but suffice it to say that what happened in Acts chapter 2 is NOT God’s model for “normal” life…and any open-minded review of the Bible will easily prove that. What happened in Acts chapter 2 is a model that applies to exceptional and unusual circumstances.
Really, we need look no further than the 10 Commandments to know this: “Thou shalt not covet … any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
Plainly and directly, this scripture tells us that we are not to “want” anything that other people have learned for…worked for…and earned/deserved. Instead, we are to learn for…work for…and earn/deserve our own good!
God has PLENTY of blessings and abundance for each and every one of us. That is why there is no need for us to covet/want what someone else has…that is why there is no need for someone else to give to us what they have learned and worked for. God has PLENTY for us…God is with us…and He is ready to give us all that we are willing to learn and work for. We just have to be willing to do the learning and the work necessary for us to be able to provide value, benefit, and service.
Now, in everything I have said, I am not suggesting that charity, gifts, tithing, and ministry-support are wrong…because they certainly are not. Charity, gifts, tithing, and ministry-support are definitely a part of God’s model of living for us. And, what I have hopefully clarified above is that there is a very specific (narrow?) way in which these things are properly exercised and executed.
Through His people, God has many, many works and ministries going on that are legitimate, good, and worthy. Being guided by God to be a participant of such works and ministries is always wise and appropriate.
But, outside of works and ministries that are clearly God-ordained and clearly creating greater-good, proceed at your own risk…knowing that most likely, the person wanting your Christian charity just wants you to make the sacrifices, do the learning and the work, earn the money, and then give it to them…after which they will turn around and CONTINUE rejecting Christ…CONTINUE making bad choices…CONTINUE acting in foolish ways…and CONTINUE to want other people to bail them out of their messes and consequences.
And again, yes…I believe there can be a few rare “times” when the Lord wants us to give to this kind of person…as a testimony against them on Judgement Day. But, my advice is that you better make sure it is God moving on you because otherwise, you are merely “wasting your substance on riotous living” (Luke 15:13) and “casting your pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6).
Now, I know this article has undoubtedly raised the hackles of some people…so I will close with this: before a person starts parroting and pushing popular opinions, beliefs, and dogmas about what “Christianity” is and what “Christians” do, they should read the Bible in its entirety…and they should read it again…and again…however many times they need to…until they start to develop an OVERALL understanding of God’s true nature, will, and intentions.
The reason that God proclaimed David to be a “man after mine own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22) was because David’s understanding of God’s OVERALL nature surpassed that of everyone around him. In fact, with the exception of Christ, we would be hard-pressed to find ANYONE in the Bible who better understood God’s OVERALL nature better than David did.
My point is this: compare the OVERALL nature of God as defined by the entirety of the Bible…and compare that to popular “Christian” opinions, beliefs, and dogmas…and you will inevitably find major holes and errors…or in some cases, you will even find that there is very little resemblance between the two. The fact is, MOST “versions” of Christianity are derived from a very NARROW, distorted extraction of a few key verses drawn from the Bible and used inappropriately or given inappropriate significance…much like satan did when he tempted Christ in Matthew 4.
So, by all means, go to church…we are commanded to do so (Hebrews 10:25)…just find the church in your area that practices the greatest portion of the Bible…and make sure that you have worked out your own salvation (Philippians 2:12) with a full-featured study of the entire Bible mixed with prayer and fasting. Otherwise, you will get to suffer…and any “witnessing” you do will merely mislead other people into suffering too.
NOTE: If you want to consider this topic of “money is evil” further, take a look at this article: Is Being Rich Bad?
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