Cost of Living
“…All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee…O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own”—1 Chronicles 29:14-16
Money can be a great asset or liability. The Bible says, “The love of money is the root of all evil,” and we might add, the proper use of money is the root of great good.
Some men, like Abraham and Job, are rich and honest; others are rich because they are dishonest. Some are poor because they refuse to live by a double standard. They will not stoop to the sharp questionable tricks of the trade. Others are poor and lazy. Actually the talent of money-making is a gift to be used like any other talent for God’s glory. “Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God, for it is He that giveth power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).
The subject of money in relation to the Christian is important. Our world functions on a money basis. Every phase of the church needs money. Missions costs money. It takes money to maintain the home front. And where does this money come from? It must come from the people of God.
Many Christians shy away from this subject but Jesus did not. In seventeen of the thirty-seven parables, He dealt with property and man’s responsibility. Giving cannot be separated from the Gospel. The Gospel is giving. “For God so love the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16).
The Macedonian Christians
The Apostle Paul dealt with Christian giving in a beautiful way. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, he challenged the Corinthian believers to greater liberality: “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power I bear a record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves. Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints, and this they did; not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch as we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in everything in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty, might be rich.”
Years before, on the Asiatic side of the Aegean Sea, Paul experienced his Macedonian vision. The call was, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” Now there was a second call. Not, “Come over and help us,” but, “come over and take our help to others.”
To challenge and possibly shame the Corinthian Christians, Paul relates how the Macedonian Christians had suffered intensely. Suffering often produces selfishness, for too often we take special care of self and forget others. Not so with these Christians. They experienced “great trials of affliction” and “deep poverty,” but this double yoke could not cramp their large-heartedness. The danger of these believers was that they would give TOO MUCH, not too little. They gave, “…beyond their power” (v. 3).
Giving, to these Christians, was not a chore but a challenge. Giving was not to be avoided, but sought after. They asked, “How much can we give?” Never, “How little shall we give?” They begged Paul, “…with much entreaty” to receive their gifts.
God Wants You
The first step in Christian giving is not your money, but you! God wants you. Of the Macedonian Christians we read, “and this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5).
The tithe, according to the Bible, is one-tenth of a man’s possessions. People often dismiss tithing with the casual phrase, “We are not under law but under grace.” This sentence is true but remember the Gospel of grace always goes beyond the law. The law declares “Thou shalt not kill,” but the Gospel says, “Thou shalt not hate.” The law of Moses demanded one-seventh of the time and one-tenth of the income for God. This is the minimum. The tithe is the starting place, not the goal. The Gospel of grace goes beyond this. Every new convert will want to do under grace at least what was required under law. Dr. Herschel Hobbs has said, “The nine-tenths prove man’s love, but the one-tenth tests man’s legal obedience” ([based on] Malachi 3:8-10). Make your money immortal: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:20).
Giving should be systematic. “Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him…” (1 Corinthians 16:2). At the very beginning of your Christian life, acquire the habit of regular giving.
Giving should be done cheerfully. To have part in God’s program is a happy privilege. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
When we come to the end of life, the question will be, “How much have you given?”; not “How much have you gotten?” “How much have you sacrificed?”; not, “How much have you saved?” We are to be producers rather than parasites; givers rather than getters.
The Motive of All Giving
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty, might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Jesus Christ “emptied Himself.” Four truths are plain: He was rich. We were poor. He became poor. We became rich.
He was rich. In the beginning when all was dark, God spoke and spun all creation into being. God said, “Let there be light,” and the sun was set afire in the skies. He spangled the night with the beaming moon and shimmering stars. Then between day and night, He placed the world and started it on its journey around the sun. Then God scooped the valleys out and bulged the mountains up. God cooled the hot earth with water, dividing the land from the seas. Then the flowers blossomed; fruit trees produced; the herbs sprouted. Then God inhabited the Earth with living creatures, beasts of every kind “…and God saw that it was good.”
Then God made a man and He breathed into him His breath and man became a living soul. All creation advertises God’s power. He is rich in power. All the silver and gold are His. The diamonds on the black canvas of night are His. The cattle upon a thousand hills are His.
He is rich in wisdom. He is omniscient. The past, present, and future is one eternal now to Him.
He is rich in life. Death had no claim on this man. He is God from everlasting to everlasting.
We are poor. How poor are we? So poor that we have nothing with which to plead in Heaven’s courts. So poor that we could not afford a lawyer to plead our case. So poor that we have no robes to cover our guilt and nakedness. Romans 3:10-17 declares, “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way. They are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known.”
We are poor. How poor are we? So poor that we have no medicine for our wounds. So poor that there was no bread for our hungry mouths. So poor that there was no water for our thirsty souls. We were poor.
He became poor! Paul points to Jesus as the supreme example of giving: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor, that ye through His poverty, might be rich.”
How poor did He become? He was so poor that there was no place for Him to be born. He was born in a stable with the cattle as His witnesses. Think how He could have come. He could have been born in a palace. He could have been rocked in a golden cradle. He could have been fed with a golden spoon. He could have had the angels as His attendants. But no, He “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
When it came time to die, He died not as a rich man but as a poor man, crucified between two criminals. How poor was He? He was poor in the sight of earth for He had no covering—the soldiers had stripped Him. He was so poor that He had to commit His mother to another’s care. So poor that He could not buy a drink of water for His dry tongue. Even His Heavenly Father turned His face from Him. When it was time for the burial, He was not buried in His own tomb, but another man’s tomb.
Why did He endure all this? Why did He come to suffer and die?
“For your sakes”—for the sake of those who are lost. For the sake of those who are without God. For the sake of those who are poor; for me and for you.
We became rich. “…That ye through His poverty might be rich.” How rich do we become? We become as rich as Jesus Christ Himself.
How rich are we? We were dead without hope but now we are children of God. Not only children, but heirs. We are priests and kings, and we shall reign with Him.
How rich do we become? All the wealth that is His becomes ours. We are joint heirs with God.
Triumphantly we ought to sing:
“My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands,
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full,
He has riches untold.
“My Father’s own Son, the Saviour of men
Once wander’d o’er earth as the poorest of them,
But now He is reigning for ever on high,
And will give me a home in Heaven by and by.
“I once was an outcast, stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, an alien by birth,
But I’ve been adopted; my name’s written down,
An heir to a mansion, a robe, and a crown.
“I’m a child of the King, a child of the King
With Jesus my Saviour, I’m a child of the King.”
What will you give in return? What shall I do with this little life of mine, my money, my time. Shall I withhold it? Dare I withhold it?
“Remember the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”