Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Proverbs and Money - Part 2

It's so important that we have God's perspective on money. In Proverbs, there is so much wisdom on many topics, including money. In this post, we'll continue on our journey to freedom from financial worry.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.   Proverbs 22:7

Let's split this verse up, and look at each half individually.

The rich rule over the poor...

In "Proverbs and Money - Part 1" we learned that the Lord created both rich and poor alike. They are both dust, equal, and God doesn't play favorites. Yet, the rich rule over the poor. This truth makes me uncomfortable. I know it's true, but should it be this way? Shouldn't the rich have compassion over the poor? Shouldn't the rich fight for the cause of the poor, and provide for their needs?

Isaiah 58:6-7 says:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter -
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

We established earlier that if you are reading this blog, you are wealthy. You have the means to buy or borrow a computer, and the education to read it. So we, the rich, are not to rule over the poor, but instead to feed them and provide shelter for them, to clothe them and not "turn away from [our] own flesh and blood." Because remember, we are both made by the same Creator. We are, rich and poor, flesh made from dust.

The rich may rule over the poor, but it shouldn't be this way. We can make a different choice: to care for the poor instead of rule over them.

Believers in the early church took it a step further. In Acts 2:42-45 it says:

 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.            Acts 2:42-47
This passage has always encouraged me, challenged me, and made me very uncomfortable. I'm excited to devote myself, along with my fellow believers in a small group, to studying the Word and hanging out together. I love to eat with them, and I'd love to spend far more time in prayer. I long to see God do many signs and wonders in my small group. I'd love to be used as an instrument of miracles, where God's power through the Holy Spirit flows through me and makes me a miracle worker! Its the next part that challenges me:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Acts 2:44
What does this mean? They had everything in common? Does that mean they liked to watch the same TV shows, shop at the same stores, eat the same food and go to the same church? I looked up the phrase "everything in common" in the Greek and this is what I found. In the KJV the phrase is they had "all things common." The word "common" in the Greek is koinos which means "ordinary" or "belonging to generality." I interpret this one of two ways:

1. No one owned anything fancy or expensive, or
2. They shared everything, like the saying, "What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine."  Its as if no one laid claim to anything he or she had, because as soon as someone had a need, they were willing to sell anything to meet that need.

This is where I get very uncomfortable. If I want to be obedient to God and His Holy Word, and if I want to see miraculous signs and wonders, and see the Lord adding daily to those who are saved, I should be living this way. But I don't. I'm not. The passage goes on to explain how to have "all things common."
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 
                                                                                        Acts 2:45
If this is how to have all things common, then I don't think it was enough for the early believers just to have "ordinary" things, all of them living humble, simple lives with common, simple, non-fancy stuff. They could have fancy, ornate, expensive "stuff," but none of them held on tight to any of it. It was as if they held it with open hands. I have it now, but if there is a need, I'll sell it at any time and give to whoever needs it.  Wow. There are tears in my eyes because I don't live that way. This is so anti-American Dream. The American Dream says get more stuff than your parents have so that you can make a "better life" for your children. But is it really a better life? Are we missing the point completely? And are we missing out on miracles and salvations because our goal is accumulation instead of distribution?

If we want to see people get saved, if we want to see God do amazing things, we need to have a looser grip on our "stuff." We need to give to the poor, at home and abroad. We need to proclaim Christ with our words AND our checkbooks. This is a massive challenge for us Americans. But God calls us to live differently than the world. Are you ready to take that step of faith? Am I?

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