“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12)
About five years ago, while attending another church, my wife and I found ourselves in dire straights: our money was dwindling! And while we both had been taught properly at other churches prior to this one, and knew the Scriptures full well in regards to handling money, yet the prevalent teaching at this “new” church caused us to “veer off” the straight and narrow path that the Lord had laid down for our lives, when it came to handling money. To be sure, we were not as “thoroughly and properly taught” with regards to money as we would have liked to have been. We were therefore susceptible to this false teaching, which never once emphasized stewardship during the entire year that we were there. Instead, the teaching was, “If you need money, God will give it to you. You just need to have faith.”
Now don’t get me wrong. We believe that God provides for his children, in accordance with the Scriptures. The problem is that this teaching must be “properly balanced” with the rest of the Scriptures, which clearly teaches us that we must be proper stewards of the money which God has entrusted into our care. And one very simple teaching which somehow I had ignored during this time was that in order to balance any financial books properly, the amount coming in must be equal to, or greater than, the amount going out! It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3! But even as I write these words, I’m sure there are some who are disagreeing with me, who insist that they can continually overspend their budget and expect God to make up for it.
Well, I can tell you one thing, God certainly is gracious and merciful! And he does often “make up for it”, but he is not making up for wisdom, my friend, oftentimes. Rather, he is making up for our foolishness, and, because we are yet “babes in Christ”, he is willing to do that. Because that is what you would do for your son or daughter, as well, wouldn’t it? If they overspent and had no more money, you would say, “Well, I hope you learned a lesson from that! Here’s some more money. Please don’t do it again.” You might not do that for long, however, if your son or daughter refused to learn the lesson. Instead, you might let them learn the hard way, by allowing them to get into debt, so that they could “see” their problem more clearly. The mentality in the church, unfortunately, ignores the fact that we make mistakes, and seems to blindly forget about our need to be good stewards. Instead, in many churches, the teaching is, “God will give you what you need.” There is no mention of our need to be responsible stewards at all! There is no confession of sin.
Our money, then, was dwindling. This was naturally producing tension in me! Eventually, I went to see a doctor who prescribed some pills. I knew I was developing an ulcer but, believe it or not, I couldn’t “see” the underlying cause! Eventually, the Lord led me to a man — he was the pharmacist — who said to me, “You know, I wouldn’t take those pills”. He explained to me that the underlying cause of ulcers is anxiety … and he wasn’t even a Christian … he was a Muslim! What a rebuke!!! What the church had never taught me, a wonderful Muslim man taught me … the very pharmacist! I knew that although this man was a Muslim, that God was using him to speak to me. This Muslim had one thing straight: ulcers are caused by anxiety. Still, I purchased the pills, but, in the end, never ended up taking a single one of them!
I began thinking about what the man had said. And soon, God “revealed to me” this wonderful analogy as to why I was developing an ulcer. From this analogy, I was able to resolve the underlying problem (and we eventually left that church, as well). The life I was living was like I was trying to walk over a valley on a tight-rope. I did not want to venture “down into” the valley, where there were interesting plants growing, and where wonderful things were happening, and where there were people to meet, and where there were interesting things to be found! Instead, I wanted to “avoid the valley!” I wanted instead the “high” life of having to walk over this tight-rope, that was stretched out over this valley! In the process, I was taking an unnecessary risk: I knew that I could fall at any time! The knowledge of this was producing a great deal of anxiety in me! Instead, God wanted me to “live in the valley!” That was humbling. I had to take the low road, not the high road, like I was taught in church. Of a truth, this Muslim man was right, and the church was wrong. The unbelievers had something over the believers in this area … and I’m sad to say, that many unbelievers still do!
God made it clear to me that I needed to “come down”. Very simply, and very easily, because of this discussion which I had with this Muslim man, and because I knew that God was “in it”, I then saw that I was trying to “live beyond my means”. I was spending more money than was coming in. This had to stop! After looking at our budget, I then realized that what we really needed to do was to move, because our current rent was too high! This seemed to be the only solution in sight! It was simple logic: If you don’t have money, you have to do something to reduce your expenses. Now may I share something with you? This teaching is quite biblical. Remember when Elijah ran out of food and water at the brook Kidron due to a famine in the land? Did he say, “God, give me more food and water, I’m staying right here!”? No, instead, God said, “It’s time to move!” (That’s a paraphrase). Unfortunately, there are those in the church that are unwilling to move! They are unwilling to live within their economic circumstances. They have been taught falsely that “God will give you more” when, in fact, God may well be saying, “Live within the money that I have already provided for you!”
“And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath.” (1 Kings 17:7-10)
It dawned on me that our current rent was “way more” than we could justify based on my income. Was I to beg God for more money so that we could stay in this “higher-than-we-could-afford” place? Was I to simply “claim” that God would provide for us, because he loved us so dearly? Or, had God commanded us to “come down” from off of the tight rope that were trying to walk on? God was telling us to “come down from off of that rope! We did! Just as soon as we both agreed on that, guess what happened? No more ulcer! In the end, I never took one pill! And the ulcer had been incessant before that … I couldn’t shake it, no matter what I did! For me to go to a doctor over this meant that it had to be bad! (I do not normally choose doctors as a first resort!) That unopened container of pills remained in the medicine cabinet for months, until one day, I finally threw them out! Praise the Lord! The anxiety was gone! We were finally off the “tight-rope” that I had put us on due to that bad teaching in the church! My wife and I moved to a low-rent apartment for two years following that, and, what a wonderful time we had. This was perhaps the one place that we have the fondest memories from. It was there that we raised our two children in the very early years. It was there that we would walk to the park with the children and watch them come down from the slide at such a young age. It was there that we can say that we have some of our fondest memories. God was certainly with us!
Sadly, I would like to end by saying that I brought back this wonderful “revelation” to this same church one night (just before we moved) at one of their prayer meetings. There was this “so-called” authority figure there, who, after hearing my “tight rope” analogy, gave this very bad prophesy, and said, “God is speaking to me and telling me that there is at least one person here who this doesn’t apply to.” Of course, by saying that, he put the big “question mark” in the hearts of all of the people there, so that they wouldn’t know if it was them or not. Thus, he tried to discredit my teaching on being good stewards of the money that God had given to us. This same church split apart after that. That man eventually became a “leader” in the church. Recently, I found out that this man has some very “serious” financial problems (this is now years later). His two phones, both his regular as well as cellular phone, have been disconnected, but I am glad to say that because we listened to the Lord, the very next place we moved into after that two year stint “in the valley” (where I just love it still!) was the house that we are now living in! Praise the Lord! In a dream, the Lord even showed me how much it would cost, before we moved in. We did it, by staying within our means … not by asking God for more!
But we could have never done it “the old way” (spending more than we were receiving). We needed to first “learn the lesson of the valley”. Today, we live in the valley, and live within our means. No more tight rope walking! We love it here, living within the means that God has provided. God taught us a valuable lesson that we will never forget.
Living within your means is actually a key teaching that is required for true spiritual service, for Jesus said, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12) The teaching here, in fact, is that being faithful stewards of our money is a pre-requisite for serving God. The “unrighteous mammon” in this passage is our money. We are to be faithful stewards of our money. That means, for one, living within our means. After that, God will give us “true riches”. What are those true riches? The souls of men and women, to whom we can then minister the gospel that leads to eternal life.