In the days we live in today, the loud and brassy doctrine that we hear blaring from the affluent church is that Jesus wants you wealthy. Or at least, He doesn’t mind it one iota…but…
What does God’s Word declare on this vital subject of mammon? Is it vague, or somewhat cryptic? And how much volume does the Holy Spirit spend on its revelation and development?
And, also very important, what are you hearing in the assemblies of God you attend? What are people saying, especially the leaders?
On to the Word…
Our brother the apostle Paul is dealing with his Corinthian church plant. He has mega problems with them. They are arrogant, rebellious to his mandates from God, embracing false teachers and false prophets…and trashing Paul and his apostleship at every opportunity. As Gordon Fee says in his marvelous commentary, Paul is taking them on at every turn to stun them to walk worthy.
Now we come to 2 Corinthians and there’s a famine in Jerusalem. The brethren are very hungry. The famine is actually worldwide, but the saints in Jerusalem are especially hard hit, and the apostles and itinerant church planters are taking up a collection.
But the wealthy Corinthians are dogging it…and Paul pens his piercing words. How would you feel if your babies, and your child, and your teenage daughter, your spouse, and your elderly live-in parents were all half starving? And the so-called brethren in another country were storing up treasures on earth? Be honest now…how would you feel? What would you say or do?
The poor assemblies in Macedonian to the north of Corinth are begging Paul and his fellow workers so that the Macedonians can give even more money for the hungry saints. Amazing grace.
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.
For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (NASB)
What do we see with this poor church? Joy…deep poverty…deep, not shallow…their “wealth” is in the liberality of their hilarious giving…not some defunct Old Testament tithing but real sacrificial holiness. Begging Paul and company for the gracious privilege to give and give again.
So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well. But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. 2 Corinthians 8:6-8 (NASB)
The collection expected from the Corinthians was never done correctly, or complete, it appears. Paul calls this the “proof” of their love. Talk is cheap, he says, and people are hungry, even starving. Let’s get with it, he exhorts.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NASB)
Paul then lets them know that Christ Himself, as the Word declares in the Gospels and other places, was poor…in poverty leaving his riches behind for our sake. Isn’t that just like Jesus? So much for the “wealthy” Jesus…
See, Paul says, you all began but failed to follow through to help the brethren. And he sarcastically stuns then by saying their desire was lacking as well. Not nice, but again that’s not his style or goal.
I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it. But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 2 Corinthians 8:10-12 (NASB)
The Equality Doctrine
Then he drops the bombshell on them..and us. Actually, two bombshells of “equality” in case we miss the first one.
For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; as it is written, “HE WHO gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gathered LITTLE HAD NO LACK.” 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 (NASB)
Hard to get around this, no? But some, perhaps many, of you will try your utmost. People will claim this to be socialism, or communism, or other “isms.”
No…this is the uniform report of Scripture. More on that in a little bit.
As Paul quotes the OT record about manna, he illustrated that God meant everyone to have exactly what they needed, no more or no less.
Then, in the 9th chapter, he still is feisty since he warns them to avoid the shame of embarrassment, and worse still, covetedness, which turns into greed, then to idolatry, and ends one up in the lake of fire.
But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to speak of you—will be put to shame by this confidence. 2 Corinthians 9:3-4 (NASB)
Oops. He puts them on notice for their shenanigans. He minces no words – their very existence can be at stake due to their carnal behavior.
So, he plans to corner them so they can’t ignore their supposed commitment.
So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness. 2 Corinthians 9:5 (NASB)
So, we all want to reap much…and be loved more by God as a cheerful giver.
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NASB)
More Proof of Our Love
Again, he uses the liberal giving to relieve famine as the “proof” of their love for God.
Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, 2 Corinthians 9:13 (NASB)
Pretty clear here…
Now. God uses marketplace business to help provide for His creatures. I have personally helped others start businesses with extra money set aside for that purpose. We have been the recipient of the same from other Christians.
But piling it up, or even storing it up beyond the day is spoken of in no uncertain terms by the Master.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB)
Again, with the religious leaders who were storing up and teaching others to do the same, Jesus Christ speaks.
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable (like a rotting carcass) in the sight of God. Luke 16:13-15 (NASB)
We cannot serve God and wealth. It’s an impossibility.
Was Jesus a legalist requiring the rich, young ruler to give it all up to be saved? What would the current crop of international Christian financial teachers tell this guy? Obviously, the disciples thought the man’s wealth was a sign of blessing from God.
Not so. Giving it all away, and leaving it all behind was the norm. Scary stuff for us here. How much do we really love Jesus? Just a nickel’s worth?
Jesus also didn’t say, “Oh, just believe. It’s OK to keep all your money.”
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” Peter said, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.”And He said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” Luke 18:22-30 (NASB)
How about Zaccheus, the wealthy multimillionaire entrepreneur who leased the whole tax district from Rome and took the spread? No help here either for the rich crowd.
Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:8-10 (NASB)
Jesus went so far as to declare the act of giving away millions on the spot “proved” his new love for God. Pretty convicting…yep, sure is.
No help from the apostles either. But if you want to be healed, this is the thing that money often can’t buy!
But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” Acts 3:4-6 (NASB)
Paul’s Teaching is Uniform
And what else about Paul?
What did he consider an “abundance?” I’ve heard this mistaught so many times, I’ve lost count.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. Philippians 4:11-12 (NASB)
The answer in this case is simply in the same verse. “Humble means” can be “going hungry,” and “prosperity” is “being filled.” None of this heretical nonsense we hear in many Christian circles about storing it up, and getting wealthy and rich.
And to his beloved disciple and fellow church planter Timothy, Paul warns him here. What does he say as he describes fighting the good fight?
For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:7-10 (NASB)
His final exhortation here?
But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NASB)
Flee. And pursue a life of righteousness and godliness. Pretty clear. Not confusing at all.
God Judges Christians
Will God judge us for our actions as Christians? Yes, of course. First, our Master Jesus…
“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37 (NASB)
…and then our brother Paul.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men… 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 (NASB)
Ignoring the Warning?
What is greed? Simply wanting more and more and more.
Then (Jesus) said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 (NASB)
What is idolatry? Something that one puts undue emphasis upon above God?
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience…Colossians 3:5-6 (NASB)
What is the lake of fire? The destined location of eternal everlasting torment for anyone that will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (NASB)
Personally, I can be tempted by greed very easily in the culture we find ourselves in today. But God can get me…and you…through the eye of the needle…all things are possible to God!
Now what will you and I do about all the famines in the world today, knowing all about them through the digital age we can help by way of equality?
What if it was you? And your babies? And your child? And your teen daughter? And spouse? And your live-in aging parents?
Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Your friend and brother in fighting the good fight,
Saints, we’re one day closer to Home, and Him! Love Him wholeheartedly!
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Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.