“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in).” (Matthew 6:24)
In the movies, “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Hobbit”, a character named Smeagol is enamored with a gold ring. If you have watched the series of either movie, you will encounter this interesting individual. A ghastly looking fellow, who shamelessly grasps and clutches his “precious” gold ring. Smeagol stops at nothing to keep and secure his prize possession. Whenever I watch the series, the Hobbit my favorite, it reminds me of miserly individuals I see holding on to treasures that will one day rust and moths will destroy.
Parsimonious and miserable, Smeagol seems to be completely unaware of his own depraved self. Gray and sunken flesh, sulking between the shadows of the underworld, and fearful of anything that could take his “precious” away, Smeagol has succumbed to the lures of gold and promise. I’ve seen several men spent their own gold of a promised fortune gambling and defrauding others for their own gain. Haggard and sullen doesn’t come close to describing those who waste time and energy grasping for unattainable money at the casinos or running to cheapen themselves at the Pawn Shop for on last thrill.
We’ve all seen the show “Hoarders” or have at least heard of them. Tommy, as a realtor, has walked in homes astonished at the walls of clutter people have kept in their homes. Unable to let go of “stuff”, individuals were willing to live in shambles, fire hazards, and self-destructive patterns to achieve happiness or fill a void in their heart.
I understand the financial pressures one can have if a sickness or illness has befallen them. My sister had four brain surgeries to insert a shunt as to let her spinal fluid drain properly from the brain. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills is difficult to swallow and pay when you are Middle America. She makes a payment every month, towards a debt they may never get paid off.
I have met the gambler willing to put lives in jeopardy to feel the “high” of a win. You would think in the mind, there would have to be some sort of recollection of losses verses gains. Why continue to lose everything for a few seconds of adrenaline? Homes, families, jobs, finances, and inheritances have succumbed to a person’s addiction to self.
I have met the con artist, twice. Twice as business contracts were proposed and signed, we lost money to men who would stop at nothing to lie and cheat for gain. One of these men was close to our family. It’s different when a con man swindles from an office space compared to the “friend” who spends time in your home, with your children, and takes knowingly never to return. These people are the ones who amaze me the most. Individuals who deliberately set out to defraud, lie, and cheat are willing to put their own families and yours in jeopardy, never once caring for the ones left behind.
Credit cards are a deceptive advantage. The majority of Americans or people who use them do not pay the balance due each month. Most pay penalties or annual fees with monthly sky-high interest rates to buy things or clothes they don’t need. How many are willing to put their families in financial straights just to buy a pair of shoes? You would be surprised!
Finally, I have met the families who depended on credit to survive during struggles and moves. When a job loss or quotas have not been met, individuals who live off commission may suffer. It can be feast or famine. I know this too well from my husband being a realtor. I know of a family who lived off credit to survive while her husband worked extremely hard. Extended family came in to help with the financial burden and a prayer request was answered. God was merciful knowing how hard the family worked only to keep falling in a pit of debt.
Money is mentioned in the Amplified Bible one hundred and sixty times, treasure is mentioned thirty-seven times, and mammon four times. For Christians, Christ’s statement in regards to mammon should strike a cord, “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the (case of) righteous mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions), who will entrust to you the true riches?” (Luke 16:9) If God cannot trust His people to be accountable for what He has given us, then how are we to be able to hand the true riches of the Gospel or expect God to give us more? Think of the rich young man who walked away from Jesus when he was asked to give up his treasures to follow Christ. The young man walked away sad because he was very wealthy and could not depart from his stuff. The lad would not be entrusted with the Gospel if he could not give up what was in his heart for mammon.
When we use the money God has given us, He desires us to use it accordingly. We are not to use dishonest scales and cheat those around us, “Diverse and deceitful weights are shamefully vile and abhorrent to the Lord, and false scales are not good.” (Proverbs 20:23) So dishonest was the scale of the tax collector Zacchaeus, the Jews detested him. He climbed a sycamore tree to see our Lord who called and supped with him. After spending time with Christ, Luke writes, “So then Zacchaeus stood up and solemnly declared to the Lord, See, Lord, the half of my goods I [now] give [by way of restoration] to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone out of anything, I [now] restore four times as much.” (Luke 19:8)
Our money, the money God has graciously bestowed for us, should be used wisely. God expects us to be honest, hard working, wise, and giving, especially to His House. A tithe or just a tenth of your income should be given back to the Lord and believers live off the full ninety percent. We have to acknowledge that God does not need our money; He does this to guard our hearts against all the deceitful lures of money.
Tithe is mentioned thirty-four times in the Amplified Bible. Malachi 3:8-10 is the only Scripture in God’s Word that encourages believers to test God, “Will a man rob or defraud God? Yet you rob and defraud me. But you say, in what way do we rob or defraud you? [You have withheld your] tithes and offerings. You are cursed with the curse, for you are robbing me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes (the whole tenth of your income) into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now by it, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
We are not called to be hoarders, misers, or thieves; we are called to be holy because God is holy. We are called to supply the Lord’s house, being generous and kind, good and compassionate for those in need. We are not to hoard selfishly, store our homes with “stuff” we don’t use, wastefully squander money on gambling and credit debit, and then complain when we are in financial straights.
As my heart has been laid out for you with the different types of financial pressures, let us get to the widow with two mites. In the Gospel of Mark 12:41-44, Jesus is sitting opposite the place where the offerings were given, watching the crowd put their money into the temple treasury. I love Jesus just sat and watched! My mind imagines Christ sitting, standing or walking with us as we take our offerings to His house. His desire for us to go deeper into giving, tithing, and seeing the motives in which we give, inspires me to rise higher.
“Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.” Can you picture it? Watching the rich, “throw” their large amounts in to the offering did not impress Jesus, nor should it impress us. Many who have much will be expected of much, but there can come a complacent attitude of just “throwing” the money, taking for granted the accountability of such a blessing and trust. How many “rich” people do you know, if something were to happen to their money, if it were all taken from them, would crumble and fall to pieces? The Bible does not say her emotional state of giving these small coins, but I can imagine if Christ praised her, it was a pure, faithful heart.
When we give our money to the Lord, whether tithing or offering to help those in need, Tommy and I pray the funds are used properly for God’s purposes. I believe this widow, following the commands in the Law, gave her money to God believing He provides, calling on the name of Jehovah Jirah, My Provider! There were times in our life we did not know how we were going to pay for food, rent, school, or electric bills. We did not know how God was going to provide, but we did believe He would never leave us nor forsake us.
During the years of tithing, believing, praying, and giving, I struggled to understand God’s ways. If I am giving, why am I not receiving? If you ask the same question, then your heart needs to ask a few more, “Are your motives pure in asking God for more? Are you faithful with what has been given to you? Can the Lord trust you with more money? It is hard to ask God for more mammon, when given, you will spend it on a new purse.
It is hard to ask God for money if what you have is being given to movies, entertainment, electronics, gambling, phones, toys, bigger cars or homes you already can not afford. It is hard to ask God for more money if you have not been faithful with what He has given you. Do you pay your bills on time? Do you honor your commitments on credit? Have you extended your credit card limit or have you purchased something you could not afford for entertainment or prideful motives?
I believe the Lord had our family in a season of financial testing for our faith and believe in “security”, which rested on our bank accounts. If you visibly have money, there is a comfort and refuge in believing your safe, you can provide for your family. The testing comes when you are tithing, believing and your bank account is empty, unsure how you are going to pay the rent money. This is when your faith is being stretched and continues to deepen as you persistently trust God, tithe, and generously sow.
In our youth, Tommy and I made unwise financial investments. Trusting individuals, whom proved to be wolves in sheep clothing, is eye opening to say the least. We cannot obtain the money back, but we learned a valuable lesson in giving where God has NOT told us to give. We did not pray and ask if this was a good investment, but trusted individuals when we should not have.
Our family also understands there are circumstances out of our hands pertaining to financial losses. Tommy was an appraiser during the 2008 market crash. We lost everything we had in real estate, foreclosing on properties including our own home. It was a difficult time as I was pregnant with our third child. After renting for four years, we were finally able to buy a house in 2013. Those were difficult times to wade through, and I look back never desiring to return.
We have also spent time paying off cars and credit debt. We owed several people money, in which we kept our commitment as hard as it was to give back. Tommy and I have done these things all the while tithing and praying God show us what a blessing money is, but to never take it for granted. “The blessing of the Lord brings (true) riches, and He adds no sorrow with it (it comes as a blessing from God).” (Proverbs 10:22)
If you have found yourself financial strapped with debt and credit card payments, my recommendation would be to watch Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. His classes are worth the time and investment to regain your financial future.
I will tell you paying off debt you have accumulated is difficult and definitely not worth what was purchased on the card. There will need to be a season of prayer as you draw closer to the Lord for wisdom, self-control, and peace knowing you purchased more than you could pay. Paying off the debt seems to last forever compared to the one hour shopping spree spent charging the card.
I believe you will also have to recognize any addictions to shopping, gambling, spending, or fraudulent activity when praying over your finances and difficulties. God can restore anything you give Him, but you have to be willing to go through the process and recognize there is a problem. I will presumptuously profess there will be no quick fix or miracle from God when digging yourself out of debt. This is a HARD lesson many of us have had to walk through without a “name it and claim it” attitude or “ram in the thicket” miracle. Godly character is taking responsibility for your actions and paying the debt you owe off.
As I close, my prayer is you are the widow with two small coins, giving to God from deep within your pockets, sowing more into the Kingdom instead of to your flesh. As I am writing, the Lord reminds me of a wealthy man in the Bible, who stored up things for himself. The Gospel of Luke 12:16-21 describes a rich man. “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself.’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
“Do not store for “yourself” treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and there thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 5:19-21) Yes, Jesus brought Christians to a high standard, a greater expectation and responsibility than those living in the world. We are to give generously, provide to those who instruct us in the Word and the House of God.
I would imagine the debt people find themselves in is not because they are giving to Christian organizations or charitable entities. I suppose most debt is to impress people we don’t know, make ourselves feel good for a short high, and surround ourselves with treasures that will rust one day. Let us pray and remember, God blesses His people, but He also expects Christians to be responsible with what He has given them. “For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required; and of him to whom men entrust much, they will require and demand all the more.” (Luke 12:48) Ironically, the more we use our credit, much more is paid back with interest……