"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, June 17, 2013

Using the Talents of God

Several weeks ago we discussed the topic of the idolatry of money (Forgetting mammon) and earthly possessions by exploring particular passages in Scripture such as the discussion between the rich man and Christ and we began to see how God, as He always has been, is well and truly more concerned about the condition of our hearts than the amount of money in our pockets.

Now this raises a few questions which I did not feel up to addressing last week but, nonetheless, cannot be avoided. When one finds themselves reading the Gospels, or the New Testament in general, it can be all too tempting to place oneself on a guilt trip when reading how early Christians lived in near poverty relying wholeheartedly on God to provide their every need. And as a result, we can feel as though we are not in service to God as He intends because we know where our next meal will come from or where we will sleep and we have that sort of security that almost feels 'ungodly' in ways. 

Or let's take a different look at it and look to the pulpit where we have the megachurches and some pastors in possession of money, quantities of which some of us can only dream of, at their disposal. And when we look at this luxury many of us can find ourselves in or the incredible amount of wealth some have in the name of Christ, there becomes a part of us that does not feel at ease with what we see. 

And why wouldn't we? All throughout Scripture, warnings tend to follow wealth. Reminders that it is perishable, deceptive and unsatisfying. Or as 1 Timothy 6:10, the "love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (NIV). And so wealth, in light of all that Scripture says, seems to become taboo in a sense and we begin to think that wealth can have nothing to do with the will of God and cannot be used for His glory other than to simply sell all we have. 

Let's take a moment to look at a parable in Scripture found in Matthew 25 which I am sure many of us are familiar with. In the parable of the talents, as it is called, we have a master who has trusted his servants with different portions of wealth. The master goes away and two of the servants invest the money and reap a return while the third, who received only one talent (as they are called in some translations), buries it and waits for his master's return. Then the master returns and he rewards the first two servants for what they have sown but condemns the third. 

Then Christ concludes in verse 29:

Matthew 25:29, "For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." (NIV)

And I've often found this verse difficult to comprehend, particularly the last part "Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."

But it makes sense doesn't it?

If we take this parable first to mean the spiritual gifts God gives us. If we simply keep our gift to ourselves and never use it to reap a harvest, then what was the purpose of God giving us the gift in the first place? Would it not be logical that the master would take that gift from us and provide it to someone who is more willing to further God's kingdom through it, just as the master in the parable took the one talent from the third servant and gave it to the first who 'reaped a harvest' so to speak?

And in Luke 16, we have a very similar message given by Christ.

Luke 16:10-11, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?" (NIV)

Again Christ teaches this message of being trusted with what God gives us, and here He is more explicit in saying that if we are trustworthy with whatever He may provide us with, He will give us more responsibility.

But back to the point. What does any of this have to do with worldly wealth?

Well interestingly, but not surprisingly, following Jesus' words in Luke 16 shown above, He again goes on to say that we cannot serve two masters, we will hate one and love the other.

And all over again we are reminded that this is not about the quantity of what we have but the condition of our hearts and, at least personally, I would say that few passages in Scripture resonate this more beautifully than Christ's words regarding the women with two pennies.

Mark 12:41-44, "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, 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." (NIV)

The others had given "out of their wealth" but the widow put in "all she had to live on". And it would seem that one can only do this when they come to the full realisation that all that they have belongs to God and nothing else matters except God. 

But did she give out of obligation instead of heartfelt devotion as it would seem? I'm not sure we can say but the following verses would seem to shed some light:

2 Corinthians 9:6-7, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (NIV)

And again, God, through His Word, returns to the matter of the heart with absolute no regard to the quantity.

And so we return to the question at hand when it comes to our own lives as Christians and the wealth we hold in our hands. Whether we're simply in youth group receiving a few dollars a week as pocket money or the head of a massive church; to those whom are trustworthy, more is given. 

Now, whether that added responsibility comes in the form of spiritual or material gifts, that is entirely up to God, but we can be certain that God will entrust us with more, whatever form 'more' takes in our lives. 

I'm not saying that all megachurches are godly. Far too many teach a false gospel that leads people to believe that if they tithe at church or even simply believe to Christ, a Mercedes will miraculously appear in their garage.

Of course, that's not how its phrased, but the idea is there where it is taught that Christ will bestow earthly possession upon possession to those who believe in Him... which begins to sound very odd in light of the handful of times Christ spoke of eternal treasures. 

But there are those few who work in such churches, who, as God gives them more, they use it to bring sincere glory to God. I don't wish to give any names in order to not give the impression I am praising someone other than God but there are those few who have because they were deemed trustworthy by God and as God has given more, they have continued to glorify Him through what they have received both spiritually and materially. 

As Matthew 25:15 says, each of the servants was given "according to his ability". So too has God given us each spiritual and material gifts that He desires for us to use for His glory. And while spiritual gifts are of much higher value and Christ's promises never focused on the material but the spiritual, Scripture teaches us that we can reap an eternal reward through glorifying Him with the few material possessions He has trusted us each with. 

In light of all of this though, by no means should we expect to receive more material wealth out of greed, thinking we are serving God. Do we not then simply come back to the condition of the heart where a God-led heart gives no notice to reliance on the material and solely trusts in God?

So may we remember that we are called to store up treasures in Heaven in order to keep our hearts from greed and selfishness and so that God may use us more and more in this fallen world, in whatever form He chooses to do so. 

God bless you all.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV

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