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CHAPTER 1 YOUR ECONOMIC DESTINY
But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:18
I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. Psalm 37:25
I was talking with Jan, a twenty-seven-year-old single parent with two children and a full-time job. She said she could not live on her present salary. "Well, what have you done to change your financial circumstances? Have you asked God to give you a creative idea?" I inquired. She said that she had been praying about the situation for a number of years, but there had been no change in her circumstances. She was waiting for God to intervene on her behalf. "Do you have any kind of plan to budget your spending? Do you set aside any portion of your current income for savings?" I continued. "I don’t earn enough money to worry about a budgetmuch less, any kind of savings," she answered. Jan is a committed Christian and genuinely loves the Lord. Nevertheless, she is trapped by the system and cannot see a way out. She even has a desire to give a portion of her income to the church, but she never seems to have enough left over after paying her bills. She wants her circumstances to change but has not taken any specific action that would better her financial condition. Additionally, she has not properly managed what she already has. She has fallen into the same economic mindset as many Christians. Jan believes that if God wanted her to have more money, He would change her financial circumstances. However, if she continues on her current path, she will never be free from the bondage of her financial situation. She will never achieve her full economic potential. Jan is halting progress toward her economic destiny without ever realizing it! What has she done to get in this position? Is there anything she can do to change her financial circumstances? What do she and other Christians need to know about their economic potential in God?
GOD’S PLANS FOR YOUR LIFE
According to Deuteronomy 8:18, God has given each Christian the power to get wealth so that He might establish His covenant in the earth. This is part of our economic destiny. God has placed within every individual the ability to take control of personal financial circumstances, to live successful lives, and to make a positive contribution to society. Jesus has already paid the price for our prosperity, spiritually and otherwise. "He became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). However, by the time most people become young adults, they have been programmed by a system that will keep them from reaching their full economic potential. Many will be completely controlled by the spirit of poverty. Their minds will have been programmed in such a way that they will be kept in financial bondage for the rest of their lives. God wants to raise up individuals within the body of Christ who can be trusted with money. He wants us to get our financial houses in order, not only to meet our needs, but also so that we will be able to reach out to those around us. He wants us to be in a position to give so that His covenant might be established on earth. This will never happen in our lives unless we learn how to become good stewards over the money and resources that have already been entrusted to our care. The years ahead will see many turbulent economic changes. Although many will be swept away by economic calamity, those who understand the principles that govern God’s economic system and are found faithful in applying these principles to their lives will flourish in the midst of chaos. They will have the financial resources to meet this challenge. This is especially important, since, during these difficult times, the church will witness the greatest opportunity in its history for the harvesting of souls for the kingdom of God. According to studies, as much as two-thirds of our population will have to depend on the government to live after retirement. A record number of individuals are already on welfare or some form of government assistance. Moreover, an even greater number of families are struggling to survive from paycheck to paycheck. Bad credit and personal bankruptcies have become commonplace. What is even more disturbing, our urban areas are deteriorating at an alarming rate. The spirit of poverty has been allowed to imprison our inner cities with an attitude that stifles creativity and discourages economic progress on an individual basis. As disappointing as it may seem, evidence suggests that there is not much difference between the Christian and the nonChristian in regard to personal finances. The American advertising industry, often referred to as Madison Avenue, influences us to buy things we don’t need; as a result, many Christians find themselves caught in the same financial bondage as the rest of the world. God cannot trust these Christians with larger amounts of money because they are not faithful with what they already have. To those Christians who are willing to pay the price to learn how to handle money according to His guidelines, God will give supernatural abilities to receive worldly wealth. Yes, God is interested in our financial wellbeing. He wants to restore our families and rebuild our communities, but this can only be done on an individual-by-individual basis. We cannot depend on the government to do it. The family is the main economic unit of our society, and each family must learn how to assume the role that God originally intended for it. As Christians, we must be willing to accept our responsibility as stewards if we are going to walk in God’s supernatural provision. ATTITUDES ABOUT MONEY AND WEALTH
Your attitudes about money and wealth will determine whether you will receive the financial inheritance that is rightfully yours. What you believe governs your perspective, your thinking, and your actions as they relate to financial matters. Your actions reflect your core belief system. Therefore, it is critical that Christians realize that God has a financial system and that His system is governed by well-defined principles. The first and most important principle governing God’s financial system is a proper understanding of God’s perspective on Christians having money and wealth. The following Scriptures tell us something about the way God looks at our finances:
But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.(Deuteronomy 8:18)
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.(3 John 2)
The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. (Proverbs 13:22)
The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.(Proverbs 10:22)
Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.(Psalm 35:27)
God does not have a problem with Christians having money as long as money does not control them. In fact, having money to carry out His purposes is part of our economic destiny. If the above Scriptures are true, then why aren’t we, as Christians, walking in God’s provision? Doesn’t the Bible suggest that we are supposed to receive certain financial blessings if we are committed Christians or give to God’s work? Why is it that so many Christians who sincerely love the Lord are struggling to survive from paycheck to paycheck? There are major misconceptions about finances circulating in the church today that are leading Christians to believe that God can take care of all of our financial problems with the wave of His hand, without regard to the guidelines He has already given in His Word. Misconceptions about God’s economic system are preventing many Christians from receiving His supernatural blessing in their lives. Satan has been able to deceive many Christians into having the wrong attitude about money. They think that money is evil and that Christians are not supposed to have anything to do with it. This, of course, is a paradox in itself, because it takes money to live. Nevertheless, many Christians have been led to believe that there is something inherently spiritual about being poor. Some even feel that there is something wrong with being financially successful. Others feel that they don’t have any control over their financial circumstances, so why should they bother themselves with such matters? This is not what the Bible teaches. The truth of the matter is that God has provided an economic legacy for His children, but we must do our part to inherit what is rightfully ours.
GOD’S SUPERNATURAL PROVISIONS
The parameters of our economic inheritance have already been determined. We are to be blessed so that we can be a blessing. Deuteronomy 28 states that if we listen diligently to the voice of the Lord and obey His principles, the blessings of God will come upon us, and overtake us. The blessings will come when we are obedient and follow God’s instructions:
And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: and all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them. (Deuteronomy 28:1-13)
Our economic heritage is much broader than just paying bills and meeting our needs. It is not just money. It is an attitude that causes us to understand the true purpose and use of money: to establish a sound financial base for our families and also be able to reach out and extend a helping hand to others. This economic inheritance has already been established; the legal parameters have been set, and the conditions have been outlined in His Word. The rest is up to us! WHY ARE THE RICH GETTING RICHER AND THE POOR GETTING POORER?
Through Christ, believers have been given victory over poverty and lack:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.(Luke 4:18)
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
Yet, many Christians’ lives are being destroyed because of the spirit of poverty. It is important for us to realize that we have a role to play in applying God’s financial plan to our lives. We must become knowledgeable about the laws of increase and multiplication that are outlined in the Scriptures. During the time when I was working in the investment banking and securities industry, I dealt with both wealthy individuals and institutional accounts, and I made a very important discovery. Some people make money regardless of the condition of the economy or whether the market goes up or down. It seemed unfair to me that the people who had the most money appeared to be getting more money, while the people who needed money were doing without. So I asked God this question: "Why are the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer?" One day, while I was studying the Bible and meditating on His Word, God began to reveal the answer. He has put certain principles into operation on earth regarding money, and they will work for whomever uses them. When it rains, it rains on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). The better you manage your money, the more money comes your way. Conversely, if you don’t manage your money properly, the funds that you do have will never be enough. They will be taken away from you. This principle is documented throughout the Bible, but perhaps the most graphic illustration of it is in the following passage of Scripture:
Take therefore the talent [money] from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.(Matthew 25:28-30)
Notice that the money was taken away from the one who had the least and given to the one who had the most the one who got the best results from what had already been entrusted to his care. The one who demonstrated through past actions that he knew how to get the best return was given that which was taken away from the one who had the least. It is what we do with what we have that gets God’s attention! The rich are getting richer because they understand the fundamental principles that govern the building of wealth, and they manage these principles in their favor. On the other hand, the poor are getting poorer because they do not understand how to properly manage the resources they have. Like Jan, many Christians are trapped in economic bondage because of wrong attitudes. They are waiting for God to perform a miracle to turn their finances around when the means are already within their reach. In fact, God has already made provisions regarding our financial circumstances. But, because we think we don’t have any control over our financial destiny, we don’t properly take advantage of the provisions God has already made available for us. We have, in essence, locked God out of working in our financial circumstances.
MYTHS AND RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS
Our money is important to God; it can be a powerful tool in the hands of faithful Christians. Because of the impact that this truth can have for the kingdom of God and the powerful blow it can deliver to the kingdom of darkness, Satan has gone to great lengths to keep the church confused regarding the role of money in the life of a believer. Through myths and religious traditions, Satan has been very successful in keeping us confused regarding our economic destiny. We have been programmed to have the wrong attitudes about money. Satan has provided a steady flow of partial truths mixed with distortions to keep us confused in the area of proper money management. These myths and religious traditions surface in many forms. Often, they vary according to one’s cultural and economic background. See if you can recognize any of these fables: 1. "Money is the root of all evil." It is corrupt and leads people astray. Therefore, you should not be concerned with money and material possessions. If a person has money, he or she must be stealing from someone. 2. "I’m as poor as old Job’s turkey (hen)." Poverty is a sign of spirituality. God took away all of Job’s material possessions; therefore, it is wrong for us to try to build wealth while we are here on earth. True Christians should live a life of poverty in order to demonstrate their genuine love for God. 3. "Jesus had nowhere to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20). Jesus was poor and had no worldly possessions; therefore, as followers of Jesus, we should be poor as well. 4. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to go to heaven" (Matthew 19:24); therefore, you can’t have worldly wealth on earth and expect to go to heaven, too. 5. Jesus told a rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give his money away (Luke 18:18-22); therefore, if you love Jesus and want to serve God, you should take a vow of poverty. You will obtain your riches when you get to heaven. 6. "All preachers want to do is to get your money," or, "Money is part of the world’s economic system, and Christians are supposed to be heavenly minded; therefore, the church should only function as a place to worship God, and it should stay out of people’s business and personal affairs." 7. God answers prayer; therefore, if you really trust in Jesus and exert faith, He will meet all your financial needs. You don’t have to do anything about your circumstances. Just pray, and take one day at a time. 8. You should be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5); therefore, you don’t have to plan ahead. God will take care of your circumstances. If you were born on the wrong side of the tracks, there is nothing that you can do about it. You should be content with where you are. 9. Jesus was interested only in spiritual things, not material possessions; therefore, it is wrong to talk about money in church. Church is not the place for that kind of thing. 10. You should not charge your brother interest (Deuteronomy 23:19); therefore, you should not have savings and investment accounts that pay interest. 11. You are not supposed to lay up treasures for yourself on earth (Matthew 6:19) or hoard up money; therefore, you should not have surplus or savings accounts. Having bank accounts limits your trust in God. 12. When a person tithes (gives ten percent of his or her income to God’s work) or gives extra offerings to further the cause of the Gospel, God is automatically bound to meet all of that person’s financial requirements, even if he or she doesn’t follow the other principles that govern money, which are outlined in the Bible. At the core of every myth is a distorted biblical principle. Many of our attitudes about God’s provisions are distorted because of misinformation. On the surface, these fables may sound humorous or even very religious. Yet, even though none of the above concepts are true, they grip the hearts and souls of Christians and non Christians alike. These traditions have been responsible for robbing us of our economic inheritance. As a result of these misrepresentations, many Christians don’t feel comfortable even talking about money in church. One of the primary purposes of God’s Plans for Your Finances is to dispel these myths by shining the light of God’s Word on them. God has outlined principles in the Bible that would allow us to avoid the typical scenario that holds the average family hostage, if we would just follow them. We can take the struggle out of our finances. By applying the basic fundamentals of biblical stewardship to their own personal finances, Christians can overcome the obstacles that are keeping them in financial bondage.
LACK OF KNOWLEDGE
Another reason why many Christians are having difficulties with their personal finances is that they lack knowledge about the Word of God: ":My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). This is certainly true when it comes to our personal finances. Because of a lack of proper biblical instruction about God’s way of handling money, Christians have had to resort to much of the same type of financial irresponsibility as the unsaved world. It is this lack of knowledge that, over the years, has allowed Satan to be so effective in his deceptive practices to pervert God’s original purpose regarding the use of money in the lives of Christians:
So he said, "I am Abraham’s servant. The LORD has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, and camels and donkeys." (Genesis 24:34-35 NIV)
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.(3 John 2)
Knowledge and understanding go hand in hand. If you knew these two Scriptures but were deceived into thinking that for some reason they were not true or you did not understand how to apply them to your financial circumstances, they would be of no benefit to you. This part of your biblical inheritance would have no effect on your life. It would have no significance for your financial destiny unless you knew how to embrace it. Yet, in addition to gaining knowledge, there is another step you must take to fulfill God’s economic purposes. Once you learn the Word of God, you must be willing to act and apply it to your life.
NATURAL ACTS DETERMINE SPIRITUAL BENEFITS
Now that we know that there are certain things we must do to prepare ourselves to receive the benefits of God’s provisions, let’s take a closer look at what it means to take action, and what the longterm spiritual benefits of this are. See if you can glean any significant insight from the following Scripture passage that might be helpful to us in this effort. Examine the economic circumstances that the widow of Zarephath faced:
[Elijah] called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.(1 Kings 17:11-16)
If we have a word from God that can change our economic conditions, how do we apply it to our lives? From the above passage, we can see that there were already bad economic conditions in the land. The widow was down to a handful of meal when the prophet Elijah came to her. She had enough left for only one meal. But the woman’s actions changed her circumstances. By her obedience and faithfulness to do what the word of God said through Elijah, she no longer lacked anything, and her needs were met. Her circumstances changed! If the widow had not obeyed the prophet Elijah, she would not have received the blessings God had for her. She and her son would have died of starvation. However, by acting on the Word of God in obedience, she enabled God to turn her whole situation from death to life. The same is true in our lives. This passage from 1 Kings shows us that we must not only know what the Word of God says, but we must also be obedient and act on it according to God’s guidelines, in order to receive its benefits. However, what are the actual spiritual rewards of faithfully obeying God’s Word regarding our finances?
THE SPIRITUAL REWARDS
"Well done, my good servant" his master replied. "Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities."(Luke 19:17 NIV)
The Bible points out that there is a close correlation between skillful money management and spiritual things. This is also part of our economic inheritance. The above Scripture points out that because the steward was faithful with money, he would be given authority over cities when the master returned to establish his kingdom. Notice that this parable was told by Jesus Himself. The reward for good stewardship includes a spiritual reward to be given when Jesus returns. The Lord was using money to illustrate this kingdom principle. The people who are faithful with the Master’s money here on earth will be given authority to rule when He returns. However, another Scripture reveals that if you are not faithful with money, you won’t be faithful with spiritual things: "So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?" (Luke 16:11 NIV). Note another Scripture relating to money management:
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.(Matthew 25:21)
In this passage, the good and faithful steward who was trustworthy with the master’s money is given even more to be faithful over. However, in addition to receiving more money to manage, observe that he also is allowed to enter into the joy of the Lord. In Luke 19 and in Matthew 25, the stewards were rewarded for being faithful with money. Each of these Scriptures also describes a spiritual reward that would be received. It is clear that there is a close correlation between faithfulness in handling money and faithfulness in handling spiritual things (Luke 16:11). Yet, the majority of families have never been able to budget their spending. Many wander aimlessly through life without ever realizing that God has attached such an importance to material possessions. It is very important for us to realize, then, that we have an economic destiny. God has already made economic and financial provisions for His children. These provisions are available to us regardless of the condition of our finances or the condition of the economy. But because of a lack of knowledge, along with myths and traditions, many individuals, both Christian and nonChristian, don’t realize how broad and nonrestrictive God’s provisions are. We have been programmed to fail because of wrong attitudes. It is also very essential for us to understand that God wants us, as Christians, to be faithful with the resources that He has already entrusted to our care. He wants us to become skillful managers of worldly wealth so that we can have a greater impact for the kingdom of God. He wants us to get our financial houses in order so that we can be in a position to reach out to others. Finally, we should remember that in order to walk in the economic provision that God has already made available and to receive these benefits, we must be obedient to act on His Word. To survive and prosper during turbulent economic times, we need to understand that God wants us to be successful. In the following chapters, you will find that there are basic principles that govern God’s financial system and that there are many principles outlined in the Bible that give us insight into various aspects of our personal finances. However, none is more important than that of biblical stewardship, which we will discuss further in the next chapter.
$ Try to name at least three myths and religious traditions that would adversely affect a Christian’s attitude about money and personal possessions. $ Read the following Scriptures and answer the question, What will happen if you don’t properly manage the money you have? (Matthew 25:28; Luke 16:1-2) $ Read 1 Kings 17:11-16 and answer the question, What does it take for a Christian to receive the benefits God has provided in His Word?