Poverty is a Curse

It is important that we realize from reading the Bible that God considers poverty to be a curse.  We find this to be true when we look at Job’s story. God was blessing him with health and abundance; however, it was when Satan intervened that God’s blessings were interrupted. Let’s read it.

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land” (Job 1:9-10).

When Job was under attack from the devil he encountered poverty, sickness and calamity. After Job survived the devil’s attack, everything was restored and he lived a long prosperous life of enjoying God’s blessing. A friend of mine is fond of saying that if you are not convinced that poverty is a curse, you should go on a trip to the poorest sections of India to see what it does to people. He notes that you will also be convinced of the close association of religion, poverty, sickness and death.

The first car that I ever owned had a problem with the transmission and it would leave a puddle of fluid under my car when it sat in the same location for a length of time. I got into the habit of always looking under my car to check for a leak before I drove it away. Sometimes the leak would be bad enough that it would leave a trail of fluid as I was driving away. Consequently, I developed the habit of always looking in my rear view mirror as I drove away to see if I was leaving a trail of fluid on the road. For many years after this I still maintained these habits expecting something to be wrong with my car, even though I had better vehicles that were mechanically sound and didn’t leak fluid at all.

Was I really supposed to live like this? As I pondered it, I concluded that this was an expression of the spirit of poverty that had attached itself to me. I asked the Lord to help me break free of it. It took some time, but I can say that I am free from it today. I now enjoy driving the vehicles God has given us without the nagging fear that something is wrong mechanically or will go wrong with them.

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Money Must Be Your Friend

Russell Cronwell was a Baptist minister during the early 1900’s. He is famous as the founder of Temple University in Philadelphia; Gordon-Cronwell seminary still bears his name. Listen to Russell Cronwell’s thoughts on money and how it is used:

“Money is power, and you ought to be reasonably ambitious to have it. You ought because you can do more good with it than you could without it. Money printed your Bible, money builds your churches, money sends your missionaries, and money pays your preachers, and you would not have many of them, either, if you did not pay them.”

In Sudan Christians are persecuted and sold into slavery. Many Christians from outside this African nation are responding by donating the finances to literally purchase the freedom of their brothers and sisters. How could this ever happen without generous Christians with abundant financial reserves? It is difficult to avoid the idea that God wants his people to have an interest in money.

God will not ask us to complete the Great Commission without money. Jesus himself used the example of someone needing to count the cost of building a house before starting to build it. No responsible person would start building a house or start a business without carefully assessing beforehand what the cost is. It will take money to do what we are called to do on the earth, and the good news is God desires to give it to us.

Jesus ministered to the wealthy and the poor beggar.  There is a rut on either side of the road…materialism and greed on one side and poverty and lack on the other side of the road. Biblical Prosperity is the middle path of abundant provision to complete His purposes for our lives.

Many people today live in an unhealthy fear of materialism. It is a fear that if God blesses us financially, it will somehow ruin us and cause us to fall away from Him. I used to believe that a million dollars would taint and corrupt a person. I don’t believe this is true any more. A million dollars will not corrupt you; it will only amplify what already is in your heart. If there is selfish ambition and pride in your heart, it will be multiplied. If there is love and generosity in your heart, then it will be multiplied.

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Don’t Get Rich Quick

A friend of mine calls this get-rich-quick mentality “lottery thinking.” I have to agree with him, lottery thinking is poverty thinking. The people who spend the most money on lottery tickets are at the bottom of the income scale. The help you need is not a big sum of money dumped in your lap, but rather a kick in the pants to start moving so God can bless your steps of faith.

Do not look for the big break, an insurance settlement, the miraculous provision, the chance deal, an inheritance or the lottery to get rich quick. The desire to get rich quick is really a lust for financial success without learning how to manage money. If we can just get this clear in our minds, we are far closer to actually learning how to advance.

Advancement comes to those who diligently apply God’s principles on a consistent, long-term basis. Look for steady progress through diligent, consistent work. God generally advances us gradually so we can concurrently grow the maturity to hold on to what he gives us. It is like a plane taking off—there is a correct trajectory of climbing that won’t stall the plane’s motor and yet gets you in the air before the end of the runway. Eyes set on the “chance that may come” will keep you from taking today’s step forward. Proverbs speaks to the trap of sitting around and waiting for your ship to come in.

He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty. A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished (Proverbs 28:19-20).

I know a businessman who once said, “If you see money falling out of the sky, it is counterfeit; don’t pick it up!” If you build systematically, God will bring the growth. The answer is not out there somewhere; it is right in front of you with the step forward God wants you to take today. God’s nature is seed time and harvest. According to Hebrews 6, it is through faith and patience that we receive from God.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised (Hebrews 6:12).

Patience is the power that will carry you through the obstacles of life into the seasons of blessing. It is notable that sometimes a wealthy person will lose all of their money, but somehow over time they seem to earn it all back and more. Amazingly enough this was actually Job’s experience. Let’s examine some more scriptures:

“…he who gathers money little by little makes it grow…All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty…The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day” (Proverbs 13:11; 14:23, 4:18).

Can you pick up the pattern here? Gather money little by little…hard work brings profit…shining ever brighter until the full light of day. If our eyes are set on the chance that may come it will paralyze us and keep us from taking today’s step forward. A prosperous soul will begin wherever it is and work toward advancement. Progress, God’s blessing, increase, promotions and favor are expected, but faithfulness and steady progress are the path to get there.

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Financial Courage

I was privileged to hear a wealthy man speaking with some service men and women who were wounded in combat. He was talking about possessing the courage to take risks. Interestingly, He spoke about financial courage as being different than other kinds of courage. When stating that he had the confidence to take the multi-million dollar financial risks he often did; he qualified that statement by saying it would be difficult for him to risk his life on a battlefield like these war veterans had done. He said he did not possess “that kind” of courage. I learned something that day. There are different types of courage.

It is fascinating to me that you could have so much courage in one area but not in another. But this is really true. A construction worker can have the courage to balance himself on a six inch I-beam, hundreds of feet above the ground, but at the same time not have the courage to stand up in front of a group of 40 people and give a speech or walk into the bank to meet with the bank manager to talk about financing a project. Likewise, a salesman who has the courage to knock on a dozen doors a day making sales calls might not have the financial courage to buy a single share of stock.

There are different kinds of courage. We need courage in the financial area. With God’s help we can obtain the financial courage and strategy that we need to walk in the prosperity that He has for us. There are specific things we can do to help us become more comfortable in the financial world. We must learn to overcome the misconceptions we have about the financial world and how it functions.

In order for us to develop some financial courage we will have to get over the idea that it is not spiritual to talk about money. People afflicted by the spirit of poverty find it difficult to talk about money. A lot of churches struggle to communicate financial needs or even take a biblical offering for a need or vision the church is undertaking. Jesus spoke about money a lot. There are over 3,000 references to money in the Bible. People with a poverty spirit don’t like to talk about money. On the other hand, prosperous people enjoy talking about money.

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today (Deuteronomy 8:18).

So let’s take a closer look at this. You mean God gives us the power and creativity to get wealth, but we are not supposed to talk about it? No…it is OK to talk about money. Certainly we need to keep money in its proper perspective. To prosperous people money is important and interesting. They enjoy talking about and learning about money. They are unashamed to have a good conversation with their children and friends about the ins and outs of money. How are we going to learn about managing money without talking about it?

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It Takes Money to Do Things for god

We cannot separate money and ministry. Most of us have heard and love the story of the Good Samaritan. We would all like to be the Good Samaritan that Jesus described. Let’s read carefully the story:

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have’’’ (Luke 10:30-35 NIV).

A study of the money of this time period reveals that the two coins the Good Samaritan gave to the Inn keeper were enough to pay for keeping him two months at the Inn.(1) Think about how much it would cost us today to keep someone at a hotel for two months with food costs. It would be thousands of dollars.

The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of a man who had significant financial means available to him so he could take care of the robbery victim for two months. And it gets better, the Good Samaritan then continued on his journey while this man was cared for by someone he paid to do it. Because he had sufficient resources, he met this person’s need and still was not distracted from the primary purpose of his trip.

I find the Good Samaritan model attractive as I desire to multiply my efforts in expanding the kingdom of God. If I have the resources to pay or support others in ministry like the Good Samaritan did, then it means that my efforts are multiplied. I can accomplish more than just what I do with my personal time and energy.

Or how about when God asked Noah to build the ark? Noah had sufficient resources to obey. There are no scriptures indicating Noah awakened one day and the ark was miraculously finished. There is no record of ravens flying in with pre-cut gopher logs to be fitted into place. The ark was built with manual labor over a period of years, probably by his family or hired laborers. It took significant financial resources for Noah to obey God. Could it be that God wants to provide for us in a similar way? I believe He desires that we have the resources on hand to accomplish His purposes as He reveals them to us.

A similar example is that of Joseph from Arimathea. He was a rich man, a member of the Sanhedrin, who was a disciple of Jesus. Joseph was ready and available when called upon to take Jesus’ body and give it an appropriate burial in a rich man’s tomb that had never been used before. This was significant because in Bible times, tombs were used multiple times. His availability and his financial resources played an important role in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the unfolding of the kingdom of God.

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God Love Real Estate

Land is important to God’s plan for His children. One of the first things God did in establishing a covenant with Abraham was give him land. Previous to this Abraham did not have a homeland. Abraham’s father and his family were pastoral nomads, wandering from place to place for varying periods of time. His father worshiped idols in a city dedicated to wickedness. Abraham was told by God to go out into a place in which he would receive his inheritance. It was later referred to as the Promised “land”. It was land!

God gave this nomad a land to call his own and to build on with his descendants. He gave Abraham and his family the Land of Israel as a unique homeland where his descendants were supposed to create the nation that was the model for the world. Physical land was central to God’s plan to prosper Abraham.

We see a parallel lesson if we study the great Native Americans tribes from America. The tribes along the East Coast were more settlementary and would stay in one place and farm the land as well as hunt. They tended to survive and prosper. Those tribes along the West Coast that were nomadic hunters would travel to seasonal hunting grounds. They were more likely to starve and die. They could never prosper because they never settled down and stayed in one place. Simply stated…when you are a nomad there is only so much you can carry so it is hard to prosper.

There is something about land that is really important to God. The story of Ruth is, of course a great love story. But it is also the story of God giving a woman physical land. God took her from gleaning leftovers along the edge of the field to the owner of the field. When she married Boaz, who owned the field, she became an owner of the very field she formerly gleaned in as a pauper.

In the United States the  number one way that people finance new business ventures is by borrowing money against their house which is of course located on land. So the best preparation for starting a business is to purchase a house and start paying it off over time. This will eventually build equity which will allow you to finance a business start up. Small business startups create 70% of new jobs in the United States. Most of these businesses are family businesses and as with Abraham and his sons, land is central to birthing these new businesses.

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Be the Best

An individual can have a strong spirituality but not possess the best qualifications and competencies to lead. Even the most passionately spiritual person will be “stuck” in their leadership capacity unless they have a value for growth that is strong enough to stir them to make the sacrifices to grow. Our core values should include a passion for self-improvement and growth that motivate us to become better at what we do. We should aim to be passionately spiritual but we also should strive to be the best at our craft.

When Paul gave an account to King Agrippa of his Damascus road conversion, he stated that Jesus appeared to appoint him, “as a servant and as a witness” (Acts 26:16, NIV). It is understood what a witness of the gospel is; but can a servant be the one managing the assembly line or is it only the one feeding the homeless? Later Paul wrote a similar encouragement to the Christians at Colossae, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23, NIV).

Francis Schaeffer points out how the gospel transformed the workplace during the time of the Reformation. The Christian worldview meant that all the vocations in life came to have dignity. The vocation of the honest merchant or housewife had as much value as the King, a radical thought for leaders in this time in history and a welcome relief to the followers of the day. The one serving in their vocation is the one in the will of God. The one skilled in their vocation is the one fulfilling their calling.

Schaeffer, F. (2005) How Should We Then Live?: the Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Book

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