When You Have Money…You Can Live on Less

When my son was learning to play the trumpet we needed to purchase a trumpet for him. If we bought the trumpet outright and paid for it in full, it would cost us $400. However, if we did not have the $400 and used the $20 per month payment plan the music store offered us we would end up paying $600 for the trumpet. The question is, “Do we want to pay $400 or $600 for the same trumpet?” Four hundred dollars of course!

When you have money you can live on less! This is an amazing truth to grasp. Simple but profound. Probably many of us could give similar examples of this financial principle.  This leaves more money for what we really want to do with it; like give and be a blessing! We have to cross-over from living in lack to experiencing God’s abundance; it will allow us to accomplish more.

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An Embarrassing Story

My wife and I have always supported missions as a regular part of our budget. This has been our life-style since the first year of our marriage. Even before we were married, as singles we supported missionaries because we had a desire to see the gospel go to the entire world.

Over the years, we have endeavored to find ways to increase our giving, I once had a “great idea” of how we could accomplish it. My brainstorm was for our family to eat rice and beans for a whole month and give the balance of the money we would save on groceries to missionaries. We had visited South America a number of times on mission trips and enjoyed eating rice and beans as the main food staple while there. I thought it would be a great project for us to do as a family and would model a giving life-style for our children. It seemed like a profoundly spiritual idea to me.

When I shared this deeply spiritual idea with my wife, she gave me an incredulous look and replied, “You can eat rice and beans for a month, but I am not, and I am not going to try and get our children to do it.” Quickly realizing that my great idea was not meeting my wife’s approval, I remember piously thinking how unspiritual she was and give  up on the idea. As I look back on this embarrassing incident, I would probably have made a good Pharisee that day.

It only hit me a couple of years later how much the spirit of poverty had affected my thinking. I literally wanted to take food away from my wife and children so that we could give a few extra dollars to missions. Just what was wrong with this idea? I discovered this to be a form of poverty thinking. Let me explain why.

I didn’t believe that God could supply more for us so that we could give more. In my thinking, we were limited to my paycheck. I looked at the income we had and saw that as a fixed ceiling rather than believing God for more money. So I wanted to take food from my children’s mouths and give it to missions. What picture of God (the Father) does that give to my children? It shows them He is a stingy Father, who gives us just enough or barely enough to survive. This is not a biblically accurate picture of God. I realized it was not right for me to show my children this tainted portrayal of God.

Thank God for my wife who could see this was not an appropriate course of action. Although it seemed so spiritual at the time, I should have been raising my faith to lift the ceiling and believe for more—lots more—not just a few dollars to give to missions. The truth is, I don’t want to give $5 more a month to missions. I want to give $50 more a month or $500 more a month. This revelation has helped us to increase our giving significantly.

To be clear the Christian life is one of self-sacrifice and surrender to His Lordship and our children need to see that modeled before anything else. How we spend our finances is part of that and obedience to His direction is essential. If God is directing you to save some money out of your budget by sacrificing something, then do it wholeheartedly. However, maybe you want to pray about increasing your inflow so you can give significantly more.

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A Wealthy Woman

C. Thomas Anderson is the founder and senior pastor of The Living Word Bible Church in Mesa, Arizona. He tells the story of a young man from his church who chose not to attend a wealth seminar they were putting on at the church.

“With a tone of superiority in his voice, he explained that he had not been to any of the sessions, because he was not interested in money. That wasn’t where God was leading him. Exactly twenty-four hours later he was back at the church with tears in his eyes, asking if the church could help with some money for his neighbor. A fire had destroyed everything she had owned and she was left destitute with several children to care for. Suddenly money mattered. If this young man had seen the importance of money in ministry somewhat earlier in his life, he might have been in a better position to minister to his neighbor without having to ask others who did care about money.”1

In 2 Kings we find Elisha had a wealthy woman who took care of him so he could be effective in his prophetic ministry.

One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us” (2 Kings 4:8-11).

How could this woman and her husband add a room on to their house for the prophet? Simply stated, they had the financial means to do so. This arrangement was a blessing to Elisha and also to the well-to-do woman as she later had a son that was raised from the dead by the prophet. A proper perspective on finances will help us to have the resources needed to obey God when opportunities come our way.

1 Dr. C. Thomas Anderson, Becoming a Millionaire God’s Way, (New York: New York, Faith Words, Hachette Book Group USA, 2006), p. 19

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We Are Players on the Team

God loves the whole world but He has an agreement (or contract) with those of us who are Christians. Let me explain by talking about the owner of our local professional sports team. The owner has a general relationship with the fans and invites them to come to the games and enjoy them. He wants them to come and he does his best to put a winning team on the field for them to enjoy. If some fans get disappointed and mad, they can just stop coming to the games and it is no big deal. However, the owner of the team has a written contract with his players and coaches. There are specific commitments and expectations for both sides. They are legally bound to this commitment.

In the same way, God has made an agreement with us through his word to provide abundantly for more than just our needs. Though we know he loves the whole world, he has a contract with those who have taken his offer and signed on to his team.

Jesus was well taken care of by his Father. Jesus was not destitute and poor. He was born in a manger because the Inn was full. It was a symbolic act because he was the Lamb of God. His earthly father (Joseph) was a businessman going to pay taxes along with everyone else. Later, the wise men came to visit him in a house.

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh (Matthew 2:11).”

Jesus himself was self-employed until age 30. He was not homeless and poor. If it is more spiritual to be poor as some Christians think, then we would have to say that Jesus wasn’t very spiritual!

Jesus took time to meet the needs of both wealthy men and poor beggars, however when he called his disciples he spoke only to men who were successful, working businessmen. We find out at his crucifixion that he wore clothing that was valuable. It was valuable enough that hardened soldiers did not want to destroy it. People followed Jesus because he had authority and knew where he was going. He had wealthy women traveling with his party. In fact, Luke indicates that the wife of the manager of Herod’s household was traveling with Jesus and financially supporting him.

“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means (Luke 8:1-3). ”

Do you think that Joanna slept in the dirt? I don’t know, but I doubt it. She was married to Herod’s treasurer. I am inclined to think about what happens when we go to the mountains for a week-end with friends. When it is just the guys in the mountain for the week-end it is okay to rough it a little and just take the bare essentials. But when our wives accompany us things tend to be a little more comfortable.

Jesus had a treasurer named Judas who carried a money box. I suppose we could say that the money box was empty, but do you really think Jesus would have had someone carry an empty money box around? I don’t think so. Many Christians will say God is good, but because they have always struggled financially, they have developed a mindset that God is a stingy and holding back blessing. Just the opposite is true.

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Joseph from Arimathea Was Ready

Permit me to introduce a term that many Christians consider to be a selfish, secular term—financial independence. Let’s define “financial independence” as having the resources on hand that will be needed to obey God’s voice. Too many times we have dismissed or not taken seriously the visions and ideas God has given to us because we do not see a way for them to be financed. Our excuse for not obeying God is a helpless, “That would be great, but we can’t afford it.” It is essential that we permanently delete the words “we can’t afford it” from our vocabulary. These words should be replaced with a positive petition, expecting God’s provision, by asking instead, “How is God going to provide?”

Let’s look at Noah, when God asked Noah to build the ark, He was at a place in his life of sufficient resources to obey. He was financially independent. 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. Actually, it seems like Noah did not work on the ark much himself because he was busy preaching. So either his family or hired laborers constructed the ark.

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 from the New Testament 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 is a Loving Abundant Provider

Can you imagine standing there when Jesus turned the water into wine? The scripture says in the book of John that six stone water jars used for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons, were filled to the brim. Filled to the brim? By my calculation that would be between 120 and 160 gallons of wine. We don’t know how many guests were at the wedding, but that is a lot of wine.

Abundance is part of his nature. He fed the 5000 men (not to mention women and children) and guess what?—there were baskets of food left over. I believe we must be totally convinced that God is an abundant provider—not just sometimes when he is in a good mood but as a part of his nature he provides “more than enough.” It is how he does things.

Jesus and his party were accused of living in celebration and luxury. Maybe it was true. Why was he welcome at parties with the gluttons and drunkards? This would have been the wealthy people of the community in Jesus day. Maybe they invited him because they were hoping he would turn more water into wine? I don’t know.

What does it mean when the scripture says he delights in the well-being (sometimes translated prosperity) of his servant? “…The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant” (Psalm 35: 27).

It means it makes him happy to bless you financially and otherwise! God wants to give you the desires of your heart. Let me qualify that by saying that as you get closer to Him the desires of your heart are the same as the desires of His heart and your plans are the same as His plans. He wants to give them to you: May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed (Psalm 20:4).

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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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