Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mo Money, Mo Problems – Money: Part 3 of 4

I don't know what, they want from me
It's like the more money we come across
The more problems we see
What's going on?
What's going on?
I don't know what, they want from me
It's like the more money we come across
The more problems we see

Artist – The Notorious B.I.G feat. Mase and Puff Daddy
Song – Mo Money, Mo Problems
Album – Life After Death
Year –
Stewardship, hard work, diligence, is SECONDARY to gift. Gift comes first. Life itself is a divine gift, a divine handout. The way each of us is uniquely woven together, our time and place in history, our skills and talents and abilities – undeveloped as they might initially be – is the first leg up we receive.
There is no such thing as a self-made man, a self-made millionarie. 
This is part 3 of 4 in a brief series of posts on money
Part 1, Living in Beverly Hills, can be read here.
Part 2, Money, That’s What I Want, can be read here. (Please note that discretion is required in this post due to some of the language at one point).
A summary of the posts so far can be read in the italics below. Feel free to skip if you’ve read part 1 and part 2.
Blessing is God’s desire for humanity to live a flourishing, whole and right life. Secondly, blessing is God’s good work of creation that brings into existence the context and conditions needed for a blessed life. Thirdly, blessing is God’s faithful and ongoing work in our world to bring about blessing even though we are not always faithful. The devil, sin, our own hardness of heart and poor choices continually conspires against us and leads us into all sorts of destructive places, life is often a mess; anything but flourishing, whole or right. We rightly perceive that things have “gone wrong.” The climax of God’s faithfulness is God’s willingness to step right into our mess through Jesus Christ. Jesus brings grace and forgiveness, healing and reconciliation to God. This is where true blessing is found (Romans 4:7) and though we may only taste elements of a “blessed” life on this side of eternity, God’s Holy Spirit is a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. God in Jesus is setting the world right.

While there is an economic element to blessing; there is far more to a blessed life than what can be measured in economic terms. Sleeping soundly, laughing loudly, loving deeply, sharing bread and wine, living in wide-eyed wonder and in right relationship with God, self, others and creation all reflect a blessed life. To think of blessing only in economic terms is an impoverished view of blessing that has been high jacked by Western materialism and consumerism. Unchecked this view soon concludes that the source of a blessed life is money rather than God. Money equates to power and control and thus supposedly, enough money will mean power over and control of one’s life. We either become our own false god (with a false sense of power, authority and control), or, money becomes our false god offering false promises of a blessed life.

As Christ followers our call is not to attain power and control but to relinquish it, after all, “it is no longer I that lives but Christ that lives in me.” This does not mean that we become careless with money, rather we are to be careful with money. But, it is always a fine line between striving for power and control (the love of money) and the careful stewarding of resource (faithfulness with money). Gandalf, in The Lord of the Rings refuses to accept the ring of power from Frodo; “Don’t tempt me Frodo! I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand, Frodo. I would use this ring from a desire to do good… but through me, it would wield a power to great and terrible to imagine.” In our world money has the potential to work like the Ring of Power, as much as it can do good, it has the potential to corrupt.

It is always a fine line between striving for power and control (the love of money) and the careful stewarding of resource (faithfulness with money).

Part 3 now follows…

Deuteronomy 8:6-9
Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

In other words, a land of plenty, of abundance, of resource and opportunity and potential.
It’s not too hard to draw a lose analogy and see that in a similar way New Zealand is a land of plenty. We’re blessed to live in New Zealand. We’ve education, health care, law and order, democratic government, employment laws, banks that can be trusted, infrastructure, oceans, farms, forests, lakes, mountains, bio-diversity. We’re blessed.
The medium household income in New Zealand is $47,100. That income puts Kiwis in the wealthiest 4.5% of people in the world. We’re better off than 6.3 billion people. We should celebrate this. Thank God for this. We’ve landed here. Of all the places in the world. Thank you Jesus. 
Deuteronomy 8:10-17
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget
 the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”
Despite being written to Israel hundreds of years ago, the advice is sound for us today. How easily we fall into the same trap. How quick we are to assume that what we have is primarily a result of all our hard work, all our effort, the power and strength of our hands. Or because of our intelligence and sharp minds.
Our culture celebrates the idea that someone might be a “self-made man” or a “self-made millionaire.” Nobody gave that person a leg up or a hand out. Legend! More people should be like they are!
Deuteronomy 8:18
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 ancestors, as it is today.
In amongst all that follows, this is key:

Stewardship, hard work, diligence, is SECONDARY to gift. Gift comes first. Life itself is a divine gift, a divine handout. The way each of us is uniquely woven together, our time and place in history, our skills and talents and abilities – undeveloped as they might initially be – is the first leg up we receive.

Stewardship, good, bad or indifferent follows from gift.

The New Testament puts it like this in Acts 17:24-28…

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

We are each recipients of the gift of life.
Easy to say, “no I’m a result of biology.”
Sure, but God was the one that created and invented biology.
We’re just stewards of God’s great creation.
We are his off spring.
In him we live and move and have our being.
He marked out our appointed times in history and the boundaries of our lands.
In him each of us is fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely put together.
The recipients of his great gift that is life.

Gift comes first. Stewardship comes second.

We should note here that the gift is not quite the same from person to person.

The gift is life. The gift is a fearfully and wonderfully made human being. But man is there variety!

We’re all put together differently. We’ve all different skills and talents and abilities and temperaments and families of origin and ethnicities and passions and intellectual abilities and emotional sensitivities.

The starting point, from one person to the next, is infinitely varied. And it’s not all equal opportunity! Depending on what the goal, or a particular goal is, some have advantage and some are at a disadvantage.

- If the goal is to slam dunk a 10ft hoop by the age of 17 – well, hard luck short people.
- If the goal is to have a PhD by the time you are 27 – well, hard luck those not so intellectually inclined.
- If the goal is to be a millionaire by the time you are 37 – well, hard luck to you if you’re not business minded, a professional sports person, a rock star or one of the few that win Lotto.

Depending on where you set the finish line, for some it becomes a 100 m sprint, while for others it is 10,000 miles away. This is why we celebrate different achievements in different ways. We recognise the race isn’t even.

Thus in all things, we live in humility trusting that when Jesus returns, he’ll return with grace, and that God in all things will judge impartially.

1 Peter 1:13 and 17
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

So gift comes before stewardship. 

The gift is life, it is the opportunity to know faith, hope and love. 

There is huge variety though.

Of course, our world sets all sorts of different benchmarks in terms of what it means to live the good life, to be successful, to be an achiever, to fit in or to stand out. These benchmarks become cruel task masters though. Especially when we remember that life’s not equal opportunity and that every person has a different starting point.

Sadly though, these become the ways we measure ourselves and compare ourselves to others and comparison has a tendency to ruin people’s lives.

Rather, in humility, we should simply seek to run our own race, to be faithful with what God has given us, and called us to do.

There is no need to compare with others, get one over others, look down on others or be intimidated by others.

Ok, let’s try and land this back at money. Considering this is supposedly a series on money, I’ve not talked about money much!

Have a look at the following diagram…

Money flows into our lives from three potential income streams, investments we might have, a business we own and perhaps work in, or the work we do as someone employed or self-employed person.

((We’re blessed as well to live in a nation were different benefits are also available for people from time to time, in different seasons and for different reasons. But that’s a different subject at the moment)).

((You could also argue that loans are a source of income and also gifts from others too. We’ll keep it simple and just focus on these ones though)).  

Money flows in of course. But money also flows out. Sometimes it feels like it leaks out, like it just evaporates.

Money doesn’t evaporate though. It flows in five particular directions.  


As Christ followers, stewardship is how we navigate and order this kind of diagram, how we monitor the flow of our money.
We can be careless with our money – poor stewardship.

We can obsess over money, striving for more money (power and control) – poor stewardship.

We can manage the flow of our money faithfully and open to God’s leading – good stewardship.

All of us should seek to develop at least a basic level of health in terms of money management. Living within our means, not getting into debt, working out how to be generous; those kinds of things.

Just like we should all seek to cultivate a basic level of physical health in life.
Some people, of course, are more inclined than others to take their physical fitness to whole different levels. Run marathons, hit the gym, sculpt the deltoids. Nothing wrong with this. For some it brings a great sense of reward, of fulfilment, it’s a passion. Eric Liddle famously said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure!”

It just needs to be kept in check. Family commitments, obsessive compulsive nature, vanity, diet, other responsibilities fall to the side.

It’s like that in terms of money management for some people. Some will be more inclined than others to make the system hum rather to simply let it be healthy. Some people will be wired to make it really hum, it will come naturally to them.

This is ok too; but also needs to be kept in check. It is easy to become greedy, a lover of money, a compulsive risk take, etc. There are all sorts of ways that our money management can get out of check.

This is why we should always 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 ancestors, as it is today.

These three income streams, investment, business, employment are developed through the leveraging of the gifts that God has given us.

We weren’t all dealt the same cards though.
Each of us us wired with different passions, intellectual abilities, and temperaments. Each of us grew up in different homes that encouraged different degrees of risk taking, championed different values and nurtured each of us in different directions. 
As a result some people were drawn to business, others to professional services such as medicine or law. Some wanted to be school teachers for as long as they could remember. Others determined to work in churches or not-for-profit organisations. Some became builders working for others. Some became builders working for themselves. Some became builders and employed other builders to work for them. 
The financial return varies greatly from case to case. Each person also ends up carrying different pressures and responsibilities in life. Each person ends up with a different amount of money flowing into their life. This shouldn't be a surprise.
Next time... 
How to make more money.
How to manage the money you have.
Tithing - what the heck! 

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