But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 (KJV)
This verse was put into a song we often sang growing up. I remember wondering, “What ‘things’ will be added unto you?
Today’s post is about being a good steward, and money. This is something I feel quite uncomfortable posting about since I still have a lot of growing and trusting to do.
But a quick note about what happened after my last post on work –
So, I was confronted with the reality that I do not know how to maintain a healthy work-home balance. Last Thursday, I stayed up past midnight doing some organization work for my practicum. I completely let that keep me from posting the next lesson. Please forgive my inconsistency. Plus, I realized I have put in almost half the hours needed for my practicum designed to cover a 16 week period within a 4 week period. I obviously need to create a more healthy balance!
Back to today’s lesson –
I’ve been thinking about the struggles I found from the last lesson on work, and the known struggles I have about money. I read what I wrote originally, and I realize that what I wrote is still relevant, but I sense I have an opportunity to be a little more honest and direct about why I struggle so much with this topic. Which brings us back to Matthew 6:33.
If you read Matthew 6:33 in context, you’ll find this is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Starting at Matthew 6:19, Jesus begins talking quite specifically about treasures, money, and anxiety.
Over the course of my life, I have lived with anxiety surrounding not having enough money. There have been times of seemingly insurmountable debt, and times of plenty. Anxiety over income and financial security goes hand in hand with the work balance struggle.
Right now, I am adding to our family’s debt by taking out loans for the school counseling degree. It adds to my anxiety, and my desire to earn my own way to pay for it once I can work. When I used loans to pay for my undergrad debt, I didn’t really trust God regarding finances. I doubted His provision. While I did work for a couple of years, my husband pretty much paid for my school. I am so grateful to him. So, in a way, God provided through my husband. But, we struggled, and it wasn’t easy.
My incredible husband!
This time, I have made a conscious choice to Seek God first, and His righteousness. I have seen how He has blessed this time for me to be in school, to follow this path that I believe is a calling from God, and to be encouraged to do so by my husband. Through the doubts in my ability to achieve academically, to handle the workload, and the guilt that wants to press in for increasing debt, God has shown Himself faithful through the encouragement of my husband first, my children, the support of friends, and through the ability to get the work done. I am learning to how to turn my anxiety over to God. When I feel anxious, I pray and re-center my thoughts towards the foundation of God’s promises.
I’m still growing and learning. I hope this post leads you to trusting God more, and at least, having a prayerful conversation with Him on this subject. Like the last post, I added a few thoughts in blue!
Lesson 3 Good Steward/ Wise with Money/ Generous
The objective here is to understand how to handle the money, profits, and blessings earned and gained from our work. We do not work to have money just for our own benefit, for selfish ambition, but to be able to use our resources responsibly. These resources aren’t just in the form of money, but also time, material goods and service to others. Again, we do these things out of love and honor for God and others.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
- What do you think are the biggest differences in the worldly view of money and God’s view of money?
- Do you think He cares about how much money we make, or how we spend it?
- How much debt is OK?
- Is there something wrong with being wealthy?
- Do you think poor people have themselves to blame for their poverty?
- Can someone be too generous or irresponsible with his or her generosity?
- Is being a good steward only about money?
The Bible has a lot to say about money, how to spend it, how to handle loans and borrowing, and taking care of the poor. Jesus often spoke in parables using the wealthy and servants alike as examples to describe conditions of the heart or what the kingdom of God is like. Proverbs is full of wise financial advice among other topics. In the book, Ecclesiastes, we find a different kind of take on wisdom about money and work. Take a look at this.
- Ecclesiastes 5: 10 –11, 18 – 20 (HCSB) The one who loves money is never satisfied with money, and whoever loves wealth (is) never (satisfied) with income. This too is futile. When good things increase, the ones who consume them multiply; what, then, is the profit to the owner, except to gaze at them with his eyes? . . . 18 Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. God has also given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.
Questions To Consider (I wrote this while living in a wealthy suburb near Washington, DC. You can adapt the questions according to your circumstances.)
- How does living in an affluent community affect your ideas of earning and giving?
- Do you feel pressure to have certain things that other people have, even if you have to borrow to get them?
- Do you believe your attitude towards money affects your spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ and God, the Father?
- Have you ever had to trust God to provide when there seemed no way you could do it on your own?
Why It Matters
There is a very specific verse that says, “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” Matthew 6:24 (HCSB) If we allow the love of money to take first place in our heart, then we have broken the very first commandment, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength. We find ourselves no longer looking to God to be the one we trust, but instead, we put our trust in money. That is no good. Did you notice in Ecclesiastes where it says to enjoy your work and wealth is a gift of God? If we can enjoy the fruit of our labor without becoming consumed by the appetite for more and more, we can thank God for that is a gift.
I can tell you this is an area in which I struggle. I am still learning how to trust God with money. In college, I made some irresponsible choices that had far reaching consequences. I am sharing some of the choices I made with the prayer that God uses them to let you learn from my negative examples. Some of my choices came from outside influences, some from ignorance, while others came from weak areas in my own heart like envy, self-centeredness, and impatience.
Some of my mistakes to avoid:
- Getting a credit card when I didn’t have steady income – and using it.
- Getting married and having children before our school loans were paid off.
- Looking at the way others lived, allowing envy to cause discontent.
- Allowing my financial status to affect my belief in my value to others and God.
- Having a lack of self-discipline in setting boundaries for expenditures.
- Forgetting to trust that God will provide. Doubting that God will provide.
- Thinking that God won’t provide because of my disobedience and lack of trust.
Now I’m in a transition period from being a stay home mom to working outside the home. As I begin to earn more, I see how easy it is to let financial success become my source of security and purpose. It’s easy to think I have control where I don’t and to let the responsibilities of the job squeeze out time with God. It takes trusting God to a new level. It also gives me a new appreciation for my husband’s role as provider for the family, and his fight to keep balance within his own spirit. The verse, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you,” Matthew 6: 33 has taken on a deeper meaning for me.
(As I mentioned earlier, I find the struggle remains. Since I am currently back in a non-earning position while going through the master’s program with school loans, I am deciding to actively pray and apply Matthew 6:33 to my current situation and the unknown future job and loan repayment. I look forward to seeing how God works through all of this.)
Finally, regarding generosity, when we had so much in the way of expenses, and so little to share, I would look for other ways to practice generosity. Even though my debt amount was large, I still wanted to give. In limited capacities, I had time, possessions, and friendship. I tried to be respectful of the things we did have so I could pass them on while they were still in good shape to others who needed them. Being creatively generous is a way to honor God and to show your gratitude for the things you have. Gratitude helps block the feelings of discontent and envy. It also shows honor to the one who is working and providing. For me, that was and still is my husband, and for you who are not yet earning your own income, it’s your parents. This is all a part of being a good steward and honoring God.
I can sum up my experiences with this: avoid debt, be patient, learn how to be content with what you have, prepare and plan for the future, but don’t forget that God is the one we trust. Watch out for those things that will distract and trap you from benefitting from good, honest work. Guard your heart!
The Big Question
- How can you seek the kingdom of God first?
- How is God showing you He knows what you need?
- Are there things you are doing that keep you from being grateful and content with what you have?
Dig a Little Deeper (HCSB)
- Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor people in the land; that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.’
- Proverbs 22:9 A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.
- Ephesians 4:28 The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.
- Romans 12:13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
- Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
- Matthew 13: 44 – 45 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.”
- Luke 12: 15 He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”
- Luke 16: 19 – 31 Lazarus and The Rich Man
- Luke 21: 1-4 The Widow’s offering
- Matthew 6: 19 – 34 Treasure, Heart and Need
Read through Proverbs, the verses about money are plentiful.
For two websites on managing money with a Christian perspective, check out:
http://www.crown.org/ and https://www.daveramsey.com/
Several years ago, I went on a nature walk as a time of prayerful meditation. This was about the time I was deciding if I was supposed to work full-time, questioning if teaching was really what I was supposed to do, and deciding to trust God with the unknowns in my future. It was a cold, gray, and muddy day. I put on my rubber boots and waded through several icy streams. Looking at the ice on the banks, the clear water flowing by, I felt as if God was saying to me that the ice was kind of like gifts or promises that were being stored until the time was right.
Money ebbs and flows. Time, like the stream, flows at an unstoppable, sometimes smooth, sometimes rough, pace. Being anxious doesn’t help, because God is in control of it all. I just needed to trust Him, and things would work more smoothly if I did. It’s still kind of scary sometimes, but I choose to be brave.