God's Possessions and God's Commission.

Pastors can be hesitant to talk about the proper use of possessions. But if all of us belongs to God, then everything we are and have should be used to glorify Him. Every area of our life is sacred.

The New Testament contains 126 instructions for our use of material possessions. We will summarize all these under 8-9 categories to learn how God wants us to use what He's given us for the edification of the church and the advancement of the Gospel.

Use Possessions to Preserve Unity and Strengthen the Church

There is a theological basis for how we view possessions in the church. We must first accept our high position in Christ (Romans 8:17). All believers are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” Each person is equally spiritually rich.

Achieve oneness (Acts 4:32). Christ has given unity to the church through the Holy Spirit. One way we work that out practically is through our use of material possessions. In the first-century church, spiritual oneness gave birth to a practical desire to make sure that everyone's needs were met if they were honest workers and walking with God. Selfishness leads to disunity (1 Corinthians 11:17-33), but selflessness leads to unity (Acts 2:46).

Demonstrate humility (James 1:9-11). James was addressing worldliness among Jewish believers regarding their wealth. He reminded them that possessions are all temporary.

Avoid favoritism (James 2:2-4). God calls favoritism based on someone's apparent wealth an evil, dark sin.

The Power of Modeling

Leaders are the primary models in any community. Various passages in the Old and New Testament show that leaders are to be imitated and followed (1 Peter 5:1-3, 1 Chronicles 29:2-5, 1 Timothy 3:1-13).

Fellow believers are examples to each other within the flock. In Acts 4:36-37, Barnabas’ names was changed because he used his possessions to encourage other believers. Philemon was known for his generosity to the saints.

God had specific instructions for the proper use of possessions in Old Testament Israel. His requirements are not the same for the local church, but we can learn principles from them. Bible scholars estimate that 23-30% of an Israelite's income was given to religious and national taxes.

  • Leviticus 27:30-34 outlines what the people were to give for Levitical support.
  • In Deuteronomy 12:5-7 and 14:22-27, God tells His people what they were to give for worship.
  • Deuteronomy 26:12 and 14:28-29 explain the charity tithe.
  • Matthew 17:24 indicates there was an additional tax for the upkeep of the Temple.

Believers are examples to each other in the local church.

  • The churches of Macedonia set an example for the church of Corinth (2 Corinthians 8-9).
  • Modeling provides encouragement (Acts 4:37).
  • One person's giving motivates others to be generous (2 Corinthians 9:2). The Corinthians were stirred to give by the example of the Macedonian Christians.
  • Modeling generates a desire to worship (2 Corinthians 9:11-15).
Possessions and Motives

Christians are to give in view of Christ’s return (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 and Titus 2:11-14). We should use our possessions to win friends for eternity.

Wealth should be used to honor God and not ourselves (1 Corinthians 10:31). Ananias and Sapphira sought to honor themselves in Acts 5:1-10 on the heels of Barnabas' sincere gift. Their negative example reminds us to avoid hypocrisy and dishonesty (see also 1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

Check your personal motives (Matthew 6:3-4). Religious people like to be recognized. Our motive should be to glorify God, not ourselves.

Application Points

  • Understanding God's infinite grace and every believer's riches in Christ changes the way we use the material possessions God has given us. How can you use God's possessions to preserve unity in your local church? Do you encourage fellow believers in this way?
  • Who is your model in using possessions for eternal purposes? Who is watching your example?
  • Examine your own motives regarding your use of material possessions. What compels you to give? The grace of God should make us willing, cheerful givers. Do you have a plan to give?

Tools for Further Study

A Hymn to Encourage: "Satisfied"

All my life long I had panted
For a drink from some cool spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within.

Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.

Feeding on the husks around me,
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on.

Well of water, ever springing,
Bread of life so rich and free,
Untold wealth that never faileth,
My Redeemer is to me.