The Prosperous Believer, Part 3.

The church doesn't function well unless the whole of ourselves is gathered with the whole of God's family and devoted to the whole of God's purposes. God's commission for His church is bigger than any one of us. He desires to govern all of us by His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

We will wrap up our study of how God desires us to use His possessions that He's given to us.

Giving with Proper Motives

Matthew 6:21 helps us evaluate our thoughts on giving. Our heart follows our treasure. Everything we do, whether it's meeting someone's need in the church or developing our spiritual gift or using our time properly, is done for the spread of the Gospel. When we know it's for a greater purpose, it's not hard to give the whole of ourselves and our resources to that end.

It is historically normal for people to get passionate about spreading the Gospel when under duress. But this is less true when life is easy. It takes a maturing heart to bring itself to the same excitement and obligation level to underpin Great Commission living through the local church. Having the desire to do so in your personal, family, and church life is demonstrative of your own walk with God.

Leadership Responsibility and Accountability

Leaders as models are always to keep the local church their priority as they seek Gospel advancement. Leaders need to be trustworthy (1 Timothy 3:1-12). People become like their pastors, so leaders must work hard to strike a biblical balance. Leaders must be accountable to the congregation (1 Corinthians 16:3-4). They should desire and not merely submit to accountability for the use of their own possessions and the funds that are given to the church.

Leaders are responsible to teach stewardship and responsibility as Paul did in 2 Corinthians 8-9. They should maintain a high level of communication with God's people. They must communicate sensibly but directly as Paul did with Philemon. The epistle of Jude shows that false leaders can come to prominence in the church; but Spirit-governed leaders must silence unqualified leaders.

Blessings for Faithful Giving

Matthew 6:11 tells us to pray for our daily provisions. We should ask God to provide for our basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, and transportation. Matthew 6:33 says these are blessings God gives when when we obey Him. 2 Corinthians 9:11 says something similar: when we are faithful, we will be able to be generous to others. American TV preachers misinterpret this verse to promise material riches for faithfulness; but God promises to make you rich in spiritual opportunity and spiritual fruit. Faithful stewardship affords spiritual opportunity (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Those who are faithful with their possessions and in ministry will be honored. Barnabas' name was changed in Acts 4:36-37 because he used his possessions to encourage other believers. Epaphroditus was honored in Philippians 2:29 for risking his life for the health of the local church. The whole church enjoys corporate blessings of contentment and spiritual opportunity as well (Philippians 4:19).

Mark 12:43-44 shows there is eternal reward for sacrificial giving. We give to gain opportunity to advance the purposes of God. Keeping in mind the private nature of giving (2 Corinthians 9:7), there is also a public aspect. People may not know how much you give, but they can see how passionate you are about being a true worshipper.

Living in a Materialistic Culture

Our culture can make it hard for us to honor God with our possessions. There are many temptations from the way people around us value material things. Christians should avoid self-centeredness, as 2 Timothy 3:1-5 warns. We must also avoid bondage to things. Matthew 6:24 is very clear: Your heart can either belong to God or to possessions. With the right heart, those things can be invested in relationships for eternal purposes (Luke 16 ).

There are many ways we can use our excess creatively (Matthew 6:19). We must discipline our hearts to rest in God's faithfulness (Matthew 7:34), learn to be content (Philippians 4:12), and refocus our values (Matthew 29:19). Are you coming up with ways to invest in God's people and lost souls?

Supporting Spiritual Leaders

A church body's financial support of its pastor should be sufficient to provide his needs within the current culture (2 Timothy 5:17). This support should be given faithfully (Philippians 4:10-19) and prioritized so that pastors can tend to their ministry (1 Corinthians 9 and Galatians 6:6). When God's people are intentional, it greatly encourages spiritual leadership. Paul's prayer life increased when he received help from God's people (Philippians 1:3-4).

God's Plan for Giving

Each Christian is to give according to his or her ability (Acts 11:29). This giving is to be regular, systematic, and proportionate (1 Corinthians 16:2). Obedient givers are willing and wisely plan ahead (2 Corinthians 9:5 and Galatians 6:10).

We can also use material possessions to support ourselves while we are involved in local church ministry. Aquila and Priscilla are the prime examples of this in Acts 18:1-3. They made tents for income while they assisted Paul's ministry in discipleship (Acts 18:18, 26). Acts 9:36-43 shows an example of a woman who gave out of what she had: a skill to make cloth. Her practical ministry encouraged the hearts of many widows in her town.

Christians and Debt

Christians are commanded to pay what we owe (Romans 13:8). It's okay to lend to help others in need (Exodus 22:25) and show mercy to those in crisis (Deuteronomy 15:3). But we are not to borrow in order to glorify ourselves or put ourselves into further bondage to materialism. Of course, we should not borrow dishonestly or for anything outside the will of God (1 Timothy 6:10, Romans 12:1-2).

Giving and God's Will

God must be first in our planning (James 4:12-15). Failure to do so is acting like a practical atheist. Our goal should be to excel in the grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7). We must always maintain proper balance materially and spiritually (Matthew 6 and 2 Corinthians 8-9).

Application Points

Ask yourself the following questions to evaluate your motives:

  • What or who do you think about most during your week?
  • What occupies your physical and emotional energy? Think about this on a weekly and monthly basis. What occupied your energy throughout the past year?
  • How do you respond emotionally when you see human need?
  • How do you respond when you hear biblical messages on what God says my attitudes and actions regarding material possessions should be?
  • How do you respond when you may need to part with some possessions that can be used to meet someone's need? How do you respond to an opportunity to advance the Great Commission?
  • What priorities do I have other than making money? Evaluate your spiritual priorities and use of time. Never pursue material things at the expense of worshipping God with integrity, learning Bible, spending time with family, serving others in local church.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Galatians 6:10 – Taking care of the church family.
  • Romans 8 – All believers are equal in Christ.
  • Matthew 25:31-46 – There will be false believers in the church.
  • 1 Peter 5:1-4 – Pastors should not minister for the purpose of making a living.
  • Matthew 20:16 – The blessing of humility.