Have you ever received an extra bit of cash that you did not expect to receive and spent all of it right away without a blink of your eye? Or do you spend all your earnings each month because you can’t help to buy the things you want?
I recently received an unexpected raise and immediately thought about everything I could use it on for myself. God knew that I would be coming into this money and graciously allowed me to hear a sermon about Joseph.
Joseph was a young man when his 10 older brothers sold him into slavery because they hated him and were jealous that he was favored by their father and had a gift of interpreting dreams. Despite his despairing circumstances, Joseph was faithful in his worship and honor to God. Eventually, God put Joseph in a position of power in Egypt. Joseph was the second in command of all of Egypt. Second only to Pharaoh. When a severe drought occurred, all the surrounding lands came to Egypt to purchase grain and food because God had blessed Joseph’s hand in that everything he was responsible for prospered. All this time, Joseph’s brothers never knew what had become of their brother Joseph. Lo and behold, they come to Egypt to buy grain and end up bowing before Joseph as the governor of the land who granted and oversaw the distribution of grain. The brothers did not recognize Joseph, but Joseph recognized them. At the end of this remarkable account, despite the wrongs the brothers had perpetrated against Joseph, Joseph still blessed them with food, silver, livestock and land!
Since Joseph could no longer control his feelings in front of his servants, he sent them out of the room. When he was alone with his brothers, he told them, “I am Joseph.” Then he cried so loudly that the Egyptians heard him and told about it in the king’s palace.
Joseph asked his brothers if his father was still alive, but they were too frightened to answer. Joseph told them to come closer to him, and when they did, he said:
Yes, I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. Don’t worry or blame yourselves for what you did. God is the one who sent me ahead of you to save lives.
There has already been a famine for two years, and for five more years no one will plow fields or harvest grain. But God sent me on ahead of you to keep your families alive and to save you in this wonderful way. After all, you weren’t really the ones who sent me here—it was God. He made me the highest official in the king’s court and placed me over all Egypt.
Now hurry back and tell my father that his son Joseph says, “God has made me ruler of Egypt. Come here as quickly as you can. You will live near me in the region of Goshen with your children and grandchildren, as well as with your sheep, goats, cattle, and everything else you own. I will take care of you there during the next five years of famine. But if you don’t come, you and your family and your animals will starve to death.”
All of you, including my brother Benjamin, can tell by what I have said that I really am Joseph. Tell my father about my great power here in Egypt and about everything you have seen. Hurry and bring him here.
Joseph and Benjamin hugged each other and started crying. Joseph was still crying as he kissed each of his other brothers. After this, they started talking with Joseph. Genesis 45:1-15 (emphasis added)
Joseph was in a position of power and he chose to use his position to bless Egypt and to bless his family and those around him. I want to do that with the possessions and gifts God has given me. Not only this, I want to steward my money well. A steward is “a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others.”
I remember reading in Proverbs several years ago advice about not possessing too much or too little – “Give me neither poverty nor riches—Feed me with the food allotted to me; Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9) Similarly, I remember examples of people today such as Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life, who is financially blessed and only live on 10% of their income and give away 90%.
The Lord has given us guidance on how to give of our money. The list below is what God has called me personally to use my money toward:
- Tithing to my church –
Proverbs 3:9 “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.”
Malachi 3:8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings.”
Nehemiah 10:35-37 “We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord; also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks;and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor.”
- Savings – Proverbs 21:20 “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.”
- Blessing friends and family –
1 Timothy 6:17-19 “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
1 Timothy 5:8 “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
- Giving to nonprofits and missionaries – Galatians 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let usdo good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Despite my honest desires to want to give of my financial possessions in this way, Satan still tempts me.
I tried on a necklace at a store the other day. It was beautiful and expensive. I put it back on the store display rack, but every day after that, I thought to myself, “I will go buy that necklace next month when I receive more money.” However, God told me I really don’t need that necklace. A few days after that, I was reading in Luke and this is what it said: And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) I realized I was coveting that necklace. It was something I really did not need.
This is what scripture says about coveting:
James 4:1-3 “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Colossians 3:5 “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
This post speaks to finances and money because the Bible actually has more to say about how we spend our money than any other temptation we have in this world. Seeing our possessions as His and not ours has not been an overnight, easy discipline to practice. God has been faithful to teach me over the years how to better steward the gifts He has given me and I trust He will continue to guide me and will do the same for you.
What is God calling you to do today? Write down three things you have been unwilling to give your money to and three things you would like to give your money to. Next time you look at the funds in your bank account or receive income, ask God, “Lord, what extra have you given me that I can steward well? What of my possessions am I holding onto too tightly? Show me how to ‘be generous and ready to share’. In Jesus’s name, amen.”
Author’s Note: To those in our nation who are experiencing the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey, Irma and various state forest fires, my thoughts and prayers are with you all.