Thursday, June 20, 2013

Eternal ROI of Your Money – 1 Tim 6:17-19

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (NKJV)
Timely Perspective
This passage provides a significant contrast between the opening and ending phrases. It’s easy to miss this in the passage but even easier in life. This life isn’t all there is. The riches, poverty, or all that is in between are temporary. Right after we studied God’s immortality and His dwelling place, we are reminded that what we have in this world is not as important as how we use it for God’s glory and that means for eternal purposes.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt 6:19-21 RSV)
We should be familiar with Jesus’ words about storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. However, how often do we really try to examine how we can do this? How often do we really consider the uncertainty of riches when we make decisions about how to spend our money? I’m not talking about budgeting to be good stewards, I’m talking about looking at the reasons we spend our money. The reasons we spend reveal where our heart is. Do we look at the cost of a flat screen TV and consider why we want that item or any other purchase? Do we look at it as an investment for our eternal home in heaven or something simply used to fulfill our self-indulgence? Do we consider where else we could invest the same money and know immediately that it would bring eternal benefits?
In the business world, return on investment (ROI) often drives the decisions about how to use money. It is usually calculated in a percentage of the investment over a period of years that the investment will remain useful. In the case of buying that TV and defining the return as eternal rewards, we would have to come up with some idea of how that TV would bring better, godly relationships in the family, bring someone to Christ, or provide spiritual guidance to someone to help them grow (as examples). The TV will have certain negative returns and some positive returns, depending on how it is used. If it is used only for your Bible study or group studies then the return could be as high as 100%. If it is used only for entertainment then it would be much less. If it is used instead of family communications and relationship building then the return could be negative.
When a business comes up with a very low or negative ROI, it will usually look for a better way to invest its resources. If the eternal ROI of the TV were very low because we’ve been honest about how we would use it, we could invest the money elsewhere such as a Christian summer camp scholarship, a short-term mission trip, or even a lot of faith building books. (This is assuming we’re already tithing to our churches, which should come before even considering the TV or other ministries.) It could be used to purchase a laborsaving tool that would then free my time for other things that are also investments for the kingdom. Every day we face choices where to invest the resources God has given us.
Haughty or Debased
Proper use of our riches leads us to look out for the needs of others. Examining the use of our recourses will also help us from looking down on others. Whatever the reason, riches and the improper use tend to make us think we are better than others. Lack of wealth tends to make people think less of themselves, especially when they are around the rich.
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. (James 1:9-10 KJV)
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Rom 12:3 KJV)
Either extreme of self-abasement or self-exaltation is not considering ourselves with sober judgment. For the rich, the reoccurring theme is to remember that this world will pass away quickly and we will be with our Savior. How we treat others will be one thing that will be rewarded in heaven. The blessings of wealth do not give anyone the right to lord it over others. The poor need to understand that in Christ they have the riches of heaven (Eph 1:3). We are all of one family, or potentially of one family for those who have not yet come to Christ. Both rich and poor need to view life in light of eternity where the physical riches will not matter anymore. Rich or poor have the same ability to store up treasures in heaven.
In God We Trust
In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. (1 Chron 29:12 ESV)
Riches are uncertain but there is no uncertainty with God. In direct opposition to God’s statements, most people believe that their wealth comes from their own abilities and strength. Think of the professional athlete who makes millions every year. One injury and his income is gone. The CEO of a large company is no different. Economic situations change rapidly and his company is gone or his health changes and is no longer able to work. It demonstrates that it is really God who is control. Many motivational speakers try to make you believe that if you follow their formulas, you will be successful. We can have all the plans and formulas we want, but God directs our steps (Prov 16:9). If God is not in it, our labor and striving is in vain (Ps 127:1-2).
What is a result of this attitude toward self and riches? Many rich people tend to believe that because they have earned this wealth that they have no obligation to share with those of lesser means. Since God doesn’t figure into their calculations, they don’t see the need to honor Him with it by taking care of the poor.
You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 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 forefathers, as it is today. If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God. (Deut 8:17-20 NIV)
This is a stern warning to all who trust in riches instead of God. While God pours out His blessings of life and provision on all people regardless of their faith (Matt 5:45), eventually, those who do not acknowledge the source will pay the penalty. For those who don’t know Jesus, it will be eternal punishment just as God punished Israel when they turned from Him. For Christians who don’t realize the source of their prosperity, they will suffer loss of treasures that could have been stored up in heaven.
Willing to Share
While our eternal ROI on our investments are a valid way of trying to determine where we want to use our resources, it isn’t the only thing to consider when we use our riches for God’s glory. We can become very legalistic in our giving and that will not build on the foundation of Jesus Christ. That is building on our own foundation of good works. If the heart attitude is wrong, then the gift will not achieve its ultimate value.
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7 NASU)
It would be easy for us to give because that is what God says, but in our hearts we begrudge every dollar. We would much rather spend it on something that we want for our enjoyment or to make life a little easier for us. If we cringe every time we write a check and drop it in the offering, we need to examine our hearts to see why this is so hard to do.
Is it because we have too little and we have to cut back on what we have or do? For most of us, this isn’t the issue. If it is, then we need to examine our trust in God. Jesus commended the poor widow who put two small coins in the offering because it was all she had to live on. He didn’t condemn the rich for the abundance they put in but drew the contrast between her sacrifice and their giving which didn’t require a sacrifice (Mark 12:41-44).
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:16-17 NKJV)
Willing to give can only come from a heart that God has changed. It is done from love that is sacrificial like Jesus’ love and death for us. The same love that Jesus has for us should be in our hearts when we see the needs of others. That need can be for physical things or the Gospel. That love should motivate us to be willing givers.
If we don’t have Jesus’ love in our hearts, then our giving is very likely motivated by trying to please God and win His approval. We are in essence trying to get salvation by our good deeds instead of trusting Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as our only means of salvation.
How we make our decisions on the use of our riches and our attitude toward giving demonstrates what is in our hearts. Are our decisions and attitudes determined by the idol of self or the love of God and gratitude for our salvation?

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