Personal Finance Bible Study – Provident Planning http://www.providentplan.com Personal Finance for Life in the Kingdom Mon, 24 Apr 2017 02:39:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.10 The Root of Riches: Interview with Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries http://www.providentplan.com/3294/the-root-of-riches-interview-with-chuck-bentley-ceo-of-crown-financial-ministries/ http://www.providentplan.com/3294/the-root-of-riches-interview-with-chuck-bentley-ceo-of-crown-financial-ministries/#comments Mon, 04 Jul 2011 10:00:05 +0000 http://www.providentplan.com/?p=3294        On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chuck Bentley, the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, about his upcoming book The Root of Riches: What If Everything You Think about Money Is Wrong?. The book will be released in the next week or so, but if you’d like to get a 20% discount you can go to http://www.crown.org/rootofriches and sign up to pre-order the book and get a free sample chapter.

       I had the chance to read the book before the interview and I highly recommend it to all of you. Chuck does a good job of getting to the heart of our issues with money by highlighting how being rooted in Christ is the only way to receive true riches. The interview below will give you a good overview of the central ideas in the book and help you determine if it’s something you’d want to read.

       I’ve included the audio here which you can listen to on the website or download for later. I’ve also transcribed the interview for those of you who prefer to read. I’d be interested in your feedback on how well you liked this because it’s the first time I’ve tried doing an interview/podcast. (I was quite pleased with how my intro and outro music turned out!) Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page, and if you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them.

Download audio file (Root-of-Riches-Interview-with-Chuck-Bentley.mp3)
Download the audio by right-clicking here and choosing “Save as…”.
Credits: intro and outro music for the audio is from “Bucolique Utopique” by David on Jamendo

Note: I was not paid anything to post this interview. I only agreed to it after reading the book because I believed Chuck’s message in The Root of Riches is excellent and needs to become more prominent in Christian personal finance.

[0:00] Introduction

[Intro Music]

Paul: Hi, everyone! This is Paul Williams from Provident Planning. Today, I’m interviewing Chuck Bentley, the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, about his upcoming book The Root of Riches: What If Everything You Think about Money Is Wrong?, which will be released on July 11th or at least in early July. Thanks for joining me today, Chuck. It’s great to be talking with you!

Chuck: Well, it’s an honor to be with you, Paul, and thank you for your interest in The Root of Riches and for the opportunity to speak to your audience today.

[0:43] Purpose of the Book

Paul: Well, thank you. Let’s get right to the interview. Here’s my first question for you. What prompted you to write The Root of Riches? What did you see missing in the Christian finance literature that you felt this book could fill?

Chuck: Well, thank you for asking that because I think it’s very important to distinguish this work from other works in the marketplace. I find that most books written about finance, even in Christian finance, deal primarily with the how to’s, the practical application, the principles, and behavioral changes. What I thought was missing was a comprehensive overview of what the Bible says about money and finances from the standpoint of getting rich. It seems to be sort of the silent target for many people.

       And one of the areas of frustration for me was I bought into the world’s definition of getting rich. And what the study of Scripture changed in my life was not so much going from financial failure or hardship to financial success but it changed my heart. And I wanted to write about that transformation and to give a more comprehensive look at what the Bible really does say about getting rich.

Paul: Well, I would definitely agree with you. I think, like the book’s title The Root of Riches, getting to the root of our beliefs about money and how that affects our whole life – not just those financial principles that we apply, but just how we think about money and how we view it and our relationship to it – is really important especially when it comes to getting God’s view and following Christ.

Chuck: Yes, absolutely, Paul.

Paul: And I really appreciated that perspective in your book.

[2:33] Non-Negotiable No. 1

Paul: Alright, in The Root of Riches, you cover three non-negotiables that form the broad structure of the book. And I’d like to give the listeners an overview of what they can expect from the book by reviewing each of these non-negotiables. So Non-Negotiable No. 1 is “I accept that both the cause and the solution to my money problems lie within my own heart.” Tell us more about this non-negotiable. What do you mean by it? What does it encompass? Why is it important?

Chuck: Paul, I realized that the preponderance of the teaching in the Scripture about money deals with our heart. The word “love” is associated with verse after verse after verse when it comes to money. And it seems to me that we typically leave those out, we skip over them, we avoid them.

       And I’ll give you an example. Probably the most famous verse is 1 Timothy 6:10. And I talk about it a lot because that’s the verse that the Lord used to really take me back to review the meaning of it because I had assumed I understood it. I had known it for years and years and years, and I sort of skipped over it because it became too familiar.

       But it says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”. And I went back and looked at the verse and took a hard look at it, and the word that I had skipped was the word “root”. Why did Paul describe this problem as a root problem? And I began to study the characteristics of roots and just realized that primarily they’re pervasive, they give structure to the tree because that’s the foundation of the tree, and they’re also responsible for the fruit of that tree.

       And as I got into it I realized that if our roots are flawed, which they are when we’re born into this world, then we love the wrong things. And when our roots are transformed we love the right things. And I wanted to point out that when we love the correct things then we become rich on God’s terms. So the insight, the big ah-ha for me, was that getting rich according to God’s definition was not about owning things but it was about loving the right things.

       Solomon said it this way “whoever loves money never has enough money, whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their wealth”. He identified this connection of our heart to our very practical circumstances. I found it amazing that we tend to skip over that. It says directly your financial problems are related to what you love.

       So if we will admit that, if we will say, “I’m struggling with a financial issue because of something that’s in my heart.” Then if my heart is changed then the solutions can also flow out of my heart. And that’s a non-negotiable truth in my opinion because if we don’t start there then we just get into the old patterns of just trying to change behavior and not deal with the real root.

Paul: Right, so when you say that this non-negotiable is stated “I accept that both the cause and the solution to my money problems lie within my own heart.” the cause is loving those wrong things and the solution is that transformation to have the heart of Christ and begin loving the right things.

Chuck: The Bible says that in the end times there will be terrible days, the people will be lovers of self, lovers of pleasure, and lovers of money. Paul identified (that’s 2 Timothy 3) the problem with our roots is that we’re in love with ourself, and pleasures, and money. They’re all interlinked.

       And when our heart is changed where we love God with all of our heart and soul and we love people and we love giving and we’re cheerful and excited about giving and serving others, then we experience the liberty that leads us to the correct beliefs and behaviors about money.

       And back to the first question, Paul, the reason I wrote this is because I didn’t see it emphasized in most teaching. The transformation of the heart is such a deep issue and a mysterious issue that I see why it’s easy to skip over it. But the Lord didn’t skip over it! And the reason I wanted to start there is to try to emphasize don’t move past the issue of your heart.

       The Lord weighs the motive of the heart. I think we can have good financial behaviors and still miss the true riches that the Lord promised. Jeremiah 17 talks about those who trust in themselves are blind to prosperity. And it’s because their hearts have not been changed to what true prosperity really means. So that’s the reason that’s the starting point, Paul.

Paul: So we can clarify. When you say the solution to the money problems you don’t mean that once we get our heart transformed we’re suddenly going to be rich and we’re not going to have to worry about our bills any more, right?

Chuck: Well, I think there’s a…no, I’m not…[laughter]…I’m agreeing with you, Paul. I don’t think that they magically go away. But I am attacking this premise that money solves financial problems. That’s the assumption that most people have and it’s where we get off base. If money solved financial problems, then the wealthy wouldn’t have any problems. Right?

Paul: Right.

Chuck: But I love what a friend told me years ago that God gives every one of us a problem that money can’t solve. And that’s because He wants us to recognize that we need Him more than we need money. And that’s a heart issue. That gets to the real issue of where you place your confidence, where your security, where your significance comes from. How do we define success? Those are issues in the heart. And when we get that straight then we’re ready to go to the next step and start to see our financial problems solved once our hearts have been changed.

Paul: Right. That’s what I like about this non-negotiable. It’s coming to that realization that the solution to your money problems isn’t necessarily money but getting to that point that Christ becomes everything to you. So even if you still have money problems after you get this right view of money and start loving the right things, they’re not going to seem like as big of a problem because you’re keeping your eternal riches in mind. You’re looking at the treasure in heaven that you have stored up. And suddenly, as Paul puts it, the afflictions that we’re experiencing now can’t even compare to our future glory. {Romans 8:18} So that’s what I like about it.

Chuck: Well, Paul, let’s flip it over and look at the other side of the coin. Suppose you’re the rich young ruler. You probably have a pretty good financial situation. I believe he was probably debt free, lived on a budget or at least had plenty of money to cover his needs, maybe had a good savings plan, a good diversified investment portfolio, and a long term plan and strategy to do whatever it was he felt led to do.

       But he had a heart problem. And his heart problem was he was struggling to let go of all of those things to follow Christ and to make Christ preeminent in his life. And the Lord knew that and challenged him on that issue of the heart. And if you apply this to the person like that you see why I say it’s a non-negotiable.

       When I was in China recently, I wasn’t talking to a population of people with debt problems because they haven’t really learned to acquire debt in their culture and they have an average personal savings rate of around 50%. So what would I take to them from the Scripture if it were simply to change their financial behaviors? What they were looking for was what does the Bible say about their attitudes, their beliefs, their affections when it comes to money and possessions. And that’s why I think it’s so important, as you agreed, that we cannot skip over this step.

Paul: Right.

[11:16] Non-Negotiable No. 2

Paul: Alright, let’s go on to Non-Negotiable No. 2 which is “I must align my beliefs with God’s Word to produce behaviors that will make me truly rich.” Tell us more about that.

Chuck: Here’s where I started to get into the real meat of the matter. As you said, after my heart has changed how do I actually start to see financial problems solved as a result of that. The Bible makes it clear that we’re to experience a transformation of our heart, a transfer of our affections to loving the wrong things to loving the right things, and then having our mind renewed that we’re changed not by our learned behaviors but we’re changed by our faith. We’re changed by what we believe.

       Colossians says we can be taken captive by hollow, deceptive philosophies that depend on the tradition of man. And what I see is many people are captive to their philosophies of this world. They’ve been taken hostage by their wrong beliefs. So if you align your belief system with God’s Word, then your behaviors change as a natural outflow to produce the good fruit that the Lord expects of us.

       If you simply tell a person, “Go behave like a good Christian. Go behave like a good Christian should with your money. Go start giving. Go start doing all of the financial practices that will improve your finances.” I think some of that works. I think you can teach behavioralism. But until you get to the belief system it’s not going to be transformative. It’s not going to be consistent with what God expects of us.

       You know we must align our beliefs with God’s Word – not the wisdom of the world. And I found in my own testimony that I share in the book that I was really aligned with what the world’s philosophy said. I knew the Scripture but I never aligned what I believed about money with the Scripture. It was a foreign concept to me. And that was getting down to the root of the issue. Do I believe God’s Word and am I willing to forgo what the world has taught me and to believe what God said?

       I’ll give you a great example of that. My behavior did not change when it came to the area of giving until my beliefs changed. And once I began to believe that what the Lord said was true – that it is more blessed to give than to receive – I actually became a cheerful giver once I believed that. I could not become a cheerful giver until I really believed that was true. I may have changed my behaviors but it wouldn’t have brought joy to my life until my beliefs were changed and aligned with God’s Word.

Paul: Right. Yeah, I’ve talked several times on my blog about that. When I discuss giving, I tend to focus more on what I call New Covenant giving. Which is, like you said, cheerful, generous, and a joyful kind of giving and often sacrificial. But that – you can’t really teach that. You can’t give somebody a standard and say, “Give this much and you’ll be meeting your obligation.” That kind of giving (New Covenant giving) requires that we have God’s love living in us.

       And then once that’s true, once that’s happening – like you said, that’s aligning your beliefs with God’s Word – then the behaviors of generous giving are going to naturally flow out of that. It’ll become a part of your life because that’s the way you think all the time. You don’t have to push yourself to do it. It’s just a natural part of your character at that point because you’re gaining the character of Christ.

Chuck: You know, you’re so right, Paul. We are controlled by our belief system. If that weren’t true, then we couldn’t be taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies of this world. But what we believe controls us. If I believe I should put gasoline in my car to make it operate, I’ll do that. If someone told me, “Hey, you can fill it up with water and it’ll work just as well for a lot less.” and I believe that, I would act upon it. Now in that case it would have been a lie that I believed and I would be suffering the consequences of it.

       But what the Lord wants us to do is to act out of faith. And that faith comes from when we really believe Him. And that verse about that it’s better to give than to receive is so foreign to us. It was foreign to me. I wrestled with that one. I thought, “Is that true? Is that real?” You know the Lord is saying it’s better for you if you’re a giver instead of an acquirer or accumulator. And, Paul, I just didn’t really believe that.

       And that’s why it was non-negotiable in the journey that I experienced that I came to say, “Unless I really believe it, then my behaviors will never be consistent with what God expects.” I may be operating with religious piety, but inside I’m still eaten up with greed which needed to be dealt with.

Paul: Yeah, exactly. And I think that this is probably, of the three non-negotiables, the most challenging because it can take so long to get to the point where we can see where our beliefs are not lining up with God’s Word. Our hearts are so deceptive that we just assume that what we would naturally believe is true. And I think it’s very hard to start challenging that and even to be open – have our eyes open – to where we need to challenge ourselves on that.

       And I think that’s where prayer and studying God’s Word and just having that passion for pursuing God’s ways – His Kingdom and His righteousness first – is the only way that you’re going to open your eyes to have that revelation of God saying, “Look, Paul, or look, Chuck, here is an area where you still need to be transformed. You still have a belief that is from the world and not from God.”

Chuck: You know, Paul, the way you expressed that is the way a wise man learns. I know that you’re much younger than I am and you’ve exhibited that same kind of wisdom where you, through study and prayer, come to learn where you are not aligned with God’s Word. I was not that wise. I learned the way of the fool, which was through pain. I did it my way only to discover I was wrong.

       And that’s where the subtitle came from that I woke up one day in a new world and said, “Everything I believe about money is upside down. I am absolutely conformed to the image of the world while professing faith in Christ but I really don’t believe the Bible.” And everything I believed was wrong because (A) I didn’t know the Word and (B) I wasn’t willing to apply the Word to my life.

Paul: Right. I want to be respectful of your time. We have five minutes left so I’ll move on to the next one.

[19:05] Non-Negotiable No. 3

Paul: Non-Negotiable No. 3 is “I must act upon and apply spiritual truth in order to receive true riches.” Explain that one to us in more detail.

Chuck: Well, John 13:17 says, “Now that you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” And the Scripture is a book of faith. We experience the blessings of God when we act upon them. It’s a sequence where our hearts are transformed, our affections are transferred to loving the right things, our mind is renewed so that we know the truth.

       And then the third step is to put it into action – to step out by faith and say, “Lord, I not only believe it I’m willing to do it. If you say it’s better to give than to receive, I will become a giver. Because You’re a giver, I’ll be a giver as well and I will begin to do that. Because You say it’s wise for me to save, I will save. Because You say that it is wise to avoid debt and to get out of debt, I will do that because I want to be obedient to You out of my love for You and I will act upon it.”

       And when that happens it’s amazing how quickly everything in your life changes. Because I went from being completely opposite of what God wanted for my life to falling in love with the Lord, immersing myself in the Scripture, committing myself to put it into action and to live it out – not just to be a hearer of the Word but a doer – and everything in my life was transformed. Everything, including my finances. But the finances – that was not the original goal – the financial transformation.

       And that’s where I’m trying to shift our emphasis. The overarching idea is to shift our emphasis from looking at the Bible as a self-help book to get my finances in order to a book that is much more comprehensive to get my entire life ordered around God’s purposes. And if we can do that and our riches are determined by God’s Word and not by man’s philosophy, then I say we will become eternally rich, we’ll experience freedom from the financial pain we’re in now, and we will have this confidence that no matter what happens on Earth that we will have treasures in Heaven. So to me it’s the ultimate win-win-win if we will put these things into practice.

Paul: Right. And you give some great stories in this section of the book. You talk about Oswald Chambers, and William Borden, and Samuel – you’ll have to pronounce his last name for me I don’t know that I would…

Chuck: It’s pronounced Zwemer (zwhim-er, like swimmer but with a ‘z’). A very difficult name…

Paul: Yeah, so those are examples of men who really took God’s Word to heart and followed it at great cost to themselves. Just really good examples of what it means to apply that spiritual truth and receive true riches.

Chuck: Well, they inspired me and I do hope that they inspire readers, Paul. Thank you for referencing that. I have certain heroes in my life that I’ve never met, and I wanted to honor them and let people know those examples that have inspired me to radically conform my life to God’s Word versus the world. And I believe those are examples I want to be more like.

Paul: And just so readers know – er, listeners know – that this book isn’t all philosophical, there is a chapter in this section that goes over the practices of what you call the He Tree. We haven’t talked about the He Tree and the Me Tree much, but that’s a big theme in the book. But this is the financial practices of those that have been transformed and are applying those spiritual truths.

Chuck: Thank you for mentioning that because I do believe it’s a very important section where I give some practical tips and insights of how to apply the truth in this book in a way that will make a difference in your finances. I’ve had the opportunity to teach this a few times in different settings around the world, and I gave sort of a condensed version of what I think will make the most difference in people’s lives if they will actually apply those things.

Paul: Yeah, it is very condensed but I think – like we’ve been talking about the whole time – if you get that transformation in place, you’ll naturally start to follow those behaviors that come from the truth in Scripture.

[23:50] Main Lesson of the Book

Paul: Alright, Chuck – last question. I know I’m pushing the time here but this will be a quick one. What is the one lesson you hope readers take from The Root of Riches? What is it that you most want them to remember after finishing this book?

Chuck: That riches are determined by what we love not by what we own. If the readers will take that to heart and recognize that God’s Word shouts that from beginning to end, then I think that they will be blessed by that discovery. And if they will put that truth into action into their life, they will experience God’s riches beyond measure. I do hope and pray that’s what happens, Paul.

Paul: Alright, I like that. Riches are determined by what we love not by what we own. Right?

Chuck: Absolutely.

Paul: OK.

[24:39] Conclusion

Paul: Well, thank you, Chuck, for taking the time to talk with me today. And thank you all for listening. If you’d like to learn more about Chuck’s new book, The Root of Riches, you can find more at crown.org. The book will be released in early July, but you can sign up now to pre-order a copy and save 20%. Thanks again, Chuck, and have a great day!

Chuck: Well, Paul, thank you for what you’re doing at Provident Planning and for your interest in this book. I pray God’s blessings on you and your work.

Paul: Thank you.

[Outro Music]

[25:20] End

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If Christian Personal Finance Can Work Without Jesus, It Isn’t Christian! http://www.providentplan.com/3281/if-christian-personal-finance-can-work-without-jesus-it-isnt-christian/ http://www.providentplan.com/3281/if-christian-personal-finance-can-work-without-jesus-it-isnt-christian/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2011 10:00:15 +0000 http://www.providentplan.com/?p=3281        About a month ago, Trent at The Simple Dollar posted an article titled Theming in Personal Finance: Do Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett Work Without Jesus?. Trent says he thinks it’s a good thing when people tie Christian beliefs with good personal finance advice in a way that reinforces both. He goes on to say that the personal finance information in many books that do this would work without the other material (the Christian parts).

       I agree with Trent. Good personal finance advice is good personal finance advice. It doesn’t matter if you dress it up with Bible verses or political views. Spending less than you earn is always going to be good advice. Saving for future needs is wise. Avoiding ridiculous consumer debt just makes good sense.

       But I find his initial question interesting. Do Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett (‘s advice) work without Jesus? In other words, can Christian personal finance advice work without Jesus? And my answer is that if it can, it isn’t Christian!

What Makes Christian Personal Finance Christian?

       Here’s what I mean. If all the advice that any “Christian” finance guru gives can work without Jesus, then the advice itself is not Christian. If Christian personal finance blogs are just giving the same advice that all other personal finance blogs give, then there’s nothing uniquely Christian about them.

       Now I’m not saying that Christian personal finance advice should not include any of the same material as “regular” personal finance advice. As I said before, good personal finance advice is good personal finance advice. It doesn’t really matter where it comes from.

       But for it to be Christian personal finance advice, it needs to be consistent with the message of Christ.

Twisting Scripture

       On Trent’s post, I left a comment saying, “Perhaps the reason ‘Christian’ personal finance can work without Jesus is because we’ve twisted the message He brought to fit our society’s desires.” You see, if Christian personal finance advice just takes regular personal finance advice and dresses it up with a few carefully chosen Bible verses, then it’s just twisting Scripture to fit in with the ideals that our society already accepts.

       But if you start with the message that Jesus brought and that Scripture as a whole teaches, then you’re not going to come up with advice that fits in with society’s standard way of doing things. Too often, Christian personal finance does it the other way around. We start with the world’s ways and fit Jesus into it. There’s nothing Christian about that. In fact, that’s just telling people what they want to hear.

       If “Christian” personal finance advice revolves around budgeting, getting out of debt, saving and investing, and growing your income just so you can reach your goals and your dreams, then it’s no different from the regular personal finance advice. The focus is all about you – which is what we want to hear.

       But Jesus didn’t come with a message all about you. He brought us a message that was all about God and others. He didn’t come to tell us how to get rich and retire early. In fact, He had some strong warnings for the rich and a parable about a man who was all too happy with his ability to retire early. Rather, He taught about how we should serve others and how we should give God our primary focus. He told us that if we want to serve money we won’t be able to serve God.

       So if you’re reading a “Christian” personal finance book or website and there’s not something in it that’s really challenging how you think about money, it might be good to step back and ask yourself if it’s really giving you Christian advice or just plain advice.

The Emphasis Here at Provident Planning

       I’m trying to avoid that here on Provident Planning. When I did my initial study of personal finance in the Bible, I was very challenged by what I read. Rather than emphasizing material comfort and luxury, God emphasizes contentment. Rather than glorifying early retirement and amassing wealth for yourself, He holds up generosity as a greater goal.

       It’s not always easy to keep the Christian aspect of personal finance in the forefront. But I hope you’ve realized from what I’ve written that the kind of approach to finances that I’m encouraging can’t work without Jesus.

       When I talk about contentment, I’m talking about contentment in Christ. I’m talking about contentment that is steadfast through all trials and all circumstances. I’m talking about a kind of contentment that realizes nothing in this world compares to the glorious riches we have in Christ. I’m talking about a contentment that you can’t explain or experience without Jesus.

       And when I talk about generosity, I’m not talking giving just to meet your obligation to God so you can do what you want with the rest. I’m talking about generosity as the ultimate goal of your personal finances. I’m talking about generosity that sacrifices to meet the desperate needs of others. I’m talking about a generosity that you can’t explain or experience without Jesus.

One Voice Among Many

       I’m not the only one trying to emphasize Christian personal finance that’s true to Christ’s message.

       I’ve had great conversations with my friend Kevin Tupper at Christian Simplicity (currently under construction) about “living a life that’s inwardly rich toward God and outwardly rich toward our neighbors” and the implications that has for our finances.

       My friend Craig Ford at Money Help for Christians just announced that he’s going to spend more time focusing on spiritual issues of money and the problem of materialism in American churches.

       And I’ve just finished reading Chuck Bentley’s The Root of Riches and will be posting an interview with him next week. Chuck’s book is focused on how we will never be truly rich unless we’re rooted in Christ. All the right behaviors in the world aren’t going to help us if we still hold on to the wrong beliefs.

       These are just some of the people who are passionately pursuing a kind of Christian personal finance that absolutely cannot work without Jesus. And I’m glad to be working alongside them as I learn and experience a transformation of my heart that only comes from God. I pray you’ll join us as we seek God’s will for our personal finances rather than trying to find ways to justify our own will for our money.

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Personal Finance Bible Study: Work (Summary) http://www.providentplan.com/271/personal-finance-bible-study-work-summary/ http://www.providentplan.com/271/personal-finance-bible-study-work-summary/#comments Mon, 28 Feb 2011 11:00:13 +0000 http://www.providentplan.com/?p=271        This post is a short summary of the Personal Finance Bible Study on work. It contains links to all of the articles in this study. You can also read Bible verses about work here.

Called to Work

       Made to Work
       Called to Work

       In the first part of this Bible study, we looked at how God has created and called Christians to work hard. We also looked at how our work can glorify God.

The Value of Hard Work

       Providing for Our Needs
       Bringing Honor to God
       Gaining Wealth to Honor God

       Next, we looked at some of the benefits of pursuing God’s call to work hard. There are tangible benefits to hard work, and God desires to bless us with these benefits when we follow His teaching on work.

The Dangers of Too Much Rest and Laziness

       Laziness Brings Poverty
       Laziness Brings Dishonor
       Laziness Brings Difficulty

       Then we looked at the dangers of not following God’s call to work hard and instead pursuing rest, leisure, and laziness. God wants to protect us from these dangers, and that’s part of the reason He calls us to work hard.

Our Need for Rest

       God Wants Us to Rest
       We Need to Rest

       In following God’s call to work hard, we must not forget our need for rest. God wants us to rest because He knows we need it. We will do our best work for Him when we balance diligence and a strong work ethic with the prudence to know when to take our rest.

God’s Business Values and Ethics

       Be Fair & Just to All
       Keep Your Integrity
       Be Mindful of the Poor
       Be a Good Steward
       Don’t Use the Church for Business

       Finally, we looked at God’s business values and ethics as He teaches in the Bible. How should we conduct our business and work so we can best glorify Him? As the Spirit works through us, we will naturally follow God’s will in our work. But identifying these values can help us better serve God as we grow in our walk with Him.

       Thank you for reading this Bible study on work. Feel free to use it in your church or Bible study group. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave me a comment!

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Personal Finance Bible Study: Work (Part 15 of 15) – Don’t Use the Church for Business http://www.providentplan.com/264/personal-finance-bible-study-work-part-15-of-15-dont-use-the-church-for-business/ http://www.providentplan.com/264/personal-finance-bible-study-work-part-15-of-15-dont-use-the-church-for-business/#comments Mon, 14 Feb 2011 11:00:30 +0000 http://www.providentplan.com/?p=264        The final business value we’ll look at in the Bible is God’s desire that we don’t use the Church for business. The Bible relates at least two instances where Jesus spoke out against people who were turning religion into a business and greedily taking profits on the sacrifices and offerings used at the Temple.

       The first instance we see is in the Gospel of John, not long after Jesus was baptized and turned the water into wine:

       14 He found in the temple those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, and the changers of money sitting. 15 He made a whip of cords, and threw all out of the temple, both the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew their tables. 16 To those who sold the doves, he said, “Take these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace!”

John 2:14-16 (WEB)

       The rest of the Gospels also relate what seems to be a second incidence where Jesus spoke out against using the Temple for business:

       15 They came to Jerusalem, and Jesus entered into the temple, and began to throw out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of those who sold the doves. 16 He would not allow anyone to carry a container through the temple. 17 He taught, saying to them, “Isn’t it written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers!”

Mark 11:15-17 (WEB)

This passage is also found in Matthew 21:12-13 and Luke 19:45-46.

       The religious leaders and merchants had made a business out of selling space in the Temple courtyard, animals for sacrifices, and exchanging foreign money for Jewish money. They desecrated the Temple by using it for business instead of prayer and teaching God’s Word. It’s also thought they were using the Court of the Gentiles for this business, which was the only place the Gentiles were allowed to be in the Temple. A busy marketplace would make it much more difficult to pray to God and learn from a teacher.

       Jesus understood that God’s Temple should be used only for glorifying Him. In their greed, the religious leaders and merchants forgot the purpose of the Temple. The love of money blinded them to the unrighteousness they were committing and replaced the love for God they should have had instead.

       We see this same exploitation of religion in the early church throughout the New Testament, and we still see it today. Many people use faith and godliness as a means to worldly gain, and in their greed they mislead and steal from many. The body of Christ should have His same zeal for God and not allow the Gospel to be used in such a way. If you see this happening in your church, speak out against it and do not fear man. If you are involved in such greedy gain through religion, repent and seek Jesus. Ask Him to pour His Holy Spirit over you and give you a burning love for God instead of love for money.

       Jesus wants us to carefully revere the Lord and be on guard against the dangers that greed presents for our witness to the world. Any exploitation of the Word for profit and dishonest gain has devastating effects on those who do not believe, and it can have even more destructive effects on those who do believe. Greed and love of money destroy the Church and rip the body of Christ into pieces.

       Maintain Jesus’ zeal for God, and do not use the church for business. Don’t turn religion into a business so you can profit off the faith of others. While there is Biblical teaching for supporting those who minister in the Word, there is even stronger teaching against those who use the Word for greedy gain. There’s a distinct difference between a pastor or any church worker who is content in Christ on a salary of $30,000 or $40,000 (or even less!) and one who lives on $100,000 or $200,000 or more. The apostle Paul even went so far as to take no support for his ministry in some cases so he could be a better example to the churches.

       Pray for the Spirit’s discernment and guidance that you do not get involved in such greedy use of the Church. And if you see such greed that needs to be confronted, pray for how you should approach the situation. It may require the zeal that Jesus showed, or it may require a different course of action. Either way, we should be outraged when we see such things happening and we should follow Jesus’ example in purging it from our churches.

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Personal Finance Bible Study: Work (Part 14 of 15) – Be a Good Steward http://www.providentplan.com/261/personal-finance-bible-study-work-part-14-of-15-be-a-good-steward/ http://www.providentplan.com/261/personal-finance-bible-study-work-part-14-of-15-be-a-good-steward/#comments Mon, 31 Jan 2011 11:00:50 +0000 http://www.providentplan.com/?p=261        Another way we can honor God through our work is by being good stewards. This applies to our personal finances as well, so we’ll be looking at it in more depth when we talk about stewardship. However, the concept of stewardship has strong implications for our work lives as well – whether self-employed or working for someone else.

Pay Attention!

       Proverbs provides good advice for any person involved in business, but especially those involved in managing or overseeing the operations:

       23 Know well the state of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds: 24 for riches are not forever, nor does even the crown endure to all generations.

Proverbs 27:23-24 (WEB)

       A good manager knows the condition of every aspect of the business he manages. Whether it’s your own business or someone else’s, you should be careful to pay attention to what’s going on. Being a good steward doesn’t mean you do just enough to get by. A good steward looks to maximize whatever has been put under his care – he wants to return it to his superior in a better condition than he found it. Being especially careful with things that belong to others in addition to our own things provides a strong witness that we care about the person those things belong to.

Be Faithful in All Things

       Jesus challenged us to be faithful in all things whether great or small. His teaching can apply to our business lives, our personal lives, and most definitely our spiritual lives.

       10 He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. He who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon (money), who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 If you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

Luke 16:10-12 (WEB)

       In anything that is assigned to us, we should be honest and faithful regardless of how unimportant it may seem. We build trust with others by first proving ourselves trustworthy with small and seemingly insignificant things. Then we begin to build a stronger relationship and deeper trust as bigger and more important responsibilities are given to us. While those small things do not seem like they matter at first, how we handle them can have huge implications for our future relationships.

       Jesus’ teaching here applies to many different aspects of our lives – not just business – and most specifically it applies to our spiritual lives. Jesus goes on to talk about how we cannot serve both God and money. The way Jesus taught us to handle the money and possessions God has entrusted to us is vastly different from the ways of the world. Jesus teaches us here that if we cannot handle something so unrighteous as money according to His teaching, how can we expect God to give us true riches? We must prove to be faithful in the small things (money) in order to receive the greater things (the true riches of Heaven and eternal life).

       As we continue to examine God’s Provident Plan for our finances, we’ll see that He calls us to approach money and possessions with a mindset the world cannot understand. You see, the financial advice God gives us in the Bible can be applied successfully by anyone. Spend less than you earn, earn more, manage your money well, avoid debt – all of these ideas are good advice for Christians and non-Christians alike. But the results God desires – generous and sacrificial giving – are far different from the worldly views of retiring early, getting the car you’ve always dreamed of, living in a nicer home, traveling the world, or just doing anything you “deserve” because of your hard work and smart decisions. Following God’s plans to achieve His desire requires that you understand His plan and His view of the world and that you have a relationship with His Son, Jesus. You will never understand the idea of following God’s financial principles so you can give generously unless His Spirit lives in you.

       However, the rewards are vastly different as well. Instead of amassing worldly wealth that will pass away and do you absolutely no good when you die, you’ll inherit eternal life and true riches. You’ll take hold of that which is truly life and enjoy God’s creation as He meant you to. You’ll find the contentment in Christ that no one can take away from you. And that’s worth much more than any pile of cash you can put in the bank.

       I’ve gotten away from the main point here, but it’s important to understand what it really means to be a good steward and why we should even worry about how Jesus taught us to handle our finances. God wants us to handle money as if it doesn’t matter. He wants us to use it not to just make ourselves comfortable but to further His Kingdom. And that mindset of living sacrificially will lead us to follow all of His teaching on personal finances naturally. With His Spirit living in us, we will approach our spending and working with His love and understanding. And we’ll glorify Him with all of it.

       Next week we’ll finish up this study on work, and then I’ll put together a summary post for easy reference.

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Personal Finance Bible Study: Work (Part 13 of 15) – Be Mindful of the Poor http://www.providentplan.com/258/personal-finance-bible-study-work-part-13-of-15-be-mindful-of-the-poor/ Mon, 17 Jan 2011 11:00:24 +0000 http://www.providentplan.com/?p=258        God desires His children to be especially mindful of the poor. His love and mercy reach down to those in need and in struggles, so it is His love working through us that should prompt us to be quick to help the poor. We’ll look at this in much more depth as we examine God’s teaching on giving, but for now we can look at two specific ways we should treat the poor in our business and work.

Pay Them Quickly

       God gave a special law to the Israelites about how they should treat their hired servants who are poor. While we are no longer under the Law, these instructions can help us see at least one way we can be mindful of the needs of the poor. The poor who have no savings to tide them over to their next paycheck may be helped by receiving their paychecks more often. In the Law, God taught the Israelites to pay their poor hired servants every day.

       14 You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he be of your brothers, or of your foreigners who are in your land within your gates: 15 in his day you shall give him his hire (paycheck), neither shall the sun go down on it; for he is poor, and sets his heart on it: lest he cry against you to Yahweh, and it be sin to you.

Deuteronomy 24:14-15 (WEB)

       As I said before, we are no longer under the Law. But this commandment makes sense even in light of the New Covenant. If we have a poor person who works for us, it would be better to pay them more often because they need the money as soon as they can get it. This is especially true if it would help them avoid using a payday lender. There are other long-term solutions that could help them better manage their money, but this is an easy way to help them avoid the less desirable alternatives (payday loans, credit cards, etc.).

Do Not Show Favoritism to the Rich

       Many people respect the rich and treat them better than they would the poor. This could be because of what the rich have done for them in the past, or it could be because of what they think the rich could do for them in the future. Either way, such favoritism and respect based on net worth is not from God. Jesus taught us to “love our neighbors as ourselves”. He didn’t say “love your rich neighbors as yourself, and show a little love for the poor while you’re at it”. There’s no distinction between our neighbors – we are to love all people equally regardless of their position in this world or even whether they show us love. James provides clear teaching on how this applies in our churches, but it should apply equally in all areas of Christian life:

       1 My brothers, don’t hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partiality. 2 For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your synagogue, and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in; 3 and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing, and say, “Sit here in a good place”; and you tell the poor man, “Stand there,” or “Sit by my footstool”; 4 haven’t you shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

James 2:1-4 (WEB)

       When we make distinctions between the rich and the poor, or any other distinction that affects how we treat people, we become judges and fail to follow Jesus’ teaching and His Spirit. The Spirit of Love shows no partiality among people but loves all the same. The application of this teaching can easily be seen for our business lives – we should give the same quality of service to the poor that we would give to the rich. I’m not saying the people should get what they don’t pay for, but they should be treated with the same respect, courtesy, and kindness regardless of how much they buy from us. We must never forget that all people are the work of God’s hands, and we should show no distinction among anyone when it comes to showing love just as God has shown no distinction in the gift of His Son. Job acknowledges the fact that all are made by God and He shows no favoritism:

       Who doesn’t respect the persons of princes, nor respects the rich more than the poor; for they all are the work of his hands.

Job 34:19 (WEB)

       When God looks at us, He sees each one of us individually and knows us personally. But He loves us all the same, regardless of how righteous or unrighteous or poor or rich we are. He seeks to reconcile all of us to Himself through His Son. It’s with this same love – this blind love – that His Spirit compels us to love our neighbors. This love is not blind to the needs of people, but it is blind to their faults and mistakes. Loving people like God loves them while looking after their needs means that we love the poor as we would anyone else and we do what we can to help them. So be mindful of the poor in your work, and show all people God’s love.

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Personal Finance Bible Study: Work (Part 12 of 15) – Keep Your Integrity http://www.providentplan.com/255/personal-finance-bible-study-work-part-12-of-15-keep-your-integrity/ Wed, 05 Jan 2011 11:00:04 +0000 http://www.providentplan.com/?p=255        In the last part of this series on work, we looked at God’s desire for us to treat each other honestly and fairly. But we also find a special emphasis on the fact that we should maintain this honest and fair treatment of others at all times. God provides no exceptions for Christians to be honest and just to anyone. Keeping your honesty and fairness at all times and sticking to a moral code is called integrity. God wants us to keep our integrity at all times, which will further strengthen our witness to the world and the success of our work.

Our Guiding Light

       When we keep our integrity in all situations, we are looking to God for direction. We are seeking out His ways so we can do His will. When we let the Spirit lead us in everything, work or play, we are keeping our integrity – our strict adherence to looking at what the Father is doing and wants us to do. It’s in this way that our integrity will be our guiding light.

       The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them.

Proverbs 11:3 (WEB)

       The Bible tells us that our integrity shall guide us, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them. This is a powerful witness to the importance of keeping our integrity at all times. When we allow Satan to twist our thinking and turn our eyes away from God’s ways, we are walking down the path to destruction. And it doesn’t take much. It’s so easy to ruin our reputation, and Satan is glad to find a way to tarnish any witness we might have to the world. That’s why it’s so important to keep our integrity all the time – not just when we think people are looking.

       Many people, thinking no one was looking, have compromised their integrity to benefit themselves – often monetarily. We see this all the time in corporate, political, and even church scandals. But God tells us it’s not worth it. There is no amount of money worth compromising our integrity or risking our good name.

       A good name is more desirable than great riches, and loving favor is better than silver and gold.

Proverbs 22:1 (WEB)

       And again:

       Better is the poor who walks in his integrity, than he who is perverse in his ways, and he is rich.

Proverbs 28:6 (WEB)

       Though it may seem like maintaining our integrity – even when we don’t think it matters – will do little to benefit us here and now, following God in all things has immense benefits to our spiritual lives and will draw us ever closer to Him. It will also make our witness as Christians even more powerful – not because of the good things we’ve done, but because of the love God has given us and shows through us for all people. This love is shown greatly when we continue to treat everyone honestly and fairly no matter what the situation.

Keeping Your Integrity

       So how do we go about keeping our integrity. What can we do to make sure we don’t fall into Satan’s traps or become disillusioned by the false promises of riches? God gives us practical advice in this area:

       25 Let your eyes look straight ahead. Fix your gaze directly before you. 26 Make the path of your feet level. Let all of your ways be established. 27 Don’t turn to the right hand nor to the left. Remove your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:25-27 (WEB)

       We need to keep our eyes focused on God. If we look to the side, Satan will rush in with excuses and reasons we should stray just a little this once. “It’s OK to cheat on your taxes…everyone does it, and the government will just waste the money anyway.” “It won’t hurt anyone if you take a little extra. Who will know?” If we keep our eyes focused on Jesus and His message, these thoughts will not be able to withstand the power of His love and teaching and we’ll be able to keep our integrity.

       God also tells us to make our path level. We should remove any obstacles, distractions, or temptations that might cause us to stumble as we try to walk in His ways. By doing this, we make it easier to keep our focus on Him alone. He also wants us to “establish” our ways. We need to make a habit of always seeking God’s will – a habit of always taking time to stop and let the Spirit teach us how God wants us to handle the situations we encounter. The simple act of taking some time to pray before acting can save us from so many dangers and sins.

       It’s clear that God wants us to be honest and just. But it’s equally clear that He wants us to be that way all the time. He wants us to keep our integrity – so we’ll become closer to Him, and so we’ll be even greater examples of the power of God’s love in our lives. Take time to consider how you can better keep your integrity and honor God with your life completely.

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Personal Finance Bible Study: Work (Part 11 of 15) – Be Fair & Just to All http://www.providentplan.com/250/personal-finance-bible-study-work-part-11-of-15-be-fair-just-to-all/ http://www.providentplan.com/250/personal-finance-bible-study-work-part-11-of-15-be-fair-just-to-all/#comments Wed, 22 Dec 2010 11:00:31 +0000 http://www.providentplan.com/?p=250        After examining the Christian call to work hard, weighing the value of hard work and the dangers of laziness, and looking at our need for rest, I thought it best to look at the values and ethics that should guide us in our work. What are the principles we should follow to best glorify God in our work? In this and the next four parts of this Bible study, we’ll look at God’s business values and ethics.

Be Honest and Fair

       God hates dishonesty or injustice, and if we treat people dishonestly or unjustly we are not reflecting His glory. Though we are no longer under the Law, the Old Testament laws do help us understand some specifics of how we can best serve God.

       13 You shall not have in your bag diverse weights, a great and a small. 14 You shall not have in your house diverse measures, a great and a small. 15 You shall have a perfect and just weight. You shall have a perfect and just measure, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you. 16 For all who do such things, all who do unrighteously, are an abomination to Yahweh your God.

Deuteronomy 25:13-16 (WEB)

       In our business with people – all people, not just other Christians – we are to give them exactly what we say we will and what they’re paying for. While we no longer have weights we carry around to figure out how much we’re selling someone or how much money we’re giving or receiving, the principle still applies. We are not to cheat people in any way. In the same way, we are not to lie to avoid paying what is due or to avoid giving help when someone needs it.

       27 Don’t withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it. 28 Don’t say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again; tomorrow I will give it to you,” when you have it by you.

Proverbs 3:27-28 (WEB)

       God doesn’t want us to use dishonesty in any way in our business or our lives. He loves to see us treat each other honestly and fairly, for He is truth and cannot stand lies.

       Lying lips are an abomination to Yahweh, but those who do the truth are his delight.

Proverbs 12:22 (WEB)

       One area we might blur the truth a little is when we’re trying to haggle or negotiate a lower price. God has no problem with us trying to pay a little less, but He doesn’t want us using lies to do it.

       “It’s no good, it’s no good,” says the buyer; but when he is gone his way, then he boasts.

Proverbs 20:14 (WEB)

       We shouldn’t lie about the item we’re buying to get a lower price. I’ll be the first to encourage you to get the lowest price you can, but don’t lie to a seller to do it and treat him unfairly. As we’ll see in a bit, we should treat people exactly the way we’d want them to treat us. So when you’re buying, treat the person the way you’d want people buying from you to treat you. And if you’re the seller, treat the buyer like you’d want sellers to treat you.

       No one likes to be ripped off. Part of being fair and honest is to only charge a fair price and to take no more than is actually due. John the Baptist taught this principle to the tax collectors of his day, who were notorious for taking more than they were actually supposed to:

       12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what must we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than that which is appointed to you.”

Luke 3:12-13 (WEB)

       We shouldn’t charge people more than what’s fair. Part of our Christian witness would be speaking up when this happens as well. If your employer is doing these things, it’s not right for you to do them just because you’re told to or because everyone else is. We are judged not by men, but by God. If we are to work as if we’re working for the Lord, that also means that the actions we take at work should glorify God.

       We must also remember that God wants us to use these business values with all people – not just those we like or agree with.

       For there is no partiality with God.

Romans 2:11 (WEB)

       God has shown no partiality in the gift of His Son. The blood of Jesus is available to all who call upon Him for salvation and redemption from sin. If God has so generously shared Jesus with all people, it is clear that He does not want us to treat anyone with partiality. We should treat all people equally with the same honesty and justice God requires of us.

How to Always Be Fair and Just

       There are many more aspects to being honest, fair, and just than the things that are covered in Scripture. And we might tend to forget them if we try to memorize a bunch of “rules”. But Jesus came preaching a message that fulfilled the Law, and the Holy Spirit teaches us how to glorify God more and more each day. So how can we remember to be fair to everyone and always know that we are being just? Jesus told us how to fulfill the whole law, and in Galatians Paul repeats the part that dictates how we treat other people:

       For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14 (WEB)

       Jesus even explained how we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We know this as the “Golden Rule”, and it is the guiding force for all of God’s business values and ethics.

       Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:12 (WEB)

This scripture is also found in Luke 6:31.

       By treating people the way we want to be treated, we’re loving them just as we love ourselves. If we follow this principle and let the Spirit guide us, we’ll never be unfair or unjust. We’ll always be honest because we want people to deal with us truthfully. We’ll never rip people off because we’d never want to be ripped off ourselves. And we won’t discriminate in our honesty and fairness because we wouldn’t want to be subject to discrimination either – especially when it comes to truth and justice.

       And the Spirit compels us not only to treat people as we treat ourselves, but to treat them even better than we’d deal with ourselves. Paul explains this to the church at Philippi in this way:

       3 …doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself; 4 each of you not just looking to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.

Philippians 2:3-4 (WEB)

       Our culture tells us we only need to look out for ourselves – the “every man for himself” idea. But Christians are called to look out for others just as we look out for ourselves. We are to go so far as to count others as better than ourselves. I can assure you that if we truly follow Jesus’ teaching and Paul’s explanation here, we will glorify God in all that we do. All of God’s values and ethics are tied up in the two greatest commandments as Jesus explained. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and we should love our neighbors as ourselves. Everything hangs on these two commandments. We cannot keep them ourselves by our own power, but the Holy Spirit can do it through us and make us a powerful witness to the whole world.

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Personal Finance Bible Study: Work (Part 10 of 15) – We Need to Rest http://www.providentplan.com/247/personal-finance-bible-study-work-part-10-of-15-we-need-to-rest/ Wed, 15 Dec 2010 11:00:52 +0000 http://www.providentplan.com/?p=247        God wants us to rest not only to remember Him but also because we need to rest. He knows it’s good for our bodies and minds to rest – especially after a period of hard work. God wants us to be ready for His work when the time comes, and that requires regular periods of rest from our work.

In the Image of God

       After creating the universe and all that is within it, God rested from His work:

       2 On the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 God blessed the seventh day, and made it holy, because he rested in it from all his work which he had created and made.

Genesis 2:2-3 (WEB)

       In light of God’s actions, it makes perfect sense that our bodies and minds require rest after periods of hard work. We are created in the image of God, and we, as Christians, are called to be holy as He is holy. We are to copy what we see God doing. When we rest after working hard, we are not being lazy. We are doing what God created us to do. It is for our own good that God gave us His example of resting and even commanded us to rest.

For Our Own Good

       God wants us to rest so we’ll be refreshed. But He commands us to rest for our own good. He knows that it’s easy for our work to overtake our lives to the point that we neglect Him and our families. His command to rest is an important reminder that we need to rest.

       Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest: in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.

Exodus 34:21 (WEB)

       I live in a very agricultural area, and I’ve seen firsthand why God added the “in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest” part to His command. When it’s time to plant, farmers have all their regular work to do on top of plowing or getting the fields ready, fertilizing, and planting seeds. And when it’s time to harvest, farmers usually need to harvest the entire crop in a short period of time – again, in addition to their regular work. It’s easy to feel like you’ve got to keep working all the time during planting time and harvest time because there is so much work to do.

       And farmers aren’t the only ones who have busy times like this. We all experience times in our work when there’s more work to be done than the days will allow. But God tells us that it doesn’t matter how much work we have to do, we need to take time to rest – to refresh ourselves and to remember Him. As long as we are fulfilling God’s call to work hard, rest is necessary to ensure that we stay healthy and sane, continue to do a good job, and don’t let our work overshadow God.

Working Too Hard

       It’s very important for us to remember that while God wants us to work hard He also wants us to rest. We can work too hard. When we work so much that we forsake God and believe our success is completely in our hands, we are working too hard. God wants us to maintain a healthy balance between working hard and resting when needed. We sometimes think that if we just work harder we’ll find the success we seek. But God wants to bless us if we’ll just rely on Him. Part of relying on God is doing the hard work He calls us to, but the other part is taking the rest He wants us to.

       It is vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, eating the bread of toil; for he gives sleep to his loved ones.

Psalm 127:2 (WEB)

       When we work hard and rest as God wants us to, God promises to bless us and meet our needs. When we start to doubt God’s promises and begin to work ourselves to exhaustion in an attempt to do it all ourselves, we wear ourselves out for nothing.

Jesus’ Examples

       During His time on Earth, Jesus gave us many examples of our need for rest. When the Twelve disciples returned after Jesus had sent them out to preach, there were so many people coming and going that they didn’t even have time to eat. Jesus told them to go away and rest for a while:

       31 He said to them, “You come apart into a deserted place, and rest awhile.” For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 They went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

Mark 6:31-32 (WEB)

       The disciples had done the work that Jesus had asked of them, and now He wanted them to rest and refresh themselves. Jesus had more work for the disciples, but He needed them to rest so they could be ready for the work. In our secular work or church work, we must take time to rest. It’s clear that if Jesus told His disciples to take time to rest, He’d want us to do the same.

       Jesus also took time to rest and refresh Himself. Various times during His ministry, Jesus would try to go away to a secluded place to take rest. But because the people heard of His teachings and miracles, He could not escape the crowds. Here’s just one example:

       From there he arose, and went away into the borders of Tyre and Sidon. He entered into a house, and didn’t want anyone to know it, but he couldn’t escape notice.

Mark 7:24 (WEB)

       There are several other examples where Jesus tried to get away from the crowds and take time to rest and pray. His example clearly demonstrates that it would be wise for us to do the same. We need to take time away from our work, no matter what it is, to rest and refresh ourselves and to spend time in prayer and reflection.

       We’ve looked at how God has called us to work hard, the value of hard work, the dangers of laziness, and our need for rest. We’re going to finish up this Bible study on work by looking at God’s business values and ethics. What are the principles that should guide our work? The next five parts of this series will look at the answers to that question.

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Personal Finance Bible Study: Work (Part 9 of 15) – God Wants Us to Rest http://www.providentplan.com/243/personal-finance-bible-study-work-part-9-of-15-god-wants-us-to-rest/ Wed, 08 Dec 2010 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.providentplan.com/?p=243        With all this talk about how God calls us to hard work, you might begin to wonder when you’ll ever get to rest. Despite the fact that God does call us to work hard and avoid laziness, we are not to forsake rest and relaxation when it is needed. God knows that we need rest and He knows that many people may not rest when they need to. We can get caught up in our work sometimes and forget that we need to take a break in order to do our best. This is one reason God has commanded us to rest.

God Commanded Rest

       When God instituted the Law for the Israelites, one command that we find numerous times is to keep the Sabbath. God commanded the Israelites to rest for several reasons, but we’re going to look at two main reasons. First, God wants us to remember that it is He who sanctifies us.

       Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies them.

Ezekiel 20:12 (WEB)

       God wants us to remember that it is He who created us, who cares for us, and who sanctifies us. We cannot accomplish what God has done by means of our own work. By taking rest and remembering the Lord, we can keep in mind the power and providence of God.

       Another reason God commanded the Israelites to rest is because He knows we need to rest. Left to ourselves, we might work every day of the week in our attempt to secure our future or seek after the things of the world. But in the process, we’ll exhaust ourselves and strain our families. We can see the effects of overworking in the lives of workaholics. Stress, poor health, and struggling families are all caused by working too much. God wants us to take rest so that we can be refreshed and avoid these difficulties.

       12 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Yahweh your God commanded you. 13 You shall labor six days, and do all your work; 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God, in which you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.

Deuteronomy 5:12-14 (WEB) emphasis mine

       I won’t say more about our need for rest because we’re going to look at it in more depth in the next part of this series.

The Sabbath Was Made for Man

       God’s command to the Israelites about keeping the Sabbath was very serious, but in their zealousness for keeping the letter of the Law they forgot the purpose of the Sabbath. When the Pharisees saw Jesus’ disciples picking grain on the Sabbath and accused them of breaking the Sabbath, Jesus made the purpose of the Sabbath clear.

       23 It happened that he was going on the Sabbath day through the grain fields, and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Behold, why do they do that which is not lawful on the Sabbath day?” 25 He said to them, “Did you never read what David did, when he had need, and was hungry — he, and those who were with him? 26 How he entered into God’s house when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the show bread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and gave also to those who were with him?” 27 He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:23-28 (WEB)
This passage is also found in Matthew 12:1-8 and Luke 6:1-5.

       Jesus explains that God created the Sabbath for man and not the other way around. We are not here just to keep the Sabbath – as if that is our sole purpose for being created. God created the Sabbath so that we might have rest – rest that we need to refresh ourselves to do the hard work He has called us to. In all their arguments about what it meant to keep the Sabbath, the Israelites forgot why the Sabbath was created in the first place.

       We see this same kind of legalism and loss of vision today in arguments about which day should be celebrated as the Sabbath and what should or shouldn’t be allowed. We forget the purpose of the Sabbath and what God intended it to be about. The important thing is that we rest, remember God as our Creator, Provider, and Redeemer, and seek to honor Him. We would do well just to keep the purpose of the Sabbath in mind rather than arguing about which day it should be observed and whether or not you’ll go to Hell if you don’t do it on the right day.

       In the next part of this series, we’re going to look a little more at Jesus’ teaching about the Sabbath – that it was made for man so we might rest and remember God. God knows that we need rest, and He does not want us to work ourselves so hard that we do not take the rest He has created for us. We’ll look at the fact that we need rest, that God desires rest for us, and that Jesus led by example on this idea of rest.

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