Apr 6, 2012

Questions That Lead To Security: Your net worth will never be enough, but His already is.

“Wealthy is the person who ______________?” Lately I have been listening for good questions. Hearing this question in a recent conversation, I thought it would be worth asking.  The conversations that have started with this question have been very interesting.
The first person who responded didn’t even have to think about it.  “Six million dollars. That’s my number. I would be wealthy if I had six million dollars.”

I have asked this question a number of times since and have received a variety of answers.  “Wealthy is the person who has financial security,” another family responded.  My initial response to the question was, “Wealthy is the person who knows the difference between wants and needs.”

I was enlightened when I heard someone respond, “Wealthy is the person who realizes they are a steward.”  Good answer!  That was the answer my brain should have gone to, but it didn’t.  It is easy for us to put our hope in our wealth, to seek financial security, to save and hoard in order to ensure that our pile of money and stuff will be big enough to sustain us forever.  That is the “American Dream” isn’t it?

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
1 Timothy 6: 17-19

Jesus had more to say about money than any other subject.  He was speaking right to me because he knew it was such a stumbling block. 

Seeking Security - We see examples in scripture of folks building their wealth and seeking security in it.  I see folks on a regular basis seeking to find safety and satisfaction in their finances.  It doesn’t matter if a person has ten bucks to their name, or if they are working toward that six million dollar figure, they never find security.  The pile of money and stuff needs to be just a bit bigger in order for them to feel comfortable, and it is never big enough.  We all long for a sense of security but often we are searching down the wrong path.

Finding Security – Paul tells young Timothy to command those with wealth, not to put their hope in it, for it is so uncertain.  Amen.  There are a multitude of financial regulatory agencies that have caught on to this.  When securities are formed, these agencies require that a prospectus be put together stating risk and making it clear that they cannot guarantee returns.  Reading a prospectus is worse than having a root canal.  They list, in detail, all the potential hiccups the investment could have, all of the risks that it entails. 

These regulatory agencies got it right; there is no security in wealth or in investments. This isn’t to say that these assets are bad; they are certainly a tool.  These financial institutions missed the best part, the part about where true security really is. 

“Command them to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”  God provides for us, everything belongs to Him and He delights in taking care of us.

“Command them to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”  Studies show that when we are generous and think beyond ourselves, a hormone called Oxytocin is released.  You may have heard Oxytocin referred to as the “Love Hormone,” but it is also referred to as the “Generosity Hormone.”  We could blame the feeling on the hormone, but I would suggest that folks are feeling good when they give because they are getting closer to the heart of God.  

You never hear someone say, “I made the payment on my boat this month and it felt so good!”  When you ask folks which expenses they feel best about, you’ll hear about people and about helping others.  “We helped pay for our grandson’s college,” or “We gave to a mission we love in Timbuktu.”

Attaining Security – After suggesting that everything we have belongs to God, and commanding generosity, Paul points ahead to a greater reward.  He talks about laying up treasure, about a firm foundation for the coming age, and my favorite part, “life that is truly life.”

The rewards Paul talks about are in direct relationship to his commands.  We must first put our trust in God, not in our stuff.  We must be generous and willing to share.  Because of these things, we will find life to the full. 

“Wealthy is the person who is a steward.”  I loved that response.  I have had a number of responses along the same lines: “Wealthy is the person who is fully reliant on God,” and “Wealthy is the person who knows the Lord.” 

I can tell you that there is a stark contrast between the lives of the folks who said, “$6 million,” and the folks who realized they were only taking care of God’s resources.  The folks relying on their finances come in worried about the markets, stressed about life, concerned they will run out of time and money.  The folks who are striving to put their trust in God still struggle, but they see life in perspective.  They are able to put into context the value of being rich in this present world, and they can see ahead to the coming age.  Plus, they are all hopped up on Oxytocin from being generous, which certainly doesn’t hurt. 

Embracing Security – We are still called to be stewards and to act responsibly with God’s money.  Once folks realize their true relationship to money, they generally have two responses: 

Freedom!!!  Now that God is in charge, attitudes change.  Folks see His abundance.  Those working in ministry are no longer afraid to ask for donations, they realize they are asking others to make an investment that will last.  Folks who were grasping their dollars and cents for dear life, clinging to false security, slowly release their death grip and are free to embrace relationships.  Embrace the freedom that you have, for He has provided everything for your enjoyment. 

Responsibility.  Now that everything is His, not ours, we are expected to steward resources well.  How am I using my pile of stuff to serve The Kingdom?  Can I use these resources to glorify God and serve his people?  Do I really need to buy a bigger house or a newer car or build a bigger barn when God’s people are starving?  Am I using my time well?  Am I available to serve God, or is my time consumed with me.  How can I take small steps this week to point my time, my stuff and my money toward the Lord?

Your stuff isn’t bad.  Your home and your car, your investment accounts and your business, these things aren’t bad.  They are the resources you have been entrusted with.  How will you use them today? 

Wealthy is the person who________________?
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