Monday, October 14, 2013

Wealth - To Serve and Satisfy

On matters of wealth, one observes two extreme lifestyles: (a) Belief in utmost importance of wealth; so one lives to work, earn, save, save and save more. The more wealth one accumulates, the greater the need he envisions. Satisfaction and contentment are a farfetched reality, and (b) Belief in asceticism (abstinence from worldly pleasures) - utterly unpalatable. Those subscribing to the former lifestyle ought to find satisfaction with what they have. But, how can we be satisfied with our wealth?

We are our own enemies, for we often succumb to greed in the guise of need. In a complex life filled with obvious need of relational entities (children, parents, relatives, friends etc.), our need gradually migrates into a bizarrely ambitious domain, and in the process, contentment is a lost asset.

Even at the outset, let me add a disclaimer that my wealth motif excludes all who strive hard to make both ends meet. They may possess meager savings or none or may be in negative - with loans and mortgages. But I pray this blog would serve these people groups, for depression, hopelessness, uncertainty and fear are often the agents of destruction of sanity and health. ‘How do I live and navigate my future with a meager income?’ is the fear of these minds.

The first foundational principle is the necessity of work (occupation). Christian worldview does not posit work as a consequence to sin.  Before the fall (sin), Adam and Eve were mandated to work in the garden (Genesis 2: 15). After the fall, pain was the painful addition to Adam’s work. The original creational intent was for Adam to work in peace, but after he sinned, his work was cursed into a painful toil. Consequently, we work through pain. If work is a necessity, pain is an undesirable yet mandated companion.

If you don’t believe in the Biblical reasoning for painful toil, you cannot escape the reality of evil that offers pain as an unworthy companion to work.  Painful toil/work is the only choice presented to man – theist and the atheist. The sooner we grasp this reality, the better our life would be.

Not too long ago, I firmly believed that my income was a consequence of MY painful toil – blood, sweat and tears. Yes, there is a superficial acumen to this thought but it craftily removes God from the equation. We are not offshoots of ‘goo-to-you-via-the-zoo’1 theory (evolution), but we are the creation of a sovereign God - created in HIS image - according to HIS just, perfect, pleasing will and pleasure. Adam and Eve did not own the garden, but it was God who owned the garden and offered it to them. This truth must not be forgotten.

Those who do not believe the Christian worldview cannot escape the fact of the ‘intelligent design’ (intelligence behind the creation of the universe - Big Bang Theory). While Atheists term the intelligence behind the creation of the universe as mere intelligence, Christians ascribe creation to God. But the truth is this; just as the universe was created by God, we have been created by God! If we are created by God, then we are not our own. If we are not our own, then we can no longer pronounce the yield of our work as our income.

Let us view this from another perspective. Waking up healthy isn’t a random occurrence. Health is a prerequisite to efficient work. Our health is not a product of randomness, but the grace of God. If it is through God’s grace, then our ability to work is God’s gift to us. Consequently, the fruit of our work is also God’s gift. If the fruit of our work is God’s gift to us, we can no longer claim ownership over anything – not even our own lives (cf. Galatians 2: 20)! We are mere stewards of our possessions.

Atheists, Narcissists (lovers of self), hedonists (pleasure seekers) and the likes will differ and suffer in this count. They do not subscribe to a higher power that governs their deeds. They are their own masters and sole owners of their wealth. They are their own gods. While they scorn ‘faith’ in God, they place that very same ‘faith’ upon themselves or their knowledge. Their object of faith differs (not God, but self), but ‘faith’ as an asset remains intact in their lives. They represent hypocrisy within the context of ‘faith.’ Self-deification – the essence of these lives – promulgates self-governance.   

Self-governance presupposes knowledge to govern. Those who profess total ownership over their wealth ought to be certain while making decisions. Most often their certainty serves their inward needs. Because of their foundational positions (atheism, narcissism, hedonism et al.), they accumulate adequate reserves for themselves and then look outwards towards benevolence or philanthropism.  Even if one were to concede stewardship in this instance, this is chiefly a narcissistic (self-satisfying) stewardship, which is not stewardship.
Stewardship professes diligent governance and distribution to a needy situation or person. If one is to be a steward, he ought to live to be a steward. He ought to provide for himself to begin with, and then look outward to needy cause(s). The flight steward always instructs us to use the oxygen mask on ourselves and then help our neighbor in need. We ought to live to serve others.

At the heart of wealth accumulation is the apt notion of uninterrupted income of wealth. Source of income is the most intriguing aspect of wealth accumulation. Two normative sources are, man and God. If man considers himself as the source of his income, he strives harder to provide for himself. Instead, if he believes that his source is from another entity other than man, he appeals to the other, thus mitigating his stress of sourcing.

The Christian worldview ascribes the source of wealth to God (cf. 1 Samuel 2: 7; James 1: 17). Since wealth is God’s gift, we retain a portion for our living and part with the rest to serve the needs around us. A common Old Testament notion is the 10% offering of tithe to God and a retainment of 90% for our needs and that of the others (2 Chronicles 31: 5). But the Lord Jesus redefined tithing in the New Testament through HIS glorification of the poor widow, who gave all that she had, from her acute poverty (Mark 12: 41-44; cf. 2 Corinthians 8). So we recognize an upgrade of tithing from 10% to 100%. Once again the Bible does not mandate us to a punitive action of bringing poverty upon ourselves, for that would cause the nonexistence of the giver. Suicide is not an option for a believer of Christ! We are justified to retain a portion for our living (not a luxurious living).

A Christian doesn’t offer a portion of his money to satisfy the needs of others, rather he gives God’s money that is with him to comfort and encourage the neighbor(s) in need. The principle of Christian giving is to give beyond his means and without the slightest urging from anyone (2 Corinthians 8: 1-3, J.B Phillips). So a Christian prowls to devour his neighbor’s poverty. He doesn’t wait to be asked, but sensing others’ need, he gives and gives sacrificially. Christian’s giving is not governed by percentages or his ability or his means, but by the sheer magnitude of need around him.

A Christian cares for himself and his family (not luxuriously) before tending to the needs of his neighbor. He also ensures that his church doesn’t suffer from lack of funds. But if his church is abundant with income, it is only fair to direct his wealth to satisfy the needs of people and causes around him. Ideally, a Christian, within his sight and to the best of his abilities, ought not to have people suffering for want of finances.

We primarily provide for our immediate need and then give sacrificially beyond our ability to alleviate poverty in our line of sight. When we live in this mindset, we love and pledge our loyalty to God, and not money (Matthew 6: 24).

The Bible emphatically asserts that God satisfies everyone (Deuteronomy 11: 15; Psalms 145: 16; Proverbs 19: 23; Luke 6: 21; John 4: 14). In other words, God satisfies those who believe HIM with all their life. God not only creates, HE sustains HIS creation totally (Nehemiah 9: 6; Romans 11: 36; Hebrews 2: 10). So we need to believe that God will sustain and satisfy us always.

In conclusion, our satisfaction is dependent on our total belief in God. The more complete our belief, the greater our satisfaction. The more we doubt God, the greater our dissatisfaction, stress, depression, hopelessness, uncertainty and fear. May God enable us to believe, love and glorify HIM, even with our wealth. Amen.


1 I love this statement for evolution by Norm Geisler. 

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