15 Oct The Christian and his Money
How is a currency note of twenty or a hundred rupees different from any other piece of printed paper with artistic designs? What more importance is there to the alloy or metal in a ten paise coin? Essentially what we call money is nothing very valuable in itself-Then why are there so many people in the world, including Christians, who drain so much time and effort to collect a handful of coins, a walletful of notes or a bankful of deposits?
1. What is money?
In the form of currency notes c coins money is only a substance of intermediary value. Certain value is placed against a piece of paper or a piece of metal for purposes of purchase or convenience of exchange. It is certainly much easier to carry a thousand rupees in currency notes from Delhi to Madras or Sing-pore to New York than bales of cotton for the same value. Thus, then money is only an easy way of handling wealth of time, labour or things.
In itself money is nothing. It is part of the matter of nature just as the trees in the yard or stones on the hill side. Alone with all matter money is neither moral or immoral. It is amoral. Therefore, possession of money neither adds to morality or takes away from morality. Godliness is not dependent on the possession or absence of money. So, the Lord Jesus said, “A man’s life consisted not in the abundance of things which he possesses.” (Luke 12:15). Conversely, there is nothing morally wrong in having any amount of money.
2. What is the evil of money?
Albeit that money in itself is amoral it is a means of much evil in Society. Whether in international dealings, between management and labour or in ordinary transactions in the bazaar, money is exerting pressure and much of it for evil. There are some people who say and believe that money is everything. There are many who feel life is impossible without money. Traffic in human beings, especially women and children, is not uncommon in Indian Society. All for earning money. What is therefore the evil in money?
On a close look at the subject it is obvious that the evil is not in money, but in man who uses money. In the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21 this is the point the Lord Jesus gets across, He points out that at least there are three evil tendencies in man in his relationship to money. Christians are no exception to this.
The first evil is covetousness. This is the love for money. So, Paul in I Tim. 6:10 pointedly declared that love for money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is the lust for money and for more cash that is the evil, There are very few persons upon the earth who are free from covetousness, the desire to get more of the things and therefore more, of money.
The second propensity warned by our Lord in the parable is the indulgence of material plenty. This is so evident when any man says as the rich fool of the parable, “my soul, thou hast such goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry.” Resulting from affluence, man becomes indulgent. This is a tendency in man. Indulgence in material abundance is evil.
Thirdly, the point of the parable is the course of man to depend on riches or money. Even people who do not indulge in the abundance of money depend on the Security that money provides. This is definitely evil for a Christian. Christ Jesus taught that a Christian’s dependence shall not be placed on material Security. The life of a man does not consist on the abundance of things which he possesses.
Therefore, it is not money that is evil for a Christian but covetousness for money, indulgence in it and dependence on it. This point leads us on to the next question.
3. What is the relationship of money to a Christian?
There is a relationship between man and money. He cannot live without this contact because man is integrally related to things for existence. What is this relationship ideally to be for a believer in Christ? This must be answered by three principles taught in Scriptures.
The first principle is that God alone is the owner of all things, animate or inanimate. No other person or being has any title deed to anything that exists in this universe. This right of supreme and sole ownership of God comes out of the fact that He is the Creator of all. (Psalm 90:2) and that He declares all S things are His (Psalm 50:10-12). o then the Christian starts with the great acknowledgement that all things belong to God alone. The silver is also the gold.
The second relevant principle is that the Christian belongs to God. Ps. 100: 3 makes it clear that he belongs to God in creation and I Cor. 6: 19 & 20 declares that he belongs to God in redemption. Anyone who has placed his trust in Christ, therefore, is no longer his own but he belongs to God. God is his owner. God has complete claims on the Christian. Since God owns the Christian, all that belongs to the Christian also is God’s.
This leads to the third principle which is that the Christian is only a steward of material possession and money. Paul describes these stewardship in a fuller dimension in I Cor. 4: 1 & 2. Because the Christian is not the owner of himself or the things around him but God, man’s role is that of faithful and diligent stewardship. This is the heart of the first command of God to man in Gen. 1: 28-30. Man owns nothing. He is only a manager of things. Here he is to act in full fidelity to God who entrusted all things to hold to his accountability.
Having come so far, we shall close this discussion of this poignant subject with one practical consideration from the Christian’s point of view.
4. What is the purpose and use of money?
The Scriptures give us very pointed direction here. It might be said here that the Bible in comparison to the holy books of other religions has more to say on the subject of money, riches and things. In that sense the Bible is not only a spiritual book it is a materialistic book. It is very much related to matter in creation.
The overall purpose of money, as everything else in the life of a Christian, is to glorify God. The inescapable fact is that money has tremendous potential to glorify God as much as it has the power for evil. All of it depends on the use of it.
Included in this overall purpose is the fact that money is an efficacious agent to prove the integrity of Christian character and the reality of Christian experience. In 2 Cor. 8: 24 Paul requires this very thing of the Corinthian Christians. Any Christian whose money bag or bank account is not touched knows nothing of Christ. This is the inevitable teaching of the Scriptures.
A further thought in the purpose of money is that every man, the Christian without fail, will be finally judged on the use of his material means. This truth is thrust home by our Lord in the parable of the judgment In Matt. 25: 31-46. Therefore, no Christian can hope to avoid ultimately, even immediately, judgment for the use of money. All this is in the purpose of God.
As to the use of money at least three specific directives could be detected in the New Testament.
First of all, money or material benefits are to be used liberally for the amelioration of suffering among the less fortunate materially. The least, the needy, the hungry, the sick and the poor are taken in the span of the parable in Matt 25: 34-40. In countries like our own such opportunity for the right use of money is abundant. What is largely absent is the humanitarian motivation, even among Christians. It can be safely said about Indian Christians as a general rule that they prefer receiving than giving, while the word of God teaches, “it is more blessed to give than receive.”
The second proper use of the Christian’s money is directly in the furtherance of the gospel. This includes evangelistic and missionary programme in general. The Philippian Christians are examples to all of the Indian Christians in this. Paul pointedly refers to this in Phil. 4: 15. In fact the whole letter was occasioned by the missionary giving of Philippians. In such giving if one general rule may be outlined it is that this sort of giving must be channeled to projects and persons where the donor has a personal interest and whence reliable information is available. Because it is not merely the doling out of few rupees that is the duty of the Christian giver, but his intelligent partnership in prayer and intercession.
The third and a significant use of the Christian’s money is in the support of the Church. Chapter eight of 2 Corinthians is one of the outstanding passages validating this directive. There are so many needs for money in the local Church and the Church universal, whether it be the support of the ministers of the Church or procurement and maintenance of worship places. Charity within the household of the Christian Church is a necessary project. Money then has a vital part to play in the economy and plan of God for the Christian.
In closing it is right to point out that a minimum practical way for Christians to begin the proper use of money is tithing. Even the people of God in Old Testament times practiced this art of setting apart one tenth of their income for religious and charitable purposes. The Christian is required no less. He is to begin with tithe and go on giving his all because he does not belong to himself but to Christ who gave Himself to the believer.
Precept and example on the relationship and use of money by the Christian is probably the most important practical issue confronting the Indian Christian today.
Rev. P. T. Chandapilla was the Vicar General of St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India; he served with UESI as the General Secretary.
(Reprinted from Evangelical Student Nov. – Dec. 1966)