Posts tagged ‘Stewardship’

Who Has the Power?

Credit: Pikrepo.com

Christians declare that God has all power. We live, however, like we have the power.

A few weeks ago on this blog, I recounted the famous battle between David and Goliath. When David goes to do battle with this terrifying and towering titan, there is no question over who truly has the power to win this battle. As David says to Goliath:

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down. (1 Samuel 17:45-46)

God has the power to win this battle. And He demonstrates His power through David.

But then, David becomes king over Israel. And, at first, David continues to acknowledge and believe that God is the One who has all power and is the source of his power as king. Early in his reign, when David is readying his army to fight the Philistines, we read:

David inquired of the LORD, and He answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” (2 Samuel 5:23-24)

The Lord is the One who will lead the strike on the Philistine army. He is the One with the power.

But by 2 Samuel 11, things have changed – drastically. David now clearly sees himself as large and in charge. He sleeps with a woman named Bathsheba, who is not his wife, and kills her husband Uriah, who serves valiantly as a soldier in his army, to cover up his affair. Instead of relying on God’s power to win his battles, he abuses his own power for his own pleasure and pretense.

Power, it seems, comes with a problem: when we get it, we have no idea how to use it. When David has no power as a shepherd boy fighting a giant, he does better than when he has massive power as a king who can get anything – or, as in the case of Bathsheba, anyone – he wants whenever he wants. Power without wisdom and righteousness is not profitable. It’s pernicious.

The apostle Paul writes very personally about power:

In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Paul fears that, if he was ever to get too much power, he would wreck everything in his conceit. Therefore, he boasts and delights in his weakness, for his weakness allows Christ’s power to work through Him. And Christ is much better at using power than he is.

Andy Crouch writes of power:

Power at its worst is the unmaker of humanity – breeding inhumanity in the hearts of those who wield power, denying and denouncing the humanity of the ones who suffer under power.

This is certainly how David uses his power with Bathsheba and Uriah. But what about power at its best? Crouch continues:

The Father’s love for the Son and, through the Son, for the world – is not simply a sentimental feeling or a distant, ethereal theological truth, but has been signed and sealed by the most audacious act of true power in the history of the world, the resurrection of the Son from the dead. Power at its best is resurrection to full humanity.

God is good with power. He uses it for us and not against us. He demonstrates it through us and not merely over us. Power that rests only in humans destroys humans. But power that is from God can restore humans.

God is good – and gracious – with power. This is why we can celebrate every time we pray:

For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

July 26, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Wall Street’s Wild Week

Are we in a bull or a bear market?  It’s hard to tell.

Last week was a roller coaster ride for Wall Street, to put it mildly.  The Dow Jones opened the week down over 1,100 points on Monday for the single largest one-day drop by raw points, though certainly not by overall percentage.  This freefall followed another precipitous drop the previous Friday of over 650 points.  On Tuesday, the Dow rebounded by 568 points.  But this was followed by another mammoth drop of over 1,000 points on Thursday.

Though the financial ride over these past several days has been bumpy, most economists believe the fundamentals of our economy remain strong.  This has not stopped investors from being jittery, however.  These kinds of swings are simply too disorienting not to have an effect on investor confidence.

After a financially tense week like this one, it is worth it for those of us who are Christians to remind ourselves of what a proper perspective on money looks like.

On the one hand, we are called, as Christians, to be stewards of money.  This means we can earn money, save money, invest money, and, of course, share money!  As people who steward money, financial news should be of interest to us.  Having at least a passing awareness of what is happening in the stock market, the commodities market, the derivatives market, the futures market, and the many other types of financial markets can help us steward whatever resources God has given us as best as we possibly can.

On the other hand, we are also called, as Christians, not to put our hope in money.   For when we put our hope in money, we don’t just manage it wisely; we look to it for our security, our identity, and our future.  When we put our hope in money, all it takes is a slide in the stock market for our hope to be shattered and our joy to be sapped.  When we put our hope in money, we are putting our hope in something that is volatile instead of in Someone who is solid.

To steward money means we think about the future of our money.  To hope in money means we think about our money as the future.  But as this latest stock market roller coaster ride has reminded us, hope that is placed in money is no real hope at all.  Money can be earned and lost.  Investments can rise and fall.  Financial futures can soar and sag.  Hope that is placed in money will always be a hope that eventually falters.  This is why hope does not belong in money.  Hope belongs in Jesus.  After all, the return on His investment is far better than the return on our investments of a few dividends.  The return on His investment of blood is our salvation.

Try finding that payout anywhere else.

You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
(1 Peter 1:18-19)

February 12, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

The Panama Pilferage

Panama Papers 1

It used to be that Switzerland was the place to hide money.  Now, apparently, Panama is the place.

A week ago Sunday, a massive cache of some 11 million financial documents from the Panamaniam law firm, Mossack Fonseca, was leaked to the media.  These files contained information about an “extensive worldwide network of offshore ‘shell’ companies – including ones with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin – that allow the wealthy to hide their assets from taxes and, in some cases, to launder billions in cash.”[1]  Several world leaders are implicated in this leak including the prime ministers of Iceland, Argentina, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, and the former prime ministers of Georgia, Jordan, and Qatar.  According to Lexi Finnigan of The Telegraph, the files “also contain new details of offshore dealings by the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron.”[2]

Some of what has happened in these offshore accounts may be legal.  As Ms. Finnigan explains in her article:

There is nothing unlawful about the use of offshore companies. However, the disclosures raise questions about the ways in which the system can be used – and abused. More than half of the 300,000 firms said to have used Mossack Fonseca are registered in British-administered tax havens, which Mr. Cameron has vowed to crack down on.  And in one instance, an American millionaire was apparently offered fake ownership records to hide money from the authorities.

What has happened here is certainly troubling, even if it is not, at least for me, particularly surprising.  Giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s may be a biblical mandate, but it is not a pleasant experience – even, as it turns out, when you happen to be Caesar.  Nobody wants to pay taxes.

It should be reiterated that, in some instances, what appears to have happened with some of these accounts is little more than tax sheltering, which is legal and, according to many accountants, advisable.  Others, however, have crossed a line into tax evasion, which is a crime.  Still others have out and out used offshore accounts to try to launder dirty money.

Most world leaders are certainly not poor.  So why would such a number of them be so allergic to paying the very taxes that ensure their gainful employment and continued power that they would engage in shady offshore deals?  Perhaps it’s because Solomon was right: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).  Even a lot of money is never enough money when a person loves money.

Lust for more, of course, is not only a problem for world leaders, it is a problem for many people.  Studies have shown that, proportionally, those who have higher financial means give less, as a percentage of their income, than those who have lower financial means.  As Ken Stern reports for The Atlantic:

In 2011, the wealthiest Americans – those with earnings in the top 20 percent – contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent –donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.[3]

Just because a person has more doesn’t mean he will give more.  Indeed, oftentimes, the more a person has, the more a person seems to think he needs, so the less he gives.

Perhaps we should keep in mind what Solomon says about money and the love thereof right after he explains that people who love money always want more money.  He writes, “This too is meaningless.”

The love of money may be tempting, but it is not meaningful.  It is not fulfilling.  It is not worthwhile.  This is a lesson, I fear, that these world leaders may have learned too late.  May their folly be our warning.

_________________________

[1] Greg Toppo, “Massive data leak in Panama reveals money rings of global leaders,” USA Today (4.5.2016).

[2] Lexi Finnigan, “What are the Panama Papers, who is involved and what is a tax haven?The Telegraph (4.7.2016).

[3] Ken Stern, “Why the Rich Don’t Give to Charity,” The Atlantic (April 2013).

April 11, 2016 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – God’s Immutable Provision

An old spiritual says:

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.[1]

These words are simple, but powerfully true.  And, I would add, they are also sorely needed in our world.

We live in a world full of uncertainty.  The stock market can swing several hundred points in a day.  A single poll can crown a new frontrunner in our current presidential race.  Tragedy can strike in an instant.  It’s impossible to know what tomorrow will bring.  That’s why I love the words of this spiritual:  “Today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what lies ahead.”  Jesus, the song says, knows with certainty what lies ahead in an uncertain world.  The chorus continues:

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand,
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

We cannot even manage to predict the weather of tomorrow, much less control the events of tomorrow.  But Christ can do both.  Tomorrow is held by Christ.

In ABC this past weekend, we kicked off a two-week mini-series titled “More Blessed” where we are taking a look at faithful stewardship.  The Bible calls us to steward our resources faithfully by stewarding them generously.  The Psalmist puts it succinctly when he says, “The righteous give generously” (Psalm 37:21).  However, I know that in such a shaky world, sometimes the call to give generously can be a daunting one.  After all, the specter of being generous with our resources only to watch them evaporate in the calamity of a terrible tomorrow is unsettling.  This is why so many people prefer to keep what they have while they still have it!

Contrary to the world’s call to keep what you have while you still have it, Christians are called to be givers and sharers.  And we can be givers and sharers – and feel at peace about it – thanks to the doctrine of God’s immutability.  For with the rock-solid assurance God’s changeless character, we can trust Him to provide for our needs, even as He has done in the past (cf. Luke 11:3).  This frees us up to fearlessly share with others that which God already has provided us.  For more good gifts are sure to come from His hand.

The church father Augustine connected the doctrine of God’s immutability to the doctrine of God’s omniscience:

God does not pass from this to that by transition of thought, but beholds all things with absolute unchangeableness; so that of those things which emerge in time, the future, indeed, are not yet, and the present are now, and the past no longer are; but all of these are by Him comprehended in His stable and eternal presence.[2]

Augustine’s argument concerning God’s immutability and omniscience is an important one.  Because God, Augustine argues, knows all – past, present, and future – nothing catches God off-guard.  Thus, God responds to the tragedies, trials, and terrors of this world not spastically or sporadically, but intentionally and wisely because He is already thoroughly familiar with them, even before they happen.  We can therefore trust God with our futures and be assured that He will carry us through by “His stable and eternal presence.”

Augustine’s words are a great comfort to me.  For if God knows all, then he knows all that I need.  And He will surely provide for what I need in His changeless, steady, stable, and immutable way.  For nothing – none of my needs, tragedies, or trials – catches my God off guard.

The final verse of that old spiritual goes:

I don’t know about tomorrow,
It may bring me poverty.
But the One who feeds the sparrow
Is the One who stands by me.

This is the precious promise of God’s immutable provision.  I hope you steward your resources like you believe it.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!


[1] “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” http://www.hymnlyrics.org/newlyrics_i/i_know_who_holds_tomorrow.php

[2] Augustine, City of God, 11.21, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120111.htm

October 17, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Unbaptized Money

Though I’m almost sure it’s apocryphal, Martin Luther is credited with saying, “There are three conversions necessary – the conversion of the heart, of the mind, and of the purse.”  Regardless of whether or not Luther actually spoke these words, this quote can serve to remind us of the importance our Lord places on faithful stewardship.  What we do with money matters.

In his book The Money Map, Howard Dayton writes, “When the Crusades were fought during the twelfth century, the Crusaders purchased the services of mercenaries to fight for them. Because it was a religious war, the Crusaders insisted that the mercenaries be baptized before fighting. As they were being baptized, the soldiers would take their swords and hold them up out of the water to symbolize that Jesus Christ was not in control of their swords, that they retained the freedom to use their weapons in any way they wished.”  Like Crusaders wielding swords in whatever unbaptized way they saw fit, many people wish to use money in whatever unsanctified way they see expedient.  But God wants our money to be “baptized,” so to speak, in that He wants us to steward our money faithfully and well.  And first and foremost, stewarding our money faithfully and well means being generous with others even s God has been generous to us.

In our text from this past weekend, Solomon writes, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).  God wants us to be generous and refreshing toward others.  Notably, the Hebrew verb for “refreshes” in this verse is rawah, meaning, “to water.”  In Hebrew, this word is in the Hiphil mood, which is an intensive form of the Hebrew verb.  Thus, when Solomon encourages us to “refresh others,” he encourages us to do so intensively.  That is, we are to be as generous as we possible can be.  And as we do so, we ourselves will “be refreshed.”  This phrase “be refreshed” is in the Hophal voice, another intensive Hebrew verbal form.  Thus, as we intensively refresh others through our generosity, God will intensively refresh us through His generosity.

Money that is not baptized by the gospel only causes harm and grief.  Judas, when he sells his Lord for thirty pieces of silver, despairs and commits suicide (Matthew 27:1-5).  Hezekiah, when he shows off his temple treasury to envoys from Babylon, seals the demise of his nation (Isaiah 39).  And Ananias and Sapphira, when they duplicitously hold back some money from the sale of a field, claiming that they had given all the proceeds to the Church, are struck down by God (Acts 5:1-11).  Money used apart from the purposes of God ends in disaster.  Conversely, money that is “baptized” by the gospel can be used to illustrate the gospel itself!  The apostle Paul writes, “You were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23).  What is this price?  It is the price of Christ’s blood.  The monetary picture of a price is used to describe our redemption.  Indeed, the very word “redeemed” is monetary, for it describes how Christ purchased us “from the empty way of life” (1 Peter 1:18), that is, from the empty ways of sin, death, and the devil.

Do you allow the money with which you have been entrusted to be used at God’s pleasure and for His purposes?  Or, are your finances an area in which you remain functionally “unconverted,” holding your pocketbook out of the water while the rest of you is baptized into Christ, too afraid to heed Christ’s invitation to steward your finances in a way that is commiserate with His Kingdom values?  True financial joy and freedom is found only when your money is brought under the authority of Christ.  Jesus has been generous enough to give you all that you have.  Do you trust Him to be wise enough to use the money you have for your good and His glory?

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

July 18, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,108 other followers


%d bloggers like this: