As people, we love to get things, to have things, to receive gifts. Equally as believers we love to be blessed, prospered, favored and enjoy the benefits of grace.
As with everything there can be extremes on both sides especially where Christian living is concerned. With grace we can see historically in scriptures and even today everything from licentiousness to legalism. Part of being a believer is learning how to navigate our freedoms in Christ while at the same time understanding His expectations and our responsibilities as a member of a larger body.
Grace is often a point of contention and there are a lot of arguments that take place about it in the body of Christ. There are some who believe in what I like to refer to as the “benefits of grace” and are fully acquainted with those benefits, especially the freedom from all that the law demands of us.
While I fully appreciate and believe that we should take advantage of every gift of grace, I also believe there is a balancing point that requires us to also understand, embrace and operate in what I refer to as the “power of grace”.
Grace is not merely a benefit package, nor is it merely a bridge that spans our inadequacies with the immeasurable mercy, goodness and gifts of Jesus Christ. It is also a source of power, one by which we conquer sin and we live a life not only of “existing” in a state of holiness and righteousness but we begin to “practice” holiness and righteousness.
Understand, I fully believe that what we do is not accomplished in our own strength but by complete and utter reliance on the Holy Spirit. We do however, play a part. That is that we must be willing to submit to the leadership of and act upon the instruction of the Holy Spirit to partner for the release of His power and kingdom.
Another area that is a very hot topic regarding this line of thinking is finances and money. This is perhaps one of the most debated and discussed topics in the body of Christ.
Again, we have two differing extreme points of view one being that we are already rich and fully entitled to wealth and prosperity based on our identity and the other that being poor or having no desires or attachments to things is a form of holiness.
For me both extremes do not quite hit the mark. I have to admit, my beliefs lie in favor of blessing, prosperity and all of our needs being met in Christ because of grace. I do not believe that we must keep the law in order to receive the blessings and promises that are associated with keeping it. I believe that because we are a new creation by faith in Christ, we become eligible to receive every benefit, blessing and promise from Christ because HE fulfilled it and is our righteousness.
I do not however subscribe to the idea that we just sit back and put ourselves on “spiritual welfare” and have no active participation or responsibility in the matter of finances, blessings, promises as well as every other area of our Christian walk.
I also believe that poverty is a curse. I know that because of Christ, we no longer live under a curse however, I do believe people as believers can still embrace a spirit of poverty which is a deceived line of thinking from the enemy that tries to equate holiness with being poor.
The main area I want to discuss however is not the two extremes in points of view but rather what are the expectations and responsibilities of believers in regards to our finances and blessings?
We know that God gives blessing, favor and gifting’s not simply to squander on ourselves. We are a recipient of the blessing, yet with every blessing and gift, I believe we should look at it through the context of the two great commandments; to love God and to love those around us.
I am not saying that God does not ever want us to enjoy something that He gives us exclusively for ourselves or for our family, but everything that God blesses us with can be in some way a tribute to the kingdom of God and the body of Christ.
For instance, I love motorcycles (although I don’t currently own one). Some Christians might say “you could use the money to feed the poor instead of buying a luxury item for yourself”, but what parent does not want to give good gifts to their children? Should we expect our own children on Christmas and birthdays to donate all their toys to others and never have anything that brings them joy?
I think the obvious answer is of course not! I can also use a motorcycle in a way that honors God. Most times when I ride, I spend a lot of time in prayer and worship. A motorcycle is also a way for me to connect to others with similar interests and to operate in ministry.
The problem herein lies when we are never conscious of the kingdom and we ONLY use our finances and blessings to satisfy our desires without using wisdom.
God wants us to be stewards. Why would He want us to be stewards and to have control and wisdom in these areas? Because He is training us to be kings and rulers over great things. He gives us smaller tasks and treasures so that we may learn to reign and rule over things and desires with authority, rather than letting them rule over us.
God teaches us to be patient and to discuss things with Him to gain wise counsel instead of giving into our impulses to gratify ourselves and perhaps put ourselves into financial or some other type of peril.
God gives us many blessings for us to enjoy personally, but by far and in large and ultimately, His blessings are given to produce fruit, to give increase to serve the Kingdom of God and body of Christ.
We see this in the parable of the talents.
Additionally, one of the issues that Christians often deal with is over expenditures because of blessing and prosperity. We live in a world and culture of excess, gratification and keeping up with the person next door. This is largely because we as the church have accepted (sometimes unconsciously) the standards and measures of the world. We define ourselves as blessed and prosperous many times by the things we have and at the same time find ourselves up to our eyeballs in debt.
One has to honestly ask themselves, if I am in debt up to my eyeballs, was it really God blessing me or did I not use wisdom with the blessing God gave me? I speak not from a standpoint of judgement but from one of experience and I include myself as a member of the audience I address, in fact I would be a front row attendee.
Ultimately, I believe God blesses us because He loves us and He wants us to enjoy our lives, but more importantly I think He blesses us to see what we will do with it. Will we be as He is? Will we be willing to serve and give to others in some way? Will our thoughts and hearts be towards blessing others in the body, taking on the nature and character of God Himself? As I previously eluded to, I don’t believe that every single blessing we receive is something God expects us to share and give away to others and that there is never anything exclusively for us alone, I believe that God is concerned about our heart in the larger context of things He entrusts us with.
This is why I believe giving offerings and tithing is important to God’s heart. Not from a legal standpoint to fulfill the law, but rather because we want to be like Him. He is a giver, it is His nature and character to give and to bless, He cannot be anything other than good.
I want to be a giver in this respect and learn to be more like our heavenly Father.
I often hear people say and I have been guilty of thinking and saying it myself that “if I were rich I would give away so much to so many” or “I would pay for a new church and bless our pastors”, but I have to examine myself and ask would I in fact do that? Do I practice this on a smaller scale with what I am blessed with now? How do I manage and steward over what I have now? Do I find myself being content and fulfilled with where God has me in my finances and in the things I own? Can I put my appetites under my feet and trust that God will give me abundance for my desires and at the same time be willing to share in what I currently have to release my blessings back into the kingdom of God no matter how small they may seem in the eyes of men?
In all things, we must use wisdom and seek the heart of God. The question should be “God what do you want to teach me in this area of my life?”
On another note from the other end of the spectrum, my wife and I have had to discipline ourselves to accept a blessing and gift when it is given from others. By that I mean, we have also struggled with the notion of not taking a blessing from someone else in some misguided form of sincerity. Now, we humbly give our gratitude when someone blesses us in some way like paying for our meal and we pray that God rewards them for it.
We also bless others when we are able and do so not because we feel we have to meet some spiritual quota but because we want to be more like Jesus and give and bless out of our love for the other person or party.
Lastly, everything God does on Earth, He does in partnership with us, His children. He is sovereign and can supernaturally do anything He chooses but by far and in large everything He does in the way of showing his love, blessing and prosperity for us is through us, His children.