by Pastor Afolabi Oladele
We live in times when the world economic system is in turmoil, with nations and people running helter-skelter looking for survival. Even in Christendom, there is lack and want, and financial mistakes that have caused a lot of people to get into debt. It is in this light that I would like to give insight into stewardship and investing, being motivated by a series of messages by Pastor Andrew on Sending help from the sanctuary, along which he taught about contentment. I realised that there are so many things that people are confused about, not because the answers are not in the scriptures, but because they have not really sat down to look into them. My aim with these insights is to create a balanced view of managing God’s resources that have been given to us.
The world has its economic system and God’s kingdom has its own. The two systems are diametrically opposed, operating under different principles. The world’s economy is based on core beliefs like, “Wealth brings security;” God’s economy is based on beliefs such as giving (generosity) and laying up treasures in heaven. Many people are lost in the economy of the world that that they are unable to see the dimensions of God’s economy. Thus finding themselves entangled in the web of financial issues for a lack of understanding of the operating principles.
The world’s economy says wealth is equal to security; power is important, and this life is all there is here. But God’s economy says first of all, that security comes from God, the creator of heaven and earth; secondly, generosity is important; and thirdly, the wise should make financial decisions based upon an eternal perspective, not just a temporal one.
Thus, wWe must understand the limits to having possessions and how we relate to them. Jesus made this clear in a conversation in Luke 12:13-35 (AMP): “Someone from the crowd said to Him, Master, order my brother to divide the inheritance and share it with me. But He told him, Man, who has appointed Me a judge or umpire and divider over you? And He said to them, Guard yourselves and keep free from all covetousness (the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more); for a man’s life does not consist in and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance or that which is over and above his needs.”
From the above scripture, we see the definition of covetousness as: the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more. This scripture presents the story of a man striving for an inheritance that he didn’t work for; a family inheritance. And Jesus thereafter warned the people present against covetousness and greed. You may say that Jesus has promised you abundant life, but that is not by wealth accumulation. The abundant life the Jesus promised is salvation, peace, health; and these cannot be bought. We must always know that there is a limit to accumulation; a man’s life does not depend on his possessions. Knowing that provision comes from God alone would cause us to refrain from worry and anxiety.
Matthew 6:27-34 says, “And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life? And why should you be anxious about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field and learn thoroughly how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his magnificence (excellence, dignity, and grace) was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and green and tomorrow is tossed into the furnace, will He not much more surely clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear? For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all. But seek ( aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness ( His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides. So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble. ”
God provides for plants and animals, so He’ll take care of you. The world’s economy may tell you that your financial independence is your provider, but God’s economy says the Eternal God is your provider. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” because our heavenly Father is the provider. God the creator of all things from the beginning of times–plants, animals, waters, man; has provided for His creature and still does, He hasn’t changed; He doesn’t change.
Concerning issues of possessions and financial freedom, people who invest do so in a bid to have financial freedom, but we must understand that we do not determine cycles of life, only God does and can reveal them to us. So you can invest all you want and lose everything in the day God chooses to set adversity against prosperity. We have a very good example in the scriptures: “Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods — who gets it?’ “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” Luke 12:16-21 MSG
This rich man chose to accumulate more. The scripture records many uses of words to him referencing self; he was a man full of himself. He boasted as if the times, the productivity of the earth and the abundance of the rain which gave him abundant harvest were his making. At the end of the day, God, the giver of life and all things, called for his life. Who becomes the owner of all he had accumulated and boasted about?
The Amplified Bible makes it clear, that the rich man was full of self: “Then He told them a parable, saying, The land of a rich man was fertile and yielded plentifully. And he considered and debated within himself, What shall I do? I have no place [in which] to gather together my harvest. And he said, I will do this: I will pull down my storehouses and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain or produce and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many good things laid up, [enough] for many years. Take your ease; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself merrily. But God said to him, You fool! This very night they [the messengers of God] will demand your soul of you; and all the things that you have prepared, whose will they be? So it is with the one who continues to lay up and hoard possessions for himself and is not rich [in his relation] to God [this is how he fares].” Luke 12:16-21 AMP
Jesus said that this man was not rich towards God. How then, can a man be rich towards God? In a conversation between the Lord Jesus and a rich young man in Luke 18:18-23, Jesus said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell everything that you have and divide [the money] among the poor, and you will have [rich] treasure in heaven; and come back [and] follow Me [become My disciple, join My party, and accompany Me].” (Luke 18:22 AMP). Jesus touched a very sore point in this man’s his life when He told him to sell all that he had and share it to the poor so that he could store up treasures in heaven. That meant for the man to be totally empty here on earth. Being rich towards God is all about spreading and emptying yourself for the needy.
This same Jesus who asked the rich young man to sell all he had and give to the poor, on the other hand, when an alabaster box of oil was broken at His feet and somebody complained that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor, said, “the poor you will always have with you”. What kind of contradiction is that? The only answer is that it is God who is asking for it to be done. God alone is the source; everything belongs to Him. And if He asks that it be sacrificed, we have no other choice.
Of this randy Alcorn says, “Jesus did not and does not call all his disciples to liquidate their possessions, give away all their money or leave home, but Jesus knew that money was the rich man’s god. He also knew that none of us can enthrone the true God unless in the process we dethrone our other gods. If Christ is not Lord over our money and our possessions, then he is not our Lord.” So, it is an individual thing. If any preacher tells you to go sell all you have, don’t listen to him; let God Himself speak to you if you need to do that.
An exact parallel of selling all selling possessions and giving to the poor is found in Acts 4:35-37 AMP: “And laid it at the feet of the apostles (special messengers). Then distribution was made according as anyone had need. Now Joseph, a Levite and native of Cyprus who was surnamed Barnabas by the apostles, which interpreted means Son of Encouragement, Sold a field which belonged to him and brought the sum of money and laid it at the feet of the apostles.” The Bible does not tell us whether God instructed Barnabas or not, but we see that he sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money to the Apostles’ feet; he may have had other possessions. Ananias and Sapphira decided to copy him and brought death upon themselves. It is not about copying, there has to be a persuasion of what God wants from you. Copying can cause one to end up in hell as it did the rich man. The widow in Mark 12:41-44 gave all that she had because she was persuaded to do so. The Bible didn’t tell us if anybody preached to her, but there was a passion in her heart for God which she understood.
The book of Proverbs says a poor man’s poverty is his destruction because he will look upon his poverty and refuse to give. But the widow gave her all, and I am sure that heaven would not sit by and watch her go hungry or sick. If she was looking at the pennies she had, her treasure on earth, she had no choice of surviving. She sent it to heaven, and like an ATM, when the day comes for her to get it, she will just put the card in and God provides for her. God’s economy is totally opposite to the way the economy of this world works.
Steps to good stewardship and investment
1. Always examine your motives. What is your motivation for the investment you want to make? If you cannot clearly answer that question, withhold your money and ask God to open your eyes. Investing in today’s financial market is a high stake game of gambling and it has very little to do with sound stewardship. Too often, it is a game of brinkmanship, gambling towards frenzied and unprincipled games of wealth maximisation. Because all you are doing is to invest to maximise your wealth and that is the worst motive you can work with because that only puts you on the race of greed that is driving so many people. People think they can make money by magic, which was why so many people were defrauded by the so-called, MMM scam. There is no magic about multiplying money; greed is the only thing that is behind that.
Is it a humble and balanced stewardship mind governing your financial savings activities? Proverbs 6:6-10 AMP says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise! Which, having no chief, overseer, or ruler, Provides her food in the summer and gathers her supplies in the harvest. How long will you sleep, O sluggard? When will you arise out of your sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to lie down and sleep.”
There are two dimensions to this. One dimension is hard work and endurance. The other is saving: the ant gathers his harvest in the summer, so that when the winter sets in, there is no fear. So, work hard and save, and be generous like Apostle Paul, who said “these my hands laboured first of all for my needs and the needs of those who are with me.”; because it is not all about you. As much as it is important to save, there is a limit to it. Where savings get to the point of accumulation to build your security, be careful!
The ant labours in summer, gathering to take care of winter, so when you are gathering, it must be for what you need (in winter) not beyond what you need, else you would be guilty of greed and covetousness which comes by accumulation. Examine your motives, and focus on it; you are the only one that knows your motive. The need to be extremely clear concerning motives is what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If your heart is with the stock market, I tell you, every day, you will sit down with CNN to listen to the announcement of what has happened to the shares that are going up and down, and you will have anxiety. God wants you to be free from the cares of this world. Am I still in the stock market? Yes I am, but do I watch it everyday? No. It is a case of whatever will be will be; I am balanced in the rest of God. Where your treasure is, that is where your heart will be. My heart used to be in New York because that is the centre of all the money of this world. My heart is in the Lord now.
2. Be a steward, not a hoarder: God’s economy is mainly composed of flows, not overstuffed warehouses like the rich fool who built a bigger barn. He acted as if he was in charge of his retirement. Just as God is love in motion (fluid), so we ought to be with money. A person who hoards has forgotten what the scriptures say in Ecclesiastes 11:1-2: “CAST YOUR bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, yes, even [divide it] to eight, for you know not what evil may come upon the earth.”
There is a combination of two things here. First it says, ‘cast your bread’, this is an investment flow; but at the same time it also says ‘give a portion to seven others.’ In other words, you are also being rich towards God in giving to the needy around you. So if your life is all about investment and you don’t balance it by helping the needy around you, you are falling short. The cycles of prosperity and adversity are not the in the power of any man, only God decides when things turn this way or that way. He puts them one against another and that is why you must never be a hoarder, else you will suddenly realise that what you have kept it store has become worthless.
Be a steward, not a hoarder. Of course, we need to save for our anticipated needs and to fund the activities of our business and livelihood, however, there comes a point where the act of savings becomes hoarding. For the saints, all savings must be done in the spirit of stewardship which is seen in Ecclesiastes 11:1-2. Be a consistent saver, live within your God-given means and establish clearly written financial goals. Acknowledges that God owns all, you are a steward and that one day, you will give an account. Give to God first, not last. If your God is worth 10%, you can choose to give Him 10%; my God is worth all, He owns me. So when He calls for all, I release it and trust Him to take care of every other thing.
3. Trust God and live humbly. One of the greatest things you can do to free yourself into being available for God with your resources, is to build a roof over your head first. With that you block the financial leakage that goes to landlords. Even if you hardly have food to eat in your house, it is nobody’s business. Not everybody is given that capacity, but for those who have the capacity, that is heavenly counsel.
Trust God and live humbly, let the world go by in its frenzy run for wealth and superiority. Investing in stock and bond market requires discipline and informed knowledge of cycles and movements that even professional money managers are often dazed and confused. Cycles are divinely instituted regulators that God put in place. Markets are either objects of a crazye lust for wealth or a horrible fear of loss.
There would be the day of prosperity but there would also be the days of adversity. God sets prosperity against adversity. That is the way it is in the investment world. Cycles are ordained by God, I don’t determine them. He knows when He is beginning a cycle and when He is ending it. You better be on His side so that He can protect you with His wisdom, knowledge and understanding so that you do not get trapped. When at all possible, it is better to store savings in investment that are not subject to extreme swing of fear and greed. In normal times, such investments will include short term treasury bills as well as investment in solid private businesses or income real estate. In the chaotic maelstrom of the great financial meltdown, even this securities and investments suffer economic swings.
4. Gain control of your savings: Gain as much control of your savings as possible so that you can know how they are invested. So before you give anything to an investment manager, read between the lines, even if they are Christian advisors. Those investment recommendations such as pension funds consultants, mutual funds managers may be well meaning, their recommendations can often be harmful because they lack all the knowledge and they also are deceived–a case of the blind leading the blind and like all of us, they also need to put bread on the table. They will get commissions on whatever it is they recommend to you. Sadly, for those who don’t know better, they will recommend hollow solutions to you in pursuit of their own narrow self interest. Whatever money you are paid at retirement, first of all, go and lock it up in the bank such that you can live with the interest on it until you are clear on what to do with it by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Don’t listen to all kinds of advice so that the gambler’s spirit doesn’t get a hold on you and cause you to lose everything. Follow common sense. The MMM incidence is a clear example of people who didn’t have common sense.
5. Understand the risks of investment and its popular perception.
6. Do your research extensively, asking questions from those who know.
7. Don’t make exceptions because of religious affiliations. No man is God. I may share with you the benefit of my knowledge, but you need to go to God to ask Him to help you.
8. Avoid being manipulated. Choose investments that are least subject to manipulation and seek other types of savings and income. Diversify investments to include stores of value other than in financial security market. That is sound wisdom that most people, perhaps in this part of the world, do not see. Our forefathers used to buy plenty of gold and keep because it is a store of value. We may not be able to buy and sell those things easily here, but those who understand buy things that are value stores. Houses are also value stores just as gold.
9. Invest in your family (plus extended family) and avoid debt. Speaking on retirement, one of the things you can do for yourself is to invest in your children, because you will find out that you will have to live with those children at the end of your days. Invest in your children, they are your retirement benefit! My dad spent the last seven years of his life in my house. This was a man who was proud. Thank God for my wife who was always there for him, because I didn’t have the time to always sit with him. But he found comfort everyday of his life. Yes, on the days that I had time, I would sit with him and he would tell me the same stories over and again, and sing all kinds of songs. But I was glad to do it because he invested in me. Don’t curse your children; don’t speak evil to them, pray for them, invest in them. Parents, change your attitude to your children, they are not mistakes in your life. Life may be hard today, encourage them. Make them to see that every effort you are putting is for a good purpose.
The world promotes the spirit of hoarding and the spirit of earthly wealth as a measure of success and a security to satisfy boasts. Be a flow person not a hoarder. God’s gifts to us whether they are gifts of spirit or material resources, are meant for sharing and blessing others through our giving. Reach out to and invest in your extended family too!
Stay away from debt. The Bible says in Psalm 37:21 “The wicked borrow and pay not again [for they may be unable], but the [uncompromisingly] righteous deal kindly and give [for they are able].” The uncompromisingly righteous deal kindly with those who can’t pay because that is what is in the word of God that at the end of seven years, the borrower should be freed from his debt. See Leviticus 25.
The banks of this world lend you money, you can’t pay and they take away everything from you. That is not God’s way. There is a reset button that God pushes every seven years; to let every debtor go free. Otherwise the poor will just keep getting poorer and poorer. Even those seven years, doesn’t fully sort out the problem of indebtedness and the poor, which is why God put the 50 year cycle on it. That at the end of the cycle, everyone goes back to their possessions.
So, be a good steward of the resources of the living God and not a hoarder, so that you don’t fall prey to the evil that is coming upon the nations, during the expected major economic collapse that will mark the end of the world. Take note of these things and carefully position yourself in God’s economy so as to safeguard your life in His kingdom, and be a worthy servant and citizen in His kingdom.