Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Extraordinary Wisdom for Everday Living - June 29, 2008

Here is week 5


Study Theme: Extraordinary Wisdom for Everyday Living

Date: Week of June 29, 2008

Title: If Your Money Could Talk

Bible Passages: Proverbs 3:9-10; 11:24-26; 13:11; 15:16-17; 16:11; 23:4-5

Managing money is one of the most difficult challenges of life, and how we manage money as a Christian says much about our faith. Christians are called to view the handling of money as an act of stewardship over something they do not own. Culture, however, suggests that “I earned it, so it’s mine to use however I choose.” This contrast defines the essential differences of how money is used.

The contrast also explains the difference between a Christian view of abundance and surplus that leads to satisfaction and contentedness versus the view of money as something after which one should clamor with every effort possible – and then hoard. It also frames the struggle of acquiring wealth by illegal or unethical means, and it frames the problems that many experience when their sole focus is the gain of wealth. The physical and spiritual implications are profound, as are the relationship problems that arise when greed takes over.

In short, today’s proverbs are really about developing a theology of stewardship in our lives, one which believes in the idea that God provides to the point of abundance – it is simply for us to choose the view of stewardship. The main question for your learner’s today is this: What do my attitudes about money reveal about my life and faith? The goal is to help them see that God’s people honor God in the ways they think about, earn, and spend their money.

Focal Passage Outline:

1. Check Your Spiritual Balance Regularly (Prov. 3:9-10; 15:16-17)

Proverbs 3.9 in the NIV says that we should honor God with our “wealth.” But this does not capture the full extent of the Hebrew idea. The text more fully means that we should honor God with our “being” – everything that we have. Not only is our money part of how we honor God, but so is our thinking, our actions, and our ways of using our money. When followers of God honor God in this way, the first of what we own/possess is due to God.

The concept of the first fruit offering is based here and is a part of ceremonial Hebrew law. The promise of scripture is that if we have this mindset, then we will also view our lives as full of abundance. Our barns will be full of food, our vats full of wine. Make sure to note the sidebar in the printed material about the “First Fruits” offering in your preparations.

Proverbs 15.16-17 further this view, with the idea that it is better to have few possessions and be at peace with God than to have many possessions and be at odds with God. This proverb shatters the notion that wealth will lead to happiness and that material goods will be a substitute for the life of peace. The priority of biblical wisdom teaches that the priority of God’s people is to honor God with all that we possess and with all that we are. This is how we trust that God’s provision is the very best asset in our financial portfolio.

At the end of the day, these two passages of scripture teach us that money cannot provide us the important things of life, such as love and right relations with God and neighbor.

2. Never Fall in Love with $$$ (Prov. 23:4-5)

This passage states clearly that the facets of wealth which enamor us will disappear quickly. Wealth can “sprout wings and fly off to the sky” quite easily. This is not to say that wealth evaporates, but it is to say that the things we believe wealth will provide us – like security, happiness, friendship, comfort, etc – will sprout wings and fly. That is because all notions of those ideals are shattered when we learn that money cannot secure them for us. Only living a godly life can help us discover true happiness, friendship, security, or comfort.

Wealth also appears to have sprouted wings and flown away when we observe how greed can destroy a person’s well-being. Only by keeping wealth in proper perspective and never focusing our lives solely on gaining or keeping wealth that we can find our lives invested in the things that matter most – in the things that endure.

You will find additional Biblical thinking on this concept at Proverbs 11:28; 28:22,25.

Application Idea – An extraordinary insight into how pursuit of money affects all socio-economic classes is found the song Sweetest Girl – (Dollar Bill) by Haitian born Wyclef Jean. Be warned that though the singers make a prophetic critique of greed and the societal impact of the quest for a dollar, references are made to strippers and prostitution. The song fully describes the depths to which people will go for financial security and will connect to folk who listen to pop radio.

3. Make Every Buck Honestly (Prov. 13:11; 16:11)

This first Proverb teaches that the dishonest gain of wealth will dwindle quickly. While the NIV translates it as “dishonest money,” the NRSF offers “wealth hastily gained” as a variant translation on the Hebrew word that means “from vanity.” So no matter what translation you may use for teaching, the idea that wealth should be gained by doing good honest work remains true. Biblical wisdom instructs people to make money honestly because, as Proverbs 16.11 will suggest, God blesses honest work and fair trade, and God condemns dishonest trade and quick, sloppy work.

Application Ideas –
Ask your learners to examine their own work ethics. Do they give their employers “all 8” during the work day? Do they cut corners on occasion or with regularity? If they are business owners, do they always make sure to treat their employees and customers to the highest standards?

Another idea – ask your learners who use computers for work to measure the amount of time they spend surfing the net while on company time? Is it ever ok to justify this behavior with the idea that “just a little is ok” or “all the other employees do it even more than I do?”

4. Grow in Generosity (Prov. 11:24-26)

This proverb demonstrates yet one more of the counter-intuitive principles of God’s way of living life. It says that the more generous we are, the more we are enriched, and, conversely, the more we hoard, the more we are cursed. It is antithetical to trusting in God’s provision when we hoard up for the future to the disadvantage of those around us.

You see this all the time at those “all you can eat” buffets. You go there for lunch knowing that dinner is already planned for, yet you eat the lunch buffet as if there were no guarantee of dinner! We behave the same way in our ethics, as if there is a limited amount of good “stuff” in life, so we hoard that good stuff with the intent of keeping others from drawing down on the “fund of goodness.” But reality is that God’s goodness and abundance are never depleted. Christians are most god-like when they trust this reality and give generously to others.

The bottom line is that generosity enriches the giver and forges and unselfish attitude. This is not a version of the “gospel of prosperity” but the reality is that the one who gives away will provide a blessing to the giver that may or may not be financial prosperity. However, one can be assured it will be a blessing of God’s abundance.

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