Imagine this: the only grandson of a wealthy tycoon decides to devote himself to full-time Christian ministry and so, forsakes an inheritance of financial riches and luxuries as his family disowns him. How would you respond to this piece of news? Would you think this man crazy or stupid for making such a decision?
Thus began the first main talk delivered by Pastor Joshua (who would rather be addressed more casually as simply Josh) in this year’s FOCUS Easter Conference (i.e. church camp). Talk 1 on “Rich Dad… Rich Kids” served to remind us that whatever family background we may come from, we were first willing children of Satan. The devil is our father from the start and his lies lead us to the ultimate murder: an eternity in hell. God, however, provides us a solution out of this situation. By the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross, we are saved by grace through faith and are so adopted to become sons of God and heirs with Christ. God is now then our heavenly Father who promises us a future inheritance, which is eternal life itself, and He guarantees and seals this promise with the Holy Spirit. Such blessings illustrate the immeasurable riches of our “rich dad” in heaven. God never forsakes us and as He disciplines us, He is gracious towards us without spoiling us. We are then to learn contentment and free ourselves from the love of money as God has already blessed us with an inheritance that far surpasses that of temporary material wealth.
Talk 2 on “Greedidolatry” warns us against idolatry, which is spiritual adultery. Baal tempts us to worship materialism as we pursue material happiness and try to keep up with the Joneses, fooling ourselves into thinking that we are in control of our own future. As Christians, the lies of Baal become more attractive as he seeks to deceive us by dressing up in YHWH’s clothing. Examples of this include the false teachings of “God’s blessing” by those who preach the prosperity gospel, the illusion of God “calling” someone to a particular profession thus propagating the paganistic idea of career, and the half-truth command to “honour parents” by striving to achieve financial success in order to please them. We are to remember that all these are Baal’s lies and he never delivers, unlike God who always keeps His Word.
Talk 3 on “$tipend, $pending, $haring & $aving” teaches us the attitudes to adopt as God’s stewards in balancing out the different ways we use God’s money that He has entrusted us with. Financial income is a monetary reward for our diligent work but we need to be wary of how much we seek to earn, which may result in us dishonouring God’s name when we resort to sins like theft if we earn too little, or which may cause us to puff up with arrogance and confidence in our own self-efforts if we earn more than needed. As we pray “give us today our daily bread”, so then are we to seek to earn just sufficiently to live on. Our spending would first need to focus on our responsibilities. For some, this includes caring for children and using money wisely in furthering their education, especially their Christian education as the Bible teaches us that parents need to train and raise their children up to be godly. On the other hand, repaying our parents would involve us looking out for their needs but not helping them keep or increase their current standard of living. Since we have also received spiritual food, we are then to give material food in return by giving to the church. This should be seen as part of our responsibility and not merely an act of generosity. Spending money on luxuries is neither sinful nor wrong but God’s Word does warn us of the potential consequences of over-indulgence in riches and pleasures, which can choke us out. The value of generosity is emphasized in the virtue of sharing, with the priority for those who are Christians as they are part of our spiritual family. Saving for a rainy day is wise but how does one balance this with being rich towards God? We are called to use money now well so as to gain friends who will welcome us into eternal dwellings. This is in context of gospel ministry, in terms of helping others become and grow as Christians that they will be people in heaven who has benefited from this way that we have used money.
Talk 4 on “Desiring the Good Life” tells us that there are things in life that are far better than wealth, such as faithful and genuine relationships with other people as well as fearing the Lord. A life of true repentance is a life to be envied. It is indeed a blessing to be part of God’s Kingdom, submitting ourselves to God the Maker and having Him as the King who tells us what to do and who rules over our lives. Judgment Day itself gives us the right understanding of what to live for in this present age. As missionary Jim Elliot put it, “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”. Following the sound doctrine that the Bible presents to us will help us realize that the world is real but not all there is, and that there is heaven and hell that gives us meaning in life. Our desire should be shaped to first seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. As people for His own possession, we should strive for attachment to God’s wisdom that leads us to the zeal and jealousy to do good works. We are to pursue the shadow of greed for the Kingdom of the one who is our real rich Father, God.
On a more personal note, the long weekend away at camp was indeed a priceless experience to understand what the Bible has to say about money and wealth. Through the four talks, I am challenged by the fact that it is not my money but God’s money that I am using and so, I am called to use it wisely, all for the glory of God. The reminder that there lies an ultimate inheritance of eternal life in the future rings a bell for me to give thanks for God’s providence and to learn contentment with what He blesses me with in this present age. Being assured that God is faithful in His promises, trusting in His goodness subsequently extends to a response to share the goodness found in the gospel of Christ with others as well as to mutually encourage others belonging to this spiritual family to strive after the Kingdom of God, knowing that this is what gives meaning to life.