by Jason Barnett
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Proverbs is a book full of wisdom that not only spoke to the Israelites a long time ago, but it still speaks to us. There is one verse in particular that sums up this book of wisdom. Chapter eighteen, verse one says, "An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment." (NIV, all other verse will be the same)
Focusing on the second part of that verse, "he defies all sound judgment," is saying if you ignore this first statement, then you are an idiot. No just any idiot, but a crazy one. That could be said of anyone who reads Proverbs and doesn't follow what it says.
Now the first part of the verse, "an unfriendly man pursues selfish ends," is the subject we are looking at. And if the statement that follows sums up the whole book, how important does that make this? And if a person who ignores Proverbs is a crazy idiot, what does that make a person who ignores this simple statement? My guess is either a mean stupid crazy idiot or a crispy critter, or quite possibly both.
The people of ancient Egypt believed that when a Pharaoh died he needed all his stuff in the afterlife. So they would mummify his buddy, along with all of his servants. Then they would bring all his possessions into a burial chamber. But after he died and the ancient ways were no more, thieves broke in and stole everything of value. Then along comes an archaeologist, not only does he take what is left of Pharaoh's stuff but he also takes his body.
Think about people today. Most of us will lie, cheat, and step on faces to gain wealth. Then we buy big mansions, fancy cars, and hoard our cash. Only giving money away in order to avoid paying more to the IRS. Then one day we die, and our family spends years fighting over all the stuff we spent a lifetime trying to gain. We sound crazy.
Jesus has something to say about this subject in Matthew 6:19-20:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal."
Then Luke 12:13-21 records Jesus dealing with an individual on this issue:
Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.' And I'll say to myself, 'You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.'" "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared yourself?" "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
Storing up for yourself is not going to do anything for you. 99.99999% of all people die, and a 100% of that number cannot take anything with them. Now, there is nothing wrong with money, it's an amoral object. The problem is we place it on an altar and make sacrifices to it like a god. God does not need your money, but he wants your heart. The more we grow in Christ, the more of a spirit of giving we will have. But if we replace God with money, the selfishness of our sinful nature will take over.
Check out Matthew 19:16-23:
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied, "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, "Do not murder, do no commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself." "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
The young man from the story had been obedient to all God's commandments. He had followed the law, but he did not put God first in his life. If God were at the focal point of his life, then he would have no problem giving up his things. What is more important to you? We as believers should not have a selfish spirit that worships things, we should have a giving spirit that worships God.
For those who keep a selfish spirit, the Bible warns that you need to turn from your wicked ways. The time to do it is now, because the end is too late. Luke 16:19-31 is a story about a rich man who misses his chance. Read the consequences of his choices as a warning:
There was a certain rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire." But Abraham replied, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us." He answered, "Then I beg you father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment." Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them." "No, father Abraham," he said, "but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent." He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."
It is okay to have nice things. The rich man was not punished for what he had. He was punished because he would not give Lazarus the scraps from his meals. His priorities were all out of whack. If he were truly dedicated to God, the rich man would have given Lazarus food, shelter, and even found a way to comfort him in his illness.
Money is a great thing to give, but it is not the only thing. Use your talents to give back. Spend time with kids and the widows. Fix a meal for those who are sick. The crazies of this world will chase their wealth and "the American Dream," but that is not what God wants. JK Warrick, a general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, said, "Nothing about the economy of the kingdom fits in with the American Dream." What is important to the world is different than what is important to God, and what is important to God should be important to us.
Malachi 3:8-10 says this about giving:
Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, "How do we rob you?" "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the store house, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this" says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it."
So a selfish person is not only ignoring the needs of others, but they are robbing God. Not of money, but the opportunity for God to pour out blessings on them because blessings always follow obedience. And we are obedient when we give freely and cheerfully.
The next thing we need to remember when becoming a giving person is why it is done. It is not so we can show off how much we have, gain political power, make ourselves feel good, or even to get a break on our taxes. A giving person does it for the glory of God. Matthew 6:1-4 says:
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. "So when you give to the needy, do no announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
If your goal is anything but to glorify God, then your true objective is your reward. Those things will disappear, but the kingdom of God will never end. Giving to gain power? Ask Hitler, Stalin, Alexander the Great, the Pharaoh's, and Julius Caesar where power got them. Oh wait, they are all dead. During their lives they got their power, but it cost them their eternal souls. Are you giving to be praised by people? People are fickle, our mind change as the wind blows. Giving for anything except to glorify God is crazy.
Mark 12:41-44 tells us a story about a lady who captures the true concept of being a giving person. Check it out:
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--all she had to live on."
Like we discussed earlier, giving is not about the money, and it really is not even about your talents. Giving is about your heart. Does God have all of it? If God asked you to sell your house, give all your money, and pack up your bags to follow him would you do it? Most of us would be like the young man, walking away sad because money is our true god. Anything that is more important to you than God is your god. And our God is a jealous one.
The poor and needy lady from Jesus's story gave because she knew God would take care of her. And that fact brought her a feeling of peace.
The Bible talks about this peace. Check it out:
Matthew 6:25-31 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap, or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?""And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
When we fully surrender ourselves to God, He gives the peace of knowing he will take care of us. That is a peace the crazies of this world do not know. The crazies will focus on the things of the world because they don't know or understand the true meaning of giving. They will pursue their things to try and fulfill this life, only to never truly find it. And they miss out on the greatest gift of all, eternal life. But we can choose to focus solely on God in every aspect of life. We may never be rich by the world's standards, but we can have peace. So which will you choose, the crazies or complete trust in God?
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