During the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Pharisees would come to him on occasion with trick questions that almost seemed to backfire. Being overtaxed back then (as we are today), they approached Jesus one day and asked, “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
“Show me a denarius,” he said. “Whose image and inscription are on it?” Of course, being a Roman coin, its image and inscription were Caesar’s. So Jesus told them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Not only did Jesus sidestep their question, but he dealt with a bigger issue, which was simply this: They were made in the image of God and therefore should give to God that which rightfully belongs to him.
When it comes to our lives, we can think, This is my life. My future. My career. My family. My money – it’s all mine. Yet we belong to God.
You may have worked hard and saved and invested and done everything you can to multiply what you have. But God gave you the ability to do that. He gave you that mind to think with. He gave you those hands to work with. He gave you the life that you draw on to do the job that is set before you. It has all come from God.
Jesus told a parable about a man who was working for a wealthy employer. When his employer heard that he wasn’t doing a good job of watching over his possessions, he fired him. In modern terms, he essentially told him to clean out his desk. Technically, this man was still in his master’s employ, so he called various individuals that owed his employer money and reduced the debt. The person who owed 1,000 bushels of wheat could settle his debt for 800 bushels. Someone who owed 800 gallons of olive oil could pay his bill in full with 400 gallons, and so forth. And when his employer found out about what the man did, he actually commended him.
So Jesus concluded by saying, “Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”
We might be critical of the actions of the employee in Jesus’ story, but are we any different when we go through life without a thought that everything we have has been given to us by God? We are stewards of this life, not owners. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying what God has given to us, there is a responsibility that comes with those privileges. We like to think our money belongs to us and that we can use it as we please, but it is God who gave us the ability to produce wealth and has given us responsibilities that go along with it.
With that in mind, what should we do with the resources God has entrusted to us? We find some answers in the words of the apostle Paul: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share. …”
We shouldn’t be arrogant or put our ultimate hope in our wealth, because we can’t take it with us. Instead, we can use our money for good. Some people say they can’t afford to give, but I can’t afford not to. David said he would not give to God that which cost him nothing.
There is a place for sacrificial giving.
It reminds me of a story about a preacher who had a farmer in his congregation. The preacher said to him, “If you had two hundred dollars, would you give one hundred of it to the Lord?”
“You bet I would, Preacher. Absolutely.”
“OK. I have another question. If you had two cows, would you give one of your cows to the Lord?”
“Yes, Preacher, I would give one of them to the Lord,” the farmer answered.
Then the preacher said, “If you had two pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord?”
“Now that is not fair,” the farmer said. “You know I have two pigs.”
Giving is fine, as long as it is in theory. But when it becomes reality, we are not sure if we want to do it.
Having said that, we are also to enjoy what God has given us. Paul also wrote to Timothy that God “gives us richly all things to enjoy.” This is important, because some seem to suggest there is almost a virtue in poverty. But the Bible really doesn’t teach such a thing. Nor does it teach that we are all supposed to be rich. What it does teach is that God can bless a person with money. We see from Scripture that Abraham, David, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary, and Barnabas all had wealth.
God will provide for us as we faithfully honor Him. The idea is to serve God with our money instead of serving our money and forgetting God. Jesus said, “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 than food, and the body more 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?”
God is aware of your needs and he will provide for them. Put him first, and he will take care of you.