One of the wonderful things about the church that I pastor is that some people come to it and then come to the faith from very different cultures and backgrounds than my own. They often challenge me about some of my blind spots in what I preach. One example of this is how I used to preach about money. After a sermon, one person challenged me in a way that touched my heart. He came from a background where religion was used to keep people in their place; to have them accept being poor and powerless; to see poverty and powerlessness as a blessing; and to discourage ambition.
So my friend, when he heard me talk about dying to the idol of money; being financially generous; to trust the Lord for provision; and tithing, he said that it was hard for him not to hear me encouraging him to be poor and have no ambition to make more money and thereby provide for his family. I realized that I had not made certain matters clear. I should have made clear that the Bible was not given by God to justify a powerful elite staying in power while others are kept under their thumb. I should have made clear that there is a proper place for ambition and growth. I should have made clear that God is growing His children, not His carrots.
Let me come at this another way. I am preaching through Ephesians. One of the wonderful truths of Ephesians 1 is that God is sovereign over all that happens. He is only working on “Plan A”. He does not need a “Plan B”. This fits with a line in that wonderful hymn “all I have needed thy hand hath provided, great is thy faithfulness, Lord onto me.” This is a powerful truth in good times, but even more so in bad times when life is hard and maybe even painful.
The Lord is faithful. He knows my deepest needs. He is meeting my deepest needs even now. I am to look at my situation confident that the Lord is Sovereign and that He is my Good Shepherd, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me”. He is with me in this hard place, working for my good; the furtherance of His Kingdom; and the praise of His glorious grace.
But we should never teach these great truths in such a way that a person will never seek to walk away from abuse, or take the steps to no longer live in poverty; or seek a promotion; or start and grow a business. We need to remember what God created human beings to do, and what redemption in Christ will begin to restore. He created us (see Genesis 1 and 2) to tend to His garden; to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth; to have dominion in His creation.
He created us to trust His provision and His goodness while we exercise dominion to His glory and the good of the earth. He created us to be His children, not His carrots. Carrots just stay where they are. Stuck. Not moving. We were created to be His, and redemption is restoring us to what the Lord created us to be. As His children, it is “natural” to multiply and be fruitful and exercise creativity and care, growing the garden, His Garden.
So, work hard and well. Be generous, giving ten percent and maybe even more. Trust His provision and His goodness, in good times and in bad. Always remember the Lord Jesus Christ crucified and risen. “All things come of You, and of Your own, have we given to You.”