What Do You Treasure?
When asked which commandments are most important, Jesus responded (and I paraphrase), “Love God with your total being, and love your neighbor as yourself.” During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In America there is resentment on the part of the “have-nots” toward the “haves.” It is also apparent that many of the “haves” are indifferent toward those with little. There is minimal respect and appreciation for the opportunity freedom offers and hard work produces. The love, grace and power of God can change these unhealthy realities. I continually witness and experience this transforming grace and I find great joy honoring God and helping others.
When I wrote this, Betty and I were praying for the people of Japan and, personally along with LIFE Outreach, supporting the work of mission partners in rescue and restoration efforts. The patient, non-violent response on the part of the Japanese people is indeed inspirational. It reveals the strength of character often shaped when people have been forced to rebuild from the ashes of catastrophic consequences, damage and loss. If Americans do not adjust their attitude concerning money, it is very likely we will experience the consequences resulting from decades of economic malpractice. In order to get money in its right place, we must first put God and others in the right place.
I had no father to teach me from the beginning that loving money isn’t nearly as important as loving people and that giving is more important than receiving. I did discover these things while I was still a teenager, and it has brought great blessings to my life. Betty and I have been blessed in marriage for over 48 years. Wisely, we decided when we were teenagers that every time we received a financial increase we would give to God’s kingdom purpose. I can say with no exaggeration we have never given to get. We give to give. We believe we are blessed to bless. I understand the absolute law of sowing and reaping and sowing bountifully to reap bountifully. But I also understand what it means to put legitimate interest in God and others ahead of our own.
“Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the first fruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And vats will overflow with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9,10).
When Betty and I got married, I wasn’t farming like the Israelites, who had first heard this proverb. But I worked for a paycheck, and every time we received an increase, we gave to God. It became a pattern we have followed since then: Get an increase, give to God. We don’t just give money. We give our lives to people. As we share what we have (time, energy, advice, and money), we experience life. We express life freely, and we experience life fully.
God says to us, “I’m going to fill up your life. I’m going to meet your needs.” And you and I are supposed to keep pouring out what God pours in. Every time there’s an increase, give to God first. Learn to live like a river—releasing what you receive to help produce the abundance of life.
Taking care of Number One is too important in our culture, and sadly, children pick up on it. It’s even come to the point that when people think about doing something for others, sometimes they actually have themselves in mind. You see, people who are focused only on their own needs, will think about doing something right and good —but with the hidden motive of getting something in return.
Allowing money to make decisions for your family is dangerous. With every “we can’t afford that,” parents reinforce the idea that money—not parents—makes decisions. Rather than choosing what is right and trusting God to provide for their families, men subtly teach their children that money, not God, rules their homes. There’s a word for this: selfishness. It is truly an unhappy and unfulfilling way to live.
1 Timothy 6:10 says, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” It doesn’t say that money is the root of all evil, but the love of money is a terrible problem. Selfishness disguised as love drives people to sacrifice other human lives on the altar of personal gain. The love of money inspires the abuse and misuse of money.
Of course, God is not opposed to money. Jesus talked about it often. But His message was: “Don’t idolize it; don’t worship it; don’t let your heart go after it.” God has given us the ability to test our hearts. He told us the use of our treasure reveals our heart.
You may say, “I don’t have any treasure.” Yes, you do. You have the treasure of your time. You have the treasure of your mind. You have talents and abilities. God has given to you something with which you can bless others. Proper use of these treasures will greatly bless your children.
You are the one who will guide them as they grow. Parents, starting at birth and progressing through childhood and into the teenage years, you must wisely help steer their courses. You take their hands and walk them through elementary school and recitals and ball games. Hopefully you teach your teens about sexuality, self-awareness, and confidence. Then you prepare them for starting their own families and launching their own careers. Through it all, I hope you are teaching them not only by your words, but also your actions and your lifestyle that relationships are more important than money.
All three of our children were intelligent, capable, and successful as they grew up in our home. Yet in spite of all of their successes and their potential for great earnings, all of them, at one time or another, have said something quite profound and intensely satisfying to us. They have each shared that they want to pass on what they had growing up. They want homes where love flows to everyone who lives there. They want God to be the center of their lives and relationships. And they want their children to know and love Jesus.
This has been most important in their lives to this day. It is what they set their sights on as adults. Gratefully I can testify they all have loving family relationships. It is beautiful to behold and I am sure you won’t be surprised to know, they have no regrets. They have the greatest treasure possible because they have put God, family and others first.
Betty and I can say, as parents, there may be no greater thrill in life than seeing your children love their children and truly love one another—all because of God’s grace and wisdom applied. We wish it for everyone—and it is available in Christ.
God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it, “He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.” This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God (2 Corinthians 9:8-11, The Message)
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