Guests: Bruce Toews and Brant Berglin
Read for This Week’s Study: 2 Chron. 20:1–22, 1 Chron. 21:1–14, 2 Pet. 3:3–12, 1 John 2:15–17, Rev. 13:11–17.
A foundational text for this week is 2 Chron 20:20 ~ “Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.”
The lesson this week invites some reflection and discussion around the topic of managing our affairs during tough times. Everyone knows that tough times do come. We also know the coming of tough times is not always predictable. And tough times can come on a communal scale or a personal one. Truth is, life here is not as secure or predictable as we might like to think. And to push this a bit further, Christians know that the Bible predicts that as we approach the time of Jesus’ returning, there will be lots of trouble. The affairs of human beings will, in fact, become unmanageable. Daniel, who lived a very long time ago, talked of a time of trouble “such as never was since there was a nation…” And Peter, in his letter to the early Christians, talked of a day when even the elements would melt with a fervent heat. In light of this, a concept sustained by many verses in the Bible, how shall we as believers go about managing our affairs?
Perhaps the first thing to consider is the need to trust God, not our wisdom or resources. Put more clearly, the first thing is to be sure we are trusting God ahead of trusting our own abilities and resources. We humans have a great tendency to trust what we have made and what we can see. This is especially true if what we have invented or created rises to imposing heights. It is even more so if we believe the entity to be doing the work of God on earth. People, including believers, in past ages have trusted in the nation, in the church, in educated and scientific people, in young people, in poor people (communism), only to find out that, in the words of Jeremiah, all these are arms of mere flesh (Jer. 17). In every case, once the trusted entity betrays or collapses and humans find themselves bereft, if they look around, they find God is still “out there” and is still trustworthy. Better to make sure God is first in life than to discover it again in times of destitution.
As mentioned in previous weeks, trusting in God will give a human being a certain view of their possessions and achievements. A major one will be the realization that whatever resources a person has, they have because of some previous action of God. They are managers rather than owners. The result of this is that a person will not be totally attached to their possessions. It will mean they are managing their possessions with a view to eternity as life goes along. That includes being both faithful and generous in their giving.
A second idea to live by has to do with simplicity. Life today can be very complicated. And the more possessions we have, the more complicated it becomes. As one person observed, we actually can become prisoners to our possessions. Have five automobiles instead of one, or three houses instead of one, or a house, a vacation cottage, a boat, a travel trailer, and three vehicles, and life will be very different from having one car and a tent!
There is a story told of an author who had a published book and his friend who went to a party put on by a billionaire investor. The friend asked the author if he had ever thought about the fact that the investor had probably made more money in a single day than the author had made from all the sales of his book. The author smiled and responded, “That may be true, but I have something the investor does not have. I have a sense of having enough!” It is said of Dwight Carnegie that when asked how much was enough, he responded by saying, “One more dollar.” Keeping life simple by having a sense of having enough, is a good principle to follow.
Perhaps another principle to keep in mind is that money and wealth do not secure life. This is the primary lesson taught by the parable of the rich farmer who, in a time of abundance, gathered his crops and tore down his barns and built bigger ones, saying that he had enough that he could take his ease. The problem was that that very night, his life was required of him. It is best not to hoard money but to use if for taking care of life’s needs, for helping other in need, and for advancing the gospel cause in whatever way comes to hand.
Looking at this from another angle, it seems a person is wise who plans so that they do not have to become dependent on others. The idea of being self-sufficient is an important one, at least to the Apostle Paul who, even as a preacher, did not want to be beholden to others but worked with his own hands to sustain himself.
Now some questions to discuss:
- Why does wealth so often war against spirituality? Jesus himself talked about how it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom.
- What are some personal strategies to live by in anticipation of a time of personal trouble, such as illness, or personal adversity?
- Are there some larger strategies that can be used to deal with wealth when society on a larger scale heads into a time of trouble?