Jesus encountered a rich young man that sought Him out to find out what could be done to inherit eternal life. The real lesson in this account is often overlooked. This man was looking for something that would “work” for him but was instead told of something that he needed to change.
(Mark 10:17–22 ESV) “And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Recently, I was moved to tears at the sight of a little girl being presented an American flag, it having just been removed from the coffin of her deceased military father. This little girl will not know her father because he gave all he had to give for her freedom. To give your life is extreme. This kind of giving is premeditated as a possibility. It is a decision made solely by the individual and no one else.
There are times when people have gone to an extreme when giving to God. These situations must be looked at very carefully to avoid error.
A predominant extreme giving situation is one that captured the attention of Jesus.
It’s true, there is a command for Christians to tithe in the New Testament. However, it is usually, and easily, overlooked.
The Apostle Paul quotes the Old Testament many times bringing those truths into the New Testament. Here is an example:
(1 Corinthians 9:9–10 ESV) “For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak certainly for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.”
Paul quotes the Law and then says that it was written for “our sake.” Paul, as an apostle under the New Covenant, is saying that what was written in the Law of Moses was written for those that minister - no matter what covenant they are under. The reason is that God’s plan for financing the ministry is the same no matter what covenant you are under. That’s why Paul quoted the Old Testament with the expectation of it being obeyed in the New Testament.
Six principles that will change your financial situation.
As ministers, a big part of our responsibility is leading God’s sheep in the area of finances. I have ministered on Biblical finances for over twenty-seven years now and I have done this as I traveled to forty-three countries. Biblical principles, if followed, will consistently position God’s people to provide for the will of God for each ministry, no matter where in the world it is. I want to share several principles of Biblical financial leadership that I have proved over the years.
A “financial relationship” is developed between every minister and those they lead. This relationship occurs with or without a conscious effort on the side of the minister. As in all relationships, this one takes time to establish properly.
We are now in the last of the last days - the end times. It takes money for the church to obey God and finish the work of preaching the Gospel to every creature. While we are not of this world we certainly have to live and minister in it. The battle over money is raging. The biggest problem is that it is happening within the church.
The measure of success in many ministry circles is now measured by the number of followers, the amount of money, along with visibility and popularity. It is often proclaimed that these elements prove their spirituality and God’s approval. The doctrine of prosperity is Biblical. Often when God moves, great numbers of people are affected and many ministers are very visible. God is behind many of these things, but not all of them.
Jesus warned us.
(Matthew 24:11 KJV) “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”
False prophets are within the church. Persons outside the church proclaiming some kind of belief system or life enhancement system are just opportunists. If you are going to pretend to be a prophet, which is what a false prophet is, you will have to be within the religious system because “prophet” is a Biblical term. Jesus said that these “pretenders” will deceive many. The “many” people that are deceived give millions of dollars to the false prophets, and that takes money away from the spread of the true Gospel.
The prophet Jeremiah spoke about the day we live in. He told us that money will be a big issue.
In my experience, there is not a more controversial subject in the Bible than the subject of finances, particularly financing the ministry. Consequently, many ministers avoid it. The day we live in demands that there be sound Biblical teaching on this subject for the sake of the well being of everyone involved.
The money needed by the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is here in the earth. While we are not of this world, we certainly have to work here. God established His plan for financing the ministry and it is clearly laid out in the Bible. One day recently while sitting at my desk, the Lord suddenly spoke to me and said, “There is not a money problem within the church, there is a commitment problem.” Let’s let that sink in. Many of us have focused on the money instead of the commitment. The more they seek the money, the more they delay the supply.
The following basics are critical. I say this because I know that they are Biblical doctrine, but also because I have proved them in my life and ministry. In my twenty-six years of ministering on Biblical finances I have found that ministers are missing it concerning the basics.
God claims ownership of everything.
Understanding that God owns everything is essential for an accurate understanding of His will concerning financing the ministry.
(Psalms 24:1 KJV) “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”
God owns the earth and everything the earth can produce. God has blessed mankind with “possessions” but not with ownership of things. Notice what God said to the Israelites concerning the Promised Land.
(Leviticus 20:24 KJV) “But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.”
The Canaanites were in the Promised Land, yet, God said to the Israelites, “I will give it unto you to possess.” God is not a thief. The reason God could give it to someone else to possess is because He is the owner. The owner of anything has the exclusive right to determine the use of the thing owned.
The day we live in is the most critical time the Body of Christ has known. We are at the doorstep of the return of Christ. While many of us recognize the obvious assaults upon Christianity from false religions, pagans, and our own government, many are overlooking the most devastating assault coming from within.
(Acts 20:29–30 KJV) “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”
By definition, when a minister speaks something that is “perverse” he has distorted and misinterpreted the truth, and with that, turns people away. The scripture above indicates that this minister is intentional doing that, usually for personal gain.
The devil’s end game is to strip the pure faith from the hearts of God’s people. He already has the unbelievers and people in false religions. He wants to attempt to mock God using God’s own people, or rather those that call themselves Christians. He also is working to corrupt the faith so that he may take as many people to hell as he possibly can.
God’s end game is to reveal who the true believers are and make a distinction between those that are His and those that say they are His. Unfortunately, this process involves pressure. James tells us:
(James 1:2–5 ESV) “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
You know, we used to teach this in relation to believing for a new car. Now, we are in the end game and the battle is for your soul. The trials of life come to steal your faith - in Christ. For those who’s faith is pure and real, they endure the test and come through perfect and complete. This has little to do with a new car, or any “thing” you are believing for.
My paraphrase - “Life as a Christian will be contested. Those that remain steadfast will be perfect and complete in Him. If you don’t know what is going on, ask God and He will tell you.”
God had something specific in mind for mankind to do with the seeds that were in the food supply. The seeds weren’t necessarily for food, the fruit was.
When God created Adam and Eve, He at the same time established a source of food that would give the biological part of man what it needed.
(Genesis 2:7–9 King James Version) “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
God planted the garden, not Adam. The garden was in the East side of an area called Eden. Eden was a large area and the garden was only part of that area. God planted this garden of Eden with many fruit trees. God caused them to grow and they were good for food. The size of the garden is unknown. However, it was certainly large enough to sustain Adam and Eve at the very least.
God tells the man that his food supply has seed in it.
(Genesis 1:29 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”
Man was to eat the fruit, the seeds from the plants and trees were for reproduction of the food supply. We know today that some seeds are slightly toxic to humans but the fruit is not. Other seeds from trees, like nuts, are very healthy for humans.
Why would Adam and Eve need to reproduce their food supply? God put them in a garden and it was already filled with mature, fruit bearing trees. They had enough food for themselves. Without a curse upon the earth, those trees were going to produce forever.
God does everything for a purpose.
The minds of America are in the hands of the ministry. No other person has the ability to affect people’s thinking as powerfully as a true minister. A true minister has the power of God available to him.
(2 Corinthians 10:3–5 ESV) “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”
For God’s will to be accomplished in the earth, He has to work with our thinking - something He has no control over. Humans choose what they believe.
Our believing begins with our thinking. Whatever we believe, Biblical or not, must pass through our minds. When we have Biblical thinking together with understanding, the faith of God is what we have in our hearts. The battle for humankind then, is for the minds of people.
What we see, hear and who we associate with will determine what we ultimately believe. The Bible has many cautions concerning what we give our hearing to. Here are a few:
(Mark 4:24 KJV) “And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.”
(Mark 8:15 KJV) “And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”
(Mark 13:5 KJV) “And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:”
The born again experience comes by way of hearing the Word of God preached. Peter calls the Word of God an “incorruptible” seed.
(1 Peter 1:23 KJV) “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
The Apostle Paul tells us that faith for salvation comes from hearing the Word of God.
(Romans 10:17 KJV) “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
The literal translation of Romans 10:17 states that faith comes from “hearing through the word of Christ.” So, we aren’t born again by hearing any word of God, we must hear the word of God concerning Christ. Jesus Christ is the incorruptible seed that lives and abides forever. The Word is a person, not a letter.
The only time we see Jesus bringing the born again experience to someone was after He was resurrected. Jesus appeared to His disciples and personally led them into the born again experience.
(John 20:21–22 KJV) “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:”
Receiving the Holy Ghost in this instance was not the baptism of the Holy Ghost because the Holy Ghost was not yet given and would not be available until the Day of Pentecost. This experience is when they were born again. I’ll bet Jesus could hardly wait for this moment.
Prior to His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus could only tell parables about how the born again experience would happen. The whole thing was shrouded in a mystery and would be the pinnacle of a New Covenant, and this covenant was to be dramatically different than the present one. The people Jesus ministered to were simply not able to receive it.
Wealth, Prosperity and Inheritance
The New Testament does not promise us prosperity, it provided us an inheritance.
God’s wealth for us...
By definition, “wealth” means: A plentiful supply of a particular desirable thing or resource. A well known scripture comes to mind.
(Philippians 4:19 ESV) “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
“Riches” in the above scripture means “wealth.” God has promised us a supply according to His wealth.
A supply is different than a storehouse. A supply may not be present, but it exists for your use when needed. A storehouse is on location. An example of a supply would be the water in the kitchen sink. You turn the tap and it begins a “supply” flowing that comes from the reservoir that is off location but reserved for your use. The tap is turned on and off depending upon the need. You can plug up the sink and store the water if you want but you are limited to the capacity of the sink. Eventually you will have to turn the tap on again.
A storehouse is a great thing but rarely can a person store everything they will need for their entire life. Since we cannot know everything about where our lives will take us, we cannot effectively provide all that will be needed. However, God’s supply is fashioned to our purpose. He promised us “every need” will be supplied, whatever that will be.
There is NOT a Money Problem
Within the Church
We need to change our thinking about what is happening.
While sitting at my desk recently, the Lord spoke to me and said, “There is not a money problem within the church. There is a commitment problem.” I hope you are seeing what I saw - that as we have attempted to address the need for money, our focus has been on the wrong thing.
I have been in ministry for more than thirty-four years and I was called to build the financial base of the local church twenty-six years ago. As a result of this calling, the Lord frequently speaks to me about financial issues within the church.
When the money goes down, it would naturally seem to indicate a need for money has presented itself. It is true that if the saints are receiving less money at their jobs then they likely will give less to the church. However, this does not mean that the money you need for ministry is not sitting right in the church.
We need to focus on the real problem - commitment. If the saints were all committed to God they way they should be, there would be plenty of money to obey God in ministry. If we try to go after more money, we will probably get more money temporarily, but we will annoy the saints because they are not committed to God. Money follows commitment - commitment doesn’t follow money.
There is a significant and critical difference between true north and magnetic north. Not knowing this will cause you to think you are going in the right direction but you will miss the destination.
True north will lead you directly to the North Pole. Magnetic north is influenced by a “pulling” effect by the earth’s magnetic core. In 2002, magnetic north was 590 miles away from true north, but that distance also changes from time to time based upon the strength of the pull.
The Word of God is the truth and the Spirit of God is the guide. Our destination in life is to walk the Word of God (true north) but we cannot do that successfully without a qualified guide to keep us from being pulled of course. In life, there is always a pulling on us (magnetic north) that can lead us off the right path. Just before Jesus told us of the coming Holy Spirit as our guide in John 16, He said this to us:
(John 16:1 ESV) “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.”
We need help to stay in the process and to stay on course. People fall away for many reasons, but I see a predominant pattern similar to a magnetic pull upon people that causes them to think they are going in the right direction - but they are not. Their compass is telling them that they are going north but they are 590 miles off and don’t know it. They become discouraged in the journey because it doesn’t take them where they thought it should, and, they never seem to arrive.
We have a reliable guide.
Here are two things the Bible tells us about our journey.
(John 16:13–15 ESV) “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
(1 Corinthians 2:11–12 ESV) “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.”
The Spirit of God is the One infallible and trustworthy guide in our lives. He is the Spirit of truth. The wonder of this is that God put Himself on the inside of us. A human cannot put his spirit inside of another human, but God put His Spirit inside of us. The scripture clearly tells us that God did this so that we might understand the things freely given us by God. If the Spirit must bring us understanding, we cannot gain understanding in another way. The only way then to not understand would be to not listen to the Holy Spirit. This is what happens to so many people, they don’t listen or they quit listening.
Statistics show that there is a problem in the Body of Christ concerning the tithe.
Evangelical Christians - 24% of the people tithe.
Conservative Christians - 12% of the people tithe.
National Association of Evangelical leadership - 58% do not believe the Bible requires Christians to tithe.
However, among some other religious groups, tithing is very high.
Mormons - 90% of the people tithe.
I am called and anointed to minister on Biblical Finances. I have traveled to forty-one countries and have been in full time ministry over thirty years. I have found that no matter where I am in the world, no matter what the culture, the questions about tithing are the same. It’s probably been fifteen years since I have heard a new and different question about tithing.
There is no New Testament commandment to tithe.
This is where all the problems begin. The answer to this statement is yes and no. It is true there is no direct commandment to tithe in the same way we see it in the Old Testament. However, Jesus endorsed tithing, Paul directly referred to tithing, the writer of Hebrews directly refers to tithing, and, the book of Revelation indicates that there may be tithing in the New Heaven and the New Earth. (Matthew 23:23, 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, Hebrews 7:8, Revelation 21:24)
Why should a Christian tithe? Why do Christians not tithe?
The Old Testament clearly indicates a blessing for tithing. That blessing is not simply prosperity or wealth, as it is often taught. In reality, to prosper financially people don’t really need God. I know that is a radical statement but hear me out. Bill Gates and Donald Trump are extremely wealthy and neither profess or serve Jesus. I’m pretty sure that Steve Jobs died an unbeliever, but he was extremely wealthy.
The blessings of tithing go beyond the financial realm but will affect the financial realm. The blessing in tithing is a restored ability to walk in dominion and a covenant relationship with God who will rebuke the devourer. While there is a natural authority concerning money, spiritual dominion transcends money. Take a look at Moses before Pharaoh. Pharaoh had the glitz, the money and the political power, but Moses had the power of God, and that scared Pharaoh silly. When Moses led Israel out of Egypt they went out wealthy.
(Exodus 3:21 KJV) “And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty:”
(Exodus 3:22 KJV) “But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.”