Following the New Testament Money Trail

What started as a post about “Wealth with Wings” and putting our financial eggs in God’s basket has morphed into a series of posts following just a small section of the New Testament money trail (hopefully not a rabbit trail).  I think the length was necessary to really get us thinking about the seriousness of what Jesus said about investing our money.  I hope you have picked up some food for thought along the way.

In practical terms, what might this “send it on ahead” approach to financial planning look like in today’s world.  Keeping in mind the admonition to use our wealth to make friends that will welcome us into the eternal dwellings, it might look like this:

It might be sponsoring a child in an impoverished country, providing money for his physical needs and prayers and letters for his spiritual needs.  I can’t think of too many situations that are as close to making friends that will greet us in eternity as this.  Or how about buying groceries for a family where both parents are out of work?  Will they be the ones to greet you in your eternal dwelling?  Have you considered giving your car to a family that needs transportation instead of trading it in?  But I can’t get the car I want if I don’t have my trade-in to contribute to the cost.  Maybe the car you want is not the car you need.  Giving away a car can be a huge blessing to someone in need.  Or maybe it is giving money to a family member to improve their living situation.  Remember, our contributions do not have to be to a tax-deductible ministry to count in God’s eternal ledger.

What about hosting a Bible study or worship time for students at your house?  They might kill the grass or put a hole in a wall or leave your basketball out in the rain.  Does that make you think, “Let’s leave that for Mr. Whitaker?”  Or maybe you could host a pot-luck to welcome new folks into your neighborhood or into the community of your church.

Another investment option is financially supporting missionaries and the world-wide mission effort.  Are you willing to say “no” to something to support your friends who have said “no” to the comforts of home to follow the path God has outlined for them?  This is not a guilt trip.  This is looking at your giving decisions with the intentionality of making it an investment.  This is following the path God has for us and helping our brothers and sisters in the ministry God has given to them.  The list is as long as our imagination.

This type of investing is not just giving your money away willy-nilly.  It is not about giving money out of obligation.  It is prayerfully recognizing the people and needs God has placed in your path and responding with generosity.  It is making a conscious choice to invest in people rather than build up our own bank account.  And it imitates our Lord Himself whose generosity to us is beyond measure.

Money and the Early Church

The most quoted passage in the New Testament describing the early church is Acts 2:42-47.  “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.  And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.  Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

If you are like me, you have heard this passage preached many times.  And an interesting subplot to these messages is how we always leap over verses 44 and 45 (in italics above) in regard to application to today’s church.  I am always curious why this is so.  Everyone wants to be a New Testament church.  Everyone wants to emulate the early church.  But for some reason we want to leave out the selling and sharing.

I used to think that the verses smacked too much of socialism or communism and since that used to describe our sworn enemy, no proper American – Christian or otherwise – should have any part in property redistribution.  But I think the reason we ignore these verses is more personal than country allegiance.

These verses, quite frankly, step on our space.  I am good with listening to the apostles’ teaching.  I am good with sharing meals together.  I am good with fellowship (even though the Greek word used here for fellowship [koinonia] implies the sharing of goods).  I am good with prayer.  I am good with praising God.  But selling things, or choosing not to buy things, and giving to my brother or sister in need; that is stepping on my space.

Maybe I am looking at this too simply.  But I can’t find a context reason to not read this just as it is written.  It would seem to me that if we want to follow the example of the early church – and it appears here that they are living out the “send it on ahead” investment strategy of Jesus – we should be a community who looks after the material needs of our family of faith.

One more thought.  Could this be one reason the American church does not stand out in the wonder and awe department like the Acts 2 community (vs 43)?  We look just like the rest of America in our investment decisions focused on which investment strategy increases our nest egg the fastest.  Sharing our possessions not only blesses our brothers and sisters in Christ, but announces to the watching world our dependence on the God we serve and our radical love for one another.