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Saturday, February 4, 2012
Apostolic Traditions: Giving vs. Saving
In the previous post I mentioned the consistent teaching of scripture that giving amongst God’s people should flow from those who have abundance to those who are in need so that there may be equality. (II Cor.8:9-15) But in our Western society there is a longstanding tradition and belief that we must look out for ourselves or no one else will! This expresses itself in many ways but one of the most prevalent is the idea that it is wise and prudent to save and invest one’s finances so as to be able to have resources on hand to meet unexpected losses, reverses, or to provide for unknown future needs.
However, the words of the Lord Jesus and the apostles clearly reprove the error of such beliefs! Scripture does not speak of “saving” per ce but it does speak of the equivalent -“laying up for one’s self treasure on earth”! Such behaviour is forbidden by the Lord Jesus. Instead we are commanded to lay up treasures in heaven.
Matthew 6:19) Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20) But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
The apostle Paul explains how we are to do this, i.e. how we are to avoid laying up treasure on earth but rather to invest according to the Lord's desires and instructions:
2 Corinthians 8:9) For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. 10) And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. 11) Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. 12) For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. 13) For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: 14) But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: 15) As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
A study of the scriptural subject of laying up is a most interesting one! Laying up is a wise and obedient practice when it is commanded by God:
-Noah was instructed to prepare to build the ark,
-Moses and the Israelites were instructed to collect and gather materials for the building of the Tabernacle.
-Solomon was instructed to collect and gather materials for building the temple.
-Christians are instructed to lay by themselves in store as God has prospered them so they will have resources (not for their own needs, but rather) to be used to meet the needs of poor saints (I Cor.16:1-3)
-Parents are instructed to lay up for the needs of their children. (II Cor.12:14) and
-Families and churches are instructed to meet the needs of widows of their own house. (I Timothy 5)
Laying up for some future project is right and proper when:
(1) It is commanded by God,
(2) the amount of the need is known (i.e. Moses commanded the children of Israel to stop bringing when the needs for the Tabernacle had been met.)
(3) the needs which are being met are current, known needs for the daily care of one's children or widows of one's family, and
(4) the laying up is for the purpose of meeting needs of others (not one's own needs).
But saving or laying up so as to have a "nest egg", to be able to meet unexpected emergencies, provide for times of possible unemployment, to have "life savings" for one's "Old age" all violate the above scriptural principles! Such laying up is not commanded by God but actually disobeys Him, one never knows how much will be enough so resources that could be used immediately to aid others in need is disobediently "stashed away" and one begins to rest on their own schemes for the future rather than resting in and depending upon the Lord to meet future and unexpected needs in His own way!
By listening to the world and it's financial counsellors, multitudes of God's people have been deceived and vast resources which God intends for meeting the needs of His poor saints and for the spread of the Gospel are withheld! We must remember that we are simply stewards of His resources and not owners of our own!
May God help us to realize that we must give account to Him for our stewardship of all that He has entrusted to us. May we do it with joy and not with grief!