Ordering Finances Wisely Part 8: Work and "Using the World Without Abusing It"

Read the series so far.

Key Verses

Luke 11:11-13, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

1 Timothy 5:8, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (KJV).  (“Infidel” is ἄπιστος, “without faith;” in ESV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, “an unbeliever.”)

1 Corinthians 7:29-31, “But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away

1 Corinthians 7:33-34, “But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife”

Ephesians 4:28, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”

1 Thessalonians 4:11, “that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you”

2 Thessalonians 3:10-11, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies”

1 Timothy 5:16, “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows”

3 John 2, ” Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers”

Disciplines

Thus far in our series we have addressed important points: the right and wrong use of credit, the tracking of spending, escaping the slavery of debt and helping others in financial crisis.

The ultimate purpose of this series is to inform and instruct and lead believers in the necessary disciplines of being stewards of money. The ultimate purpose of money is to glorify God. How do we do that? If God’s program for this age is through His Church, our work and money are connected with the church and the church’s purpose in this age.

The purpose of the church is to worship God (Luke 4:8; John 4:23; Rev. 4:10), edify believers (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Cor. 4:6), pray (Acts 2:42), be a community of brotherly love (John 13:35; Phil. 1:1-4), help other believers (Gal. 6:2), partake of the church’s ordinances (Luke 22:19-20), learn how to live godly lives (Titus 2:11-12), and be equipped to evangelize the world (Eph. 4:12; Matt. 28:18-20). 1

The capstone article will be on giving and specifically planning to give through budgeting. The tedious disciplines of understanding how creditors view us, tracking spending, eschewing bad debt, and escaping debt are foundation stones for planned giving. Today’s article addresses two intermediate topics: work and savings.

On Work

Work is not the curse of the Fall. It existed prior to the Fall. As a youth I was privileged to work in a greenhouse (we had 6 houses under glass, surrounded by 20 acres!). The pay was poor but the sights and smells were rich: orchids (the smallest of the 6 houses dedicated to this!), roses, chrysanthemums, petunias, geraniums, hydrangeas, and more. The owner’s private garden (that I tended for him) featured corn, peppers, tomatoes, and asparagus and more. What a fun year back when I was 18!

The curse, among other things, made work burdensome—“Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Gen. 3:17-19).

Outside, in my wife’s garden there are bugs and worms and a harsh climate. In our work in technology we have bugs of another kind and infrastructure that breaks. God commands us to work, but it won’t be easy. Indeed, today “half the population is not working and depending on those who are.”2

Some quick observations about work and working:

  • Because we have a material aspect (we are body and spirit), we have material needs. God knows that we have these material needs!
  • John the Apostle prayed that disciples would prosper spiritually, physically, and materially (3 John 2). Yet the reality is that Christians do struggle in all of these elements!
  • One who fails to provide for his own is called in the KJV an “infidel.”
  • It’s perfectly normal to seek to meet material needs (called “the things of the world” in 1 Cor. 7).
  • Some in the church should be paid—1 Timothy 5:18, “The laborer is worthy of his wages” and 1 Corinthians 9:14, “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.”
  • Others should not be a financial burden to the church. Children are to care for parents in financial need (1 Tim. 5:16). Others may need financial assistance from time to time but they should not be chronic non-workers who depend upon the church.
  • We are to work to live and have basic needs meet. Christians are not to be materialistic, greedy getters of as much as we might be able to attain!

Why work?

Many are assessing the very question “why should I work”? Indeed, social programs in the United States social programs actually discourage work:  “Low-income families often receive benefits from multiple welfare and tax programs, such as assistance with food, housing, and day care  costs, help with medical costs, or cash payments to supplement earnings from work. While these programs often support and encourage employment … certain households may not be significantly better off if they earn more from work.”3

The Christian should work because we are so commanded (Eph. 4:28, “rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good”). We are to work to provide for ourselves and not be a burden to society or to the church. We are to work to have sufficient resources for our needs and to have some for the church and others in need. We are to work to have current needs met and we are to work to have some stored away for future needs. Consider the ants that “prepare their food in the summer” and have sufficient stored for winter! (Prov. 30:25)

On Savings

Our impatient generation has eschewed savings and instead depended upon credit. Kathee and I are fortunate to be just one generation from the depression. Our parents lived lightly, did not use credit, and saved. “Whether times were good or bad, people learned to live on the amount of income they made. The generation that lived through the Great Depression learned first-hand the value of saving money and the value of having it accessible.”4

The wise steward will have an emergency fund. Financial professionals recommend that consumers have an emergency fund that would meet three to nine months’ worth of expenses—but in this current jobless recovery that may not be sufficient.5 Basically the purpose of an emergency fund is to bridge when a financial crisis—say a job loss—hits.

Our own practice is as follows. We have multiple funds—each a savings account—in an Internet-only bank. We add to each fund weekly. We have the following funds:

  1. Auto repair
  2. Vacation
  3. Home repair
  4. Christmas and gifts
  5. Auto replacement
  6. Insurance and property tax

For example, we add $ 45 per week for auto repair—we have 2 GM vehicles, one 12 years old and the other 6. I know that before next summer I will need to replace tires on both vehicles. Additionally our six year old sedan will soon need brakes.

Savings is the wise steward’s method of paying forward and eschewing debt

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