Financial Survival For Christians, Part 2

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 2

Text: Matthew 6:25-34

Time: July 14th, 2010

Last week I talked about my favorite verse of the Bible to trust in during financial challenges – Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” I’ll talk more about that important verse again later at another time, but today I’d like to review another important biblical verse to anchor our faith during financial troubles – Matthew 6:25-34, especially verse 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When I’m going through money troubles, I turn to Philippians 4:19 first, but Matthew 6:22 is a close second, because God promises me “all these things,” or in other words, “all my basic and essential needs” will be given to me. I think what we need to have during economically troubled times is hope. What we need to cling to and hold on to is hope – and these verses along with other promises found in the Word of God give us that hope. What I need, what you need, during money troubles is the hope that in the end, when all is said and done, I’ll have my needs met, all things will be taken care of for me. God’s Word makes a number of different promises that are essential for me to know when I go through struggles with finances. Philippians 4:19 tells me that all my needs – all my basic and essential necessities – will be met by God in some way at some time. Matthew 6:33 promises me almost the same thing only puts it a little different – “all my necessities will be given to me.” But Matthew 6 reminds me not to worry myself or be anxious about waiting for my need to be met, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘what shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” This passage gives us a lot to think about as we are going through money problems – and it’s a good thing, because we need something other than our financial state to think about! We can receive real encouragement and faith if we take the time to reflect on this hopeful promise from God. Let’s examine this passage and see if we can draw out as much hope as possible.

First, God tells us not to worry or be anxious during financial struggles. Matthew 6:25, 27, 28, 31, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. . . . So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’. . . Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  The word “worry” is used six times in this short passage. It’s the Greek word merimnate, which means, “to be anxious, distracted, to care for.” If you are human, it you are typical, financial worries can really get to you, can really cause anxiety and stress. The social experts say that most marriage problems usually have an element of financial stress mixed in, most divorces have a money component to them. So financial anxiety is a reality today, especially during this economic recession we’re experiencing. How do we cope with such pressures? As Christians we are to turn to God and God’s Word – and stand on the promises of God, along with prayer. Matthew 6:25-34 is a great promise to stand on during financially hard times because it not only tells us that God will meet our needs, but it also helps us relieve some of that anxiety that always goes along with money troubles. I always think of it this way – if I knew that I’d get through my financial crisis eventually, if I knew for certain that everything would get taken care of some way or some how, would I still worry? No. We only worry if there is a question or if we are uncertain as to the outcome of something. For example, sometimes I visit my parents in Michigan and watch the Detroit Tigers baseball game on television. Because they rebroadcast the games later in the evenings, it’s possible to know ahead of time who wins, so when you sit down to watch the game you already know the winner, even though it’s still fun to watch the game. Now it does make a difference knowing who wins, because when the Tigers are behind or in a tough jam on defense if you didn’t know the final outcome you’re nervous or tense because you don’t know how it’ll turn out – the Tigers might lose the game. But if you already know they’ve won the game and you’re just watching the replay you aren’t anxious or worried because you already know the outcome. It’s the same way with God’s promises concerning financial needs. If I already know that God will meet my basic and essential needs in life, I’m not nervous or anxious – it’s only if I’m not certain, or if I question God’s ability to meet my needs that I’m nervous. So standing on God’s promises in the Bible concerning his taking care of us really does make a difference in our attitude as we go through troubled times. It takes away most of the anxiety and worry. And the little apprehension that remains we can easily deal with!

Second, God tells us not to handle financial struggles like unbelievers do. Matthew 6:31-32, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” A couple of interesting Greek words occur here in the original language of the New Testament. The first word is ethne. It means “pagans” or “nations.” It’s really the standard Greek word the Jews use to describe all non-Jewish people. Matthew could have used the word “barbarians” but that wouldn’t have been accurate because there were also Greeks and Romans who were more refined, cultured or civilized, yet they too were still pagans. Mostly it means all the people of the world who don’t worship the God of the Bible. What do they do? They worry about everything excessively because they don’t have God to turn to in times of trouble. They don’t have the Psalms to meditate on, reflect on, or pray in order to get things from God they need. Instead they take everything upon themselves, upon their own shoulders. That leads to anxiety and hypertension. What do they do instead of pray and trust God? They “run after” all they need. I imagine a chicken with its head cut off; that’s the image I see when I read this verse. The Greek word is epizetei, means, “to seek or search for.” The picture is an unbeliever with no trust or confidence in God or God’s promises concerning financial provisions, running around panicked like a chicken with his head cut off, going from one place to another trying to get his need desperately met. And isn’t that what people without faith in God do? Even people who profess faith in God often fall into the same trap or follow the unbelieving crowd in their approach to financial struggles. They panic because they lack the calm assurance in God and God’s promises. The difference all comes down to confidence and trust. Do we really trust God or not? Often times money troubles can reveal our faith – or lack thereof! Do I really believe in a God who meets my needs as is promised in the Bible? Or, is it just me and whatever I can do for myself in time of need? If I doubt God or totally disbelieve in God at all, I’ll take upon myself the responsibility for everything; I’ll carry the whole burden myself for meeting all my needs. But in so doing I bring anxiety upon myself because after all – If it’s going to be, it’s all up to me! That realization would cause me to panic and literally run after whatever I need in order to assure I get it. After all, as they say, “First come, first served” and “Finding keepers, losers weepers.” But as Christians we don’t have to scratch out our existence like animals fighting over scraps of meat on the floor. We can trust our heavenly Father to guide and direct us to the needed resources in a calm, orderly way.

Third, God tells us to seek first his will and in the process everything else will be provided for us. Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We don’t have to react like unbelievers do in time of crisis – out of fear instead of faith. No. We can react in a godly, faithful way. For example, we’re told to seek God’s will first above even our own immediate needs. We are to go about getting our needs met in a righteous way, not an “every man for himself” way. During a crisis it’s tempting to cut corners ethically and morally. To the worldly, unbeliever, “the end justifies the means.” Or in other words, if stealing gets me what I need, I steal. If lying gets me the resources I need, I lie. That kind of thinking dominates unbelievers in time of crisis. Let’s pray our nation never has to face a real crisis because I’m afraid that the very thin veneer of civilization and civility will wear off and the law of the jungle will take over in many cases. We saw this happen in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It’s an ugly thing. But without a commitment to God and God’s will it’s easy to start compromising morally and ethically to get what we need to survive and stay alive. As Christians, we trust God by seeking first his will and not cutting corners, not violating his laws in order to get money or food or any of the resources we need during a economic challenge. Now does that mean we don’t go after what we need? Does that mean we don’t look for work if we are unemployed? Does that mean we don’t struggle to pay our bills? Does that mean we are to simply pray and expect God to deliver all we need on our doorstep? No. It means we go after money and resources and the necessities of life in a godly way. We play by God’s rules. It also means we continue to practice our Christian spiritual disciplines whether it’s easy or not. For example, we still pray every day because that’s what we need to do in order to relate to God on an ongoing basis. We still pray, in fact, we increase our prayers because of the extra challenges we face financially and economically. We seek first God’s kingdom through prayer. Then, we continue reading and studying God’s Word every day. We don’t cut back or cut out Bible study because we are going through money troubles. In fact, we spend more time in God’s Word standing on his promises to get us through tough times. We seek first God’s kingdom by continuing to give to our local church, even though we are struggling financially. We may not be giving as much, but we keep giving nonetheless, because some of God’s promises for blessing depend on our part in giving. For example, “Give and it shall be given unto you . . .” Luke 6:38. So in these and other ways, we seek first God’s will for our lives and trust that as a result, God will see us through our troubles.

Now this all takes faith because the temptation in a time of crisis is to change our lives and schedules in order to focus 100% on the trouble at hand. So in other words, all our thoughts are fixed on our money troubles, all our time is spent on working out a way to survive financially, and so on. But that method is absolutely the worst thing we can do because it separates us from our real source – God. We need to be drawing close to God in times of trouble, not apart from him. But a lot of people, sadly even Christians, give up all seeking after God in order to seek after money, or a job, or material goods. That’s wrong. The Greek word zetei used to describe how unbelievers run after their material needs directly, is used again, but this time it’s used in running after God – “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The way unbelievers seek directly after their needs, we as Christian believers are to directly seek after God and God’s will. Unbelievers think that by bypassing God and God’s will they can go directly to meeting their own needs, but it doesn’t work that way. The resources don’t go to the fastest or the strongest or even by the most direct route. God tells us to first seek him and his will for our lives, to live and work in a godly, ethical and moral way, and in the process, he’ll meet our needs indirectly through divine providence. In other words, we’ll get what we need as we trust and obey God, rather than forgetting everything and just running after the money or food or gas or job – or whatever. That’s a paradox, because common sense would dictate that the shortest distance between me and meeting my needs is the direct approach. To an unbeliever that may mean stealing or lying or — doing something shady or under the table. They may even think this is justified under the circumstances. But the Christian believer isn’t under the circumstances! We trust in God first. We seek first God and God’s kingdom, then we trust that God will take care of us as we serve him in life. We don’t have to make things happen on our own because we can trust our heavenly Father to provide for us his children. Are you going through a financial crisis in your life today? Are you struggling financially? Don’t panic, don’t get anxious. Don’t think it’s all up to you to get what you need by any means. Remember that God cares about you. He’s given us his promises in the Bible to stand on for such a time as this. You can depend on God to meet all your needs, if you would just trust him and pray and follow his leading. “Seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

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