Spirit-led Resource Management
"Oh, no, not a teaching on tithing!" Well, actually, no. This module is more about using God's resources than it is about tithing. We certainly believe we are to tithe, but we will let the scholars haggle over the details – how much is the tithe; where should the tithe go; corporate vs. individual tithe; tithing from the gross or the net; tithing and offerings above the tithe, etc. Our focus is on using the resources of the Kingdom organization in the transformation process.
The key point in this module is this. God delivers all good things into our hands with the expectation that we are to use it all for His Kingdom. In preparing for this section, God brought us to Luke 16:1-18 and the account of the shrewd manager – an account which we always found difficult because it seems as if Jesus is condoning dishonesty. Look at the passage with us and it will set the basis for what we will be sharing about Spirit-led resource management.
We find the manager in trouble with the ruler, not for stealing, but for wasting resources. The Greek word means literally "by means of strewing," and is translated in the NIV as wasting and in the NASB as squandering. Based on the context set up in Luke 15, it is clear that Jesus was addressing the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They were criticizing Jesus for spending time with tax collectors and other sinners. Perhaps He was accusing them of squandering their resources – their wealth, knowledge, authority, and status. Perhaps He was accusing them of misusing their power and position to exclude people from the Kingdom. The parable's "rich man" and his "manager" may have been a reference to the tax collection system of the day. If so, Jesus was claiming that these sinners were more righteous than the Pharisees. Regardless, He was clearly contrasting these marketplace dealers with the teachers of the law.
The manager, knowing he was losing his job, acted quickly to secure his future by altering the payables of the ruler's debtors. The ruler commended the manager. Why? Wouldn't you expect him to be angry that the manager effectively decreased both his top and bottom line resources? The ruler saw the manager's action as "shrewd." We often understand that word as a negative, but the Greek word, phronimos, comes from a root that means sensible, prudent or wise. Jesus wrapped up the parable by saying, "The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light." While we may never know exactly what Jesus meant, let us suggest a couple of ways of looking at this curious parable.
What are the implications for Market 70 leaders? Jesus seems to have been communicating the importance of focusing wealth and influence on obtaining that which is truly important – leveraging them to obtain eternal rewards both for ourselves and for others. There are a few different things He may be trying to teach us about using worldly wealth, authority and influence.
- Put wealth to substantive use; don't squander it.
- Being faithful with worldly wealth is related to being entrusted with eternal wealth.
- Be strategic about using wealth.
- Remember to whom the wealth belongs. If it is truly God's business, then the proceeds belong to Him.
- Create friendships that have potential for eternal reward.
- Use wealth to include rather than exclude. The Pharisees routinely dismissed certain classes of people.
God also talks directly about using wealth in all His teachings on tithing. If we combine the parable of the shrewd manager with the passages* throughout the Bible on tithing, we get additional clues of how God expects us to use His wealth .
- Honor God, affirming His ownership and provision.
- Provide for our household (including all servants), the alien, the fatherless and the widows.
- Provide for the priests (who, in turn provide for the temple).
- Promote justice, mercy, faithfulness and the love of God.
*If you'd like to read for yourself about tithing, here are most of the key passages. Leviticus 27:30ff; Numbers 18:21ff; Deuteronomy 12:17ff; Deuteronomy 14:22ff; Deuteronomy 26:12; 2 Chr 31:4-5; Nehemiah 10:36; Nehemiah 13:12; Malachi 3:8-10; Matthew 23:23; and Luke 11:42. There is a great deal more in Scripture about the use of money, power, authority, etc. This section is intended to outline what we see as some basics. Please study Scripture for yourself to learn more. We also suggest you look into these and other resources.
Business By The Book, Larry Burkett, 1990, Nelson, Nashville, TN (See especially Ch 17, Business Tithing)
Crown Financial Ministries offers classes and resources on Biblical views on finances. http://crown.org/
Doing Business God's Way, Dennis Peacocke, 2003, Rebuild, Santa Rosa, CA
Why Business Matters to God (and What Still Needs to be Fixed), Jeff VanDuzer, 2010, InterVarsity, Downers Grove, IL
What Wealth Do We Steward?
First, there are the obvious physical assets with which we have been entrusted: money, equipment, land and buildings. We have been given valuable ideas, creativity, talents and abilities. Our personalities and character, our families, schooling, experiences, etc. are all riches we have been given. Above and beyond that, we have been given freedom from sin, sickness and death. We have been given victory over the power of the enemy in our bodies, emotions and spirit.
Wealth also includes power and authority. We have several different kinds of power. We have financial power in the actual dollars we work with. This is the power exercised by the shrewd manager. He was able to influence people by giving them something they wanted or needed. We have positional or legitimate power, at least with our employees, but also with vendors, customers, consultants, etc. This comes from the role we occupy. We have power through our knowledge and experience, sometimes referred to as expert power. We have personal power based on how much we are liked and respected. And finally, we have the power of the Holy Spirit and all that carries with it.
Wealth also includes relationships. Not only does the Luke passage above make it clear, but most of New Testament and much of Old Testament teach the value God places on relationships. Our relationship with God and our relationships with each other are both lifted up by Christ Himself in His response to being asked, "what is the greatest commandment?" He modeled relationship building for us, teaching us the value of love and giving our lives for others.
From these brief paragraphs, we see that everyone has been give wealth. From the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, it is clear that God expects all of us – regardless of how much we have – to manage those resources and produce a Kingdom return for them.
Wealth and the Transformation Organization
Now we come to the characteristics that differentiate a "good Christian company" from a transformation company. The transformation organization understands and operates under Kingdom economics. The minimum expected of all of us, Christian or not, is that we use some of what we have been given to help others. We take some part of what we have and give to those who have less. That is the basis for the tithe. Depending on your reading of those passages, some percent of our increase is committed to add to the support of God's people.
God's expectation, though, is that we give it all. His expectation is that we live our lives and operate our organizations with open hands – open to receive and to give. We have always been fascinated with the account of the rich young man that approached Jesus and asked Him what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus answered: "Sell all your possessions and give to the poor." We used to think that this was such a harsh teaching until we realized what Jesus did not say. He did not say the man was to sell all his possessions and give all to the poor. No, in all three gospels Jesus' words are translated "give* to the poor." Is it possible, then, that Jesus was not asking the man about his money and possessions, but rather about his allegiance? Was He asking the man to open his hands and let the wealth flow through, rather than accumulate to himself? In each case, Jesus' answer included the invitation to follow Him.
The man was rich. He had the ability to funnel tremendous assets into the work of transforming the Kingdom – not merely physical riches, but his passion, his heart, his abilities, his connections, etc. Jesus wasn't asking him to become poor, but was inviting him to become a partner in a work with much greater consequence. His closest disciples – those who had, and still have great impact – were not rich. They were surrendered. Jesus asks us for our hearts, not our money.
We believe that God's call on the transformation organization is, quite simply, "Come and follow Me;" to steward all HIS wealth, in all its forms, for the benefit of building the Kingdom here on earth.
*(Matthew and Mark use the Greek, didōmi, and Luke, diadidōmi, which are from the same root. See Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, and Luke 18:22).
Scripture teaches us quite a bit about the Kingdom economy. Let's look at a few of these truths to set up the practical application and homework for this module.
1. The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it belongs to Him. (1 Corinthians 10:26 and Psalm 24:1; Acts 7:49)
2. God gives us all good gifts including the ability to make wealth. (James 1:17; Deuteronomy 8)
3. The Kingdom is not merely about addition (Matthew 6:33), but about multiplication. (Matthew 19:29)
4. Earthly wealth is to be used for eternal purposes. (Luke 16:1-18; Luke 12:33)
5. To the extent we are faithful with earthly wealth, we will be entrusted with eternal wealth. (Matthew 25:14-29; Matthew 13:11-12 (notice this passage deals with knowledge as wealth))
6. We must be totally committed – either to God or to money. We cannot serve both. (Matthew 6:24)
The Future of Funding Transformation?
C. Peter Wagner, in a book called The Reformer's Pledge, (2010, Destiny Image,Shippensburg, PA,) presents a vision for funding Kingdom work that we share here because it may be something to which the Holy Spirit might be leading you. He suggests that Providers of resources direct funds to Managers who, in addition to distributing would multiply funds. Might it be a call on your organization to look at the funds with which you've been entrusted as "venture capital?" What if you were to create a mechanism in which you provided money to other Kingdom businesses and organizations as seed for the sower, not merely for consumption? What if you identified people who, like the shrewd manager, were adept at multiplying worldly resources that could then be directed to transformation?
One of our future goals for Market 70 is to facilitate a process through which Providers could connect with Managers who could connect with Distributors (Wagner's terms).
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