Devotional

All Things New

This devotional provides twenty daily readings, each exploring God’s call to Christians to become stewards of His bountiful provision. They are intended to encourage us, to rebuke us som times, and to instruct us.

Money is a sensitive issue in our culture. And yet it is central to our commitment to Jesus Christ and a yardstick to measure our understanding of grace.

Explore the wide range of biblical teaching about our heart’s attachment to the treasures of this world. Experience why Christian giving is such an adventure. Most of all, renew your heart and change your life, by soaking in the gospel hope which motivates us to live for His glory and to care for others.

Each day’s reading has four parts. Expect to spend 20 minutes reading, meditating and praying. Another, perhaps even better, way to cover this material is to team up with a trusted friend or a fellowship group. Discuss each day what you have learned and help each other apply the lessons.

READ Slowly read the passage listed. The passages are relatively short, so take time to consider each phrase. If you do not understand something, you might refer to your Bible’s study notes.

APPLY Ponder the brief interpretation in light of the passage. What is the biblical writer trying to say? What is the main point? Using the thought-provoking questions, seek the Spirit’s guidance regarding your own response to the passage. These are not quick fill-in-the-blank questions; they are intended to cause you to slow down and meditate on the truth God is teaching you. How does the biblical teaching apply to your life? Where do you need to grow or change? How has Christ already changed you?

PRAY Pray for a genuinely transformed life, enabled to live as Christ lived. You might use this time to pray for other issues as well. Praise Christ for His goodness. Do Daily Suggestions that help drive the message in practical ways deep into your heart and life.

Excerpt(s) from GOD’S WISDOM FOR NAVIGATING LIFE: A YEAR OF DAILY DEVOTIONALS IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS by Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller, copyright © 2017 by Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller. Used by permission of Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

February 18

I love those who love Me, and those who seek me find Me. With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver...The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, without painful toil for it.

Proverbs 8:17-19, 10:22

WEALTH IS A GOOD. Proverbs is full of references to economic life. Although, as we will see, the dangers of wealth are great, nonetheless wealth is a great good. Wisdom’s self-control and self-knowledge, its ability to plan and to take advice, all tend to bring about greater prosperity. With me are riches.

But 10:22 introduces the crucial factor of priorities. Painful toil connotes the life-crushing sorrow of overwork, of the craving for power and wealth that comes from selfish wickedness (10:3). God condemns self-wounding labor (20:21). The wise person does not do painful overwork but simply works hard and lets the blessing of the Lord determine how wealthy the work makes them. The fear of the Lord, the intimate relationship the wise have with God, is better than fine gold. Wealth is a great good as long as it does not become your summum bonum—your greatest good.

Where in your life or someone else’s life have you seen what happens when we rely more on painful toil than on the blessing of the Lord for our money?

PRAYER Lord, may I be neither envious nor disdainful, neither too overawed nor intimidated, by wealth. You blessed Abraham, Job, and David with great wealth but only as they put it second to faithfulness to You. Make me like them. Amen.

February 19

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

Proverbs 10:15

PRIZE BUT DON'T TRUST. Half of the times the Hebrew word for wealth is used in Proverbs, we are told to prize it. Strikingly, the other half of the times the word is used, we are told not to trust it (12:27, 13:7, 19:14, 29:3, cf. 19:4). That remarkable, nuanced balance expresses the essence of wisdom's approach to money. The great problem is that money can lead the wealthy to see it as their security, their fortified city, rather than looking to the Lord.

But there is no reason to romanticize poverty, for it is a kind of slavery (22:7). Abraham was fabulously wealthy by the blessing of God (Genesis 20:14-16), as were Joseph, Job, and David. Accumulated wealth or large incomes are not evil in themselves. Yet of those to whom much has been given, much will be required. The rich are stewards of their wealth, not owners of it. And Jesus vividly supplements this proverb in His interview with the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-31). There he shows us how easily great wealth can be our ruin as well.

Where have you seen the lack of money having ruinous effects on someone? Where have you seen the abundance of money having ruinous effects?

PRAYER Father, it is easy to be a Rich Young Ruler who trusts his money too much to lose it in sacrificial giving. But Your Son was the true Rich Young Ruler, for His wealth was infinite, His sacrifice unimaginable, and all for us. Make us like Him in our stance toward our money. Amen.

February 20

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow...The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.

Proverbs 13:11, 21:20

THE DANGERS OF WINDFALLS. The word dishonest translates a Hebrew phrase that means literally “money out of the air,” meaning wealth that comes suddenly rather than gradually. The warning is this: If you don’t grow wealth over years through diligence, vigilance, and skillful-ness, you may not have grown the character and habits necessary to manage the money well.

Children who inherit money without earning it often gulp it down, running right through it because they have not learned habits of self-control, wise management, and the virtue of delayed gratification (21:20). Young celebrity athletes or entertainers—and unusually gifted (and lucky) young people who have made fortunes in finance or technology—run the same risk. This proverb suggests that wealth be gathered slowly so that the character that greater assets require grows along with your wealth. If riches come quickly, assume that the money will make you lose your sense of proportion without help from many advisers (15:22) and from Jesus Himself, who warned that wealth so distorts spiritual perspective that it requires God’s divine intervention to free us (Mark 10:24-26). Yet there’s much hope. “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).

Have you seen the danger of windfalls play out in your life or someone else’s?

PRAYER Lord, save me—and those I know and love—from prosperity, and especially sudden success or fame. What our society covets, Your Word warns against. Let those among Your people, who come by Your Providence into more riches and power than the rest, receive a due sense of their heightened responsibility as servants before You. Amen.

February 21

The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him...Differing weights and differing measures—the LORD detests them both...Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.

Proverbs 11:1; 20:10, 17

WEALTH CAN MAKE YOU DISHONEST. Proverbs names several significant spiritual dangers that wealth brings. The first is this: Money has the power to corrupt your integrity. You might be a person of honesty and character, but in the presence of a lot of money, it is remarkable how many people will make compromises. In ancient times the seller might label a one-pound weight as two pounds, place it on the scale, and lead the buyer to pay more for the grain than he should. Dishonest scales refers to dishonest business practices. Jesus denounced religious leaders—men who should have been moral examples—for succumbing to the power of money by twisting the law to increase their profits (Mark 7:11-12). Today there has been an explosive multiplication of ways to hide from either customers or investors the information they ought to have, without which you can take advantage of them and exploit them. Money has never had so many ways to tempt you. Don’t be naive about its power. Wealth gained by fraud will never satisfy. You will end up with a mouth full of gravel (20:17).

In your life or someone else’s, where have you seen the power of money to make us dishonest?

PRAYER Lord, I can feel the power of wealth to corrupt me even when I do my taxes, or when I just don’t want to know how my bank uses my savings. Protect me from the small compromises and slow hardening of the soul that money can bring. Amen.

February 22

People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.

Proverbs 11:26

BOTTOM LINES. 11:26 describes a man who, in a time of food scarcity, holds on to his grain to raise the price higher. This is not illegal. Yet this man is rightly being cursed. Why? Because he is acting as if the only bottom line is financial profit.

If all we own belongs to God and is given to us only as stewards (1 Chronicles 29:14), there is always another “bottom line” in our financial dealings: the good of others, the good of the community. You can’t live without breathing, but no one wants to live just to breathe. And you can’t have a business without profit, but no one should be in business simply to make money. If business leaders choosing between two companies ask only which is more profitable—and not “Which company gives us a product that helps the town, society, and people more?”—they have been corrupted by the power of money, according to the book of Proverbs.

Have you ever seen an instance in which the "bottom line" of the common good was chosen over profit—and not simply because it was thought to be good public relations?

PRAYER Lord, give men and women in business—whether by conscience (Romans 2:14) or the regenerating power of the Spirit—the understanding and moral conviction that commerce is not, ultimately, about profit. Amen.

February 25

It's no good, it's no good—says the buyer—then goes off and boasts about the purchase... Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.

Proverbs 20:14, 28:8

MONEY CAN MAKE YOU RUTHLESS. Money can make you dishonest, but more often it makes you ruthless. 20:14 depicts a practice that many would call simply “sharp dealing.” A buyer bidding on an item publicly insists it is of little worth but privately reveals his knowledge of its true value. 28:8 assumes the teaching of God’s law to Israel, namely, that loaning at interest is proper if it is a business transaction (Deuteronomy 23:20), because both parties stand to profit, but you should not charge interest to a poor fellow believer who needed help just to survive (Leviticus 25:35-36). Jesus condemned those who legally but heartlessly “devour widows’ houses” (Luke 20:47). You must not make money by taking advantage of vulnerable populations.

What we have in these cases is a heartless individualism, in which personal profit is put ahead of the good of others. Today the huge economic inequalities are the result of “not a market trend but...a new permissiveness, financial rather than sexual.” Money has the power to make you think that ruthlessness is just normal.

Where have you seen the power of money to make us ruthless?

PRAYER Lord, give us a conscience and concern for the vulnerable so that we don’t make a profit from the young by selling corrupting entertainment, or from the elderly people by selling useless products, or from poor people by selling them mortgages they can’t afford. I pray that You would move us to do justice as a nation. Amen.

February 26

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

Proverbs 11:4

WEALTH CAN MAKE YOU DISTRACTED. Wealth has the power to absorb your time, energy, and imagination so you have too little left to pay attention to more important things. No one on their deathbed cries out, "I wish I'd spent more time at the office, making more money." The day of wrath is Judgment Day. Judgment Day questions are "What is my life amounting to? Whom am I really living for—God and my neighbor, or myself? What contribution am I making?"

Wealth blinds you to Judgment Day questions. It sucks you into a frantic cycle. It goes like this. “I’ve earned more, so I’m going to spend more. But now that I’m spending more, I need to earn more.” And all the time you feel strapped and not that well-off, which leads you to work even more. Wealth has the power to make you far too busy with things that are less important. Jesus’ version of this proverb is given in Luke 12:16-21. You are a fool if you are absorbed in “storing up things for [yourself]” that you cannot keep but are not “rich toward God” in things you cannot lose.

In your life or someone else’s, where have you seen the power of money to distract us from the big questions and issues?

PRAYER Father, I don't want to be like the fool who broke his back to build up his business, all with a view to future years of ease that never came. Make me "rich toward God" now. Meet me in prayer. Conform me into the image of Your Son. Grow me in the fear of the Lord. Amen.

February 27

The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are... I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Proverbs 28:11, 30:9

WEALTH CAN MAKE YOU PROUD. We naturally take credit for wealth. Instead of acknowledging the enormous number of factors outside your control that brought the money to you, even with all your work, you attribute it all to your cleverness and discipline. Thus you become wise in your own eyes, the essence of foolishness (28:11). This pride will lead you to put too much faith in your instincts. You won’t listen to others. Making money does not make you a great judge of character or wise about everything—but many wealthy people feel it does. Bernard of Clairvaux is reputed to have once said, “To see a man humble under prosperity is the greatest rarity in the world.”

The ultimate danger of wealth is it leads us to say, “Who is the Lord’?”—”Why do I need God?” Jesus insisted that we do not feed and clothe ourselves any more than the birds or the flowers do (Matthew 6:25-34). It is only when, in the Spirit’s power, we realize we are saved only by grace that we can see God’s grace in everything, and escape this deadly power of money.

Where have you seen the power of money to make us proud?

PRAYER Lord, how quickly we take credit in our hearts for a little financial success. So Lord, I thank You for any successes, any goals attained, and any blessings I wasn’t capable of attaining, yet You sent to me. Amen.

February 28

A person’s riches may ransom their life, but the poor cannot respond to threatening rebukes.

Proverbs 13:8

THE BURDEN OF WEALTH. The situation in 13:8 could be a kidnapping or perhaps blackmail. A wealthy family pays the demanded sum. This seems to be an argument for having a lot of money. Commentators point out that the poor cannot respond to such threats, but on the other hand they don’t need to as no one would try to get a ransom out of them. The wealthy are subject to dangers “to which a poor man offers too small a target.”

The wealthy have stresses and burdens others do not have. They are barraged with requests for gifts and investments in new projects. They may become lonely because it is difficult to know who their friends truly are. Also, wealth needs constant attention and care just to maintain and manage (27:23-24). So riches bring cares, burdens, and responsibilities that others do not face. Living life with money actually requires greater faith and dependence on God, not less. Look to David for the proper attitude toward your wealth (1 Chronicles 29:10-19) and to the greater David’s attitude toward his (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Whom have you seen shoulder the burden of affluence well? Whom have you seen do it not so well? What were the differences?

PRAYER Lord, there is a kind of justice in that those with the greater blessings also receive greater responsibility and burdens. I ask by Your grace that if You deign to bless me with greater success, I might grow in the greater wisdom, humility, and love necessary to bear it. Amen.

March 1

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands. Go—to the point of exhaustion—and give your neighbor no rest!

Proverbs 6:1-3

GAMBLING OR INVESTING? A young man has agreed to put up money for a business deal with someone he hardly knows—a stranger. He is admonished for entering into an unwise, overly risky financial transaction (11:15, 17:18, 20:16, and 22:26-27). When it comes to financial dealings, “Scripture establishes prudence as one of the virtues...[This] does not banish generosity; it is nearer to banishing gambling.” Many supposedly financial deals are so risky and imprudent that they are as much gambling as playing a slot machine.

The moral problems with gambling, in any form, are many. It is an effort to do an “end run” around the hard work, due diligence, and time investment that ordinarily is required to make wealth grow. Magic is condemned in the Bible because it is an effort to get power without discipleship, so we don’t have to rely on God. Gambling is the same. Any money that we really can afford to essentially throw away on a risk we should instead be willing to give away to help others, which is always a sure thing. Jesus “threw away” His wealth and power, but to enrich us—not Himself (Romans 15: 1-3a).

What are the varied forms of gambling available to us in our society? Have you ever been drawn into any of them?

PRAYER Lord, make me prudent with regard to money, not prone to impulsive or risky endeavors. At the same time, give me foresight and a lack of fear and worry about money, knowing that You supply me with what I need even as You do the birds and flowers (Matthew 6:25-34). Amen.

March 4

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! ...Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.... Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.

Proverbs 16:16; 17:1; 28:6

WEALTH IN PERSPECTIVE. Money is not as important as wisdom and insight (16:16 and 8:19). Why not? The advantages of wealth seem to include safety and comfort for your family and the ability to do good in the world. Yet wealth without wisdom means the dangers and difficulties that wealth inevitably attracts will make us less secure and useful. Without wisdom, wealth cannot truly give us anything good.

Money is not as important as relationships (17:1). It is only love and right relationships—with God and with others—that can give us a meaningful life, yet wealth, as we have seen, can put a strain on relationships, disrupt them, and leave us lonely. Money is not as important as integrity of character (28:6). A good conscience before God and human beings (Acts 24:16) is crucial, yet, as we have seen, money puts great pressure on our integrity. The bottom line: Wealth is an extremely useful thing, but it can give you nothing of lasting value or happiness.

Has wealth gotten out of perspective in your life?

PRAYER Lord, wealth seems to offer such good things—security, consequence, and power to do deeds of mercy. Yet without wisdom it can deliver none of them. Therefore, Lord, I ask that You not grant me any financial success unless You bless me with character, a good conscience, and strong relationships. Amen.

March 5

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

Proverbs 10:15

THE IDOL OF WEALTH: PART 1. We return to this important proverb. Why does wealth have all the power over us that we have been describing? In ancient times, because walled and fortified cities were so safe, the wealthiest wanted to live in them and the poor could not afford to. The city dwelling meant high status. But 10:15 does not say merely that the rich live in the city. It says their wealth is their city. That is, wealth can become your identity.

When wealth becomes your identity, you come to feel that people are not just below you economically; they are below you. This is spiritually lethal. In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 26:19-31) the "rich man" in hell has no name because that was all he was—just a rich man. If you make wealth your very identity, and something takes the money away, there is no "you" left. You are prosperous and successful or you are nothing. But for the wise, the fear of the Lord is their treasure (Isaiah 33:6). To those who believe in Jesus, He is surpassingly precious (1 Peter 2:7).

Have you had enough success in life to be tempted to make your career or wealth your identity? Have you seen others give into this temptation? How can it be defeated?

PRAYER Lord, it takes little to make my social class into my identity. Pride in my credentials, or in the neighborhood I live in, become more important to my "name" than my true name in Christ. Let me instead rest my hope and find my worth in You. Amen.

March 6

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it a wall too high to scale.

Proverbs 18:11

THE IDOL OF WEALTH: PART 2. 18:11 says wealth exerts its power over us through our imagination. We imagine all the ways it will save—it will be a wall too high—from the things we fear or dread. Thus our daydreams and fantasies about money not only show us that wealth can be an idol but they can also reveal our other idols to us. What your heart most loves and adores, what it most rests in, is where you most effortlessly, joyfully, almost addictively spend your money.

Some people put their money most effortlessly into savings, in order to feel safe. Others put it most readily into clothing or things that make them appear attractive and sophisticated, in order to get people’s approval and admiration. Others put it into homes and membership in clubs, in order to get status and power. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). What will help break the hold that money has on our hearts? Radical generosity to God and the poor is a critical starting place. For idolatrous hearts it will be painful, but “one who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.”

How have you seen the truth of Jesus’ saying “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” worked out in your life or others’ lives?

PRAYER Lord Jesus, what a revealer money is! If I look at what I spend money on most effortlessly, almost without thinking, I see the real functional joys and trusts of my heart. Let me behold Your glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) until these other things lose their grip on my heart and desires. Amen.

March 7

A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.

Proverbs 11:18

UNREAL WEALTH. Without a relationship with God, you’re income is deceptive, literally, “unreal” (Hebrew seqer). Why? As we have seen, money’s spiritual power lies in its ability to make us think it can give us far more than it can. We slip into believing that we could have a better life if we were just a little bit richer. We think that with the money will somehow come life and peace, but that is not true at all.

The only true solution to the power of money over you is to see yourself rich in Christ. In Him we are “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9). Riches on earth bring some short-lived status, but we are children of the King of the universe. Riches on earth bring some security, but “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called” (Romans 8:28). Riches on earth bring power, but we will rule with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12). Christ has paid the only debt that could destroy us (Luke 7:42-43), which makes all other debts inconsequential. In Christ you are truly rich.

In your life or the life of someone else, have you seen the false promises of wealth being exposed for what they are? How?

PRAYER Lord, real wealth is to be wealthy toward You (Luke 12:12) and real fame is to be praised by You (Romans 2:29). I thank You that, in Your grace, you added to the lasting treasures of my salvation some of the world's fading goods. Let me never lose track of which kind of wealth is which! Amen.

March 8

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

Proverbs 11:24

SCATTERING AND GATHERING. The more you scatter your wealth, the more you gather it, and the more you try to keep it for yourself, the more it dissipates. How could that be? Think of farmers. The more they scatter seed, the more they will reap. And keep in mind that seed comes back in a better form, as harvest you can eat and sell. In the same way, spiritually wise people realize their money is seed, and the only way for them to turn it into real riches is by giving it away in remarkable proportions (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:6).

This is not a promise that the more you give away, the more money you will make. Rather the more you give away wisely to ministries and programs that help people spiritually and physically, the more your money becomes the real wealth of changed lives in others and of spiritual health in yourself. And you will be walking in the footsteps of the one who was literally broken and scattered so he could gather us to himself.

Where have you seen this principle of scattering and gathering illustrated? How?

PRAYER Lord Jesus, Your infinite loss on the cross has led to resurrection and infinite gains for us. Give me the faith to follow Your path, to disburse and scatter my goods and time for others, and thereby see Your grace and life grow in the lives of people around me. Amen.

March 11

The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

Proverbs 22:9

THE BLESSING OF GENEROSITY. The generous will themselves be blessed when they share their food with the poor. Of what does this blessing consist? Generosity that breaks the power of money over you may make you wiser in your financial dealings.

But the blessing here is surely the increase in the true wealth of love. Even at the level of common sense, we feel the most rich when we most love and are loved. Radical generosity is an act of love toward God and toward others that exponentially increases love. It moves us from seeing money as a currency of status and power to instead seeing it as a currency for loving God and others. We love God with our money when we treat it as His, not ours, and send it out to the things He loves. We love people with our money when we heal and repair lives with it. And in the Bible we are blessed the more like God we become. God originally gave us our own lives. Then He gave us His Son’s life. The more we give away, the more like our God we become. And that is blessed.

How have you seen the blessing of generosity illustrated?

PRAYER Father, there is only one true “currency” of value—love. In love You made the world and sent Your Son. Let me never put financial security before love. Let me use my money to love people who are poor, to love people who don’t know You, and to love people with needs in my family and Christian community. Amen.

March 12

Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

Proverbs 28:27

I SHALL NOT WANT. If we are generous with wealth, we will lack nothing. While this cannot mean that all generous, righteous people become more prosperous (15:15-17, 16:8, 19, 19:22), the second clause gives us a hint at why financial generosity can enhance material security. Selfish people get curses from the community around them. Thus the generous get the blessings of the community.

In Mark 10:29-31 Jesus says that if, through generosity, you lose “homes” or “fields” for his sake, you will receive new ones “in this present age.” The reason that Christians are free to radically give away money when needs are evident is because they are now members of a community that will do the same for them, should they be in want. This gives us every incentive to maintain Christian communities of mutual, practical love, like the early church, where “no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything” (Acts 4:32-34). This is how believers can be radically generous without excessive worry. Because they are embedded in a community of believers they will lack nothing they really need.

In your life or the life of someone else, have you seen how the strength of the bonds of a Christian community encourages and supports generosity?

PRAYER Lord, to live as a rugged individualist is not Your will for me, and it leaves me vulnerable. Change my heart and strengthen the church so we, Your people, can truly be members of one another. Amen.

March 13

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Proverbs 3:9-10

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? How much of our money should we be giving away to follow the biblical direction to be generous? When Proverbs tells us you must honor. The Lord with your wealth, it speaks against the backdrop of the biblical “tithe.” God required Israelites to give 10 percent of their annual income to the Levites and the priests to support both the temple and the poor. God saw this proportion of their wealth as His, and therefore the failure to give it was seen not as stinginess but as robbery (Malachi 3:6-12).

The New Testament nowhere explicitly requires tithing. But in Matthew 23:23 Jesus castigates listeners for not being willing to go beyond the tithe when there are needs. This is only reasonable. We have greater privileges, joy, knowledge, and power than our ancestors in the faith, so how could we be expected to be less generous with our possessions? So the tithe is best seen as a minimum rule of thumb for Christians who want to give in gospel proportions to the church, the poor, and others.

Do you think that it is reasonable to see the tithe as a minimum standard for Christian generosity? Why or why not?

PRAYER Lord, my culture presses me to spend and spend in order to be happy and secure. But remind me that I have joy and peace in You, and then help me be open to constantly giving a greater and greater percentage of my income away as the years go by. Amen.

March 14

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:8-9

GLAD SIMPLICITY. Money can corrupt us not only by its presence but by its absence. The poor are tempted to crime as a means for income (I may become poor and steal). They are often excluded unfairly from the economy, and in their hearts there can arise self-justification for illegal and even violent action. We have already seen the dangers and burdens of wealth.

But we must not read this as a “middle-class” ideal. “My daily bread” (cf. 1 Timothy 6:8) refers to a modest lifestyle, lower than what we would call middle class. Does this mean Christians should divest themselves of all money beyond a “simple lifestyle”? Not necessarily, because we need Christians in all places and social circles. What it does mean is at least this: Our homes, clothing, and lifestyle should be modest within our circle and neighborhood so we can be as generous as possible. The Christian community should model to the world a society in which wealth and possessions are seen as tools for serving others and not as means of personal advancement and fulfillment.

Do you live as modestly as possible within your vocation and neighborhood, in order to be as generous as possible?

PRAYER Lord, don’t let my heart regard my money and possessions as my treasures and You as just a means to various ends. Rather, direct my heart to make You my most precious treasure (1 Peter 2:7) and so see and use my worldly things as mere tools for serving others. Amen.

March 15

The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.... An unplowed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away.

Proverbs 12:27; 13:23

GOD'S ECONOMY. 12:27 tells us that the lazy do not eat because they do not pursue the quarry. Many see that as the explanation for poverty—a lack of personal initiative. But 13:23 tells us that a family might have extremely fertile land yet injustice may take their profits away. The Bible's view of wealth and economics does not fit neatly into either socialism or capitalism. Poverty cannot be reduced to either a simple lack of initiative or to unjust social structures. Hard work and private property are highly valued, yet property rights are not absolute, because we are only stewards of what God has entrusted to us.

Deuteronomy 23:24 says you may walk through a neighbor’s vineyard, and if you are poor you may eat “all the grapes you want,” but you may put none in a basket. In a fully communitarian society, the grapes would belong to the state. In a fully individualistic society, any taking of grapes would be robbery. The Bible’s vision for interdependent community, in which private property is important but not an absolute, does not give a full support to any conventional political-economic agenda. It sits in critical judgment on them all.

If Christians believed that the Bible does not support fully either a pure liberal-socialist or a conservative-capitalist approach to economics, how would that make the church different from what it is today?

PRAYER Lord, the wisdom of Your Word can be reflected but never fully captured by any human political project or economic system. May Your people love their neighbors, and give themselves to be salt and light in society (Matthew 5:13-14), yet never put our hopes too much in any social program. Amen.