“During the days of the depression, hundreds of men came to my office for a handout, or a shakedown or the night. Many a time I asked them this question: ‘When you were earning money, did you square with God? Did you give to God that which belonged to him?’ Never once did I have that question answered in the affirmative. Every man who came for a handout had to admit he had not squared with God in the years of prosperity.’
Oswald J. Smith
I came up with the following outline back in 1992 when I was serving as the pastor of a church in the Appalachians. I emailed it out to a number of people, and it has since been used by some others. In the current economic hardships, understanding what it means to trust the provision of God through Jesus Christ is no longer an option but a necessity.
Trusting Christ As My Provider
I. God provides of my daily needs
A. God promises to provide as I seek his kingdom and his righteousness: Matthew 6:33.
God promises to provide sufficiency, not extravagance: I Timothy 6:6-8, Matthew 6:25-32.
God wants us to pray for our daily needs: Matthew 6:11.
II. God normally provides for me through employment.
A. Working for our living ensures that we are dependent on no one else: I Thessalonians 4:11-12, II Thessalonians 3:7-10.
B. The believer is to work as if the Lord Jesus were his personal supervisor, and to be respectful of his employer: Ephesians 6:5-8, Colossians 3:22-25 (substitute employee for slave in these passages; the relationship between employer and employee is of mutual advantage and mutual choice, though, and not permanent legal coercion).
C. The believer increases his income through diligence and skill: Proverbs 10:4. (See also Ecclesiastes 10:10, Proverbs 22:29, Deuteronomy 8:17-18)
III. God provides so that I can give to support the work of the gospel and the needs of the less fortunate.
A. Giving is to be through the local church on a weekly basis: I Corinthians 16:2 (a tithe is a good beginning).
B. Giving is to be of our own free will, in response to the grace of God: II Corinthians 8:6-11.
C. Giving demonstrates that our true treasure and Master is Christ: Matthew 6:19-21, 24.
Challenge: begin to give this week with a tithe.
Addressing Special Needs
1. Government assistance (welfare, SSI): For the believer in Christ, there have been some problems with the acceptance of government financial support without being employed by the government. It has encouraged laziness among the able bodied; it has encouraged dependence on the government instead of God; it dissociates income from work; it discourages marriage and stable families; and it supplants the financial support ministry of the body of Christ. Therefore the able bodied unemployed and the employable disabled need counsel and encouragement to become employed wherever possible for their own support, witness and obedience to God. Care should be taken not to abuse those in genuine need or to expect an immediate transition out of a state of dependence.
2. Restitution: Whenever a person has stolen or defrauded from an individual, a business or the government should receive restitution as a matter of honesty and as evidence of genuine repentance (Proverbs 6:31, the example of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10). Usually this can be taken from luxury and entertainment spending for a short period. A person who has been living a parasitic and exploitative lifestyle (stealing in the Biblical sense includes fraud and deceit for financial gain: Leviticus 19:12 is an expansion of Exodus 20:15) needs to be directed to work and giving (Ephesians 4:28, I Thessalonians 4:11-12).
3. Debt: Buying on credit can produce debt which is an unwise use of money; the interest on the credit increases the cost of the purchase and leave the borrower in financial bondage (Proverbs 22:7). Generally, excessive debt results from extravagant, unnecessary and premature purchases. The new believer should be referred to a Christian financial counselor — preferably one who is a volunteer.
4. Homemakers: Stay at home mothers with preschool children already have a full time job on their hands. It is financial wisdom for a husband to seek to improve his income so that they can survive on one income during the years of childbearing and during the years the children are preschool. During the school age years of the children, starting a home based business might be wiser than returning to work for an employer. There is good scriptural precedence for this in Proverbs 31:24, and it would be in accord with Titus 2:5. Generally a homemaker with Christ as her Lord and Supervisor will plan her day so that there are no significant times of idleness during the day, and so that she may use the evening for relaxation, entertainment and family devotions. She can also plan for significant times of personal ministry during these hours, and certainly time for her personal Bible reading and prayer.
5. Prosperity theology (the ‘health and wealth’ gospel: Believers who are still new to Christ can be deceived by this unbalanced application of the scriptures. Christ promises sufficiency, not material riches. Scriptures such as I Timothy 6:9-10, Luke 6:24, 12:13-21, and 18:23-25 should adequately address this teaching that substitutes wealth for sufficiency. Contentment with what we have from God is his will for us (Hebrews 13:5-6, Philippians 4:11-13, Exodus 20:17).
6. The stockholder mentality of giving to a church: Some have had an unfortunate tendency to use their giving, which is to be to God, to attempt to influence the direction of the church according to personal preference. In the New Testament, the funds that were given to the church were put at the disposal of the leaders whom God had called and appointed for the uses that they announced and decided (Acts 4:35-37: “at the apostles’ feet” means “at the disposal of the apostles”). This is less of a temptation for those who are unable to give large amounts, but the general principle is that we give to support God’s work in God’s way, and not our personal preferences.