Managing money God’s way

Ps Benny Ho // March 9, 2019, 12:05 am


Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash.

Matthew 6:24–33 is one of John Wesley’s favourite passages of the Bible.

John Wesley used this text to teach Christians the spirit of simplicity, which is to give away everything beyond the basic necessities of life.

He considered this to be a vital aspect of the spiritual life as he found that less than one in 500 Christians kept only what was needed and gave the rest away.

John Wesley himself lived out his own teaching. When he was making £30 pounds as a minister, he would use £28 and give the rest away. Later on in his ministry, when he started writing books, he made £1,400. However, he still spent £28 and gave the rest away. His philosophy was: “If I could live with £28 then, I can live with £28 now.”

Granted that we have to deal with inflation and the rising cost of living, but the point we want to capture is not so much John Wesley’s specific act but the spirit and principle behind it.

A simple life: Inside and out

John Wesley is an example of a man who escaped the grip of materialism and refused to bow to the god of money. He held on to simplicity in the midst of an increasingly complicated society.

Ecclesiastes 7:29 tells us: “God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising” (Jerusalem Bible).

As we read the passage in Matthew 6, we will discover that even though Christian simplicity works itself out in the material world, it begins primarily in the inner world of the believer.

The discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.

Out of an uncluttered heart comes a life that is simple in spirit, speech and style.

Both aspects are equally significant; we cannot have one without the other. An outward lifestyle without the inward reality leads to legalism. An inward reality without the outward lifestyle lacks authenticity.

Simplicity must begin with a singular inward focus, around which our lives are centred. This focus is embodied in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Through this single-mindedness, everything else finds clarity.

Out of an uncluttered heart comes a life that is simple in spirit, speech and style.

The sole focus

Our Lord Jesus lived a life of simplicity because of a heart that was anchored completely in God the Father. He declared in John 4:34: “‘My food,’ said Jesus ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.’”

Even Christians can be caught in the systems of this world and exchange the Divine Focus for the spirit of this age.

Consider what the Psalmist said in Psalm 27:4: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

Jesus emphasised in Luke 10:42: “But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Paul also underlined single-mindedness of focus in Philippians 3:13: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead …”

Such single-mindedness brings simplicity and steadfastness.

A universal temptation

The modern man, in contrast, pursues a fractured and fragmented life. He is trapped in a maze of competing attachments and loves. At one moment, he makes a decision based on reason, at another, based on the fear of what others might say.

Before we can simplify our lifestyle, we must first declare war on materialism and covetousness.

On yet other occasions, he acts based on greed or jealousy. He has no anchor for his soul, no compass that consistently points to True North, no Divine Centre to return home to. It has been said that “a man with two watches is never sure of the time”.

No wonder the modern man ends up complicated and confused.

Even Christians can be caught in the systems of this world and may lose the art of simplicity. We can exchange the Divine Focus for the spirit of this age, such as consumerism.

As a result, we complicate our faith, relationships and lifestyles. We begin to get attached to things, and need more and more possessions to be happy.

Mammon: A veiled god

Realistically, there is nothing wrong with things in and of themselves. Some may be very real necessities in modern living — my point is that we must beware of the subtle power of things in our life! When our life loses the beauty of simplicity, it will take on the tyranny of fragmentation.

Before we can simplify our lifestyle, we must first declare war on materialism and covetousness.

Where mammon rules, our focus in life shifts from a heavenly to an earthly perspective.

We must first decide resolutely to escape the temptation of mammon. In his book Money, Sex and Power, Richard Foster pointed out the truth of Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Jesus referred to money as a personality rather than an object. It even had a name —“mammon” — and a personality — “unrighteous mammon” (Luke 16:9, NKJV). In other words, once we bow down to the god of mammon, we will be enslaved.

There seems to be a spiritual force, a false god, behind money that is constantly crying out for our worship and trust.

Not that money offers us security, freedom, status and power. These are the things that only God can give us!

Matthew 6:25–32 tells us the consequences of serving mammon: Where mammon rules, things increase! Where mammon rules, our focus in life shifts from a heavenly to an earthly perspective.

Mastery, not abstinence

The answer to escaping the rule of mammon, however, is not poverty! What we need is the discipline of stewardship in relation to wealth.

The answer is not to reject wealth but to control its use. If we can control our money, then it will not control us. The key is to subject money to Christ: Our money can either work for the kingdom of God or against it.

The answer is not to reject wealth but to control its use. If we can control our money, then it will not control us.

Consider Exodus 12:35–36: When the Israelites left Egypt, they took with them gold and silver. At Mount Sinai, this was used to erect the golden calf that brought down the curse of God. However, later, the same gold and silver was used to build the Tabernacle that brought down the manifested presence of God.

The answer to financial freedom is a lifestyle of simplicity and stewardship. The key is for us to learn to consume less so that we may have more to share with others.This is so necessary today in a world of suffering.

In his book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, Ron Sider wrote: “We madly multiply more sophisticated gadgets, larger and taller buildings and faster means of transportation — not because they enrich our lives but because we are driven by an obsession for more and this is the cardinal sin of western civilisation.”

GK Chesterton said, “There are two ways to get enough. One is to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less and less.”

Let us all resolve to live simply so that others may simply live.

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This is an excerpt of Managing Money God’s Way by Ps Benny Ho and has been republished with permission.

Seven keys to simplifying our lifestyle

1. Buy for utility value rather than for prestige

Buy things only when you need them; refrain from doing it to gain status or prestige. Does this mean that we cannot buy branded goods? No. I buy branded goods. Just be sure that you are making your purchases for the quality and not for status.

2. Develop the habit of giving things away

Do not stash and accumulate. Instead, learn to de-accumulate. The less clutter we have, the simpler life can be.

3. Beware of modern advertising

Modern advertising tends to do much of our thinking for us. It can exaggerate and magnify wants to such an extent that we feel like we cannot do without a particular product.

In this context, advertising no longer informs but creates needs where there were none. When it comes to advertisement, the message is subtle but powerful. The decision made may not be logical; it is emotional.

4. Stop impulse buying

How many of us can resist what we consider a “good” buy? Our purchase may seem like a good idea, but the question is, do we really need what we buy?

5. Eat sensitively and sensibly

To live simply, we also need to simplify our eating habits. When we eat, think about those who do not have enough to eat. Sometimes, we may consume so much that food becomes a source of bondage for us.

6. Enjoy things without having to own them

There are many beautiful things in life that can be enjoyed without us having to own them. I can look at somebody’s new home and appreciate it without feeling the compulsion to own it. In this way, we can rejoice with others when they are blessed without feeling that God must grant us the same blessings.

7. Enjoy nature and see God in it

Another key to a simpler lifestyle is to learn to enjoy nature and see God in it. God has left his fingerprint all over nature to speak to us. An uncluttered life will help us to enjoy nature even more.

About the author

Ps Benny Ho

Pastor Benny Ho is a renowned Bible teacher, now serving as the Senior Pastor of Faith Community Church in Perth, Western Australia. He is also consultant to several churches both in Asia and Australia. His twin passions in ministry are expository preaching and mentoring. Pastor Benny founded Arrows Ministry more than 10 years ago with the primary purpose of helping local churches to equip every member to become a minister for Christ.