Monday, July 30, 2007Print This Page.:

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Let us come to the third point—Paul's attitude towards money. His own word on this subject is very clear. In Acts 20 he said to the Ephesians, "I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothing" (v. 33). This is a matter of motive. He did not covet anything. In his work for the Lord, he was able to boast that he never coveted anyone's possessions. He had no thought concerning anyone's gold, silver, or clothing. This is the first statement. Then he said, "You yourselves know that these hands have ministered to my needs and to those who are with me" (v. 34). This should be the common attitude of all servants of God. We must covet no man's silver or gold or clothing. Others' possessions are their own, and we have no desire for them. They can keep what they have. At the same time, we work to supply our own need and those of our co-workers. This does not mean that a worker of the Lord has no right to exercise his right in the gospel (1 Cor. 9:18). But it does mean that a worker of the Lord should view the gospel as such a serious and immense responsibility that he would rather offer his hands and his money to the work. This should be his desire before the Lord. If at all possible, his hands should be working. Of course Paul accepted gifts from others, but that had to do with another subject—the responsibility of the giver. We will come to that in a minute.
Paul's word to the Corinthians was very sweet. In 2 Corinthians 11:7 he said, "Or did I commit a sin, abasing myself that you might be exalted, because I announced the gospel of God to you free of charge?" He continued in verses 9 through 12: "And when I was present with you and lacked, I was not a burden to anyone; for the brothers who came from Macedonia filled up my lack, and in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and will keep myself. The truthfulness of Christ is in me, that this boasting shall not be stopped as it regards me in the regions of Achaia. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows. But what I do, I also will do, that I may cut off the opportunity of those desiring an opportunity, that in the thing in which they boast, they may be found even as we." Paul did not categorically deny all gifts, but in Achaia it was a matter of testimony. Some were criticizing, looking for opportunity, and boasting as if they were different from others. Paul did not want to give them an occasion for criticism. He said that he announced the gospel of God to them free of charge, that he was not a burden to them, not even when he lacked. He kept himself from being burdensome to them, and would continue to keep himself in this way. He would not allow himself to become a burden to them. This does not mean that he did not love them, because what he did, he would continue to do. But he acted in this way to cut off the opportunity of those desiring an opportunity, and to shut their mouths. This is the attitude of a worker towards money. Wherever we go, as soon as we sense any reluctance, we should cut off any opportunity for criticism. God's children must maintain their dignity in His work. The more a person loves money, the more we should give the gospel to him free of charge. The more a person holds on to his money, the less we should receive any gift from him. We should realize our position as servants of God. If we find anyone like the Achaians, who were reluctant and who were looking for opportunity to criticize, we should say to them as Paul seemingly said, "I will not be a burden to any one of you. If you want to send something to the poor in Jerusalem, I can take it to them. If Timothy comes, you can send him forth in his journey in peace. But as for myself, I must maintain my dignity as a worker of the Lord." If we are criticized for receiving any gift from anyone, we have lost our dignity as servants of the Lord altogether. We have to maintain our dignity as servants of God. In our service to the Lord, we cannot be careless with money. We have to be very strict in this matter; otherwise, we will not be able to do much for God.

Paul told us not only how he maintained his integrity, but also how he worked with his two hands to supply the needs of his co-workers. This shows us the principle of giving. Paul said, "These hands have ministered to my needs and to those who are with me" (Acts 20:34). No worker will be depleted by giving. If we keep all that we have received and only make provisions for ourselves, we do not know the meaning of the work of a minister. If there is little offering from the purses of the co-workers, something is wrong. If a worker can only receive, that is, if his faith is exercised only to the point of his receiving, but does not extend to his giving, his function is limited. Brothers and sisters, our spiritual future has much to do with our attitude towards money. The worst attitude we can take is to gather only for ourselves and to do everything for ourselves. It seems a hard task to ask the Levites to offer. Yet the Levites have just as much responsibility to tithe as everyone else. It is true that the Levites had no inheritance in all the cities; they sojourned among the twelve tribes and lived by the altar. Some Levites might have been tempted to say, "I live by the altar. What do I have to give?" But God said that all the Levites should receive tithing and should also tithe. This stops all the servants of God from saying, "I have given up everything. Do I still have to offer from the meager income I receive?" If our eyes are always on our own needs, we will end up in financial straits and will not be able to supply the needs of our co-workers. We have to learn to give. We must be able to supply all of our brothers and sisters. If we keep money in our hands, no matter how little it may be, and if, at the same time, we expect God to constantly work on the other brothers and sisters, we will find that God does just the opposite; He will not entrust His money to our hands.
Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 6:10 are wonderful: "As poor yet enriching many." Here was a brother who really knew God. Seemingly he was poor, yet surprisingly he enriched many. Brothers and sisters, this is our way. When we work in a place and the brothers and sisters there have something to say about us, or if they have a wrong attitude towards us, we should maintain our dignity as workers. We should never accept their gifts. Instead, we should tell them plainly, "I cannot take your money. I am a servant of God. You have things to say about me, and I cannot use your money. As a servant of the Lord, I have to maintain God's glory. I cannot use your money." Even in extreme poverty we have to learn to give. If we want to receive more, we have to give more. The more we are able to give, the more we are able to receive. This is a spiritual principle. Often when we are in lack, we should give more, for as soon as the money that we have goes, the Lord's supply comes. Some brothers and sisters have many such experiences. They can testify that the more they give, the more they receive. We should not count how much is left in our hands. The Lord said, "Give, and it will be given to you" (Luke 6:38). This is God's law. We cannot annul God's law. The Christian way of stewardship is different from that of the world. The world gains by saving; we gain by giving. We may be poor, but we can enrich others.
In 2 Corinthians 12:14 Paul said, "Behold, this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden." This was Paul's attitude. How stern he was toward himself! Some had spoken against Paul and had a problem with Paul. Therefore, when Paul was ready to go to them the third time, he was not a burden to them. In verse 14 he continued, saying, "For I do not seek what is yours but you." Was he being narrow-minded and mean? No. He continued in the same verse, saying, "For the children ought not to store up for the parents, but the parents for the children." Brothers and sisters, do you see how sweet Paul's attitude before God was? The Corinthians heard many rumors and said many things about Paul. Therefore, Paul was forced to decline their gifts, but even though he declined their gifts, he did not shrink from the responsibility of teaching them about money. Second Corinthians may be the book that touches the matter of money the most. Had Paul refrained from any speaking of money, some could have construed that Paul was offended by the matter. But he was not offended, because money had so little influence over him. He went on to teach the Corinthians about money. He told them to send the money to Jerusalem. He did not advise them not to send it. He was above money; therefore, he was above the Corinthians' attitude towards him personally. He refused their gift because he wanted to maintain his dignity. Yet he boasted to the Macedonians that the Corinthians were well prepared. At the same time, he entreated the brothers to make their promised blessing ready beforehand, lest they be put to shame by their unpreparedness when the Macedonians came to them (9:2, 4-5). His personal feelings were completely set aside. God's servants must be delivered from the influence of money. Had Paul not been delivered from money, the Corinthians would never have heard such a message. Paul would still have spoken to the Ephesians or the Philippians, but he would not have spoken to the Corinthians. But Paul still went after the Corinthians; he would not give up. He continued to talk to the Corinthians about money. He showed them that God could use their money, but that he himself would not; he did not want anything from them. In this matter, he did not become burdensome to them. However, he still expected them to have a way to go on in this matter.
Brothers and sisters, can we differentiate between them and theirs whenever we communicate with others in the church? When we see the brothers, are we after them or after theirs? If they have a problem with us and we cannot gain their hearts, will we still support them, edify them, and pray for their growth? Paul had plenty of reasons to turn away from the Corinthians, but he came to them again and again, and even a third time. Yet he was not after their possessions. This is a great temptation to God's servants. We have to learn to do what our brother Paul did.
In 2 Corinthians 12:15-18 he continued, saying, "But I, I will most gladly spend and be utterly spent on behalf of your souls. If I love you more abundantly, am I loved less? But let it be so! I did not burden you; but, as some of you say, being crafty, I took you by guile. Did I take advantage of you through anyone whom I have sent to you? I entreated Titus and sent with him the brother. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? Did we not walk in the same spirit? In the same steps?" Brothers and sisters, think of Paul's attitude: He most gladly spent and was utterly spent on their behalf. In preaching the gospel, it is not enough for us just to be spent. We have to spend; we have to give everything we have. It is always wrong to receive money in exchange for our preaching of the gospel. Rather, we have to be prepared to willingly spend our money for the gospel. If our money does not go into our preaching, something is wrong. If our money does go into our preaching, we are doing the right thing and are putting our money into a worthy cause. This is what Paul did. He was willing to be spent, and he was willing also to spend. He was willing to spend and be spent for their souls. When he was among them he was not a burden to anyone. Nor was Titus or the other brother a burden to anyone. He would not take advantage of anyone. The gospel is true—this is why we can spend our money on it. Brothers and sisters, we have to be like our brother Paul. We should not be a burden to anyone. On the contrary, we should be utterly spent for the gospel's sake. Because the gospel is true, it is right for us to spend and be utterly spent. Our gospel must be one which carries our money along with it. This is the proper way to go.
In spite of what we have said, Paul accepted the gift of the Macedonians and the Philippians. Under normal circumstances, it is right for a gospel preacher to receive gifts. Paul accepted gifts from some places and refused gifts from other places. He was not bound in the matter of receiving gifts. He accepted the gift from the Macedonians. But when some criticized him and looked for opportunity to slander him in Achaia and Corinth, he refused their gift. This was Paul's way. We should be the same today. We can accept gifts from some places like Macedonia, and we should refuse gifts from other places that say things about us. Brothers and sisters, we have to maintain this stand before the Lord. We should not think that we can accept any kind of money. If someone is speaking behind our backs or if someone is seeking for an opportunity to criticize us, we simply cannot accept their gifts. In other places we may accept the gift, but not in that place.
Let us turn to Paul's letter to the Philippians to see his attitude in receiving offerings from the saints there. Philippians 4:15-17 says, "You yourselves also know, Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I went out from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the account of giving and receiving except you only; for even in Thessalonica you sent both once and again to my need. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit which increases to your account." This was Paul's attitude. It seems as if the Philippians were the only ones who supplied him. When he was in Corinth and Thessalonica, it was the Philippians who supplied him. Yet to the Philippians he said, "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit which increases to your account." He knew that God would make entries in the Philippians' account for the money they had spent. God would take note of the Philippians' money. This is why he did not ask for their money. Here was a man who had such an attitude towards the only ones who were supplying him. He did not seek the gift, but the fruit which increased to their account. The Macedonians had given again and again. But Paul's eyes were not on the money. We may not accept some gifts, but even when we do accept, we should speak like Paul did to the Philippians. We should pray for their fruit to increase to their account. It is altogether wrong for God's servants to be bound by money. We must be delivered from money.
Let us go on to see what Paul said in verse 18: "But I have received in full all things and abound; I have been filled." This was no ordinary financial report. An ordinary report usually highlights a lack so that others will be motivated to give. But to the only church that was supporting him, our brother Paul said, "I have received in full all things and abound; I have been filled." Paul's words were seldom repetitious, but here he said, "I have received in full all things and abound; I have been filled." Brothers and sisters, please pay attention to our brother's attitude. He told the only church that was supporting him that he was full, that he was abounding, and that he was filled. He had enough; his only hope was that their gift would become "a sweet-smelling savor, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God" (v. 18). Here is a person with a beautiful spirit. He did not have any consciousness of money. Money did not touch him in any way.
Let us go on to verse 19, which is a very precious verse: "And my God will fill your every need according to His riches, in glory, in Christ Jesus." He was grateful for their support, but he did not lose his dignity. They offered up the money as a sacrifice to God; it was not for Paul personally, and it had nothing to do with him. At the same time, he blessed them: "My God will fill your every need according to His riches, in glory, in Christ Jesus." We cannot help but say, "To our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen."

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