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The Key to Financial Freedom
By David A. DePra
The key to financial freedom is not giving money, tithing, or "planting a seed," in a ministry. Doing all of those things will not bring you financial freedom. No. Financial freedom is not possible unless we see the TRUTH about it, because it is the Truth that sets us free in ANY area. Certainly this applies to the area of money, finances, and giving.
So what is the Truth – the key to financial freedom. Let’s cut right to it. The key to financial freedom is to first REPENT OF SERVING MAMMON, and then begin TO SERVE GOD.
I am NOT talking yet about a thing we are to DO – in the sense of keeping laws and principles. I am really talking about getting our overall attitude and life right with God Himself on this important matter. Unless we do that, nothing else will get us far. The DOING will follow as the outcome of being rightly related to God by faith.
We must see the Truth about ourselves – that we do serve mammon. Everyone does. If you have a sin nature, you serve mammon. And we must see the Truth about what really means to serve God INSTEAD of mammon. We must know this Truth and it must become part of us; govern us in our relationship with God.
However, if we think that TRUTH is merely correct Biblical doctrine we are going to be left wondering why seeing the doctrine doesn’t set us free. But the fact is, Truth is NOT merely doctrine. Rather, Truth is described by doctrine. The Truth itself is a Person.
You can memorize Biblical doctrine on money and giving until you are blue in the face, and even if you have rightly discovered the doctrinal Truth it will not set you free. Why? Because doctrine is not a relationship. Doctrine is not a Person. Doctrine does not, in itself, enable you to walk in the Truth it describes.
One way to put it might be this: Doctrine tells us the mind of God. But doctrine doesn’t GIVE us the mind of God. According to the apostle Paul, God wants us -- yes, to know His mind. But in the end, we are to actually HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST.
If we had the mind of Christ about money, we would be living according to the Truth. But not in the sense of mechanically following principles and laws. No. We would be living the Truth because our relationship with Christ can result in nothing else. The Truth would be natural to us. We would have HIS mind about these matters.
The fact is, you cannot divorce living the Truth from a relationship with the Truth Himself. Thus, financial freedom is the result of walking in a relationship with Jesus Christ that manifests the Truth of His mind about it.
As I said before, the key to financial freedom – God’s mind on this issue – is that we REPENT OF SERVING MAMMON INSTEAD OF GOD. Then financial freedom is lived out by SERVING GOD INSTEAD OF MAMMON.
I don’t care what you do, but if you do not do THAT, you will never find financial freedom. Oh, you may become rich, or you may become poor. But it won’t matter. You won’t be free.
Why? Well, just look at the word, "SERVE." You can do lots of things that look like freedom. But the question is WHO YOU ARE SERVING – by what you do? What motivates you to earn, save, give, or not give? Faith? Or fear? What makes you tick?
Many Christians think that the FACT that they give money to their church proves they are serving God, and not mammon. Maybe they tithe. But the Truth is, none of that proves a thing about WHO WE ARE SERVING by our giving. It is entirely possible, according to I Corinthians 13, to give my body to be burned, and still not do it in love.
We must get this. People say, "But I have tithed, given money, and planted seeds in ministry. I have served God with my life." Well, ok. But the fact is, you can actually do ALL of that, and not serve God. Indeed, I have known people who have served mammon with their tithing, and with their giving. The reason they are tithing and giving is for the money they expect back as a reward from God for what they are doing. And that is NOT serving God. It is serving YOURSELF.
I am going to say something that absolutely cuts across most Christian teaching. But it is the Truth. If I am giving to get – I am serving myself, and serving mammon. This isn’t to say that God doesn’t promise to bless us if we give. He does. But if the REASON I’m giving is merely to get, then I am not serving God. I am serving mammon.
Does that shock you? It should not. We have no clue how self-serving we are with regards to these things. Christians by the thousands give money to ministries in order to get back from God a blessing. Or to avoid some curse for NOT giving. Or to feel good about themselves. Or to serve their own interests. But how many of us actually give to ministries, or to NEEDY Christians, without any expectation of a return?
What is wrong with giving to a ministry because you value the Truth being preached by a ministry? What is wrong with giving because you have much, while someone else might be in need? That is real love. And real giving. Are we so incredibly shallow that we need a reward for giving?
Now don’t misunderstand. If I see someone in need, and I give to them, they WILL be helped, even if my motives are wrong. Sure. But I think God wants more than this kind of giving. In fact, He SAYS He does. The Bible says that God loves a cheerful GIVER – not cheerful GIV-ING, but a cheerful GIVER. Again – God wants the PERSON. He wants our hearts.
I also don’t think we need to get so circumspect about giving that we never give unless we are sure our motives are perfect. That can be used as an excuse. This matter of giving does not need to be complicated. We need only do what Jesus said to do. He said, "You have freely received, so freely give." In other words, if you have an abundance, and you see someone in need, who cannot help themselves, then give to them. And do it without any thought of reward, pay back, or other agenda.
Why is that so hard to fathom? And why is it so rarely taught? It is the very nature of God Himself to give freely. You and I wouldn’t be saved otherwise. Thus, we need to give out of what we have – not out of what we don’t. And we need to give to those in need, without any expectation, or demand, that we receive a reward.
The greatest irony on this matter is that, "he that loses his reward for Christ’s sake will find it." In other words, if I really do give without any expectation of a pay back, then God is truly able to bless me all the more! Why? Because I can be trusted with abundance. It may come as a shock to some people, but giving to get betrays an entire inner motivation that is not where it needs to be towards God Himself. Yet giving free of charge because I want to give also shows that a person has settled certain issues with God. And so that person can be trusted to be a channel for God’s blessing. They are not in it for themselves.
Do you want to become a person who God can trust with blessing? Well, you never will simply by giving. Nope. I say it again – all the giving in the world cannot fix a heart that is not right with God. You must REPENT OF SERVING MAMMON. That is SIN. And you must begin SERVING GOD. This is a heart issue – a relationship issue. Get that settled and then your giving will begin to come from a heart that belongs to God.
We do not have to guess: You and I have served mammon. It is our nature to do so. This tendency is fundamental to the sin nature, to natural thinking, and to unbelief. And so until we see the Truth about ourselves, and about what God wants, we cannot be free. We cannot enter into the relationship God wants for us on this matter. We must begin by REPENTING OF SERVING MAMMON, and then we can begin to SERVE GOD.
What is Financial Freedom?
The trouble with most teachings on finance for Christians is that they all focus on one thing: How to get God to bless you financially. It usually comes down to that in the end. Financial freedom is defined as being in line for God’s blessings – based on what YOU are doing.
Sure. Sometimes these teachings are a list of, "HOW Tos" – they will tell you how to obey God with your finances. But usually at some point, the REASON for obeying God is to get a blessing or avoid a curse. Rarely is the real issue ever addressed: Freedom, or our need to repent.
These errors have gotten so bad today, that instead of repenting of wrong motives before God, much teaching on money promotes them. We are taught that it is right to give in order to get. Indeed, we are taught that unless we give we WON’T get. And it is not insignificant that those teaching such things are the ones you are supposed to give TO.
Yet, as we are seeing, FINANCIAL FREEDOM is not achieved by giving. Neither is it achieved by NOT giving. Neither is it achieved by getting. We need to understand this. You can give until you are blue in the face but nevertheless remain in absolute bondage with regards to money. And you can get millions, and say it is God’s blessing, and all it may accomplish is to make for you bigger bondage to live in.
And so really, we come to a principle. That principle is this: Financial freedom is not the result of giving. Rather, giving is the result of financial freedom.
Why is this so? Because of what I have already said. You cannot find financial freedom unless you first repent of serving mammon. But once you do that, and begin serving God, giving will come natural. It will be the natural outcome of financial freedom.
This is the Truth in so many areas of obedience in the Christian life. Obedience is always the outcome of being rightly related to God by faith. And yet Christians always get this backwards. We continue to think that we must obey God in order to be right with Him. No. We obey Him BECAUSE we are right with Him in our hearts by faith.
The irony of it all is that it is entirely possible to obey God, not because we believe and trust Him, but because we don’t. Of course, this isn’t really obedience. But there are many Christians who walk through the motions of mechanical obedience simply because they think it is merit in the eyes of God, will gain them a reward, or help them avoid a curse. All of that, however, is not of faith. It is legalism – as is, "giving to get." It is exactly the same spirit and error.
Again – all real obedience is the outcome of faith. And all real giving is the outcome of being financially free. You cannot reverse these things. We must be right with God in our hearts, and in our inner relationship with Him – or what we do will be wrongly motivated. It won’t be of faith.
A Way of Life
Funny thing about the Truth: It always overlaps. You can hardly talk about the Truth on one matter without touching another. This is especially a fact with regards to financial freedom. When we talk about the Truth on this matter, we are talking about something that affects every part of our lives. You cannot live in this world without money. You have to earn a living. Thus, the Truth of Jesus Christ on this matter is fundamental to life itself.
Perhaps you haven’t really grasp the magnitude of that statement. We are talking here about the MEANS of our living – provision itself. We are talking about where our provision is going to come from. And WHO WE GET IT FROM. We are talking about our faith, motivation, and practical lives. Indeed, this matter strikes at the heart and core of everything. If we aren’t walking in financial freedom, it is a question as to whether we are very free at all – this issue is just that foundational.
Now, of course, if you think that what I mean by, "financial freedom," is a bunch of laws and principles to follow, then I suppose you will think I am exaggerating. Or if you think that, "financial freedom," is simply a doctrine, then none of this will matter to you. But serving God rather than mammon is more than all of that. It is A WAY OF LIFE. It is, in fact, THE way of life that Jesus said will characterize those who have seen and are seeking first the kingdom of God.
Jesus said, "You cannot serve God and mammon. You cannot serve two masters. You must serve one or the other." Can we see that there are only two options here – each representing a way of life, or a motivation for living? Can we see that which I SERVE – God or mammon – really is my master? That I am a slave to whichever master I serve? This is why financial FREEDOM is the result of serving God, and not mammon. If I serve mammon I am a slave to mammon. But if I serve God, I am a slave to God, which makes me FREE.
Cutting to the Heart of It
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? (Mat 6:24-25)
The words of Jesus are silly, impractical, and insane to most people. Sometimes even to Christians. He is saying that if you come into the Truth on this matter, that WORRY will no longer be in your vocabulary. He is saying that you will be so certain of God, that the worry that comes from uncertainty in everything else will be gone. And Jesus was not being impractical. He was talking about the basic provisions for living – food, clothes, and home.
Now, Jesus did NOT promise life would be problem free. Neither was He saying you don’t have to work. Rather, He is saying that the burden of it will not be on you. No, because if the BURDEN – get that word – is on you, then you are, in fact, serving mammon. Right? Sure. You may not be consciously, or deliberately, serving mammon, in the sense of being greedy for money, but if you are weighed down with the burden, and that burden is governing you, you are SERVING it.
This is an inner thing. A relationship thing – do we have a relationship with God that makes us able to shift the burden of these things off of us onto Him? This is what Jesus is saying ought to be the case. It is what it means to serve God instead of mammon.
Let’s be more blunt about it: To the degree that I am taking anxious thought, I am serving mammon. Sure. The REASON I’m taking anxious thought is because rather than have my faith in God, I have it in myself – in mammon. Tough to admit. But it is true.
Read these words closely:"You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life….." Can we see the relationship here between serving God and taking anxious thought? It is the entire point Jesus is making.
There really isn’t any middle ground here. Jesus said, "Take no anxious thought for basic provision." Now, think about that. What justification could there be for taking no anxious thought? Well, faith. Sure. I mean, let’s face it, if God cannot be trusted to take care of us, then we OUGHT to take plenty of anxious thought! But it is precisely because He has promised to take care of us that we can afford to NOT take anxious thought.
Do you believe that? Do you believe that God will REALLY take care of you? Sure, it is really easy to believe that if you have lots of money, or a good job. It is easy to believe it if nothing is threatening your security right now. How easy it is to say, when all is well, "God has provided for me!" But what if it was ALL gone today? Could you believe THEN? What if God removed the security of money from your life and all of a sudden it was His faithfulness or NOTHING?
I’m asking these questions because often they expose our cheap faith. Cheap faith is untested faith. The things we say may be right, and we might mean them as far as we know. Maybe we have been faithful in the place, and under the circumstances God has us. But what if, as was the case with Job, all was taken away? And it wasn’t our fault? And God didn’t explain? Could we trust God?
Now we are beginning to see more about what financial freedom means. It does not mean that I have so much money that I never need to worry. Neither does it mean that I am so silly that I don’t realize I am in great need. Actually, financial freedom has NOTHING to do with how much money I have at all. Rather, it means that no matter how much money I have, my relationship with God stands completely independent of money. I know that I everything I hold belongs to HIM. Indeed, I know that I belong to Him.
Not Our Own
You know, most of us still operate under the error that God is there to sort of SERVICE OUR LIFE. We don’t put it down on paper like that, or perhaps ever realize our attitude, but we often operate as if our life still belongs to US, and that the Christian life is a matter of plugging God into our lives so that we can get from Him what we need. And in order to get from God what we need, we often give Him what He wants. It is almost like a deal we make with God. If we scratch His back, we think He’ll scratch ours.
We betray that this is our attitude when God does or allows something we don’t like. Perhaps we get mad at Him, or begin to accuse Him. Without realizing it, we are staking our claim to ourselves and demanding that God service us according to our expectations. We still consider our life exactly that – OURS. And we demand God to right by OUR life!
If we ever expect to serve God and not mammon, we have to rid ourselves of the notion that we any longer belong to ourselves. God is not there to service us. We are here to service HIM. To some people, this sounds as if God wants to take away from us. No. Rather, it is the key to receiving from God. But more about that later.
Belonging to God, instead of ourselves, is a BIG TRUTH. If we would ever grasp that, it would set us free on so many levels. We would not be passive, but would realize that God is in charge. And it certainly would strike at the heart and core of WHO WE SERVE.
MAMMON is not just money. Money is the primary representative of mammon, but not the entire thought. MAMMON is really anything in which we put our trust other than God. Money is a big item here because it is freedom, power, and means in this world. But really, at the end of the day, we might simply summarize by saying that, "to serve mammon," is nothing more than to LIVE FOR THIS LIFE.
Whether we serve God or mammon has to do with the very foundation of our relationship with God Himself. The statement itself, "You cannot serve God and mammon," tells us that. We are doing one or the other – and we are here talking about serving with OUR LIVES.
Natural man is absolutely geared to living for this life, with natural thinking. We feel confident and secure as long as we think we are in control – and money provides that. The bigger the bank account, the bigger the buffer against disaster. The more freedom we have to do what we want – because money buys that. And it is easy, if we have money, just to sail along, never even thinking about whether our confidence and faith is in our money. It never becomes an issue.
Tithing is not a NT law. I’m not going to bother going through scripture on this. The subject has been beat to death. If you want to tithe, then that is between you and God. But in that case you are under a law on this matter – and not under grace.
Think not? Then ask: If I stop tithing, do I believe God will curse me financially? Do I believe that my tithing is guaranteeing God’s blessings? If you believe these things, you are describing LAW – there could be no clearer description of it. The moment I make my obedience to a law or principle result in rewards or punishments from God, I am under the law.
But doesn’t our conduct result in blessings or curses? Sure, in a certain context. But that isn’t the question. The question is whether I am obeying the law I obey simply BECAUSE I want the blessing rather than the curse, or whether I am obeying out of faith and love. Ask: If you suddenly discovered that tithing carried NO reward, and that NOT tithing carried NO curse, would you still tithe? If you say yes, then you aren’t tithing. You are giving. But in that case, you ought to be free to give more, or less, or nothing – because you aren’t bound to a percentage by a law.
The moment we remove rewards and punishments for conduct, the true heart toward God is exposed. If I obey God only for what I get out of it, then I don’t really love Him, do I? What I love is what I get out of it. But if I obey God no matter the reward or punishment, then we are talking about a love relationship.
Here we see the key: God has said we are no longer under the law. But this should never result in us disobeying God. God has said we are freed from the law because He knows that anyone born again will want to obey God even though they are NOT under the law – the law is written in them by the Spirit.
God wants people who obey Him to the complete disregard of rewards and punishments for conduct. That takes a miracle. But this is exactly what the new birth is – the miracle of a changed nature.
The moment I introduce laws like tithing I am corrupting the grace of God. Tithing is NOT required for Christians. The greatest irony is that it is entirely possible to tithe and give, even to the point of great sacrifice, and do it because I am serving mammon, and because I do not trust God. I do it to GET – to control God, and try to insure His blessing. People tithe all the time because they are under the law and not grace. If only we could come to terms with these things.
Imagine if the reason people tithe was taken and applied to OTHER points of obedience in the Christian walk. Let’s take something radical, like marriage. Are we to say that the reason we are faithful to our spouse is because God will bless us if we are? And that the reason we are NOT unfaithful is that we want to avoid the curse which God will bring upon us because of adultery? Again – if the rewards vs. punishment issue is the REASON I am faithful to my spouse – and that is the only reason – how much can I really say I love my spouse? I have taken something which is supposed to be based upon LOVE and turned it into a law. My obedience then come down to what I get out of obedience, instead of whether I am walking in love.
Can we see the problem we create if we say we are to walk in grace, but then turn around and preach the principle of tithing – that of blessing or curse, depending on whether we tithe? It just doesn’t go along with grace at all. It is, in fact, the very antithesis of grace, and stands as a primes example of what it means to be, "under the law," in this case, "under the law of tithing."
There is something else about the principle of tithing, as it is usually taught, that is troubling. If my tithing keeps me in God’s blessing, and my lack of tithing keeps me out of God’s blessing, then notice who it is that is in control: ME. I am in control of God’s blessing. Indeed, I am in control of God. All I need to do is write the check. And God is obligated – by His own promise – to bless me.
This is actually what is taught. Most who teach that tithing is a NT requirement will tell you that if you tithe you are in God’s blessing, and God – by His own promise – has obligated Himself to bless you. And they will tell you that if you don’t tithe, you are likewise guaranteed a curse – sooner or later. People teach that you are indeed in control of God’s blessing, and that you determine it by YOUR giving. Mind you, they don’t say that you are FORCING God to bless you. They are simply saying that He has already promised to bless you, and that by tithing, you release that blessing.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting that our giving is meaningless, or that our choices to give have no bearing as to what comes back to us. No. The Bible does teach that if we give, it will be given unto us. Yes! We’ll get to that later. But the point right now is that once you set up a LAW – obedience to which obligates God to do such and such – YOU are in control.
Now, if that were true, then can we see that by tithing we have fenced off the area of money in our lives as an area that God CANNOT use as He pleases. Sure. If God has guaranteed that if we tithe He will bless, then if we tithe God CANNOT ever use financial hardship to test my faith. He can’t. So you can cross that off the list of vehicles God can use in our lives – and it is a big one.
Picture yourself in financial hardship. You are being greatly pressed in your faith. As far as you know, there is nothing you are doing that is causing this problem. But you aren’t tithing. Wouldn’t it be nice if all you needed to do was start writing checks, and the trial would be over? Can you see what I am saying? This puts US in control. We can just obey ourselves out of this trial by tithing.
Now, if tithing is NOT a requirement upon Christians – and carries NO blessing – then can we see how much more we must trust God? In that case, we might GIVE – without any expectation of return. (Isn’t that what Jesus said to do?) Or we might NOT give – if we don’t feel God is leading. But nothing WE DO puts US in control. We cannot move God by our obedience to a principle. We have to obey and trust Him.
Freeing God to Bless
The teaching that states that God must bless those who tithe, and curse those who don’t, creates other problems, too. Indeed, if tithing worked that way, it would often put God at cross-purposes with Himself in the overall purpose for our lives.
For instance, suppose I have a big problem with money. Suppose I am a slave to it. I live for it. I serve mammon. If that is the case for me, how likely does it seem that God will give me lots of money? -- even if I tithe? Would that help me? No. It would hurt me. I don’t need more money. I need to get free of my love for money.
Yet notice something here: If the principle of tithing is the Truth, then God is obligated to give more money to someone who is a slave to money – because He has promised to do so. God is obligated to bless those who tithe, including those who are slaves to money and tithe. Can we see a problem here?
Furthermore, there are people who have NO money, but who are slaves to money. They are living for money, but never seem to get it. Is God going to give them money, despite their problem, just because they tithe?
Herein we see another reason why we cannot come under such a law. It cuts across the work of the Holy Spirit. God wants us FREE of the love of money. He wants us FREE of being controlled by money. And we will never get free if God keeps the money coming to us. Often, He must hold back the financial blessings in order to set us free. But according to the tithing principle, God would never do such a thing.
God loves us, and He is not going to give us things that will do us harm, or feed our problem, or keep us in bondage. Consequently, God would never set up such a principle as tithing. He is not going to bless us with money if we are in bondage to money because, in that case, it is NOT a blessing. It is a curse.
What we see here is a principle that is higher than any principle of law. God wants to bless us in every way. But He won’t bless us with things that will do us harm. Or, to put it another way, God has to be able to trust you with the blessing. Not trust in the sense of being honest. But trust in the sense of being able to handle the blessing. If God sees that a good thing in our lives will end up doing us bad, He will withhold it. That is love.
But again, this brings us back to the whole point that we have been seeing. If we will REPENT of serving mammon, and purpose to serve God, then we will begin to become people God can trust with blessing. Sure, because the root problem is dealt with. But if we don’t do that, God won’t be able to trust us very much. It isn’t a matter of us being liars or thieves. Rather, it is a matter of us being in a relationship with Him that will keep us safe from corruption.
God is able to bless those with whom He can trust the blessing. They are people who will not take ownership over the blessing, but will give of it to others. They are those who have the issue of who they serve settled: God. Tithing doesn’t touch this issue of the heart. It is a law that undercuts it completely.
So if you and I want God to be able to bless us financially, then we need to become those with whom He can trust the blessing. And that means we have to have it settled as to why we live, and whom we serve. It means that if God gives to us money, that it will do us no harm. Even if we possess it, it will not possess us. Does the tithing law take this into consideration? No.
Seasons of Need
There are times in the life of a faithful Christian where God may, in fact, withhold blessing. Indeed, there may be great need. How can this be if God has promised to provide?
Well, it can be if need serves a greater purpose. Sometimes it is only if God takes away something, or withholds it, that our hearts can be tested, drawn out, or dealt with. As I have mentioned before, it is easy to trust God when we have plenty. It is easy to proclaim how faithful God is when it pays us to. But what if everything was taken away? What would such a trial expose about our hearts?
God will sometimes put people through long seasons of need to get them to the place He wants them in a relationship with Him. As He said to the Israelites regarding the wilderness:
And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou would keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knew not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. (Deut. 8:2-3)
Do we see what God is saying? He is saying, "If you are faithful to Me when it does NOT PAY you to be, I will know that you can be trusted with blessing." This is a great Truth. It is one almost totally ignored today by teachings on tithing and giving. But it is one that explains much about what happens to us when we walk with God.
God is not reluctant to bless. He loves us and wants to bless us. But He wants to make us into people who He can freely bless. This is impossible unless He first deals with our hearts. And the fundamental question will always be: Who do I serve -- even with the blessings of God? God or mammon. God will not finance unbelief. He will bless faith.
The First Example of Giving
I believe that FIRSTS in the Bible are usually significant. They usually reveal much about the mind of God on a matter. This is especially so in the book of Acts. There the works of the Holy Spirit took place before religious men took hold of them and brought them down to the natural. This is certainly true with regards to money.
For example, Acts 4 and 5 describes the first example of God’s mind for giving after the church was born. There you will find no mention of tithing, or of, "giving to get." Those people gave because they WANTED to give. There was no mandate, no pressure, and no law being laid down. Their giving was spontaneous and voluntary.
These people simply gave because there was a need. It was no more complicated than that. Because they had received the Holy Spirit, they had a whole new frame of reference for living. They were able to give without any expectation of getting. They were under no law and no compulsion.
We see this in Peter’s words to Ananais in Acts 5. Before he sold the property it was HIS. After he sold it, the money was HIS. There was no requirement upon him to give anything.
What exactly was the sin of Ananais? Well, he lied. This was the sin. But in what sense? Did he simply lie about the amount of money? No, that was the outward part of the lie. The real lie, said Peter, was to God Himself. You see, the sin of Ananais was that he pretended to be someone he was not. He pretended to be a voluntary, cheerful giver. But he was really giving only what would buy him what he really wanted: Admiration and the favor of men. There could be no other motive. Ananais entered into a move of the Holy Spirit and tried to use it for his own agenda.
But you know, he could have never done that unless he had first lied to God. He had apparently pushed away any conviction of the Holy Spirit about what he was doing, and went right ahead with it. He was not open to God. He would not allow God to deal with his real motives for giving. Ananais gave to serve himself, and not God.
Again – can we see the possibilities in our own heart? That it is possible to do good things for wrong reasons? This does not mean that we should stop doing good things. Rather, it means that we ought to do them, but for the right reasons. We should give because it serves God, and glorifies Him. We should be out of the picture.
This principle certainly applies to more than just money. We are able to give of ourselves in many ways. But if we give only to get, we aren’t really giving – according to God. What we are doing is bargaining. And we need beware, lest our giving really be a LIE about what God means to us.
I think it is significant that the very first sin against the Holy Spirit and against the church that is recorded in Acts has to do with the very first corporate move of GIVING. What is God trying to tell us?
Well, for one thing, I think God is saying that our giving MUST reflect the Truth about us, and about our relationship with God. If we are giving to get – whether what we expect to get is money, the favor of men, or anything else – God would say to us, "no thanks." God wants honesty and reality. Give because you WANT to give. Give because you VALUE God, and His people. Give expecting NOTHING in return. God will bless you as it pleases Him. But don’t give to get a blessing. If you do, you are already disqualified for the blessing. God cannot give it to you.
We must stop serving mammon, and begin serving God. If we will get right with God on this fundamental issue, then giving, or not giving, will not be an issue. There will need be no laws to follow, or mandates about it. We will become, "cheerful givers." We will give because we want to. There won’t be any arguments about it.
Financial freedom, as stated earlier, is the result of repenting of serving mammon, and is lived out by serving God. Very simply, financial freedom is captured in the phrase, "Freely you have received, freely give." And if I will do that, I will CONTINUE to freely receive, SO THAT I will freely give. There will be a flow from God, to me, and then THROUGH me. And I will not get in the way because I am freed from those motives that might otherwise get in the way. I will serve God with what He gives me, not mammon.
But what does it really mean, "to serve God." Well, first of all, you cannot, "serve God," in one area but not serve Him in another. That is impossible, because if you are doing that, you are simply picking the best deal. No. To serve God, in the final analysis is really found in Romans 12:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:1-2)
Serving God begins at this altar. But this passage is not talking about salvation. No. It is, you will notice, addressed to, "brethren." These folks are ALREADY saved! Paul is describing a continual attitude and relationship to God in this passage. We LIVE from the altar. Our life is not our own. True service and worship begins THERE.
The trouble with many of us, however, is that we think that simply believing Romans 12:1 is a true teaching is all there is to serving God. In other words, if we agree that we ought to serve God, and sort of agree TO get on this altar, somehow we think that this equals actually doing it. It doesn’t. We have to actually get on the altar and live the life.
So how do we actually live out Romans 12:1? Well, we make the overall commitment to surrender to God, unconditionally. And then God will begin to bring practical circumstances in which we will have the opportunity to live out our surrender. If I present myself as a living sacrifice to God, there is going to come a situation in which I can live that out. Bank on it. This will be a continual pattern in any growing Christian life.
Ok. I must live out my surrender. But HOW do I live it out? Well, first of all, living out surrender to God is not always a matter of just giving into circumstances. Actually, it often requires that I resist circumstances. The trouble is, part of any difficult trial is that I won’t usually know what I ought to do. I won’t always know where God is in the trial, or what I need to do. In fact, NOT KNOWING where God is, or what I need to do is quite often what the trial is all about. God may orchestrate that very uncertainty! The uncertainty is the trial more than the circumstances that frame it.
Now, I want to say this loud and clear – just in passing lest I get off the present subject of God and mammon. But I want to say it because it seems to be something that Christian people need to hear: NOT KNOWING where God is, or what He wants me to do – that atmosphere may absolutely BE OF GOD. Indeed, that atmosphere is usually the very trial itself! The rest of what is happening, out here in circumstances, certainly help create that atmosphere of uncertainly. But the circumstances aren’t the real trial. The real trial is IN ME – is in what is happening between myself and God. The uncertainly is IN ME! We must see this.
So what are we to do in such a condition of uncertainty – and there can be times when it is desperate? Well, often God does NOT want us to do anything, because we are presently unable to do anything. All God wants us to do is to abide IN the uncertainty under the realization that there is NOTHING we can do about it! He wants us to abide in that helpless condition, in faith, on that altar.
Does that seem strange to you? That God would see to it that you came to uncertainty, helplessness, without anything you can do, and even, at times, without even knowing what you ought to do? This is spiritual warfare. It is the trial of faith.
I have found that the one thing we can always do in a situation like that is turn to God and say, "God I have no certainty. I don’t even know if I am in Your will. God, I don’t even know what surrender is right now. I don’t know how to be, or what to do. So I am turning to you just as I am, right now, in my totally uncertainty, so that no matter what the Truth is on this matter, you will be able to do in me whatever is necessary to bring me into your will."
Can we see that this IS the altar of Romans 12:1? We are essentially saying to God that we are unconditionally surrendering to Him. We are telling Him to do whatever is necessary in us to bring us into His will. We are saying, "God, through this trial, make me to be what you want me to be. I hand myself over to you."
This kind of surrender really is nothing more than, "seeking first the kingdom of God." We are saying that we want to come under God’s rule and kingdom. But not merely in the sense of being willing to DO the right thing. Of course, we want to DO the right thing. But more importantly, we want to BE in the right relationship with God. We are telling God to do in us whatever is necessary to for us to BECOME what He wants us to be. Then the doing will flow.
Now, all of this applies directly to the issue of serving God instead of mammon. All of it does. So many Christians have been taught that all you need to do to serve God in this matter of money is discover a list of Bible principles with regards to money and giving, and that if you DO them, well, then you are serving God instead of mammon. And the blessings will flow. Sorry. It doesn’t work that way, and I’m glad. To SERVE GOD instead of mammon, you have to BECOME – you have to enter into a relationship with Him that goes beyond DOING. You have to be. As I stated upfront, this begins by repenting of serving mammon instead of serving God, and it is living out by serving God instead of mammon. It begins there. And now we see how it is lived out. We serve God by handing ourselves over to Him continually.
Godliness and Gain
Financial freedom is the result of relationship. It is the result of seeing the Truth about Jesus Christ, and being internally altered by it to the point where I can walk in it with Him. This is the case with all freedom in any area. It certainly is the case with finances.
Today we are told, on so much of Christian television, that the way to become blessed financially is to give money to ministries – the same ministries that are preaching so much error. We are told that because they are, "anointed of God," that if we, "partner," with them, that we will partake of their anointing and be blessed of God. This is not only utter nonsense, unbiblical, but an abominable teaching. Most of these ministries are NOT anointed of God. And even if they were, the, "imparted anointing," teaching they propose is error.
Let’s look at only a couple of passages on this matter:
Perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that godliness is the means to gain. From such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. (1 Tim 6:5-8)
According to the apostle Paul, if I believe or teach that GODLINESS is a means of financial gain, I have a corrupt mind. That is an incredible indictment. A CORRUPT mind. Read the whole passage through to the end of I Timothy. You will see that MONEY is the context of the teaching. Paul is telling us that anyone who thinks that godliness will result in becoming rich, or we might add, that being rich is a sign or godliness – Paul is telling us that such thinking is evidence that the person’s mind is corrupt. They do not know Jesus Christ or they would not teach such a thing. And I might add, a corrupt mind certainly could not be teaching much else that is of the Holy Spirit. ALL that comes from such a person is going to carry some corruption, one way or another – even if there is some bits of Truth here and there.
Can we see that Paul is telling us that the problem here isn’t merely a wrong interpretation of a Bible verse? No. There isn’t merely a matter of making a mistake. The problem here is a corrupt mind – the problem is the PERSON teaching the error. They are not right with God. They do not have a mind that is renewed by the Holy Spirit. They have a corrupt mind, or else they would not teach such terrible error.
Furthermore, Paul says that this teaching is such a terrible sin – to teach that godliness is a means of gain – that Christians are to WITHDRAW themselves from those who teach it. Get that. We are to WITHDRAW ourselves from them. But sadly, what millions of people are doing in response to such teaching today is NOT to withdraw from such teachers. Instead, they are giving them money and FLOCKING to them. Worse, most of those who teach this terrible error affirm each other. There are very few who are willing to pay the price of breaking rank and calling this whole thing SIN. Those that do are banished and blacklisted. Yet the words of Paul could not be more clear: Men of corrupt mind from whom we are to withdraw ourselves.
The fact that the ministries who teach that if you give to them, it will be financial gain to you, are some of the most prosperous ministries of all, ought to tell us plenty about the state of affairs in the Body of Christ. It tells us what Christians really WANT. It tells us the message that Christians by the millions are responding to today. In the end, we really do get what we pay for. In the end, we have created and become, as a church, exactly what we have chosen. We are funding the message – and affecting millions of lives. Imagine if Christians actually gave to only ministries preaching the Truth, yes, but also to the individuals in our midst who are in real financial need! What a release of grace and Truth and love there would be! May God show us the Truth on these matters.
"But," someone might protest, "I gave to a TV ministry, and God blessed me. This works." No, it doesn’t. Do we realize that even the major cults teach that if you give them money that God will bless you? Do we realize that even these cults line up example after example of people who gave them money and it resulted in financial miracles? I have heard these stories, and I don’t doubt the facts. They gave, and something happened! But was it of God?
You know, I have never on television seen a story told of how a person gave money and got nothing from God. Have you? Have you ever seen one of these segments where someone sat down and, in faith, "planted a seed," and ended up with nothing? Nope. And yet it is a fact that for every supposed miracle, there are thousands of instances where there is no financial miracle. Draw your own conclusions.
Do I believe God blesses giving? Sure. But I don’t believe He blesses us if we continue to give to those preaching error. And I certainly don’t believe He blesses us if we are giving just to get the blessing. And I don’t believe God if God blesses us for giving that He is going to continue doing so unless we allow Him to deal with all of the root issues of serving God instead of mammon. The fact is, GODLINESS – or giving, if you like – is not the means of gain. And you and I had better come to terms with that – if we are supposedly GODLY only because of the GAIN we expect because of it, we are operating out of a corrupt mind. This is fundamental to our Christian walk.
The New Testament Truth on this matter is that Godliness and money have NO RELATIONSHIP to each other. To be Godly does not insure gain, and gain is no sign of Godliness. And until we see this and LIVE it, we will not experience financial freedom. Jesus simply says, "Be Godly in every way, and I will take care of what you need." Why else do we think He would warn us to serve God and not mammon? What else do we think He meant when He said, "Seek you first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added?"
So we see that SERVING GOD has nothing to do with getting materially rich. But let’s look at another passage:
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. (Acts 8:17-23)
Peter told Simon, "Your money perish with thee, because you have thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money." And yet many are teaching today that if you give them money, you will partake of the anointing that is upon their ministry – and it will result in healing, salvation for family members, and great financial prosperity. Peter calls such thinking, "wickedness." He says REPENT.
Godliness is never the means of material gain. It is the RESULT of having received great riches from God, and of having valued them to the point where we live to God’s glory. Godliness means to serve God and not mammon. And if we do that, and seek first God’s rule in and over us, God will see to it that we have what we need, and that we have what He wants us to have.
Are we willing to say to God, "I want only that which You want me to have?" – and then live serving God, leaving that to HIM? This is a big question.
God’s Pattern for Giving
God’s pattern for NT giving is that, "freely you have received, so freely give." We are to give out of our abundance to those who have need. This applies to individual brethren in Christ. And as it pertains to ministry, we are to give where the Truth is being preached. But all of our giving is to be motivated by a reverence and love for God – and to be totally free of any demand that we be paid back.
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. (Luke 6:31-34)
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:38)
The phrase, "same measure," means, "method of calculation." In other words, it is not the AMOUNT of money that is at issue, but the motivation or method by which we come to give. I would suggest that if we FREELY GIVE, that this would mean that God is able to FREELY GIVE to us. Sure, this goes back to what I said before – if we are truly free, and give out of that freedom, then God can trust us with blessing. He is able to freely give to us.
But if we GIVE TO GET, are we prepared for God to GIVE to us only if He GETS from us? This is what it means to be under the law. And it is exactly the mentality of most of those who TITHE. Any time I give to get – whether it be tithing, or just giving to a ministry because I expect a blessing – I have created a LAW that I am under. There is no freedom in that. But only death to the flow of the Spirit of God.
Paul made it so clear as to the NT Truth on giving:
For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. (2 Cor 8:3-9)
Paul could have come down on the Corinthians with a bunch of scriptures on tithing. But instead, note his use of words. He says they first GAVE THEMSELVES to God. Isn’t this what we have been seeing is the CORE of it all? And then he calls their giving, "this grace." Not LAW. But grace. And then, if there was yet any doubt about his teaching, he says clearly, "I speak NOT by commandment."
I have heard some preachers actually try to say that tithing is still required for NT Christians, but that this passage is a separate issue of giving. Read it again. Note the spirit and intent. Note how completely different what Paul is teaching here is from the law many Christians put themselves under. Of course, there is not a SINGLE NT passage which teaching tithing, or which shows that the church after Pentecost in Acts 2 tithed at all, but some continue to teach it. They do not understand the difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant.
Two more pivotal passages:
Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which you have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man has, and not according to that he has not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack. (2 Cor. 8:11-15)
A couple of key points. Paul says that Christians ought to give out of what they have – and NOT out of what they don’t have. This is exactly the opposite of what many on television teach today – that you ought to give out of your need. NO. Paul says you are to give out of your abundance.
Why does Paul teach this? He tells us. He says, "If you give what you cannot afford, then you will then be in need, and someone will have to give to you. Rather, you should give only if you have more than you need. Then those in need will have enough, and you will continue to have enough."
There is a great reverence and a great faith in Paul’s words. He is saying that when you have abundance, God is in charge. When you are in need, God is in charge. And part of WHY you have abundance is so that you might have enough to give to others. And part of WHY you are in need is that you might receive from others. Paul likens all of this to a great fellowship and act of grace between brethren.
Note that he says the goal is EQUALITY. In other words, the goal is NOT that certain ones get rich, and others suffer want. No. The goal is that abundance be given to meet need. This is not to be done under a mandate or a law, but simply as God makes known the need.
Paul ends this passage by saying, "He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack." Can we see God supplying need here? And that Christians are supposed to be involved with each other doing this? Isn’t this exactly what we saw happened in Acts 4 and 5?
Of course, there have always been those in the church who have taken even these teachings on the grace of God and turned them into a law to follow. People form communes and mandate that Christians are to, "have all things in common." But that misses the whole point. There is nothing about this that is mandated under a law. No. It is all out of what Paul calls, "a willing mind." This is a picture of Christians who are eager and ready and willing to GIVE, because they are in a relationship with Christ that results in such an attitude of grace. They are serving God, and not mammon. And this will always result in giving. It will be giving, not out of your need, but out of your abundance.
Any preacher or teacher that tells you that you must give to God out of your need – that you must give what you cannot afford to give, if you, "REALLY want a miracle" – is a person of a corrupt mind. The reality is, if you are in need, THEY OUGHT TO BE GIVING TO YOU. That is what I read from Paul. I read that it is the will of God that those with abundance ought to be giving to those in need, and not the other way around.
But this I say, He which sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He has dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remains for ever. Now he that ministers seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness. (2 Cor 9:5-15)
This passage clearly states that, "God ministers seed to the sower." In other words, you have abundance to give because God has given it to you, and therefore, you are able to give to others. This is the opposite of much teaching today on this matter. Today we are told that we must FIRST give what we don’t have – which would be like sowing seed without having seed! And then we are told God will give us a harvest?
No. The Truth is, God gives to us so that we can give to others. Then, there is harvest – but not of MONEY! Good grief. It is a harvest of ALL GRACE. Read the passage. God DOES promise to bless us if you give – but only as it furthers the measure and life of Christ in us and in others. None of this has anything at all to do with how to get rich, or how to get God to prosper you with money.
I said this before – if I desire to be rich, and give money simply to GET rich – do I really believe God is going to bless me by making me rich? If you believe that, you are deceived. But once I realize that God looks at my heart and motives for giving, and looks at my overall relationship with Him, I ought to realize that this whole issue of giving is taken out of the realm of LAW, and out of the realm of, "if I do this, God will do that." Sure. I will realize that I must first get right with God – come to serve God and not mammon, even with my giving. And then God will be free to bless me, or not bless me, as it suits His purpose in my life. Why can’t we see that?
It is a sad testimony, but the truth is, too many Christians give only to get. Or out of duty or under a law. That’s really true. If you tell them that they ought to give because they value the Truth, or because there is a great financial need, many will not give – because you have taken away the incentive for giving, that incentive being a reward. This should not be so, and it is the whole reason for Paul’s writing as he did to the Corinthians. He is saying to us, "Your entire life ought to be governed by the grace and love of God. Thus, your giving ought to be governed by that. Give out of your abundance as God has given you out of His abundance. Give with the same measure – method of calculation – as God gives. And if you do, there will be a release of the Holy Spirit because you are operating in Him." In short, God wants giving to be REAL. He wants us to BE – BE – BE – cheerful givers.
God has not divided up the Christian life. He does say, "You are not under law, but under grace, EXCEPT with regards to money." God does not give us all things freely in Christ, and then turn around and say, "But here are a bunch of laws you must live under when it comes to money." No. ALL if of grace. ALL.
Notice how grace operates. First, you RECEIVE. Then, if you truly value what you have received, it will result in a relationship between yourself and God that will set you free. You have freely received, and now the result will be that you will want to freely give. You will WANT to. It is just that way. And so, out of any abundance you have, you will give – you will give of the spiritual things you have received, and you will also give out of the MATERIAL things you have received. You will give AS YOU HAVE RECEIVED – free of charge, without any demand of a reward for giving. But – and this is vital to see – the result will be that YOU, yourself, the giver, will be growing in grace. And that will mean that there will be MORE ROOM in you to receive, and then to give, and then to receive.
In short, God wants us to become so right with Him on these matters, that He can trust us with MORE. He wants us to become channels of His giving to others through us. Not just of material things, but of everything. But this is NEVER accomplished by artificially and mechanically getting under some law whereby IF I give, God will give to me. No...no…no. This is a terrible teaching. Rather, it is accomplished by the OPPOSITE. If I will freely give, without any expectation or demand of a, "piece of the action," then God can trust me with more. And guess what? I will share in that. But I will also give all the more.
I stated it earlier, and I repeat it here. It is a principle which we can draw by paraphrasing a saying of Jesus: "He that loses his reward for My sake will find it." In other words, surrender yourself to God by faith – become a vessel of His grace – and if you do, then you will end up with all that you need. This cannot be accomplished by LAW. It is the result only of a relationship between yourself and God through His grace.
Financial freedom, as stated earlier, is the result of repenting of serving mammon, and is lived out by serving God. Very simply, financial freedom is captured in the phrase, "Freely you have received, freely give." And if I will do that, I will CONTINUE to freely receive, SO THAT I will freely give. There will be a flow from God, to me, and then THROUGH me. And I will not get in the way because I am freed from those motives that might otherwise get in the way. I will serve God with what He gives me, not mammon.
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