Monday, December 1, 2008

Imitating Christ in Our Use of Wealth


1) Heidelberg Catechism

The Eighth Commandment

You shall not steal.

111 Q. What does God require of you in this commandment?

A. That I do whatever I can for my neighbor's good, that I treat others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.

2) Scripture

2 Corinthians 8:3-5, 9a: For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. . . . For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”


So far in our look at the eighth commandment, we have focused on our attitude toward the Lord. Because money and possessions can so easily become idols in our hearts, it has been important to focus on our relationship with the Lord before we focus on our relationship to others. This is always the order of true biblical ethics: theology then ethics, faith in Christ producing love for others, love for God overflowing into love for neighbor.

Jesus is given to us as Savior before he is given to us as example. The Father must accept our persons through justification, before he can accept the deeds of our sanctification. But true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will lead to good deeds, and possessing Jesus as our Savior means that he is also our example.

When we look to Jesus as our example, we are struck by how different his attitude toward wealth is compared to the world. David Broughton Knox writes:

“Many people become poor because of circumstances beyond their control, but Jesus became poor by the deliberate decision of his will. This is the exact opposite of our normal human will. The whole of our society directs its will to becoming rich and richer, and richest if possible. God did not make us for this but rather to serve one another (italics mine).”

Jesus is our example and he became poor for our sake. Though he was the eternal Son of God, he took on our human nature and served us. In so doing, he set the pattern for the lives of his people. We were created, and recreated in Christ, to use our possessions and abilities to serve others. The person whose goal is to make money, does not yet understand life as the triune God created it. We were created to serve others in our relationships with them.

The catechism and Scriptures are agreed on this point that our goal in every human relationship ought to be service. As Broughton Knox puts it:

“The money under our control, or the property which we own, is simply that part of God’s creation which we have responsibility for using. And we must use it in accordance with the character of God, its Creator. Our using it will bring us into contact with people. This means that we must serve them in our using it, for serving other people is the true motive for actions in our relationships with other people.”

Discussion: Why is the topic of idolatry relevant to the eighth commandment? What principle should guide our use of money and possessions?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for his many good gifts to you. Ask him for a heart that delights in using money and possessions to serve others, that we may be generous as He is generous.

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