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 (Manna 60: Money)
Finding Perspective in Difficult Times
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Finding Perspective in Difficult Times

Audrey Chan—Leicester, UK

The past couple of years have presented those of us living in the UK with one financial challenge after another. First, we faced rising interest rates, then soaring petrol prices, followed by inflated household bills. Now, we find ourselves in the midst of a recession. The latter has hit the country particularly hard, with many businesses struggling for survival and others going bankrupt.

The outcome for many people is an uncertain future. The picture seems to be very much the same in other industrialized countries, and I suspect few of us will escape untouched.

Nevertheless, as Christians, we can reflect on some important teachings from the Bible, which offer us some much needed perspective in these difficult times.

Confidence in God’s Providential Care

The Bible reminds us that our heavenly Father knows our needs:

            “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Mt 6:26, 27)

God lovingly takes care of the smallest living creatures and shows even greater care for us, His children. But this is a truth we can sometimes forget, especially when difficult times arrive. On the one hand, we know the Bible’s teachings about God’s providential care; but on the other, we have the reality of household bills dropping through our letterbox each month. It takes a strong person not to worry.

The Bible encourages us with these words:

            Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6, 7)

Christians are not exempt from the trials of life. But what distinguishes us from those who do not believe is that we have a heavenly Father, the almighty God, whom we can turn to.

The Lord Jesus has given us the Lord’s Prayer through which He teaches us to pray, saying, “Our Father in heaven…Give us this day our daily bread” (Mt 6:9, 11). These simple words are all we need to ask God to supply our daily needs. Importantly, they act as a constant reminder that He is our ultimate provider—the One who gives us life, health, gracious opportunities, and everything we have. 

When I think of God’s providential care, I reflect especially on the early years of my married life. My husband and I bought our first home when the housing market was at its peak. The result was that the mortgage and other bills stretched our incomes to the limit. Yet, we felt immensely blessed because we had enough to live on and life was stable.

When we moved some years later, we lost a substantial amount due to tumbling house prices. By God’s grace it did not worry us very much. However, things got more challenging when I could not find new work and had to receive unemployment benefits for about a year.

I prayed to God as I searched for work, and He finally helped me find the perfect job, one that seemed almost tailor-made for me. He also provided us with an affordable new home. From then on, we were back on track to supporting our young family.

I am sure we all have our own stories to tell. When we count our blessings, we realize that God has always been with us through the inevitable ups and downs of life. It is just far clearer in hindsight. Knowing this, we should look ahead with faith and be confident that He will continue to care for us. We should never doubt or be disheartened, because we are His children and He holds our lives dear to His heart. 

            “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (Jn 14:27)       

Keeping Life Simple

I remember a minister once humorously pointing out that Christians sometimes want the best of both worlds: the luxurious life of Solomon and the reward of Paul. The fact is, there can be real tension between our aspirations for this life and our spiritual faith. Hence, Jesus tells us:      

            “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mt 6:24)

The problem is not wealth itself, but our hearts. The Bible says:

            But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim 6:9, 10)

The moral is that when money and material things become our passion, our raison d’être, our faith will inevitably suffer. Therefore, it is with good reason that the Bible teaches us to aspire to a simple life.

Moreover, as we cannot take our wealth with us when we leave this world, we will do well not to make material wealth our focus. The apostle Paul advises:

            Now 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 clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Tim 6:6-8)

Many of us have more than the basic food and clothing that Paul is talking about. It is likely that we have very comfortable lives indeed: food in abundance, fine homes, closets full of clothes, and all manner of technology for an easy life—even during these hard times.

Therefore, there is ample reason for us to be content and not to crave for more. Paul describes contentment as “great gain,” undoubtedly because it brings immense benefits. It means that we live within our means and do away with the pressure of toiling extra hours and years for things we do not really need: perhaps a bigger house, a better car, more up-to-date gadgets, the latest fashion items, and so forth.

Hence, the writer of Hebrews exhorts us, saying:

            Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5)

The other reason for contentment being “great gain” is that it gives us the right conditions for nurturing our relationship with God and for serving Him. As human beings, we have finite amounts of time and energy. When we stop striving after material things, we will have more to dedicate to God for advancing church ministries, for taking care of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and for our families.

Having said this, there is nothing wrong with being rich per se. In fact, God is the one who can choose to bless us with wealth. But when He does, we can be confident that there will be no accompanying angst:

            The blessing of the Lord makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it. (Prov 10:22)

However, we should remember that whatever the extent of our earthly riches, it is only for this lifetime, and we will do well to set our minds on the eternal things above (Col 3:1, 2).

Storing Up Treasures in Heaven

Difficult financial times remind us of the fragility of wealth:

            “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.” (Mt 6:19-22)

Thinking of the situation today, we see the truth of this teaching all too clearly. The modern equivalent of moths and rust are the adverse market conditions that have decimated some people’s hard-earned assets. Life is unpredictable, so we should not overly depend on our earthly riches.  

When Job lost all that he had in one calamitous day, he reflected in the following manner:

            “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

His words remind us that we came into the world empty-handed, but God has graciously provided us with all the things we need for this life. In some cases, He has also chosen to bless us with wealth.

However, just as God can give, so He can also take away—we live under His grace. On our own, we can do nothing. Knowing this helps us to put things in perspective and not to place too much importance on wealth.

What we have is given to us and is temporary. Therefore, we should make use of what we have in a manner that is pleasing to Him. Moreover, when we do, we can be sure that it will bring everlasting dividends.

The apostle Paul teaches:

            Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Tim 6:17-19)

He exhorts the rich amongst us to do good, to give, and to share. Such good works constitute our faith in action when we apply the Lord’s commandment to love God and to love man (Mt 22:36-40).

It may entail us giving financial support to the church, donating to charitable causes, practicing hospitality, or giving aid to our brothers and sisters in Christ (Gal 6:10). Jesus likens such acts to storing up treasures in heaven, meaning that God will keep an account of what we do. The outcome will be eternal life and a glorious reward (Rev 20:12, 22:12; 1 Cor 4:5).

However, good works should not be confined to the rich. In fact, the Bible teaches us about the generosity of those who had very little: the widow of Zarephath, who sacrificed her last meal (1 Kgs 17:8-16); the boy who offered up five barley loaves and two small fish (Jn 6:9); the poor widow who contributed two mites (Mk 12:41-44); the impoverished Macedonian churches that rallied to the aid of their fellow brethren (2 Cor 8:1-5).

Their noble examples touch not only us, but surely touch our heavenly Father who sees into the heart (1 Sam 16:7). 

Lastly, the Bible tells us of a wonderful blessing associated with giving that we can expect in this lifetime. The apostle Paul says:

            And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written:

            “He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness remains forever.” (2 Cor 9:8, 9)

Doing good enables us to experience a miracle: God has the power to ensure that we have “an abundance” for future good works. However, this blessing is only for those who give willingly and in faith. Should we choose to hold on tightly to what we have for ourselves, we will not see this grace.

            But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Cor 9:6)

Living in this world, we will encounter difficult financial times. But, for Christians, they are merely reminders to avoid trusting in uncertain riches. Rather, we should rely on our heavenly Father, who is the provider of all our needs.

We should also aspire to live simple lives and to have the spiritual foresight to use what we possess in this lifetime for good works, thereby laying up everlasting treasures in heaven.  


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Author: Audrey Chan