The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
 
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FINANCIAL FITNESS 101: FOCUSED ON HUMANITY

      A prominent, well-to-do church member was called on by his pastor to lead in prayer. The man was eloquent in speech and he petitioned God with much verbosity while expressing concern for people and needs both locally and around the world. After he said “Amen,” the gentleman’s 9-year-old whispered in his ear, “Dad, with your money you could solve most of the problems for which you just prayed.”     
      When one’s perspective on money and material possessions is Founded on the Heavenly and Framed with Humility, then financial fitness entails deploying these resources in a God-honoring manner for God’s purposes. Numerous scriptures underscore and affirm that God’s purpose includes being Focused on Humanity.
      We are instructed to “do what is good and to be rich in good works.” As he presented the parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21), Jesus cautioned his listeners with “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions” (v. 15). Jesus then proceeded to offer the parable of the rich fool who experienced a tremendous harvest of crops and determined to tear down his existing barns and to build newer, larger barns in which to store his bounty. Because of the surplus, the rich fool decided to relax and to enjoy himself. This attitude was not pleasing to God who said to the man, “You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared –whose will they be?” Jesus concluded the parable with “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (v. 21).     
      Being rich toward God means to focus on the things important to God. The greatest commandment is to “Love God with everything” and a second is like unto it “Love your neighbor as yourself.” People are important to God and, in particular, people who are in need are important to God.
      The parable of a Rich Man and Lazarus is recorded in Luke 16:19-31. The rich man wore the most lavish clothes and ate the finest food. In contrast, “a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was lying at his (rich man’s) gate” longing “to be filled with what fell from the rich man’s table but instead the dogs would come and lick his sores” (vv. 19-21). When both died, Lazarus was blessed in eternity and the rich man was not. To the rich man, Abraham declared “remember that during your life you received good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here while you are in agony” (v. 25).     
      Although the rich man did not seek to hurt Lazarus directly or intentionally while both men were living, he also did not take any direct or intentional action to help Lazarus even though Lazarus was nearby (lay at the rich man’s gate daily) and needy (covered with sores and hungry). In his request to Abraham to “Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in torment (agony) in this flame” (v. 24), the rich man displayed his attitude toward Lazarus inasmuch as his appeal was not directed toward Lazarus but he wanted his needs addressed by Lazarus.  In other words, Lazarus was viewed as inferior to the rich man and useful only to do the bidding of the rich man. Had the rich man known and loved God, his attitude toward others would have been much different. His focus was inward (on self) rather than outward (on others).
      A picture of the final judgment is presented in Matthew 25:31-45 when Jesus returns in “his glory with all the angels with him…he will separate all the nations one from another just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” and he “will say to those on his right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (vv. 31-34). Jesus continued by explaining how he was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, without clothing, sick and in prison and received compassionate care. When questioned, Jesus replied “Whatsoever you have done unto the least of these my brothers, you have done also unto me.” To those on the left who did not respond to the needs of others in a caring compassionate manner, Jesus will say “Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v. 41). When questioned, Jesus likewise responded “I tell you, whatsoever you did NOT do unto the least of these my brothers, you did not do for me” (v. 45). Jesus explicitly presented the reality that when we help those in need, when we use the resources entrusted to us to provide a blessing to others, we are serving him also. People are important to God.      
      While we are to be mindful of the needs of everyone around us, to deploy resources in a benevolent manner for the benefit and betterment of anyone and everyone in need, the focus is on fellow Christians – brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said, “the least of these my brothers” while Paul (as he instructed Timothy in responsibilities toward believers) offered “But if anyone does not take care of his relatives, especially members of his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”  (1 Tim. 5:8). Jesus affirmed that caring not for the pressing needs of those in our spiritual family calls into question our supposed relationship with that family. Thus, the manner in which we treat other Christians in need demonstrates who we are and our deeds offer a testimony to that truth on Judgment Day.
      What you and I do with the resources entrusted to us by God is important to God. Recall the parable of the talents in which two servants performed admirably and one did not. To those who had done well, the master declared “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in your master’s happiness.” To the one who did not steward well the assets entrusted to him, however, the master said, “you evil, lazy servant!…throw this good-for-nothing servant into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25).      
      Financial fitness involves using your time, talent, and treasure in a manner pleasing to God. When you Focus on Humanity, you will be well on your way to achieving financial fitness as you store up treasures in heaven by providing for those in need.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, may my attitude toward others be evident through my efforts to assist those in need. May I deploy time, talent, and treasure in a God-honoring manner for the benefit and betterment of humanity. May everything I say and do be for Your glory. Amen.                                                                                                                         

           Daniel