The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
 
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FINANCIAL FITNESS 101: FORGED IN HOSPITALITY

      Recalling that financial fitness is Founded on the Heavenly, Framed with Humility, and Focused on Humanity leads to a further truth presented in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (and elsewhere), namely, that financial fitness is Forged with Hospitality.  I use the word “Hospitality” for two reasons. First, the word begins with an “H” and ends with a “Y” so my outline stays intact. Second, and more importantly, “Hospitality” is a synonym for both “generosity” and “kindness.” Thus, Christians are “to be rich in good works, to be generous and willing to share” (v.18).        
      You may recall the account of the lame man healed at the temple gate through Peter and John as recorded in Acts 3 & 4. If so, you may also recall that following the healing of this man (who had been lame for 40 years) Peter and John appeared before the Sanhedrin/Jewish religious leaders who were none-to-pleased with what had occurred. In response to challenges by the Council, Peter replied “Rulers and elders of the people, If we are being called into account today for an act of kindness/goodness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel, it is by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead – that his man stands before you healed. He is the stone you builders rejected which has become the capstone/cornerstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:8-12).
      The same word translated “Kindness/goodness” in verse 9 is the same word used later in Acts 10:38 which indicates that “Jesus went about doing good.” Peter and John were simply doing what they had witnessed Jesus do while serving alongside of him during his earthly ministry. They saw a need and responded with kindness, compassion, generosity, and hospitality. You and I are to respond in similar fashion. Why? Because doing so emulates Jesus. Why? Because we are to have the same attitude as that of Jesus who, though he was equal to God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but took on the very form of a servant” (Philippians 2).     
      Financial fitness is a continuous journey both in the present and in the future. The word “forge” may be employed in terms of shaping or molding something, to create or construct something such as a new relationship, and to imitate something. Hospitality and generosity can be forged over time as a person grows as a disciple of Jesus Christ, learning from and following him, being shaped or molded in a relationship in such a way as to imitate him, his heavenly, humble, and hospitable focus.
      Writing to Christians in Corinth, Paul focused attention on the churches of Macedonia with “During a severe trial brought about by affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. I can testify that according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints, and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us by God’s will” (2 Cor. 8:2-5). Do you see how financial fitness comes full circle in these verses as “they gave themselves first to the Lord” (financial fitness founded on the heavenly) and how the churches provided for Paul’s ministry generously “according to their ability and even beyond their ability” (forged in hospitality)?     
      Generosity begats generosity. When a person lives with an attitude and practice of hospitality (or generosity), they enter into what might be termed the “divine economy of things.” Even though many people may feel that they cannot afford to be generous, in God’s economy, you and I cannot afford to be stingy. Why? Because God desires to bless (Malachi 3).
      Jim Fixx is credited with helping to jumpstart America’s fitness enthusiasm by popularizing the sport of running which heralded the health benefits of running and exercise. He wrote the best-selling book entitled “The Complete Book of Running.” Mr. Fixx began running at age 35 losing 70 lbs. and stopping his 2-pack/day cigarette habit along the way. He was held out as the guru for and model of fitness.     
      Unfortunately, Mr. Fixx died at the age of 52 from a heart attack. Apparently, though he ran 80+ miles per week, Fixx regularly consumed fast food, junk food, and great quantities of sugar. The autopsy performed following his death revealed significant blockage in the 3 main arteries leading to the heart and blockage in several other arteries. He had experienced at least 3 heart attacks in the week prior to the attack that claimed his life. Seemingly, Jim Fixx took exercise seriously but he did not align his diet with his commitment to exercise. Thus, while he appeared to be physically fit on the outside, the inside of his body told a different story.

      Similar to the contrast between Jim Fixx’s external appearance physically and his physical reality on the inside, some people may appear to be generous on the outside (those described by Jesus as putting large sums of money into the temple treasury) when others truly have a generous heart such as the widow who gave “out of her poverty…all she had to live on.” Recognizing that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7), generous people approach life with a heart attitude that is founded on the heavenly, framed with humility, focused on humanity, and forged in hospitality including the area of finances.

Dear Heavenly Father, May every area of my life be forged with hospitality. May my heart reflect your presence and may others see You in me. Amen.                                                                                                      

          Daniel