Today’s devotion comes from another friend within our connection. Our devotion comes from Jonathan Powers, who is the director of student involvement for the World Gospel Mission at Asbury University in Wilmore. Powers is also a key leader with the Offerings Community at First UMC in Lexington. The devotion comes from Luke 16:10-12.
He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s who will give you that which is your own? (NASB)
There is a certain segment of Christianity that promotes a teaching known as the “prosperity gospel.” The prosperity gospel promotes the mindset that true trust and faith in God amounts in physical, tangible rewards. Thus, the opposite is also true – if things are going poorly in life, then somehow God has been displeased and is punishing as repayment.
There are times when I have heard Luke 16:10-12 used as a basis for prosperity thinking. The logic goes: “If I am faithful to God with the little he has given me, then I just need to wait and he will heap even greater blessings upon me!” And so we wait to see if God will grant us the desires of our hearts. This mindset is quite troubling to me, because I find in the history of the church that many of most faithful Christians found persecution and death in this life because of their faithfulness, not wealth and comfort.
It is important to recognize that the original word used for “wealth” in this passage is actually the word “mammon.” Wealth may not be the best translation for mammon because the word mammon is meant to convey the idea of wealth as a personified object of worship. Mammon shapes desire and motivation – even in our religious lives, as evidenced in prosperity thinking. Luke 16:10-12 instead points to a deep reality of Christian character – Christians are to be a completely transformed people, those who live in righteousness and integrity. And one of the best ways we can show ourselves to be of such upstanding character is with our use of money.
Money is a great stressor in our lives as well as a great motivator. Thus, proper stewardship of money is a way of showing great faithfulness. Being faithful in little ways (not cheating on taxes, not stealing from the office, being careful with spending habits, etc.) establishes a character that is quite a contrast to many in the world. Furthermore, as we learn in small ways to hold our desires for wealth at bay, we find that we are able to become people of great generosity. And I believe that it is in such generosity that we discover the true riches of God’s Kingdom (for further study, see Luke 19:1-9, Matthew 25:31-46).
How is it that God is calling you to faithfulness through stewardship of your wealth? Is there a way you have cheated or been unfaithful with your finances? What might he be asking you to give up so that your money can better reflect Christian character? Where might he be calling you to give? Pray and ask him to reveal those places where wealth has become an area of worship. Ask him to purify the desire for wealth from your heart and help you discover the riches of his Kingdom.