Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “ I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “ The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Hebrews 13:5-6 (NET)
Money is indeed a strange thing. We just can’t live without it. It almost chases after us. No matter how much I try to detach myself from being mindful of money, it always comes back.
I often take a disengaged view of money – I use it, but it is not of me; I control it, it doesn’t control me. Money is my tool, to be used to do my bidding, to carry out my intentions. I generally don’t budget too tightly so that I don’t feel like im being strangled by my finances. But sometimes the table flips, particularly when I have the intention but not the money. When my money refuses to do my bidding. When I see something nice that I can’t afford; when I want to bless someone but can’t afford it. I get the other side of the coin, and find myself on the tail end. Lack is a hard thing to swallow. Living in lack is like having my hands tied behind my back all the time. In Hebrews, Paul gives us to key to dealing with lack.
The Messianic Jews (Christian Jews) were being persecuted by the Jews and many of them were thinking of giving up and returning to Judaism. The environment for a Messianic Jew was extremely hostile. The Messianic Jews also had an urgency about the second-coming. They imagined Christ second-coming to be soon and after a few years of waiting, some of them got disappointed that it hasn’t happened. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews warns them not to commit apostasy and encourage them to keep faithful to Christ. He persuades them by pointing out the benefits of Christ over the Law, the yearly sacrifices and religious rituals. He mentions the faithful people of the Old Testament who waited their whole lives to see their reward and persevered in their faith through persecution and even unto death.
However, there are other practical issues to deal with as well – money. Some of them who believed had their property seized from them, others were put in prison (Hebrews 10:32-34). They were broken and discouraged, they were more well off before they accepted Christ. Some of them have yet to recover financially from accepting Christ; years after some heavy persecution, they were still living in lack.
This is when Paul tells them to be free from the love of money and to be content with what they have. These two things seem to come together like strawberries and cream. That is exactly what I need to live with lack. Are they trivial words for a real problem? Absolutely not. His words have a real backing. That backing is the key to living with and without money. That backing is in the promises of God. He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). That promise was to Joshua when he faced enemies that were enormous and walls that were too high to climb and that promise is to us now when the odds are against us, when our books are in the red.
“God is my helper; I will not be afraid”, Paul tells us to confess this truth with full confidence because we have already received that God has promised. He is with us. He holds us. He will come through for us. Our testimony will become one of God’s providence and goodness. God’s sovereignty trumps anything that man can do to us. Notice that he appeals not to the hip pocket, but to the heart and mind – “I will not be afraid”. God’s providence can come in financial providence, but lets not limit God to a sugar daddy or generous heavenly banker, He is so much more! His providence also comes in encouraging us through hard times, strengthening us to persevere and empowering us to be satisfied with what we already have. That is where my freedom from the love of money and contentment comes from.
Paul’s personal experience with money and his personal outlook of finances is a constant encouragement that whether I have little or much, it all comes from God and He supplies all I need. Because of that, I can rejoice in my little and in my much, and be satisfied with His provision. His lack or plenty wasn’t a limitation, it was an empowerment to do things through God’s strength.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:11-13 (NET)