I think that our reaction to a lot of sermons about “doing good with our resources” is that we believe we don’t have enough to spare. Our internal thoughts might go something like, “If I give my money to help with this ministry, I won’t have enough for that thing that I want (or to pay the heating bill for this month).”, or “If I sign up to serve in that ministry, I won’t have time to enjoy my favorite activity (or work enough hours to make ends meet).”
In reality, being good stewards of our wealth, time, abilities, and opportunities isn’t about just using the “extra” that we have left over, but rather investing everything that we have as God directs us. After all, He can provide all that we need, even when our account seems to be short. However, this isn’t an article about giving sacrificially (despite that being a good subject to study some other time).
Consider this proverb:
Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the best part of everything you produce.
Proverbs 3:9 NLT
Here, we can imagine someone who is rich: not just “upper middle class”, but some sort of CEO or sports player who makes more in a single day than we do in a full paycheck (or even a full year’s pay). When these super-rich people generously share their wealth with those in need, I appreciate that they do so. For those who make financial gifts to churches and other faith-based organizations, I think that’s a far better investment than just buying another house, boat, or car.
Similarly, we may think about farmers, who toil to get food from the ground. They are up early and out late. Their hands are calloused and scarred from manual labor (even those who also drive air-conditioned combines), and every bushel of food that they gather comes at a cost. Still, even the hardest-working farmer (which is almost redundant) can only do so much. The ground must accept the seed, and the rain and sun must come at the right times for plants to grow, while frost and insects must stay away long enough to bring in the harvest. The farmer who shares from his crops (and not just that extra zucchini that people grow in their backyards and have to give away) is a grateful one, appreciating that God worked with their hard work in order to produce produce (pun intended).
However, even if you’re not wealthy or a farmer, your life should produce results of some kind. If you’re a teacher (whether formally or informally), you can produce knowledge and the opportunity to change lives. If you’re a businessperson, you can provide income for others who work with you, and products or services for those who need it. If you work in retail or food service, you provide goods that people need (or want). If you’re a relative, you can produce the stability of a family relationship. If you’re a friend, you can produce accountability and encouragement.
There is no healthy follower of Jesus whose life produces nothing. The voices who tell us that what we do (for God’s kingdom, in His will) isn’t significant, well, those are not from God. However, to see what we are producing – so that we can honor God with it, as the proverb above reminds us – we must look at our lives from God’s perspective, and not by comparing ourselves with others. (Remember, someone loses whenever we make a comparison.)
The Bible talks about what we produce as “fruit”. Not pineapples or kiwis, but a different kind of results. In fact, even those who live for themselves produce fruit – just not very good fruit – as described in Galatians 5:19-21. So, those who are doing their best to follow Jesus certainly can’t say that they don’t produce anything to honor God with.
So, even if we’ve heard and/or read the following passage before, let’s read it again, in light of honoring God with the fruit that we produce:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
You might not be contributing money or food to the kingdom of God, but if you are following Jesus, you are producing something. Honor God with that, rather than waiting for your work to produce anything different.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.