In God We Trust?

by Gary Gibbs

An Amazing Fact: There are more than 376 million Visas and MasterCards in circulation. This is up 80 percent from a few years ago when the average family had only two credit cards and $2,340 in outstanding balances. Today they have an average of four cards and owe nearly $4,880. Altogether, American consumers have racked up $480 billion dollars in debt with these little two- by three-inch pieces of plastic, and that figure grows at a 13 percent annual rate.

We are a nation drowning in red ink. Plans for the large government budget surplus seem to be the focus of recent political attention, but soaring consumer debt is seldom discussed. Within the past few years it has increased 39 percent and now exceeds $1 trillion. "When you carry this much debt it's scary," says consumer spending expert Madelyn Hochstein in a recent newspaper article, "Black-hole Borrowing, Consumer Debt Surging; Nation's Economy at Risk." The article goes on to warn that, "This could be a time bomb for the U.S. economy and its banks."

Just how much is a trillion dollars? Well, one million dollars in $1,000 bills would make a stack eight inches high. One billion dollars in $1,000 bills would stack 115 feet higher than the Washington Monument, which itself is 555 feet tall. One trillion dollars in $1,000 bills would stretch 126 miles into outer space. If a person stood over a big hole in the ground and dropped in a million dollars every day, it would take 3,000 years to throw a trillion dollars away.

Money in Bible Prophecy
God's Word peers into the financial future and predicts that a catastrophe is coming. "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days" (James 5:1-3, emphasis added).

This prophecy is being fulfilled right now as people amass great fortunes in these last days. Most expect their treasures to bring them laughter and mirth. But when the stock market crashes and banks empty, a howl of terror will erupt that will be heard from Wall Street to Hong Kong. "And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more" (Revelation 18:11).

Money is mentioned in Bible prophecy because the devil uses it as a kingpin in his last-day strategy to deceive and destroy. He has arranged circumstances so that he can control people's worship of the almighty God by their devotion to the almighty dollar. "And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Revelation 13:16, 17, emphasis added).

The Devil's Trap
Can you see how the devil has set his slick trap? He lures people into debt and destabilizes countries with borrowed spending. Then he pulls the economic rug out from under their feet and causes the whole world to tumble into chaos. At this vulnerable point the world's hungry and confused masses will be receptive to any solution which promises stability. History tells us that every despot and dictator from Napoleon to Hitler has stepped into power on the heels of an economic disaster. The people seek and find a strong leader, then allow commerce to be controlled and worship dictated.

God warns us about what is coming so that we can be prepared to circumvent Satan's traps. "A prudent man forseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished" (Proverbs 27:12).

Once, while away from home, I spent a night with friends. They graciously allowed me to sleep on a sofa in their kitchen. The sheets were crisp white and the pillow was fluffy and soft. As I was crawling into bed, my friend said, "By the way, if you hear a noise during the night, don't worry about it. It is just the rat."

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"Yeah, we have this rat that has gotten into our house and we can't catch him. He usually comes out at night and goes into the kitchen looking for food," answered my host, casually.

Suddenly the pillows and sheets didn't seem as inviting as before. I still wasn't convinced that I had understood him correctly, so I inquired, "You mean a mouse?"

"No, this is a rat," he said. "We've tried to catch him. We even set out a rat trap once and he sprung it and just carried it off."

Obviously, this was a smart rat. He foresaw the evils of the trap and hid himself. If a rodent is able to outwit his opponent, we who are made in the image of God and who have the privilege of reading the Bible should have no problem avoiding Satan's traps.

By following two biblical principles we can be assured that we will never have to worry about the coming economic collapse.

You Can't Serve Two Gods
"No man can serve two masters: ... Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24). There is a law of physics that says two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time. This is true in the spiritual realm, too. There is room enough for only one god in our lives. Whatever we serve will eventually shape our character and determine our destiny.

Satan knows we can't serve God and mammon. That's why he stealthily lays traps to get us where we sacrifice our faith on the altar of greed and covetousness. We spend our best energies, talents, and resources for temporal prosperity while mortgaging eternal security.

The story of a man who once met Jesus illustrates the impossibility of simultaneously serving God and mammon. "And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

"And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

"Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:17-23).

The man's focus was on his "great possessions," when it should have been on his great God. Earthly treasures blocked his view of the heavenly riches that come with following Jesus. Without even realizing it, he had made money his god. He was sincere, but he wanted to write his own rules and keep two gods in his life. Then, at the crossroads of life, he chose the broad path that could accommodate all his possessions.

The narrow path had a cross. What this foolish man didn't recognize is that at the end of this path there awaits a pearly white mansion and a golden crown. There are streets of gold and eternal day. Health without disease. Life rather than death. Bliss unmingled with sorrow.

I once met a man like this rich young ruler. As we talked he told me, "I don't serve God. I serve money." Even though he had grown up in a Christian church, he consciously chose money to be his master. He was intelligent by the world's standards, held several degrees, and was working on becoming a lawyer. But he was missing the wisdom of the ages. He didn't understand the first principle of economic security-make God number one in your life. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26).

We Will Follow Our God
In the end, you go where your god goes and where your heart has been. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). If money is your god and your heart is set on earthly things, then when Jesus returns, you will go to the moles and bats with your idols. "And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats" (Isaiah 2:19, 20).

When Jesus returns every material thing will be consumed into ashes. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10).

If these are the things we've lived for, then we will suffer the same fate. However, if Jesus is our God and we've lived to serve and glorify Him, then we will go to where He goes. "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:1-3).

God Owns Everything
The second principle we need to understand is that God owns everything and Satan tries to steal it from Him. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Psalms 24:1).

"For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof" (Psalms 50:10-12).

"The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:8).

Satan steals the Lord's money by getting Christians to withhold their tithes and offerings. "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 3:8-11).

God doesn't have a wallet or pockets. The only pockets He has in which to keep His money are ours. He gives us the bounties of the earth and lets us hold them for Him. Then when He needs something for His work, He calls upon us to reach into our pockets and pull out whatever He needs.

But there are people who are not faithful with this trust. A survey of 6,000 families who attended church at least three times per month showed that only 34 percent tithed at least 10 percent of their income, 40 percent gave three percent or less, and 26 percent gave virtually nothing.

Thieves in Church
God wasn't overstating matters when He said there were thieves in the church. This is very serious business. Do you remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira? They promised to donate the proceeds from the sale of their house to God, but they reneged on it. The apostle Peter, moved by the Holy Spirit, rebuked the hypocrisy of this couple. "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? ... thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" (Acts 5:3, 4). Then they dropped dead!

We can't lie and steal from God and get away with it. Even if it seems like we aren't detected, there is a day coming when God will balance the accounts. A curse is upon those who try to steal from God. "Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation" (Malachi 3:9).

Church members are allowing Satan to use their hands to snatch sacred money, while their lips sing God's praises. They are like the fellow who had an encounter with the devil. A man was on his way to a costume party dressed like the common caricature of the devil: a slick red body suit, long barbed tail, horns on his head, pitchfork in his hand, red paint on his face, and dark eye shadow around his eyes.

The costume party was downtown, so he parked his car in a public lot and then walked. As he strode down the street, it began to rain. Not just a sprinkle or two, but a driving rain punctuated by flashing lightning and claps of thunder. The man in the devil suit ran into the nearest building to escape the deluge.

The building he escaped into was a church full of worshipers listening to a sermon. Startled, the members turned their heads to see who had thrown the door open so forcefully. Just then a loud clap of thunder shook the church and a bright bolt of lightning silouetted the stranger in the doorway. There stood the man, his horns, barbed tail, and pitchfork standing out in stark relief.

A lady began to scream. Then another one cried out in terror, "It's the devil!" In an instant, people began hopping over pews and racing for the doors.

The costumed man had no idea what had happened. He was so startled when everyone started screaming and running that he began to run, too. He didn't know which way to go, so he picked the nearest person and followed him as fast as he could.

This poor church member sprinted as fast as his legs would carry him, but every time he glanced over his shoulder he saw the devil hot on his heels. So he ran all the faster. He dodged this way and that. No matter what he did, he couldn't lose the devil. Finally, he took a wrong turn. There was no way out of the room. The man was trapped, and sure enough, the devil came in right behind him and blocked his only way of escape.

The exhausted man, fearing for his life, cried out to the man dressed as the devil, "Oh, please, Mr. Devil, don't hurt me. Please don't hurt me. I've been going to this church for years, but I've really been serving you all this time!"

If we are attending church and yet robbing God of tithes and offerings, then we are not truly serving Him. We may have emotional feelings of love for Him, but because of a lack of faith we are being unwittingly used by the devil to steal the very resources God wants to use to rescue people from the fires of hell.

Tithes and Offerings
A tithe is one tenth of our income or increase. "And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord" (Leviticus 27:32).

We don't own it. "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord" (Leviticus 27:30). You can't give what is not yours. You can only return it to its rightful owner. Since the tithe is the Lord's, we never give it to Him, but are only returning what is His.

Some people object to tithing by saying, "Tithing isn't required in the New Testament." The fact is that the Bible is God's Word no matter what testament it is found in. Furthermore, Jesus did endorse tithing in the New Testament. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matthew 23:23, emphasis added). The apostle Paul also endorsed the tithing system in Hebrews 7:8, "And here men that die receive tithes; but there he [Jesus] receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth."

God uses His tithe to support the work of His church. "And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation" (Numbers 18:21).

Offerings are in addition to tithe and are not set at a certain percentage. "But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings" (Malachi 3:8, emphasis added).

We gladly give to God's work because we love Him and want to see people led to Christ. "So let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).

It requires money to take the gospel to the world. It took money when Jesus was on earth. He had his own treasurer on His staff of disciples (John 12:6). And the early church taught that those who worked full-time in gospel ministry needed support from the church. "Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:13, 14).

God's money is for one purpose-to lead people to Christ and eternal life. Satan knows that God has designed things such that Christians need to invest money to win and disciple people. Consequently, he tries to keep God's coffers empty. Little income means little soul-winning and a large population for hell is assured.

The devil knows that the more resources he can keep out of God's hands, the longer time he will have to deceive the world. "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14). The quicker the gospel can go to the world, the sooner Jesus will come. But Satan doesn't want Jesus to return. One way he seeks to delay it is to rob the cause of God of much needed funds.

We can thwart Satan's devices by simply returning an honest tithe and offerings to the Lord. Since I don't want to be used by the devil to delay the Saviour's return, I return an honest tithe and offerings.

How to Tithe
People often ask how they are to tithe. The simple answer is, to tithe in faith. The more practical answer is to do it first, as soon as you get your check. "Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine" (Proverbs 3:9, 10, emphasis added).

Second, tithe your increase. "Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year" (Deuteronomy 14:22). Most people choose to tithe before taxes because God comes before the government. If you are in business for yourself, subtract your business expenses and then pay tithe.

Lastly, bring your tithes into the storehouse. "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house" (Malachi 3:10). The storehouse is the house of the Lord, the church. "Then Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of the Lord; and they prepared them, And brought in the offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully: over which Cononiah the Levite was ruler" (2 Chronicles 31:11, 12). The people brought their tithe to a central location where it was dispersed to those who ministered the true gospel (1 Corinthians 9:13, 14).

Can't Afford It?
There are many who would like to tithe, but when they look at their financial situation they say, "I can't afford it." It may look that way on paper, but the Lord assures us that we can't afford not to tithe! We can't afford the curse. "Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation" (Malachi 3:9).

And we can't afford to miss the promised blessing. "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 3:10, 11). God always makes the blessed nine-tenths go much further than the cursed ten-tenths.

Those who think they need the Lord's money to survive and thrive should remember the Bible's rich promises. "I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psalms 37:25). "Your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better then they?" (Matthew 6:26). We can obey God and trust Him to meet every need.

When God calls us to follow Him, the issue is not that He needs what is in our hand. Rather it is that He wants to give us what is in His hand. What does He have in store to give us when we obey and follow Him? Andy Stanley, son of renowned Charles Stanley, tells of speaking to a group of teens at camp one year. He wanted to impress them with the wisdom in obeying and following God. He put $325 into his pocket before his sermon that night. He talked about trusting God. Then he asked if there was anyone in the audience who had all their money with them that night. One young man did.

He invited the teen to the front. But before he continued, he wanted to make two things clear. One, did the young man trust Andy? "Yes," the fellow said he did. And two, Andy assured him that he would leave the stage better off than when he came. The young man held $226 in his hand. Andy asked him to give him all his money in return for what was in his pockets. Ultimately the boy refused the deal.

Like Andy, God has many good things to give us, but first He wants us to trust Him and hand over the things we're putting before Him. God loves us and wants the best for us. That is why He teaches us truth. Every truth He brings our way is for our good. He knows that a time of economic chaos and trouble is coming, so He asks us to follow Him. If we want to survive the coming economic abyss, then we must make God number one in our lives and recognize His ownership of everything by returning a faithful tithe and offerings.

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