Money – it Matters.
Luke 16:10-11. “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven.” Three ‘givens’ and three outcomes.
Faithfulness, trust and honesty, and their distortions, are terms that go together. They indicate moral fibre and a trust outside of one’s self, as well as a healthy fear (an unpopular thought but one unable to be disconnected from morality and its final implication – God).
True riches don’t get near a person who doesn’t know how to properly handle money, and not just money – wealth. A failure of ‘appreciation’ is a failure of inheritance – true riches. True Spirituality has very earthly beginnings.
Money mattered when Israel entered the promised land and money mattered when the early church was under the grace of God – their entry to promise. Two scenarios, two tragic outcomes, two arresting lessons. Both fuelled by money and it’s derivatives.
Joshua 6:18, This declares Jericho to be “under the ban” as regards any of its booty. Everything belonged to the house of God, to God. It was a city marked for destruction. Nobody was to take anything from it as the theft would incur the lifting of protection and covenant blessings to the nation – “or you yourselves will be completely destroyed.” God first – Jericho, the people second – Ai. An age old demand of holiness and separation. (see Joshua 8:26-27)
But Achan couldn’t resist. He looked and stole. Joshua 7:20-21. “I wanted them so much that I took them.” He buried them under his tent thus sealing the doom of all that was his. He kept at home something that was dedicated to God. It was the harbinger of death.
His greed killed him. Had he waited until Ai he would have had more than enough, let alone the plunder of all the other the cities razed by Joshua. Delayed gratification is just that. Wait. Greed, it seems, has short legs and no capacity to wait. Beautiful things wasn’t ultimately the issue – his greed was. But it was a greed that had huge and fatal consequences.
If something can be or is a blessings then it can also be the opposite in wrong hands, conditions and circumstances. Blessings doesn’t have as an opposite neutrality. Moral choice, obedience, the favour of God, is not a one sided coin. Implication is on the other side. Blessing or cursing. Moses had already told them to make a choice. Deuteronomy 30:19-20. “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live. You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, and obeying him and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life.”
Achan made a choice, the wrong choice. He and his family died outside of fulfilment and possession. His choice was death to thirty six soldiers and his entire family (who appear complicit to a certain degree – a hole in the tent floor doesn’t get dug unnoticed) and himself.
Money – it mattered.
If there is a NT counterpart to this story in it the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 4:32-5:11.
Barnabas had sold a field in his home in Cyprus. He then brought the proceeds, all of them, and placed them at the feet of the apostles. What isn’t stated was how long this took to do. Maybe he did it through an agency or maybe he went home to do it. Whatever, it was noticed and it has been recorded by Luke as an important and memorable event in the life of the early church.
It is likely Ananias and Sapphira saw the accolade or recognition Barnabas, unsolicited, received and wanted the same themselves. Something went wrong in between selling their property and giving the money. Peter told them, “The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away.” The money was always theirs to choose what to do with. No compulsion surrounded sale and gifting.
They weren’t directly greedy as Achan had been but their sin was none the less serious for it. They chose to lie to the apostles, therefore ultimately to God’s Holy Spirit – the agency of generosity. Deceit in giving was their undoing – not giving itself. They wanted to appear sold out, like Barnabas, even though they actually gave less because of it. The amount itself wasn’t the issue. They lied deliberately and in agreement.
Both of them fell dead because of their act, and because of the environment it was committed in – a season of open grace and power. They knew exactly what they were doing and to whom. Grace isn’t an excuse for lax living, it is a power of right living.
These occasions were both formative and pivotal moments in the history of God’s people. Both dealt with people’s dealings with money. One was under the law, a ban, the other under conscience, grace. One was an action of greed, the other an action of deceit. Both had tragic, fatal ends. Money and God matter. Money and how we handle it matters. You can’t fool with the law via disobedience but equally you can’t fool with grace by deceit either.