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October 1983 · Vol. 12 No. 4 · pp. 38–40 

Handling Prosperity

Jake Froese

Some of us inherited considerable assets from parents. Some have the gift to manage efficiently and successfully, making wise investments; others have an ingenious knack of discovery, of creativity, of walking a step ahead of the competition. Most things they touch turn to gold. Some are masters at one or more of the above. Certainly, much depends upon developing our abilities, taking advantage of opportunities, striving towards right goals and ever being alert to the changing scene, but our prosperity is really a gift from God.

God is not only owner, but Lord also. In Jesus’ parable (Luke 19: 11-27) the nobleman gave his assets to his servants, and told them to do business with them. No doubt this included building, working, investing, managing and using every opportunity to become prosperous with integrity, and each will one day be called to give account of his disposition of the Lord’s gifts.

Handling prosperity with integrity is inter-related with spiritual growth. The rich young ruler asked Jesus about spiritual things, about eternal life (Matt. 19:16-26). Jesus answered, “keep the commandments”, and then, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me” (v. 21). Handling prosperity according to God’s will was vital to this man’s spiritual needs.

We are redeemed as individuals and brought into fellowship of the church of Christ. Individuals must be incorporated into the community, the church (cf. Acts 2:44; 4:32). We must be willing to counsel and be counseled; be willing to share with others how we have been successful in handling prosperity and be willing to learn from the experiences of others. The community shares not only the material prosperity with others, but also how to handle prosperity as a good steward.

Jill was a concerned member of a local congregation. She had a good, secure profession with a substantial income. Through major family changes she was left unprepared and untrained to manage her finances (handle her prosperity). During a time of special stewardship {39} emphasis in her church she sought counsel and help to establish her priorities and manage her affairs. In response to why she had not sought help from her church, she said: “I did not know the church was interested.” A deacon of her church stated later, “I know her very well, but since she has a good paying position, I did not realize she had a need in handling prosperity.”

Bill and Sara gave a property to the Lord through their denominational channels. This saved them considerable taxes, and they were very happy and thankful for the way they had been able to handle that part of their prosperity. When asked whether he ever shared his experience with his neighbors or the church, Bill responded: “No, I cannot tell them, they might think I am boasting.” Later he had the courage to share their story of obedience with the people of God.

Handling prosperity is a personal matter, but it usually involves the family. And we must be willing to function as a family of faith to give glory to God in the church. We are instructed to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). When we genuinely respond to God’s gracious gifts we are motivated by love (2 Cor. 8, esp. vs. 8, 24). So now, handling prosperity means giving Him first from what He has given us because we love Him. Our love for Him, then, becomes the measure of our giving.

For someone struggling to meet the basic needs of the family a “tithe” may be a liberal gift to the Lord. However, for many of us that tithe may need to be adjusted toward, “as he prospers” (1 Cor. 16:2). This could mean giving 20%, or 30%, or 50% or more to represent our love for the Lord.

People whose prosperity is wrapped up in their own business, industry, or corporation, are often forced to re-invest heavily to keep the operation healthy and growing. If they give a large percentage as they establish their business they may not have sufficient funds to maintain a competitive and viable business. The solution in that case may be found in giving to the Lord liberally month after month and then, as the estate grows and remains strong, build larger gifts to the Lord into the estate plan for future distribution. This can be accomplished through present planned (deferred) gifts, or testamentary (through the will) gifts. Tax shelter investments can and often do reduce the tax requirements. However, maintaining and servicing these investments can drastically cut one’s ability to give at the early stages. Good stewardship in that case will demand careful and wise investments that will not drain you of the joy and ability to give liberally now as you build your estate. Then incorporate large gifts to the Lord in the distribution of your estate.

In Old Testament days the poor borrowed from the rich. In the Sabbatical year the lender was asked to “grant a remission of debts” {40} (Deut. 15:1). In the Jubilee year (every 50th.) all the property was to return to the original owner (Lev. 25:8-17, 23), thereby redistributing the resources and eliminating the occasion for class distinctions and perpetual dependence by a few on welfare.

One application of this sabbatical principle in our society is to leave large donations for the Lord in the distribution of the estate. Some find God’s way by making the Lord’s share equal to that of each child, others give even more to the Lord. We are not subject to a Jubilee year, but we can handle our prosperity by giving to the Lord as we share our assets with others in the generous distribution of our estates. The purpose of wealth points to others, to meeting their needs, for their good, to be rich in good works. The appeal and temptation of the society around us is “indulge”, as long as you can afford it. You worked hard; you deserve it. Handling prosperity should lead the believer to an obedient life-style. This may mean being content to live with less luxury. It probably means self-imposed limits on pleasure and convenience. It calls for sacrifice so that our practical love can touch and help people in need. It may mean a self-imposed family budget handled with flexibility and self-discipline in order to be obedient to the Lord and help those in need.

In conclusion, here are some Biblical stewardship principles which will help us in handling prosperity in a God-pleasing way.

  1. Be content with what the Lord provides (Phil. 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:6; Heb. 13:5).
  2. Manage wisely, carefully and faithfully with full integrity.
  3. Seek good counsel (Prov. 12:15; 19:20).
  4. Avoid the love of money (1 Tim. 6:10; 3:3).
  5. Give generously and willingly (2 Cor. 8, 9).
  6. Give to the Lord because He loves and His grace is active in your life, not to programs, projects, budgets, ministries, missions; these are only channels through which we give to the Lord.
  7. Give to and through the local church (Mal. 3:10; 1 Cor. 16:2). The local church must be the prime channel for our giving to the Lord, all others are secondary.
  8. Give to the Lord, but utilize the opportunities to save taxes and so be able to give more to the Lord. Consider many tax-saving privileges through planned (deferred) giving.
  9. Care for your own household (1 Tim. 5:8). When the children are grown, independent, and are able to take care of themselves, remember to handle your prosperity by distributing a larger and more generous share of the estate to the Lord.
Jake Froese is engaged by the U.S. Mennonite Brethren church to promote stewardship ministries.

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