November 4 - 11
Live Within Your Means
MANAGERS OF THE LORD'S GOODS. How we handle our money and the way we live are closely related. Similar principles govern both. In fact, "stewardship" is not merely a matter of finances. It also relates to every aspect of life-time, talent, energy, and influence.
Undergirding and enabling the true stewardship of life is the understanding that "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Ps. 24:1). We are not owners but managers of the Lord's goods. As Christians, we have accepted the responsibility of acting in the Master's stead, doing as He would do were He presiding directly over His own. As stewards, then, we should be interested to hear the counsel of the Owner, to learn what His priorities are, what methods bring the most permanent benefits, and how best to represent Him in all we do.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. Honor the Lord (Prov. 3:9, 10).
II. Love of Money (Prov. 11:28).
III. Generosity and Contentment (Prov. 11:24, 25).
IV. Work and Plan Ahead (Prov. 14:15; 22:3).
V. Debt and "Surety" (Prov. 22:7; 6:1-5).
MEMORY TEXT: "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine" (Proverbs 3:9, 10).
"Bible religion is to be interwoven with all we do or say. Divine and human agencies are to combine in temporal as well as in spiritual achievements. They are to be united in all human pursuits, in mechanical and agricultural labors, in mercantile and scientific enterprises."Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 349, 350.
Describe one way we can honor the Lord. Prov. 3:9.
"[God's] glory must be the motive of all who are laborers together with Him. All our work is to be done from love to God and in accordance with His will.
"But God will not accept the greatest talents or the most splendid service unless self is laid upon the altar."Christ 's Object Lessons, p. 350.
What results does God promise if we honor the Lord? Prov. 3:10; 10:3; Mal. 3:10, 11.
Many and varied are the blessings God pours out upon those who honor and trust Him. Sometimes He gives temporal prosperity. Sometimes, for reasons we do not understand, He withholds it. He always bestows upon His faithful children forgiveness from sin and offers assurance of eternal life.
The experience of one literature evangelist illustrates how God honors those who honor Him: "I recall having visited homes all day, introducing The Desire of Ages, without one interest. How was I ever going to earn enough money to make a living? But deciding to adopt a different strategy, I kept at it. At around 6:00 p.m., I was struggling to give yet another presentation, this time praying that the woman to whom I was speaking would accept the book and the truth it contained.
"She replied, 'Yes, I'll order it. My family needs it.' I was enlivened and refreshed. I went next door and once again prayed for the person to whom I was giving the presentation. That person also bought the book. By 7:15 p.m., I had visited four more homes, receiving orders in each of them. Three of those families later took Bible studies, and four persons joined the church."
When we keep our focus on the spiritual goal of witnessing, the Lord consistently supplies the need.
|If you have little or nothing of this world's goods, how can you follow the instruction to "honor the Lord with your wealth" (Prov. 3:9, NIV)?|
Explain how the love of money is "the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). Prov. 28:20, 22.
The material status of an individual does not necessarily indicate the direction of her or his affections. A poor person can love money as dearly as a rich person, perhaps even more so. The danger lies in misplaced priorities, often leading to dishonest means of acquiring more money.
What principle, applied to business, shields a person from being "eager to get rich" (Prov. 28:20, NIV)? Prov. 13:11.
It is rarely easy to be patient! But far better to make progress slowly than to damage one's character by sinful, hasty acquisition.
"It is abomination to fools to depart from evil" (Prov. 13:19). "The very idea that he [the fool] should behave in any other way is unthinkable to him, quite abhorrent in fact (13:19); for he thinks it would soil his fun (10:23) and make life very drab (15:21)."Kenneth T. Aitken, Proverbs (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986), p. 100.
What is the ultimate end of anyone who trusts in riches? Prov. 11:28; 23:4, 5.
To many of Jesus' hearers, the present life was all that existed, and providing for its temporal needs was all that mattered. As something strange and new, Jesus' words fell on the ears of the wondering multitude. (See Matt. 6:24-34.) He taught that even as this earth offers no permanent safety for material possessions, so it can provide no eternal refuge for the soul. Our hearts will be where our treasure is. In view of this fact, Jesus recommended we store up our treasure in heaven, seek first God's kingdom, and not be anxious about our needs.
In your view, why does the Lord allow some people to be wealthier than others? What is the responsibility of rich believers in Christ to their poorer sisters and brothers? Should they give them all their money? Explain your answer.
|What is the responsibility of poor believers to the rich? Should they regard themselves as inferior? Explain your answer.|
Why is it important to share? Prov. 11:24, 25; 22:9; 28:27.
Jesus taught that we should not favor the rich for the sake of social acceptance. We have a responsibility to minister to the poor.
What does it mean to be a Christian? "It is to be Christlike, to do others good, to be divested of all selfishness, and to have our lives marked with acts of disinterested benevolence [free from self-interest]. Our Redeemer throws souls into the arms of the church, for them to care for unselfishly and train for heaven, and thus be co-workers with Him. But the church too often thrusts them away, upon the devil's battlefield. . . . Cannot God return into their granaries and increase their flocks, so that instead of loss there shall be increase?"Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 331.
If we do not have a lot of money and material possessions, what else can we share? Prov. 25:25; 31:9.
Be generous, and give what you have-even if it is only good news or a smile and a greeting! Try to understand the inner needs of each individual you meet. Look beneath the surface. Ask for divine help that you may strengthen, cheer, and help the needy person to the best of your ability and according to that person's needs. When possible, help others to help themselves. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, offered "soup, soap, and salvation," in that order.
Plead the cause of the needy to those who may be better able to assist. And above all, deal with the needy in such a manner as to represent the Father in heaven: with genuine caring, mercy, and justice.
What assurance does Proverbs give to anyone obliged to live in poverty? Prov. 15:16; 16:8; 28:6 (see also Heb. 13:5).
A graceful, positive attitude, whatever the circumstances of our lives, is a source of health and happiness. (See Prov. 15:15; 30:7-9.)
How can you testify to the Lord's many blessings in times when you have been poor?
|How can you testify to the joy you experienced as you shared with someone more needy than yourself?|
What basic principle does Proverbs 27:18 illustrate? Compare James 5:1-6.
"Every laborer is to receive his or her just due. It may bethought to be a good plan to allow persons to give talent and earnest labor to the work of God, while they draw nothing from the treasury. But this is making a difference, and selfishly withholding from such workers their due. God will not put His sanction on any such plan."Evangelism, p. 491.
How does a person who is wise relate to the future? Prov. 14:15; 22:3.
There is wisdom in planning for the future. To put aside savings to take care of future expenses is not contrary to God's will. Insofar as this is possible, it is the wise thing to do.
The counsel Ellen White gave to one person applies, in principle, to each of us: "Every week you should lay by in some secure place five or ten dollars not to be used up unless in case of sickness. With economy you may place something at interest. With wise management you can save something after paying your debts."Selected Messages, book 2, p. 329.
What warning does Proverbs 28:8 give us about wrong methods of earning money?
Usury is lending money at interest. Today it sometimes refers to lending at a rate of interest that is excessive or unlawfully high.
"The Israelites lived in a simple state of society, and hence they were encouraged to lend to each other in a friendly way, without any hope of gain. But the case was different with foreigners, who engaged in trade and commerce, borrowed to enlarge their capital, and might reasonably be expected to pay interest on their loans. Besides, the distinction was admirably conducive to keeping the Israelites separate from the rest of the world."Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, David Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, n.d.), p. 136.
|How can we apply God's counsel to Israel regarding usury to our financial practices today?|
Why do you think "the borrower is servant to the lender"? (Prov. 22:7).
In a letter written in 1877, Ellen White counseled an individual, "Be determined never to incur another debt. Deny yourself a thousand things rather than run in debt. . . . Avoid it as you would the smallpox."Counsels on Stewardship, p. 257.
On the other hand, White also wrote, "To make no move that calls for the investment of means unless we have the money in hand to complete the contemplated work, should not always be considered the wisest plan...
"It is right to borrow money to carry forward a work that we know God desires to have accomplished. We should not wait in inconvenience, and make the work much harder, because we do not wish to borrow money. Mistakes have been made in incurring debt to do that which could well have waited till a future time. But there is danger of going to the other extreme. We are not to place ourselves in a position that will endanger health and make our work wearing. We are to act sensibly. We must do the work that needs to be done, even if we have to borrow money and pay interest."Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 277, 278.
What counsel does the wise man give regarding the risk involved in acceptance of legal responsibility for someone else's debt? Prov. 6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18.
A "surety" (KJV) is someone who has become legally liable for another person's debt, responsible for guaranteed payment even if that person must take it out of his or her own pocket. This can become a dangerous snare, especially in the case of guaranteeing payment on behalf of a stranger. While we are to "bear one another's burdens," the Lord does not expect us to be responsible for another's foolishness.
"There is no indication here [Prov. 6:1-5] that a person should never help another to carry a debt [see 14:21; 17:17; 18:24; 27:10]. Times may come when a great favor can be done to someone who needs to borrow money and who needs someone to underwrite the debt. But such a commitment ought not to be thoughtlessly undertaken."The Interpreter's Bible, vol. 4, p. 817.
|Examine your spending habits prayerfully. Are you living outside of your means at the expense of cheating God? (Mal. 3:8-10). What can you do without, and what steps can you take to begin doing so?|
FURTHER STUDY: How do the following verses add to our understanding of this week's topic: 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12; 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17, 18; James 2:1-6; Revelation 2:9; 3:14-18.
Also read the sections titled "Money" in Christ's Object Lessons, p. 351, 352; "Usury," Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 534-536; and "Business Integrity," The Adventist Home, pp. 39 1-394.
"It is no better than sacrilege for a man to take from God's treasury in order to serve himself or to serve others in their secular business. . . . Let no one, when brought into a strait place, take money consecrated to religious purposes, and use it for his advantage, soothing his conscience by saying that he will repay it at some future time. Far better to cut down the expenses to correspond with the income, to restrict the wants, and live within the means, than to use the Lord's money for secular purposes."Counsels on Stewardship, p. 79.
SUMMARIZE this week's lesson by indicating whether each of the following statements is true (T) or false (F). Then rewrite the statements that are false to make them true. ______ My money and all my possessions are my own to be used as I deem necessary. Money is only as valuable as it is used for good purposes. _____The security of treasure on earth is not a valid indicator of where I should place my priorities. _____To share what I have with someone in need will not necessarily deplete my own resources. _____God designed work to be a blessing to us. _____Planning ahead is denying that we need to rely on God for our needs. ______ Debt is sometimes necessary and justifiable.
Several years ago while Mere Narabe was teaching school in an Adventist village in Fiji, she felt a burden for a neighboring village that had no Adventists. She started a story hour there on Sabbath afternoons. She went alone to the village and invited the children to join her for songs and stories from the Bible.
She started her story hour in the local school teacher's house, but so many children came that the teacher's house could not hold them all. The school teacher arranged for her to hold her meetings in the basement of the village church.
One girl, Susi, attended regularly until her grandmother learned about it and told her she could not attend. But Susi was determined to come. She would sneak away from her work and stand outside the church, listening through the window.
Mere knew nothing about Susi's plan. She only knew that the girl's grandmother had told her she could not come any longer. But Susi faithfully came every week.
After holding the story hour for several months, Mere Narabe had to stop because of commitments at her own school. She often wondered whether the story hour had made any difference in the lives of the children who attended.
Then last year Mere returned to the village, where there is now an Adventist church. During the church service the congregation enjoyed a time of testimonies. One young woman stood and told how she had first learned about the Adventist truth. She said, "When I was a child a woman came to our village to hold a Bible story hour for children. My grandmother found out where I was and prohibited me from coming any more, but I continued to come and stood outside to listen. It was there that I learned to love Jesus, and I learned about the Sabbath. When the Adventists came to our village, I knew that they were teaching the truth, and I joined the church. My husband and children and I are Adventists today because of that story hour."
The young woman was Susi. Later she told Mere that most of the other children who had attended the story hour had eventually become Adventists too.
Mere had conducted this story hour for just three months. Yet the seeds that God planted during those happy times bore fruit in years to come.
Mere Narabe (left) is a teacher in Fiji.
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