By Femi Aribisala
We will be required to give God a fulsome account of how we spent the resources he put in our hands here on earth.
If I were to ask you to lend me N1,000 of your money, what would you say? You may or may not give the money to me. But if I were to ask you to lend me N1,000 of God’s money, what would you say? Do you keep God’s money with you or not? What precisely is the difference between God’s money and your money?
The difference is strictly-speaking academic, for the simple reason that all money and all wealth belongs to God.
The psalmist says: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” (Psalm 2:1). God himself declared in the age where the extent of a man’s wealth was determined by how many animals he owned: “All the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine.” (Psalm 50:10-11).
This means both the rich and the poor own nothing. We are all no more than stewards of God’s wealth: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (1 Timothy 6:7). We don’t become rich because of how hard we work. Neither do we become rich because of how smart or industrious we are. We become rich because God makes us rich. As Moses was at pains to point out to Israel: “It is (God) who gives (us) power to get wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:18).
Stewards of God’s wealth
Since all the money in the world belongs to God, none of it belongs to us. This view immediately defeats the principle of tithing whereby 90 percent of a man’s income is deemed to be his and only 10 percent said to belong to God.
Even in the Old Testament, David recognized that it is ludicrous to claim ownership of anything out of which we then give something as offering to God. He asks: “Who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!” (1 Chronicles 29:14-15).
Even what God seemingly gives to us here on earth does not belong to us. We are only steward’s God’s wealth. “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Therefore, as stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10), we will be required to give God a fulsome account of how we spent the resources he put in our hands here on earth.
“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29).
This is how Jesus presents the challenge before those of us called to serve in his vineyard: “A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’” (Luke 19:12-14).
The question we will have to answer therefore becomes: “Did we invest the resources God gave us only on ourselves? Or did we invest them also for the betterment of others and on God’s work? How well we answer these questions will determine whether we will enter into our inheritance in God.
Jesus warns: “If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own? No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:11-13).
Joseph and Potiphar
A scriptural example of good stewardship is to be found in the relationship between Joseph and his master, Potiphar. Potiphar’s property did not belong to Joseph, but Joseph was put in full control of it.
“So Joseph found favor in (Potiphar’s) sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.” (Genesis 39:4-6).
Joseph’s faithfulness to Potiphar was tested when Mrs. Potiphar made advances towards him. In his faithfulness, he rejected her advances and, in retaliation, she accused him of sexual harassment which landed Joseph in prison. But his faithfulness ensured that, in the end, God rewarded him with the position of Prime-Minister of Egypt. This same principle will be applicable to every child of God.
“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’ The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.’” (Matthew 25:19-21).
Since whatever money we have here on earth does not belong to us, the owner can come at any time to take it away. For this reason, the rich sometimes go bankrupt and become poor: “For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:5).
Moreover, no matter how wealthy we become on earth, we have to leave it behind when it is time to go: “We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.” (Ecclesiastes 5:15). Wealthy Job recognized this inevitable predicament. He said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).
So, where is that thing you are calling your money? Is it in your pocket? Is it under your bed? Is it in the bank? Nothing you put anywhere here on earth is secure. The Lord said to me: “If what you have can be lost, then it does not belong to you. If it can be stolen, then it has no value. If it can be burnt or destroyed, then it is illusory.”
Then he asked me: “So what do you have left?” I did not know but the Holy Spirit helped me out: “The only ‘thing’ you have left is Jesus.”