Possessed by Our Possessions (5): The Individual’s Money

By Jady Copeland

In our last lesson we learned that the Lord’s money (money given into the Lord’s treasury) is to be obtained by the liberality of the saints, and to be used for preaching the gospel and benevolence (saints in need). In view of the duties of elders and the passage in Acts 11:30 it seems that elders (if there be elders in the congregation) have the responsibility of using the money for the Lord’s purposes and limited to the uses made of the funds as found in precept and examples in the New Testament. We also learned that there is a difference in the funds of the individual and the church (Acts 5:1-4). Before reading the remainder of this article, it would be good to read and study that passage again. Before Ananias and Sapphira sold the property, it was under their power to do with it what they wanted (regulated by honesty and other moral principles). And after it was sold, the money still belonged to them, but after they put it under the apostle’s feet, they lost control and it was to be used by apostolic authority. In this lesson let us look in more detail at the individual’s money.

Money: A Means of Good or Evil

Remember our theme: Possessed by our Possessions. Money of itself is neither good nor evil. As love (whether good or evil) depends on the object of our love, so the attitude and use of money determines whether it is good or bad. In the example of Acts 4 and 5 the use of the money by the saints was good, for they gave it to help their brethren. But in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, it caused them to lie to the Holy Spirit — perhaps covetousness was involved. In Acts 8:18-19 money tempted Simon who wanted to buy the power of God. He was told to repent (v. 22). Money was not to be used for that. But there is a good lesson here that we may overlook. Peter said, “Your money perish with you.” Among other things the simple lesson is taught that money is temporary and is to be used to God’s glory. Any other use of the individual’s money is a misuse. Just as all we think and do must be to the glory of God, surely the use of our money must be used for this too. Thus in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, you have two problems — covetousness and dishonesty. It was theirs before they gave it, but covetousness is wrong, and it caused them to lie to the Holy Spirit. So in saying the individual’s money is theirs to do with it what they choose, it must be remembered that moral principles must be observed, and this is sinful because it does not glorify God.

How Does the Individual Obtain His Money?

As there are good and evil ways to spend money, there are right and wrong ways to obtain money. In Matthew 20 we learn of those being hired to work in a vineyard. They were promised a certain wage for the labor. When an employer offers to pay a worker a certain wage, he has an obligation to pay him the amount promised. If the worker accepts the offer, he owes the employer an honest hour’s work for pay received. Adam was (after his sin) to work “in the sweat of thy face” to eat bread.

Some people make a living by the “law of exchange.” They buy and sell as in the case of the parable of talents (Matt. 25:14ff). James instructs us to be careful to include the Lord in our plans when we get ready to “buy and sell, and make a profit” (Jas. 5:14). But again, within the moral precepts that may limit us, we may make a living in this way.

Someone may obtain money by a gift. Out of love, if you give another property or money, there is nothing wrong with this way of obtaining money (Job. 42:11).

But in each of the above ways of getting our money, there lies a danger in being “possessed by our possessions.” If I am an hourly laborer, there is the danger of failing to give an honest day’s labor for the wage promised. Laziness is not only an ugly and sinful trait, but if I do not give the boss the work promised for the wages I receive, it is dishonesty. It is just as sinful to cheat an employer out of an hour’s labor as it is to steal that much from the cash register.

If I make a living by trading and selling, there is also a danger of being “possessed by possessions.” For example, I may ask more than a product is worth. Again dishonesty and covetousness enter the picture. Just as a dishonest employee may cheat on his employer, so a salesman may be dishonest by asking too much for a product — in light of the ignorance of the buyer who knows little about what he is buying. Car salesmen have the reputation (sometimes without cause) of being dishonest because they know a car is not in the mechanical condition that the buyer thinks. And yet the innocent buyer has no way of knowing that the car is a “lemon.” But one “possessed by his possessions” wants to “make an extra buck” even being dishonest and defraud-

In conclusion let us emphasize the point that in most every area of life. the individual Christian must watch out for the danger of being “possessed by his possessions.” Covetousness is such a subtle thing. We may think we need a better care than is really necessary. We may not be willing to eat beans and bread occasionally (instead of steak) in order to be able to do more for the Lord. We may think we need a $25,000 car instead of one that costs less when in reality the cheaper car will do the same job. You see often pride (which can be sinful) may get in the way. In spending money for recreation, we may think we need more time off than we really do. Too many have become accustomed to a certain plan of living, and in order to maintain that level, they get two jobs, or put the wife to work (who should be home with the children) in order to maintain that lifestyle and as a result they “just don’t have time” to do anything for the Lord. Many good men can never be elders because they have jobs that will not allow it — yet they could make a good living in some way that would allow them to serve the Lord much more effectively. Parents, train your son to choose an occupation that would allow him to do his best work for the Lord. Stop and think — life is short, “things” are temporary, and eternity is around the corner. Let us not think too highly of the things of this earth which may jeopardize our chances of an eternity with God.

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 7, p. 14-15
April 1, 1993