Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

To know fully

The Bible is a spiritual book that teaches us spiritual things necessary for our salvation and our knowledge of God. It doesn't tell us everything there is to know, but everything God wants us to know at this stage in our relationship with him.

I'm sure we all have questions we'd like to ask the Lord—questions about passages in the Bible we don't understand, or even questions about things that are not in the Bible. Well take heart, because one day we will understand everything.

I don't believe we'll be queuing up to see Jesus in heaven and saying, 'Lord, I was never able to understand this in your Word, would you please explain it to me?' I believe we will all know, instantly, when we're changed. We're each going to be given a new body—a resurrection body (1Co 15:35–53)—together with a complete understanding of spiritual truth.

Paul wrote: 'Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1Co 13:12). As God knows and understands each of us fully so, one day, each of us will know and understand God fully—and all spiritual truth as well.

Until then we press on, seeking to understand—with the aid of the Holy Spirit—what God is saying to us through his Word. And one of the subjects the Bible says a lot about is that of money, and the related subjects of wealth and possessions.

Money affects every one of us; it's the global means of exchange. There's very little we can do without it, so it's not surprising the Bible has a lot to say about it and what our attitude towards it should be.

Only one master

'No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.' (Mat 6:24)

That is a very black and white statement; there are no grey areas we can hide in. We have a choice to make on earth: we can either serve God or serve money, but we cannot serve both.

Likewise, Jesus said:

'He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.' (Luk 11:23)

That is another black and white statement. And I know of one soul who was saved through those words.

A young man had been coming to our church for a while and was enjoying the meetings. He didn't participate as exuberantly as the rest of us but, as he later confessed, he didn't consider himself to be against the Lord.

Then one day, as he was reading his Bible, he came to those words in Luke's Gospel. The Holy Spirit spoke to his heart and showed him that because he wasn't actively for Jesus he was, in fact, against him. He was so convicted by that truth that he gave his life to the Lord there and then.

God haters

Returning to Mat 6:24, Jesus said that either God will be our master, or money (the Greek word means money, wealth, material possessions, earthly goods) will be our master.

Either God will be the motivating influence in our life, or money will be the motivating influence in our life. Either we will hate God and love money, or be devoted to God and despise money. There is no middle ground.

But why is someone who loves money a hater of God? Because James says that friendship with the world (which can also be translated as love of the world) is hatred towards God (Jam 4:4); and money is the key to the material world we live in.

Those who love money love the world, whether they realize it or not; they love material things more than spiritual things. They show that their heart is in the world and not with God (Mat 6:19–21).

God is a jealous God (Exo 20:4–6); he will not allow us to love anyone or anything more than him (Mar 12:28–30). If we love God we must despise money (regard it as inferior or worthless by comparison), and every Christian has a choice to make in this matter.

Joshua said: 'Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of the land in which you are living (which in many countries today is money and material possessions), or the Lord. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Jos 24:15).'

It's obvious that money can be a snare to Christians, so I think it would be good for us to do a study on money, wealth and possessions in the Bible to see what it teaches.

The blessing of God

The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.' (Gen 12:1–3)

God told Abram (whose name was later changed to Abraham) that he would make him into a great nation and would bless him. The Hebrew word used doesn't necessarily imply material or financial blessings.

The same word is used in Gen 2:3 where God 'blessed' the seventh day and made it holy. It's also used in Gen 1:28 where God 'blessed' Adam and Eve and told them to be fruitful and increase in number.

The word means to bestow divine favour upon something or someone. Being blessed by God may include an increase in material wealth, but not necessarily so.

In Abram's case, God blessed him in three ways:

So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. (Gen 13:1–2)

Abram was a man who had left everything to follow God (Gen 12:1), but God blessed him materially, and so much so that he and his nephew Lot had to part company. The land could no longer support them while they stayed together, their possessions had become so great (Gen 13:5–6).

God also blessed Abraham's son, Isaac:

Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. (Gen 26:12–3)

These were, undoubtedly, financial and material blessings coming from God to his chosen people. The same thing happened to Isaac's son, Jacob. Even though Jacob was a deceiver and had stolen his brother's blessing through trickery (Gen 27:1–40), God still blessed him financially.

His uncle Laban, for whom he worked for fourteen years, changed his wages ten times (Gen 31:6–7), and yet Jacob still left with large herds and flocks because God blessed him—and in a miraculous way (Gen 30:29–43).

Jacob prayed to God as he was on his way home. He said he was unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness the Lord had shown him: he had set out with only a staff in his hand, but had returned a rich man (Gen 32:9–10).

Jacob's tithing

However fourteen years previously, while on his way to Paddan Aram, Jacob had met with God (Gen 28:10–22). Two things should be noted from the meeting:

Because there is no scriptural evidence to support tithing in the New Testament, those who teach it claim that it's a biblical principle that dates back to God's first dealings with mankind.

But the same could be said of animal sacrificing (Gen 8:20), circumcision (Gen 17:9–14) and keeping the Sabbath day holy (Gen 2:2–3), none of which are part of the new covenant God has made with us through Jesus Christ (Luk 22:20).

We will look at New Testament giving later in this series.

Michael Graham
September 2005

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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