A Purse with Holes in It
“We never seem to get ahead,” Rebecca said. “Without fail, as soon as we have any money saved, the washing machine breaks, someone gets sick, or we get a flat tire.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “John took a second job working weekends, but instead of having more money, we have less.” She lifted wide eyes to meet mine. “I don’t know how much longer we can go on like this.”
Financial struggles are real—and frightening. Sadly, Rebecca’s story isn’t unique. Most of us, at one time or another, have struggled to pay the bills, provide for the kids, and save for the future. And while lean times come to us all, some couples always fight to stay afloat.
In the tiny Old Testament book of Haggai, we find an eloquent description of a community struggling with the problem of too much month at the end of their money.
“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it’” (Haggai 1:5-6).
A purse with holes in it. Wow. That’s quite a word picture.
Financial problems are complex, with no simple answers. But many overlook a biblical principle—each of us should be giving to God’s work. Such was the case with the Israelites.
“You expected much,” the Lord said, “but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why? … Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house” (verse 9).
Concerned more about building their houses and securing their livelihood, the Israelites had neglected God and His work. This is also the case with many families today.
“We’ll give to the church after we pay off our debts.”
“We can’t afford to give right now. The cable bill’s two months past due, and I have to pay club fees for the kids’ travel ball team.”
“Let the rich members support the missionaries. They have plenty of money.”
God, however, has a different perspective on giving, saving, and spending.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31–33).
These simple verses provide the key to biblical stewardship:
Give God a portion of your time, talent, and resources.
Trust Him to provide what you need.
The Israelites of Haggai’s day (and many Christians today) had it backward. Their approach looked more like this:
Stop giving to God.
Do whatever it takes to maintain our lifestyle.
When Rebecca and her husband hit a wall, they wisely sought biblical financial counseling. Their advisor suggested a plan to help them get back on their feet. He encouraged them to develop a budget, eliminate unnecessary and luxury spending, and dedicate a portion of their income to the Lord’s work.
Although giving away a portion of their money seemed counterintuitive, as they stepped out in faith, they saw God multiply the remaining funds and stretch them further than they ever thought possible.
Rebecca’s family’s financial situation didn’t turn around immediately, but with hard work, prayer, and self-control, they now enjoy a comfortable, debt-free life. Best of all, they eagerly share with other struggling couples how God met them where they were and provided for them in ways they never could have imagined.
Resolutions & Redemption
by Anna Kuta, crosswalk.com
It’s that time of year again! I’m talking about New Year’s resolutions, of course. It’s still December as I’m writing, but I guarantee that by the time you read this, I’ll already be asking myself what possessed me to come up with such grand, unattainable plans the new year. (It seemed like a good idea at the time). Every year I tell myself it’ll finally be the year I keep all my resolutions. I mean, come on – how hard can it possibly be to finally set aside an hour for exercise each day, to stop consuming so much chocolate and coffee, and to never sleep for less than eight hours again?
Why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep? I don’t know, but it’s a lot like another area of life. Let me explain.
Before I became a Christian at the age of 17, I approached my life the same way I often approach New Year’s resolutions. I would try so hard to do the right things but I always ended up falling flat. I convinced myself that as long as I was the “good girl,” I’d be fine, so I tried really hard to live up to certain standards to please everyone, and hopefully God too. The problem, though, is that there’s nothing anyone can do in his or her own power to “earn” God’s favor.
As Ephesians 2:8 says, it’s by God’s grace that we are saved, not because of anything we could ever hope to attain or accomplish. God’s gift of His son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins through His death and resurrection is just that – a gift. Doing all the good, noble things in the world will never earn salvation, and like verse 9 says, nobody could ever think of boasting about such an undeserved gift.
Of course, the desire to do the right things is one result of making Jesus the Lord of your life, but we all continue to mess up because, after all, we are just sinners saved by grace. I still lose sight of it all sometimes and get caught up in the cycle of trying to “out-good” myself and others. This new year, however, in light of any New Year’s resolutions you may have made (or already broken), join me in remembering the assurance of one thing we never have to work to attain: God’s grace.
Left to Do Nothing – Streams in the Desert – December 26
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”—Matt 26:36
It is a hard thing to be kept in the background at a time of crisis. In the Garden of Gethsemane eight of the eleven disciples were left to do nothing. Jesus went to the front to pray; Peter, James and John went to the middle to watch; the rest sat down in the rear to wait. Methinks that party in the rear must have murmured. They were in the garden, but that was all; they had no share in the cultivation of its flowers. It was a time of crisis, a time of storm and stress; and yet they were not suffered to work.
You and I have often felt that experience, that disappointment. There has arisen, mayhap a great opportunity for Christian service. Some are sent to the front; some are sent to the middle. But we are made to lie down in the rear. Perhaps sickness has come; perhaps poverty has come; perhaps obloquy has come; in any case we are hindered and we feel sore. We do not see why we should be excluded from a part in the Christian life. It seems like an unjust thing that, seeing we have been allowed to enter the garden, no path should be assigned to us there.
Be still, my soul, it is not as thou deemest! Thou art not excluded from a part of the Christian life. Thinkest thou that the garden of the Lord has only a place for those who walk and for those who stand! Nay, it has a spot consecrated to those who are compelled to sit. There are three voices in a verb—active, passive and neuter. So, too, there are three voices in Christ’s verb “to live.” There are the active, watching souls, who go to the front, and struggle till the breaking of the day. There are the passive, watching souls, who stand in the middle, and report to others the progress of the fight. But there are also the neuter souls—those who can neither fight, nor be spectators of the fight, but have simply to lie down.
When that experience comes to thee, remember, thou are not shunted. Remember it is Christ that says, “Sit ye here.” Thy spot in the garden has also been consecrated. It has a special name. It is not “the place of wrestling,” nor “the place of watching,” but “the place of waiting.” There are lives that come into this world neither to do great work nor to bear great burdens, but simply to be; they are the neuter verbs. They are the flowers of the garden which have had no active mission. They have wreathed no chaplet; they have graced no table; they have escaped the eye of Peter and James and John. But they have gladdened the sight of Jesus. By their mere perfume, by their mere beauty, they have brought Him joy; by the very preservation of their loveliness in the valley they have lifted the Master’s heart. Thou needst not murmur shouldst thou be one of these flowers!
“What have I done?”
“What have I done?” Jeremiah 8:6
Suggested Further Reading: 2 Peter 1:3-8
What hast thou done? I hear thee reply, “I have done nothing to save myself; for that was done for me in the eternal covenant, from before the foundation of the world. I have done nothing to make a righteousness for myself, for Christ said, “It is finished;” I have done nothing to procure heaven by my merits, for all that Jesus did for me before I was born.” But say, brother, what hast thou done for him who died to save thy wretched soul? What hast thou done for his church? What hast thou done for the salvation of the world? What has thou done to promote thine own spiritual growth in grace? Ah! I might hit some of you that are true Christians very hard here; but I will leave you with your God. God will chastise his own children. I will, however, put a pointed question. Are there not many Christians now present who cannot recollect that they have been the means of the salvation of one soul during this year? Come, now; turn back. Have you any reason to believe that directly or indirectly you have been made the means this year of the salvation of a soul? I will go further. There are some of you who are old Christians, and I will ask you this question: Have you any reason to believe that ever since you were converted you have ever been the means of the salvation of a soul? It was reckoned in the East, in the times of the patriarchs, to be a disgrace to a woman that she had no children; but what disgrace it is to a Christian to have no spiritual children—to have none born unto God by his instrumentality! And yet there are some of you here that have been spiritually barren, and have never brought one convert to Christ; you have not one star in your crown of glory, and must wear a starless crown in heaven.
For meditation: While the self-righteous makes the fatal mistake of thinking that good deeds lead to salvation, the saved can make the sad mistake of forgetting that salvation is supposed to lead to good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-10).