Have you ever desired to grow spiritually but didn’t know how or where to begin? Maybe you have tried in the past but were frustrated by teachings that spiritual growth is all about “do’s” and “don’ts,” which could result in guilt and discouragement when not achieved. Or maybe you thrive when you are given a list of things to follow, but when you do achieve them, your life is not overflowing with joy but rather is filled with fear and exhaustion because of the never-ending striving to keep things consistent in your daily life.
What if God provided you with a tool that wasn’t linked to specific things you had to do, but this tool could help measure your spiritual growth consistently and accurately? Would you want access to this tool? You probably have access to this tool but are unaware – just like a man who approached Jesus was unaware.
In Mark 10:17-23, there is a man who strives to obey God’s commands. From a young age, he conditioned himself to increase his obedience to God’s laws (reference Mark 10:20). Now, in adulthood, he is so accomplished in his obedience to God’s laws that he approaches Jesus with a question: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). Jesus answers the man’s question, …. “you know the commandments: You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother” (Mark 10:19). The man was confident that his obedience to God’s laws was the measuring tool for his spiritual growth (reference Mark 10:20). However, Jesus knew him and felt compassion toward him because the man was unaware of his real issue. This man’s love for and security in all his possessions hindered his spiritual growth. Jesus clarified for this man that his money and possessions were tools that could be used to evaluate his spiritual growth.
Money is amoral – it’s not good or evil. Money is subject to what you tell it to do. Culturally, money is presented as a measure of your well-being, the security for your future, or even a means of bettering yourself. But God describes money as a tool to measure your trust in Him and a matter of the heart – your spiritual growth (Matthew 6:21, 24). In fact, Jesus challenges His followers to be generous toward others and see what God will do in response.
Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. Luke 6:38
Another cultural view of money is there is not enough, also known as scarcity. However, scarcity is not the lack of money but rather a lack of trust in God. Scarcity is born out of a fear that there is not enough, so you must get more and store all you can for yourself. Your life becomes defined by your accumulation and consumption of money and possessions. Fear will drive you to obtain more and more money in hopes of never experiencing a lack – not having enough.
But what if God is the creator of the world and the owner of all things? And God created His world with enough. These biblical writers – the psalmists, King David in Psalm 24 and Ethan, the Ezrahite in Psalm 89, the physician Luke recording the apostle Paul in the book of Acts, the apostle Paul in Colossians, and the disciple of Jesus, John in Revelation – seem to have this view of God.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. Psalm 24:1
The heavens are yours, and the earth is yours; everything in the world is yours—you created it all. Psalm 89:11
He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. Acts 17:24-25
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Colossians 1:15-17
You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased. Revelation 4:11
The God of the Bible, whom these writers describe, created everything, owns everything, and needs nothing. Yet provides things to sustain your life and for your enjoyment. If you have this view of God, you are more likely to believe there is enough and that you have money, wealth, and possessions because God has provided for you. You are a steward of God’s stuff, and God allows you to have and use what you need and want for your own benefit and enjoyment. But God also expects you to give or share your money, wealth, and possessions with others for His purposes. God is generous toward you with His possessions and commands you to be generous toward others.
In Luke 3:10-14, John, the Baptist, and in Luke 19:8-10, Jesus both communicate that when a person believes or trusts God for salvation, their life response will be to share their possessions, only take what is needed, fair, agreed upon, or allowed, and no more, as well as they will not take from others wrongfully because they are content and satisfied with what they have. Because they trust in God, money, wealth, and possessions would no longer be the primary focus of their lives.
Jesus also shares a parable in Luke 12:16-21 about a landowner blessed with abundant wealth. His land was extremely productive, so he reasoned that his own efforts were the cause of his wealth. The rich man did not recognize God or God’s activity on the man’s behalf in making his wealth grow. Therefore, the rich man thought his wealth was for his own pleasure instead of God’s purposes. In the parable, this man is called “a fool” because he did not acknowledge that God had given his wealth for God’s purposes, not solely the man’s earthly pleasures. This parable is a warning against using one’s wealth for earthly pleasures and not being rich toward the things of God. Jesus warns His followers, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own” (Luke 12:15).
God has provided you with a tool to measure your spiritual growth: your use of money, possessions, and wealth. Having (or not having) money, possessions, and wealth is not how spiritual growth is measured. Spiritual growth can be evaluated by how you use your wealth – money is just a tool. This instruction is what the apostle Paul was training Timothy to understand and desired that Timothy teach to others.
Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Paul knows that followers of Jesus would have money – they could be “rich in this world” – but their wealth was for doing “good works” and being “generous to those in need,” not accumulating and using for themselves.
Evaluate your spiritual growth by responding to these questions.
- How much money (e.g., wealth, possessions, assets, etc.) do you have?
- How would you describe your current use of the money you have?
- Rate yourself from 1 to 10.
- 1 = “My money is all mine to use as I please.”
- 10 = “My money is all God’s, and I am God’s steward.”
- What percentage of your money (e.g., wealth, possessions, assets, etc.) is used for you, and what percentage is used for God and His purposes?
- How would you respond if someone asked why God has provided you with the money, wealth, and possessions you currently have?
If you are struggling to answer these questions, remember Jesus in His parable (Luke 12:16-21) nor Paul in his teaching to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:17-19) is addressing the “amount” of one’s wealth. The primary concern is about the use of one’s wealth. Are you securing money, wealth, and possessions for yourself with minimal to no thought of using your wealth toward the things of God? Jesus defines this way of living as foolish.
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. …. “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 God and be enslaved to money. Matthew 6:19-21, 24
Jesus knows that money is a tool, and how you use money can reveal or measure your spiritual growth.
Watch the LIVE REPLAY to learn more about using this tool to help evaluate your spiritual growth. Join us LIVE every Monday at 3 p.m. ET on @GodGivesCourage Instagram for our Spiritual Growth Series and check back here on Tuesdays for the companion blog post.