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From Consumer to Investor

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A cartoon shows two men, Charles and his pastor, standing in a baptistry. “Well, Charles, when I baptize you, everything that goes under belongs to God.” In the next frame as Charles is being baptized, he clutches his fat wallet in his raised hand, making sure it doesn’t go under.

Sadly, we often think like Charles. It’s our hard-earned money. When we give ourselves to God, it’s easy for us to view our money as excluded from the deal.

A dominant message of our culture is “Consume!” The false assumption of consumerism is that the more we have, the happier we’ll be. In reality, increased consumerism comes at a steep price. As we desire more “stuff,” satisfaction remains just beyond our reach. In more and more families, both husband and wife work to pay for higher consumption lifestyles, and there is less time for healthy marriages and well-nurtured children. High-calorie eating, passive entertainment and lots of time spent in cars have combined to create what has been called an obesity epidemic. Meanwhile, debt increasingly enslaves us. Where will this race for more lead us?

Some aspects of consumerism have resulted in startling anomalies. Worldwatch reports that “worldwide annual expenditures for cosmetics total US$18 billion; the estimate for annual expenditures required to eliminate worldwide hunger and malnutrition is $19 billion. Expenditures on pet food in the United States and Europe total $17 billion a year; the estimated cost of immunizing every child, providing clean drinking water for all and achieving universal literacy is $16.3 billion” (cited by Hillary Mayell, January 12, 2004, at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news).

Could it be that over the next five years, an extra $10–$15 billion a year invested in missions would result in moving Christ’s Church incredibly close to fulfilling the Great Commission?

Here is a C&MA core value rooted in Scripture: “Everything we have belongs to God. We are only stewards.” Yet The State of Church Giving through 2005 just released by empty tomb, inc. (John and Sylvia Ronsvalle, 2007) indicates that in the United States, church giving as a percentage of worshipers’ disposable income has been gradually decreasing over the past five years.

The bottom line is that having more will never satisfy us. Forsaking worldly consumerism, we can invest our time, talent and treasure to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). As North American Christians, we can change from consumers of the temporal to investors in the eternal by wrapping our hearts and wills around three truths:

1) God is the owner. David acknowledges in 1 Chronicles 29:11 that “‘everything in heaven and earth is [God’s].’” Psalm 24:1 reiterates this truth, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

2) We are the stewards. “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops . . .” (Prov. 3:9). Jesus affirms the idea of our being stewards, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . .” (Matt. 6:19–20a). God entrusts to us what belongs to Him—we are His trustees.

3) As stewards, our time, talent and treasure are to be invested wisely for God’s purposes. From Joseph’s insightful management to the parable of the talents, good stewardship is lauded in the Scriptures. God rejoices when we advance His fame and reputation through wise, stewardship. His response is, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21).

Giving, the antidote for consumerism, breaks the bondage of money in our lives. It is a primary domino that causes other things in our lives to fall into place. Instead of asking how much of our money we should give to God, we should ask how much of God’s money we should keep for ourselves. The rest we should invest in His Kingdom.

Malachi expresses God’s heart when He is shortchanged as we bow at the altar of consumerism. “‘Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, “How do we rob you?” In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse . . . because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’” (Mal. 3:8–10).

To experience this blessing, we must move to action. What are the next steps God wants us to take in the journey from being consumers of the temporal to investors in the eternal?

ALLIANCE CORE VALUE

Everything we have belongs to God. We are only stewards. (1 Chron. 29:14)

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