News Articles

FIRST-PERSON: America, God has shed His grace on thee

EDITORS’ NOTE: Baptist Press will carry a column by Larry Burkett each day this week in honor of his longstanding financial ministry. Burkett, a BP columnist for two years, died July 4. He was the founder of Christian Financial Concepts, now merged with Crown Financial Ministries in Gainesville, Ga.

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–There is no greater interference with a Christian’s ability to serve God than the need to earn, in order to pay and buy.

In America today, we live an average of 18 years longer than we did 100 years ago and have at least one-third more disposable income per family. An observer from 100 years ago would be amazed by the improvement in living standards and the amount of leisure time technology now provides us.

According to Barna Research, about 40 percent of Americans are born-again Christians. So it seems clear that Christians ought to be spreading the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world much better than they are presently doing.

The simple truth is that most American Christians are too busy to be involved in fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission, as recorded in Mark 16:15. Many have grown complacent and comfortable with God’s blessings and have forgotten Jesus’ mandate.

Because God asks for obedience rather than demanding it, many Christians have simply ignored the very reason for God’s blessings: to glorify Him and to honor His commandments.

The reason for the blessings

God calls every Christian to spread His Gospel to all parts of the world. But, like Esther (see Esther 4:14), every believer must decide either to be used of God or to be bypassed and allow another to be chosen instead. Most Christians would never refuse to do God’s will; it’s just that the timing is not right. So they allow the urgent things of their lives to overshadow the important things of God.

We sing, “America, America, God shed His grace on thee.” Well, He has! God has blessed us so richly. There is enough money in North America to fund all the Christian work in the world if the people of God would just give. The desire to give may be there, but most American Christians are so caught up in making money, buying bigger and better things, and paying for the things that they already have, that they have lost their focus on the unsaved world.

In a real sense, the Gospel has become shackled because money needed for worldwide ministry is tied up in personal debt and large monthly payments.

God’s Kingdom

The very best investment a person can make is an investment in the Kingdom of God. The Lord admonishes us not to worry about material possessions, and instead, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

While American Christians today have a greater abundance available to them than any previous generation, there has never been a generation of Christians so caught up in worrying about their possessions as ours.

However, it’s not the material things that cause the difficulties; it is materialism, which is a matter of heart attitude. Materialism simply means that a person is more dedicated to accumulating material things than in serving God. The evidence of the lives of most American Christians reveals that this generation is dedicated to materialism. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).

The admonition to “seek first the Kingdom of God” is given by the Lord as a contrast to worrying about material possessions. God’s people need to understand His principles of finance so that they can be free of debt and the worry that accompanies debt in order to help fund the spread of the Gospel worldwide.

Once Christians become financially free of personal debt, they will have a greater abundance for which to fund the Gospel’s outreach to the “remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Ownership or stewardship?

Giving so that God’s servants can take His message throughout the world is an outward material expression of a deeper spiritual commitment, and an indication of a willing and obedient heart.

That’s why making such a commitment is almost impossible unless Christians take the first step in becoming financially free by transferring ownership of all material possessions to God. This means money, time, family, material possessions, education — even earning potential for the future. We must be willing to transfer ownership of every material thing in our possession to Him if we truly want to be financially free.

Once we recognize that God owns everything and all blessings come from Him, our role as managers, or stewards, becomes evident. If we view ourselves as owners and not managers, we’ll look at every other aspect of our lives the same way. Each of us will see himself or herself as the person in charge, but that can change quickly in the face of circumstances beyond our control.

However, if God is the owner and we are simply His stewards, we need only to be concerned with how best to manage His possessions. In so doing, money is no longer our possession, it’s God’s possession, which we hold in trust. And because we will have to give an account of how well we managed His material goods and possessions, we must, to the best of our ability, use the money as we feel He would use it and in a manner that pleases Him.

As stewards of God’s possessions that have been entrusted to us, believers must ask whether God would be pleased with our stewardship or with the way that we have spent His money.

Would God be pleased with His steward indulging in material excess, while His servants who are taking His Gospel to the far corners of the earth are in need? Would God be pleased with His steward using His money to satisfy personal selfish desires at the expense of the unsaved? Would He be pleased that His stewards all too often choose to fulfill their own directive rather than to fulfill His Great Commission? If you need help with these questions, the answer is “No!” to all three.

Whose Kingdom?

You can make no greater investment than an investment in the Kingdom of God. But so many Christians are so far in debt that they cannot even begin to honor God’s mandate, although they might truly want to.

Nevertheless, debt is a mountain that can be overcome — one step at a time. Step number one is to give all possessions to God. Step two is to manage His possessions in a way that pleases Him, in accordance with His principles of finance. Once debt has been brought under control, you can join in liberally funding the Gospel throughout the world.

God has shed His grace on us in America, so don’t allow the urgent things of this society in which we live to overshadow the important things. Whose Kingdom are you seeking?

    About the Author

  • Larry Burkett