Scott Gage

PO Box 3425
Fayetteville, AR 72702



May/June Issue 2007 - Volume 26   Number 3

Must We Be Poor?

Do the Scriptures Teach That We Must Be Poor, Financially?

CAN CHRISTIANS HAVE WEALTH?    Many believe we must be poor to be a Christian. They believe to be poor shows that we are keeping ourselves apart from worldliness.  They say it is because it is more spiritual, more excellent, more righteous to voluntarily give up the physical things we all use every day.  Many quote Matthew 6:33 as applicable.  

In order to be a good Christian, must we feel guilty if we enjoy a level of accomplishment in having some of this world's goods?  Would God have us "sell all that we have and distribute to the poor?" I believe we would say, "No, unless there was a special need!" (Acts 5:4 & 6:1)

Is having wealth wrong? Many believe and teach that faithfulness to God is evidenced by financial situations.  They find themselves like Belshazzar, and many folk that we may know, praising the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone or it could be our jobs or families, anything that we put first in our lives.       

"Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.  Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.  Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another...And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.  This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.  TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians." (Daniel 5:1-6, 25- 28)

Many believe to be rich with this world's goods in a culture of materialism, as we can see all around us, and  "take the other side", may appear   the thing to do.  Many Christians struggle between the two extremes of poverty and prosperity.   Many quote 1 Timothy 6:17-18, "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate."

They   believe, according to James 1:17, that God blesses materially and that all good things come from Him. On the other hand they feel guilty about having material wealth and the blessings God allowed them to have and use.  They hear Jesus' words to the rich young ruler telling him to "sell all and give to the poor," (Matt. 19:16-22; Luke 14:26) and to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).  Then they misapply 1 Timothy 6:10 that money is the root of all evil.  What are we to do?  Have we interpreted the scriptures correctly?  Can we understand and get to the truth of the matter?    Let us consider:

1.      Are possessions wrong?

2.      Is money the root of all evil?

3.      What are the consequences of all Christians giving up this world's goods?

1. Are Possessions Wrong?   Getting rid of material possessions is one of the major arguments for biblical "poverty." But was it a biblical practice?

In the Old and New Testaments one can find many examples that show the notion of having worldly possessions is NOT wrong. It depends on how we acquire and use them.   Consider the patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job, to Israel's and Judah's kings like David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and Jehoshaphat.    In New Testament times, examples like Zaccheus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Lydia, the Bible is replete with examples of faithful men and women who were also materially blessed. 

So why the question or problem?  It appears to me the problem arises from an improper application or understanding of scripture. The scripture says clearly that "The LOVE of Money" is the problem and comes from the heart.  The problem is found in one's attitude, approach, and motivation for acquiring and keeping wealth for self.  Our lusts for things, covetousness for more, envy of others, and entanglement with worldly pursuits of worldly gain and enjoyment for selfish reasons, is the sin.  It is the attitude of heart (our priorities) that dictates whether having possessions is good or bad.  So, rather than focus on getting rid of things or possessions from our life, God would have us cleanse our hearts of the sin of idolatry (Colossians 3:5; 1 John 2:15-17) and manage our blessings (talents) that He provides as a truly honest diligent servant should. (Matt. 25:20-23)

2. Is Money the root of all evil?

Those who desire (seek first) to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. Because the LOVE OF MONEY is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim. 6:9-10) The answer to the question is:  "No, money is not the root of all evil!  The Love of it is the beginning of evil, if we succumb to it!" When we think of money first in any deal in life, we are dealing with our soul's salvation. 

It's not the money but the love of it, when it becomes number one in our decisions, that is the problem.  When we do, it has become our god, the sin of  (Idolatry).   But, one may be poor and also love money. It is easy to trust in riches rather than God. A good example is seen in this common failure of many; when he or she is offered a job in a far away place at a better wage, what is the first thing usually considered? Is it can we afford it and how much we can gain financially, or instead is it will there be a church there?  They may hoard money in a vain attempt at security, stray from the faith as a result and pierce themselves through with many sorrows stemming from greediness (1Tim. 6:9-10).  One may lack material wealth, see the pleasures others enjoy and commit soul and self to the pursuit of this world's goods.  In their lust and desire to be rich they may willingly forfeit the treasures of eternity for a piece of today's good-fun-life.  The love of money may consume their thoughts and actions and cause them to pursue it in unethical and sinful ways.

Rather than desire all things material---especially money---as poverty claims, we would do better to "remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth" (Deut. 8:18-19). It is all His, even our life: Psalm 24:1, "The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein."  God asks Job:  "Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine" (Job 41:11). We are simply keepers or stewards of that which is God's already:  "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:1-2). We are to glorify Him in all that we do---including the way we make use of money:  "Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.  I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love...Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have...For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, (need), that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: (need) that there may be equality" (2 Cor. 8:7-8, 11-14).

3. What are the consequences if all Christians give up this world's goods?

Consider the admonitions found in 2 Cor. 9:6-9, "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:  As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever." And consider Prov. 3:9-10, "Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine."   

If we attempt to live a full POOR Christian life style, we must first get rid of everything material that we have; such as a job to live on, a car, a home that we pay for and the fuel to heat our homes & gas for our cars.  We must do away with anything that increases our wealth, resulting in some sort of necessary type of communal living, depending on the goodwill of others, and forced redistribution of wealth (by the government?) to provide for our physical needs.

Question:  If we have nothing, how are we to fulfill the commands of giving?

The fact is that as a part of His divine providence God has entrusted each accountable person with the ability to prosper to some degree.  As Christians we may not be the wealthiest people and we likely will not be the poorest people.  It is our duty to work, to earn a wage, and to provide for our needs and the needs of those unable to provide for themselves.  We are to do this without going to the extremes of being poor. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Tim. 5:8,  "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel" (or a heathen, unbeliever, or a hypocrite).

The danger in extremes is that we wind up adding to or taking from God's direction for our lives.  When we do this we substitute our will and wisdom for God's will and wisdom.  At least three times in the book of Deuteronomy the people are admonished not to turn aside to either the right hand or the left but to walk in all the ways the Lord God has commanded (Deut. 5:32; 17:20; 28:14).  The rationale behind the warning is that in doing so it would be well with the people, their days would be prolonged in the land which they possessed, and so they would not be tempted to go after other gods and become an infidel. 

In order for us to walk in all the ways the Lord God has commanded we must train our hearts and minds with complete application of God's Word.  We must prepare our hearts to willingly accept God's provision and use it to His glory. That way we will not come to LOVE that which is evil and become deluded by extremes that would endanger our souls and the souls of others.  Rather, we will then begin to have the attitude of the writer of Prov. 30:8-9 which reads, "Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:  Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, 'Who is the LORD?' or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain" And also may we heed the admonition in Eph. 4:28, "Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth."

Portions written by Jim Palmer

Edited by Alphia Lemley

ABBA 2/17/07

Charity vs. Debt

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”  2 Corinthians 8:9

According to an article I read recently, chari table giving in the USA has increased 41 out of the last 42 years.  This article also gave these statistics on giving in America: 

Ø        Fifty-five percent of American adults (roughly 84 million) volunteer annually.

Ø        In 2005, total giving in the U.S. reached $260 billion, an increase of 6.1 percent over 2004.

Ø      There are more then 1 million charitable organizations in the U.S.

Ø      Charitable giving accounts for roughly 2.1 percent of our annual $11.8 trillion economy.

These statistics probably do not include the charitable giving done by a lot of the local churches in the U.S. These stats probably track a lot of the major foundations and charitable organizations.

This same article pointed out another trend that may undermine the charities in the future. The author stated, “Before we start patting each other on the back, there is some looming data that deserves our attention.”  And what is that data?

Take a look at these findings: 

Ø      There are roughly 83 million young people in America under the age of 25.

Ø      By their senior year in college, students have on average four credit cards and roughly $3,000 of credit card debt (according to Nellie Mae stats)

Ø      According to data just released from the Bureau of Labor, the after-tax savings rate of young adults 35 and under is negative 16 percent, which means their spending is greatly outpacing their earning.

Ø      The average credit card debt for young adults 24-34 is $5,200 (Business Week).

Ø      Real earnings for college graduates without advanced degrees have fallen in the last five years (Business Week).

Of course, we realize that statistics can be used to prove just about anything that we want to prove. We can quote one set of stats and set them against another set and come up with just the conclusions we want to reach.

What is of much greater significance is the attitudes of individuals. If we really have the mind of Christ, our giving will reflect the influence of His word.  This influence of God’s Word will steer us away from increasing debt and more into the path of saving so that we can be of service to others. Of course, Christ became poor spiritually speaking so that we might enjoy the riches of the spiritual blessings of the Kingdom of God. It is this free gift of God that causes us to reflect soberly on our own attitudes toward material possessions and our charitable giving.

Scott Gage

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Foundation Forum December 2006


The Pope’s Car and Giving 

“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7

An online casino, GoldenPalace.com, bought the Pope’s car in an Internet auction for 189,000 euros ($245,620.54).  According to the story by the Religious News Service, a man named Benjamin Halbe, 21, only paid 9,500 euros when he bought the car from a dealer in Singen, Germany.  He didn’t even know it was the Pope’s car until after he had purchased it. The metallic gray Volkswagen Golf sedan, with 75,000 kilometers (46,500 miles) on the odometer was believed to have been previously owned by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI on April 19.  An interesting fact contained in the story is that Mr. Ratzinger never drove the car.  Nonetheless, it was a hot auction item that attracted a record 8.4 million visitors to the Web site. The auction occurred on a German Ebay site, and the story did not reveal how much Benjamin Halbe profited on the deal. It stands to reason that Mr. Halbe made a nifty profit.  I wonder what he will do with his money?

As I read this story I began to think about auctions and raffles.  There are many charitable organizations that use auctions and raffles to raise funds.  If by some stroke of luck an organization came into possession of a baseball with Mickey Mantle’s autograph on it, they could probably make a hefty profit by raffling or auctioning it off.  Collectors and museums could be enticed to lay out some significant capital to acquire such an item.

Can you imagine the early church auctioning off a pair of the Apostle Paul’s sandals? They could really hype it up:  “These are the very sandals he wore when he climbed Mars Hill and preached!”  Or maybe we could find one of the Apostle Peter’s robes raffled off in the city of Jerusalem!!  We sure never hear of that happening in Scripture, and, to be quite honest, it is very difficult to imagine.

The New Testament church funded all of its work on free-will offerings.  People were encouraged to give as they were prospered (1Corinthians 16:2) and to give as they purposed in their own hearts.  This certainly doesn’t sound like an auction or a raffle. New Testament Christians weren’t giving in order to obtain a collector’s item.  They gave as they purposed and were prospered in order to relieve suffering and to support the preaching of the gospel.

The Arch L. Ferguson Foundation began when the late Arch Ferguson purposed in his heart to do something with his material blessings that would prosper the church for coming generations.  Since its beginning, other Christians have also purposed to make donations to the foundation in memory or in honor of their loved ones.  The foundation is one place that our donations continue to work for generations to come since they become a part of the capital investment.  We are thankful to donors who have chosen to partner with the late Brother Ferguson and the Foundation in supporting the work of the church throughout the world.

Scott Gage

Fayetteville, Arkansas


Foundation Forum June 2005