This pastoral letter applies the sermons we had on man and connect this with wealth – a matter we cannot live without. As an accountant, I have been schooled in the art of stewardship and accountability in wealth and I am characterized by prudence. I embrace the values of older Singaporeans who are savers. I work hard to make a decent living, careful in spending and will squirrel away the excesses to provide for the future. The Bible does exhort prudence (Proverbs 10:4-5; 30:24-25). However, when does prudence become greed and is abused? These are real questions as I traverse two camps. In one camp, the commercial world is full of excesses in borrowings, investment, greed and risk taking that the recent global financial crisis had resulted in many ruined companies and lives. The Bible considers greed a sin (Eph 5:3-5). In the other camp, there are companies and even charities spending a huge amount of energy trying to accumulate wealth for the future to the best of their abilities. Certainly it is wrong to be reckless in money making particularly with the sole purpose of existing just for today. However, I believe it is equally wrong to be spending too much efforts and time just to accumulate wealth for tomorrow in the name of prudence. Why is this so?
There are a few theological reasons as to why it is wrong to be just accumulating wealth for tomorrow. First, as fallen man, all our works and motives can be tainted with corruptions. Therefore, even the very best of our intentions, as in this case prudence in provision for tomorrow, can be an expression of our sinful nature. This sinful nature is that we find comfort and security in our wealth and not God. Somehow we buy into this theological fallacy that “God only helps those who help themselves.” It is our responsibility to provide for ourselves and our loved ones and we take things into our own hands at the exclusion of Him. Ultimately, we want to run our lives by controlling our wealth and destiny. Secondly, it can also be a reflection that we are worried about tomorrow. We are the worrier in Matthew 6: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” Interestingly, as we go through different seasons of life, the worries about tomorrow and concerns about old age issues become a dominant worry. We worry about not having enough for the future, depending on others and changing our lifestyle drastically because of a lack of money. Ultimately, we just want to have an assured tomorrow the way we believe it should be. Jesus’ prescribed a relief from the anxieties about tomorrow in Matthew 6:33-34 – “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Jesus said that the cure for the anxieties about tomorrow is by seeking His kingdom and righteousness today and tomorrow will take care of itself. Thirdly, prudence can also be a reflection of greed because the heart of a natural man is “money not enough.” We invest away our income but however much we store away, it does not seem to be enough. What we do not realize is that the income which we save is not available for any possible good works today. This means we give up the opportunities of today in the pursuit of a better and secured tomorrow. This plays exactly into what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Could God’s works be hindered by the deprivation of these financial resources today because the resources have been saved for personal future consumption? Could God’s works be undone because Christians are oblivion to the kingdom needs in their savings?
The above is a summary of my personal struggles in handling wealth. What does God want me to do with the wealth He has given me? There are good reasons to save, the challenges are whether the reasons are good enough and how much is enough? What can and should be used today for His kingdom? Have I used prudence as a veil for my greed and insecurity? Am I a faithful steward in what God has given me? There is a constant need to put God back into the centre of my wealth. It is a good struggle because it shows that I am alive in Christ.
Let me share a momentary divine revelation God gave me one day. For a moment, I was making a comparison concerning how much I was making vis-à-vis my long-time faithful domestic helper. In simple quantitative terms, I was making more than 20 times of what she earns monthly. This means that my one year’s wages is her 20 years’ wages. What I make in three years is what she will get for her entire lifetime. Here comes the divine revelation. What if we appear before God on judgment day and He demands an accountability of our wealth. Would I be able to present more than 20 times what she has done for His kingdom and righteousness or would I be dumb founded that most (if not all) of the wealth that God has given me was spent on myself? Would the “prudence” which I justify my stewardship be counted against me on judgment day? I have twenty times greater responsibility in my stewardship!!! I call this a life changing revelation!!! May God help us to be good stewards.