Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

The Lord had said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.' (Gen 12:1–3)

To know fully

The Bible is a spiritual book that teaches us spiritual truths necessary for our salvation and our knowledge of God. It doesn't tell us everything there is to know, but everything God wants us to know at this stage in our relationship with him.

I'm sure we all have questions that we'd like to ask the Lord—questions about passages in the Bible we don't understand, or even questions about things that are not in the Bible. Well, take heart, because one day we will understand everything.

Paul wrote: 'Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1Co 13:12).' As God knows and understands each of us fully so, one day, each of us will know and understand God fully, and all spiritual truth as well.

Until then we press on, seeking to understand with the aid of the Holy Spirit, what God is saying to us through his Word. And one of the subjects the Bible says a lot about is that of money and possessions.

Money affects every one of us; it's the global means of exchange. There's very little we can do without it, so it's not surprising that the Bible has a lot to say about it and what our attitude towards it should be.

Only one master

Jesus said:

'No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.' (Mat 6:24)

That is a very black and white statement; there are no grey areas we can hide in. We can either serve God, or serve money, but we cannot serve both.

Likewise, he said:

'Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.' (Luk 11:23)

That is another black and white statement, and I know of one soul who was saved through those words.

A young man had been coming to our church for a while and was enjoying the meetings. He didn't participate as exuberantly as the rest of us but, as he later confessed, he wasn't against the Lord.

Then one day, as he was reading his Bible, he came to those words in Luke's Gospel. The Holy Spirit spoke to his heart and showed him that because he wasn't actively for Jesus he was, in fact, against him. He was so convicted by that truth that he gave his life to the Lord there and then.

No middle ground

Returning to Mat 6:24, Jesus said that either God will be our master, or money (the Greek word means money, wealth, possessions) will be our master. We will either hate the one (God) and love the other (money), or be devoted to the one (God) and despise the other (money); there is no middle ground.

But why does someone who loves money hate God? Because Jam 4:4 tells us that friendship with the world (the Greek can also be translated as love of the world) means enmity against (hatred towards) God. Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God, and money is the key to the material world we live in.

Those who love money love the world, whether they realize it or not; they love material things more than spiritual things. They show that their heart is in the world and not with God (Mat 6:21).

God is a jealous God; he will not allow us to love anyone or anything more than him (Exo 20:4–6). If we are to be devoted to God we must despise money (regard it as worthless by comparison), and every Christian has a choice to make in this matter.

Joshua said, 'Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of the land in which you are living (which in many countries today is money and possessions), or the Lord. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Jos 24:15).'

Money can be a snare to Christians, so I think it would be good for us to do a study of money and possessions in the Bible to see what it teaches.

The blessing of God

In our opening text God told Abram (whose name he later changed to Abraham) that he would make him into a great nation and would bless him. The Hebrew word means to pronounce divine favour upon someone or something. It may include an increase in material wealth, but not necessarily so.

The word is used in Gen 1:28 where God 'blessed' Adam and Eve and told them to be fruitful and increase in number, and in Gen 2:3 where God 'blessed' the seventh day and made it holy.

In Abram's case, God blessed him in three ways:

Abram had left everything to follow God (Gen 12:1), but God blessed him materially, and so much so that he and his nephew Lot had to part company: the land could no longer support them while they stayed together, their possessions had become so great (Gen 13:5–9). He also blessed his son, Isaac:

Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. (Gen 26:12–3)

These were undoubtedly material blessings coming from God to his chosen people. The same thing happened to Isaac's son, Jacob. Even though Jacob was a deceiver and had stolen his brother's blessing through trickery (Gen 27:1–40), God still blessed him materially.

His uncle Laban, for whom he worked for twenty years, changed his wages ten times (Gen 31:41), and yet he left with large herds and flocks because God blessed him miraculously (Gen 30:25–43).

Jacob prayed to God as he was on his way home. He said he was unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness the Lord had shown him. He had set out with only a staff in his hand, but had returned as a rich man (Gen 32:9–10).

Jacob's tithing

However, twenty years previously, while he was on his way to Paddan Aram, God had revealed himself to him in a dream. As a result of that dream Jacob had vowed that the Lord would be his God and he would give to God a tenth (a tithe) of all that he would give to him (Gen 28:10–22).

Giving God a tenth of our income (tithing) is not taught in the New Testament and is not God's will for Christians. Those who believe it is point to Jacob's tithing and say that it's a biblical principle that dates back to his first dealings with mankind.

But the same could be said of animal sacrificing (Gen 8:20), circumcision (Gen 17:9–14) and keeping the seventh day holy (Gen 2:2–3), none of which are part of the New Covenant he has made with us through his Son, Jesus Christ (Luk 22:20).

We will look at New Testament giving later in this series.

Michael Graham
September 2005
Revised June 2022

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised edition). Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved.

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