FBCJ Feature Article: Overcoming Financial Brokenness
OVERCOMING FINANCIAL BROKENNESS
Luke 16:11-12 (NKJV) 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?
God has impressed upon me this year to have us focus on repairing the breaches in the wall that protects our community from becoming broken by systems, institutions and inequalities. In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the children of Israel, in particular the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, returned from Babylonian captivity and began to focus on the most important priority, the Temple (church), the place where God would reside. They were dealing with the spiritual breach in their community. God must become the center of our lives and our communities. When they set their priorities in order, God showered them with blessing from the ruling government. Jesus reminds us that our first priority is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and then the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). Once we put God first, Jesus exclaims in Matthew 6:33 everything else will be added unto you.
After they completed the Temple (church), then they turned their focus on protecting the people from being broken by the world. Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem as the provincial governor of Judah. He immediately surveyed the damage to the entire city around the walls (Neh. 2:12–15). He enlisted the help of the people to quickly repair the breaches in the wall. He also urged them to set up guards to defend against the constant threat of those who opposed their efforts, including the armies of Samaria, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites.
To begin the process of rebuilding our community, according to Dr. Frank Reid’s book “The Nehemiah Plan,” we must exhibit several principals: concern, compassion and consciousness to bring about change. As we examine our background text in Nehemiah 2, we see Nehemiah was so concerned about his people that his countenance changed. It was so noticeable that King Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah, ‘Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This can only be sadness of the heart’ (Neh. 2:2). Nehemiah’s response should resonate for all of the children of God, “Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my ancestors’ graves, lays waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” (Neh. 2:3). Our passion for our neighbors must be that intense, when we see our community and our people in distress it should cause us to become sickened as if it has occurred to us. Luke 10: 27 commands that we “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which means we should feel the pain of the people. In our walk with God, we cannot become callus to the needs of our community.
When we have established the church as the central force of change for our community (repair the spiritual breach), we should initiate the process of rebuilding and transforming communities to the image of God (being complete and whole). One of the problems that has been persistent in our communities is the lack of financial stewardship. According to a CNN article and a NJ Spotlight article, African Americans are still lagging far behind whites in wealth and income. It seems that we are living in the same state but in two different worlds. Both articles use the demographic trends and economic well-being of the Pew Research Center. According to the research, there are four troubling indicators about African American economic trends:
Levels of wealth: Households headed by whites have considerably higher median net worth (a measure of the value of what a household owns minus what it owes) than those headed by African Americans. In 2013, the net worth of white households was $144,200; roughly 13 times that of African American households, which was $11,200.
Household income: The income headed by African Americans has persistently lagged behind that of white households since the US Census Bureau started collecting data in the 1960’s. In 2014, the median African American household income was about $43,300, while white household income was about $71,300.
Home ownership: The racial and ethnic differences in median net worth are driven in part by differences in home ownership. 72% of white householders own their home, compared with 43% of African American households.
Poverty: African Americans are more than twice as likely as whites to live in poverty. In 2014, about a quarter (26%) of African Americans were poor, compared with 10% of whites.
As a church, we must deal with the economic or financial breach in our community. It starts by the church modeling good stewardship. God has entrusted us with resources and expects us to be good stewards of the resources he has allowed us to manage. In Luke 16: 1-13, Jesus provided a parable about the unjust steward to convict the religious people of their failed obligation to manage the resources God has entrusted to them. This parable provides three principles we must follow:
Obedience to God’s Word: In Malachi 3: 9-11, God commands us to bring our first fruits to God (Tithe) and then God will provide for all of our needs and rebuke the devourer for our sake (God will protect us from anything that tries to destroy our production or money). This obedient act is a step of faith. God says try me and see if I will not do this for you. We must first trust God!!!
Practice good stewardship: Once we trust God, according to Luke 16:11-12 God requires that we manage and wisely care for the resources God has entrusted to us. If we cannot manage the little carnal things God has entrusted to us, why should God provide true riches for us to own, which is the Kingdom of God. This means, God requires us to treat everything God has given to us with great care and responsibility. Matthew 25: 31 says if we are good and faithful stewards, God will commend us and make us masters or rulers over many things. Be faithful!!!
Give a testimony of God’s Rewards: When we follow God’s formula, when we Trust God with the First Fruits (Tithe) + Faithfulness over God’s resources (Stewardship) = we receive God’s abundant rewards (Blessings), it suggests that God will reward us with more than we can handle. After we receive God’s blessings we should encourage others that God’s word is true (Testify). According to Revelations 12: 11, our community will not overcome financial or economic scarcity until we apply the blood of Jesus along with the words of our testimony. Our example or best practices of our Christian faith will bring about transformation and begin to breach the financial distress that has overcome our community.
When we begin fulfilling the mission and vision of FBCJ, we will bring about transformation for our community, one family at a time.
Led by the Holy Spirit, we will preach the gospel through holistic (spiritual, social, economic and political) development of our community to uplift and glorify the Kingdom of God while effectively developing disciples of Jesus Christ to bring the transformative gospel to the community of unbelievers.
Minister to the eternal, educational, emotional, environmental, and economic needs of all people through Christ’s liberating gospel by word and deed creating transformation for the whole community.
By Pastor Derek V. Gatling