We all know what the uh oh point is in various situations. The person you thought might be a new good friend invites you over for a business opportunity presentation. Uh oh. The church gets in a financial jam and “stewardship Sunday” seems to come round more and more frequently. Uh oh. But the point of writing about finances is not so that we would be able to accomplish what we have undertaken, but rather so that we would do it right. “But [the Israelites] lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106:14-15).
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chron. 16:9).
In the context, Asa the king had been rebuked for his “political realism.” He had relied on the king of Syria when the Lord had previously shown that He was able to save apart from such fleshly support. Because of this folly, the Lord promised Asa the trouble of wars. Asa then compounded his sin by refusing to accept the rebuke.
So God’s eyes run to and fro through the entire earth. God is omniscient. He knows everything, and as this figure of speech shows, He knows everything actively. He does not simply register the information—He seeks it out, He knows everything because He has sought out everything. He is our Father, not an impersonal computer with all knowledge passively resident in His memory. He knows. God’s omniscience does not simply mean that He could successfully answer any question put to Him— pass any test. Rather it means that He immediately knows all things regardless of whether we pose the question.
This is the God who intervenes in our lives. God delights to manifest His strength in the earth. His omnipotence is not a closely guarded heavenly secret. His interventions are on behalf of some people, and not others. Some churches are blessed, and others not, based upon God’s actions, which in turn are fully consistent with His infinite and inexhaustible knowledge.
He does what He does on the basis of heart loyalty. Why blessings in this place, and not in that place? His knowledge is perfect—there is no nook or cranny in the universe in which God and all His knowledge is not fully present. Because we have material bodies, extended in space, there are parts of us (i.e. our feet) which are quite ignorant. But God is not like this; He is omnipresent, and everywhere He is, all His knowledge resides. These doctrines do not mean you must always reckon with at least a part of God. No man ever reckoned with anything less than His full and triune majesty. This is the God who intervenes in our lives on the basis of heart loyalty.
So what does this have to do with financial basics?
First, doctrine matters. We must take special care not to forget what we know when we come to the area of financial management. We are to labor diligently to bring every thought captive to the lordship of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4). The placement of this passage is important—it immediately follows Paul’s two-chapter treatment of finances.
Then there is the question of glory. Whatever we do is to be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). We have considered how easily credit can be assigned to the wrong place, and how blasphemous “credit” can be thrown against the name of God.
Third, there is the matter of God’s work and God’s way. Hudson Taylor put it in this memorable way: “God’s work, done in God’s way, will not lack God’s supply.” Remember your doctrine—can you imagine God saying, “I wish we could accomplish this or that in Moscow, but tragically, they don’t have the money.” Whatever the circumstances, we are always dealing with God Himself.
Fourth, God is rarely early, and never late. Abraham learned the important principle that on the mount of the Lord it will be provided (Gen. 22:14).
The fifth principle is that of ministerial contentment. In any given congregation, the resources are available to accomplish anything which God wants accomplished there (2 Cor. 9:10). Now it is quite possible that the resources are not there for what we want to do, but that should not really be thought of as a problem. The problems come when we try to pry open the closed doors through various forms of finagling, borrowing, book-cooking, and so forth.
Sixth, we want clear definitions. Financial health is not the same thing as financial wealth (2 Cor. 8:2). Deep poverty is fully consistent with rich liberality, and is therefore consistent with financial health. Jesus rebuked the fool who was not rich toward God (Luke 12:21).
And last, you can’t make a good omelet with rotten eggs. The corporate financial health of the congregation is not possible apart from a substantial portion of the households in the congregation living in the same kind of financial health on their own respective levels.