“I Write Unto You, Young Men”
“I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” (1 John 2:14)
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 8:18-19)
It says, “he offered them money.” Money is the medium of temporal life, and temporal transactions. When the temporal life rules, the spiritual not only doesn’t rule, it is not even understood. He thought that this was a power the apostles “owned,” and could somehow transfer for temporal gain. He was very self-focused: “Give me… that on whomsoever I….” This is a grim and tragic picture of the heart “not right in the sight of God,” as Brother Peter, who was spiritual, discerned immediately.
I’m thinking, young men, of the tension between the spiritual and temporal sides of life, particularly in the realm of money. We live in this world, and must deal in the “medium of temporal life” all the time of our pilgrimage down here. How can we deal with it as our temporal lives require, and avoid such disasters as came upon Simon? This is the burden of my heart in writing to you.
“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
What is this thing that is so awful and terrible to love—pieces of paper or metal? When we speak of “the love of money,” what we really mean is the love of what money represents and gives—the power to get the things of the temporal life. The scripture, “But they that will be rich,” instructs us that it is not the condition of being “rich,” but the motivation and intent in that direction, that is ruinous. The poorest man can fall into this snare as well as the richest. If you or I say, “I don’t want to be rich, I just want $___ more each month,” what we are seeking is more of what money gives. Yes, things would go a bit smoother in the temporal realm; yes, I would feel less cramped in my temporal affairs, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) The Lord knows all our needs and wants, and has them in correct priority. God has stated the very high value of contentment, and it is closely tied to trust in God and humility.
People are ever prone to ungodly imbalance. With the above counsel in mind, it is still your responsibility, young men, to learn to provide for yourselves, and likely, one day, a family. It certainly takes more to provide for a family than for one person alone, and many of you young men are still dependent on your parents for your sustenance. Jesus addresses us carefully in this matter: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:10-15)
“…in that which is least… also in much.” Do you understand that how you handle the responsibilities of taking out the garbage, that minimum-wage job, and that boring, little homework assignment are determining your future? This isn’t just a saying parents use to try to get their children to work harder—it is the Word of God. Let us look further: “…the unrighteous mammon… the true riches.” Our approach to temporal life affects the spiritual life. Faithfulness and responsibility in temporal matters prepares us to receive spiritual riches. The story of every child of God starts, continues and ends with their faithful response to God’s dealings with them, from the point of recognizing their need of salvation to the “little” daily obediences of the saved person to “obedience unto death.” The one who has taken seriously the responsibilities of handling money and the temporal matters of life is better equipped to take seriously the responsibilities of the spiritual matters of life.
Jesus then makes clear the relationship between the temporal and spiritual. “Mammon,” the god of earthly riches, is in implacable conflict with God. It is necessary, in becoming faithful in temporal matters, to be stewards of earthly riches, and not servants to them. It is by managing our temporal lives as stewards before God that we keep things in their proper place, and that only by the grace of God. Jesus’ statement, “that which is highly esteemed among men,” suggests that the Pharisees were the admirable, model citizens of their time. The sort of people that “good neighborhoods” consisted of, that parents wanted their children to grow up like, etc., etc. But they were covetous.
It is only by humbly walking with God that you can be faithful in temporal matters without them taking hold of you and ruling you. It is only by humbly walking with God that you can avoid doing things that men regard highly but are an “abomination in the sight of God.”
Let us consider, now, some instruction regarding the use of temporal things.
“The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.” (Proverbs 12:27)
The difference here is between the hunter who is simply hunting for pleasure and the hunter who recognizes that he is a steward, and is providing meat in the hunting. Let’s extrapolate a little here. In my vocation, or any of the smaller decisions I make in temporal matters, am I primarily looking to enjoy myself, or am I providing for the temporal needs of life? Much has been written in recent times on the importance of enjoying your work, but if our home is in heaven, and we desire to live with the spiritual ruling over the temporal, then we must recognize that its primary purpose is to gain us a livelihood, a means to an end. If we let the Lord lead us, He will lead us into a vocation and the temporal situations in life in which we can be happy, by His grace.
“Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.” (Proverbs 13:23)
This gives us an insight into one of the causes (certainly not the only cause) of poverty. Learning to make good use of what we have, and learning good judgment in the use of what money comes our way, makes far more difference in how we fare temporally than most realize. I remember a famous sports star had planned to retire, but found himself nearly bankrupt through poor management of his money (in this case, in how his millions had been invested), and kept on playing several more years than he had intended to restore his financial situation. I know of highly paid professionals who can’t save up to avoid buying on credit, and I know of people who have very limited means that make their own lot far more difficult than it need be through lack of self-control and mismanagement. I know of others who are poor in this world’s eyes, but have found “much food” in their “tillage,” and get by better than others who earn a lot more.
“The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.” (Proverbs 21:5)
Notice the contrast here between the “diligent” and the “hasty.” Have you had very many encounters with sellers of this world’s goods and services where you are urged to take lots of time to carefully consider the purchase decision, and to be sure to wait until you can afford it and really need it? When I come to the checkout counter at a store, I am often asked if I found everything I needed, but I can’t recall ever being asked if I had taken time to consider whether I really needed and could afford whatever was in my cart or hands. This being the case, young man, should you not set yourself against the natural flow and be diligent to find your own places of natural “hastiness,” and resist them? Almost all the advertising that we are exposed to weighs in on the side of hastiness. Ask the Lord to teach you how to face this challenge to sober, godly living.
“A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.” (Proverbs 28:20)
We live in an age of shortcuts. We are ever looking for a quicker way to get places, accomplish things, or do a task. There are “shortcuts to success,” and so much of the thrust of our information age is on getting answers quicker, accomplishing things quicker, and finding shortcuts to satisfying our wants. There is a place for seeking greater productivity, for using our time more effectively, for not wasting effort, but the predominance of this adds to the tendency toward haste. Faithfulness takes time. Faithfulness is often inconvenient. Faithfulness frequently slows us down. But faithfulness is approved of God. “A faithful man shall abound with blessings.” A person I know was referred to as “a pillar of the community” by a co-worker. This person’s own testimony was that the things that led to this co-worker referring to him that way were acts that were difficult, painful, and humiliating. There were times God had shown him that he needed to go apologize and make things right, to go back and do something over, to do things he didn’t want to do. In other words, this “reputation” was really no reflection on him, but on God’s faithful dealings with him, and his humbling himself to respond.
“Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: 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.” (Proverbs 30:7-9)
Poverty and riches are both vanity—they both obscure and “lie” to us about the real state of things, and they both have their peculiar temptations. Let us return to the incident we read about at the beginning of this article: Peter and John were in a spiritual condition to be a benefit to the new believers in Samaria—they knew well the utter worthlessness of temporal riches in the spiritual realm, and they knew they were stewards, and didn’t “own” these gifts to sell, anyway. They knew that they weren’t poor when they had the Lord as their master. They were diligent in what the Lord gave them to do, and trusted Him to take care of their needs. Let us bear in mind, young men, the real standard of poverty. We are inclined to think we are poor if we find ourselves inconvenienced a lot. The scripture addresses us thus: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Timothy 6:7-8) That is the true standard of having “neither poverty nor riches.” Young men, I charge you as Paul charged Timothy: “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.” (2 Timothy 2:7)