The Bare Soul
Profit and Loss
Isaiah 48:17 - Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go."
Many years ago my great-uncle pulled me aside and gave me some advice that I wouldn't fully understand until years later. I was a young man barely out of my teens when he told me: It's not how much you make in life that matters, it's what you save. This native Texan was a self-made man that grew up during the depression and later put himself through college at Texas A&M University. During the 1960s, he amassed a great deal of wealth in real estate. However, even today he is an unassuming man in his 90s that lives modestly and with a frugality characteristic of his years of want. At the time when he shared this tidbit of wisdom, my finances were in shambles and money went through my hands like a sieve. Years later, I would understand that creating a lifestyle of first giving back to God and secondly of providing for my family and others unselfishly would provide the bedrock where a foundation of "saving" might be laid. I am not talking merely about saving in respect to money. I am talking about a lifestyle conducive to both material and spiritual wealth. For Jesus said: Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? (Luke 16:11).
To those who know the Lord, saving does not necessarily imply laying aside wealth for future retirement. It implies a heart of wisdom that has been instructed for years by the Lord regarding His insights on how to make a profit and to make it continue to grow. The irony of making a profit in God's economy means little about earthly wealth. This is merely a tool to help us progress to the real treasure. In Isaiah 48:17, the prophet spoke one thing yet was most likely misunderstood in his day much like he has been misunderstood in this generation. During the "Name it and Claim it" phenomenon of the 1970s and 80s, many preachers were telling us that in order to be successful in this life a person just needed to believe. They would tell their listeners on radio or television that whatever they confessed, they could possess if they just had faith. Do you want a new house? Then believe God and He will bless you with a mansion! After all, aren't we all "King's Kids"? And how about a new Cadillac? Surely, God will not withhold any good thing from those who would believe in Him, will He? Oh, but there was that one little caveat. Unless a believer sows finances into the Kingdom then they wouldn't receive back ten- or a hundred-fold for their faithfulness, as told by these soothsayers. In other words, you had to give to get -- you had to sow richly so you could reap a harvest of material blessings. Most of this so-called biblical instruction instructing many to "sow into the Kingdom" was directed back to their ministries to provide for their lavish lifestyles. Beloved, I am convinced that God wept then and He still weeps when we try to take His word and make it formulaic to increase wealth in a selfish, carnal way.
In order to understand what God wants to teach us about true profit, we should first look to Jesus and His Sermon on the Mount. The Lord's teaching is diametrically opposed to any thought of gaining material wealth BEFORE attaining spiritual treasure. Too often, we have tried to measure our success by how much material "blessings" we have attained -- how large our portfolios might be, or how much real estate we own. While there is certainly nothing wrong with having treasure on this earth, there is a problem if it is not founded on God's instruction on how to make and keep wealth. It is very much like trying to make a sidewalk without any forms or rebar. The wet concrete will never set up right because it has no foundation, lacking the boards or metal forms to rest on. It will crack easily because there is no inner structure for the concrete to cling to if there is no rebar . Concrete forms are comparable to the wisdom that God gives us to create wealth and then use it wisely. There are established, certain ways to create sidewalks in the same way as there are to create wealth according to God's guidance. Many, however, have attempted to produce material security before creating spiritual security. Jesus' teaching to the common man on the mount stated that to live in pursuit of riches was a life of chasing folly. The true riches were to be laid up in heaven through a heart given to God and to His Kingdom (Matthew 5:16-19). Christ summed it up concisely in regard to how much or how little wealth one should make when comparing the "birds of the air" and the "lilies of the field" with our earthly pursuits for material happiness. How much more does God care to feed and clothe us than these? (Matthew 6:25-30). Anything that God desires to give above and beyond this is according to His wisdom and how He might deal with each of us. Jesus concludes His teaching on how to profit in God's economy with this simple statement: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).
Years later, I have taken my uncle's advice and turned it in such a way as he might not have expected. I still believe there is great wisdom in what he said, regardless whether he meant it as merely saving every nickel and dime to attain material security. Today, I know that the Lord has great things in store for those who will but let Him instruct them on the meaning of making a true profit. Today, the concept of "saving" means to turn ALL my affections and intentions to profit over to Him, allowing God by His grace to instruct me on the meaning of true gain. With this type of savings plan, there truly is a heavenly salvation that does not lack a high rate of return. If we get the proverbial cart before the horse, then we will just be creating a profit-scheme that will eventually be bankrupt in loss because it was built on self-serving motives. However, if we surrender all our ambition and desire to the Lord Jesus to create His wealth through us (spiritual, then material), then we will be delighted to see not only spiritual blessings but also the material blessings that He has laid up for us on this earth. They may not be mansions and Cadillacs here in this world, but they will be EXACTLY what we need to fulfill our respective missions and to prepare us for our heavenly home filled with splendor.
Heavenly Father, teach us and guide us regarding what true profit means while we traverse through this life. Help us to turn the gains you produce in us into heavenly riches that ultimately builds your church on earth and produces treasure for eternity. In Jesus' Name, Amen!
Your Barefoot Servant,
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