Ten Commandments still light the way
One of the great moments in history is when Moses was given the Ten Commandments (more correctly “Ten Words” or “Ten Matters”). The drama of the escape from slavery in Egypt was behind the Israelites and an unknown, adventurous journey to the Promised Land was ahead.
At this pivotal moment, God gave Moses and His people ten spiritual lamp posts to define who they were and provide guidance for how to live.
Those lamp posts still shine brightly today. If you want to get to the heart of Christian spirituality and principles for living as one of God’s people, these verses (see Exodus 20:1-17 or Deuteronomy 5:1-21) address matters of great significance.
And so they also speak to the topic of this regular “Making Money Matter” column – money and wealth.
It’s there indirectly, but clearly, in the first commandment. “You shall have no other gods before me”. That immediately speaks of money and wealth coming under our relationship with God, not ahead of it.
It’s there more obviously in the tenth: “Do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour.” That is, do not greedily crave more and more. Why not? Because to do so is to desire things, money and wealth first and foremost, instead of desiring God first and foremost.
One that’s on topic is the eighth commandment: “Do not steal”. Such behaviour, rooted in covetousness and desire for money and possessions ahead of God, is widely rejected even in the secular world.
However, another commandment that is helpful to understand is the fourth, which literally says “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”.
This might seem a little anachronistic in our frantic, 24/7 world but, through it, God speaks about money, work and worship like this:
Your work is important and will rightly take up a lot of your time and energy. That’s how I provide for your needs. But don’t let it consume you; don’t idolise the work itself nor the rewards it can bring; and don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s all that matters.
What matters most is your relationship with Me. So take time to cultivate it! And allow those over whom you have influence (your family and your staff) to take time to do this too.
We are to have no other gods before our Lord
To help you with that I give you permission to take a break from work. I don’t intend the Sabbath as a burden. You don’t have to legalistically work out what you can and can’t do on the ‘day of rest’. Far from it!
Instead, use it as a strategy to help you to abide in Christ and enjoy my loving presence. The Sabbath is there to help you to remember to put me first in everything. In fact, don’t just see it as a ‘day’, but as a habit of enjoying the fact that I am always with you by my Spirit. It is my gift to you – enjoy it!
When you think about it like that, from God’s perspective, you can also understand one of the many principles Jesus expressed. A principle wrapped up in what he was getting at when he said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (as recorded in Mark 2:27).
Similar to God’s teaching through the fourth commandment, what’s being said is work was made for man, not man for work. Working, and making money from it, is not wrong — we’re commanded to do that! However, putting it ahead of God is the root cause of all kinds of problems (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
Does our attitude to money and what we do with it really matter? The Ten Commandments say that it does. We’re to have no other gods before our Lord.
Making Money Matter is a new, regular column by Warren Bird, Executive Director of Uniting Financial Services.