BUSINESS IS GOOD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

BUSINESS IS GOOD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on April 29, 2017)

“Local business gives back.” “I like to support companies that give back.” “We feel that we need to give back to our community.” It seems that “giving back” is the new litmus test for being a good business. It is assumed that most businesses are basically bad because they only take from the people. Behind such thinking is the idea that deceiving people is the only way that businesses grow and their owners get rich. Hence, “giving back” is the moral way to come clean and make things right.

Is this really true? Do businesses profit only because they exploit the ignorant masses? Are the rich getting rich only because they deceive and take advantage of the poor? Before I answer that, let me acknowledge that throughout history there have been those who have prospered by manipulating the unsuspecting or seizing from the weak. I call them the “Mr. Potters” from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” With that being said, most are more like George Bailey.

The Bible is replete with examples of such businessmen and women whom God used in his eternal plan. In the Old Testament, he called Abraham and Sarah, a wealthy couple, to initiate his plan of salvation for the world. He led Boaz, a prosperous farmer, to redeem Ruth, the great grandmother of King David. In the New Testament, Jesus chose a small business owner to lead his church. Yes, Peter was not just some poor illiterate fisherman, as his letters (I Peter & II Peter) prove. Paul was helped by Lydia, a businesswoman from Philippi. But doesn’t the Bible warn the rich in James 5 to “weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten…you have heaped up treasure in the last days”? True, but keep reading – “Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out…you have condemned, you have murdered the just.” The rich who were being condemned were those who were cheating the defenseless workers. The point is that God is not against those who have justly accumulated wealth through business. In fact, he frequently used them and even blessed them with more!

The slogan “giving back” wrongly portrays businesses as one-sided and parasitic. To the contrary, “giving back” happens when you receive goods or services in exchange for money. For example: When you buy a sandwich, you are getting back a full stomach; when you pay for a lawn care service, you are getting back a well maintained yard; etc. Good business is recognizing what people need, meeting the need, and making a profit from the exchange. Booker T. Washington (Founder of the Tuskegee Institute) said it best, “No one who continues to add something to the material, intellectual, and moral well-being of the place in which he lives is long left without proper reward.” The reward can then be used as the owner pleases. Personally, I know many who give very generously to the community but choose to stay anonymous.

Lately, it has become fashionable to march down the street and hold up a sign against the greed of the rich. I wonder about their true motivation. As Father Robert Sirico once told Dinesh D’Souza, “If greed is the natural vice of those who have more, envy is the natural vice of those who have less.” How about dropping those self-righteous signs and check how much you’ve “given back.” Compared to the millions in the third world countries, you are rich!

Gain by Giving Away by Pastor Abidan Shah

GAIN BY GIVING AWAY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

gainbygivingawayIntroduction: We’re in our series called “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is giving us life principles on how to deal with anxiety and worry. Today’s message is titled – “GAIN BY GIVING AWAY.”

Matthew 6   19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Overall Background: The passage we just read has been misunderstood quite often. Some people think that in this passage Jesus was getting on to the rich who lay up treasures on earth. Others think that He was warning against having material things in life instead of heavenly things. Still others think that He was really talking about the unpredictability of life where moth, rust, and thieves come unannounced and destroy and steal. To understand what this passage is really about, we have to understand it in its context. When we keep reading, we realize that Jesus was building His argument leading up to verse 25 where He says, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life…” In other words, “I am saying all this to you so that you may learn how not to worry in life.”

Here’s the point of this message: Worry or Anxiety has nothing to do with your bank balance. It has to do with attitude of your heart. When your heart is in hoarding and guarding what you have, worry and anxiety will follow. When your heart is in letting go, sharing and helping the less fortunate, then there is assurance and peace and joy.

The question this morning is not “How much money you have?” but “What is the status of your heart?” Are you struggling with worry and anxiety? Are you hoarding or are you sharing? In which bank are you making deposits? The earthly or the heavenly? The earthly will fail but the heavenly will give eternal dividends. There’s never a run on that bank. Are you saved? You’ll have only a partial understanding of today’s message unless the Holy Spirit helps you. Only those who know Christ have the Spirit.

To understand today’s message, we have to understand 3 things.

I. WHAT IS THE HEART? 

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Background: The Greek word for heart is “cardia” from which we get our English words cardiologist, cardiogram, or cardiac arrest. Since the time of Homer, the heart came to represent the seat of our emotions and our mental faculties, to some extent. But in the Hebrew Bible and especially the Greek translation (LXX), the word “cardia” had a much deeper meaning. It meant our emotions, mind, inner life, will, and the very center of being a human. In fact, it is found over 900 times in the LXX. Here are some examples:

  • Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Meaning: Love God from your essence and not just your outward actions.
  • Exodus 7:13 “And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.” Meaning: He made up his mind to disobey God.
  • Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Meaning: God, cleanse from the inside out.
  • Psalm 27 David says, 13 “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. 14 Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart…” Meaning: If you trust God, He will strengthen your will and your perspective on life.

So also in the New Testament:

  • Matthew 15:19 Jesus says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Meaning: The source of sin is inside of us not outside.
  • Romans 5:5 Paul says, “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Meaning: God begins His work deep within our being.

Here’s the point: The heart is the indefinable, indescribable inner life, and the center of our personality. It’s what makes us who we are. It’s the location of God’s work and interaction with us. Our heart can be either full of God and set on the things of God or it can be full of self and set on things of this world. Your heart is who you are.

Application: Where is your heart? Is it full of Christ? Or, is it full of sin? If you haven’t received Christ as your Savior, you are full of sin. The solution is given in Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Meaning: Believe in Jesus inwardly and not just outwardly. Let Him come into your life.

II. HOW DO YOU STORE UP TREASURE IN HEAVEN? 

20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Background: People have all kinds of ideas as to how to store up treasures in heaven – doing things for God, studying the Bible, praying more, serving in church, and winning the lost. None of these things are wrong and we should be doing them but that’s not what Jesus meant when He told us to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. To understand what He meant, we need to compare the parallel passages in Luke that give us some additional information. Luke 12  33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In other words, to store up treasures in heaven, you need to help the poor and the needy. Don’t hoard your money but help the less fortunate and you will start making deposits in the heavenly bank.

Why didn’t Matthew include this clarification by Jesus in his gospel? Because he was writing to a predominantly Jewish audience who already knew this principle. In an apocryphal work known by Ben Sira, which was written two centuries before Christ, it says in Sirach 29   Help a poor man for the commandment’s sake, and because of his need do not send him away empty. 10 Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost. 11 Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold. So also in Tobit, another apocryphal work written two centuries before Christ, it says in Tobit 4 9 So you will be laying up a good treasure for yourself against the day of necessity. 10 For charity delivers from death and keeps you from entering the darkness; 11 and for all who practice it charity is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High. Please don’t misunderstand – these are not scriptures, but they help us understand how the people in the time of Jesus understood “storing up treasures in heaven.”

Christ and Rich young ruler by Heinrich Hofmann

Christ and Rich young ruler by Heinrich Hofmann

In Matthew 19 Jesus explained this very clearly. Do you remember when the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked Him how to have eternal life? Jesus told him to keep the commandments. To which he replied, “Already done it since I was a kid. What’s next?” Mark says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. Meaning: He had compassion on him and said in 21 “…If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, (Mark adds take up your cross) follow Me.” The point is this – giving what you have to help those less fortunate than yourself and needy is storing up treasures in heaven.

By the way, Paul says the same thing to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6   17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Application: What is your attitude towards what you have? Are you hoarding it or are you sharing it? Let me clarify – sharing it does not mean that you go around throwing your money indiscreetly to anyone or everyone; sharing does not mean that you don’t plan and budget for your own life, family, and future. It simply means that you are willing to become the hands of Jesus.

III. WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WORRY AND ANXIETY?

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;

Background: Just like in our world today, imported fabrics were very expensive in the ancient world, especially woollen clothes that had been processed to look bright white or dyed purple. So also silk was like gold in the time of the Romans. But just like today, moth larvae could get into the closet and destroy those expensive clothes. But it was not just clothes but also scrolls, books, and title deeds could be destroyed. How about “rust?” The Greek word is “brosis” which is not really about rust or corrosion but a better translation would be “eaters.” It was a reference to plagues of insects or birds destroying crops and pastures and eating food that was stored away. Then come thieves that break in and steal.

For e.g. I have talked to people who had their home broken into. I asked them how they felt. They felt violated, unsafe, paranoid, anxious, afraid, and the list goes on and on.

What Jesus is saying is – “You can either hoard it and hang on to it and the subtle criminals of life can steal it from under your noses or you can give it to help the less fortunate and put it in the heavenly account where moths, eaters, and thieves cant reach. The choice is yours.” James says the same thing in James 5   1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.

To deal with worry and anxiety, put your wealth where no one can touch it. Not only that but it’s a bank that has eternal dividends. “There’s no U-haul behind a hearse but you can UPS it. “Unending Possession Sharing.”

Illustration: Many people don’t know but John Wesley was a very rich man. We only think of him as a godly man, travelling on horseback, founder of Methodism. He made a lot of money from the books and the hymns that he wrote. When he died, he had only 28 pounds to his name. What many people don’t realize is that he gave all his money away, at one time, as much as 40,000 pounds. Let me ask you – “Did he die rich or poor?”

By the way, this is not just about money but knowledge and love and everything.

Application: Are you struggling with worry and anxiety? How much are you giving and sharing with those who are in need and those who are less fortunate than yourself? Are you saved

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