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Today we will kick off a series on money matters. The first step in moving towards financial maturity as a Christian is gratitude. Take a moment to open your Bibles and read Genesis 47:13-26. Just like the Egyptians, we have four factors that should lead each one of us to gratitude. We will examine each one below.
1. An unsolvable calamity: In the time today’s Bible passage was written, there was a famine in Egypt that was so severe that the people had nothing to eat. There was nothing in their pantries and refrigerators. They could not go to the grocery store because there was nothing in it. They could not go to their neighbors because their neighbors had nothing either. Even though they had water in the receding Nile River, they knew they could not live long on water. Some of the really hardy people might last 60 days without food, but most of the people were going to die before that time had passed. The people could not plant seed because it would not grow without rain. They ate everything they had besides their livestock. The famine was so severe that the entire civilian population of Egypt was on the brink of death by starvation. The people were completely powerless to solve their problem.
As Christians, we understand we all have a helpless condition. We were once dead in our sins and trespasses. We were all without hope and without God in this world. It was impossible for any of us to do enough good works to be pardoned from our sin. We were all on our way to hell by virtue of our first birth. There was nothing–absolutely nothing–we could do to solve our problem. We were just like the Egyptians in an unsolvable calamity. Unless someone intervened, there was no hope.
2. A caring savior: In the passage, Joseph alone became the person who saved all of the Egyptians from destruction. Joseph, as a reminder, was not an Egyptian. Joseph was a Hebrew. A lot of people in Joseph’s position of power would have not have bothered with the pleas of the Egyptian people. They would have insulated themselves with bodyguards and thought, “So what?” if all of the people had perished. There are many leaders who have done this very thing, even in today’s time period. Joseph chose to care. Joseph is one of the few people in the entire Bible who had not negative word said about him. He was an incredible man. He knew firsthand what it felt like to be abandoned by others, and he was not about to abandon the whole population. He stepped up, and he sold the food. He took their livestock and their land and their bodies. In doing these things, he saved the entire population from death.
Now fast forward to today. Look who emerges in our stories. It is Jesus. We are just like the Egyptians. We are in a difficult, impossible situation. Jesus is in heaven, and He saw our pitiable condition. He could have ignored us. We had nothing to offer Him. In fact, all of us have caused Jesus more than His share of trouble. Jesus loved and cared for us so much that He was compelled to leave the ivory palaces of heaven, and He willingly surrendered the comforts of heaven and the active use of some of His attributes. He went so much further than Joseph ever did. Jesus actually died for the entire population of the world. The Word of God says that he took upon Himself the sins of the world that whoever would believe on Him would know the famine is over. We get to live. No one ever cared for us like Jesus. He is the only one who could have ever solved our famine of sin condition. There is no other name under heaven whereby we need to be saved than the name of Jesus Christ. Joseph gave life to all who came to him for bread, and Jesus–the Bread of Life–gives life to all who come to Him.
3. A complete surrender: The Egyptians in our passage were purely and simply about survival. They needed food and water. Everything else in life became irrelevant to them. In order to meet their fundamental needs, they gave all of their money to Joseph for food. Then they gave all of their livestock to Joseph for food. Then they gave all of their land and ultimately their bodies–everything they had to offer. They became servants just to survive, and survive they did. They made it, and they eventually came back thriving.
Once again, there is a striking similarity here to the Christian life. Our relationship with Jesus is not buddy to buddy. He is our King! As we find out that Jesus is like Joseph in that He gave us bread that we may live, we will go through life with progressive surrender. This means that throughout the course of our lives, we learn to surrender everything we own and everything we are to Him. We own nothing, not even our bodies, which have been bought at a price. We realize that we have become stewards. What do we get in return? The blessings of God. We get to manage our abundance in this world. We often forget that we don’t own anything, and we start thinking that things belong to us: our houses, our cars, our boats, our paychecks, our food, and even our bodies. Just like the Egyptians, we eventually give everything we have, including ourselves. This is the course of the Christian life. It is a journey to get to the place where we give over everything, including our bodies to Christ. This is really hard to do! No matter what our ages, we all really want to keep some stuff and our own bodies. This is not really an option. God has graciously met our lower needs. We don’t think about food and water too often, do we? In Luke 14:33 Jesus said, “No one can be my disciple who does not give up all of his possessions.” We must surrender everything we think we own and become His servant managers if we are going to become financially mature.
4. A generous supply in return: The famine in Egypt eventually came to an end. The people had no money, no food, and no seed. Joseph decided to give the people seed for crops. The only condition is that they had to give one fifth to Pharaoh. The people could keep four fifths of their crops. Does 20 percent seem like a huge cut for Pharaoh? Wow! The complete Egyptian government tax was just 20 percent, and they got to keep 80 percent. Now think about the taxes in America for a moment. Did you know the average American works the first 103 days of the year for the government! We are not free from taxes until April 13. This is the average American at 28.2 percent of federal, state, and local taxes. This does not include all of the other taxes like entertainment taxes, hotel taxes, food taxes, gas taxes, etc. When you really stop and think about it, 20 percent starts to sound like a good deal. We might even think about trading the Egyptian economy’s approach to what we have in America. We don’t really get to keep that much.
Now, can you hear the words of Jesus about taxing? Render to Caesar the things that belong to him, and to God the things that belong to Him. The famine story now begins to take on a larger meaning. Not only do we have a responsibility to the government and Caesar, we have a responsibility to the Kingdom of God and our King, Jesus Christ. We are called to totally surrender everything to God. In return for giving God everything, God will give us 90 percent. All He is asking is 10 percent for the Kingdom of God. We can keep the 90 percent and wisely manage it for all of our needs and the needs of others around us. Malachi 3:10 says, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” This is our God who says these words. When we fully surrender to Him, we will want to give Him our tithe. When we do, He will meet all of our needs and more. This is not a bad arrangement! The Egyptians in Genesis 47:25 said, “‘You have saved our lives,’ they said. ‘May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.’” They acknowledged what Joseph had done to save them and his incredible generosity, and they gladly served as Pharaoh’s servants. This is the verse of gratitude!
The foundation stone of financial maturity and generosity is gratitude. It begins with a deeply grateful heart. We are so grateful that God has saved us from destruction. We were all in a terrible fix. We could not save ourselves. God saved us from spiritual death and hell. In return, He asks that we surrender all that we have, our bodies and 10 percent to Him. He has saved us, will prosper us in the things of the Spirit, and supply all of our needs. This is our arrangement, which cannot be improved upon by any one of us on this planet. This begs the question: Why are so many Christians immature financially and not generous? Why are they mismanaging their money? Why are they going into debt at such great proportions? Why are they giving so little to the Kingdom of God and its needs, and to the needs of the poor? Could it be that we have forgotten that we are like the Egyptians? On our way to hell with not a prayer we could say for us to save ourselves. In this disaster, God reached down in His love and pity, and saved all who would call upon Him. Are you grateful for what God has done for you? Are you aware that God has saved you from certain ruin and nothing is too great to return to Him for all He has done for you in Christ Jesus? Just begin to think of where you would be headed if Jesus had not saved you! You would have no hope. We should all be thankful that God has saved us and blessed us. Financial maturity and generosity begins with gratitude!