By Todd Strandberg
What is Money?
Money comes in a wide variety of forms, but it has two main purposes. First, it is a means of exchange for goods and services. If a farmer has a dozen head of cattle on his ranch and he wants to use them to buy a truck from a dealership, the salesman isn't normally going to take the farmer's herd of cattle for payment. The farmer could obviously take old Bossy and her companions to market and sell them for currency that he could use to purchase the vehicle.
The other purpose of money is to measure the value of something. A painting by Leonardo da Vinci is esteemed according to the number of dollars a buyer is willing to pay for it.
People often make the mistake of measuring money by itself to determine value.
This is why some wealthy people endure lives of self-inflicted poverty. To them, money is worth more than the basic necessities of life.
An overwhelming number of people measure their own worth by how much money they have in the bank. If one man has $50,000 to his name and another man has $100,000 stashed away, it's common for people to think the second individual
has double the reason to be content.
One of the most troublesome misconceptions people have about money is the belief that if we only had enough of it, all our problems would be resolved. Wealth can end financial troubles, but it can only provide distraction from all other difficulties. Someone once said, "Life is tragic for the person who has plenty to live on but nothing to live for."
Eternal Mistakes People Make
The most important decision people can make in life is to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. People are responsible enough to make sure their life insurance is paid up, but a great number of them fail to ensure the destination of their eternal souls. It is not until after unbelievers die that they realize what a tragic mistake they've made.
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mat 16:26).
Christians are also facing a tragedy of great magnitude. Although it comes nowhere close to the sadness of someone losing out on eternal life, most Christians will end up missing out on a host of rewards the Lord promises He will give generously to His faithful servants.
After choosing to make Jesus the Lord of their lives, too many Christians refuse to become actively involved in their faith. They neglect to realize there are levels of rewards in Heaven that relate directly to the good deeds they performed in this life. Jesus said the reward for sacrifice and commendable stewardship would be as high as a hundredfold return.
"And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life" (Mat 19:29).
"But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Mat 13:23).
When believers leave this earthly abode, they instantly lose the ability to make any improvements to their eternal standing. I often wonder if saints 1000 years from now will still be kicking themselves for not being more active in striving
after God's favor.
A Lasting Reward
The Centers for Disease Control says current life expectancy for the average American man is 73 years, up from 46 years at the turn of the last century. Even with the improvement in life expectancy, our visit here is brief by any comparison to the vast expanse of time.
I'm now 36 years old, and I fully realize, if the Lord tarries, that my visit to this world is half over. I've already determined that as I get older, my interest in this world will drastically depreciate.
The Bible makes numerous references to the brevity of our earthly lives. We are depicted as grass and flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow.
"For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass
withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away" (1 Peter 1:24).
Because we have no lasting foothold on earth, it is essential that we make plans for the life to come. A person once said, "There are no pre-built mansions in Heaven. Every time we do something that glorifies God's name, the angels add one more brick to our eternal dwelling place."
Just before Jesus departed from the disciples, He told them, "I go to prepare a place for you." He's been working on Heaven for nearly 2000 years, so by now it must be quite a spectacular place.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Mat 6:19-21,)
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3).
A Bunch of Tightwads
Because of the abundance of God's blessings, if asked, most people in America would be unable to recall a day when they truly didn't know where their next meal was going to come from. Our nation lives in a protective bubble of prosperity that has made us nearly impervious to the pains of financial hardship.
I've researched a number of reports on giving in the U.S., and I came up with some rather depressing numbers.
We Americans like to label ourselves as very generous by pointing to the $203 billion we gave to charities during the last reported 12-month period. In all honesty, a couple hundred billion dollars is not a lot of money for a country with $14 trillion in wealth. If you exclude the money donated by corporations and foundations, the national total declines to $150 billion.
Nearly all of the surveys I've examined found the average person gives about 3% of his or her annual income to charitable causes. Because of factors involving their age, people 65 and older give five times as much as any other group. Most individuals my age (36) only give 1% of their income to charity. Nearly a third of the population never gives any type of alms.
If people in the low-income brackets can be called stingy, the folks who make over $100,000 per year would make Ebenezer Scrooge look like Mr. Rogers. The annual giving rate for the high-pay folks only amounts to a fraction of a percent.
Some guy who has a $2 million-per-year salary might think he's the king of philanthropists for departing with $10,000. This would be a hefty lump for most people's wallets, but in this particular case, it would only amount to 0.05 percent of his income.
The inability of money to satisfy is a major factor in people's hesitance to be more generous. A survey was once conducted by a Wall Street investment firm, asking how much money it would take for the people being polled to achieve the American dream. People with household incomes under $30,000 indicated that it would take $65,000 a year to reach the state of ideal living, and individuals who make $100,000 crave an average of $192,000 to achieve contentment.
One of the best stories on the subject of generosity that I ever recall reading involved Alexander the Great. One day, a beggar was at the roadside asking for alms and Alexander the Great happened to pass by. The man was poor and wretched, and had no claim upon the ruler--no right even to lift a solicitous hand. Yet the Emperor threw him several gold coins. An aide was astonished by his generosity and commented, "Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar's need. Why give him gold?" Alexander responded in royal fashion, "Copper coins would suit the beggar's need, but gold coins suit Alexander's giving."
A hefty curse comes with wealth. The more money you have, the more accountable you become for making good use of it. Some people are so rich that they could actually fund the entire global missionary outreach of North America. On Judgment Day, the people in this special ranking will be in unbelievable peril.
"For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:48).
Practice What You Preach
When it comes to vigilance regarding Christ's return, I've always applied a higher standard to people in the field of prophecy. They are the ones going
around telling people to get ready because Jesus could come at any moment.
When I first began my study of prophecy, I had a very naive view of everyone associated with prophecy. I just assumed they were all highly dedicated to the cause of spreading the Gospel message. As I became more exposed to Bible teachers, I learned that not all of them have their hearts in the right place.
I recall one gentleman who, a few years back, discontinued an internet news commentary. I met him at a public gathering, and I asked him his reason for canceling the program. He casually told me he was losing money on the venture, so he decided to discontinue that portion of his ministry.
II could understand his decision if it weren't for two important factors: First, he was a very wealthy man and second, his loss was extremely small. I would guess his net worth was over $10 million, and his operation was probably only losing around $1,000 per month. If you divided out his wealth without even considering the compounding of interest, this man could have journeyed on for more than 800 years before running out of cash.
When I now hear him boldly proclaim that he believes the Lord is coming soon, his words ring hollow to me. If he truly thought the rapture was drawing near, I don't think he would have worried about losing a few dollars.
I was recently talking to another well-known prophecy speaker whom I knew was wealthy from a private investment firm he owned. I candidly told him he should get more of his writings posted on the internet so people could find them after the rapture. I'm sure he has dozens of articles he's written over the years that would make for a massive online treasure trove. But I could tell from the stunned reaction I got from him that he didn't like that idea one bit. He might as well have told me, "Sorry Todd, I'm only in the prophecy business for the money."
Not all end-time writers focus solely on the bottom line. I've met a number of men who have demonstrated a deep commitment to advancing the prophetic message. Several of these men have provided me with articles on various Bible-related subjects.
Frequently in the New Testament, Jesus recites the phrase, "the first shall be last; and the last first." The Lord said if our primary motivation is to seek after material or personal gain, then the fleeting gains of this life will be our only rewards.
"Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward" (Mat 6:2).
The "Prosperity Gospel" Wrecking Ball
I have long been a critic of the "prosperity gospel." The whole motivation behind this type of giving is greed. This doctrine is akin to selling religious lottery tickets: it asserts that the more money people give, the more God will financially reward them with worldly goods.
The prosperity gospel is a simple formula that supports the lavish lifestyles of the preachers at the receiving end of these one-way transactions. If giving were the means to prosperity, you would think these men could use their own financial resources to donate their way into a bigger mansion.
Long before Oral Roberts made his now-infamous announcement that God was threatening to kill him if he didn't raise $8 million, the Word of Faith folks were already busy poisoning the waters of biblical financial giving.
Money-minded ministers use a number of pressure tactics to subtract filthy lucre from the flock. Here are a few examples:
- In some churches, members are asked to march forward with money in hand.
- Other churches let the congregations know who's giving and who's not.
- At one church, the pastor literally stood over the collection table during the offering.
- Another minister held a church hostage until a desired amount was given.
God's grace has no room for aggressive appeals for funds. People should be told of the needs at hand and potential rewards that come with giving, but there should never be the indication that the giving is mandatory.
"Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor 9:7 RSV).
Probably the most revolting trait of today's prosperity preachers is their lack of personal sacrifice.
Several of the headliners for the TBN network could learn a great deal from Charles Thomas Studd. He was a famous English cricket player who gave away his vast wealth and became a missionary. His slogan was, "If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."
The Apostle Paul's Financial Report
There is a lot of confusion over how we should react to the good deeds we perform. Some people think if you give knowing you'll be rewarded for your charity, you've somehow jinxed the transaction. The important question that needs to be asked is this: Are we gambling or investing our money? If people seek after a short-term gain, they're gambling. If they expect to be rewarded in the next life, then it's likely they're investing.
The Apostle Paul was highly aware of the good works he had amassed in the name of Christ. Paul had no reservation about detailing his long list of afflictions to the Corinthians.
"I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness" (2 Cor 11:23b-27).
Paul was not trying to brag about his many sufferings for the faith. His motivation was to inspire those whom he regarded as being his spiritual children and to prove how much he cared for them.
"I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel" (1 Cor 4:14-15).
Pride is very destructive to the eternal rewards building process. Paul received a supernatural revelation of the glory awaiting him in Heaven. To keep Paul from becoming overwhelmed with pride, God allowed Satan to strike the apostle with some sort of adversity.
"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (2 Cor 12:7).
It's a good thing the Apostle Paul didn't share the same motivation for evangelization that is so pervasive today. If his missionary work in Asia Minor were to be assessed by today's standards, it would be labeled as a financial fiasco.
On a number of occasions, poor Paul ended up working as a tentmaker to support himself. Most of the people with whom Paul shared the salvation message failed miserably to show their appreciation. Paul's letters made it quite clear there were times he was greatly lacking in support.
"Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day" (1 Cor 4: 11-13).
There can be no doubt that the Apostle Paul is currently one of Heaven's most predominant inhabitants. He authored almost half of the 27 books in the New Testament and endured endless travail for the cause of Christ. Anyone suffering from delusions of greatness needs to ponder Paul's record of faith.
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
I've always been open about how much it costs to operate the Rapture Ready site. Last year, I spent about 12% of my income to help advance the Kingdom of God.
It would seem like a huge financial drain if I had to sit down and write a single check for such an amount to some worthy charity. I have found the easiest way to achieve this measure of giving is to make the whole process part of my lifestyle.
I've watched Rapture Ready grow from a few hundred hits per month to monthly hits that register in the millions. Being able to directly see the results of my labor is a huge motivation factor. When I give money to a large organization, I have no idea where my donation is going.
I'm sure a lot of people would view my spending habits as equivalent to feeding my money into a paper shredder. If these detractors were to closely examine their own expenditures, they might be quite surprised by some of the dollar amounts of their lifestyle expenses.
People who go out drinking several times a week can easily spend up to $4,000 a year on booze-related activities. I know of dozens of folks who splurge thousands of dollars on their vehicles. Some cat or dog owners have no reservations at all about spending big bucks on their pets' medical expenses. Every winter, my best friend's mother plunks down around $5,000 for a Hawaiian vacation.
If you're looking for an example of extreme financial devotion, there are some drug addicts who spend 100% of their income on their favorite charity. They get free food and lodging from homeless shelters, so all the money they raise from begging, stealing, or working at petty jobs goes for drugs.
Hogging All the Blessings
Over the years, I've come to realize the same primary motivation that drives the business world also applies in the Gospel realm. Apart from God's grace, money is the main reason that Rapture Ready has enjoyed such a high level of visibility. Because the internet was founded on the idea that information should be mostly free, RR has achieved success by default.
There is a special reason why Rapture Ready is one of the top 10 prophetic domains. It ranks high because there are about 10 well-maintained sites on the subject. I'm sure thousands of people would be far more capable than me at putting together a similar effort, but the lack of financial compensation is a very powerful factor that is holding them back.
I have always been fascinated with the reality that most Christian endeavors are accomplished by a small handful of people. If 100 people are offered the opportunity to support an outreach in some form, chances are only 1 person will respond to the appeal.
When you weigh the low level of giving on the part of Christians against God's promise to richly bless people who are generous, the potential rewards are of an exponential nature. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a multi-billionaire who decides to give away his wealth to all comers, and only a few people show up to receive the bounty.
F.E. Marsh has compiled a list some of God's blessings that await the faithful:
An acceptance that can never be questioned (Ephesians 1:6).
An inheritance that can never be lost (I Peter 1:3-5).
A deliverance that can never be excelled (2 Corinthians l:10).
A grace that can never be limited (2 Corinthians 12:9).
A hope that can never be disappointed (Hebrews 6:18, 19).
A bounty that can never be withdrawn (I Colossians 3:21-23).
A joy that need never be diminished (John 15:11).
A nearness to God that can never be reversed (Ephesians 2:13).
A peace that can never be disturbed (John 14:27).
A righteousness that can never be tarnished (2 Corinthians 5:21).
You Lose What You Keep
George W. Truett, a well-known pastor, was invited to dinner in the home of a very wealthy man in Texas. After the meal, the host led him to a place where they could get a good view of the surrounding area.
Pointing to the oil wells punctuating the landscape, he boasted, "Twenty-five years ago I had nothing. Now, as far as you can see, it's all mine." Looking in the opposite direction at his sprawling fields of grain, he said, "That's all mine." Turning east toward huge herds of cattle, he bragged, "They're all mine." Then, pointing to the west and a beautiful forest, he exclaimed, "That, too, is all mine!"
He paused, expecting Dr. Truett to compliment him on his great success. Truett, however, placing one hand on the man's shoulder and pointing heavenward with the other, simply said, "How much do you have in that direction?" The man hung his head and confessed, "I never thought of that."
I frequently get email messages from people who inform me that once the rapture takes place, they're going to swoop in like vultures and lay claim to all the homes and cars of missing believers. I tell them I'm all for that idea. If they're willing to miss the glory of Heaven, they'll certainly need some consolation for rejecting a much more valuable prize.
I have to wonder if most Christians think nothing will be left behind for these tribulation scavengers to lay claim to. I've read the rapture passages many times, and I get no indication that our carnal possessions will be following us to glory. Apart from maybe the clothes on our backs, the only things we'll likely take with us will be our good deeds.
Some people have asked me if I knew of a way they could donate their estates to a good cause after Jesus takes them out of here. I'm sure God frowns on the eternal value of offerings made after the rapture. Money is worthless to us when we die or get raptured, so I don't think we can expect any great amount of compensation for post-departure giving.
After the catching up of the Church, earthly wealth will have a greatly reduced value. With millions of Christians suddenly absent, there will be a glut of houses on the market. The reduced numbers of both workers and consumers will send the economy into a tailspin. It will only take a loss of 10% of the population to rival the darkest days of the Great Depression.
As the tribulation progresses, food will become the only lasting sign of wealth. The Book of Revelation indicates a day's wage will equal a small loaf of bread.
"And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius" (Rev 6:6
Leading By Example
When it comes to persuading people to get more involved in worthy causes, leadership is the best way to inspire them. The Bible has several examples for us to learn from and emulate.
Paul was a big advocate of the motto, "lead by example." Paul told Timothy, a younger man in the faith, "...be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12).
On the main Rapture Ready directory, I have a link entitled "Bearing Fruit." The purpose of this page is to list some of the accomplishments we've performed as a group. I thought it would be a great witness and a motivation to people who read the examples on that page.
If you want to establish your own work or support another worthy endeavor, I highly encourage you to occupy yourself with something the Lord Jesus would find pleasing.