Money Matters Matter

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Ralph Zehr

Averting a Major Catastrophe

The first situation in Jesus’ life when money matters mattered occurred when he was a year old. Fortunately, Zacharias had developed a number of confidants who provided accurate intelligence, and that fact, combined with his available funds, enabled Jesus’ parents to make a last-minute escape just prior to the massacre of sixteen baby boys in Bethlehem. Once they reached Alexandria, well-to-do relatives of Joseph provided lodging while his skills, initially as a carpenter and later as a contractor, enabled him to support his wife and son during their two-year sojourn in Egypt.

Facing the Economic Realities of Supporting a Large Family

The next major crisis in Jesus’ life was the death of his father when Jesus was fourteen. This adolescent youth was suddenly brought face-to-face with the brutal reality of supporting his widowed mother, seven brothers and sisters, and a sister yet to be born. He became the sole support and protector of his bereaved family.

Jesus early demonstrated the possession of keen business judgment and financial sagacity. He was liberal but frugal; he was saving but generous. He proved to be a wise and efficient administrator of his father’s estate. 126:2.7 (1389.2)

As the sole provider for the family during the next several years, he would observe his father's estate gradually dissipate, eventually requiring that he sell the caravan shop in Nazareth. By working exclusively out of the home shop, he was nearer his mother and could provide her greater support in managing the family. At the same time, the move isolated him from the center of activity in Nazareth. To compensate for this loss of access to international news, he arranged for his brother James to visit the caravan center periodically and bring back whatever news of the outside world was available.

The future did not look bright as matters now developed. But he did not falter; he was not discouraged. He lived on, day by day, doing well the present duty and faithfully discharging the immediate responsibilities of his station in life. Jesus’ life is the everlasting comfort of all disappointed idealists. 126:5.4 (1393.1)

He soon learned to make the tough decisions required to control basic expenditures for food and clothing, in order to maintain a balanced family budget. He was also brought face-to-face with the realities of greedy tax collectors, and took the necessary steps proactively to avoid unfair taxation. He wisely donated his personal complete copy of the Greek scriptures to the Nazareth synagogue library, thus retaining access for personal study. Later, when Jude began his studies at the synagogue school, Jesus was forced to part with his most prized personal possession, his harp, which he sold in order to cover the costs. He had derived great enjoyment and satisfaction from playing the harp while growing up, but, at least now, it would not be confiscated by a tax collector.

Gradually Jesus and his family returned to the simple life of their earlier years. Their clothes and even their food became simpler. They had plenty of milk, butter, and cheese. In season they enjoyed the produce of their garden, but each passing month necessitated the practice of greater frugality. Their breakfasts were very plain; they saved their best food for the evening meal. 126:5.1 (1392.8)

Establishing a Solid Financial Foundation for the Public Ministry

One of Jesus’ foremost concerns, when preparing to launch his public ministry, was to ensure that the financial foundation of the apostolic organization was solid.

Jesus now asked them how much money they had among them; he also inquired as to what provision had been made for their families. When it developed that they had hardly sufficient funds to maintain themselves for two weeks, he said: “It is not the will of my Father that we begin our work in this way. We will remain here by the sea two weeks and fish or do whatever our hands find to do; and in the meantime, under the guidance of Andrew, the first chosen apostle, you shall so organize yourselves as to provide for everything needful in your future work, both for the present personal ministry and also when I shall subsequently ordain you to preach the gospel and instruct believers.” 138:7.4 (1544.3)

Matthew was responsible for balancing the budget and replenishing the treasury. If funds were insufficient, he was authorized to order the apostles back to their nets, until the treasury was replenished.

Jesus also provided for careful supervision of all expenditures. He directed that no alms be disbursed except upon his personal request or that of two apostles. “He made it clear that indiscriminate kindness may be blamed for many social evils.” 140:8.13 (1580.8)

As a result of Jesus delaying the beginning of their ministry until they had properly organized themselves and provided for their financial needs, it was never necessary for Matthew to interrupt their ministering program due to lack of funds.

Teaching About Wealth

Jesus’ most comprehensive discussion concerning the appropriate attitude toward wealth occurred following his encounter with Matadormus.

Matadormus was a wealthy young Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, who had become a believer in the gospel of the kingdom. He came to Jesus requesting ordination into the corps of seventy evangelists.

Jesus responded by saying: “If you would be my messenger, go and sell all that you have and, when you have bestowed the proceeds upon the poor or upon your brethren, come and follow me, and you shall have treasure in the kingdom of heaven.” 163:2.5 (1802.1)

But Matadormus was too emotionally attached to his wealth at this time. It was not the fact of ownership of wealth, but it was his love for what his wealth could do for him that stood in his way of becoming a wholehearted follower of the Master. He believed that his wealth was a token of God's blessing and approval.

He did, however, decide to follow Jesus’ advice several years later, but he had deprived himself of the greatest opportunity of his entire life, “that intimate and personal association with the Master” and sovereign of the universe. 163:2.9 (1802.5)

Managing an Epochal Revelation

What parallels can we draw between Jesus’ life and teachings concerning his management of financial matters and the issues we face in supporting and managing the publication, translations, and dissemination of the fifth epochal revelation?

Both are largely dependent on dedicated and loyal volunteers. In both cases there is dependence on the generosity of those who have embraced the teachings. Both must follow the highest ethical standards and exercise wise management of limited financial resources. In both, the major incentive for financial support is the privilege of being associated with, and being able to contribute to, the most important project on the planet. In each case it is motivated by the most powerful force in the universe, love. It was the apostles’ love for the Master that caused them to follow him through the crucifixion, resurrection, and subsequently give their lives for the sake of the gospel. For us, it is our love for the Master as portrayed in these marvelous teachings.

Jesus’ experience concerning financial matters was extensive. And surely we can seek his advice as we seek how best to manage our personal financial matters.

What greater privilege could one imagine than to be among the vanguard recipients of an epochal revelation, destined to enlighten all mankind during the next thousand years? Are there any other investment opportunities that will continue to yield returns for a millennium? Where can one participate in a project initiated and directed by thoroughly tested, loyal, determined, dedicated, and wise superhumans who reorganized themselves two thousand years ago and adopted the motto: “What the United Midwayers undertake, the United Midwayers do.” 77:9.3 (866.2)

I am fully convinced that wholehearted participation and support of the fifth epochal revelation is the greatest opportunity of my lifetime. As in Matadormus’s case, opportunities are frequently time sensitive. “In the mortal life, paths of differential conduct are continually opening and closing, and during the times when choice is possible, the human personality is constantly deciding between those many courses of action.” 118:6.6 (1300.2)

If the Master is calling you, remember Matadormus, and how for him, money matters really mattered.

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