By Robin Calamaio
Introduction: First Things First
Does God care how you handle your cash? This is the first thing that must be established – one way or the other. If you have decided He does not care about this, then the forthcoming discussion is not for you. On the other hand, for those of you who have become convinced He does care, then you will find this material of great interest. There are two bedrock passages that lay first claim to a Christian’s cash. The first pertains to family provision and the other involves debt. These are like two rails upon which we financially ride, or two boundaries to stay inside.
Rail One: Family Provision
“(I)f anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1Tim 5:8). If there is one passage you could almost make me say – “This is not inspired by God” – this is it. Six day creation, Lot’s wife turned to salt, Balaam’s speaking donkey, sun stopped, floating axe head, resurrection of Jesus Christ, resurrection of everyone on the Last Day, creation of the new heavens and new earth … no problem. But, this passage is very close to being too hard for me to believe was authored by the Holy Spirit. And cash is the tool that determines one’s compliance with it … or not.
My Reason for Near Unbelief
This verse is actually a parenthetical statement by Paul – almost a throw away line. He was addressing the issue of widows in the church – and the church’s responsibility toward them. He first said the children or grandchildren were “to make some return to their parents” in meeting the needs of widows in their family (1Tim 5:4). Later in the discussion, he said a “woman who is a believer” with widows in her family was “to assist them, and let not the church be burdened” (1Tim 5:16). But, between the “children or grandchildren” and the “woman who is a believer,” Paul addressed the head of the family unit. “… if anyone does not provide for his own (“his own” – refers to a widow in his family) and especially those of his household (the man’s immediate family) he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1Tim 5:8). Failure to use his cash properly in these two matters has two astounding consequences.
First, he “has denied the faith.” Denied is the word, “ernetai” (from “arneomai”). It means, “denied, disclaimed, disowned, renounced, contradicted” the faith. It is only by faith that anyone stands. I can not think of a more dire pronouncement for any transgression anywhere in the Bible. This rivals blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Lk 12:10). To deny the faith means eternal trouble. If God deems you in this category, you are doomed. It is not possible to overstate how grave the predicament. Divinity degrees will not help you. Ordination to the clergy can not deliver you. Even hiding in the last pew, claiming yourself as a “lowly layman” will not shield you. And this verb is in the perfect tense – meaning past action with results to the present. You denied the faith and that state of affairs stands to the present. Concerning God’s authorship, though the passage is terrifying, I have no problem so far. It is this second part that is … The Shocker
The transgressor, who is misusing his cash in this matter, is declared by the Creator as “worse than an unbeliever.” This is shocking. The word, “worse” is “cheiron” – a comparative to “kakos” which already means “bad, harmful, or morally evil.” So, “cheirov” describes something that has gone from bad … to worse (See Mt 12:45, Mt 27:64, Mk 5:26, 1 Cor 11:17, 2Tim 3:13 and 2Pet 2:20). This is where I am stunned into near disbelief of the Holy Spirit’s authorship. For one to be guilty of denying the faith is bad enough, but to have a whole new category of sinner created before the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob exponentially intensifies this caldron of disaster. Did you catch that? Those who fail to provide for their own have carved out an entirely new category of sinner – one “worse than an unbeliever.”
So, … what does it mean to be regarded by the Author of the Bible as “worse than an unbeliever”? I don’t know. You tell me. God clearly tells us the fate of unbelievers. “But the unbelieving … their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev 21:8). To be found worse than this? Such standing before Him I can not fathom. I was taught, and have always taught, there are two groups of people before God – believers and unbelievers. But this is a third category before the living God. Again, it is impossible to overstate the catastrophic situation that belongs to anyone in this group, and the singular violation that lands one into this relationship with the Creator of the universe – is failure to comply with 1 Timothy 5:8.
Do you think He authored this phrase … and really means it? Or is this just an overstated threat by an uninspired Apostle Paul in a pastoral epistle? If you do believe this is from God – and He means exactly what He says – then any request for your cash by anybody at any point in your life must be measured against personal compliance with this directive. You must not allow any other financial teaching to deceive you from compliance.
“If a man says to his father or mother, ‘anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban’ (that is to say, ‘given to God’)” was the Pharisee’s way of “invalidating the word of God” by their traditions which they “handed down” (Mk 7:5-13). Pleading adherence to some new form of “Corban” when standing before God will not deliver you – even if your preacher, your teachers, your denomination, and all the “scholars” of your denominational institutions call with one voice for your cash – using some other competing directive. When religious people want your cash, they come up with all kinds of “pious” teachings and “Biblical principles” to get it. We will shortly address a few. But for now, it is imperative that you singularly grasp this directive from God – and purpose compliance with your cash to it. This is just below obedience to the gospel message itself – as noncompliance with 1Timothy 5:8 makes any other spiritual pursuit … an exercise in vanity.
Rail Two: No Debt
The Christian is not to be in debt. “Render to all what is due them; tax to whom tax … Owe nothing to anyone …” (Ro 13:7,8). “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Pr 22:7). Jesus Christ did not purchase us with His own blood … so that we might become (or remain) slaves to men. Debt is a form of slavery and it is His will that we be free. If one purposes this, I am confident such financial resolve God will honor. No telling what He might do. Does your church teach this? Why not? Do they have other designs for your cash?