‘Make Friends by Means of the Unrighteous Riches’
“Make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous riches . . . The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.”—LUKE 16:9, 10.
1. How did Moses and the sons of Israel praise Jehovah upon their escape from Egypt?
RESCUED by a miracle—what a faith-strengthening experience! Israel’s exodus from Egypt could be attributed to no one other than Jehovah, the Almighty. Little wonder that Moses and the Israelites sang: “My strength and my might is Jah, since he serves for my salvation. This is my God, and I shall laud him; my father’s God, and I shall raise him on high.”—Exodus 15:1, 2; Deuteronomy 29:2.
2. What did Jehovah’s people take with them as they left Egypt?
2 How Israel’s newfound freedom contrasted with their situation in Egypt! Now they could worship Jehovah without hindrance. And they did not leave Egypt empty-handed. Moses relates: “The sons of Israel . . . went asking from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold and mantles. And Jehovah gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians, so that these granted them what was asked; and they stripped the Egyptians.” (Exodus 12:35, 36) But how did they use these riches of Egypt? Did it result in ‘raising Jehovah on high’? What do we learn from their example?—Compare 1 Corinthians 10:11.
3. Israel’s use of gold in false worship prompted what reaction from Jehovah?
3 During Moses’ 40-day-long sojourn on Mount Sinai to receive God’s instructions for Israel, the people waiting below grew restive. Tearing off their gold earrings, they directed Aaron to make an image for them to worship. Aaron also built them an altar, and early the next day, they offered sacrifices there. Did this use of their gold endear them to their Deliverer? Hardly! “Now let me be,” Jehovah declared to Moses, “that my anger may blaze against them and I may exterminate them.” Only at Moses’ pleading did Jehovah spare the nation, although the rebellious ringleaders fell to a plague from God.—Exodus 32:1-6, 10-14, 30-35.
4. What was “Jehovah’s contribution,” and who offered it?
4 Later, Israel had the opportunity to use the riches they possessed in a way that did please Jehovah. They took up “a contribution for Jehovah.”* Gold, silver, copper, blue thread, various dyed materials, ram skins, sealskins, and acacia wood were among the donations for the construction and furnishing of the tabernacle. The account focuses our attention on the contributors’ attitude. “Let every willing-hearted one bring it as Jehovah’s contribution.” (Exodus 35:5-9) Israel responded overwhelmingly. Hence, the tabernacle was a structure of “beauty and sublime grandeur,” to quote the words of one scholar.
Contributions for the Temple
5, 6. In connection with the temple, how did David use his riches, and how did others respond?
5 Although King Solomon of Israel directed the construction of a permanent house for Jehovah’s worship, David, his father, had made extensive preparations for it. David collected a great quantity of gold, silver, copper, iron, timber, and precious stones. “Since I am taking pleasure in the house of my God,” David told his people, “there is yet a special property of mine, gold and silver; I do give it to the house of my God over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house: three thousand talents of gold . . . and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for coating the walls of the houses.” David encouraged others to be generous too. The response was profuse: more gold, silver, copper, iron, and precious stones. “With a complete heart,” the people made “voluntary offerings to Jehovah.”—1 Chronicles 22:5; 29:1-9.
6 By these voluntary contributions, the Israelites expressed deep appreciation for Jehovah’s worship. David humbly prayed: “Who am I and who are my people, that we should retain power to make voluntary offerings like this?” Why? “For everything is from you, and out of your own hand we have given to you. . . . I, for my part, in the uprightness of my heart have voluntarily offered all these things.”—1 Chronicles 29:14, 17.
7. What warning lesson do we learn from Amos’ day?
7 Yet, the tribes of Israel failed to keep the worship of Jehovah uppermost in their minds and hearts. By the ninth century B.C.E., a divided Israel had become guilty of spiritual neglect. Concerning the northern ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, Jehovah declared through Amos: “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those trusting in the mountain of Samaria!” He described them as men “lying down on couches of ivory . . . sprawling on their divans, . . . eating the rams out of a flock and the young bulls from among fattened calves; . . . drinking out of bowls of wine.” But their opulence was no protection. God warned: “They will go into exile at the head of those going into exile, and the revelry of sprawling ones must depart.” In 740 B.C.E., Israel suffered at the hands of Assyria. (Amos 6:1, 4, 6, 7) And in due course the southern kingdom of Judah also fell victim to materialism.—Jeremiah 5:26-29.
Proper Use of Resources in Christian Times
8. What good example do Joseph and Mary furnish as to using resources?
8 In contrast, the relatively poor condition of God’s servants in later times did not prevent them from demonstrating zeal for true worship. Consider Mary and Joseph. In obedience to Caesar Augustus’ decree, they journeyed to their family’s hometown, Bethlehem. (Luke 2:4, 5) There Jesus was born. Forty days later, Joseph and Mary visited the temple in nearby Jerusalem to present the prescribed purification offering. Indicative of their lowly material state, Mary offered two small birds. Neither she nor Joseph pleaded poverty. Rather, they obediently used their limited resources.—Leviticus 12:8; Luke 2:22-24.
9-11. (a) Jesus’ words at Matthew 22:21 provide what guidance as to how we use money? (b) Why was the widow’s small contribution not offered in vain?
9 Later, the Pharisees and party followers of Herod tried to trick Jesus, saying: “Tell us, therefore, What do you think? Is it lawful to pay head tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus’ reply revealed his discernment. Referring to the coin they gave him, Jesus asked: “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied: “Caesar’s.” Wisely he concluded: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matthew 22:17-21) Jesus knew that the authority issuing the coin expected taxes to be paid. But he there helped his followers and enemies alike to realize that a true Christian seeks also to pay back “God’s things to God.” This includes the proper use of one’s material assets.
10 An incident that Jesus witnessed in the temple illustrates this. He had just condemned the greedy scribes who ‘devoured the houses of widows.’ “As he looked up he saw the rich dropping their gifts into the treasury chests,” Luke reports. “Then [Jesus] saw a certain needy widow drop two small coins of very little value there, and he said: ‘I tell you truthfully, This widow, although poor, dropped in more than they all did. For all these dropped in gifts out of their surplus, but this woman out of her want dropped in all the means of living she had.’” (Luke 20:46, 47; 21:1-4) Some of the people mentioned that the temple was decorated with precious stones. Jesus responded: “As for these things that you are beholding, the days will come in which not a stone upon a stone will be left here and not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:5, 6) Had that widow’s small contribution been in vain? Certainly not. She supported the arrangement Jehovah had in place at the time.
11 Jesus told his true followers: “No house servant can be a slave to two masters; for, either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves to God and to riches.” (Luke 16:13) Thus, how can we demonstrate the right balance in using our financial resources?
12-14. (a) Christians are stewards of what resources? (b) In what outstanding ways do Jehovah’s people today faithfully discharge their stewardship? (c) Where does the money to support God’s work today come from?
12 When we dedicate our lives to Jehovah, we in effect say that everything we have, all our resources, belongs to him. How, then, should we use what we have? In discussing Christian service in the congregation, Brother C. T. Russell, first president of the Watch Tower Society, wrote: “Each one is to consider himself as appointed by the Lord the steward of his own time, influence, money, etc., and each is to seek to use these talents to the best of his ability, to the Master’s glory.”—The New Creation, page 345.
13 “What is looked for in stewards is for a man to be found faithful,” states 1 Corinthians 4:2. As an international body, Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to live up to that description, using as much of their time as they can in the Christian ministry, carefully cultivating their teaching abilities. Moreover, teams of volunteers under the direction of Regional Building Committees willingly give their time, strength, and know-how to make fine meeting halls ready for worship. With all of this, Jehovah is well pleased.
14 Where does the money to support this vast teaching campaign and construction work come from? From willinghearted ones, even as it did in the days of tabernacle construction. Individually, are we having a share? Does the way we use our financial means demonstrate that Jehovah’s service is of paramount importance to us? In money matters, let us be faithful stewards.
A Pattern of Generosity
15, 16. (a) How did the Christians of Paul’s day demonstrate generosity? (b) How should we view our present discussion?
15 The apostle Paul wrote about the generous spirit of Christians in Macedonia and Achaia. (Romans 15:26) Though afflicted themselves, they readily contributed to help their brothers. Paul encouraged the Corinthian Christians likewise to give generously, donating their surplus to offset others’ deficiency. No one could rightly accuse Paul of extortion. He wrote: “He that sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and he that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Corinthians 8:1-3, 14; 9:5-7, 13.
16 Generous contributions that our brothers and interested persons make for the worldwide Kingdom work today give evidence of how highly they esteem this privilege. But, as Paul reminded the Corinthians, we do well to consider this discussion as a reminder.
17. What pattern of giving did Paul encourage, and can this be applied today?
17 Paul urged the brothers to follow a pattern in their giving. “Every first day of the week,” he said, “let each of you at his own house set something aside in store as he may be prospering.” (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2) That can serve as an example for us and for our children in our contributing, whether we do it through the congregation or directly to the nearest branch office of the Watch Tower Society. A missionary couple assigned to preach in an East African town invited interested ones to join them for a Bible study. At the end of this first meeting, the missionaries discreetly placed some coins in a box marked “Contributions for the Kingdom work.” Other attenders did likewise. Later, after these new ones had been organized into a Christian congregation, the circuit overseer visited and remarked on the regularity of their contributions.—Psalm 50:10, 14, 23.
18. How can we help our brothers in distress?
18 We also have the privilege to use our resources to help victims of natural disasters and those who live in war-torn areas. How thrilled we were to read of the relief supplies sent to Eastern Europe as economic and political upheaval swept through that part of the world! Contributions of both goods and money demonstrated our brothers’ generosity and solidarity with disadvantaged Christians.*—2 Corinthians 8:13, 14.
19. What practical things can we do to aid those in full-time service?
19 We highly value the work of our brothers who engage in full-time service as pioneers, traveling overseers, missionaries, and Bethel volunteers, do we not? As our circumstances allow, we may be able to offer them some material help directly. For example, when the circuit overseer visits your congregation, you may be able to provide him with accommodations, meals, or help toward his travel expenses. Such generosity does not go unnoticed by our heavenly Father, who wants his servants to be cared for. (Psalm 37:25) Some years ago one brother who was able to offer only light refreshments invited a traveling overseer and his wife to his home. When the couple left for the evening field service, the brother handed his visitors an envelope. Inside was a bank note (the equivalent of one U.S. dollar) together with this handwritten note: “For a cup of tea or a gallon of petrol.” What fine appreciation expressed in this humble manner!
20. What privilege and responsibility do we not want to neglect?
20 Spiritually, Jehovah’s people are blessed! We enjoy spiritual banquets at our assemblies and conventions, where we receive new publications, fine teaching, and practical counsel. With hearts filled with appreciation for our spiritual blessings, we do not forget our privilege and responsibility to contribute funds to be used to further the interests of God’s Kingdom worldwide.
‘Make Friends by Means of Unrighteous Riches’
21, 22. What will soon happen to “unrighteous riches,” requiring us to do what right now?
21 Truly, there are an abundance of ways by which we can show that Jehovah’s worship comes first in our lives, not the least of which involves our heeding Jesus’ advice: “Make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous riches, so that, when such fail, they may receive you into the everlasting dwelling places.”—Luke 16:9.
22 Note that Jesus spoke of the failure of unrighteous riches. Yes, the day will come when the money of this system will become valueless. “Into the streets they will throw their very silver, and an abhorrent thing their own gold will become,” prophesied Ezekiel. “Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah’s fury.” (Ezekiel 7:19) Until this happens, we must exercise wisdom and discernment in the way we use our material assets. Thus we will not look back with regret for our failing to heed Jesus’ warning: “If you have not proved yourselves faithful in connection with the unrighteous riches, who will entrust you with what is true? . . . You cannot be slaves to God and to riches.”—Luke 16:11-13.
23. What should we use wisely, and what will be our reward?
23 Let all of us, then, faithfully heed these reminders to place Jehovah’s worship first in our lives and to make wise use of all our assets. Thus we may maintain our friendship with Jehovah and Jesus, who promise that when money fails they will receive us into “the everlasting dwelling places,” with the prospect of life eternal either in the heavenly Kingdom or on a paradise earth.—Luke 16:9.
The Hebrew word rendered “contribution” comes from a verb that literally means “be high; be exalted; lift up.”
See Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, pages 307-15, published in 1993 by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Do You Remember?
□ How did Israel respond to Jehovah’s invitation to contribute to tabernacle construction?
□ Why was the widow’s contribution not in vain?
□ What responsibility do Christians bear for the way they use their resources?
□ How can we avoid regrets for our use of money?
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The widow’s contribution, though small, was not in vain
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Our contributions support the worldwide Kingdom work