These are crazy times. Corporate bailouts, rampant foreclosures, sky rocketing unemployment, and stock markets in the tank are all hallmarks of today’s unstable economics. In these times of financial uncertainty we need a strong mental and spiritual foundation to keep our minds intact. It’s very easy to fall into despair as we see our carefully laid plans fall apart (and that’s if we had any plans to begin with). What, if anything does the bible have to say about enduring a time of lack? What can we do to be more productive in a time of lack? And what can we do if we simply weren’t prepared for this?
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. For some this may seem after the fact, but being prepared beforehand is the best way to weather famine. Scripture is clear in that God expects us to be prepared for lean times and to be responsible with our excess in times of plenty. This way our toil and finances are blessed, and we are proactively preparing ourselves for famine. A few of the ways we can be prepared is to in general Be Obedient and Be Productive with our income. These are universal laws of finance and productivity that supersede famine, and they will help you get through (unless the famine is a curse on you due to some unrepentant sin, but that’s a whole other subject). I call these ‘universal laws’ because they hold true in good times or bad, and we can start using them at any time, even now. It’s never too late for a good start.
The primary way to safeguard the income God has blessed you with is to prioritize his tabernacle, servants and people. God has established a system for this in tithes and offerings.
Pro 3:9 Honor the Lord with your capital and sufficiency [from righteous labors] and with the firstfruits of all your income; [Deut. 26:2; Mal. 3:10; Luke 14:13, 14.]
Pro 3:10 So shall your storage places be filled with plenty, and your vats shall be overflowing with new wine. [Deut. 28:8.]
If we honor God with our income via tithes and offerings, then the rest is blessed. Its amazing how much further that blessed left over 90% can go compared to the whole cursed 100% of our income. It’s true! I have seen a poor mans blessed 90% be much more productive than a rich man’s cursed 100%. I can hear someone thinking now, “It’s not that serious. He must be exaggerating!” Let’s hear what God has to say:
(Mal 3:8 NIV) “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.
(Mal 3:9 NIV) You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.
When we faithfully honor God first before our bills, before taxes, and before ourselves he blesses the rest. The blessing here comes via obedience, and faith that God will keep his promise to us if we give him (at least) the first tenth of our increase.
(Mal 3:10 MSG) Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.
Prioritizing God has a “halo effect” on everything else we do. When we put God first, especially with our time and treasure the rest (of the day, of the money) seems to go the way it should.
(Mat 6:33 KJV) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
There are 2 laws of productivity we will discus. One concerns how productive you are in labor; the other concerns how productive you are in managing and investing money.
God expects us to use the talents He gave us to create and produce things of value. We all have talents, and we all have the ability to work hard. We may have to work a little harder in this season, but we can still be productive. Also, consider that this may be the season to hone some of those talents you’ve ignore over the years so that after the famine your skill set will be much more complete. It’s not time to be lazy and feel sorry for yourself; neither is it time to fritter away the cushion you built during the good times.
(Pro 6:6 MSG) You lazy fool, look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two.
(Pro 6:7 MSG) Nobody has to tell it what to do.
(Pro 6:8 MSG) All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions.
(Pro 6:9 MSG) So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing? How long before you get out of bed?
(Pro 6:10 MSG) A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there, sit back, take it easy–do you know what comes next?
(Pro 6:11 MSG) Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life, poverty your permanent houseguest!
(Pro 10:4 NIV) Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.
During the good times you should be planning for the bad by storing up provision. During the bad times you should sharpen yourself to be more efficient at what you do, or develop new ways to produce. If during the lean times, you find out how to meet your needs with fewer resources, how much better shape will you be in once the famine is gone? You’ll then be able to produce much more excess because you are now lean, streamlined and hardened by the rough season.
God not only wants us to be productive in labor but also in management and investments. In reality we don’t own anything, God does. We are merely stewards or managers of God’s property.
(Psa 24:1 NIV) The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
(Gen 2:15 NIV) The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Because we are God’s management team, He is monitoring how we handle His stuff, and he rewards those who invest well. God expects us to be smart with our disposable income and not squander it away frivolously. He expects us to invest wisely and not make impulsive decisions with our increase. Most of all, He expects us to do something and not simply bury our excess in the backyard (or in a mattress, or some risky investment).
(Mat 25:15 NIV) To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
(Mat 25:16 NIV) The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.
(Mat 25:17 NIV) So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.
(Mat 25:18 NIV) But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
We see below that God gives a reward to the man who is wise in management and investments.
(Mat 25:20 NIV) The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
(Mat 25:21 NIV) “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
And that God rebukes the man who is not wise with money management.
(Mat 25:26 NIV) “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?
This may sound a little off to you, but it is divine order that the rich get richer and poor get poorer. The problem is that the rich tend to forget that its God’s money and that it was given to them so that it could be redistributed to others.
(Mat 25:29 NIV) For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.
God wants wealth in the hands of those who can manage and grow it. But they are not to hoard it.
(Ecc 5:13 NIV) I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner,
The flip side of being wise with your investments is knowing when to get out of a bad deal, and being able to cut your loses early. There may come a day when you are taken in by a dishonest person, or maybe you’ll go into a deal headlong without all the facts. Whatever the case may be, if you are prayerful God will warn you early enough. You’ve got to get out of there quick, no matter how embarrassing it may seem. Its amazing that here too God has specific instructions.
(Pro 6:1 MSG) Dear friend, if you’ve gone into hock with your neighbor or locked yourself into a deal with a stranger,
(Pro 6:2 MSG) If you’ve impulsively promised the shirt off your back and now find yourself shivering out in the cold,
(Pro 6:3 MSG) Friend, don’t waste a minute, get yourself out of that mess. You’re in that man’s clutches! Go, put on a long face; act desperate.
(Pro 6:4 MSG) Don’t procrastinate– there’s no time to lose.
(Pro 6:5 MSG) Run like a deer from the hunter, fly like a bird from the trapper!
What do I do if I just didn’t prepare?
Sometimes we are caught off guard, or we just didn’t take it serious enough to prepare for the famine. That’s Ok. The main point of all that preparation is that all it takes to do it is trust God. You don’t need to be especially talented, remember the rich man in Matthew 25 gave out money “each according to his ability”. Even in famine you have the ability work hard and produce, grow what God has given to you and honor God with your increase. It may be a little harder if you didn’t prepare and now you may have some debts to pay down, but those universal laws still hold true, and if followed will bring increase. In these times, for the prepared and unprepared we must trust that God will bring us through:
Job 5:20 “In famine, he’ll keep you from starving, in war, from being gutted by the sword.
Job 5:22 You’ll shrug off disaster and famine, and stroll fearlessly among wild animals.
Another thing to consider is getting help from someone you know to be wise. We are supposed to help one another always, especially in times of need. True men and women of God are especially aware of this truth, and should be ready at all times to lend a hand to someone else.
The universal laws of obedience and productivity will guide and bless you through good and bad times. The final step is to hear from God while operating under those laws, and follow His plan to the letter. There are two prominent examples in the bible of men of God who prospered in the time of famine doing just that. It is their examples that we must strive for to truly prosper in famine, and when seeking out help and direction from others they should have their qualities. These two are the man of faith Isaac, and the man of vision Joseph. We will discuss these men and what they did in the next installment, How To Prosper In A Time Of Famine – Part II (Click here to read Part 2).
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