Money Maul and Other Fun Games By Jo Russell

“It’s about time the kids learn about money,” Chrissie decided while looking in on her sleeping toddlers. As a first-time mother, she was wild with excitement when they had graduated from diapers forever. Now they could now walk and talk. Recently, the preschoolers had graduated from cribs to regular beds. Her sons were even learning to help at home. “Now it’s time for them to learn about an allowance and about handling money!” she decided.

“You get money for helping,” Chrissie explained as they put away their toys, dropped clothes in the hamper and helped smooth out their bedding.

The young mother made a special trip to the bank for their first payroll–one hundred new pennies each totaling four wrapped packages.

Chrissie sat on the bed with her sons and a couple of piggy banks. First, she showed them how to count out ten pennies from each dollar that they would give to God. “You put this in the basket at church. The rest is yours,” she said “Dad, Momma, and Grandma buy you toys and food and clothes. Now you can buy something, too.”

She showed them how to drop the coins in the piggy banks. With each clink of the coins, her sons giggled. It was better than a toy!

“You can buy ice cream or a toy or do whatever you want with it. You understand? Okay? ”

They nodded.

But that afternoon Chrissie opened the door to a surprise after her sons’ nap. The boys took her for her word when she said they could do anything they wanted with their money. The shiny pennies were everywhere – stuck inside the pillow cases, glittering in the toy box, slam-dunked under the bed, and speckling the floor like confetti.

If money could talk, it would confess that toddler’s penny-shooting battle ended in a draw – and disorder.

God thinks that money is important enough that there are over 2,000 verses connected with it in the Bible. The advice connected with money, blessings, possessions, and wealth revisits a recurring theme of trust in God from the time of Moses.

“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9 [NIV].

The modern application may not involve grapes, olives, or wheat, but instead good health, relationships, manageable bills, paychecks, deposits, savings, bonuses, retirement plans, capital gains, or earned interest income. Will God bless you today as you trust him and honor him first with your tithe and attention?

I wondered if that really worked when I first tried it three decades ago. Ever since, I’ve been watching in awe how God met every physical need and bill when raising my twin sons from diaper-clad newborns to strapping six-footers as a single mom without financial help.

Through the years, I knew God took me through the uncertainties of parenting, health, and career challenges. He always came through. Even though my own uncertainties are slightly different now, God hasn’t changed. Nor has the sage advice of money-handling in the Bible. First, tithe, and second, stay out of debt.

A friend asked, “What’s the difference between a family living on welfare and one living entirely on credit? Solomon points out the common thread between the rich and poor is that God created them both. [Proverbs 22:2] Is someone living entirely on credit rich or wise?

Interesting that King Solomon asked God for wisdom, not wealth, when he took the throne in 970 B.C. Yet he was known for his wisdom, wealth, and wives. He attributes wisdom and his relationship with God of the highest value. “For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”[Proverbs 2:6] So wisdom with money is essential.

Dave Ramsey paraphrases Proverbs 22:7 often as he restates, “The borrower is slave to the lender.” Well-known financial guru on today’s scene, Ramsey is author, radio show host, and founder of the Financial Peace University. [DaveRamsey.com] He says he has helped more in America get out of debt than anyone else. Ramsey explains he starts with wherever they are. But at the top of every client’s budget plan is their tithe, to be paid first to God — all other bills after that. Does honoring God work? Has it brought blessings?

More than you and I can ever count.

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, available from her website, www.button-to-god.com. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog.]

Does Money Talk? By Jo Russell

All month, the children had waited for their turn to pass along baskets for collecting the offering at church.  It only happened once every five weeks.  When the ushers waved the boys and girls into the aisle, the children were so excited they jumped up with glee and skipped, tumbling over each other to get to the baskets.   

But the voice of one pee-wee helper, Ricky, cried out his fear loud and clear, “But I don’t have any money!” Ricky need not have worried.  Gifts from God don’t cost money.

Generous gifts come to us from God like grace and forgiveness, help from the Holy Spirit, and spiritual gifts such as our talents, as well as skills we have or need.

The offering the boy was about to collect was to show honor to God by giving a part to Him from what God gives us.  But it is never a trade-off, a portfolio-building strategy, or a buy-out. 

Some still want a cash kind of deal for God’s gifts.  It isn’t anything new.

Let’s back up to  70 A.D. and meet a successful and high-powered businessman in Acts 8. His name was Simon the Sorcerer, AKA, “the Great Power. ”  He loved the nickname that his admirers gave him! Simon earned his reputation by his amazing tricks and sorcery that brought  him money and respect. But his power did not come from God.  Then Apostle Phillip arrived on the scene, having power in signs and miracles from God. Simon was astonished. Suddenly, the sorcerer’s tricks were no more remarkable than a dust storm in the desert. Big deal. Simon listened to Philip the stories of Jesus as son of God.  He lined up with others to get baptized. Simon believed.  

When Peter and John heard about the large group of new believers, they traveled to Samaria to bless the new believers, including Simon. To bring down the Holy Spirit, the apostles lay their  hands on the believers.

Simon lined up too. When it came his turn, Simon thought it was worth the investment to be able to work miracles like he had seen from God’s hand. What it might do for profit margin and cash flow! He was so excited he offered the apostles earnest money as he blurted out, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit!” [Acts 8:18 NIV].

Peter told him, “May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gifts of God with money!”

So money doesn’t talk to God. It doesn’t set deals in action. God is not withholding his gifts until he receives payment. God doesn’t care about portfolios and investments of the earthly kind.  God gives his love without conditions. He thinks of net worth from what He sees in our hearts and portfolio value by how we live.

More than having a heart of gold is having one of love for God and others. So to Ricky and all of you, it’s okay to come without money. God is all about love, not business.

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, available from her website, www.button-to-god.com. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog.]   

 

 

 

 

Is Lacerated Lettuce a Punishable Offense? By Jo Russell

Offerings and Attitudes

“Wow! My favorite salad and sandwich place!” I thought as I recognized a franchise name while wandering into the airport during a layover for a connecting flight.

“Chicken Caesar salad,” I smiled, giving my order and remembering the glorious look and taste of the prepared salad from a restaurant at home by the same name. The gloved employee didn’t return the smile, but sized up the line behind me. She yanked out a fluff of lettuce already packed in a container, ripped off the lid, jammed the chicken and other toppings on top of the lettuce, then beat down the salad with her gloved hand as if it had been attempting to escape. Scowling, she forced down a container of dressing in the middle. Then she snapped the lid shut and handed it to me. Nine seconds flat–possibly a record!

I studied the remains, wondering “Is salad abuse a punishable offense?” I tried to eat it, but I wallowed in remorse for the chicken’s undeserved beating. I thought I saw bruises its full length. Then I felt sorry for the tomatoes, pummeled into puree, and the oppressed onions broken to bits.

The employee’s attitude and her offering were unacceptable.

What I had expected was the delight of watching the employee prepare the dish with care. Months before in our town, I had remarked to my friend Sally, “Look how carefully they measure the lettuce! Wow! That grilled chicken looks great!”

My friend had remarked, “The other toppings really make this a feast!”

One employee had continued fussing over the salad arranging the toppings so they were colorful, crisp, and tasty. Truly he understood that a person eats with their eyes first. He gave each order his best and served the customers well, even when there was a line.

In the clean, bright atmosphere next to a wall of windows with fashionable furniture, we had enjoyed the experience and the meal and returned often.

Two restaurants with the same name and menus. Two attitudes about giving. Two attitudes about offerings.

Our attitudes give value to our offerings to God.

From Deuteronomy 15:10, written by Moses, the Bible reads, “Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart, then because of this, the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” [NIV]

When giving of ourselves to God in time, finances, and actions, what attitude does God see?

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, enjoy her book and check her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]