ARE YOU CALLED TO "SERVE AT TABLES"?
Distributed by The Haversham Foundation

As I explained in the last e-pistle, the Body of Christ needs deacons, in the true sense of the word (ie. people with financial and banking skills) to serve at "tables" -- the Greek word "trapeza" translates as "bank" -- and "take care of [God's] business". And we need them right now, even prior to God's outpouring of material prosperity, which He will pour out in order to finance the next major, perhaps even global, revival.

Does the kingdom of Islam have its own exclusive and specialised set of banks? You'd better believe it. Are they using the power and influence provided by their vast wealth to help spread the influence of Islam in non-islamic countries and regions? Try and stop them.

[Comment: After September 11th, the media were full of detailed reports on the Islamic banking system, making it plain for anyone to see.]

And that goes double for a sect like the Mormons. You only have to visit your local "Safeways" supermarket; or take a look around the far side of Oahu, the main island of the Hawaiian group, and certain suburbs of Sydney, Australia, to appreciate their economic clout.

So what happened to the Body of Christ?

Unfortunately, many Christians with financial gifts and expertise do not regard a career in banking or finance as a possible vocation or calling from God. And many are even under the misapprehension that, by working in finance, they might in fact be doing something ungodly. This stems from a guilt-ridden misinterpretation of the call of Jesus for people to choose whom they would serve: God or "Mammon" (Matthew 6v24).

Most Bible versions translate the word "mammon" simply as "wealth". Hence the guilt trip for people who work in financial services, since the main goal of the denizens of this particular world, is the acquisition of wealth (if not for themselves, definitely for their clients).

I was once told that Mammon is actually the name of a Babylonian god of greed or avarice. Whether that's true, I cannot say. Nevertheless, you need to understand that "Mammon" is not the Aramaic word for "wealth" per se. It in fact describes "wealth personified as an object of worship". Judged on that basis, Mammon definitely qualifies as a deity of sorts.

It would seem then, for a Christian to be described accurately as "serving Mammon", he or she must be consciously and actively in the service of this particular object of worship-cum-deity. That, I would assume, entails a lot more than just turning up at the bank from Monday to Friday (and now Saturday), and being helpful to your clients.

On the other hand, there is definitely a potential "snare", as the Old Testament puts it, being involved with money and wealth. 1 Timothy 6v10 says that, "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs".

So, the love of money/wealth is a "root" of evil, but not evil itself. In other words, it is not evil in or of itself, but evil can grow out of it. Obviously, if that love develops into something deeper, it becomes a form of "worship", since worship is a highly developed form of love or spiritual adoration. And if the pursuit of wealth is driven by an improper "desire" or "longing" for that wealth, which will undoubtedly affect the spiritual priorities of the individual concerned, he or she will probably have already started to "wander away from the faith".

At this point, wealth has become "an object of worship", which then qualifies it as "Mammon". That's when the root of evil has in fact grown into something evil, since the person concerned would now be considered as worshipping and/or serving "Mammon". If that occurs, he or she would also be guilty of breaking a number of the Ten Commandments.

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God" (Exodus 20v1-5a).

Hopefully, the above explanation has either convicted you, if you have "wandered away from the faith", or rid you of some misplaced guilt if you haven't. Nonetheless, Our Lord's probing question is still valid: Mr (or Ms) Christian Banker, Stockbroker, Financier, Economist, Corporate Lawyer, etc., when you go to the office each day, just who are you serving?

This is one of those questions of conscience, which a person can only answer for him or herself. But since God's own banking or financial system is not yet in place, the odds are that you may not be serving Him. And, if you're not serving God, then who are you serving?

The answer to that is somewhat paradoxical. You see, even though you are not, hopefully, serving some Babylonian or other pagan deity per se directly, you are definitely serving under a Babylonian (or secularised pagan) economic system. However, God may not be overly-fazed about it; and besides, you're in pretty good company.

In the Book of Jeremiah, God required His people to "put their necks under the yoke of the King of Babylon and prosper" (Jeremiah 21v9; 27v12&17). And, during the ensuing 70-year exile, God's people assisted their captors -- and themselves -- to prosper greatly, as the following quote from "Economic History of the Jews", by N Gross, shows:

"The dispersal to Babylon and elsewhere made the Jews ideal agents for international trade and the lending of money, to which it is closely linked. Among the records kept by one of the world's first lending institutions in Babylon, the House of Murashu, were seventy Jewish names and a number of contracts signed on equal terms between Jews and Babylonian merchants."

That may let some of you off the hook for the moment. However, the commandment to submit to Babylonian rule was an unusual and specific instruction given by God as part of His plans for His people at that specific time.

Having said that, it is safe to assume that today God has no alternative but to allow His people to work under the modern equivalent of the rule of Babylon, because He has no alternative economic system in place at present. Or, to be more precise, we -- His people -- have not yet established and developed His economic system on earth to any degree worthy of the designation "system".

That's why the Body of Christ needs men (and women) of good and attested character and repute, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom (God) may appoint to this business (Acts 6v3). However, be warned: only real "pioneer types" should apply.

After all, if the Lord calls someone, to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6v4), as He called the apostles, there are plenty of churches in every suburb in every town. So, in order to exercise that ministry, it's only a matter of finding the nearest available church.

In the United States alone, there are also over 1,600 overtly Christian radio stations, and at least 600 TV stations to choose from as well, that will gladly allow a preacher to minister (in the word and prayer) as they've been called. For a fee, of course.

However, if you've been called to "serve at tables" as a banker, financier, economist, etc., God does not have His own bank in every suburb in every town. There are not over 1600 financial institutions anywhere in the world that are overtly or even covertly Christian. So you can see why pioneers are required for what is today indeed a true pioneer work.

But there are however a number of financial institutions that will -- for a fee -- provide you with a facility that will allow you to minister in the bankerly way you have been called (by God). And that's the key: money. More importantly, the key to the business of banking is "other people's money".

In its simplest form, a bank is nothing more than a facility which allows one group of people with excess money to give it, or to be more accurate, "rent" it, to other people to use for legal and ethical purposes that will earn more money. That's why, in it's simplest form, such a business could be carried out in ancient times by men sitting (or serving) at tables in the local bazaar.

However, a banking service is not about money per se, but about putting money to good use. And that correlates with scriptural concepts of good "stewardship".

Christians in business need loans or investment to finance the growth of their business or trading activities. And Christians with excess money need somewhere to put that money in order to see a godly increase on their investment. Sounds easy, doesn't it. Just bring the two parties together, and God finally has His economic and banking system on earth. Everybody's happy. After all, that's what the deacon/bankers were doing each day, "serving at tables" in Jerusalem.

So, what are we waiting for?

Three thousand years ago, after 70 years of exile, 42,000 devout people of God got tired of serving under the pagan regime of Babylon, and jumped at the chance to be part of the group returning to Zion to rebuild the "ancient ruins" (Ezra 2v64).

On the other hand, it's obvious that a lot more than 42,000 stayed right where they were, because they enjoyed the comfortable Babylonian lifestyle and prosperity so much, they did not jump at the opportunity presented to them. After all, there were a lot of problems to overcome in rebuilding those ancient ruins and renewing the ruined city.

Obviously, there are problems in rebuilding any kind of "ruins", particularly a ruined economic structure that has fallen into decay through neglect. We would be dangerously nave if we didn't recognise that there are major hurdles to overcome in setting up an alternative banking service today, especially if it's a godly alternative. However, God was with those who returned to Jerusalem, and He helped solve all their financial and bureaucratic problems.

And He promises that He will be with any of us who answer His call today.

There's no doubt in my mind that, in order to finance the work of God today -- the way God wants it financed -- the Body of Christ needs qualified people to serve at tables. So, Mr (or Ms) Christian Banker, Stockbroker, Financier, Economist, Corporate Lawyer, etc., think about it.

Think about whether or not, like Jesus, you should be about our Father's business.

-- Douglas Harrison-Mills

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