How well I remember those days of living paycheck to paycheck. Money was tight in my family when I was a young boy growing up. Dad and Mom bought only the necessities, and were careful in budgeting for them. They took care of what they had, trying not to waste anything. They were products of the Great Depression. They had seen shortages and total lack. They had gone without.
Clothes were always handed down between my brothers and cousins. Many were hand made. Some of my favorite shirts were made from flour and feed sack prints. Mom kept our clothes clean and mended. These were the days before fashion pressures came along, so jeans could come from Sears. When the knees of the jeans wore out, they became summer shorts.
My Dad had to quit school to help support his large family, which included eleven children. He finally finished high school (after I was born) by GED, a government benefit program for soldiers coming home from WWII. I still remember him attending night school and studying at home to finish his HS degree. He worked hard and was a good provider and father. My mother worked hard also, but we seemed to always be behind the income curve.
Friday payday meant a family trip to the grocery store. Mom bought the items on her list so we would be supplied until the next time, being careful to set back a little money for milk and bread in the interim. We were sure to run out before the next payday. My brothers and I could never predict when, but we behaved in the grocery store because on certain occasions we might get a nickel treat at the end of the shopping trip. After groceries were unloaded, Friday payday always meant a good home-cooked meal.
I look back on those days and smile. God provided, we survived, and I appreciated the life lessons from those times together as family. I learned the value of being thrifty, the importance of saving all you could put away, and the importance of being grateful for what you have. When my wife and I started our lives together, we were working college students on a very modest budget. We started a tradition of “Friday payday, eating out day”, and found our favorite low cost home-style restaurant. Forty six years later, we still smile on those days.
God never intended we should live paycheck to paycheck, especially when we run out of pay before the next check. There are many other things we see today He never intended. In Leviticus 26: 1-12, God clearly lays out our reward for obedience, just like Mom rewarded me and my two brothers for good behavior in the grocery store. In these twelve verses and in simple format, He gave five requirements, and then gave five rewards for meeting those requirements. That sounds reasonable and fair. God said in verses 1-3 that if the children of Israel would 1) worship Him (not idols), 2) observe the Sabbath, 3) reverence the sanctuary, 4) follow His decrees, and 5) obey His commands, these would be their rewards:
- “I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.” (v.4, 5). This is clear that if we follow the conditions God sets forth, the work of our hands would be productive year round, and God would bless this work with timely rain. We would never go hungry. Elsewhere the Scriptures say He is the Lord of the Harvest. He provides the seed for sowing, rain in due season, and He provides the increase. We must plant, and we must harvest. He will bless the work of our hands, but does not bless our sitting around on the seat of our pants. His best for us is that we will produce abundantly.
- “I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove savage beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country. You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.” (v.6-8). These verses are particularly appropriate for these times, when fear and terror are in the news, and our nation is being torn apart by attacks from within. This does not have to be so. The conditions for this reward of protection and victory are grounded in the worship of and obedience toward God.
- “I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you.” (v.9). When God looks on us with favor, we succeed where others have failed. We prosper where others have floundered. We are selected where others have been denied. We have influence where others have been ignored. We bear fruit, and multiply or flourish. In no way does this suggest we should be just getting by. We should always have more than enough. We are blessed so we can be a blessing, but if there is not enough, how can we bless anyone?
- “You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. (v.10). This verse says the prior year’s harvest will last, and there will even be some leftover when the new harvest comes in. There will be excess to save or give away. The last paycheck will not be used when the next paycheck arrives. We will not have to live paycheck to paycheck. Just when we thought this was a new phenomenon, a modern saying, a contemporary problem, we find the Bible has already spoken about living paycheck to paycheck. This was never God’s plan. It is not His best for us. It is conditioned on worshipping Him, not the idols of this society, and obeying His decrees.
- “I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” (v. 11, 12). His best for us is that we would never have to face the unknown alone. God is always near us, as He is omnipresent. He is everywhere at once. However, under the conditions He gives above, He will seem nearer than ever before, as He says He will walk among us, as God walking among and alongside His people. He will not walk among us if we are worshipping the idols of this day and age such as money, clothes, houses and cars, to name a few. He does not obligate Himself to walk among us if we are not obeying His laws. He does not dwell among us if we choose to ignore Him, or to consult Him only when we are desperate or we find it convenient.
So we have five conditions for five rewards. Given that God gave these conditions to Moses thousands of years ago, it is very interesting that these rewards are critically needed today. We search high and low, and we consult with governments, attorneys, financial experts, self-help gurus, and counselors looking for answers to today’s problems. God also gave us the answers thousands of years ago. We do not have to live in need, fear or worry, nor do we have to live paycheck to paycheck.