Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Dilemma of Finances

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!” He will also send you the rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. Isaiah 30:22-23

Too often the issue of finances is not addressed openly for Christian doctors and dentists. Immersed in the hectic pace of their practices they often succumb to a life of the dilemma of having access to much but not having the time to develop a biblical perspective on what they have. In a recent attending fellowship meeting, we had hoped to arrange a guest speaker who would be able to provide us with the answers to the question of finances and the bible. But the fact that we could not obtain such a person despite our best attempts only illustrates the point that it remains a daunting topic. So instead, eight of us gathered together and discussed why it posed such a dilemma for us and then proceeded to share from our own experiences and guiding scriptures. This proved to be very fruitful.

Regarding the issue of why this topic is a difficult one, we arrived at several conclusions:
1. Physicians and dentists have access to much but we work so hard that we often regret the fact that we do not have the time to benefit from our resources.
2. We are financial providers of many including our families, staff and household assistants. The workload of running our practices creates a lifestyle that requires so much more in additional costs in maintaining our homes, health and children.
3. Society and the church may be unsympathetic to our financial issues given the notion that physicians and dentists should not have any difficulty with money.
4. Physicians and dentists may find it awkward being open and honest with each other in expressing their concerns about money and thus deprive themselves of prayer support from understanding colleagues.

We then tackled the issue of what money should not be. In Isaiah 30: 22-23, the prophet warns us about not letting money be an idol. Although we may not worship graven or molten images of gold and silver, idols can take on unrecognized forms. Money and what it represents may drive us to greed, accumulation of things we do not need, or the temptation to give it a power it does not have… such as the power to confer us status, self-esteem and security. In Zephaniah 1, the prophet tells us: in the day of the Lord, money cannot save us. Matthew 13 talks about the deceitfulness of wealth and thorns that can choke the seed of the gospel .The result is a life that does not bear fruit. The bible tells us that we should not let wealth take the place of the Lord.

In contrast to the dangers of wealth, there is much room for the Lord to lead individuals to be good stewards of their funds including the responsible care of family, friends in need, retirement, and the Lord's work. Furthermore, there is freedom within responsibility and reason to rejoice in the material blessings God has given us. The Lord blessed great men of faith with wealth such as Job, Solomon and Abraham and that wealth, in itself, was a blessing from God, not a sin.

Finally, Christian physicians share the privilege of understanding and praying for financial difficulties that our peers face. One of my most recent blessings was to share with a prayer partner, Dr. Olympia Kovitch, my struggle with a money issue for a mission project. Her empathic listening, great understanding and fervent prayer helped me see the calm assurance of God's provision for my teammates. In fact she gave me a needed sense of affirmation prior to the trip. The mission project went extremely well as I learned the lessons and promises of Isaiah 30. Praise God for fellow physicians who can understand the dilemmas we face with finances.
Elaine Leong Eng M.D.

Dear Lord:
There are so many opportunities to use your resources wisely. Help us to discern your will and use your teaching to guide us. Help us use it to do good for our loved ones, our communities and our ministries. May we have the opportunity to share our struggles and pray with others when we face dilemmas in using it well. And may it never be an idol in our lives.

In Jesus' name


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