Did it ever strike you funny that Jesus talked so much about money; in fact, He talked about money more than He talked about heaven and hell—combined? Ever wonder why the subject of His parables concerned finances more than any other topic?
He must have thought that it was pretty important.
Yet why is it that there is little to no preaching, teaching or even talking about finances inside of church? When was the last time you heard your pastor preach on tithing or stewardship? Why is money such an uncomfortable (almost taboo!) subject to speak of around other believers?
Why the disconnect?
During a month-long mission trip to India I learned a valuable lesson that left an indelible mark on my life. I learned that if I was not careful, the things I own could very easily own me. It reminds me of a story of a 4-year-old girl who dropped a penny into her mother’s very expensive China vase worth several thousand dollars. She reached in to get her penny, but after much struggle and pain she unable to get her hand back out of the vase. After several hours of trying to budge the her daughter’s hand, the mother felt the only possible solution was to break the valuable vase to get the little girl’s hand free. After the vase was reluctantly broken, the mother noticed the girl’s hand still clenched in a fist around the penny. The mother realized that if only the little girl had let go of the penny in the vase and straightened her fingers her hand would have easily been freed from the vase! But so many times this is a story of me … and I am sure I am not alone.
Here are a few basic, foundational principles that I’ve learned about dealing with God’s money—the very principles that Jesus desired for his followers to understand.
1. Every cent we have belongs to God, not to us. Before we can understand anything about biblical financial principles we must understand this first. If every part of us is surrendered to Christ and His will then so are our wallets. God has entrusted to us to be good stewards, not owners. There are two parts to handling money: God’s and ours. God’s part is his ownership and his provision. Our concern is our stewardship and our obedience to God’s ownership. It takes a tremendous amount of faith to live this out, especially in our finances.
2. The goal of being good stewards of God’s money is ultimately to bring Him glory. There is a great potential to use our earthly “stuff” to affect the Kingdom for eternity. Read the last two sentences again and let it sink in. I lose this perspective often…but if I remember that God’s intention is for our lives—including our money—to bring him ultimate glory and honor then I will be more open to being generous with the things I have been blessed with. We have a great opportunity and potential for the kingdom!
3. “What is my motive?” God looks at our attitude toward money, not our quantity. Some people think that having a great amount of wealth is sinful and wrong. However, nowhere in Scripture will you find God condemning those who have a large amount of money or possessions. He condemns those whose attitudes about money are wrong, arrogant, dishonest, deceptive and greedy. (Job was called the richest man in the world and yet God called him “blameless and upright”). It’s always a matter of the heart with God. Our finances are no exception.
4. How we use our money will reflect the true intentions of our heart. Take a look at your checkbook or your next bank statement. Notice where you have spent your money in the last month or two? That’s where your heart is. (“Where you treasure, there your heart will be also.”) There is an important connection between the location of our possessions and the eventual location of our souls. Kinda scary, isn’t it?
5. If our possessions belong to God we will be motivated to act with great integrity. God does not honor dishonesty and deception. If we truly understand that what we have is not ours it will motivate us to a life of deep integrity in dealing with our finances.
Here are some sober thoughts about giving: God does not need our money and His work will continue to go on, regardless of whether or not we give. And He may choose to use someone else if we are disobedient in our giving.
Not until the last few years have I realized how I handle my money is not a financial matter as much as it is a spiritual matter. I began to understand that bringing tithes and offerings before the Lord was a form of worship. It wasn’t my weekly time to feel guilty and divinely bullied into giving up my hard-earned money while the basket was being passed down my row. It was a time to joyfully give—and experience freedom, not anxiety. For the first time, I began to understand that how I handle my money is not merely an earthly aspect, but in fact, much more, it is an eternal aspect. And I grasped that the Lord was pleased with me when I handled my finances wisely and discerningly.