When I was a teenage boy I remember a friend saying, “no one is going to tell me how to spend my money”. Talking about money can be an emotional and controversial subject.
In my Western culture I live between two generations with very different attitudes about money. The older generation lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s when life was very hard with hunger and great suffering. We heard about it from our parents. Some of those in the younger generation than myself, who have never gone without the essentials of life, now live beyond their income drawing upon credit cards to pay their way. They live in constant debt paying high interest.
What seems normal is not always right. Scripture has a lot to say about the use of money and there is great joy and freedom when God owns our money as many of you have discovered.
When it comes to giving a tenth of our income (tithing) people argue correctly that we are not under law, but under grace. But in the Old Testament tithing was introduced before the law (Hebrews 7:2). Do these people not wanting to tithe want to give less or more? The Bible is clear that believers are to be a generous and thankful people.
‘And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.’ Phil 4:19.
This verse comes with an interesting background. Paul in verse 14 refers to the time when the Philippian church gave out of their poverty to help him when he was in need, so they can now be assured that God will repay them back now for their generosity before.
‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you’. Luke 6:38
- Money in itself is not evil. It is the ‘love’ of money which is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10). Many a Christian worker has been disqualified in ministry through covetousness, greed or by borrowing with the full intention of paying back what they have taken at a later date. More than once I have had to stand down people in ministry due to fraud. I have found that very sad, especially when it leads to a marriage breakup through their partner losing trust in the other.
- Having money may make life easier, but it surely doesn’t make us happier. I remember my first visit to a slum in the Philippines. I was nervous wondering what I would see. Instead of encountering a mournful group of people I encountered spontaneous expressions of joy, especially among the children. The poor often have generous attitudes.
- The Bible encourages us to avoid debt (Romans 13: 8 KJV). If you have access to a credit card that you are finding hard to completely pay off monthly, transfer it to a debit card (as your money is already in it) immediately and you will save a lot of money. That way you will not live beyond your means. Within reason learn to be satisfied with what you have. You don’t have to have the best of everything. People have different priorities in spending so don’t judge others as your way may not be completely right either.
- Legalism is wrong. For example, although I have always sought to give at least a 1/10 of my income from a child, yet I would not judge others if they do not. I remember one night as a child watching my mother crying. She was wondering how she was going to get enough money for food in the coming week. We always had enough in the end, even if it was simply a meal of boiled potatoes.
- When finances are short it can easily become the focus of our attention sapping all our energy and leading to fearfulness. We can feel hopeless because of debt but seek help from someone who knows freedom in this area. We need to use our faith in prayer, seek to see if God is indicating something specially that needs dealing with and move forward with wisdom.
- Unfortunately I have sometimes found that in ministering in wealthy churches the monetary reimbursement has sometimes been little perhaps not even covering petrol costs, but ministering in poorer churches the gift has been much greater. I felt very troubled once while walking through the slums in Phnom Penh when a young girl insisted I take her small toy as a sign of good will. Although it was hard to take, how could I resist a blessing coming her way? I have discovered even unbelievers are blessed when they take on a Biblical attitude of giving.
- When there is a great financial need it is sometimes our expectation that the rich person will give generously to meet that need, but in reality people often find the money comes in by small amounts by many people so do not think your gift is too small to help.
- Hyper-faith teaching is unbiblical. It is basically summed up by a. Decide what you want b. By faith confess that you are going to get it and c. Given time it will be yours. Many have been hurt by this false teaching and disillusioned with the Christian faith.
- We are saved by faith and we must learn to live and both give and receive by faith. I have been surprised at a few leaders I have come across who have not learnt this lesson of trusting God for finances. We also must give by faith seeking to know how much and to what cause.
- ‘Faith promise giving’ has been a wonderful blessing for my wife and me in giving extra to God when we can’t afford it. This is when we pray to God to provide by ways that are unexpected. It may be accepting extra paid work that has become available, a small inheritance arriving or an unexpected drop in price in something we are committed to buying (we give the extra unexpectedly saved) etc. Many congregations have also been blessed through this giving method particularly in supporting overseas missions and building programs.
Resources: The Bible – a book full of practical wisdom.