Christians & Money
In my experience, conversations regarding money and the church have been sordid and emotionally charged. Pastoral abuse of funds as well as greedy congregants has only added fuel to the proverbial fire. As a Pastor, I understand both the struggle to give faithfully when living on a limited income as well as the expected influence some have because they give in large amounts.
Missio Dei Church is currently embarking upon a financial campaign, which has allowed me the privilege of meditating on the Scriptural teaching regarding how we steward our money. A text that has helped shape my understanding of finances is found in I Tim. 6:17-19, which says, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (ESV). This teaches us a few principles:
The first principle it teaches us is that money is good and can be enjoyed. There are some of us who mistakenly believe a gospel of poverty, which teaches that a right standing with our neighbor and our God is achieved by shunning money. The practical outflow of this is that money is seen as corrupting and that those who have it must have done something wicked to attain it. The text teaches us, however, that God is the one who “richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” It is for our enjoyment that God provides for us. We must keep in mind that Jesus did not die on a cross to demand His people stubbornly and foolishly remain poor.
Another important principle this text teaches is that while money is good, it can be seductive. On the flip side of the poverty gospel is the prosperity gospel, which mistakenly teaches that wealth is the evidence of God’s blessing on one’s life. The practical outflow of this belief is the reality that many will profess a trust in God, but that trust is trivial and is a means to the end of gaining material blessings. Scripture is replete with stories about the wicked who have power and possessions and the temptation to turn from God to attain material possessions. Jesus died to secure our home in the heavenly kingdom, not to ensure that we’d live a trouble free life here and now. The charge is to place our trust in God, not in the uncertainty of riches, because riches are not “that which is truly life.”
The third principle from this text is that wealth is good, but that giving away wealth is the hallmark of the Christian Life. The text overflows with admonishment to “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” Sacrificial generosity is the evidence of life with God. It mimics what Jesus did on the cross in the giving of Himself for the benefit of the Kingdom of God. Generosity is the evidence that one’s trust is not placed on the uncertainty of riches, but on God. This gives us the Christian relationship to money and wealth, namely that wealth is not measured in terms of possessions, though they are for the enjoyment of God’s people, but in how much can joyfully be given to expand God’s Kingdom. In light of this principle, there are three action steps when it comes to our finances.
Some of us have never given anything away in our entire lives. From the moment we learned the word, “mine,” as toddlers, we’ve clutched with white knuckled death grips to things that are not eternal. In the words of the martyred missionary Jim Eliot, “He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep to attain that which he cannot lose.”
The Old Testament pattern and expectation of giving for God’s people was 10% or a tithe of their possessions. As the Lord provided for His people, He gives them 90% to richly enjoy and asks for a 10% offering of faith, demonstrating that we would steward possessions and trust Him. Some of us are in positions where our heart is bent toward generosity, but our life situation prevents us from giving what we’d like to give. Keeping in mind II Cor. 9:7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver,” it was recommended to me when my resources were marginal to pray to God and ask Him what I should keep to provide for my needs and the needs of my family and give the rest away. Sometimes this has been 2% and at other times, it’s been as high as 15%. In both scenarios, I was able to give voluntarily and joyfully as an act of worship. We acknowledge that many of our possessions are in non-cash assets and have teamed up with iDonate, an organization that aids in turning non-cash possessions into Kingdom capital. You can read more about iDonate here.
While there was a legal demand of 10% in the OT, there isn’t for the percentage of giving in the NT. Now some will take this as a license to give very little, or give nothing at all. That action reveals a heart that rationalizes stinginess, which is the very antithesis of the Gospel. Because there isn’t a percentage commanded, the principle is that we are free to give more, to give sacrificially. This is exactly what happened when the Spirit of God came alive in the people of the first century church. “They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all” (Acts 2:42). “In a severe test of affliction, their (the poor Macedonians) abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means” (II Cor. 8:2-3) and it goes on to point out how they begged to participate in giving to the relief of the saints. For those who give and give regularly, the challenge is to give sacrificially. To put our treasure where our heart is. Giving sacrificially declares that God owns all things and that we are not owners, but stewards. We want to invite you to give, to give regularly, and to give sacrificially as the Lord leads you. For my household, our heart is in the transformation of lives through the hope of the Gospel. We believe that Missio Dei Church is committed to this and will continue to be, so this is where we invest. If you care to do the same, you can do so here.