Money is a big deal. It’s probably the topic pastors and churches are most scared to talk about. (Well, perhaps apart from sex.) That’s because it’s a touchy topic (the money, not the sex) for many people. Why? Because many people want to be in control of their own finances. The idea of giving that area of their lives to God might be fine in theory. But in practice? That’s a bit harder.
Yet even for those of us who desire to honor God with our finances, what is the best way to do so?
In Scripture, there are many ways in which God commends how people spend their money. Some gave several years’ worth of wages to the temple or the Apostles. Some tithed to Melchizedek. Others used it to gain influence among their friends, and still others invested it to double the return. (Yes, I’m aware that specific parable is about more than money, but I think the principle still applies.)
If we have a decent amount of money, how do we use it in a godly way?
I come from a family that values saving, investing and effectively not spending our money. The goal, stated or not, is to make your money work for you so that you get more, which then feeds back into your capital so you can make more money over time. Thus the effective net worth of the kingdom of God (of which we’re citizens) goes up. This allows you to have more influence, give to the poor, support the church, and help your friends in need — all in a sustainable manner. That’s one way to do it.
However, I have friends who believe very much that such behavior as mentioned above indicates a love of money. They work hard at their jobs (to do otherwise is sin) and use their earnings to pay for necessities. But then they tithe the remaining income to church or donate it to charities. Many of them don’t believe in saving, because multiple passages in the Gospels seem to say that saving is foolish (Luke 12:13-20) or at least a sign that you don’t trust God (Matthew 6).
Lastly, some Christians believe God gave us the ability to make money so that we can enjoy it. After all, He’s our Father. He wants to give us good gifts. We worked hard, so live a little. Enjoy life! This group might take their families on regular overseas vacations, indulge in various luxuries, buy their kids cool gifts, and still tithe, give, save — just less rigorously. After all, they say, being a Christian doesn’t mean a life of poverty; riches were a sign of God’s blessing in the Old Testament.
I wrestle with this topic on a regular basis. I want to do what’s right and what honors God — or at least have an idea of the attitude to which the Spirit is trying to lead me. Yet for every stage of life, my understanding about money, and its importance, changes.
Tithing a third of my income was easy when I was at school and living at home, but now that I’m paying Hong Kong rent, getting married and going to seminary on a youth pastor’s salary, it’s not actually possible.
Should I be setting aside money for my future kids, or should I live more in the moment to help my close friends who are jobless or struggling to pay their university bills? Should I forgo my vacations and international travel for the sake of others? What if that means I can’t spend as much time with my family who lives overseas? I have many financial decisions to make.
In the end, I feel there’s a biblically acceptable balance we must all find, and I think it changes as we age. So I thought I’d ask you: Of these three rough theories, what’s your priority financially? And how do you think your life stage affects your financial decisions?