Managing money is a challenge. Education, housing, transportation, food and clothing all seem to empty our wallets fast. Add to these the challenges of finding employment and the ever-increasing price of everything, it’s no wonder many find themselves financially frustrated.
A recent USA Today article, “Millennials struggle with financial literacy,” points out that more and more millennials are taking on huge debt and taking on significant financial burdens early in their lives that could create significant future challenges. I agree; it’s important to learn to manage finances well, and there are tools that can help. Making a plan and establishing a monthly budget are great foundations to stewarding resources well.
However, I want to suggest another essential element of good financial stewardship. It might seem odd, but I believe one of the vital components of healthy stewardship, regardless of your current financial situation, is giving. Now, that may sound like strange advice, especially for those who feel strapped already. What about my debt? Shouldn’t I pay that down first and then start giving? Well, maybe and maybe not.
Give From What You Have
I believe many millennials mistakenly put off giving until they are in a better place financially, thinking, I’ll start giving when I’m making better money. However, that is simply not biblical. On the contrary, the Bible teaches us to give cheerfully and sacrificially to God’s work from the resources He has provided.
When it comes to stewardship, we can both aggressively pursue our financial goals, even while we give. It’s OK to start small. Maybe you begin giving a little bit and look forward to a time when you can give more. It’s not as important the amount you give, but that you establish a routine of giving every time you receive from the Lord, setting aside an amount for Him (even if it’s small).
I encourage you to think about the things you are most passionate about and start giving to that work. What excites you? Maybe you are passionate about giving to global missions, providing for the poor, producing Bible translations for unreached peoples, drilling wells, helping families, providing vaccinations or fighting the sex trade. There are so many great ways to be a part of God’s work. I recommend researching the stewardship of organizations doing such work with tools like Charity Navigator and ECFA, then start contributing regularly, establishing a rhythm of generosity.
One of the great patterns God has established for His people is that they give from the firstfruits of what He has given. The people of Israel used to bring the first and best portions of their harvests and livestock, offering them to God. In a similar way, we count it a privilege to take some of what we’ve been given and give it back to Him.
Jesus viewed generosity as evidence of saving faith. One time Zacchaeus told Jesus he had given half of his possessions to the poor and repaid fourfold anyone he had defrauded. Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this house…” (Luke 19:9). Jesus acknowledged Zacchaeus’ generosity as evidence that his faith was real.
Another time, Jesus pointed out to His disciples a widow who gave generously from her poverty, giving all she had to live on. Many might have called it bad stewardship, but Jesus honored her for her great sacrifice, even above the generous gifts of the rich (Mark 12:44).
Additionally, I’m encouraged by Paul’s exhortation to the church in Corinth:
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
God has not called us to a begrudged reimbursement, but rather an understanding of our resources — financial or otherwise — as gifts from Him that we can use to serve Him.
Most of us will never be in a place financially where we have more money than we know what do with. There will always be loans to pay off, mortgages, college funds and retirement to put our money toward. Most of us will need to learn to give generously from places of need.
There will also be some who read this who already are or will become very wealthy. The rich have the privilege of excelling all the more in this grace of giving. I believe wealth is a gift God sometimes gives His people so they can generously fund His work all over the world.
I’m convinced in the world to come, we won’t compare old bank statements or the combined worth of our earthly assets, but I do think we will rejoice together in the resources God gave us so we could give to His work in the world. We will marvel that He allowed us to be a part of things He could have easily done without us. It’s amazing God is pleased to let us participate in what He’s doing.
So don’t wait to establish rhythms of generosity in your life. Wherever your finances are currently, make a plan to be generous and start giving regularly to things you are passionate about. Offer your firstfruits and don’t be surprised when like the believers in Corinth, God makes all grace abound to you.