Thursday, February 6, 2014

Let's Talk About Money, pt. 1

I have a feeling this post may step on a lot of toes (including my own). Be ready though. The next post will probably step on toes just as much, so fair warning. :-)

I've been struggling with the concept of money recently.

It is not that I am struggling financially. We've actually been pretty OK in that area. I don't look at my bank account squeamishly and with fear. I just check it to make sure that what I think is in there really is in there.

But I've been struggling with the concept of money, and what God expects of me with it.

I'll be straight with you about this: we don't make a ton of money.
I'll also be straight with you about this: we make a ton of money.

Those two statements are not mutually exclusive. In terms of where we live and in terms of vast swaths of America, we do not make all that much. We make plenty to get by and have a couple of nice things. Our cars are about 12 years old and towards the end of their lifespans, we have had the same TV for over 5 years, my PS3 is at least 7 years old, and we have a small house with one bathroom for 4 people. Most of the things we have are nice enough, but they are also relatively old.

We are totally OK with that. No objections there.

However, compared to the rest of the world, we live in extreme luxury.

We own a house with a large yard that has A/C and heat. We own 2 cars and a TV, 2 computers, and we eat good food every single day. Oh, I forgot to mention we each have at least enough clothes for 2 weeks, and electricity as well as running water.

We are rich beyond the wildest dreams of most of the world.

So let's talk about money.

Let's really, really talk about money.

Matt. 6:19-21
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 12:33-34
Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 14:33
So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.
(Read v.25-33 to get the full effect of this one.)

Our culture glorifies large bank accounts and large retirement accounts. We call it "planning for the future," and "being good stewards" of our money. Christians and churches do this as well.

But for the life of me I can't find anything in the Bible that talks about "saving for the future" outside of Proverbs. Now Proverbs is inspired, and I (obviously) not arguing against that, but it is definitely not the only place God speaks about money. The most commonly used verse in Proverbs I have found is the comparison to the ant in 6:6, who saves for winter, and the sluggard who does not.

Notice, however, that the ant saves for that winter. He is not saving for the next 30 winters. He is making sure that he will have enough for that one specific period.

I really have zero problem with that.

But I do have to ask the question; should "retirement" and savings really be our financial goal, or should serving God, giving to the poor, and supporting His kingdom be our financial goal?

Just FYI, I really don't like that question. That usually means I need to ask that question again.

Should retirement and savings be our financial goal, or should serving God, giving to the poor, and supporting His kingdom be our financial goal?

I'm pretty sure its the latter.

Please don't misunderstand. I am not saying that saving, even saving for retirement, is an evil in-and-of itself. I have known a number of people who have saved, retired, and used the time available to them to serve God in a number of ways and with everything they have. They also continue to be generous with their retirement money, refusing to neglect those in need for fear they won't continue to have enough for the future.

That being said, I know more people who look to retirement as a time when they can sit back, relax, and cruise to the end of life. That is not OK. That is not what God calls us to do.

There is no such thing as retiring from Christianity.

Jesus says be faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10) and Paul says to run the race to win (I Cor. 9:24), which means we must run it to the very end. If we stop short of the finish, we have lost. If we tell ourselves that our dues are paid and we no longer need to put our faith into action for Christ, we have lost.

So perhaps we should look at our money from the following perspective:
Pay God first (spreading His kingdom and helping those in it).
Pay others second (helping the poor and needy, providing for our families, paying taxes).
Pay ourselves last (our wants, needs, and desires).

If we use this formula, the chances are very good we will not go wrong. In fact, if we live our entire lives like this; God First, Others Second, Self Last, we will find that not only will our lives become turned upside down, but our lives will make a whole lot more sense as Christians.

Over the next few weeks we are going to look at these three items. What it means to truly use our money in a Godly way, and how we can do that. I am going to do my best to be truly, fully Biblical. I plan on trying to strip away everything that culture and people have said in order to say what the Bible truly says. I pray I will be successful in doing so. 

Jesus wants to turn our lives upside down and completely remake us. This includes everything about us, including our money. It is why we need to talk about it.

I hope you will join me on my journey, and that you will join me in prayer that it will be a good, full, and Godly one.

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