Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Let's Talk About Money, Pt. 2

Pay God First.

That is the topic I have spent the last couple of weeks thinking about. How and why we give, what we give to, and what we should do are all things we desperately need to consider in our lives filled with ever-increasing amounts of stuff.

Average giving from the latest study I've seen (2008), shows that church giving is at around 2.4% of a person's income.


Think about that number for a bit.

That is less than many pay in taxes. That is less than many pay for cable TV. And it is less than the average family cell phone bill.

Does anything seem wrong with that picture? Because the Bible has a lot to say about money. Mostly, it talks about the dangers of money, where our money should go, and how it is all God's to begin with. So when we (might) give 2.4% of our income, can we really say we are giving God our best, and trusting that He will take care of us?

I would venture to say that we cannot (truthfully) say that if this is the case.

So let's look at a few excuses we give, and what a Christian response should be.

1) I won't have enough to pay my bills!
Let's start with the most obvious one first. Now, while it is true that if you make an extremely small amount of money, it will be difficult for you to give much. It does not, however, mean you cannot give. The poor woman in Mark 12 gave all she had, and it was only 2 copper coins. Her faith told her that God was worth it.

But most of us are not in that situation. At all. If you have cable TV, internet, a cell phone, a car, and plenty of food on the table, you should not use this excuse. Is God worth giving up the things we want in order to give the things we need, or not? That is the question we will have to answer.

2) I always forget!
You forget? You sound exactly like me. We are terrible (and I mean terrible) and remembering to write a check and have it ready. However, "forgetting" is a pretty terrible excuse for not giving to God. It is pretty fantastically useless. So either set an alarm, write it and have it in your wallet for the next time it is time to give, or spend it directly on what the church is needing. But do not neglect the needs of the church. Remember, it is the bride of Christ. It is important we take care of her.

3) Tithing is so Old Testament. I "give as it is in my heart to give."
To this I would ask; do you really? Tithing may be Old Testament, but it was also the starting point for giving back then. God's people did not just give 10% to God. That was just what they gave officially. Israel was expected to go far above and beyond that in their giving and helping others. If we are God's children, who have the mind of Christ, who have been saved by Him who gave up everything, can we not begin giving well beyond what we currently do?

Those are just a few excuses. I challenge you to ask yourself what your excuse is, and whether that it is truly a worthwhile reason, or a lie Satan tells you so that you do not give as you should. It is scary, but in the end it will be worth it.

Now I want to switch gears a little bit. I want to talk about savings and retirement. It is not a subject I like to speak about, because it is something that is very private for most people. However, if we are going to talk about giving to God, I do not believe I can do that without writing about this as well.

Savings and retirement are not bad things. As I said in the last post they are not evil in-and-of themselves. Used properly, they can be very good things. However, they are very, very easy to misuse and excuse ourselves from giving to God.

Now saving for a rainy day is one thing. I believe it is good to put some money back in case it is needed. However, when we store up for ourselves so much that we quit trusting in God to provide for us, can we say that we are doing His will?

I honestly don't know how to answer that.

David Ramsey is a very popular "christian money guy." Some of his ideas are great. The envelopes, the immediate emergency fund, snowballing debt to pay it all off. Those are great ideas.

Then I got to the part where he said "invest 15% of income."

When the church is giving on average 2.4% to the church, he comes along and says to invest 15%. More than most people give to God at the high end of the spectrum. In fact, in his "Baby Steps" to building wealth, he doesn't get to the giving part until the last one - "Step 7: Build Wealth and Give!"

To me, that is deeply disturbing.

My gut tells me that there is something wrong with the way much of modern Christianity views retirement and savings. We call it stewardship, but a lot of times it seems more like we are stewarding for ourselves rather than stewarding for God. And that does not sit well with me.

Right now, I do not know where to draw the line between savings and greed. I believe that line will be different for everybody. But I do believe that it is something we should struggle with, and that we ignore it at our own great peril. So I will offer a suggestion that you may take or leave.

Go ahead and save, but don't save for you. Save for those situations where you see God's ability to use the money you have. If there is an emergency or a personal/family need then go ahead and dip into it, but see it for what it is: God's money first, that He lets you use as necessary. If it continues to grow without seeing a need, great! But be ready for when the time comes where God allows a situation to come where you are in position to fulfill a great need. Remember, it is God's money, not yours, and when it is time to help the church or a person or a family or a mission, be sure to do so with joy, knowing that God has enabled you to do such a thing for His kingdom.

This has been a hard post to write. I am not claiming to have all the answers, but I hope to have at least cleared some of the air and given you something to think about. I know I've given myself some things to think about as well.

It is all God's. I pray that both you and I remember that as we move forward in our lives, and that, whatever decisions we come to, it will be to the glory of God.

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