One of the comments we’ve heard many times is: “I know I should give to the church but I can’t afford to give - my budget is too tight and my debt level is such that I’m not able to give to the Lord’s work.”
Perhaps that is the case - but before we go on, let’s consider what Scripture tells us.
Look at Malachi 3: 8 - 9. Here God asks - Will you rob me? The people responded - How have we robbed you? God says - By withholding your tithes and offerings. God goes on to say - Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (the church)...and test Me in this, if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
And then in Luke 6 Christ tells us to: “Give and it will be given to you.” Wow! What wonderful promises! If we are faithful in giving to the Lord’s work He promises to bless us.
Now, don’t misunderstand. God is not promising that He will make us wealthy. We have to give with the right heart-attitude. In fact in Hosea 6, God makes it clear when He says “I don’t want your sacrifices, I want your love.” And in Matthew 23, Christ chastises the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, for although they were tithing, they were neglecting the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness.
To be clear, God wants us to give and expects us to give, but what He wants most is for us to love Him and to give out of that love for Him - not with an expectation that He will make us rich. And when we give out of love for Him so that His word and His work may go forth, He promises to bless us and to meet our needs (read Matthew 6). But, do I trust God and the promises from His word?
Let’s go back to the initial question: How can I give if I can’t afford to give?
It begins with being good stewards. As noted, God has expectations of us. As Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 9 - we have a stewardship entrusted to us. Webster’s defines stewardship as the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. From a Biblical perspective stewardship is defined as “the responsible and active management of God’s creation for God’s purposes.”
This requires that we be “intentional” in the responsible management of the resources that God has entrusted to us. What do we mean by intentional? Simply stated - it means we have a plan. From a financial perspective this means preparing a budget.
Often, without a plan - without a budget, there is no room for a tithe. Every dollar is often committed to other uses before a tithe can even be considered. But, if we intend to give to the Lord’s work and we plan for it by creating and following a budget, we are far more likely and able to do so.
In addition to being a management and planning tool, a budget helps us identify our priorities. It reflects what is most important in my life. A preacher once said - show me your checkbook and I’ll show you your priorities. What does your checkbook tell you?
1st John 2 has a strong warning not to love the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life. Those are easy traps to fall into - especially in today’s consumer driven world. But these are not from God.
My planning (or lack of planning) reflects my priorities and what is most important to me. Our priorities can have an impact on our finances and even influence our borrowing. Do our priorities line up with God’s priorities, working for His purposes?
Some debt (such as a mortgage loan for a home) may be necessary to provide adequately for my family. But what about credit card debt and auto loans? Does my debt level absorb my cash flow, not leaving the funds needed for other purposes? Are there adjustments - perhaps in my debt level - that I need to make?
We are reminded in 1st Timothy 6 that godliness with contentment is great gain. Does my debt level reflect contentment - or something else? Does my debt level reflect what is most important to God, or my priorities and what is most important to me?
And maybe it’s not debt - but how I choose to use my time. That too can reflect my priorities. Do I work more hours than required or necessary - to earn more money, to get that promotion, or to advance in my career? We’ve all been there. But what am I sacrificing (intentionally or unintentionally) to achieve that desired result - perhaps it's time with my family...or serving in the church?
We are stewards - not just of our money - but stewards of all that God has entrusted to us - our time, our treasure and our talents (God given abilities). And there is a cost, a trade off in every decision we make - do we use what God gives us just for our own
needs and interests or do we use what God gives for His purposes?
God understands our needs. And He expects us to work and do our best (see Colossians 3: 23 and II Thessalonians 3: 10), striking a balance between contentment and need. Striving to find that balance is part of the stewardship process. It can be challenging - but doing so is critically important. It’s important that we reflect on what is most important and make adjustments to both our financial budget and our time budget so they honestly reflect what is most important and reflective of God’s priorities.
Finding this balance and answering these questions cannot be answered in our own wisdom - only with God’s guidance. It is critical that we pray over these questions. As we’re reminded in James 1: 5, if we lack wisdom - ask of God.
What is God telling me? Am I listening?
More to come...
Do you have questions about managing your finances from a Biblical perspective?
For help and guidance feel free to call Kent Anderson at (239)597-6057 x254.