OK. I want you to take a moment to do an audit of your life. Get out your wallet and look through it. Take inventory of all the credit cards filed there. Count all the money in the back compartment. Total up all the change in your change purse (or pocket.) Alright, after you have done that, now think about your most recent bank statement(s). How much was in there? Finally, allow your mind to scan over all your “stuff”: where you live, what you wear, what’s in your closets, garages, on your shelves, etc. Once you have totaled all your stuff, draw a metaphorical line underneath it all and total it up. Quite a sizable sum, eh?
Now that you have done this audit, I want to simply ask you one question about it: What is it all there for? Why do you have this stuff? While you search for an answer to that question, let’s add some perspective to the situation.
In Luke 19:11-27 Jesus tells a parable about a “King to be” who goes off to become King, leaving ten units of resources to each servant before He leaves to manage. When the King returns, he approaches each servant to see what they have done with their share of the King’s resources. Each servant is rewarded for their action EXCEPT the servant who did nothing with the resources he was given. In this parable, I think we see two very important principles for us to understand regarding all the things we have been entrusted with in this life (I believe this includes all our talents, opportunities, AND material resources.) The first principle that is clear to me is that everything we have has been given to us by God. In the parable, all the servants have is what the King has given them to be a steward over. I think this is parallel to our stewardship (as Christians) over the things God has entrusted us with in this life. This principle is obvious and you have probably heard it before. The second principle, however, is equally important. The second principle is that God has given us things SO THAT WE WOULD USE THEM. In other words, God wants us to do something with the things He has entrusted us with in this life. But what does He want us to do? How would you answer that question? What do you think is the logical application of what we should do with the resources God has entrusted us with? The answer might surprise you.
When you do a quick New Testament survey on what God wants us to do with the material possessions and money He has entrusted to us, we do not get a singular answer. In fact, there are many New Testament commands on what to do with the resources entrusted to us. Below is a list of just some of the God directed, God ordained, spiritual uses of money prescribed in the New Testament:
- Paying Taxes (Luke 20:20-26). Believe it or not, God wants us to use the appropriate amount of resources required by our government to pay our taxes.
- Buying food to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). Part of the reason why we make money is to provide food and nourishment to our bodies. In fact, this passage tells us that “one who does not work should not eat.” Of course there are exceptions to this principle (i.e. it is not a crime to feed a hungry, non-working person!), but it does show that one of the spiritual purposes of money is to provide food to eat.
- Provision for your family (1 Timothy 5:8). This passage talks about how it is important for people to provide for their family. This passage does not explicitly define “provide for,” (if you are 16, you probably want to define “provide for” as new car for every child . . . sorry, the passage does not say that, even in the original Greek) but from context it seems that providing for your family would include things like food, lodging, care, etc. It is a right, spiritual, and appropriate use of money to provide for your family.
These three uses, are not a comprehensive list by any means, but begin to show us that the principles of “God owns it all” and “He wants us to use it” at least include some very common applications (like paying taxes, buying bread, and providing for your family.) However you answered my earlier questions, we must expand our answer to at least include these things.
There is one more category of “using our resources” that is very important to consider. As we apply the principles of Luke 19, we also see that it is important to give some of our resources specifically to the work of God in the world. In the Old Testament, God’s people were instructed to give one tenth of all their income to the Lord’s work in the Temple (Malachi 3:6-12). In the New Testament, God’s standard is actually raised (not lowered). 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 instruct us that we are to seek the Lord on the amount He wants us to give. The value of this amount is said to be generous, yet proportionate to someone’s ability to give. In other words, 10% may be generous for some, but would be only a starting point to what could be joyously given for others.
From a New Testament perspective, we are not “taxed” to give. By that, I mean that we are not under compulsion to give a certain percentage that we give grumbling and against our will. In 2 Corinthians 8, our generous/proportionate giving is a joyous opportunity to participate in the work of God! In fact, it is the funnest (and certainly most rewarding) thing we can do with our money.
As we prayerfully consider where our giving should go, we should consider at least 3 areas of giving that the New Testament outlines:
- Your local church. This money would go for running the church business (similar to the Old Testament Temple), and for paying Pastors and staff members salaries so they can focus on the work of the ministry (1 Timothy 5:17-18).
- Support individuals or ministries outside the local church that are sharing God’s Word with others. This is what the Philippian church was doing as they were supporting Paul on his missionary journey (Philippians 4:10-20).
- Giving to individuals who are in personal need. There is a special New Testament emphasis on helping fellow believers who are in need (Galatians 6:10 and Acts 4:32-37).
If these are the 3 areas of possible giving, how do we determine what to give where? Galatians 6:6 would indicate that we are encouraged to give to the places where we have been blessed. This is a very helpful thing to understand, because there are always thousands more needs than we have resources. Therefore, we have to make choices about where to invest in Kingdom work. I think Galatians 6 would indicate to us that we should give to the local church you attend, the individuals & ministries you are personally knit to, and the believers in need who are personally moved by. Further, it seems to me that the Old Testament tithe went to the “church” of its day, therefore (by principle) the largest share of your regular giving would go to the local church you attend, with giving above that going to the two other sources.
This has been a longer post than usual, but I feel this issue is important to address. Every day, we are bombarded with countless opportunities to spend the money entrusted to us. How do we make decisions about where to spend it? God gave it to us for us to use, so we should not feel guilty about using it . . . even for things that we don’t normally consider as inherently spiritual (like taxes, food, and family). However, we all have the great opportunity to prayerfully consider how we will invest a generous proportional amount of our income on God’s Kingdom work. Once you feel like you understand where God wants you to give, go ahead and invest in those areas and see what happens! It is a joy to be a part of God’s work in any way . . . giving is just another part.