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You’re a Christian and you care about pleasing God. So what do you do about money? How much should you try to save up for the future? How do you know when to share your money with others? When is it useful to tithe? Is it okay for Christians to be rich or to spend their money on expensive, frivolous items? The answers to these questions are going to be different for every individual. In this post, we’re going to talk about some basic principles which are useful to bear in mind. But when it comes to working out your personal budget, you need to look directly to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to show you how to honor Him with your choices.
1. Money is God’s property.
Everything we have was given to us by God. God created us for His own pleasure, and He designed us to thrive only when we are living in alignment with Him. It is for these reasons that we seek God’s guidance on what to with the money He’s given us—not because we think we’re being generous to share with Him, but because we recognize that it’s all His in the first place. We are merely handlers of His property and we want to honor Him with how we use His stuff.
2. Only God knows the future.
Since money seems to be such an important part of functioning in this world, it always sounds wise to save up as much as we can. In fact, we can easily justify obsessive hoarding by reviewing statistical data about how expensive our future needs will probably be. And yet when did God ever promise us that we would live to a ripe old age? For all we know we could die tomorrow. When we finally see God face to face, money is going to seem utterly worthless, for money will have no value in eternity. We certainly won’t want to look back and see that we’ve spent our lives caring more about some silly material thing than we did about God. Pondering these things should lead us to ask ourselves, “How much time am I spending thinking about money? Am I getting obsessive? Do I get more excited about a growing savings account than I do about honoring God with my choices?” These kinds of questions can help us identify when our priorities are slipping.
Maybe you’re feeling pressured to invest in stocks or in some long-term retirement plan. If you’re feeling uncertain about what to do, ask God to give you peace about it. If you’re not feeling comfortable by the time the deadline comes, then let the opportunity pass. You can always find some other way to invest later if you feel prompted to. The far more important thing is to practice trusting that God is leading your life.
If you find yourself constantly checking the balance of your accounts and fretting about their growth, it could be a wise time to close out everything and take a break from investing. Jesus specifically warned us that we can’t serve both God and money. When we find ourselves obsessing over the growth of our accounts and getting extra tight about spending, it’s a sign that money is starting to gain mastery over us. If we really care about God, He isn’t going to just stand by and let us become consumed. He will intervene, and if crashing our accounts is the only way to break us free from money’s smothering grip, then that is what He’ll do. When we remember that all money is God’s property, we realize how foolish it is to think we can stockpile it without His cooperation. Why should God help us hoard something that we’ve turned into an idol?
3. God is our only source of security.
Money is a powerful symbol of safety and protection in this world. If we have money, we feel more secure in life. If we don’t have money, we feel vulnerable and afraid. Yet in reality, money doesn’t guarantee anything. God can take it away from us at any time, and it cannot buy anything of eternal value. We need to be building our trust in God alone, not in material things. Ask yourself, “If I were to suddenly lose my money, how confident am I that God would still take care of me?” An honest answer reveals that we all have more work to do in the area of trust.
4. Why does God keep some Christians poor?
Embracing our total dependency on God is a critical part of growing closer to Him. We just can’t excel with Him when we’re clinging to some material thing for security in life. Why does God keep some of us strapped for cash? Because He is helping us learn dependency and trust. Maybe you feel you’ve already learned these lessons and that it’s time for God to lighten up. If He is refusing to do so, then it’s because He knows you still need the pressure of having to depend on Him to provide for you on a day to day basis. It’s not that your growth isn’t real, but sometimes our progress is not as deep rooted as we’d like to believe. Just by looking at a plant, you can’t tell how firmly it has a hold of the ground until you try to pull it up. Some plants have shallow, scrawny roots and they come up without any fight at all. Others have sent thick roots way down into the soil and refuse to budge. God wants our trust in Him to go way down deep, and money stresses give our trust muscles an excellent work out. Don’t take it as a bad grade if God is keeping you financially poor. Instead, see it for the compliment that it is: He values your relationship so much that He is trying to deepen the bond between you. Instead of asking Him to pay your bills, ask Him to help you grow closer to Him through this season of financial stress. Setting our sights on higher spiritual goals is how we end up benefiting from these temporary trials.
5. Is it wrong for Christians to be rich?
There’s nothing sinful about being rich. If you sincerely care about pleasing God and you find Him flooding your bank account with far more than you need, then take it as a compliment that He feels He can trust you with His resources. Many of us can’t handle having too much money at once—we get crazed with lust and spend it all on things we don’t need simply for the thrill of spending. If you’re someone who can handle having God stockpile you with extra cash, then that makes you a very useful reservoir for Him. You’re the kind that He can suddenly call on to help pay someone’s medical bills or help a single mom with house repairs or help a young couple get out of debt. God doesn’t want us all to be giving small checks to the church every week. He wants some of us to store up for a while and then give big checks to a specific individual that He brings across our path. Remember that God loves variety. Be open to Him leading your finances in a different way than He leads someone else.
6. Is it wrong for Christians to live comfortable lives?
God enjoys blessing us and there’s nothing immoral about having nice things. Many of us are living well beyond what we actually need. But before we go out and spend God’s money on some new toy or frivolous thing, we want to be involving Him in our decisions. If a girl wants to buy a fancy dress for prom night, she should be looking for a modest cut that honors God’s priorities instead of some outfit that makes her look like a cheap sex toy and tempts her male peers to sin. If we’re going to buy a new car or phone or laptop, we should be asking for the Holy Spirit’s input. We always want to be asking God to show us how we can honor Him with the things we purchase. When we take this attitude in life, we’ll be surprised at the ways that God will use our material things to exalt Himself and bless others. When we remember that everything is God’s property, then it’s Him we will be praising when we find that great jacket or that really comfortable pair of shoes.
It is God who gives us each a sense of style and fashion. If He created you to love blue stripes and you get all excited when you find a blue striped shirt, God is enjoying watching you act on the desires that He gave you. When you go shopping and you find exactly what you were hoping for, recognize God’s hand at work and thank Him for it. At the same time, if you set out to buy something and you feel the Holy Spirit tapping you to wait, then follow His convictions and hold off on the purchase. God knows the future and He will often try to steer us away from purchases that He knows we’ll regret later on. The more we involve Him in our lives, the more He will use our material things to draw us closer to Him.
There is no blanket rule that says we must sleep on the ground or live out of a cardboard box in order to get closer to God. We’ve all been given different temperaments and resources in life. Some of us can go off to be missionaries in some barren place and find the whole thing a spiritually stimulating experience. Others of us can go on the same trip and only end up spiritually drained and discouraged. For some of us, poverty can have a positive impact on our souls while others of us wouldn’t respond well at all to such a teaching tool. The Holy Spirit is an absolute genius when it comes to maturing human souls. He knows which methods work best for you, and those are the ones He will use in your life. Maybe you’re the sort who will grow more through relational conflicts than you will material poverty. Maybe you would get more mileage out of health problems or work stresses. God knows what He’s doing and we need to surrender ourselves into His hands instead of sitting around trying to exalt poverty and pain as some magical formula for spiritual success. Yes, trials and suffering help us grow closer to God, but only when He is the One directing them. When we set out to try and rush the growth process by choosing some road of physical misery for ourselves, we often end up moving backwards instead of forward. Spiritual growth is a result of staying in alignment with the Holy Spirit. If He has you in a season of material wealth right now, don’t let others tell you that you’re a carnal slacker. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, don’t assume it means God is punishing you. Remember that God loves you and He is going to use your finances to draw you closer to Him. As long as you’re willing to learn the lessons He wants to teach you, you can’t go wrong.
7. When is it useful to tithe?
The term tithing usually refers to reserving a specific percent of our income as “God’s money.” We then usually give our tithed amount to the church or some other ministry on a fairly regular basis. There is no right amount to give because tithing is not required under the New Covenant. Under the Old Covenant, tithing was a vital part of ensuring the daily function of God’s Temple. Running God’s sacrificial system was a full time job for the priests, and while they were working for Him, they had no way of making an income. God required tithes of crops, livestock, food, and money as a way of making sure the priests, their assistants, and their families were well provided for. To the non-priest, giving tithes was a way of worshiping God and showing respect for His commands.
Today, there is no Temple, the sacrificial system has been abolished, and there is no longer any designated tribe of priests who are going to starve to death if we don’t all support them financially. Today a man can have a job and preach at the same time. If God wants that man to preach full time, He will provide for His financial needs. But this whole notion that you owe your pastor money or that you have to give all of your money to the church you attend is pure rot. Many of the men and women who bear the title of pastor today have no business preaching. They are unauthorized frauds who bought their pulpits through carnal means instead of being legitimately called into the profession by God. Many churches are refusing to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Should we be financially supporting such rebellion? Certainly not. And since the average parishioner has no idea about all the carnal shenanigans that are going on behind the scenes, it is vital that you ask the Holy Spirit for guidance before you go dropping checks into the offering plate. When you feel prompted by God to give, then by all means do it. But when you’re just feeling coerced and guilt tripped, or if you feel like the cause you’re being asked to support sounds carnal and misguided, then don’t give. Keep God’s money until God tells you where He wants you to spend it. Be open to Him directing you to give to some person or organization other than your home church.
Today God doesn’t require us to set aside some specific percent of our income for Him. Instead, He teaches us that ALL of our income is His. He gives us money both to bless us and to give us opportunities to honor Him by how we handle it. God is very generous and He enjoys taking care of our needs. We don’t want to get hung up on rigid percent systems or start thinking we’ve done our Christian duty once we’ve pinched off that 10%. If you’re tithing with a “God gets this percent but the rest is mine to do with as I please” attitude, then you’ve got a greed issue. You’ve lost sight of the fact that ALL of your money is God’s property. Often a good remedy for this situation is to increase your tithing amount. Whatever makes you uncomfortable, give that much and a little more. As long as it grates on you to write out that check, you know that money still has its hooks in you. We want to get in a place where we are eager to share the resources that God has given us. We want to be joyful when He brings another sharing opportunity our way. So long as we resent having God dip into “our” portion of income, we know that we’re not in a good place.
Tithing can be a very beneficial exercise when we are trying to improve our attitude about money. Tithing reminds us that our money is God’s property and that we should be seeking to honor Him with it. Tithing helps us keep a looser grip on money, and it can really help us break out of an idolatrous mindset. Tithing can also be a helpful tool for teaching our children to honor God with their stuff. Whenever we feel like money is becoming too important to us, giving some of it away can be a very effective defense. We’re much better off with no savings than we are with a golden idol.
But while we’re having a care about our mental focus, we do want to be guarded against legalism and against false teaching on the subject of tithing. God does not require Christians to tithe, nor does He teach that we have to support our pastors and home churches. There is no right or wrong amount to give. We each need to follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings in this area. If we know that having records of our giving at the church will tempt us to become prideful, then we need to give cash so that our gift remains anonymous. If we want records of our finances kept so we can then get out of paying extra taxes and have more money left over to honor God with, then that is fine as well. Each soul must follow his own convictions for we’re all in different stages of growth.
This world is not our permanent home; we are just passing through. While we’re here, our primary mission is to grow closer to God. We want to view money as just one more tool that God can use to deepen our bond with Him. Because money is such a powerful force in this world, it has great potential for helping us develop mindsets like dependency and trust which are critical for gaining an intimate relationship with God. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you aligned with His priorities in the area of finances and then trust that He will. Don’t panic if you miss some great investment opportunity or if you learn that you’ve given money to some disreputable organization. Remember that God looks on the heart. When He sees that we sincerely want to please Him, He is already quite pleased with us. God is so easy to succeed with. Money can feel like an overwhelming concept to us, but it’s very simple to Him. We cannot go wrong when we are seeking God first in life. We will have everything that He wants us to have in this world and we won’t have anything that He doesn’t want us to have. He is in control, and He is intimately involved in every area of our lives. The more we focus on Him, the more we will learn to see money as the trivial and temporary thing that it is. Pleasing God is the only thing that really matters.