Does God care how we spend our money? The very short answer to that is “yes, He does care.” Let’s consider it a little more.
The Bible mentions money and possessions a lot. Sometimes it is a passing reference; other times we find principles that we can apply to life. We’ll start our pondering on this subject with this verse: “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Luke 16:13)
A good starting place is with our priorities. What is it that we value most? What do we pursue most fervently? What gives us the most joy? Jesus says that God and money cannot share the throne in our lives. They cannot both have first place. Quite honestly, we show what we value most by our lifestyles. Money and possessions are the great revealers. As Jesus put it, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34) He also warns us, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). Money is not unimportant but neither is it all-important.
God wants us to use money to meet our basic needs. In doing this, we are not to be anxious over money but recognize that ultimately God is our provider and we must trust Him (Matthew 6:31-33). That being said, we are not to sit idly by and wait for God to drop bags of groceries at our feet or for our fellow church members to write us a check. Honest labor is part of God’s design.
Paul writes: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). On the surface that may sound pretty harsh, but there were actually people who believed that if Jesus were coming back, then they could just quit their jobs, have Bible studies all day, and sponge off everyone else. The Bible says, “Each one should carry their own load” (Ephesians 6:5). And if that loads becomes to heavy to bear alone, the church is to come alongside. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Ephesians 6:2)
Work is part of life. It has been since the Garden. We work to grow crops, raise animals, or gain money. In doing so, we have the means to provide for our families and ourselves. God expects us to do so. “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
But we are not simply to think about ourselves. Wealth is not a bad thing; in fact, in the Bible it is seen as something that is good unless it we give in to greed. The money we ear is not just for ourselves.
God wants us to use money to give to others. In both the Old and New Testaments, we see that our giving has two directions. The first is to give to the poor and needy. This can be done through your church, a charitable organization, or face-to-face. Since God has provided us with the means, given us the opportunity, and touched our hearts, given to the poor should become a normal part of our lives. If we are not moved by the plight of the poor, the homeless, and the hungry, there is something wrong at our core. James wrote: “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (James 2:15-16)
The second direction is to give in support of Kingdom work. In the Old Testament, the tithe (10%) of one’s earnings was the minimum for the Jews to give. In addition, there were other offerings during the year that would move giving far beyond the tithe. In the New Testament, Jesus assumes the tithe but takes our responsibility further: “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone” (Luke 11:42). Our giving was to be a reflection of our hearts. We were not to ask what was the least we could give, but how we can give from the heart. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
God wants us to use our money wisely. I see it all the time. A person is struggling to make ends meet. He or she gets a tax refund and immediately rushes out to get the latest gadget, heads off on a vacation, or otherwise lets the cash slip through their fingers. Could that money have been used more wisely – perhaps to pay down a debt, put some aside for a rainy day, or to give some to Kingdom work? God does care that you use what He has given you (and ultimately it does come from Him) wisely.
Because we living in a consumer-oriented society, we have been programmed to get it and spend it. We’ve been told we need the latest and greatest, and besides, all our friends have that high-tech phone, that massive television, or those shiny rims. Why not us? Why should I be the one with the dumb phone, the not-as-big TV, and the rusty rims? I deserve it!
That kind of thinking leads us to bad places. It leads to jealousy and resentment. It leads to bills past due, repossessions, and even bankruptcy. At the very least, it leads to unnecessary financial stresses. We must recognize that God not only owns what we put in the offering basket on Sundays; He owns it all – money, possessions, and even you. With that in mind, we have to make choices as to how we will live. Really, we only have three possible alternatives.
(1) Live above our means. This means we spend more than we make. We’re trying to keep up with the lifestyles of those around us. We’ve bought into the consumer mentality. The problem is that this choice has bad consequences like those mentioned above.
(2) Live within our means. A lot of people live here. They spend all they make to make ends meet. If they ever come into extra money, it usually goes to buying something they’ve been dreaming of. These people get by, they pay their bills, they give to the church (most of the time), but they have very little margin for error. They don’t have much of a nest egg for the future. And they don’t have the resources to allow them to be generous when needs arise.
(3) Live below our means. People who live below their means reduce financial stress by having a little extra stored away for a rainy day. They have some money set aside for the future. They have the ability not only to give but to give generously. And they have something more, something intangible but priceless; they have peace.
Which would you choose? Which have you chosen? The choice, after all, is yours. They younger you make it, the better off you will be. Some of you reading this are so far in the hole, that you’re not sure you can get your head above water, let alone getting your feet firmly planted on something solid.
There is much more that could be said. Talk with your church leaders if you’d like financial training from a biblical perspective. But I will close with the words of Agur, one of the writers of Proverbs: “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9)