How Does God Want You To Handle Your Money?

By Errol Hale

There are few subjects that cause people to become as touchy, if not downright defensive, as the subject of giving.  Polls show that one of the chief reasons people cite for disinterest in church or religion, is that churches are always asking for money.

Sadly, the bad reputation, although not entirely accurate, has nonetheless been earned.  Stories of filthy-rich televangelists whose pets live in air conditioned dog houses are enough to make any thinking person bristle.  As a result, people are cautious about where they give, if they give at all.  This caution is commendable.  In fact, it is commanded by scripture.  We are called as Christians to be good managers of our resources.  Good managers do not invest in air conditioned dog houses!

it’s mine, mine! all mine!

The first issue that each of us must come to grips with if we are going to manage our resources wisely, is ownership.  The natural way to feel about our possessions as seen in Deuteronomy 8:17, is that we earned them, therefore they are ours to do with as we please.

This way of thinking stems from a misunderstanding of where our possessions come from.  Deuteronomy 8:18 says, “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth...”  What I have may be the result of hard work.  But God gives the opportunity and ability to work.  It all comes from Him.

who’s got my wallet?

If you ask me to hold your wallet (that happens to have five dollars in it), does that make me five bucks richer?  Not hardly.  I’m not five dollars richer because I have your wallet.  Rather, I am now responsible to you for your wallet and its contents.

Jesus told a story in Matthew 25:14-30 that illustrates this same point concerning the management of our possessions.  In the story, the master (representing the Lord) gave each of three servants (representing people) a possession to be managed.  Each received a different amount based on his ability to care for it.  The master went away.  Each servant handled the possession left in his care differently.  Two invested what they had been given, while the third buried his in the ground.

After a long time, the master returned requiring an accounting of what the servants had done with the possession they were entrusted with.  The first two who invested wisely were rewarded for their good management of the master’s possessions.  The third, who did nothing with what was entrusted to him, was severely punished.

This story illustrates a few very important principles:

1.   Stewardship, or management of resources, begins with a recognition of Christ’s Lordship.

2.   What I have is not mine.  It belongs to the Lord who has merely entrusted it to me, in order that I may manage it for Him, in the way He wants it managed.

3.   The Lord will come again and require an accounting.

4.   How I manage what He has entrusted to me will determine whether I receive commendation or condemnation from the Lord.

a unique investment opportunity

God does not need our money.  Money has temporary value in this life only.  As the old saying, “You can not take it with you” implies, what is gained here stays here when we leave.  But God has provided us with a unique investment opportunity.  Although we can not take it with us, we can send it on ahead.  We can invest what has value only in this world here and now, in such a way so as to receive great spiritual returns for eternity in heaven.

Jesus warns us not to invest in this life only to the exclusion of laying up eternal treasures in the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:19-21).  He says we are fools if we lay up treasure for ourselves here on earth, to the neglect of being rich toward God (Luke 12:20-21).

attitudes toward giving

Most Christians know that we are supposed to give.  But because of a lack of knowledge about why we are to give, if we do give, we often give with incorrect motives.  God does not want us to give grudgingly.  He wants only the gifts of cheerful givers.  If we have grudging attitudes about giving, we do not understand much about giving.

practical guidelines for giving

Paul wrote the following instructions to the Corinthians about giving: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches in Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let everyone of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.  And when I come, whomever you appoint by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem”(1 Corinthians 16:1-3).

From these three verses we can learn five important guidelines for giving:

1.     Biblical giving is not optional.  Notice the words “command” and “must.”  Paul commanded the churches in Galatia to give, and he says we must do so also.  Paul’s apostolic command is the Word of God.

2.     Biblical giving is to be regular and systematic.  Paul’s words, “on the first day of the week,” teach us that our giving is to be regular, whether weekly, every other week, or monthly.  It depends on how often one is paid.  Sporadic giving probably indicates a sporadic spiritual life.

3.     Biblical giving is to be proportional.  God does not require the poor to give the same amount of dollars as He does the wealthy.  Paul calls us to give in proportion to how God has financially prospered us.

4.     Biblical giving is not to be based on manipulation.   Paul wanted the people to give regularly so that there would not be any need for special offerings when he came.  He was not into high pressure pleas for money, and I doubt any true men of God are into that today.

5.     Biblical giving is to be responsible.  Paul left it up to the people to determine who was competent and trustworthy enough to handle what was given.  Today we have that same responsibility.  Those who knowingly give to organizations that are not above reproach, are not giving responsibly.  We must know where we are giving, and that the funds are being used wisely.  Church leaders are supposed to be spiritual investment brokers.  They are to see that money given is reaping the highest return on behalf of those who have given.

where ought my gifts go?

Understanding the mandate to give still does not answer the question of where to give.  The Bible tells us three places to invest:

First, we are to help the needy.  Proverbs 21:13 says, “He who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.”  James warns that our faith is not valid if we see a brother or sister in need and, if having the means to meet that need, do nothing to help.

Second, there are several examples in the Bible of giving to fund the building of places of worship.  When Moses invited those who were of a willing heart to give toward the building of the tabernacle, the people gave so much that they had to be stopped! (Exodus 36:3-7)

Third, we give to support the continuance of Christian ministry.  One of the chief ways we do this is by providing a reasonable support for those who labor in ministry (1 Timothy 5:17-18, 1 Corinthians 9:11-14).  There may be those who may live “high on the hog” while in ministry, but the vast majority of those employed in Christian service definitely do not.

The various ministries of the church, from evangelism to Sunday School curriculum, are supported by those who give.  The living water is free, but the buckets used to deliver it cost money!

pay where you eat

Most of us spend the lion’s share of our food bill each month at a grocery store.  In addition we may eat out a time or two each month.  Let’s say the local church is represented by the grocery store and restaurants represent additional ministries we may enjoy (radio ministries, missions, etc.)  We can not spend our money on a few meals out each month, and expect to get much from the grocery store.  In essence, we have to pay where we eat.

How does this relate to giving?  Some desire to divide up their gifts among various unrelated ministries.  While this may be motivated by a noble desire to cover several bases, it is one reason many local churches constantly struggle financially.

One way to deal with this is to give your tithe, or whatever amount the Lord leads you to give, to your local church.  Then, as you are able, above and beyond that amount, support other worthy ministries.  Again, pay where you eat.

Some may protest saying. “I am not fed well at my church!”  In some cases that may be true.  However, if the Bible is not being taught, the appropriate question is not whether or not to give, it is whether or not to stay.

If the Bible is being taught at a church, the sheep are being fed, even if it is not always served up the way we like it.  Maybe we are not wined and dined like an evening out at a nice restaurant, but there are healthy balanced meals always served up, and there is a pantry always there when we need it.  We may get great meals from our favorite radio ministers and conference speakers, but our local pastors are the ones who are there for us week in and week out.  We need to pay where we eat!

honoring the lord with possessions

Wise old Solomon counsels us in Proverbs 3:9-10 to “Honor the Lord with your possessions and the firstfruits of all your increase.”  Responsible giving honors the Lord.  It demonstrates faith.  In order to give to God from the first fruits — off the top, before the bills are paid — one must exercise faith.  (One may also be forced to exercise self control in other spending!)

Solomon spoke of a promise attached for those who would give of the first fruits: “So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”  Barns speak of material wealth.  The promise?  Plenty.  Plenty does not necessarily mean abundance.  Plenty means enough.  Those who give to God from the first fruits will always have enough. 

Vats of new wine may speak of spiritual blessing.  Those who give of their first fruits will be blessed spiritually, but not with plenty.  Not merely with enough.  Rather, the spiritual blessing attached is an overflowing abundance!

Another point from this passage is that God does not barter.  Giving of our time and talents is not a substitute for giving money.  God requires us to honor Him with ALL our possessions; time and talents included, not instead of!

ok, how much?

There are those who know the ‘whys’ and ‘wheres’ of giving, but are stumped by the question, “How much?”  Everyone is concerned with the bottom line.  So, how much?

In Genesis 4:1-5 we are told that God had respect for Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s.  Why?  Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel offered his gift “by faith.”  Apparently Cain did not.  Whether the difference of grain versus blood was important, I do not know.  There had been no commandment concerning blood offerings at this point, and when there were commandments given about offerings, many hundreds of years later, there were provisions made for grain offering.  What is important is that Abel gave “by faith,” Cain apparently did not.

what is a faith offering?

In 2 Corinthians 8:2-3 Paul wrote commending the Christians in Macedonia for their generous giving.  Notice what he said about how much they gave.  “ a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and deep poverty abounded in the riches of their generosity.  For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing...” (emphasis added).

The Apostle was commending the Christians in Macedonia for their giving.  We already know from the story of the widow’s two mites in Mark 12:41-44 that God has no respect for those who give merely from their abundance.  The Macedonians were not giving out of an abundance since there was no abundance.  They were in need themselves!  They gave, not based on what they could afford, but beyond what they could afford.  They gave sacrificially.

How does that instruct you and me to give?  We do well to determine how much we can afford to give so that it is not a real stretch of faith.  Then we should give just enough more that our faith is stretched.  Then and only then are our offerings gifts of faith.

For a low income person or family, giving 10% of one’s income may be a real faith stretcher.  By the same token, for those who make a lot of money, a tithe, or 10% of one’s income, may be no challenge at all.  (If a person makes $100,000.00 per year, how much faith does it take to live on $90,000.00?)

Aren’t we free from the old Testament Law of tithing?

There are always those who object to the mention of tithing.  Those who object say, “That was Old Testament law, and we are not under the law!”  The Old Testament law is not obsolete as far as its being God’s righteous standard.  Jesus corrected this incorrect idea when He said, “Do not think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets.  I did not come to destroy [them], but to fulfill [them].” 

In addition, because the tithe was established well before the Mosaic law was given, it is an abiding principle that is apart from discussion of whether the Mosaic law is binding on Christians or not.  A tithe, 10% of our income, is a valid amount for Christian giving — as the minimum.  Those who are poor, new to the faith or who have gotten themselves into debt may need to grow toward the tithe.  For others, 10% is robbing God since the person making $100,000 isn’t going to have his faith stretched too far in order to eek out an existence loving on only $90,000.

As our faith grows, so ought our giving.  Think of it this way:  If I earned $100 dollars per week, and gave 10% or $10, I would be saying that by faith I am going to live on $90 each week.  Suppose I get a raise.  Now I make $150 per week.  If I give 10 %, or $15, I am saying that by faith I am going to live on $135.  Has my faith increased?  Stayed the same?  Decreased?  God is not interested in how many dollars we give.  It’s how many of my dollars that I give that interests God.  The person who merely gives a large number of dollars, may merely be wealthy.  The person who gives a larger number of his dollars, regardless of the size of his gift is exercising faith..  God does not need our money, but He is interested in our faith.

so what are you going to do about it?

We each need to ask ourselves a few questions.  The answers to these questions will help us determine how well we are managing what the Lord has put in our charge.  How well we are managing His possessions is important.  How we manage money is especially important since Jesus told us this is a key indicator of where our hearts really are. (Matthew 6:19-21)  How well we manage what the Lord has placed under our care — including money — will determine whether we hear “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your salvation,” or “cast this unprofitable servant into outer darkness.”

in conclusion

Reflect on these things:

1.     Are you possessive with “your things?”  Or do you live in light of the fact that what you have not only comes from the Lord, but is in fact still His?

2.     Do you understand the concept of laying up treasure in heaven as a spiritual investment in eternity?  Do you really want to invest in eternity rather than merely laying treasure on earth?

3.     What is your attitude toward giving?  Are you giving cheerfully?  Do you need to pray about this?

4.     Are you giving regularly? Systematically? Proportionally?  Responsibly?  What do you need to do to remedy problems in any of these areas?

5.     Do you understand how responsible giving furthers the gospel?

6.     Are you “paying where you eat?”

7.     Do you really believe God’s promises to those who give of their first fruits found in Proverbs 3:9-10?

8.     Are you currently giving according to faith?  If not, what steps do you need to take to begin doing so, and growing in faith?

May the Lord richly bless you as you respond to His love by faithfully managing His resources according to the principles found in His Holy Word.