Americans don’t handle money well. Consumer debt is on the rise; of those with credit card debt the average balance is over $15,000. The retirement accounts of working-age people are shockingly underfunded. And on a more personal level, problems with money are cited as a leading reason for divorce. How can we remedy this situation?
Most are surprised to hear that Jesus said more about money than heaven and hell, and there are twice as many verses about money than faith and prayer combined. So by volume at least, God thinks it’s pretty important for us to understand money. But why would God care so much about our understanding of money? It is because our relationship with money is correlated with our relationship with Him.
You’ve likely heard this misquote: “Money is the root of all evil.” In fact, 1 Timothy 6:10 says (emphasis added):
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Money is not evil. God just doesn’t want us to love it so much that it replaces Him in our lives and we hurt ourselves and those around us.
So what guardrail can we add, what behavior can we insert into our lives, that protects us from the love of money? One word: Giving.
Something inside us moves when we hear stories of people who sacrificially give. These stories go viral on social media for a reason. Deep down we are designed not to hold tightly to wealth, but to give. Giving breaks the grasp that money has on our hearts, and the future damage it has on our souls. In addition, when we get serious about giving, it reprioritizes the place that money has in our lives. It decreases our selfishness. And it helps us to focus on better managing what is left. Paradoxically, an increase in giving leads to a decrease in consumer debt and an increase in personal savings.
Matthew 6:19 says:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
When we give to people and organizations that reflect and touch God’s heart, such as the local church, the disadvantaged, and the oppressed, we store up treasures in heaven and our hearts are redirected towards Him.
Here are some frequent questions about giving:
- Money is already very tight. How am I able to give? We live in the wealthiest nation of all time. Many who say this have prioritization and/or money management issues rather than a lack of money. And of those I’ve counseled who say this, few are using a written budget (which all but guarantees an increase in extra money). Most are surprised by how much can be given once these issues are addressed. A great first book to help manage money more efficiently is The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Even after money management issues have been addressed, there may be uncomfortable lifestyle prioritization choices that need to be confronted in order to give a significant percentage.
- How much should I give? This depends on a variety of factors, but a key question is: what level of giving will break your hold on money and material things? Ten percent of your income? Fifteen percent? More? It is better to commit to a fixed percentage of your income. It is also recommended to give first, not after you see how much is left over later in the month. The latter puts others’ needs before our own, and makes us manage our money more efficiently.
- How do I choose which organizations or people to give? This is a very personal decision. You will be more likely to commit to regular giving if you choose organizations and individuals that touch your heart in some way. The common answer in Christian circles is to give generously to your local church first, then to other organizations that reflect your life mission and values.
Money is not evil, but loving it will damage our relationships with others and with God and prevent us from living our lives to the fullest. Giving protects us from that danger.
This article was adapted from the Andy Stanley Series “Guardrails”. To view the messages: http://yourmove.is/episode/ep5-the-consumption-assumption and http://yourmove.is/episode/ep4-me-and-the-mrs
Image credit: The New York Times