By Lindsey Bell
“All your church ever talks about is money.” I overheard someone saying this once after he visited my church. (Granted, he happened to visit while we were in the middle of a sermon series about money, which only happens once in a very rare while.) Nonetheless, this comment made me wonder, do we talk about money more than we should? Or, on the other hand, do we need to discuss it more?
Jesus, after all, talked about money quite a bit. For instance, in Matthew 6:24 he said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” In another place (Luke 12:15), he warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Jesus didn’t shy away from the topic of money and neither did many of the writers of the Bible.
One of the most well-known verses about money is 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” When I was a young, newly married college student, I read this verse and arrogantly thought it didn’t apply to me. By American standards, I was poor, so I couldn’t possibly love money. What I’ve since learned is, it’s just as easy for someone living in poverty to love money as someone living in luxury. Just as those who are rich can love their money, so also those with very little can cling to it so tightly that God isn’t able to open their clenched fists.
The defining element is not the amount of money we have, but where our hearts are centered. Unfortunately it’s hard to gauge where our hearts are, so today I want to share a few tips to help. When God has control of our money, we often display four outward signs of inward devotion to God.
The first of these signs is generosity. We give to the extent we trust God to take care of us. If we don’t really trust him, we won’t give very much. On the other hand, if we trust him a lot, we’ll give a lot.
My son is 6 years old. For Christmas last year, he received about 60 dollars. In his mind, there was nothing he couldn’t buy! He had received cash before but never this much at one time, so my husband and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to teach him about giving back to God and saving. We explained what tithing meant and then took out of his Avengers wallet six dollars. “These,” we told him, “are what you’re going to give back to God.” Then we took out a couple more dollars and told him we were going to put them into his savings account at the bank.
Immediately tears filled his eyes. “Can’t I just give God one dollar, Mom?” he asked me. I bent down on one knee and told him as gently but firmly as I could, “No. We give God 10 percent.” I also told him how God blesses us in return. Sometimes he does this financially; other times he blesses us in other ways. When we give to him, we show we trust him to take care of us.
Finally, after about 10 minutes of explanations, my son calmed down and agreed to our plan. We went to the store that evening to spend his remaining money. As my son hopped out of the car, he noticed something shiny by the tire. “Look, Mom! A penny! I found a penny!” A grin spread across his face as he told me, “You were right. God does bless us when we give to him.”
I whispered a prayer of thanks as we walked into the store because my son was beginning to get it. He was beginning to learn to give and trust God to take care of the rest.
Many adults, unfortunately, haven’t learned this lesson yet. We fear that if we give to God, we won’t be able to pay our mortgage. We fear that if we help someone else, we won’t have enough for ourselves. Our generosity (or lack thereof) is directly related to how much we trust God.
A Failure to Love Money
A second outward sign that indicates God has control of our money is a lack of love for material possessions. I think most Christians assume they don’t love money. I’m afraid, though, our lives might prove otherwise. Most people reading this probably have two cars (or more) in their garage or sitting outside their home. Most probably have homes full of stuff they don’t know where to put.
As I write, my husband and I are trying to figure out how to fit both of our children’s things into one room. Some children in the world don’t even have a handful of toys, and yet mine have too many to fit into a room. What does that say about my priorities?
We say we don’t love money, but what do our homes tell us? or our storage units? or our cars? We say we don’t love money, but what do our checkbooks and bank accounts tell us? Our bank registers are often good indicators of our hearts’ conditions.
We live in a culture saturated in wealth. Wealth isn’t the problem, but it does make it harder. A large home, two vehicles, and a storage unit aren’t the problem either. The problem is when we treasure these things more than we treasure the one who gave them to us.
You and I have to guard our hearts against the love of money and the love of stuff. Jesus said it well in Matthew 19:23, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” It’s hard, but not impossible. The key question to ask ourselves is this: are we clinging to our money, or are we clinging to our God?
A third outward sign of an inward devotion to God is good stewardship. Too often we think of stewardship like this: How much of my money do I need to give to God? We focus on the minimum amount required. Donald Whitney, in his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, said this, “The question is not, ‘How much of my money should I give to God?’ but rather, ‘How much of God’s money should I keep for myself?’”
In reality, every penny we have, every dollar to our name, and every item we possess came from God. We aren’t the owners. We are the managers. God is the owner. That means our primary goal shouldn’t be to make more money for ourselves. Instead, we should focus on using our resources for God’s purposes. How does he want us to use the money we have? How would he like us to spend it?
Those who trust God with their money are wise managers of their resources. They don’t look at their bank accounts and think, What can I buy now? Instead, they look at their bank accounts and ask God, “What can I do for you now?”
Finally, those who trust God with their money are content. Hebrews 13:5 says it this way, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” We can be content in life (whether we have a lot of money or a little) because God has promised to always be with us, and he knows what we need.
Those whose hearts are in the right place don’t focus on what others have. They give thanks for what they have been given. They don’t worry about tomorrow but enjoy the blessings of today.
I don’t think we should stop talking about money yet because unfortunately there are many of us (probably most of us) who still need reminders from time to time. Thankfully, the same hand that gave us every dollar we hold has promised to keep working on us until we no longer need the reminders.
Lindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity, a devotional for new moms, and a blogger (Lindsey-Bell.com).