What’s in your Wallet?
By Curtis Lanning
Few things make a congregation flinch like when the pastor says, “Today we’re going to talk about money.” And I can just imagine some of you starting to read this blog post are tempted to move your mouse to the top of the screen and click on that “x,” but hold on! Just give me a few minutes. I promise I’m not going to ask you for money or shame you anywhere in this blog post.
Instead, let me talk a little bit about my money. I am TERRIBLE at managing it. Horrible, really. I pay my bills, sure, but am I responsible enough to keep a savings account? Nope. Do I budget the paychecks Meghan and I earn? When I remember to. See? I’m more like some of you than you thought.
If you ask the average reader what the Bible says about money, they’ll probably quote Paul’s first letter to Timothy. It reads, “Certainly, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people who have set their hearts on getting rich have wandered away from the Christian faith and have caused themselves a lot of grief.”
And while we could do a whole series of blog posts about greed and loving money, that’s not what I want to write about today. Instead, I want to focus on God’s overall role with our money. And yes, like every other aspect of our lives, he should absolutely play a role with our wallets as well.
We get a short story about how Jesus views offerings in Mark 12:41-44:
“41 As Jesus sat facing the temple offering box, he watched how much money people put into it. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 A poor widow dropped in two small coins, worth less than a cent. 43 He called his disciples and said to them, “I can guarantee this truth: This poor widow has given more than all the others. 44 All of them have given what they could spare. But she, in her poverty, has given everything she had to live on.”
This story teaches us two things about offerings. Size doesn’t matter, and it’s really all about trusting God. There’s nothing wrong with the wealthier donations in this story, but the star focus is on the widow who gave everything she had to God. I’ll be the first to admit I lack the faith to give my entire paycheck to God. But this woman did just that. She had 100% faith God would carry her, copper coins or not. As for size, there’s no offering too small for God. The offering bucket isn’t like a gas station that requires a minimum purchase of $5 before you can use your debit card. God is happy when you give what you can, even if it’s just a couple quarters in your pocket.
So how much should we give? Some people follow the Old Testament tradition giving a tithe or 10 percent of their earnings to God. Meghan and I try to do this with everything, not just our paychecks. Sometimes, I’ll sell something on eBay and make about $10 for it. I tithe that too. (Even though this leads to small random amounts of money in the online donation system that might leave Charlie wondering who donated $1.73. Guilty!)
Tithing is great because it’s easy to do. You get in the habit of giving the same percentage every week, and it keeps things uniform. But there’s no set instruction from Jesus or anyone else in the New Testament on exactly how much to give. Instead, we get Jesus telling us this in Luke 6:38:
“Give, and you will receive. A large quantity, pressed together, shaken down, and running over will be put into your pocket. The standards you use for others will be applied to you."
There’s no specific number there. Instead, Jesus instructs us to give, and we’ll be taken care of. I can really only speak for myself with this example. I’m no financial genius. I stink at math (I’m not saying I chose journalism in college because it only required one math class but. . .). But when I’m faithfully tithing every paycheck, I find that things just seem to work better financially. It’s easier to pay bills. I always have food to eat and a roof over my head. It’s a smoother operation in the Lanning household when we’re faithfully giving back to God. I can’t explain it any better than that.
One of my friends from Russellville described similar circumstances with his giving. When he increased his giving, he found increased blessing from God, not always in the form of money, but sometimes with circumstances at work, his vehicle, or his kids.
It’s definitely not an exact science, but then again, there’s no specific number commanded us. We’re just supposed to be honest with God about what we have and what we can give back. He handles the rest.
Now this verse does not mean if you give faithfully to God he’ll make you a millionaire instantly. There are too many people who preach a prosperity gospel and use verses like this to convince people, the more they give, the more rich they’ll get. And that’s simply not what Jesus said. He said, “If you give, you will receive.” This isn’t an investment where you give God starting funds, and he multiplies your money.
It’s an exercise in faith. I trust God will use what I’m giving back to bless others. And I trust he’ll take care of me when I give an offering. I confess, when I punch up my tithe in the calculator, sometimes I flinch, especially after I started giving 20 percent of my paycheck. My brain would scream “That’s so much money!” Sometimes it still screams that, and I’m working on it. That’s why I try to give quickly so I’m not tempted to short God.
The one thing I can safely say is I’ve never regretted giving to God. I’ve had scrapes and bumps in my life, but when I see what amazing work God is able to do through the church I help fund, I’m left in awe. When our church funds missionaries or does laundry for people in need in our community, I don’t regret a single penny of my offering.
This is the exact model we see for giving in Acts 4:32-37:
“32 The whole group of believers lived in harmony. No one called any of his possessions his own. Instead, they shared everything. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify that the Lord Jesus had come back to life. God’s abundant good will[a] was with all of them. 34 None of them needed anything. From time to time, people sold land or houses and brought the money 35 to the apostles. Then the money was distributed to anyone who needed it. 36 Joseph, a descendant of Levi, had been born on the island of Cyprus. The apostles called him Barnabas, which means “a person who encourages.” 37 He had some land. He sold it and turned the money over to the apostles.”
Believers gave what they could, shared it with the growing church, and the money was used for people in need. It’s the same today. We give back, and God does amazing things through us and our congregation at The Grove.
I won’t promise you riches and a problem-free life if you start giving regularly. I certainly haven’t experienced that. But maybe ask yourself two questions when considering your finances:
1. What can I realistically give back to God?
2. What’s keeping me from doing that?
Once you’ve crunched the numbers, you might be surprised with finding an extra dollar here or there that can be given back. And every donation helps us reach our community.
I’d like to challenge you to sit down one evening with pen and paper. Put down what you bring it and what you spend. See where your money is going and where it could be going. I confess I still have work to do in this area, but I hope sharing my shortcomings inspires others to maybe give extra thought to their own finances.
Scripture Reference: I Kings 17:7-16
God designates us for giving
God blesses generosity
Scripture Reference: 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
So you can continue to be generous
Questions to Ponder:
What are some times where you believe God specifically called you to meet a need through giving?
What are some different ways that God blesses generosity?
Why does God bless generosity?
How can we overcome a selfish attitude toward money?