In our marriage, we have found that there is wisdom to be learnt in the stewardship of finances. I veer towards the motto of: Give generously, and God will provide. On the positive side, this comes from a heart of generosity and trusting in God. I genuinely trust that God will provide things, or the means for things when it is required, though not always in the way I expect. At the same time, I have come to recognise there is a danger in the extreme of this mindset. It doesn’t work when you are unwilling to give less on certain things. At the same time, giving a little bit to everything also yields little impact as it is not focused. Having this mindset focusses on the heart, but I have needed some direction for putting it into practice! God does provide, but He has also given us skills for reason and we also have a role to play in using these skills and opportunities.
I think my husband gives a good summary of how we aim to manage our finances. He says,
We have chosen to honor God and give glory to God in all that we do. In the subject of money, one cannot serve both God and money, that is, one cannot serve both masters. Therefore, money is a tool.
To use money as a tool means:
1. Not to save in excess – If we save in excess, we are like the rich man who was confident in his grain in warehouses. Rather, our confidence is in God. This is not to say money is bad, but instead, that we can be like Job – put our confidence in God, and that it is not tied to money
2. Not to spend in excess – If we spend in excess, we will become dependent on others unless there is an act of God. If we deliberately spend more than we save, we are going against Deuteronomy 6:16 – Do not put the Lord to the test. If circumstances place us into such a position, or circumstances arise, that is a different story. However, there is a clear distinction between deliberately putting God to the test, and experiencing a situation that requires such faith.
3. How we can use money as a tool:
– Give generously – We want to bless others and love others in the way that God has commanded us to.
– Invest wisely – If we reach retirement and are dependent on the government or our children, we unnecessarily burden others.
– Spend wisely – If we want everything, then we become a slave to money. Having the latest gadget or giving to every cause involves spending money. If we constantly want everything and spend everything, we will become a slave to the ins and outs of money.
While hubby works hard to provide for the household, I as his wife, have a calling to be his helper. Part of my role as “helper” involves finance. Learning about finance so that I can bear some of that load in management, removes some stress from my husband and also gives him space to grow in his generosity. At the same time, I grow in financial stewardship, and learn some important life skills! Those are the practical things hubby and I have learnt about finances so far. The challenge is this: What are we willing to live without so that we can give?
We have both individually and as a couple, thought about God’s plan in finances. What things are important to Him, and what is there in the Bible to guide the way we manage our finances. A number of Bible passages have come across our path as we have discussed the topic of finance. So, here are some of our thoughts – just briefly!
GIVING ACCORDING TO EACH ONE’S ABILITY
[Deuteronomy 16:17] – “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.”
This instruction was given in the context of explaining the feast of Tabernacles. Three times a year, all of Israel’s males were to appear before the Lord, and they were not to come empty-handed. Some were rich, and some poor, but each man was expected to bring something. No-one has escaped the blessing of the Lord. Whether some time to listen to someone, money to give a person in need, a gift of clothes, prayer, or food to the needy, we all have something to give. God has blessed us abundantly – with life, with a heart, mind, hands, feet, ears, mouth. He has given us faith, love, grace, mercy, and physical blessings as well. I remember hearing a testimony from someone in a Kansas City street city. A poor man prayed to the Lord for something to give during the offering. He found a coin and was overjoyed to be able to contribute this to the church offering. He gave out of what he had, and he appreciated God’s blessing in his life.
Giving is not for comparison, but it is part of our worship to God, an acknowledgement of what He has given to us. How has God blessed us? How can we bless others, and bless the Name of the Lord in our giving?
NOT WITHHOLDING GOOD
[Proverbs 3:27] – “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to so do.”
There are times when a need arises, and you are in the situation to fill it. I often find myself thinking what I can do to help – if I have some skills to offer, or advice, or support, or finance. It is the principle that whether I feel like it or not, if the need arises, and I am there, I consider filling that need. Of course, there are times when this is not appropriate, or perhaps detrimental to the situation (eg. If, knowing the background, filling that particular need could lead to dependence, or disrespecting others). In such situations, we can look for other ways to support our brothers and sisters, to point them always towards the strength of God, and to encourage them in His way.
We look to see the real needs in people’s lives, whether spiritual or physical needs and, if it is in our power to help, we help! We want to be ministers of God’s goodness towards others.
HIM WHO HAS TO SHARE
[Luke 3:11] – “…He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”
Similar to what we just discussed, Luke 3:11 gives instruction for the house of God to share. Another passage I think of is Acts 2:44 – “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.” The attitude of “oneness” is foundational to a fellowship like that described in Acts. The disciples were of one mind in seeking the Lord, and they all sought to bless one another. They were content with what they had, and had joy in their fellowship with one another.
We desire to see, be part of, and develop such fellowship in the church of Christ – to have a spirit of humility, selflessness and generosity which seeks first, the kingdom of God. We desire to share our blessings with others joyfully, and to be content in the love of Christ.
PROVISION FOR THE GENEROUS
[Proverbs 11:25] – “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.”
Generosity builds us up! In looking after ourselves, we sometimes hold back from giving more generously. Yet I personally know people who, in their position of uncertain personal finances, took what they had and gave it all to someone else. This was of course, in accordance with clear instruction from the Lord. In time, the finances they needed for provided to them and this was a testimony in their life – the reward of faith. It encourages me to know that God knows what we need. In Matthew 6, He assures us that He will provide what we need. He desires that our primary focus be on seeking the kingdom of heaven. In my own personal testimony, as I look back on what I have given, I can say that the reward here on earth has astounded me. As much as I have given to others, the Lord has blessed me even more abundantly through others. It makes me fall more in love with Him, increases my heart to give generously, and it builds up my faith as I recognise the grace, and providence of God in my own life.
God ministers to us, we minister to others, we grow in faith and character, and the body of Christ is also strengthened. Generosity requires faith in a God who knows us, and love for those He loves. Faith and love are richly rewarded as we are strengthened in Christ, through obedience.
THE WIDOW’S MITES
[Mark 12:21-44] – “Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrants. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.’”
This passage was the source of good discussion between my husband and me. It is such a well-known story, yet in discussion of finances, we both looked again, more closely at the story. The rich came and put in much, but presumably had plenty to spare from their riches. Even though they put in much, it did not necessarily affect them. The widow, in her poverty, put in EVERYTHING that she had, her WHOLE LIVELIHOOD. Does this mean we give until it hurts? Do we always put in everything we have? What about the concept of the poor not being able to help the poor? I think it all has to be taken into context.
- If everyone gave up all they had and went to the mission fields, there would be no one to support them. Many missionaries have had to return from the field, having been sent out, but with no ongoing support to enable them to stay. There needs to be both missionaries on the “mission field”, and missionaries in the “marketplace” – both ministering to the Lord where they are, but some who can also channel finances into the kingdom of God.
- We can give, but continue to live in the same way, without our lives being changed. We can give out of obligation, or fear, or pride, or habit, but have no joy in our giving. The attitude of our giving is important. Why are we giving? Why do we tithe? We want to be a cheerful givers, to remember the blessings of the Lord in our lives and to obey His commands in sharing these blessings with others.
- “Putting in everything” requires great faith, but this is what we should be doing each and every day. All we have belongs to God and we are stewards of these things on earth. We should not be overly attached to these things, but seek to use them for God’s purposes. As we do, we can enjoy His gifts. We give our lives up to God daily, that He might use us as He pleases, guide us, teach us, and make us more like you. Part of this includes keeping our eyes on heavenly things, and not the things of earth that perish.
WORKING TO GIVE
[Ephesians 4:28] – “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labour, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”
Finally, there is no laziness in generosity. Both my husband and I work full time at the moment. Part of my job requires me to be constantly learning. I can say my husband prioritises this much better than I do. If I don’t spend the time reading and learning, how will I remember the information to apply it to work? How will I then, be able to function effectively in my job – to minister in the marketplace mission field, to earn my due and channel this into the kingdom of God?
We want to steward well, the blessing of work that God has given us – to work hard and appreciate the workplace, the people and also, to steward the money we earn. Part of this entails working hard (as if for the Lord)!