Why does God care what we do with our money?
He cares because how we handle our money is usually a direct indicator of how much we actually trust him and what our priorities really are. As a single parent who may be struggling under an oppressive financial burden, the thought of tithing or trusting God with your money probably seems crazy and impossible. Even so, I want to challenge you to follow me into some radical territory here for two reasons. First, because God is COMPLETELY trustworthy and able to provide for ALL your needs, if you let him. Second, how is your current plan working for you? Is fear, scarcity, and hopelessness a good description of the place where your best financial efforts have led you? If you’re not experiencing peace and freedom in this area of your life and your heart isn’t overflowing with generosity, then are you willing to consider an alternative financial approach that will take you there? Here are ten principles that if you live by them, God will transform your financial world. Promise!
1. Acknowledge that everything you have is a gift from God. God owns it all. We are not the owners, but the stewards of what God gives us. And here in America, even us struggling single parents are still among the
richest two percent of the world. We have been given A LOT! When we step back and loosen our grip on our entitlement, and see through eyes of gratitude, we are freed up to be financially faithful people who God can use to funnel all kinds of resources through for all the great things he wants to accomplish in this world.
“’Well done!’ the King exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’” –Luke 19:17
2. Do not worry about money. This is easier said than done. I know firsthand how it feels to have electricity bills that don’t get paid and hungry kids in the car without enough money to run through a drive-thru. God isn’t telling us it will never be hard or we will never struggle. What he is telling us is that we can do our part and have a budget and a plan, but instead of worrying and getting anxious about what we can’t control, to come to him with our concerns because he cares for us. He will meet our physical and financial needs, and in the process meet our spiritual needs as well.
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” –Matthew 6:25
3. Put God to the test. God doesn’t need our money, he wants our hearts. He’s wise enough to know how much our hearts are wrapped up in our money, so that’s what he asks us to let go of. I don’t know of anywhere else in the Bible where God says “test me.” He is dying to prove to you that he WILL come through with a blessing as you commit to trust him by giving a tithe (10 percent of your income) each month to advance his work through your local church. Aren’t you at least a little curious to see what will happen if you do?
“’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!’” –Malachi 3:10
4. Trust God to be your provider. I made a choice early in my journey as a single parent that I was not going to apply for government assistance. Now I’m not saying it’s wrong or ungodly to use government assistance, but I felt like God was really wanting to show me that he would be my provider and that I could trust him in this. It was a radical decision because I was receiving no child support and had lost more than half our household income. Mostly no one could understand why I chose this. I mean, why not get free money if it’s available, right? Yet, I knew what God promised and I had seen how faithful he had been in this area of my life before. What I found was that as I did the work he gave me to do and leaned on him, I got to see him come through for me in ways I could never have imagined, and I got to experience a level of faith that few ever get to! Not only have we never gone hungry, we somehow have enough extra that we often invite other single parents and kids over for meals and share food, clothes, money and other resources with them on a regular basis (these are families who receive assistance and bring in significantly more money per month than we do!)
“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” –2 Corinthians 9:8
5. Be blessed when you’re poor by depending on God. When Jesus stood up to give his famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) and told the people that they were blessed if they were poor, the crowds were amazed because it was completely counter-cultural, unlike any popular wisdom of the day. Two thousand years later, not much has changed. Our culture, particularly in America, associates being poor in cashflow with being a failure, or even cursed. Given, there are many who live in poverty without depending on God and that is not a happy place to be. However, there are just as many who live in luxury and are equally cursed because they have no need for God. I will never forget the words of a little woman named Mamma Maggie, who I heard share her story of hearing God’s call and leaving a lucrative University teaching position to work with homeless and abandoned kids in the slums of Cairo, Egypt. She said, “When you have nothing, God becomes everything.” That’s the blessing Jesus is speaking of.
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him.” – Matthew 5:3
6. Generosity flows out of intimacy with Jesus. The depth of someone’s generosity has nothing to do with the depth of their pocketbook. In fact, it has often been my experience that the most generous people are those who have the least money to work with, but who have a close and thriving relationship with Jesus. I had an eye-opening experience a few years back while raising support money for a mission trip. Those who I was sure would support me because I knew they could have written a check for the entire amount without even blinking gave nothing while my biggest supporter was a widow with two young girls who I knew was living paycheck to paycheck. Her sacrificial and joyful generosity was such a beautiful picture of a heart that trusted God’s faithfulness to take care of her.
“They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” –2 Corinthians 8:2
“I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has to live on.” –Mark 12:43-44
7. You cannot serve God and serve money. The very first commandment and the one that Jesus reaffirms as most important is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matt 22:37) We cannot love God wholeheartedly if money and material things are constantly competing for the number one spot on our priority list. Another word for this is an “idol.” This can be anything that takes God’s place, or becomes more important than him in our hearts, as evidenced by our actions. As we take steps to trust God with our money by tithing and living generously, the idol of money gets taken down!
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate the one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” –Matthew 6:24
8. Treasure what God treasures. What is it that you truly treasure? A nice house, a new car, all the latest electronics? For many years, I treasured all the trappings of “the good life” only to discover how fast they can slip through your fingers when a crisis hits, and how little they really mean in light of what life is about. The more you get to know Jesus and the more your heart aligns with his, the more you will treasure what he treasures…people. Seeing lost people get found and broken people get healed and people in bondage get set free! Ultimately, these are the things worthy of investing our money and our hearts in.
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” –Matthew 6:19-21
9. Don’t be afraid of missing out. A few years ago I sat in a financial class at our church in tears as God broke my heart by showing me all the giving opportunities I had to say no to because I had been a slave to my credit card debt. I had been so afraid of missing out on something I thought I needed that I went into serious debt to gain it. As a result, I found myself in years of financial bondage to credit card companies with high interest rates. It still makes me a little nauseated to think of how much good all that money I paid to credit card companies could have done if I had invested it in God projects instead. Don’t fall into this trap like I did!
“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.” –Luke 12:29-32 (MSG)
10. Be content with what you have. After spending the past several years selling off and pawning many items and significantly downsizing my lifestyle I have come to the same conclusion as the Apostle Paul. It really is possible to be content with little. It’s actually quite liberating. God knows we can’t take it with us when we go, and it even bogs us down while we’re here. How many hours do we waste in this life taking care of our “stuff?” Let it go, my friends, and be content.
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” –Phillipians 4:11-13