Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Have you ever heard the saying...? (Part 1)

The saying goes something like this, "You can tell someone's heart or devotion to God by examining one simple thing...their checkbook."

I think that this is a good general idea that we should examine to see if there is any truth in it. This is not something that I would go out and harass someone else with, but it is something that I need to use on myself (likewise you should use this on yourself). There are many reasons why I am bringing this up today, and I think that this mentality of "checking" ourselves is vital for us to grow in grace and truth. I find a good model for giving is the tithing model. Now, many people have a different standard to measure their financial giving (Joy and not the amount given is the key; Old Testament tithing was closer to 30% than 10% and had various purposes; etc.), but for this little article, let's just use the tithing (10%) criteria. Just look back over the past few months and see how much you gave to your local church (first) and other ministries (2nd) compared to how much you spent on other stuff. Now, I'm not saying that you should not pay your mortgage, rent, or other bills - but how much did you spend on "fun" or extra stuff. Was that more - substantially more - than what you gave to God?

Q: What qualifies as "fun" stuff?
A: If I would be so bold, I would use a fairly lose definition with another question, "What do you need to spend your money on to provide for your family and be a good steward of what God has given you?"

The test is an easy one - just go through your credit cards and checking accounts for a few months and add up all of the things that you did that were extra - dinner out (non business), new toys (I mean big boy toys - electronics, tools, etc), monthly bills for Cable TV, high speed Internet, etc. Add these up, and then compare this total to the total that you give. These are all things that, if I stopped spending as much of our money on, my family would not notice, or hardly notice. Now, I am not saying that a family should spend no money on fun things or that we shouldn’t enjoy some of what God has given us, but I am saying that we should examine this type and amount of "fun" and relate it to how much we give to God.

My hope is that most of us have a positive result. But, how close are the two totals? My goal is not to be legalistic about this, but if I spend as much money on myself in the name of "fun" or "extra" stuff as I give to God, is that something that I need to examine more closely? Brothers and sisters, I only bring this up because it is one of the many things that the Holy Spirit is convicting me of. We need to cling to the imperishable things of God and be willing to give all of our perishable and temporary things back to the Lord.

A good quick reference for how wealth can effect my spiritual condition is to look at the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19:16-30. There are many examples of Godly men in the Bible who are very rich, but there are also many examples of those who didn’t have anything. If you doubt that, just look no further than at our Savior, he didn’t have any real property or wealth (Matthew 8:19,20), and neither did the apostles. They either gave it up before or during the time that they followed Christ.

This may not be totally accurate, but in relation to Matthew 19, think of your own financial status (rich, poor, middle class, etc) in relation to the rest of the world (6+ Billion people) and not just Americans or people in Western Europe. You'll find that you and I are among the top 1/5th (at least) wealthiest people in the world. I hope that this will, at least, cause you to ask questions and be willing to look at your money in a new way.


Stuart Schwenke said...

See 1 Timothy 4 and 1 Timothy 6 on issues of the Christian faith and wealth.

I believe God has instituted "giving" as a means to force the believer to examine their spending habits. God wants us to examine our sources of income [gross or net, paycheck, interest, capital investments, gifts in kind of all sorts]--He want us to examine these and make a choice about giving back to Him and to His servants and ministries. Yes a choice. He wants you to act in Faith and with a joyful spirit. Without such an exercise, we feeble Christians would simply squander His resources on foolish and temporal possessions.

Thanks,Eric, for the good reminder.

EJ said...

Thanks for the added insight, Stu. We dare not take the issue of how we use our treasure lightly.

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