GOD HAS A very best plan for each of our lives. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
Part of that plan is a strategy for handling our money. When it comes to finances, we tend to assume that more is better. Perhaps, but not necessarily. To guarantee freedom from anxiety associated with financial affairs, we need only follow two basic Biblical principles. First, we must give at the level the Lord wants us to give. Second, we must avoid borrowing.
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:21), Jesus said, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things..." On the other hand, in Luke 12:48, Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
If we faithfully manage the money the Lord has entrusted to us, we can generally expect Him to entrust us with more. But the primary purpose for entrusting us with more is to further His kingdom on earth. In II Corinthians 9:11 we are told, "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."
Begin by Tithing
The first step is to tithe. "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." (Malachi 3:10)
Those who have tried it know the truth of this scripture. God does not necessarily provide more and more money in response to increased giving. He may or may not. But He definitely provides more and more of His peace.
Today, despite some uncertainties about the U.S. economy, most people in this country have far, far more than enough to meet their own needs-and have moved on to fulfill most of their desires as well. Certainly there is a significant segment of the population that does not enjoy this level of prosperity, but even the poor among us have more than do most people in third world countries.
Yet polls conducted by Gallup, Barna and others reveal a terribly shameful truth. Most Christians not only do not tithe, they don't give even one percent of their income to the Lord and His work. In fact, the more most Christians have, the less they give.
Our new president is working toward expanding the social outreach of the government by distributing tax dollars through faith-based organizations. Why? Because Christians have not been generous in giving to fund their own ministries. Ultimately, this approach could result in an unhealthy relationship between church and state. If all born-again, committed Christians gave even 5 percent of their gross income to the work of the kingdom, there would be no need for government assistance for any portion of the population.
Many churches do expect that their elders and deacons will tithe, but others do not even apply that minimum standard to their leaders. Too many churches have failed to teach their people about giving in line with the guidance God has provided in scripture. They are shortchanging their congregations and their ministries with this approach.
The second Biblical principle that guarantees freedom from anxiety in money matters is avoiding borrowing. Although borrowing is not forbidden, it is clearly to be discouraged. "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender," says Proverbs 22:7.
Yet in our culture, borrowing is commonplace, not just for home mortgages but many other things as well. The case can be made for not borrowing-even to finance a home-but the point here is to determine whether God wants us to borrow. As a matter of principle, if we are committed to seeking God's best, and if we believe that God's best does not include borrowing, then we should be committed to not borrowing. Then and only then will we be in a position to discover God's direction through our finances. If borrowing is considered an option, there will almost certainly come a time when we will do so.
Other than a home mortgage, the most common reason for personal loans is to finance automobiles. But there's always a better way to deal with transportation needs, and we need to find solutions rather than incur debt. Another common form of borrowing is the use of credit cards. They can be a convenience, but anyone who does not pay off the entire balance monthly would do well to forego using plastic in order to avoid borrowing. Churches also should beware of borrowing. Larry Burkett tells a story about a businessman who wanted to give a large donation to his church to build a youth center. He told Larry he would give the gift to the church but only on the condition that the pastor commit to not borrowing to finance the expansion without knowing about the gift. Unfortunately, the pastor bought the argument of another businessman that incurring debt was the only way to go rather than listening to Burkett's plea for following the Biblical prescription to avoid debt. The pastor presented the case to the congregation for borrowing, and the potential donor ready to underwrite the youth center wrote a check for $200,000 to another ministry.
If individuals and churches could just hold the line when it seems impossible to do so and remain faithful to the Biblical principles for giving and borrowing, God's kingdom on earth would never lack for financial resources. And the individuals and churches would make better decisions in many other areas of their personal and corporate lives.
Commit yourself to giving at the level that represents obedience to God and to not borrowing. This is the sure way to position yourself to receive God's best in the area of your finances.
- by Ken Smith
© 2001 by Christian Stewardship Ministries. Reprinted from Glad Tithings newsletter, Fairfax, Virginia. Used with permission.