Over the past 10 years or so, I have seen a shift in my attitude towards money. Granted, I’m not perfect in this area and have had in that 10 years ups and downs concerning finances, but, over the past 16 months or so, I have been coming to a better place in relation to money.
The two articles linked above talk about money. The first one, I believe, is easier to read because it is being critical of someone who is far away from us. It’s not very close to home for us. It is easy to be critical about the North Korean ruler. We read of the millions he is spending on things that truly are frivolous while people in his country are starving. We read this story and get righteously indignant, and appropriately so, I think.
But, the second article hits closer to home for many. In this country there truly is a common addiction to stuff, money, and possessions. There are many who use shopping (spending money) as a form of self-medicating, just like someone uses food in the same way. It is easy to tell someone else, like telling Kim Jong Un, how to spend his/her money, but when it comes to how we spend our own dollars, it gets harder. Why? Because it’s now personal. It’s now hitting, not close to home, but directly home. My Dad said something to me once that is so true. He said, “Jim, it’s more fun to spend someone else’s money.” It’s also easier to tell someone else how s/he should be spending his/her money than me/you following our own advice.
I have said many times that, for the most part, I could tell what a person truly believes if I were given access to two personal items: his/her calendar and checkbook. How we spend time and money reveals a lot about what we truly believe. One of God’s characteristics is generosity. I believe that’s why the tithe isn’t found in the New Testament. God instituted the tithe with Israel in the Mosaic Law because He knew that in their natural sinful state, humans are not truly generous. So, God had to institutionalize giving.
But, with the coming of Christ and those who believe His message having His nature as their own, generosity no longer needs to be institutionalized for it is now our nature. So, the institution of the tithe is no longer necessary because our generosity should mirror God’s which goes way beyond the concept of the tithe. And that speaks directly to how we view and spend our money.
I remember something that occurred to me in November of 2012. On one Thursday, I performed a funeral for a friend who was not part of the church I pastor. From the honorarium and the extra gift I was given by the family, I received $150 more than expected. (There was a certain amount I expected and that amount was already added to the family budget; this was above and beyond that amount. Also, as an ordained member of the America Baptist clergy, I signed an ethics statement which states that any honorarium received for doing funerals for members and supporters of the ministry is turned over to the church, which I follow.)
Well, by the time the funeral was over, it was later in the afternoon, so I thought I’d go see if I could spend that $150 on myself. I had no idea what I should buy, so I went from store to store. I probably spent 2 hours and visited multiple stores looking for something to buy, but I just couldn’t spend that money! There wasn’t anything I truly needed. Everything I looked at would be the fulfilling of a want, not a need. When I arrived home with the money still in my pocket, I parked the car, got out, and as I was getting my suit coat out of the back seat, the Holy Spirit drew my attention to a house that is close to mine. A new family, which I had already met, had just moved into the previous week. With three young children, this was a family that didn’t have a whole lot of extra funds. I know what it is like to be a young family struggling financially.
As clear as a bell, I heard this direction from the Holy Spirit: “Go over there, knock on the door, and see if they have any needs.” So, since I have learned to follow His leading, I walked over to the house and knocked on the back door. The mom answered the door, and after being invited in and a couple minutes of chit-chat, I asked the question I was supposed to ask. The response? The twin girls (the older 2 of the 3) were starting preschool on the following Monday and there was a need to have an adequate supply of “pull-ups” at the preschool which needed to be purchased and that was going to be a financial strain. I gave them $100 of the $150 so they could by a lot of “pull-ups.”
So, I now understood why I could not spend that money. It wasn’t meant for me. God designed that money to be used in a different way to bless someone. Besides, there wasn’t anything I really needed. Now, as full disclosure, with the other $50, I did take the family out for dinner to a fast-food place, but the majority of the money was used to bless this new-to-town family.
For me, that was a pivotal point in God’s continued development of me. With my wife starting a permanent (not long-term sub) teaching job last month, the first thing that was increased, by a significant percentage, was the amount we give to our church. Additionally, in the past few weeks, I have also had multiple opportunities to bless people who were in need. It feels good to be generous with God’s provision.
How about each one of you? When was the last time you examined your financial situation, specifically how much is spent on maintaining a certain lifestyle and how much is given to bless others, whether how much you give to a church or to others around you? It is not my goal to be critical, because as I said above, it is easier to tell someone else how to spend his/her money, but in this case, I am following my own advice and counsel first before sharing it with you.
So, I desire this to be an encouragement and a challenge. Examine and seek what God would have you do. I pray that His characteristic of generosity in you is strong and He gives you opportunities in the coming days for it to become even stronger.