A friend recently sent me an article he wrote in response to some comments I made about our attitudes toward money. The entire article was a great read, but something in particular he wrote remained with me all day. My friend addressed this issue of how easy it was for him to invest in Kingdom endeavors and then added, almost as an afterthought, how easy it was for him to also spend his money on things that seemingly had little lasting value. A thought then occurred to me and it went something like this: Why is it that Christians easily spend much more on things that can never last, while sensing strong reluctance when it comes to investing in things that Jesus promised would yield eternal dividends? I believe that the answer is two-fold.
Firstly, we do not fully trust Jesus and what He promises us about our giving.
Secondly, we seem to love immediate reward that accompanies spending, while we struggle with the deferred results that are attached to investing our money into the Kingdom by faith.
“Two things I ask of You; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” – Proverbs 30:7-9
What a rare thing it is to hear someone say to God, “Hold off on the dispensing of wealth in my direction, Father. I do not quite trust myself.” To me, that is the amazing portion of the two-sided request from Proverbs 30 as a man named Agur detailed the fragile nature of the human heart when it comes to having material abundance. Did you read his self-diagnosis? He was concerned that he might one day have too much materially and end up being filled up on it, and then deluding himself into believing that he no longer had a great need for God. He was convinced that the way of self-deceit was so real a potential for him that he petitioned God to remove all false thinking about wealth far away from him. The whole request smacks of him praying, “God, please save me from myself and everything that my fickle heart might exalt above You!” That is some brave praying.
We can connect more easily with the other part of his request as he also asks God to not let him slip into poverty. His attached concern was that, should poverty find him, he might take matters into his own hands and become a thief or act in some other way that sullied the name of the God in whom he professed a trust. Nobody really wants to be poor, but have you thought recently on why you do not wish to be poor? I will hazard a guess that most people fear becoming poor because they will be denied what they crave. Some are prone to worry over not having enough and the possibility of being poor beats upon their sense of security. Others would wish to avoid poverty because they sense a responsibility to care for those who depend upon them. But let’s be honest: few people fear becoming poor because of the danger of responding to their lack of material provision in a manner that robs God of glory. Agur’s words above reveal that God had placed an equilibrium in his heart that allowed this man to want God more than he desired wealth or feared poverty. God was at this brother’s core and that is why he did not wobble.
So we inspect our hearts again today. Gauge the inner-ease with which you spend and compare it to how complicated things suddenly become in our minds when it comes to the opportunity to generously invest in the Kingdom. It’s the longstanding question of why spending $50 at the movies or ballpark is easy but, when the offering basket is passed at church on Sunday, suddenly that same $50 seems difficult to release.
How long has it been since you did something financially extravagant by faith, with no immediate tangible payoff for yourself? That $50 is extravagant for some who may not have much in the way of money. For others, the extravagance might be measured in thousands, tens-of-thousands or more. God only calls us to give from what we have. He knows some have more than others of His children, so the dollar amount is not the measure. It’s the degree to which we allow ourselves to feel the give. If we do not feel the give, it has not yet risen to sacrifice. God wants us to enter into a lifestyle of trusting sacrifice with our giving. Doing this requires faith.
If you have not known the delights of giving to the Kingdom then there is only one way for you to get there: commit to the process today. Start giving away enough of your wealth until you actually feel it.
Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, advance the Gospel, shelter someone who has nowhere to go, ask God where and when and how much to give and then do it with the joy of release. None of us wishes to be full and deny God, nor do we want to experience such lack that we rob His Kingdom and profane His name. It may make you appear to be foolish in our day to others, but you display that you believe Jesus Christ when he gave the unqualified pronouncement that it is better to give than to receive, and that reward is stored up for those who give sacrificially in this life. The holiest and most enduring pleasures attached to money belong to those who are liberated to invest it into the Kingdom that never ends. We either believe what Jesus says about money or we do not. Perhaps we might take an inventory to find out where we personally stand today. I will begin my 25th year of Kingdom-giving next Summer after spending my first 24 years of life as a habitual getter/taker/keeper.
This is one thing I know for sure: I have never regretted anything I have ever given. I wish I could say the same about all that I have ever spent.