When I got my first paycheque, I finally felt like a grown-up. No longer would I have to ask my parents for more allowance to buy clothes and watch movies. Holidays were no longer limited to church camps to Malacca and weekend Bangkok trips. I could buy my grandma nice things, give my parents an allowance. And tithing was no longer as hard on the pocket.
All those new uses for money added up, and I soon found myself thinking: “Money not enough.” And in my weakest moments, I first thought was to cut my tithe. Surely God would understand?
I found myself thinking: “Money not enough”. And my first thought was to cut my tithe. Surely God would understand?
Do we tithe less if we overspend in other areas? Or if we are saving up for a house, holiday or overseas education, do we think immediately of giving less to God?
The Bible is pretty clear that we put our treasure where our heart is (Matthew 6:21). That we cannot have two bosses – God and money – without liking one more than the other (Matthew 6:24).
How can we check if we’re hiding our treasure in the right place? These four questions may prove helpful.
4 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF ABOUT MONEY
1. WHERE DOES OUR MONEY COME FROM?
I once asked a campus pastor’s wife how their family of four managed to survive on $3,200 a month, when we fresh grads were struggling to get by with $2,500 a month. She replied very kindly with Proverbs 30:8a-9:
Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.
Two things stand out. One, money comes from God. Two, there’s sort of a sweet spot for us financially – not too much, not too little, but just enough. (That’s the lesson of Goldilocks.)
The world screams at us that more is better, more is good! But God says trust in me. I will provide for you as I gave the Israelites manna and quail. As the lilies wear such pretty dresses and the sparrows find food.
God provided for His people in the past, provides for us today, and will provide for us tomorrow.
2. WHAT DO MY SPENDING HABITS SAY ABOUT WHAT MAKES ME HAPPY?
According to the needs vs wants principle, the model answer to this question would be:
Spending on food, drink, household essentials: OKAY! 🙂
Spending on clothes, cars, electronics: NOT OKAY! 🙁
Well, not exactly. It’s not wrong to buy clothes, electronics, or cars. Neither is it wrong to buy branded goods. The purchase is in itself amoral.
Where it becomes a problem is if we spend excessively on these items. Perhaps we’re driven by the thrill of scoring good bargains. Perhaps we want to look cool and hip. Perhaps we want to own the same things that our wealthier friends do.
In fact, a Christian can still be storing treasures in the wrong place even if most of their purchases are on food and drinks. Do we complain about how broke we are, while regularly drinking $7 lattes, munching on $5 cronuts, and indulging in $18 brunches or lunches three times a week?
3. IS MY SPENDING MARKED BY GENEROSITY?
God is love. That’s why Jesus, who was God in all senses of the word, thought it nothing to humble himself, become a man and die for us. (Philippians 2:5-8) The Son of God, who commands the wind and the waves, who demons tremble at the sight of, thought it nothing to become a baby. From all-powerful deity to a helpless creature who can’t wipe his own bottom.
He gave all that up for us.
And that’s why we can be generous. If Jesus did all that for undeserving sinners like us (Romans 5:7-8), how can we be stingy with our material blessings and close our hearts against a brother or sister who is in need – the poor and the downtrodden (1 John 3:17)?
Generosity goes beyond a kind gesture. It is for us a lifeline to eternal life, a reminder that everything we have is a gift from God. Our lives, money, time – it all belong to God.
Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real. (1 Timothy 6:18-19)
4. DOES MY SPENDING SUPPORT THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL?
Our spending on kingdom work needs to be done purposefully, explicitly, intentionally.
For example, by tithing. I have heard many Christians argue that tithing is an OT practice, and we are people of grace, freed from the bondage of tithing.
Let’s have a look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:8-11.
“For it is written in the Law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.’ Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?”
It seems pretty clear to me that the New Testament Christians should support their pastoral staff.
Another consideration is: How much? I personally go with 10% because that’s the OT guidelines. If we really want a New Testament benchmark, well, Jesus praised the widow who gave two copper coins – everything she had. So, no hard and fast rules here. The important thing is to give willingly.
Jesus went from all-powerful deity to a helpless creature who can’t wipe his own bottom. He gave all that up for us. And that’s why we can be generous.
In Jesus’ parable about the faithful and wise steward, he ends off by saying: “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.” (Luke 12:48)
As my friend says, “God made us bankers so that we can give more to support the kingdom work.”
What does your spending say about your priorities in life?