“As we got richer and richer, evangelicals chose to spend more and more on themselves and give a smaller and smaller percentage to the church.” Lamin Sanneh
“Every day, the church is becoming more like the world it allegedly seeks to change.” George Barna
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Jesus Christ
If you, like me, are a follower of Jesus Christ, the above quotes should make you squirm. Whereas Jesus expects us to be radically different than those around us, we have allowed ourselves to become indistinguishable. I write this post as much to myself as to you: I am a fellow traveler in this journey; one who, like the church Barna describes, has drifted far too far into the world I would like to see changed. Yet I want to be different. Don’t you?
Jesus did not mince words; we must choose to love God while squashing the perpetual temptation to put money on the throne. In today’s world, this is a challenge to a radical life style.
Hopefully, these ideas can help.
Have a regular prayer time.
I am not talking about praying over a meal or even talking to God as you drive to work. These prayers are fine, but loving God means committing your time to Him. Set aside some time every day just for Him. He would love for you to do so.
The second greatest commandment (after loving God) is to love others. Do you serve your family? Do you serve your co-workers (even your subordinates)? Do you check on the widow who lives down the street? Do you volunteer to mentor a single parent child?
Notice that I haven’t said a word about money so far. Why? Because the best way to NOT love money is to proactively love God. As Jesus said, we can’t love both.
Now: some money tips that will help us love God:
Be a giver.
Why do I emphasize giving? Because doing so is the antidote for loving money. God is the ultimate giver (He gave his only son). The more we develop a giver’s heart, the more we become like God and demonstrate our love for him.
Plan to increase your giving for the rest of your life.
This isn’t about tithing, nor is it about legalism; it is about systematically ensuring that we never become complacent (see opening quote above). Some of you struggle to give anything at all while others are stuck at 10%. Why not set a goal of giving a greater percentage annually for the rest of your life? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to give 30% or 50% or 70%? After all, this is about loving God; this is radical and this is about NOT being like everyone else.
Plan to give spontaneously
Budget a set amount to keep on hand to be able to bless others as needs arise. Jan and I keep a “Bless envelope” on hand packed with cash ready to give. This is a fun, grass roots, way to keep our giving real.
Down size your house
This isn’t, of course, for everyone, but it is a valid consideration if you still have that five bedroom house after all of your children have moved out. If you decide to keep that house, consider letting a college student or a single parent live with you rent free. I realize “no one” does such things, but that is the point.
Do you know others who are striving to radically love Jesus? Meet with them regularly to encourage each other, share ideas and give testimonies of ways that have worked. Nothing motivates more than hearing from someone else who has actually done what you are considering.
Automate your finances
Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “lead us not into temptation.” Keeping money easily accessible is, for some, a temptation. We keep a small buffer balance in our regular checking account, then have every dollar above that buffer amount automatically transferred to a less accessible account.
Set a maximum limit for how much you keep. Give the rest away.
Change your thinking from how much you give to how much you will keep. This is not a vow of poverty nor should it be a time for imprudence. But, unless you set a cap, you will drift to higher and higher standards of living without realizing it. Is this not what everyone around you does? Be radical, set that cap, and you will start viewing those pay raises as opportunities to give more. Again, a plan to love God instead of money.
I hope these few thoughts will motivate you to love money less and love God more.
Do you think these ideas are too radical? What other ideas do you have?