hy do so many Christians handle their money and possessions so poorly?
The Word teaches the borrower is servant to the lender (Prov. 22:7) and we should not become slaves of men (1 Cor. 7:23), yet many Christians are buried in debt and enslaved.
Christian counselors identify debt as a major problem in marriages. Many Christians pay homage to the credit-card god and are unable to honor the God of the universe with worship in giving.
Here are two ways our world is having an unhealthy impact on Christians and finances:
1. Lustful hoarding affecting giving to complete the Great Commission
2. Christ-less spending and incurring of unhealthy debt
Why is our society so materialistic? Dallas Willard said, “There is a tendency with all material possessions to obscure the needs they cannot satisfy. A full hand helps us forget an empty heart.”
The world needs Jesus Christ, but takes Satan’s bait and turns toward their lust for possessions. When Christians lust for possessions and fail to fund the Great Commission, it has to be because our relationship with Jesus Christ is lacking.
Around the end of the 19th century, a tourist visited the home of the famous Polish rabbi Hafez Hayyim. He was astonished to see only a simple room filled with books, a table, and a bench.
“Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist.
“Where is yours?” replied Hafez.
“Mine? But I’m only a visitor here.”
“So am I,” said the rabbi.
Christians are not designed for this world; we are made for eternity. As strangers and pilgrims here, we should “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11) and not “set [our] mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:19-20 NKJV). Yet, the way many Christians live in relationship to possessions and finances makes it appear they have been designed for this world and not the world to come!
The insidious pull of culture—through television, movies, and advertising—influences our view of success and possessions. The culture is secular, and thus operates in sharp contrast to God’s financial principles. That should not surprise us. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isa. 55:8 NASB).
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Paul told the Corinthian Church:
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion (2 Cor. 9:10-11 NIV).
Consider how these following statistics fly in the face of those scriptures:
• 17 percent of Christians say they tithe, while only 3 percent do, reported Barna Research. (No surprise that a thief might also lie!)
• 37 percent of those attending evangelical churches give nothing to their church (Barna).
• Giving by Christians is comparatively lower (2.5% of income) than that given in the Great Depression (emptytomb.org).
• When people who regularly attend Christian church services were asked to describe the importance of various spiritual endeavors, a minority described evangelism and giving 10 percent or more of their income to their church as “important” (Barna).
• If all Christians went on welfare and tithed, money available to ministry would increase 30 percent.
There is only one conclusion to be reached: Christians are handling their finances and wealth immaturely. Obviously, most do not believe Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38:
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (NIV).
These statistics are especially sad in light of two significant trends:
1. The accumulation of wealth by Evangelicals and Pentecostals in America is reaching levels never before seen.
2. Opportunities for the church to grow are greater than ever before.
A couple in North Carolina had a lot of credit-card debt, but after they became Christians and attended a money-management class at the local Church of God, they worked hard to eliminate their credit-card debt. As their son advanced in school, he made very good grades. It became obvious he needed a personal computer to continue doing well in school.
The parents discussed how they were going to get a computer for their son. They considered using a credit card, but did not feel good about it. The husband, “Jim,” told his wife they should pray for God to provide a computer. She told her husband that since they were tithers and generous toward God and others, she felt they could go boldly to God.
During the third week of praying, a knock came at the front door. A man from the church was standing there with a huge box in his arms. He said, “I know your boy does really well in school, and I just won this computer in a drawing. I already have a computer, and I thought your boy might want this one. Does he need a computer?”
Jim said he stood there with his mouth open for a few moments, unable to say anything. As he tells this story, he says he wonders why he stood there speechless since this was exactly what he had been asking God to do.
Finally, the neighbor said, “I am not asking you to buy it; I am giving it to you.”
With a smile on his face and a tear in his eye, Jim said, “Oh yes, our son needs a computer. Would you mind coming inside and help us praise God for this miracle that has just happened?”
You will never convince Jim that if he had used his credit card instead of praying, the computer would have shown up at the door. You will never convince his wife that their generosity toward God and others was not a factor in that answer to prayer.
When people are stingy toward God, they have a spiritual problem. They may have heard a lot of teaching and preaching on what the Bible says about money and possessions, but they do not change. The right attitude about finances requires a transformation of the heart.
If you suspect you might not be generous, ask yourself seven questions:
1. Do you give 10 percent or more of your income to God?
2. Do you regularly give to help those who are impoverished?
3. Do you ever wonder if you are giving enough?
4. Have you ever thought about selling something you own so you can give more to missions?
5. Do you ever tell other people how much joy you get from giving?
6. When the pastor preaches on money and possessions, do you enjoy hearing the message?
7. Are you decreasing your indebtedness?
If you answer “no” to most of these questions, you need to change. It is easy to tell you to start being generous to God. It is also easy to tell you how possessions and money are temporary and you should invest in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, you have heard those things in the past.
Consider Joshua 5:13-15:
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him. . . . Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so (NIV).
What do we learn from that passage? First, Joshua worshiped. Second, he asked the Lord, “What do I need to hear from You?” Third, as soon as Joshua was told what to do, he did it.
Worship. Ask. Listen. Do.
Try looking at financial matters as God does. The Bible will guide you.