The church I used to attend in London is currently undergoing a review. That means that they are reviewing how they use their resources, such as money, people, and digital media, to make sure that they are being efficient and not wasting the resources that God has given.
One of the issues that inevitably comes up with reviews is this: the subject of giving. For a long time, I have heard over and over, that God wants cheerful givers, that there are some things that we may have to give up if we truly wish to put our money on what we believe lasts forever. Money will burn; only the souls of those who are saved will survive. In other words, if money won’t last forever, and we can’t take it with us when we die, what is the point in spending money on futility? Not to say, obviously, that we can’t buy nice things every now and then, or that we should starve ourselves.. far from it! Things that we enjoy, and taking care of ourselves – these are all good things that God has given us. It isn’t bad to enjoy God’s gifts. However, when God wants us to use the gifts he has given us, who are we to withhold them from him?
I have also repeatedly heard the cry going up, to “give up your daily starbucks”, or to “eat out less”.. things like that. And I always thought to myself, “Well, I don’t really have a problem with those things do I?” And yet, I always found some excuse or another to not give (financially), when I could have. (Before you start getting riled up about legalism, I ask you to read on…)
Of course, one can always give of other things, such as time, and love, and hospitality. It is not like money is the only thing we have to give. Indeed, for those who cannot afford to give – time, love, and hospitality are just as precious!
Which leads me to the realisation that I just had about money and giving.
I will not hesitate to say that I have recently purchased the entire set of Sandman graphic novels in one go. I have saved about 50% of the money I would have spent if I had 1. Bought it in Singapore, and 2. Bought each comic individually from a bookshop. This in itself isn’t a bad thing (or so I tell myself!) because I love these comics and will read them over and over and over! I’ve saved some money, AND made a relatively sensible purchase, since I will be happy with these comics for a long time. But the purchase left me wanting yet more. I turned my mind to other things that I wanted: More comics – Hellboy, B.P.R.D… and the list will go on. (This is quite interesting to note of myself, since I have been wanting the Sandman set for a long time, and thought I would buy one every month to reward myself for work. But now that I am waiting for it to be delivered, I found that I “needed” a new goal) Again I must emphasise that goals in themselves, and rewards, are no bad thing. There is nothing wrong with rewarding oneself with something nice – giving yourself something to look forward to besides a pay check.
So what is the problem?
The question I must ask myself is this: Why, if I am so willing and happy to spend money on myself, for an item that will make me happy for a(n optimistic) maximum of the rest of my life before Christ returns, do I hesitate when it comes to spending on something that will build up a lasting heritage through God’s word being made known?
I realised that I do actually have money to give (though it is difficult to budget as it is not a consistent amount each month), and I am just being lazy in not wanting to think about giving/budgeting giving in.
But let’s back up for a minute and review:
I earn a certain amount of money each month, as I get paid on an hourly basis for my work. My dad sends me a sum of money every month, which is generous of him. I live with my mum, who pays the household bills. My dad pays for my phone bills. Expenditure wise, pretty much all of my salary gets pumped into paying for sessions with my psychiatrist and my psychologist, as well as medication. This is a worthwhile spend for several reasons: I don’t want to struggle with mental illness forever; therefore it is not unwise to invest in therapy. Secondly, I do not need to worry about other bills, as my parents have generously provided for me. Which should leave a small sum (if I do my maths each month), for leisure, travel, dog care, and giving to the church. Sometimes there might not be a small sum left over each month (depending on how many sessions of therapy I’ve had). Sometimes I seriously worry about not having enough money (though I am well provided for now, I should really be thinking about the future)
A personal financial review will be different for everyone. Not everyone is in the same situation. This is obvious, but perhaps an often forgotten fact when people consider the sermon they have just heard about giving money (or maybe I am just being thick?). I might not struggle to not have a starbucks everyday (because I don’t drink coffee!), and I might not struggle to eat out less (because someone at home buys and cooks delicious food for me!), BUT I realised that I will struggle when it comes to a great weakness of mine: books and art materials. But I had not really stopped to think about it when I thought about giving, and smugly went on my way, thinking that I had no money to give, and was spending wisely. After all, I was giving my time and love and hospitality wasn’t I? And that was probably enough for God anyway.
God gave me everything, my life, a new heart, and above all, the promise of eternity in perfect relationship with him. God gave me his only son…
So why am I withholding money from him? God does not DEMAND money; as if he needed it anyway. No. But if God gave me everything, then who am I to deny him anything? I know I will always deny God something, for I am still a sinner, and Christ has not yet come. But God doesn’t demand perfection; he demands the right attitude and heart (that he has worked in us – see Ezekiel 11:19-20).
In closing – then, it is not a bad thing to enjoy material things; since they are all gifts from God. However, when our enjoyment and pursuit of it exceeds our desire to invest in the growing of God’s kingdom, it is then that we should review and consider our attitudes in how we use our money.