Have you relied on your local church to teach you everything about what the scriptures have to say when it comes to money? Odds are you’ve found a great starting point, but that you’ve missed some critical pieces of the puzzle. Here’s why:
Church organizations, God bless ’em every one, have a scorecard just like everybody else. (Yours, to review, is your budget, your family vision, and your goals sheet!) And we have no problem with that. But you need to know, dear reader, that their score sheet is not yours. Theirs is 1) attendance (which, except for feeling like you’re part of something successful, doesn’t concern you too much), and 2) dollars given (and possibly dollars raised for others). Depending on your local church scene, they might have a few other important metrics they watch (number of folks on mission trips, number of folks volunteering, number of people in discipleship programs, who the heck knows), but 1) attendance and 2) dollars given are consistent across the board, regardless of the church. That being the case (watch me now, this is an important turn coming), two of the main things they want to indoctrinate into you are (wait for it)… attendance and giving! Not complicated.
They will tell you in all number of ways that coming to church is good for you. (And you know what? Emotionally, socially, maritally, sexually, health-wise, and even economically, the science is in: THEY ARE RIGHT.) They will also tell you that the #1 topic Jesus talks about is money. This is true. And they tell you that God is generous (Truly!), and that Christlikeness = generosity as well (also true). So… can you put two and two together? I bet you can. The insinuation, or overt demand, is that you DO give your money—today—and that you give it HERE, at First Greater Church of This Locale. “Give US your money: it’s the real godly move!”
Now… you should know that we here at Abe’s Wallet absolutely support the local church house in many ways, including financial giving (if it helps you to know, every contributor of AW is a leader in the local church). The angle we’d like to introduce you to here, perhaps for the first time, is that God has money goals for you beyond supporting your local church. If you’ve come to think that God’s #1 goal for you financially is to keep the church going… It’s not. At least, you’ll never ever find that in the Scriptures. First, He wants you to deal with debt, then He wants you to put your home and family in a secure place, financially.
The church says that, when it comes to your money, it’s church first.
The Bible says that it’s home first. And if you ever intend to be a leader in the church (to help make decisions, lead men, give counsel), one of the basic requirements is home management, which certainly includes financial security. Once you learn to work, save, and make your home secure, you’re a candidate for aggressive generosity—out of abundance (that means you have all you need and then some)! …and then you’re ready for church leadership. (Or tell me if I’m reading this wrong.)
It could be easy for those of you who hang around Church institutions (I should know; I am one and have been for a very long time) to get the idea that the godliest guy is the one who has the fewest dollars to his name, that financial monasticism was always God’s plan—for all of us. Abraham disagrees (Abraham was a super rich man, and was the Biblical model—not just one possibility, The Model—of what a home leader was supposed to be); he had a vision to build a multi-generational, thriving family that would bless the entire planet. The Holy Scriptures teach us to steadily work to grow in wealth, concurrently expand our territory and responsibility, and be a blessing to (at least) our entire city. This is a very different vision than “See how little you can live on and give the rest away.” I understand this concept, having been raised in it and living in voluntary poverty for about 5 years myself, as a single man. I don’t deny that those years of lack were soul-forming and, in many ways, good for me. But we restate: that picture of scarcity and need is not the picture of the full counsel of Scripture.
If you want to be an aggressive giver (and you should!)… go to church. They’ll help you there.
If you want to be an aggressive family builder… go to the Scriptures.
[Lest we be misunderstood, one of your goals is generosity beyond what you might have previously fathomed. Wherever the LORD is expanding His Kingdom, we’re hopeful that you will be right there ready to get in on the goodness with your money and your efforts. If anyone would read this admonition and come away thinking “phew… I didn’t want to give to those hosers at the church house anyways”… well, maybe we’ve missed you.
But we want you to learn stewardship first, and that is much bigger than rote adherence to a giving law. Once you nail this thing down, you might follow your Father into giving every last penny you have, but you’ll operate from the comfortable and safe position of a man who has learned to be trustworthy with the never-meager resources of God’s eternal Kingdom. From that spot, you’ll find that you’re free to give, invest and distribute as you see fit.]