I am hesitant to spark a potential debate over the M word: Moolah. It’s the ebb and flow of our society. It promises some kind of security, definition, meaning, comfort, pleasure, etc. Sounds good. Sounds shady. Sounds like it’s starting to replace God’s place in our lives. I am beginning to solidify my belief that living paycheck-to-paycheck (I will create a new acronym here: p2p) is actually a more Biblical way of living than aiming to save up. Ok, let me clarify this idea:
I think that it’s Biblical to, at norm, live paycheck to paycheck or less in order to constantly be financially giving all that one has to God.
Ok, ok. I know, I sound kind of crazy. “You’re a young working professional!” Granted. “So you really ought not get caught up with all this kind of crazy-talk!” Not granted. I wonder if you’re also thinking, “This is too much. Mary, you’ve gone too far this time. You are starting to get loopy.” But wait! Let me bring you back to the basic call of discipleship:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. ~ Luke 9:23-24.
Shortened version: Deny self. Take up cross, daily. Follow.
Doesn’t sound a walk in the park. Doesn’t sound easy. Sounds a lot more like death that we would prefer. If we are willing to give as far as our lives to the calling of Christ, then let’s see how deep we can reach into our pocketbooks.
Let me clarify a few things first. If one can make more money, all things being equal, then that person should totally go ahead and make more money so that they can use it to bless others and further God’s kingdom! But I think that in general, to live even (significantly) above p2p is questionable. “But,” someone may say, “The point of money is to have financial stability while not squandering resources or talent! Living p2p entails huge risks because one might not be to pay for surprise expenses and possibly even go into debt! Why unnecessarily burden the church when this could have been avoided?” This someone sounds very reasonable. But I also see how someone like this also champions the ability to self-insure and not depend on God or other people in the church. I understand that there is a way that people could take others for granted. But let us today assume that this is not the case; that people are working hard with their own hands and that the church is ready to give to those really in need.
I see how there is a risk, financially speaking, to live p2p. But I wonder what the bigger risk is? I would much prefer take the safer route of consistently putting myself in a situation where I’m finding peace, security, and stability in God and not in my bank statements (or anything else for that matter). So, for me, being “safe” financially means that I’ll never ever have the ability to even have the chance to consider living the “high life”, lest my heart get pulled away by the idol of comfortable living and get dulled to the full call of discipleship. I think if somehow someone handed me a lottery ticket that happened to be the winning one, I think I’d panic and my gut reaction would be to give all of the winnings away without thinking too clearly about who/what organization I’m giving to.
Again, I agree with the idea that we should not be “squandering resources” or go into debt for no reason when we are able to work and make a living for ourselves. However, I wonder, how much “financial stability” is stable enough for one to feel “self-insured”? One paycheck? Two? Enough for retirement? How much is “enough”, exactly? Hm…
Dear reader, my challenge to you is this:
Find me some verses in the Bible that counter the idea that we shouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck. Or, find me some verses in the Bible that support the notion that we really ought to save up for the future rather than give it all in the present.
Remember, our words can help clarify and organize ideas, but ultimately we have to point back to the God’s Word as our ultimate authority. So, I’m going to bring in a collection of verses in order to make anything I say of substance. Let us begin.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” ~ Luke 18:22-27
Enter one rich young ruler. He wants in on heaven. In his case, he was asked not to just give up all his money for the sake of “donating to the church” and twiddling his thumbs afterwards, but he was asked to give it up so that he could follow Jesus. Jesus looked at him and loved him, but He knew, He knew. The one thing that was holding him back from following Him was his money. And in the end, this well-to-do young man walked away sad. He missed Jesus’ offer to follow him because he simply could not let go of his wealth. He left Jesus because he couldn’t leave his “extremely rich” life. In short: Money was his idol and it trumped God in his life. So I wonder, did he possess wealth, or did wealth posses him?
Jesus then goes on to say that it’s impossible for a rich man to enter heaven. In other words, it is so difficult for us to let go of our money! Our grip really IS that tight! We may have “nice” sentiments of “donating to church” or thinking that tithing is enough. But it’s not really about that, is it? 10% tithe is the minimum, a basic requirement. God owns 100% of all of our stuff and tithe is just an expression of our obedience and submission to him, just like how we go to Sunday Service 1 day out of the week, but reality is that 7 out 7 days of the week belongs to him. We can never have this mentality of not making God completely Lord over every area of our finances by being satisfied to toss a few donations to the “church organization” and spending the rest of the 90% for exclusively yourself.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal… Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. ~ Matt 6:19-20, 25,33-34
I think Matt 6 makes it clear that we don’t need to unnecessarily worry about tomorrow because God will provide, given that we seek first God’s kingdom. We need to be responsible for working, loving, giving, etc. today as we seek to obey God! Let us worry about that, and let us let God worry about providing for us.
You might still feel that slight hesitation and worry: Needs fluctuate though, so costs fluctuate! My paycheck comes every 2 weeks, so how can I literally live day to day? Ok, I give you that – That’s why I have the “paycheck to paycheck” principle. I obviously can’t zero out my bank account right after I get my paycheck and therefore have nothing to go on for the next 13 days. But that’s the hard part, isn’t it? Not worrying to the point of having zilch of the desperate desire to save. Well, I guess I could save if I had nothing to spend the money on, but there are always needs in front of me and given that, I’ve just never really had the real option to save. But I wonder if the same is true for you. Can you really believe that there is a day that goes by that you don’t see needs in front of you? If one sees those needs, it must be deadening to the heart to turn away and do nothing when one can do something.
There have been many a story of miracles in which God provided in the nick of time for someone when they needed just X amount for something. “But, those things happen to saints and other people, not to someone like me!”, you seem to be saying. Do not think that you are excluded from the saints, if you are a Christian! Dear reader, if you placed yourself in a situation where you had to trust in God, then you can surely expect these stories to be your own! “Ok, ok,” I’m hearing. “But what about being reasonable with how much we give? We can’t literally give it all in this day and age. We need to plan for the future! What about your 401k? What about your kids’ college fund?” Along these lines, I’ve seen this verse get quoted before about being “reasonable” with money:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” ~ Luke 14:28–30
It’s very interesting that these verses are quoted, though! It seems like this is a very good argument to sit down, consider the cost of building a tower, and then only build it after you count the cost. Sounds very reasonable. I’m assuming that you’re applying this to your argument by saying, “See, we need to make sure to have enough funds if we are to build a house!” Yes, that is true, I agree. If you are in the business of building houses or towers, you should be someone who’s ready to commit to the cost. However, let me ask you, what cost are we talking about here? The cost of furnishing your house or making sure that you have all of the good accessories of life? No, this is an analogy for counting the cost of discipleship! If you zoom out just a tad bit, you’ll notice that the verses actually fall into the larger section of Luke 14:25-35, titled “The Cost of Discipleship”! It ends with this:
So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. ~ Luke 14:33
Again, the cost of being ready to renounce ALL is there for disciples! I think what Jesus meant when he said “all that he has” is that he really means, “all that he has.” He is talking people here, even hating his own father and mother and wife and children, etc (verse 26). We all know that people are priceless and worth more than money. The most important things in life are people. If God were asking us to even “hate” the people closest to us in order to be his disciple because in comparison, our love for God is that much greater, I think it’s fair to say that cash, towers, houses, etc. falls into this “all that he has” section.
Let me expound on this further. In this analogy, it’s just that: an analogy. We shouldn’t press the details of this analogy to find meanings that aren’t there. For example, the point of this analogy is not to tell us to build a tower (or to go to war). Therefore, it’s invalid to say, “just as Jesus wants us to sit down and count the cost in building a tower, so he wants us to sit down and count the cost in building our house.” The point is to make sure that we count the cost before making a (potentially) costly decision of specifically: discipleship.
To further show that the details of the analogy are not as important as the main point, I’ll bring up another analogy that has to do with money: the parable of the shrewd manager. It’s too long here to copy paste all the story so I’ll just bring up a few verses that wrap up the story:
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. … “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. ~ Luke 16:8, 13-14
Ok, so the point of the story is clearly not to be dishonest with money. That would obviously be pressing the illustration too far. The point is that the manager did this one thing right: he valued people. The purpose of our money? To “use worldly wealth to gain friends… so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings”. Money is merely a tool for us to use to gain relationships! Relationships are eternal, money will rot. In other words, use money (just like you would use talents or stuff) to love other people. Notice that Jesus said at other points said that if anyone would come after him, that he needs to hate his father, mother, etc. But he obviously didn’t mean for us to literally hate other people (since there are so many commandments that tell us to love people). What he means is that our love for God must be so large that our love for even those closest to us will be like hate in comparison. Similarly, we don’t need to literally hate money. On the contrary – money is a great tool and it can get us a lot of good stuff! But, to the world, it may look like I hate money because I can’t hold onto even one paycheck longer enough for the next one to come in.
But wait! What about this verse:
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. ~ 1 Tim 5:8
It seems like if you don’t scrimp and save, your irresponsibility makes you worse than an unbeliever because you fail to even provide for your own family! But notice here, this word “provide” is in the present tense (in Greek as well as English). The command here is for the breadwinner to be responsible and other-centered: he is supposed to care about his family, so he’s providing for the sake of others. So even in this verse, it’s not a selfish endeavor that pushes the breadwinner to hoard/save in any way. It’s about providing for real needs in the present, a very practical act of love. It doesn’t say to provide for tomorrow and next year and retirement. It says simply to provide for the needs in front of you, today. As Matthew 6 says, tomorrow will worry about itself. And if you give to the point of being in debt, I think that actually, it’s ok.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law ~Romans 13:8 (NIV)
Debt is not the most pleasant thing to work with, but it’s not a sin. That’s how some people reasonably get through school, buy cars, etc. It’s not unreasonable to have some debt. “Outstanding debt” is what is marked as not ok. But without getting caught up with where exactly to draw the line, the focus of the verses here is not on money. Rather, the debt of love is what we should be concerned about. So, our attention is redirected from money and we can say that money is a medium that we can use to love people. So it follows that as a bread winner, it’s one’s responsibility to provide for our immediate family as a way to love and support them. Love is the underlying theme here, not money.
What about this Proverb? This verse that seems to imply that you should be concerned about finances, or at the very least, building/buying a house for yourself!
“Prepare your outside work, make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterward build your house.” ~ Proverbs 24:27
Hm… Well. Do you know what I think? I think the thrust of this proverb is not to say, “Make it your goal in life to build up your own house.” I think the thrust of this proverb is, “Take things one at time. First things first: if you have a field, ready that first before building a house.” For example, I’ll make up a fake “proverb” to get the point across. Mary-ucious say, “Get married, then have babies.” You can tell that the point of this proverb from Mary-ucious isn’t to say that the goal of your life is to have babies or even to get married. The point of this proverb is to say, “It’s probably not a good idea to have babies before you get married.”
“Ok, ok,” you might say, “But what about King David? He was a great example of someone who saved for his kids! He got all this stuff, like wood, precious stones, gold, etc. in preparation for a grandest house ever: the temple!” I would say that you have a great example there of someone who intentionally saved and generously gave a lot for the sake of the next generation. However, King David had a special revelation from God regarding the temple. His son Solomon was specifically chosen to be next in line for the kingship, and this task of specifically building a temple was specifically given to Solomon and withheld from David. Nowadays, most of us don’t have this kind of special revelation. What we do have, though, is this:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” ~James 4:13-15
We don’t have next year. Heck, we don’t even have tomorrow promised to us! (Remember Matthew 6?) What is our life? It’s short! If I were to die tomorrow, would God be happy about the way that I spent my finances? I should do all I can for God, all the time! What does that look like? I have a paycheck, I give all I can based on that paycheck. I get a new paycheck, I give all I can based on that new paycheck.
“Ok, maybe you don’t have kids, but what about basic needs for yourself?” Good point! But again, it’s about having enough in the present. Here are some verses about basic necessities:
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. ~ 1 Tim 6:10
I won’t say very much here because these verses speak loudly for themselves! But I will point out that we can be content with the very very basic needs of life. Notice, food and clothing are mentioned, but not even housing. Let’s look at an extravagant example of someone who gave without calculating or holding back: the woman with the alabaster jar.
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her. ~ Mark 14:3-9
It’s clear that the price of this gift was noticed (just like how Jesus noticed the gift from the poor widow and called attention to that gift). It was described as “very costly” and the disciples were complaining that it should have been spent elsewhere. Not sure if you’re aware, but back then, women kept their life savings in the form of expensive perfume (I guess banks weren’t very popular back then). So she’s essentially giving all of her life savings to Jesus in one crazy act. Others condemn her, but Jesus calls this – get this – beautiful. Furthermore, he almost equates this with the gospel! Wherever the gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told in memory of her, he says. Why is he paralleling her gift to the gospel? I’ll give you the answer in hymnal form. “Jesus gave it all, all to him I owe.” Jesus didn’t hold back; he poured out everything to us: his blood, his life… his death. The parallel is clear. We are just talking about one point here: finances. When Jesus asks for our lives, money is just one aspect of what we’ve got in our knapsack of life. Can we do this, for him?
Who knows what happened to the woman with the alabaster jar? I’m not sure what happened after that, but I’m pretty sure that even though she gave up her whole life savings to Jesus, she didn’t just starve to death a few days afterwards. She probably switched got into a different industry and restarted her life with a much less flashy and less lucrative job. But I bet you that she was happy to have given all of her past life’s earnings to God in that fashion, even if it meant that she had barely enough to scrape by for the rest of her life. Surely, besides her example being matched up to the gospel, she lived a much more joyful life knowing that she was under God’s grace! Now? she’s probably honored in heaven! I can’t wait to meet her and ask her what her name is.
This nameless woman’s sacrifice stands in direct contrast to the parable of the rich fool:
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” ~ Luke 12:15-20
This rich fool had a savings problem: he had so much stuff that he didn’t know where to store it! It’s like us saying, “I have so much cash, Bank of America can’t take it all! I need to go to Wells Fargo and maybe even the Bank of China to make sure that all my cash has some safe place to get stored!” But this is so sad: he was SO rich in this life, yet he was not rich toward God. The world might think that the wise are those who are rich in this life! But that’s the kind of person that God calls a fool. If someone hoarded so much for himself and thought about just himself and talked about himself so many times within the span of a few verses, then surely you can see how small his heart is toward not only other people, but also to God. That’s a fool’s life and ultimately a tragic life.
Even if he had everything and lived a wealthy life for many years, still, the end is sure to come:
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? ~ Mark 8:36
Isn’t the salvation of souls worth every thing, and not the other way around? This is totally highlighted in this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. ~ Matt 13:44-45
Again, worldly value and kingdom of heaven are weighed against each other and it’s clear what wins. In this story, it’s worth selling everything else, to find that one precious “pearl” of the kingdom of heaven. This may be a little bit backwards for us Christians, because we already are saved. But now, let us freely be willing to give everything up, so that others can find this pearl of great worth as well!
This leads into the parable of the talents. I won’t recount the whole story here, but basically, if we have talents, we should use them and not stick them in the ground and do nothing with them. To very simply interpret this into the financial realm: If I have money and I see needs in front of me, I should spend my money to meet those needs. To do nothing with that money is foolishness. The master said something along the lines of, “at least stick it in the bank so that the money would appreciate, instead of letting it sit in the dirt!” Note here, sticking money in the bank was the far lessor option of using that talent fully. It was a backup plan, a lame backup plan which was basically barely better than nothing. So, I would argue that the parable of the talents nudges us to use everything you have! Financially speaking, what I have right now is my one paycheck. So I’m going to use it. I’ll stick it in the bank (instead of under my bed) only if I really have nothing else that I can use it for.
But that is not to be our excuse! What was that servant called for doing nothing? WICKED. LAZY. Servant. Not only lazy, but “wicked.” I shudder. Let’s not go there, please. Let’s not make any more excuses. I certainly want to give all that I possibly can so that if God were to call me home tomorrow, that he wouldn’t see a pot of money in my bank account and wonder why I didn’t do anything with it.
Ready to give it all? Ok, even at this point, I still hear these well-meaning words, “I don’t know… I don’t want to put God to the test. I think I need to be a little bit more responsible…” However, let’s look at the context of the verses where God was put to the test.
The first context of putting God to the test in the Israelite days were that they complained that they didn’t have enough food or water. Or, they complained that they just got manna, they wanted meat. Putting God to the test = complaining that they don’t have enough or fearing that God wouldn’t provide for their needs. The Israelites quite literally were dependent on God for the basic needs of food and water and even direction, every single day. To complain about their situation or to fear that God wouldn’t provide WAS putting God to the test. To parallel this, I would argue that NOT living paycheck to paycheck and worrying that God won’t provide for the future IS to put God to the test.
The second context of putting God to the test was Satan asking Jesus to toss himself off of a high point to show that he had the power to call angels to save him. It was an ostentatious ego boost/ power game that Jesus didn’t fall for. We are not called to throw ourselves off the cliff ostentatiously or “burn” money, aka, waste money, and think that God will take care of us no matter what. That’s foolishness, I agree. But being generous isn’t wasting money. We can responsibly feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, pay the rent, and give the rest to love others. We don’t need to be buying other people BMWs or expensive jewelery. Rather, we can buy them practical gifts, a meal here, filling up the gas for them there. That is not being ostentatious or squandering any money. It might be coming close to the “edge of the cliff” as we give until we have nothing left until the next paycheck, but it’s not a foolish commitment to “jump off”. Living life on the edge – that definitely sounds like the stuff of Christian life!
Consider the widow of Zarephath. She was literally on her last drop of oil and last handful of flour, yet Elijah asks her to give to him, first! In other words, she was asked to put God first and herself and her family second. And each and every day, she was forced to depend on God to provide for her. We might think, “Wow, that sucks.” But actually, for her, she experienced miracle after miracle, and besides, where else would she have been otherwise? We shouldn’t put God to the test, but surely God can put us to the test. But in the end, God heart and intention is to bless, and those tested in fire will only come out much more refined and pure.
But we’re in the 20th century here, in America, the land of the plenty! Can I really still live like that? Yes, we can! How do I know?
I grew up, went to college, and am now working and living in the fabulous Bay Area. However, I have been living pretty much p2p for about 5 years now, ever since I got my first job. I haven’t really fluctuated much above that level except around the times that I happened to switch jobs or when I needed funding to go on Mission Trips (of which I didn’t really plan on saving up for beforehand). In other words, many of the costs and transitions that I had were not events that I could have predicted or planned for. Remember those “car accident” costs? I have had times like that too. I didn’t get into a gnarly “car accident” specifically, but my car did break down one time when I was going on a trip and the repair costs ended up being over $800. I’ve maintained my car, too, in other ways, including getting a new tire because 3 nails got stuck in one of them. I happened to just have enough to pay for those costs each time those costs arose. I also have had other random costs come up in terms of health (I’ve had a root canal, all 4 wisdom teeth taken out, etc) and spontaneous gifts of generosity to the church or to my friends (“gifts” to friends includes paying hundreds to treat out, etc). I even had to pay back IRS or something because I messed up with my taxes last year and miscalculated on my last tax return. All of these incidents cost me hundreds or even over a thousand dollars. And, all of these examples are from this past year alone. And I can tell you that each time I had to pay for something, I just happened to have enough. Again, the times that I happened to fluctuate “significantly” above the zero level happened to be right before I transitioned between jobs (this is my 4th job now) or right before an unexpected cost came up. All of this might sound extreme, but like I said, I’ve always had enough and never went into debt. When I had little (as a college student), I practiced being generous with my money whenever I was able. Yes, sometimes it hurt and I had to grit my teeth to give. I had to practice fighting stinginess in my heart time and time again. But it was worth it because now that my paycheck is larger, I have more money to work with and this practice of being generous per expressing God’s love hasn’t failed me yet. Though it’s not an excuse, that is actually why I’m actually pretty bad at keeping tabs on finances, because I honestly have come to a point where I don’t really worry about it that much anymore. I don’t think I’m being irresponsible because I pay my rent on time, I have decently stylish clothes on my back, and I feed myself. I’ve heard it said of money: “Be generous toward others and be frugal toward yourself.” This doesn’t mean that I’m unnecessarily cheap toward myself or unnecessarily extravagant toward others either. But it does mean that I cut down on spending where I don’t need to for myself in order to give more to others. It’s a balance but I try to make what I have go the longest way possible. I hope that my example shows you how my dependence on God as my Jehovah Jirah over the other potential idol of Money that falsely promises security/stability tangibly shows you that God really is the best provider and that his words are true.
There were a lot of times that I thought, “Man, I don’t know if I can do this right now. The cost of discipleship in this area seems too hard right. But, I want to move toward that.” During those times, I gave up something small. Then one thing led to the next, and to the next. About 5 years ago, I did the simple things of just treating a friend out to a dessert here, a meal there. It’s only after doing that and practicing that over time that I can come to this point. That + God’s faithfulness over the years = my confidence that God will continue to provide for me in the future. So, with that being said, I embarked on another 5 year commitment before God today, financially speaking. I’ll let you know how it goes a little later on.
To end, I’d like to ask you to consider what Jesus says about a poor widow:
And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” ~ Mark 12:42-44
Notice, Jesus specifically noticed her and pointed out her example to the disciples! The text says that the widow lived substantially below “p2p level”, she was in poverty. Jesus didn’t say, “Gosh, she should make sure to at least have enough for herself. She was being way too generous and foolish!” He says essentially, “It may seem that technically speaking, she gave the least here. But to she gave more to Me than the rest of those gaudy rich people who think that they are so generous to God”. If you think about this, it makes a lot of sense. If I had 1 million dollars and gave 10% of that away, which adds up to 100K, could I call myself generous if I still had 900K to live off of? I think this is closer to the heart of giving: a little hungry boy on the brink of starvation, who upon seeing his equally hungry friend next to him, decides to divide his meal in half for his friend. Who gave more in these two examples? “Literally?” No, Jesus doesn’t ask that question. He looks at the heart.
Adding to the noteworthy saints of giving even in their poverty is this example: Apostle Paul lauds the Macedonian church for giving beyond their means even in their extreme poverty.
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. ~ 2 Cor 8:1-5
The church gave to God, giving even beyond their means (going into debt not because of irresponsibility in buying stuff for themselves) because they wanted so much to meet others’ needs/ furthering God’s kingdom by relieving the saints.
We started out this conversation taking a look at one extremely rich young man. We ended this endeavor by looking at one church in extreme poverty. Two ends of the spectrum. I know which one I need to shoot for. If I were to give a response to all of this, I’d say, man, I’m still being way too generous toward myself. This sounds “crazy”, but I want to figure out how to personally shoot for the “poverty” level while still externally being approachable (aka, I’m not dressed in rags or something). Remember, I’m only going off of the Bible. That’s why I listed out the verses that were brought up. We really ought to let the Bible define what is norm in our lives instead of our own preferences, idea of what’s “normal”, or even comparing ourselves to other godly Christians.
My questions for myself are: “What unnecessary luxuries am I indulging in?” “Where can I cut costs for myself?” “How can I give more than I’m giving now?” “Can I support one more Compassion child?” God is challenging my worldview in the area of finances and I never want to be so accustomed to my post-modern point of view regarding living a cushy Christian life that God’s words don’t pierce my heart and challenge me to respond in obedience.
Quick recap of verses:
Argument: We ought to live on paycheck to paycheck or less in order to constantly be financially giving all that we have to God!
- Rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-27)
- Treasures on earth are prone to get destroyed, you cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:19-21,24)
- Seek first his kingdom and these things (food and clothes) will be given to you. Do not worry about tomorrow. (Matt 6:28-34)
- Count the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:28-33)
- Dishonest Manager commended for making friends with money (Luke 16:8, 13-14)
- Provide for your own (1 Tim 5:8)
- Be more concerned with the debt to love one another (Romans 13:8)
- Future and financial investments are not promised to us (James 4:13-15)
- Content with basic needs of food and clothing. Love money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim 6:10)
- Woman with alabaster jar (Mark 14:3-9)
- Parable of the Rich fool (Luke 12:15-20)
- Parable of the Pearl (Matt 13:44-45)
- Parable of the Talents
- Do not put God to the test (don’t complain about worries of tomorrow or do something ostentatious)
- Widow of Zarapheth
- Poor widow (Mark 12:42-44)
- Macedonian church (2 Cor 8:1-5)
- Field before house (Proverbs 24:27)
Counter-Argument: We really ought to be saving up now (in order to give more in the future) instead of giving it all in the present!
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I realized after writing this that I needed to mention this! I’m sorry if this post guilt trips you or causes you to begrudge giving to God. I didn’t mean for this article to make you feel that way. It was originally written to be on the defensive and excerpts were taken from a friendly banter that I had with someone regarding this topic. There is so much more to giving than sighing and mumbling, “Oh well, I guess if it belongs to God anyway, then I’ll have to give…” Quite on the contrary, giving can be a joy! It’s totally ok to start small. Without elaborating too much, I’ll list some encouraging verses/examples regarding giving and its partners, joy and abundance, below. Make these your own!:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. ~ 2 Cor 9:7
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.~ Malachi 3:10
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. ~ Mark 10:29-30
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. ~ Proverbs 11:24
Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly… I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. ~ 1 Chronicles 29:9, 17
It is more blessed to give than to receive. ~ Acts 20:35 ]