BookRemarks are not book reviews, but topical posts inspired by books. This post was inspired primarily by Paul David Tripp’s Redeeming Money.
It has often been noted that Jesus talked more about money than he did about Heaven or Hell. Despite this fact, Christians – just like everyone else – often struggle with their finances.
It doesn’t help that the Bible offers seemingly contradictory views of money.
On the one hand, money is portrayed as a bad thing. For example, money can serve as a dangerous gateway into other sins, such as greed (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Indeed, the apostle Paul warned, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Money can also be a stumbling block. Jesus noted, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23; see also Matthew 13:22). For the Rich Young Man, money served as an idol – something he valued more than following God’s will for his life (Matthew 19:16-30).
Ultimately, we’re told that wealth is worthless; it has no eternal value (Proverbs 11:4).
On the other hand, the Bible also portrays money as a good thing. For example, money is presented as a source of protection (Proverbs 10:15), and it can also be a gift from God: “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth” (Proverbs 10:22).
Paul David Tripp recognizes the complicated nature of wealth in his book Redeeming Money: “Money will either bless you or curse you. It will be a tool in the hands of a God of grace, or it will be a doorway to bad and dangerous things” (page 72).
And that is a key realization: money itself is just a tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good or bad – for example, we can use a hammer to fix something or to break it. As many commentators have pointed out in the past, money itself is not the real problem; it’s the “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10, emphasis added) we have to guard against.
In his book, Tripp takes a deep look at our relationship with money, and ultimately concludes, “Money problems are heart problems” (page 32).
That is, when used improperly – to satisfy ourselves and our own desires – then money takes our eyes off God. Sometimes, it can be easier to trust our future and our happiness to the Dollar than to God.
After all, we can do what we want with the Dollar, but we have no idea what plans God might have for us. (For all we know, He might send us to the Amazon Rainforest…)
However, when used properly – to satisfy God’s desires and mission – then money can bring us closer to Him. As Tripp says, “Your use of money is an act of worship” (page 128).
Tripp’s claim rings true. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the Master leaves three servants in charge of certain amounts of his money. When the Master returns, he praises the “good and faithful” servants who increased the amounts through wise investments; however, he criticizes the “wicked, lazy” servant who didn't even try to do anything for fear of losing the money.
Similarly, God has entrusted a certain amount of wealth to us. Now, what are we going to do with it?
If we are like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), we might waste the money by spending everything on ourselves. If we’re like the “wicked, lazy” servant, we might do nothing with the money, and simply hoard it away.
Or, we can do something with it, like the “good and faithful” servants. It’s a happy coincidence that the term talent was used for coinage (and weight) in New Testament times, because it allows us today to think of all the resources God has given us – money and abilities. We can promote the kingdom of God by writing checks and by using our “natural” talents.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know exactly how we should handle the money God has entrusted to us. Even many Christian discussions of money tend to be vague.
For example, we know we should tithe ten percent, and Dave Ramsey recommends investing fifteen percent for retirement. We often feel like we should give more money to charity, but we also need to pay our own bills.
So, should we ever “enjoy” life? Is going on vacation a sin, when there are children going hungry right across town?
How can we know what to do with “our” money if it’s really God’s money?
In an effort to be more precise than most Christian models of finance, I’d like to propose a framework for using our money. When I teach writing, I incorporate a lot of acronyms – they provide students with helpful checklists, and they are easy to remember. Some acronyms I find, others I create.
So, when I started to think about a financial framework, naturally I turned my mind to creating an acronym. And so, I’ve developed TROD.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the verb “trod” means “to pursue a path” (def. 2). Perhaps if we pursue this particular financial path, we can move toward a healthier relationship with money. Perhaps we can please God while also enjoying His blessings.
TROD stands for Tithes, Requirements, Offerings, Desires.
In the Bible, we are instructed to give a tithe to God. This tithe is, essentially, ten percent of our income: “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord… The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30, 32).
Paying our tithes is important. In Malachi, God said his people were robbing Him. When they asked how they were robbing Him, God replied, “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me” (3:8-9).
God’s message is clear: if we don’t give Him ten percent of our income, then we are under a curse.
(Perhaps it’s not coincidental that we live in a country where church attendance has been declining for decades, while the national debt has ballooned to more than $30 trillion and consumer debt is almost $17 trillion.)
But God then adds, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:10).
It's worth remembering something Jesus told the Devil: “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Mathew 4:7, referring to Deuteronomy 6:16).
So, when God gives us permission to test Him in something, we should pay attention.
Paying our tithes demonstrates trust in God’s faithfulness and provision. For one thing, Jesus says that God will take care of our needs:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?... Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow. (Matthew 6:25, 32-34)
Remember when Jesus praised a poor widow who put her last two cents into the temple’s collection box (Luke 21:1-4)? He considered her small donation to be larger than anyone else’s because it demonstrated her trust that God would provide for her.
If we pay our tithes, God not only promises to provide for us – He promises to bless us (refer back to Malachi 3:10, above).
And, again, God actually invites us to test Him in this promise. When we are struggling financially, will we still pay our tithes? We should say, “God, this ten percent is yours. I could really use this money to pay my bills right now, but I trust that you will take care of my needs.”
While praising God, David sang, “To the faithful you show yourself faithful” (2 Samuel 22:26).
Remember, our tithes should be our “firstfruits” (e.g., Exodus 23:19). This means we should give God the first ten percent of our paycheck before we do anything else with our money.
Of course, paying our Tithes only accounts for 10% of the income God has entrusted to us. What should we do with the other 90% of that income?
Next time, we’ll discuss Requirements, and how we can please God by using our money responsibly.