BookRemarks are not book reviews, but topical posts inspired by books. This post was inspired primarily by Paul David Tripp’s Redeeming Money.
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the conflicting views of money present in the Bible: it can be a bad thing (e.g., 1 Timothy 6:10) or a good thing (Proverbs 10:22). We also discussed how we should always return to God a Tithe of 10% of our income.
In Part 2 , we discussed the importance of being a good financial steward of the income God has blessed us with by minimizing our Requirements and preparing for retirement.
In Redeeming Money, Paul David Tripp says, “It really is true that our financial life is shaped by whatever voice we listen to, and it is also true that, in our sin, we are tempted to listen to ourselves more than we do our Lord” (page 45).
That is, we often emphasize ourselves more than we should when it comes to our finances.
But even if we are faithful in paying our Tithes and are responsible in minimizing our Requirements, we still have to determine what to do with the remainder of our income.
Here in Part 3, let’s consider the final two parts of the TROD framework (Tithes, Requirements, Offerings, Desires) for handling money: Offerings and Desires.
If we live within our means and minimize our Requirements, then we should have some disposable income. Of this disposable income, we should set aside some extra money for charitable purposes.
Now, we are not required to give this money away – God only commands us to set aside a Tithe, which is ten percent – but these Offerings are voluntary gifts for godly purposes.
And we should give away a portion of our income to help others. After all, even though the greatest commandment is to love God, the second greatest is similar: to love others (see Matthew 22:34-40).
Since God has been generous to us, we should likewise be generous to others.
Plus, remember that Paul put forth a model in which Christians help Christians in need: “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need” (2 Corinthians 8:14).
There was a sense of community and reciprocity in the early churches. It’s a tradition we should uphold today.
But it’s also something we need to plan for, because disposable income doesn’t just happen. If left unchecked, our monthly expenditures will equal or exceed our income.
Paul told the Galatian and Corinthian churches to be intentional about their giving: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1 Corinthians 16:2).
The good thing about offerings is that they come from our own heart.
So, how much should we give?
Well, we just saw that Paul recommended that giving be “in keeping with [our] income,” so it makes sense that high-earners should give more than low-earners. After all, Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48).
But God hasn’t specified an exact amount. In fact, most of the time, we should only give what we feel comfortable giving. Paul told the Corinthians, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
In the Old Testament, we see a similar idea: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give” (Exodus 25:1-2).
There are five key ideas to take from these two passages:
- God wants us to give (“Bring me an offering”)
- Our giving should be voluntary (“from each man whose heart prompts him to give”)
- Our giving should be planned (“set aside a sum of money”)
- The amount should be proportional to our income (“in keeping with his income”)
- The amount should be whatever we feel comfortable giving (“God loves a cheerful giver”)
A practical way to give, then, is to determine a percentage of our income that we will give as an Offering to the Lord each paycheck. We can simply include this amount when we Tithe, or we can set up a separate bank account and disperse the funds as the Spirit moves us.
In the latter case, we save up money for a period of months, and then donate it to a special offering collected by our church for missions; or, we could donate the money to a children’s home, a homeless shelter, a church building project, or even a neighbor in need.
In fact, imagine how stunned our non-Christian neighbor would be if we offered to pay for her car to be fixed so she could get to and from work. What better way to share the love of Christ than to help meet someone’s pressing need?
Remember what the apostle James said: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (2:15-16).
We should definitely help people in need – remember the Good Samaritan, who helped out a stranger (Luke 10:25-37).
But note that we are not able to help everyone who needs or asks for it; we simply can’t. As Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you…” (John 12:8). We can’t eradicate poverty by ourselves; we’ll go bankrupt long before we meet every need out there.
But if we set aside a certain amount for charitable purposes, we can help some people when needs arise. Plus, if everyone in the church extended helping hands in the community, our collective impact would far surpass our individual efforts.
Proverbs says, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow’ – when you now have it with you” (3:27-28). However, we will only have money available to give if we plan for such situations.
Please note that we do not have to give ourselves into poverty in order to make God smile. We shouldn’t necessarily even “give until it hurts” – after all, God loves a cheerful giver.
There is a time when sacrificial giving is appropriate, but it should not be routine.
Indeed, although Paul reminds us “to be generous and willing to share” (verse 18), he also says that God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). As we’ll soon see, we can certainly use some of our income to enjoy life.
If we’re worried about giving grudgingly, we can start small with our offerings. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). If Jesus’s words prove true, then we will be willing to give a little more next year.
In fact, we might consider starting small and gradually increasing our giving. Pastor and author Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, made a commitment early in their marriage to increase their offerings by one percent each year.
What if, in addition to our Tithe, we gave one percent this year as an Offering to the Lord? Next year, we could consider bumping it up to two percent. And so on.
We can certainly give more, especially if we’ve already been giving over and above our tithe; but, if we’re just starting to create a giving plan, we can start small and see how it goes. We’ll probably find that we can live a happy life and still give to charitable causes; in fact, we’ll probably find that we can give a little more than that and still be happy.
If we’re truly generous, we might split our disposable income – that 20% left over after paying our Tithes and Requirements – and put half towards ourselves and give half to others. An even 10%–10% split.
But it’s okay to start smaller, with the idea of working our way up. Remember, God wants us to give with a generous heart and not out of a sense of duty.
The key is to plan a certain amount to give each paycheck. Without a plan in place, we’ll find ways to spend on ourselves the money we could otherwise use to bless others.
Last time, we talked about the importance of knowing the difference between our needs and our wants. People get into financial trouble when they prioritize their wants – that is, their Desires – over their Requirements.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t spend some money on things we want. We just need to pay for our Desires with the money that is left over after paying our Tithes, meeting our Requirements, and giving our Offerings.
Once those things are taken care of, we are free to put the rest of our income toward our (non-sinful) Desires.
We can travel, if we wish. A good vacation can even restore our spirits, and can make us more grateful for God’s blessings. That gratefulness will probably make us more generous.
In fact, perhaps we should plan for an annual vacation, and when we return, we could kick up our offerings by an extra one percent to express our gratitude. What better time to thank God for His blessings than right after we have enjoyed the blessings that He has given us?
Or, if traveling isn’t our thing, we could save up for that boat – or for a nicer car.
(Please note the phrase “save up for” – we shouldn’t take on a new monthly payment for a boat or a nicer car; we should save up the money and pay for it when we have the cash. Studies indicate that one of the most important predictors of “success” in life is the ability to delay gratification.)
In other words, we can enjoy our life with part of the money God has blessed us with. God wants us to be happy – joyful, even. The psalmist wrote, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalms 37:4).
David also sang that God “satisfies your desires with good things” (Psalms 103:5) and “he fulfills the desires of those who fear him” (Psalms 145:19). Jesus says that God, even more than earthly fathers, knows how to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:7-12).
Of course, studies indicate that happiness comes more from experiences than from possessions, so perhaps we should prioritize time with family and friends over expensive toys. Those “good things” the psalmist mentioned aren’t necessarily large screen televisions or jet skis; he’s probably talking about love, joy, and “things” like that.
But it does help to remember that money itself is not a bad thing; it’s a tool. As such, our use of it reflects our heart. If there are problems in our heart, then as Paul David Tripp says, they will be expressed through our use of money.
Since we live in a materialistic culture, Tripp provides a much-needed reminder: “Money can’t buy happiness and… it will never be your personal savior” (page 36).
It might sound counterintuitive, but we will be happier in life if we use our money strategically in such a way that we focus on our Desires last – after taking care of everything else.
Last time, we discussed the fruits of the Spirit; specifically, we talked about how joy should manifest in our lives and help us to be content regardless of our circumstances.
Another fruit of the spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23; see also 2 Timothy 1:7).
One of the biggest money problems people – both Christians and non-Christians – have is the lack of self-control. We prioritize our Desires. We want immediate gratification, so we use credit cards or loans to get what we want, now.
We don’t have a budget, so we always end up with more month at the end of our money. That is, we’re living paycheck to paycheck – or, even worse, we’re racking up debt.
We have our priorities all wrong.
Whereas a lack of self-control gets us into debt, self-control can get us – and keep us – out of debt. And that’s a very good thing.
In fact, Christians should avoid debt, because “the borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters…. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24).
The more debt we have, the more financial strain we are under; the more our finances are strained, the less likely we are to tithe.
Plus, if God wanted us to do something, like help a neighbor with his rent payment or quit our job and go to seminary, we couldn’t do it if we have a lot of debt. We would have too many bills to pay.
In that situation, we’re letting our spending habits interfere with God’s sovereignty in our life. And if we are letting Money – and not God – dictate our life, then why would God give us more money?
Remember the Parable of the Talents, and the principle Jesus offers there: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21).
As Christians, we should see self-control (a fruit of the Spirit) manifest in our financial lives.
And if we TROD the financial path we’ve discussed in this series, we should be well on our way to using God’s money in responsible ways.
We just need to keep our priorities straight: 1) Tithes, 2) Requirements, 3) Offerings, 4) Desires.