Money. Everyone needs it. It makes people do crazy things. It can be anything from an asset used in a healthy way to a vice that drives people to ruin. Everybody knows this. It’s all over pop culture. Rapper Biggie Smalls said, “more money, more problems,” and the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan said, “cash rules everything around me.” But acknowledging the power of money does little to dampen its effects.
Money helps you keep a roof over your head. Money feeds and clothes you and your family. Money puts gas in the car. Money helps other people with their problems, too. Money can even be used to worship God. So is money really a bad thing?
But money gets people swept up in commercialism. For some, money takes precedence over people. Money makes people trust in their own abilities rather than God. So is money really a good thing?
We must learn to use the instruments He gives us in ways that please Him, and that starts with self-examination.
As with anything God has made available, we should always consider what God’s purpose for money is. He provides tools, not temptations, to guide us through our lives. But we must learn to use the instruments He gives us in ways that please Him, and that starts with self-examination. Here are three attitudes of the heart we should adopt as we learn to handle our money.
A Sacrificial Heart
God loves a cheerful giver. We know this clearly because Paul stated this exactly in 2 Corinthians 9:7; but we are also given a strong example of cheerful, selfless giving in Scripture. Immediately after Jesus warned His disciples about the scribes who crave luxury and status at the expense of widows, Luke 21 records the offerings given by the rich and a widow. While the rich offered gifts from their abundance, the widow gave a mere two mites, the smallest coin denomination, worth only a penny combined (Mark 12:41). Yet Jesus declared this offering greater than all others, saying, “For all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” While the rich may have been giving around 10 percent of their earnings, the widow was giving 100 percent of her possessions. She considered money nothing compared to her devotion to the Lord.
That story is both inspirational and a little frightening if we’re honest. I know I have never given God 100 percent of what I own. I haven’t come close to matching her giving. Fortunately, our favor in God’s eyes isn’t dependent on giving all of our money. He clearly said that only by the grace of God are we saved through faith, not by our works (Ephesians 2:8–9). But the passage does bring forth an excellent truth many of us have forgotten.
God has a history of blessing those who follow His Word. One of the verses that most inspires our work at The Friends of Israel is Genesis 12:3 in which God promises to bless those who bless Israel, the line of Abraham. Similarly we can see the principle of God blessing those who give freely from their heart. In Luke 6:38 Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you…. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
This verse doesn’t promote a prosperity gospel theology. Such thinking is greedy and insulting to the Lord, as the false motives of chasing money are no justification for seeking blessing in this way. But this verse does teach the beautiful principle of a giving relationship with God. He gives to us, we give to Him, He gives back in grace, we give back in thanks, and so on.
Money is a tool, not a god. It shouldn’t enslave you to its power.
That is the best way we can possibly use our money. Money is a tool, not a god. It shouldn’t enslave you to its power. Used wrongly, it can be used to live a worthless or a dangerous life. Used correctly, it can be used to glorify God in a number of ways.
A Humble Heart
The motive for our giving is also of great interest to God. He is not impressed with loud displays of money use. He isn’t fooled by attempts to win people’s favor and humility with publicized giving. Think of the Pharisee in Luke 18. He spoke to God in what can only be described as self-praise. He announced his twice-a-week fasting and the fact that he gave tithes of all he possessed (v. 12). But he was not the one God considered justified. It was the tax collector, known as a shameful sinner in Israeli society. His job was all about collecting money, and many in his position would unethically take more than what was required to pocket extra money for themselves.
But money wasn’t on his mind in this instance. His appeal to God was much more sincere, as he stood “afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’” (v. 13). Jesus said, “This man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 14). He valued the tax collector’s offering of a sincere heart more than the Pharisee’s act of drawing attention to his righteousness through giving and fasting.
A Generous Heart
Proverbs speaks extensively about the role of money while contrasting those who serve money with those who view it properly. Proverbs 1:19 shows the danger of chasing money: “Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it.” On the other hand, using money in a charitable and selfless way not only refreshes the recipient but blesses the giver, too: “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself” (11:25). Wisdom is found in the generous heart, not the greedy one.
Wisdom is found in the generous heart, not the greedy one.
Undeniably, we need money to survive. It’s necessary for health and safety. But many of us have been blessed with the means to make more—sometimes significantly more—than is needed for the basic essentials. Regardless of how much we make, Proverbs 3:9 instructs us to give Him our earnings first and foremost: “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.”
Here are a few ways to use money to please God.
Give to the church—Offering our money to the Lord by supporting our local church can do many things. Specifically, it can keep the lights and heat on in the building, allow the church leadership to devote its maximum efforts to keeping the church effective and God-glorifying, and ensure that church activities are provided the necessary resources, such as curriculum for Sunday School classes and small groups. Apart from discipleship ministries within the church, money can go toward outreach and evangelism programs to reach people with the gospel outside of the church.
Give directly to missionaries—This might also be accomplished through church giving, but giving to missionaries is incredibly impactful to worldwide evangelism. People from every nation and land need to hear the Word of God and understand how the Lord can change their lives. Whether through your local church or through a direct relationship, you probably know a number of missionaries serving in distant countries who depend on the support of God-fearing Christians to continue their work. You can be part of that incredible effort through your giving.
We forget about those whose basic needs are neglected. It’s within our ability to use our money to help these people, too.
Help those in need—Sometimes in our zeal for preaching and teaching, we forget about those whose basic needs are neglected. It’s within our ability to use our money to help these people, too. People suffer homelessness, starve, battle addictions, endure tragedy and loss, and deal with a host of other terrible situations we might not acknowledge through our lack of such difficulties. You might not see such people often, but meeting these needs, even in part, can help change lives and be done with an eye on spiritual regeneration in addition to physical restoration. This goal was critical to Jesus’ ministry, too. He made a habit of meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of outcasts (lepers, paralytics, demon-possessed people). In Matthew 25 Jesus spoke about how He would bless those who would meet physical needs, saying, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me” (v. 35–36). He said the righteous would ask when they did these things for Jesus, and He replied, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (v. 40).
To view money in a God-honoring way, let’s dwell on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money].” As you realize that more money does bring more problems and that cash seems to rule the world around us, remember that money is not our master. We serve the Almighty God, and He is a far more rewarding, loving, generous, providing, protective master than money. It’s our responsibility to use the money He has given us for causes and with intentions that honor Him and demonstrate our trust in Him.