Serving God or Money?
by Ben Swanson
One of the most difficult areas of life to submit to God is the area of finance.
How does our relationship with God affect our spending? Does our faith impact how we save money for the future? How does our relationship with Jesus affect how we help those in need? How do we decide what to give to our faith community?
We can reverse this question and ask, “Is my money making submitted to God?” Am I working as he wants me to work? Should I strive for other things? Should I press harder for a promotion?
Are we really yielded to Jesus and his priorities in our family, in the church, in the city, and in the world… financially… in terms of both income and outgo? What does it even look like to give God the lead when it comes to money?
There are no simple answers.
I grew up with a simple answer that falls short — “the tithe.” You give 10% to the church. If you can’t give 10% because of a lack of faith or a lack of resources, then you make 10% your goal and develop a plan for how to get there. Without further teaching, this seems to imply that I can do whatever I want with the remaining 90%. So is Jesus Lord of the 10% while I remain lord of the 90%?! That doesn’t seem right.
More complex algorithms or financial plans seem like variations on this theme of remaining “in charge” of “our” finances. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). He calls it an impossibility! We need to get our finances 100% under His rule.
Because there are no simple answers, we must get comfortable with the idea of journeying in this area of life. Some of the most generous people I know do not claim to have arrived at any sort of “answer” for how much to give, to whom to give, and how hard to work for money. I know Christians downsizing their income and others upsizing their earning power.
Without simple answers, experiments must abound.
The opposition is real.
The world does not have Kingdom values. The world wants us to earn more, spend more, consume more, and never be satisfied with our material lives. There’s always a next step, a next thing to spend money on, and something more to invest in.
The world pulls us toward wanting, accumulating, and upgrading. The world tells us to start with self, get to know our desires and fears, and then let them rule.
The world does not teach contentment, generosity, or sacrifice. Because of this, allowing Jesus to rule our finances could mean sticking out, not fitting in, and not keeping up.
The time is now.
We can’t wait to submit to God financially until we gain wealth, independence or financial security. Look at your finances and ask the question, “Who is in charge around here?” The answer doesn’t change when the stakes get higher.
No amount of giving gets us off the hook of this question. We never get to the place where we can resume control of our finances. Either Jesus is Lord or we are. We’re either serving God or we’re serving money. Jesus says we can’t do both. It’s impossible.