a theology of money

You know that feeling when you get your paycheck just in time? Or when you go to the coffee shop and peek in your wallet and realize that you have enough money to get the big sized coffee WITH a special flavor added in? Or when you come in under budget and you have a little money left over at the end of the month?

You breathe a sigh of relief, your heartbeat slows, and you praise God for His tangible provision (or pat yourself on the back for your savvy saving skills).

If you know that feeling you might also know this next feeling I’ll describe.

The feeling of anxiety when you look at your bank statement and the number is lower than you expected, or when a credit card bill comes in that was higher than you anticipated, or when you consider the cost of health insurance and doctors visits and food and rent and student loans and ….

The list grows and your heart beats faster and your breaths get shorter. You feel overwhelmed and a little scared.

What is it that causes us to feel this way?

I can only write about these anxious feelings because I have felt them deeply and often. I was raised to be very money-conscious. I knew how to budget and balance a checkbook at age nine and was putting my babysitting money into a savings account at age twelve. But I have always had a little bit of a tense relationship with money.

I strongly dislike spending money. Whenever I go into a restaurant, before I even read the descriptions of the food items, I first look at the prices and limit my options to the cheapest items on the menu. When I go into a clothing store I avoid even looking at the regular-priced items and go straight to the sale section. When I go to a coffee shop to buy a drink I feel a little guilty if I get the more expensive almond milk or the bigger size (and even more guilty if I buy it and don’t finish it). I feel a dropping feeling in my stomach when I think about spending a couple hundred dollars on a concert ticket or a well-made handbag.

These feelings aren’t always present, but most often they are lingering somewhere in the back of my mind. And some of these habits aren’t necessarily bad; rather they are helpful and frugal and allow me to save money for other, more important things.

However, the feelings behind these habits reveal in me a slightly warped view of money.

Maybe you are similar to me or maybe your view of money is completely different than mine. Maybe you have a healthy view of money or maybe your view of money is skewed and you see no problem with spending money excessively on yourself.

 

Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, I’d like to challenge you to consider how the Gospel speaks into how we view money.

When we feel these feelings of comfort or anxiety in relation to how much money we have or don’t have, it reveals in us that our trust has been improperly placed.

In this life, it is easy to trust in the tangible – the things we can see.

We see our paycheck come into our bank account. We see how much cash we have in our wallet. We see the way a friend or family member comes through to meet a financial need just in time.

What we don’t see is the invisible God who is moment by moment, holding the world together and sustaining us continually. We don’t see the ways that He works in the background to provide for us day after day. We don’t see how He specifically orchestrates every detail of our lives.

Money is a tangible provision that we can see. It is necessary to live. But I challenge you to trust not in this tangible provision, but rather in the Provider who can truly meet your every spiritual need.

Yes there is freedom in financial peace, but there is even more freedom in trusting God fully whether your bank account is empty or full.

Yes there is a benefit to having a retirement fund so that you can serve God freely after you stop working, but there is even more benefit to sacrificially and regularly giving of what you have, whether your gifts are large or small. 

In the act of open-handedly holding your finances before God, you are invited to a level of trust and intimacy with Him that is so incredibly beautiful.

In the act of trusting God with the financial resources that He has entrusted to us (because ultimately all the earth is His), we are shaped more into His likeness. We are molded into believers who are trusting, sacrificial, giving, and open-handed, not only with our financial resources but also with our hearts and lives.

Sacrificial giving allows us to image our Creator, who gave to us freely in the life of His Son, Jesus.

Sacrificial giving changes us. It is a gift of grace to us to help us to trust God more.

So. I challenge you to trust God, and I mean really trust God, with your finances.

I don’t know what this looks like for you.

If money is tight, trusting God with your finances might look like breathing deeply and trusting that the Lord will provide. Be wise, yes, and spend your money well, but understand that it is the Lord, not your savings account, that is the one providing for you.

If money is plenty and you find yourself finding comfort in the number in your bank account, trusting God with your finances might look like opening your hands a little bit and allowing some of the money to slip out. I challenge you to consider giving sacrificially to your local church, meeting a need in your community, or giving to a Gospel-centered ministry.

There’s a reason why Jesus says in Matthew 6, “where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He had to work a job to make a living just like you and I do. He knows that we will be tempted to trust in the paycheck rather than the Provider.

But He also knows that the only thing worthy of treasuring is intimacy with God.

I pray for the grace to believe that the only thing in the world worth fully trusting in is Jesus. Every other thing will fail, but Jesus alone is and will be enough.

“For what do you have that you did not receive?” – 1 Corinthians 4:7

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