Starting your first ever full-time job is an exciting time. While there is often some slight trepidation over adjusting to the rigours and routines that come with working, the biggest topic that keeps coming up amongst my friends is this: What should I do with my money, and how can I best use it?
Someone once said that girls are led away from Jesus by guys, and guys are led away by their career. But because the opposite is just as true, it is crucial that men and women alike remember and flee from the danger of gaining everything and losing Christ (Mark 8:34-37). How can we keep our attitude to our finances focused on serving God rather than ourselves?
Gospel generosity is part of the expected response of Christians to what has been given to us in Christ Jesus: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In the same way we are to be generous because God has first been generous to us. The gospel is the motivation and the goal of our generosity. We are to be, as Paul puts it, a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:6-15), so that our generosity not just supplies the needs of the saints but also demonstrates our thankfulness to God.
There are many, many ways to be generous, but I’ll just be dealing with financial gospel generosity in this article.
God has given us everything, from the air we breathe to the knowledge we have to our capabilities and job. We are able to ‘earn’ money because God has given that to us as a gift. We are, as 1 Peter 4:10 says of all gifts from God, to “use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace”. Notice how Peter encourages us to “serve one another”. Gospel generosity allows a relationship to be formed where there is mutual encouragement and service. It isn’t someone who has financial means to giving out money as a way to prop up the little guy, but rather a partnership between the two parties, leveraging off one another’s giftings. It is working together for the sake of the gospel, that it may be known, enjoyed, and promoted.
I never liked the idea of the offertory bag or plate being passed around. I always felt put on the spot; no matter the amount, I felt I had to give everything that was in my wallet. I mean, Jesus gave up his life for us and I can’t give up my lunch money? But as we moved into a cashless society, the amount of physical money I carried dwindled, along with my giving to the local church. Therefore, be prayerful and consider what would be wise for you and your family to give, and when you do your budget (which I strongly suggest you do) include your giving in there, whether as a percentage of your income or a set amount you work everything else around. There are different budgeting tools online that you can try; a quick and helpful one I’ve found is ASIC Moneysmart.
Giving via direct debit or credit card on a schedule actually saves a lot of time and resources for you and also with those you partner with. I know that some people say scheduled electronic transfers mean that you aren’t letting the Spirit guide your giving. I don’t think that argument holds much water, as the Holy Spirit guides us in our budgeting no matter how the money is given.
Primarily I believe you should be giving the most to the local church that you belong to. JD Greear puts it:
“It’s the vehicle through which we care for the poor, feed the hungry, equip people to minister in the community and send people out to the nations. When we give to the local church, we give to the central institution for the mission of God.”
Local churches exist to help encourage you, grow you and mature you and others. It is important to be in partnership with them in that work. If you aren’t willing to give to your local church and supporting its gospel vision, then there may be a conversation you need to have with your pastor about why you feel that way.
Since beginning theological college I have had the privilege to meet so many people interested in overseas mission, in rural ministries, in sharing with unreached people groups all around the world. Everyone has a good spiel about why you should support them, everyone has great ministries in need of financial resources—with so many choices it can be quite debilitating who you choose to partner with. Should you just give $5 a month to everyone who asks and top up as you go along? Or give broadly to mission organizations such as Church Missionary Society, a training organization such as Ministry Training Strategy, or a church planting organization such as Geneva Push. There are many options and combinations in this and few hard and fast rules.
A book I found helpful on this topic is called Gospel Patrons. It shares the idea of investing and partnering closely with a few rather than a lot, giving not just financial support but also prayer and fellowship. I’ve subsequently been trying to be engaged with those I support, starting with writing back to their emails.
This step requires a fair bit of wisdom and a lot of work. Get to know mission organizations and foster and build relationships with the missionaries and individuals you support.
It is a social faux pas to ask someone how much they earn. But since the false lustre of money and career will lead people away from God, it is important to have someone to keep you accountable. Find an older and wiser Christian who you trust and will be honest with you. Show them your budget, show them your financials, show them your gospel partnerships. This is not meant to be a prideful boasting session to show off your giving but rather an opportunity to allow someone wiser to help guide you to be more generous with what God has given to you.
As part of this step, find a Christian financial planner. They may be able to help you see how you can stretch your giving with their knowledge of tax laws or give you advice on how to invest to give more.
These are five simple, practical steps to take towards gospel generosity. May these words given by Paul to Timothy be an encouragement to us as we remember a generous God who richly provides for us and calls us to share that same gospel generosity for the glory of Christ Jesus:
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Tim 6:17-19)