I’ve been thinking of money and why it’s so hard to let go of. And why does God care if we keep it or give it? The world has created an illusion that money is the most valuable asset. It determines rank, power. It gives people a voice. It demands respect. The world desires wealth.
Of course money is valuable to us. God recognizes this. Yet, He asks us to be generous and to give back. He knows that asking us to give our money away is difficult and I think this is exactly why He does it.
I envision me riding through life on my trusty steed holding the reigns. I’m in control of which direction I go and I am continuing to move forward as long as my horse is strong and capable. It’s my resource and sustainability. I tend to think of money as the horse; It’s pushing us forward, the strength and momentum under us, taking us from here to there. It keeps me elevated. But, perhaps I need to think of money as the reigns and God, the horse.
When we are willing to let go of our money (the reigns) it is telling God we are ready to let go of ourselves, our plans, and we hand Him control. Our obedience with money reveals the obedience of our hearts.
I remember the Parable of the Talents in the book of Matthew- A wealthy man entrusted and delegated valuable possessions and money to his three servants according to their capabilities. One servant made an incredible return on his money and doubled it, the second servant was given less but still doubled what he was given and the third made no return as he did not attempt investing at all. Instead, he hid his money in the ground to keep it safe for fear of losing it. Don’t most of us tend to bury our money ? We save and save and let it sit in a bank account letting it grow into our safety net . This is a false sense of security and I even wonder if it can be seen as living in fear.
The master cast away the servant who buried what he was given. He praised productivity, high return, multiplication, success. Does this mean God is a greedy God? No. Does he hold money to be valuable- not really. We see this based on how God rewarded the profitable men: authority. Yes, He gave them their harvest, but what I love about this story is how God gave them ‘charge of many things’.
Of course, this is a parable and there is deeper meaning and a deeper lesson than the obvious. Talents could signify our gifts as far as skill, knowledge, grace. Perhaps the root of it is being a good steward of what you are given. This is something else I forget- that everything good in my life is given to me. It’s easy for me to think of my pay checks as earnings, when they are really, blessings. The knowledge, the skills, the education, the money loaned to me to reach where I am is all a blessing. I’ve been allotted an amount and He is only asking for a small part; not because He needs it, but because I need to give it. Giving frees us, hoarding creates our own barricade.
When we give God the reigns (money) , we are more likely to listen to Him when he guides us with other things- more important things. I do not give because there is a lack, because I would still give if there was an abundance. Yes, God uses our money to do big things and things DO take money, but God doesn’t need money to do wonderful things. He is asking us to give because it’s good for us. It exercises a muscle that is otherwise difficult to access; it requires great trust and self-sacrifice. It requires selflessness and humility. He knows what He is asking of us. When we keep money, we’re burying ourselves, making it more and more difficult to do what God asks us in other areas of our lives. We become immobile, stuck in the misconception that money equals security, instead of putting our faith in Jesus. We gain freedom when we loosen our grip on our possessions and realize money is simply a thing. It comes and goes, we have more and we have less. It’s an exchange.
I remember the poorest time in my life, monetarily speaking. I had just graduated with my masters degree, I owed $116,000 in the form of student loans; I had a job but was waiting to be credentialed in the hospital. I had no income and this took 8 months. I was an overqualified babysitter and lived off of oatmeal and peanut butter and happy hour half-price appetizers. (I literally asked one server to bring me a piece of foil so I could wrap up my last bite of sushi for a snack later…SHAMELESS!) There was one day I could only put one gallon of gas in my empty tank because it would leave me 83 cents in my bank account. I remember thinking, ‘ this is likely the poorest I will ever be in my life’, and I soaked it in. I was empty handed, but I felt so taken care of; people had me over for random dinners, a friend loaded me up with veggies from her garden not knowing she was feeding me for a week… of course, no one knew this at the time- it wasn’t because I was too prideful to ask for money- I was actually waiting and waiting to get to the point where I needed to. But, it never came. I was never in the red. God always took care of me. I was poor, but I was still an American- never truly in a state of need. Later that year I went to Africa. I traveled with a team of Americans to the ‘bush’ and remember thinking, ‘All of these villagers are richer than I. They have no debt.’ The fact that the United States is one of the richest countries with the most debt proves to me that money is less significant than we deem. There is abundance in your poverty. And there is poverty in your abundance.
I notice in the bible that before God would do a miracle there was usually something physical that would take place before. Elijah slapping his cloak on the river before it parted. Washing oneself seven times in the water before you were healed. Jesus rubbing mud on the blind mans eyes before he could see. Elisha throwing salt in the water before God made it safe to drink. Since we are in a physical world, the physicality must co-exist with spirituality. I think giving money is similar to this; Perhaps since we are embodied, we do have to walk things out in the flesh before God can work in our lives. We are asked to step forward and trust in tangible ways , allowing room for the Holy Spirit.
Next month, Josh and I will have paid off our combined student debt of $122,000 (not including interest). I do not feel free because I have more money or less debt, but because I have gained strength, endurance, trust, wisdom, and hope that exceeds finances.
How do we know the difference between greed and fruitfulness?
Greed impedes giving. Fruitfulness feeds people. And the kingdom of God is something small that grows and gives food and rest to many. Generosity of our earthly values is a test drive for how we will steward what is most precious to God- each other.