By Brian Jacks
Marketplace Pastor of Christ Church
Most of us know several Bible verses that discuss the benefits of giving. We hear them during our Sunday services when we are afforded the opportunity to worship the Lord in giving our tithes and offerings.
Luke 6:38 (ESV)—Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
2 Corinthians 9:6 (ESV)—The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Proverbs 11:24-25 (ESV)—One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
The Bible also encourages us to save and responsibly take care of our families:
1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV)—But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Proverbs 6:6-8 (ESV)—Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
Proverbs 13:22 (NIV)—A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.
But, how are we to balance allocating hard-earned money between giving, saving and living? I’ve searched and I was not able to find any magic formulas. Sure, we know the Bible teaches us to tithe, or give 10% of our income and to give offerings above the tithe. But, how much more? What if we have outstanding debt? What if we want to save for education? What if we want to move into a home? What about saving for our latter days?
These are tough questions. But, they are real questions that we all face. Let’s explore.
We all have differing spending perspectives and tendencies. One person’s necessity is another person’s extravagance. Spending can be divided into three categories: needs, wants and desires. Let’s look at an example. I may need a car to get me to work. I may want the car to be new. I may desire the car to be a Lamborghini.
Just as we have differing views on our needs, wants and desires, we find ourselves in different circumstances. A college student is in a different situation than a young couple with two young children. A single mother with a modest income is in a very different place than a single mother that is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Each of us should continually evaluate our spending relative to our stage in life, position in life and our values.
How much is enough? This is a hard and thought-provoking question. ING, the financial institution, aired commercials where people were going through life holding their retirement number—the dollar amount they thought they needed to retire comfortably.
In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus shares a parable of a man that built larger barns to contain his wealth. The man revealed that his purpose was to eat, drink and be merry. Jesus called this man a fool. Saving is not wrong but his purpose and motivations were very wrong.
We have to continually evaluate our motivations for saving.
While evaluating our levels of spending and saving, how much should we give above the tithe? This is a very personal question. I wrestle with this question. But, what I’ve discovered is that wrestling with this question in prayer is good and healthy. Discuss these questions with our heavenly Father. What we know is God commended the widow that gave her all. We know that the Lord promised to take care of us so our faith should be in the Lord and not in our ability to save enough. We also know that God loves a cheerful giver. Randy Alcorn, author of the book Giving Is the Good Life, addresses this challenge:
We know a missionary family who took their retirement savings and poured everything back into the mission. I suggest that God looks very differently at these people than at the Christian who spends his money on short-term indulgences with no thought of saving for upcoming needs or providing for his family’s future. To those who seek first His kingdom, and to those who sacrificially give of their assets to His kingdom, His promise is one of material provision.1
Take time to seriously evaluate in prayer how to balance between saving, giving and living. When we seek the Lord’s advice in determining this balance, and follow up with our actions, we can walk in peace and comfort knowing we are following His guidance for our lives.
Marketplace Pastor of Christ Church
Brian D. Jacks is the Marketplace Pastor and leader of the Financial Empowerment Ministry (FEM) at Christ Church in New Jersey. For more information about this ministry, please visit: http://ChristChurchUSA.org/FEM.