Jesus says that money matters. In fact, 11 of Jesus’ 39 parables are about money. In Luke’s Gospel 1 in 7 verses mention money. Why is the Bible so much more upfront about money than we are?
We live in a world obsessed with wealth. Advert after advert tries to convince us that our lives are not good enough – but if we only buy this product, we can be the person we want to be and live the life we want to live.
For many, the key question in an election is ‘has this government made me better off than I was before?’. For many of us, the basic task of earning, saving and spending well occupies a huge amount of our time and energy. This is quite understandable, but surely it’s not what we want?
We don’t talk a lot about money at St Mary’s – we don’t even take a collection in most of our services. In almost every survey I have ever seen looking at the impressions people have of the church, ‘they’re always after your money’ comes in the top 10. And we don’t want to reinforce that impression. That’s why we’re pretty hesitant to talk about money.
But money matters. Jesus says:
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
He says this in Matthew 6, talking about our natural tendency to get obsessed with the here and now. We, just like Martha in the story of Mary and Martha, get distracted by all the things that have to be done and miss the thing that is most important.
Your bank statement is not just a neat factual document to be filed away or ignored (depending on your bank balance). Your bank statement is a diagnostic tool to help you discover the state of your heart. Our bank statements show how we spend our money – it tells us how we’re investing our heart. They show what we care about.
Go home: look at those boring, detailed documents – what’s the diagnosis?
- Does my spending show that I care more about myself than others?
- Does my spending show that I care more about the things of this world than eternity?
Jesus offers to set us free from this enslavement to the rat race – the earn-it, spend-it, borrow-it, spend-it, earn-it, repay-it, save-it, spend-it, borrow-it, spend-it, earn-it… and on and on.
Jesus wants to set us free, not from money, but the love of money. The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy:
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Money is dangerous – as all powerful things are. Paul warns us that it can lead to physical disaster and can even drag people away from trusting in God.
We must take precautions – we can do great good with our income, or we can let it ruin us. We can ask God for the wisdom to see money for what it really is. In Ecclesiastes we read:
Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
Money will never satisfy, but Jesus can. He meets a woman at a well and promises her:
“Those who drink this water will get thirsty again, but those who drink the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give them will become in them a spring which will provide them with life-giving water and give them eternal life.”
One of the symptoms of that freedom is our giving. If our bank statements reveal how much we might be spending on ourselves, they can also show how much we invest in others.
This is too short a space to say everything. For more, please pick up from church the booklet entitled ‘The Grace of Giving’. You can download it here.
Why should I give?
Give because God has been generous to us
Throughout the Bible, when something particularly wonderful happens – whether it’s a military victory or a successful harvest – God’s people respond by giving to God.
The Church of England liturgy for receiving the offering reminds us where all our wealth comes from:
Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,
the glory, the splendour, and the majesty;
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you, and of your own do we give you.
Give because Jesus is generous
In 2 Corinthians 8:9 Paul explains that Christian generosity flows from Jesus’ gift to us – his whole self.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Give because it’s part of being a Christian
In Acts 2, Peter preaches the good news of Jesus and people believe. Without further instruction or teaching, we’re told that they shared everything and, when someone was in need, the others gave. Some sold what they had so that they could give generously. One of the ways we express our family commitment to one another is in financial and practical generosity.
Give because there are important things which need money
Turning on the news, we are confronted with the reality of many people across the world who do not have what they need to survive. But as Christians, our view of the world comes into particularly sharp focus.
There are many in our world who do not know about Jesus. A significant part of Christian giving funds Gospel ministry: enabling men and women to tell people about Jesus. One of the things we do at St Mary’s is to fund ministry outside the church to benefit the wider community and enable people to hear about Jesus.
How much should I give?
It’s between you and God
There is no set amount. For the Israelites living in the promised land, there were certain commitments – ‘tithes’ – where a Jewish family would give 10% of their income to different things. Some Christians use this as a baseline guide.
At St Mary’s, only the treasurer will know about your giving – and that’s just so they can fill in the right forms for the tax office. No one has the right to judge you on what you give and no-one else will know. Don’t forget the poor woman who had just one coin – she put in more than everyone else, because it was all she had. (Luke 21:1-14)
Give what you can gladly
As explained above, our attitude to money is about the heart, not the bank balance. God wants our willing and joyful offering: take a look at 2 Corinthians 9:7.
There’s a story of a minister who accidentally put a £50 note into the collection at church. He whispered frantically to his wife, “Get that plate back! I meant to put in £5 but I put in £50 instead!” To which she replied, “Don’t worry dear, God will count it as £5.”
Give deliberately and sacrificially
For giving to be truly generous, it needs to have an impact. It’s easy to treat giving as an optional extra – giving from what’s left over at the end of the month. But if your budget is as tight as most of ours, you’d rarely give anything. Instead, think and pray as a household about how much you want to give and set it up to leave your bank account early in the month.
Churches always need money, but that’s not what this is about.
Instead, please consider this a plea to rethink your own relationship with money. We have an opportunity to express our freedom from the monetary hamster wheel and to give to what we’re passionate about – people coming to know Jesus.