by Michael Kelley
When you look back to the recorded teachings of Jesus in Scripture, you find a surprising number of references to the subject of personal finance. That’s not because Jesus wants our money; it’s certainly not because He needs our money. It’s because Jesus is after our hearts, and He knows that the clearest window into what we truly love, desire and pursue is visible through our bank statements.
Think about it – Jesus could have set up anything as the primary competitor to God in our lives. He could have easily said something like, “You cannot serve both God and power,” or “You cannot serve both God and sex,” but instead He chose money:
“No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money” (Matthew 6:24).
Paul echoed this sentiment in 1 Timothy 6:
If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
If that’s true, and we want to align our hearts with God and the gospel, then it stands to reason that we should be aware of the potential idolatry that comes from the love of money. That awareness ought to make us cautious. Very cautious. And instead of simply waiting to see how much money we earn and what potential temptations come along with it, we should take an active role in guarding our hearts from the love of money. Here are three ways we can do that:
1. Give it away.
Simple enough. If we want to guard our hearts from the love of money, then giving money away ought to be a regular part of our lives. There is no greater antidote to greed than the regular practice of disciplined generosity. But how much should we give? I personally resonate a lot with the thought of CS Lewis on the subject:
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
2. Discipline your leisure.
I have found the love and desire for money creeping in most frequently when I think about my leisure time. When I’m not working, or going, or whatever, I have the time to think about what I wish I was doing if we only had more money. By logic, then, I ought to have a disciplined approach to leisure time. There are all kinds of things we can be involved in that don’t cost a lot of money. Reading, exercise, conversations – these are all things that, if we find satisfaction and rest in them, that can curb our longing for those activities of luxury that cost money. And if our appetite for those activities are curbed, then we are guarding our hearts against loving the money they will cost to do.
3. Teach your kids.
I have consistently found as a parent that I learn at least as much about a subject that I teach my own children when I am trying to teach them. If, then, regular conversations about managing money, generosity, saving, and frugality are part of our regular rhythm at home, then I am preaching to my own soul as much as I am to our children.
Through teaching them about the true use and danger of money, I am also reminding myself of those same truths.
4. Remind yourself that you are rich.
This is one of the places where the gospel truly and deeply intersects with our money and our contentment with what we have. We have the misperception that contentment is akin to settling for less. It means learning to settle for having only 2 shirts in your closet. To live on only 10% of your income. To eat only bread and bologna. You learn contentment, then, by intentional deprivation.
That’s not all wrong, but there is a missing component in that philosophy. The missing component is the truth that we are not, in reality of the gospel, settling for anything. Rather, we are rich with every spiritual blessing in Christ. The reason we can do with two shirts instead of seven and give away our money and eat the groceries in the pantry is because the true fuel of contentment is not settling for less; it’s recognizing that regardless of how much we have or don’t have materially, we are rich in Christ:
Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One (Eph. 1:3-6).