Some of the things said in church about money should never be said. Scolding people because the church didn’t meet the budget just wears them out. Heaping on guilt if you are not a “10%-er” is just guilt, not godly conversation or even Christian encouragement. Do these words about money sound like we are running a business or like we are engaging with the work of the only God there has ever been?
Yet talking about money is important. God talks about money—a lot! So let’s concentrate here on what God says about money and, even more, on what God does in us by leading us to use money the way he commands.
Changing you to his image
To get there, let’s start here: Why does God invite you to pray? Think about it. He doesn’t need the advice. Think of the first petition of our Lord’s Prayer. His name isn’t holy because you prayed that it might be holy. His name is holy whether you pray for it or curse it.
Think of the second petition, “Your will be done.” Does he need you to remind him of this? Does he ever say, “I guess I was sort of falling down on the job, but now that you reminded me that my will should be done, I’ll get crackin’”? No! He doesn’t need your advice, well wishes, or wisdom.
So, let me ask you again, why does Jesus want you to pray this way? By nature, you pray, breathe, plot, and plan that my will be done. You are selfish by nature, but God wants you to see things differently. He has changed you from a person who is “all about me” to a person who accepts, seeks, and promotes the will of God. He has made you his child by grace and invites you to practice seeing beyond your will. He even invites you to share your perspective with him in your prayers.
Here’s another question. Why does he command you to love him? He does not need you to love him. He loves even if the world hates him. He’s God in glory, perfect in majesty, infinite and mighty. If you love him, he’s not more glorious. If you don’t love him, he’s not less glorious. So why does he command you to love him? Because he has changed you from what you are by nature—a person all wrapped up in yourself—to a person who loves, not because you get something out of it, but simply because you love.
Quick quiz: Who is it that loves without cause or without hope of reward? It is God, isn’t it? That’s John 3:16, isn’t it? His love changes you. Then in his command to love, he encourages you to be like him—to conform to his way, his image, his being. He commands you to love because that’s the way he is and he is leading you to be like him.
Breaking with self
Now we’re ready to answer the money question.
Why does God talk about money? He doesn’t need the money. He knows how to create heaven and earth and how to raise the dead! Do you think his work or his kingdom is dependent on whether you cough up another $1,000 or so?
God doesn’t need your money, but he does command you to give. Why? Because he wants to see a change in you. He has changed you with his forgiveness, and he wants to see that change from what you are by nature to what his grace has changed you to be.
God doesn’t need your money, but he does command you to give. Why? Because he wants to see a change in you.
We’re born so entangled with self that one of our very first words is “Mine!” Do any parents try to teach their children to be selfish? No! We all come into selfishness naturally. It is part of the image of Adam we bear.
But God does not intend to leave you there. He commands you to give for the same reason he asks you to pray and to love. When you give, you are breaking with self. You are following the example of the Lord Jesus and being the disciple he made you to be.
Jesus is the image of God exactly, perfectly, fully. We were born with the image of Adam: self-centered, self-willed, selfish. In each of these commands, our Lord is knocking off the barbed edges of our sinful, old, selfish image and making us into the way of his image. We are born anew, born from above, born of God, and it is the new life we live—selfless and caring for others, not selfish and caring for ourselves.
Grace and money
Let’s consider one more thing: the relationship between grace and our use of money. No one has ever become a Christian because of the size of his or her offerings, and no one has ever been ejected from the kingdom because of the size of his or her financial gifts.
But our offerings are a gift. We give them to God, to his church, to help our neighbor. You know that the classic definition of grace is “God’s undeserved love.” What is that but a gift? In fact, the word charis is the Greek word translated generally as “grace,” but it also clearly means “gift.”
The church talks about money because it’s one place we practice gifting—or can we make up the word gracing?—someone else. Earning something for yourself is an important part of life; it’s how you make a living. But to earn something for yourself and then to give it to someone else, well, do you see again how that’s just like the way the Lord Jesus was, the way he acted? He gave. He gave up what he had so that he might give it to you.
You are going to get a crown of glory. Why? Because the Lord Jesus gave it to you. It belongs to him, but he gives it. You are given eternal life. Why? Because the Lord Jesus gave his life so that you might not receive eternal death. Eternal life belongs to him by right; it is given to you by grace. You are going to get a home in heaven without want, woe, or worry. Why? Because the Lord Jesus left that home of heaven to take you from the hurt of earth and give you that home. It’s a gift.
So, when we talk about money, let’s stop talking about whether we are funding the church budget or not. Let’s talk about money and everything else the way God does. He gives. So we give. We’re born into the image of Adam. We are graciously born again into the image of God, the selfless, giving God.
So give. Give generously. It’s the way of God, the way he is, the way he acts.
Author: Jerry Ewings
Volume 108, Number 7
Issue: July 2021