Written By Jenna Wiley, USA
“Would Jesus have a savings account if He lived now?”
“Is it wrong to still be paying on my student loans?”
“Am I supposed to give money to every homeless person begging on the side of the street? I never carry cash.”
“Does God support my *401k? Also, what is a 401k?”
“Is it a sin to go to Starbucks three times a week as long as I’m tithing?”
Living a faithful, godly life in the area of finances is something I am desperately trying to do. I give generously, but I still feel like I am doing it all wrong.
About five times a year, I decide I am going to give away all of my money to the poor. Every cent of it. I have never actually emptied out my bank account after each of these declarations, but I have given large donations and “panic offerings” in an attempt to ease the confusion I have about what to do with my money, and the guilt I feel for having it.
The Word is clear about tithing, but is that enough when I am living in a culture marked by excess? Is 10 percent the “bare minimum”, or is there a rewards club for more frequent givers? How do we choose whom we give our money to?
Shockingly, I struggle with anxiety and, specifically, anxiety related to Christianity, and doing enough. Add onto that an area where I feel lost—finances—and it pretty much results in the anxious, Christian nightmare.
I shop on occasion, travel sometimes, try not to eat out a lot, and save quite a bit of my paychecks. I give generously and often, and don’t find tithing appearing to “hurt”, as some would say. Minus the dark days (the months between graduating from college and the first paycheck from my first teaching job), I have been able to live in a blissful bubble of comfort.
Being a schoolteacher, I am by no means rich by American standards. And yet, I realize how rare it is to live as I do, in a world where billions live in poverty, wondering where their next meal will come from.
What a responsibility.
I know I should be a responsible steward of my money, but shouldn’t I also sell everything I own and give my money to the poor? How can I live practically? Am I even supposed to live practically?
Am I supposed to be saving for a house? Putting money into my retirement? (Is that the 401k thing?)
A few months ago, my trusty car began to enter the dreaded age where around every corner, a surprise repair was needed. Four hundred dollars there, two hundred here . . . it was time to make a decision about the future of my vehicular transport.
The day I went out to buy a new car was one filled with stress and anxiety as I fretted over whether I was doing what God wanted me to do or not. I wondered if I should have kept driving around in the old car and donate the money I would have spent on the nicer car to someone in need. Isn’t that what Jesus would have done?
When It Isn’t About the Money
While I feel that God probably appreciates my thought and conscientiousness in wanting to make sure I please Him in all I do, I am not sure this anxious heart pleases Him in the same way. Living like this is not living in the freedom the Lord has called me to.
This anxiety that I sometimes live with, the guilt that I carry for the life I have been given, cannot be how God calls me to live. He wants so much more for me.
Yes, I should give generously and often, jumping on opportunities to bless others every chance I get. But I do not need to do these things to be “enough” for God. I’ve got to believe that my giving and my serving, whatever the amount, is pleasing to God when it comes from a place of love and freedom through His Son.
Could it be that instead of me obsessing over the minute details and exact numbers of how much is “enough,” God simply wants me to have a joyful, giving heart?
I am beginning to realize firsthand that it is an issue more connected to my heartstrings than to my purse strings. After a lot of thought and prayer, I have started to understand that the core of my issue is this: I am missing the point of grace.
I will never be able to give or do enough.
I will never be enough on my own.
I could sell all of my possessions and live from nothing, and it still wouldn’t be enough. Not without the blood of Jesus.
And that’s where, in my journey, it stops being about money, and starts being about grace.
When I stop asking, “Am I giving enough?” or “Am I doing enough?”, then I will be able to give generously out of love for God and love for others, not because I feel like I have to earn His praise.
These possessions are not my own. This savings account does not belong to me. These are the gifts that He has allowed me to manage, and when I trust that His grace is enough to cover me when I don’t always do it exactly right, I believe He will lead the way.
My prayer is to have the heart and the eyes of God. I pray that He opens my eyes to the opportunities He places before me to give more, and a heart that does so out of love and compassion.
*401k is a retirement savings plan in US sponsored by an employer.