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Am I Giving Enough For God?

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.

Why We Never Get What We Want

Written By Charles Christian, Indonesia

As a child, I was a huge fan of the Donald Duck series. I enjoyed reading the silly antics of the main characters, like the greedy miser Uncle Scrooge, his rival Flintheart Glomgold, the lazy Donald Duck, and his three clever nephews. But on top of the comedic elements, I loved the fact that the storylines portrayed everyday life.

One of my favorite stories was about a business rivalry between Scrooge and Glomgold, two of the world’s richest ducks. In a bid to secure the title of the “richest duck”, both of them set out to acquire each other’s companies. Glomgold managed to take over all of Scrooge’s companies—and vice versa. But when it was time for them to move into their new offices, they did not feel happy at all. Contrary to what they had believed, having their rival’s possessions did not bring them any happiness.

When that happened, Scrooge’s grandnephews asked this question as they discussed what had happened—a question that has remained with me since then: “How can you have what you want if what you want are [the things] you don’t have?”

It’s so true, isn’t it? Just like Scrooge and Glomgold, we’re always clamoring after things we don’t have. And that may be precisely why we’re never happy, no matter what we’ve attained. Today, I may get the things I wanted yesterday, but I’ll never be satisfied if I have a whole new list of things I want tomorrow. There is always something more. There are always more things to want.

More recently, I was struck by the words of a rich and famous Singaporean cosmetic surgeon named Dr. Richard Teo. In a lecture to a group of students in 2012, he admitted how money had become an obsession in his life. (He later died of lung cancer at the age of 40.)

Here’s an extract of what he said: “Actually, there is nothing wrong with being successful, with being rich or wealthy—absolutely nothing wrong. The only trouble is, I think a lot of us, like myself, couldn’t handle it. Why do I say that? Because when I start to accumulate, the more I have, the more I want. The more I wanted, the more obsessed I became. I became so obsessed that nothing else really mattered to me. Patients were just a source of income, and I tried to squeeze every single cent out of these patients.”

Solomon, one of the richest kings in the Bible, had expressed this same sentiment thousands of years ago: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

So how can we stop chasing after “something more”? If possessions and money cannot bring us true satisfaction, what can? Psalm 37:4 writes, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

To take delight in the Lord means to be satisfied in him; He is the ultimate source of our joy. In the practical sense, I see this as finding my worth in him and appreciating everything God has given me—every big and small blessing (and even blessings I may not be aware of!) in my life.

It has been said that, “When God is the only thing that you have, you will know that God is the only thing that you need.” If we have God, we can feel satisfied and complete even if we lose all of our material possessions. David writes in Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”

This does not mean that we must steer away from all physical or material things of the world. These still serve a role in meeting our everyday physical needs. But when we learn to take delight in God, our hearts will be purified and our desires will change. We will not crave or desire after things of this world. We’ll start desiring for things that are on His heart.

I’ve learned not to cling onto my earthly possessions, but to share whatever I have with others—because it pleases God. By God’s grace, I’ve also learned to be grateful for every blessing God gives me in life, no matter how small.

Missionary Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” May we find true satisfaction in God and long after spiritual things that are eternal. May we take comfort that God is the only one we truly need.

What Type of Spender are you?

Written By Ivan Kwananda Pangestu, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

For the most part of my life, I’ve been a real Scrooge. Having been raised in a family constantly plagued by financial difficulties, I’ve learned to be disciplined about saving money so that I could pay my school fees. I held money in high regard as it gave me a sense of security.

Along the way, however, I learned that money is not everything. God showed me that it’s not about how well I save money for myself, but about using my money wisely and trusting that He would take care of me. Over the past few years, I have challenged myself to give to charity and embarked on personal giving projects. During special occasions such as Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas, for example, I set aside a certain amount of money to give to the needy.

Of course, each of us has different ways and habits when it comes to spending money. These are shaped by our personalities, the values we subscribe to, and our upbringing.

Everything in the world belongs to God, including our finances (Psalm 24:1). He makes everything available to us and wants us to be good and faithful stewards in managing all that He has entrusted to us (Matthew 25:21). One day, our Lord and Master, the Owner of all things, will return and hold us accountable for how we managed our resources.

In order to honor God with our finances (Proverbs 3:9), may I suggest that we first identify our spending habits. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses will help us to be good stewards of the resources that God has entrusted to us. Having studied financial management, I’d like to offer some tips to the four types of spenders I’ve identified.

 

  1. The Generous Giver

Givers love to use their money to bless others. It brings them great joy knowing that their money can bring a smile to someone. They love to treat their friends and buy gifts for others, and they never hesitate to give to those in need.  

Strengths: Generosity is a noble quality. The Bible teaches us to be generous to others, just like our Father in heaven is to us (Proverbs 22:9, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7; 1 Timothy 6:18). A generous giver can be used by God to answer the prayers of the needy or to help others feel appreciated and loved. This is especially important in a world that is increasingly individualistic and apathetic to those in need.

Weaknesses: Generous givers can find it hard to save regularly and consistently because they are easily moved by the many needs around them. This can make them easy targets to be taken advantage of. In extreme cases, they might even give at the expense of their loved ones’ (as well as their own) interests.

Advice: Generous givers need to allocate their resources. Designate a specific percentage for each area, especially for important areas such as tithing, offerings, and savings, and be disciplined in keeping to it. You could budget more in the areas of giving, but don’t forget to ensure that a healthy portion goes to savings (for instance, 10 to 20 per cent of your income).  

Generous givers should also learn to be humble in acknowledging their limitations and realize when they are not in a position to help others financially. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you sensitivity and discernment to give wisely and not impulsively (Proverbs 19:2-3).

 

  1. The Stingy Scrooge

Scrooges (like me) are extremely careful and calculative when it comes to money, which makes us appear to be very stingy. Our motto is, “Every cent counts”. We are extremely precise with our money and plan right down to the exact amount we need for all our expenses (think twice about asking us to donate our change).

Strengths: Stingy Scrooges excel in budgeting and are very good in saving money. We are the best candidates to play the role of treasurer or work in finance departments to make sure that money is well spent and not misused.

Weaknesses: We are usually seen as selfish or excessively prudent. If we are not careful, money can become our idol, as we tend to place excessive value on it and rely on money more than on God. We struggle to give to others, even those who are in need.  

Advice: The Stingy Scrooge must learn to give to others, as God calls us to be concerned for the needy around us (Proverbs 14:31, 28:27). We need to recognize that God wants us to share, and to start giving sincerely to the people around us (we can start with small amounts; one step at a time).  Keep Hebrews 13:5 in mind: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

  1. The Spendthrift Shopper

Spendthrift Shoppers spend their money impulsively, splurging on their hearts’ desires with little planning or calculation. They are the favorite targets of advertisers and can be lured by discounts. Their purchases are driven largely by wants rather than needs.

Strengths: These people know how to enjoy life. They make great company to shop, travel, and go on adventures with. They never hold back and maximize every opportunity to indulge and have fun. They are always up to date with the latest sale or restaurant deal.

Weaknesses: No matter how much income they have, their finances usually run dry before the end of the month, and they rarely have savings. Spendthrifts do not think about the long-term implications of their spending. Instead, they’re more likely to be ensnared in debts, especially when they’re prone to swiping cards.

Advice: Spendthrifts need to train themselves to distinguish between needs and wants. Before buying something, ask yourself: “Do I really need this or is this just something I want?”, “Can I live without this?” Steer clear of shopping centres, especially when it’s the season of sales. Write down a detailed shopping list before you shop and do not buy items that are not in the list—even if the price is cheap. Cling onto Proverbs 21:20, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.”

 

  1. The Shrewd Spender

Shrewd spenders are careful and always weigh the benefits and risks before spending their money in any situation. They know how to use their money at the right time for the right purpose, so whatever they spend on always benefits themselves and others.

Strengths: Money is never wasted and is always used as effectively as possible. Individuals with such personalities are usually well regarded in the field of finances and their opinion is highly sought after.

Weaknesses: Such spenders may be manipulative in their use of money and not sincere in giving. They might expect results or profit from the use of their money, and may be reluctant to give if they cannot be certain about the results, especially when it comes to supporting mission work, church-planting etc.

Advice: The Shrewd Spender needs to learn to cultivate empathy. Learn to give to people you do not know well (such as giving tips, paying the bus fare for an old lady etc.) and to those who will not have a chance to give back. Learn to give to mission work even though you may not be able to see immediate results. Remember Luke 14:13-14, where Jesus teaches: “when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

 

Ultimately, let us make glorifying God and loving others our goal in the way we spend our money.

5 Steps to be Free of Financial Woes

My dad was a banker and he loved to dole out financial advice, such as “buy what you need”, “don’t spend more than you have to” and “save for a rainy day”. For him, financial independence was about having enough in your bank account so you could stand on your own two feet.

Unfortunately, I’m quite bad at keeping an eye on my finances. I vaguely know there is some money in my bank account, and if the bank has yet to ring up to chat about my finances, then I’m in the clear.

But over the years working as a reporter, I came to appreciate the value of my father’s advice after interviewing families in dire financial straits. There were some who could not afford school uniforms for their children, and others who had to scrimp and save just so they could take their kids out to the movies. I am not saying these families were in such situations because they had been irresponsible with their finances; but it did highlight the importance of being prudent with my money and ensuring that I had a bit tucked away every pay day, so that I could be free of financial woes.

And so here I am, sharing a few tips I’ve learned which I hope can help you take the first steps in achieving financial independence.

1) Save Your Pennies

For something so simple, it is quite hard to carry out. This is because I always feel the need to spend my money on just about anything the minute I see my salary deposited into my bank account. I dream of all the new books and dresses I need, and I’m immediately cheered up by the thought of being able to spend on weekend brunches and coffees with my friends.

And while it’s easier to keep tabs on the bigger spends, such as a $40 brunch, it’s the smaller items that add up. For example, I really like coffee, and I’d love nothing more than to buy a cup of coffee every morning to get my caffeine fix. However, $6 for a regular cup of mocha adds up to $30 by the end of the week. And since I don’t always pack my lunch to work, that’s another $12 that I’d spend on eating out. If I do that for five days, I would have clocked in about $100 on lunches and coffees. I could have bought myself a few new e-books on Amazon and/or a new skirt!

The Bible provides wise advice when it comes to savings: it tells us to consider the way of the wise ant, to look at how it “stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8). We’re to be like the wise ant, carefully storing away a portion of our monthly pay check. During the six months I spent job-hunting last year, I relied heavily on my savings (and my parents) to pay for my phone bills and health insurance. I also needed to dig into my piggy bank when my car returned from the mechanic’s with close to $1,000 in repair bills. Imagine the amount of debts I would have incurred if not for my savings.

These days, to stop myself from overspending, I’ve reduced my credit limit by half and set up an automatic payment to have a small portion of funds funnelled into a different bank account on pay day. Out of sight, out of mind.

 

2) Be a Good Steward

“Money isn’t easy to earn, so do make sure you think long and hard before parting with your hard earned cash,” my dad would always say before I embarked on a big-ticket purchase. Or any other purchase, for that matter.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with a little bit of retail therapy every now and then, or upgrading your gizmos if they’re starting to look like they should be in a museum. However, as your money is a limited commodity, it does pay to carefully consider how and what you’ll invest your money in.

My dad can tell me to “buy what I need” until he’s blue in the face, but I’ve found the best way to be a good steward of my monetary assets is to view them as something that belongs to God. After all, the earth and all its fullness belongs to God (Psalm 24:1), and so do our financial assets. What that means is that we are merely managers of what belongs to God, so we are to use our money in accordance with His will.

God is the CEO of my finances, and I’m one of His financial accountants responsible for the way I spend His money. Would He—or any CEO for that matter—be pleased if I spent $2000 on a designer handbag I could not afford? And would He be happy if I forked out my money on items I don’t need, instead of saving the money or using it to bless others?

 

3) Be Faithful in Your Giving

My tithes and offerings went from a weekly donation to a fortnightly one when I was without a job for six months. And it wasn’t until I had a regular income that I started giving on a weekly basis. It has always surprised me how willing I was to cough up $20 for a movie ticket, or to buy another shirt I didn’t need, but couldn’t seem to spare the same amount for my weekly tithe and offering.

Now, I can’t tell you if you should stop your tithe and offering altogether if you find yourself in a bit of a financial tight spot. But what I can do is encourage you to be faithful in your giving, even if it seems like what you’re giving is not a lot. Remember the widow and her two mites?

It may seem like it’s taking yet another slice out of your monthly income (after taxes and various bills have been paid for). But my years of tithing have taught me that God honors those who give to Him faithfully.

 

4) Rely on God to Meet Your Needs

This is going to sound very counter-intuitive and contradictory to any financial advice you may hear about achieving financial independence.

The world may tell you to invest in various stocks, fight your way to a promotion, or clock in long nights at the office in order to get more money. And so often, we think we have to rely on ourselves to provide for our financial needs because no one else will look after us. I know exactly how that feels—I often worry about my financial future. As a writer, my salary is a lot lower than those of my friends who are accountants, lawyers, doctors, and bankers. Once I caught myself wondering, “What if I’m still barely making it at 55?”

How encouraged was I then to learn about one of the greatest men of faith, George Muller, and his unfailing trust in God to provide for his financial needs. German-born Muller moved to London to begin his work as a missionary in 1829, and was later led to start an orphanage, where he cared for more than 10,000 orphans to the end of his life.

What struck me about Muller’s story was how he never once asked anyone for money to help build his orphanage. Instead, he brought his request to God and trusted that He would provide for all his needs. How amazing is that? Now, God is not a money-genie, and He’s not obliged to make you rich beyond your dreams. But the thing is, God cares for you intimately and He promises to meet all your needs in every area of your life (Philippians 4:19). Those who fear the Lord will lack nothing (Psalm 34:10).

 

5) Seek First the Kingdom of God

Sometimes, in our pursuit to earn more money or find ways to get more dollars in our account, we can easily lose sight of what is most important—God.

It is good to have money and there is nothing inherently wrong in making sure we have enough funds to tide us through a rainy day. But problems start to arise when we idolize money and convince ourselves that we don’t have enough, and that we’d die happy if we can have X in our bank accounts.

But the reality is that we’ll never be satisfied. This is particularly true for me. When I was earning a lowly reporter’s pay, I found myself wishing, “How nice if I had that extra few thousand in my account. Life would be so much easier!” God answered my prayers and gave me a new job, which came with better pay. But again, I found myself wishing that my pay grade would go up one level!

The Bible warns us that 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” (1 Timothy 6:10). And we are advised to “keep our lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

May we never allow money woes to plague us, but instead cling to this well-known promise from Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”