Today’s post presents an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, it is risky, because it is not my aim for the reader to think I have a blatant disregard for financial planning. I fear that the things I want to say may come across as ideas that discourage the use of wisdom and discretion in making financial decisions. I can assure you that this is not the case, so read carefully. On the other hand, however, I am seeking to convey that I have, at times, made too much of planning and meticulous use of money.
That said, let me explain.
It has been my prayer for a while that God would give me avenues to give. I’ve spent the majority of the last twenty-two years being a moocher – people have paid for my food, my clothes, my housing, etc. Basically, I only have to pay for my insurance, phone bill, repairs to my car, and gas. Lately, I’ve found that this really bothers me, and I would love to be more of a giver. That is, I’d like to find small ways to bless other people that allow me to stop holding my money so tight.
In the Christian community, I’ve heard of such stories – I’ve heard of people miraculously receiving cash or a check so they can put gas in their car (and I’ve been the beneficiary of that in a difficult financial time, something that drove me to inconsolable tears,) I’ve heard of people giving their cars away to someone who needed it, I’ve heard of people getting checks for just enough money to cover their bills, etc. Stories like this stir my heart, because they show me that there are people in the world who don’t hold on to their things or their money as tightly as I do, and that is a large reason I want to give.
Let me again address what I said at the beginning of this post. See, like a lot of things in the Christian life, there is to be a balance to our finances. I think there is great wisdom in being a meticulous planner, making smart decisions, making a budget, etc. Trust me, I’ve done that for a long time. But my own tendency with that (and take this with a grain of salt as it is indeed my own, not universal) is that I’ll end up adhering to it with a fierce loyalty and, in the end, I hold on to the money I’ve been given too tightly.
But not with myself.
Ah! That’s the rub.
I worry about spending money on others, but I have such little problem spending it on myself on things I hardly even need! I can’t count how many times I’ve felt I should do something for someone else and end up convincing myself I don’t have the money, then I go on and buy something frivolous like a jersey, a meal out, a CD, a movie, etc. for MYSELF.
That, I am convinced, is the real problem with my money “management.” I deceive myself into believing that I don’t have money to help or bless others when, in reality, I’ve ended up spending that money on myself.
It is with that in mind that I submit to you what God has said lately: give first, ask questions later.
Hear me, here. I don’t mean give at every avenue, and I don’t mean give ridiculous sums. Live within your means. For example, I wouldn’t advocate taking a loan out for the sake of buying someone else a car (I mean, God could move, but I’m not an advocate of loans in the first place, necessarily.) If you don’t make a lot of money, think long and hard about helping people with something big. But small things? You can do that. You can bless someone with a meal. You can bless someone with a tank of gas, a load of groceries, etc.
Don’t be like me. Don’t be so stingy towards others that your number one rule in money management is: this money is mine.
Let’s be honest: it’s not yours (See Psalm 50:12.) God has given us this planet that belongs to Him, given us jobs that He ordained, and gives us money that He supplied. And that is what frees us up to give! Because no longer is the issue “will I be able to make this back? Where will I find this money?” Instead our perspective can be this: “God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7,) and He is able to supply all my needs (2 Corinthians 9:8, 10; Philippians 4:19) so therefore, I can give cheerfully and trust that my own needs will be met.”
Let me clear one more thing up here. Again, I am not advocating a life of personal frivolity. Sometimes, in order to make money available for giving, one must change our own lifestyle. Maybe that means eating lunchmeat sandwiches at work instead of ordering pizza. Maybe that means being content without buying dessert every time you go out to eat or even at the grocery store. Contentment is a big component of being a giver, I’d contend. Because, after all, one of the benefits of being a giver is that it takes the focus off of me and all of my stuff and all of my needs, and focuses on being a sower and a helper to someone else.