It’s stewardship season at our church. Therefore, those of us who are preaching are bringing up topics that might be more difficult for people to hear. Everybody loves to hear a sermon about grace and love, even about the reward of serving others and using our gifts. Not so many enjoy hearing sermons about the appropriate use of money.
But we’re going there anyway. It’s a little like going to the doctor for your yearly check-up, I suppose. You have to get your blood drawn, have your blood pressure checked, and get asked questions about your physical habits. Nobody enjoys that, but it’s necessary to know if you are remaining healthy.
Jesus talked about difficult things all the time. He brought up topics that were awkward and uncomfortable. He questioned established practices and ways of thinking held up as “righteous” and “holy.” He pushed against these things and challenged the conventional way of thinking. Why did he do this? Was he looking for trouble?
No, he was our divine physician diagnosing the malignancies that invade our entire selves and bring death to our souls. But even though Jesus spoke the truth, some still chose to live with their cancer rather than go through the uncomfortable yet necessary treatment that would bring healing.
So, here we go. Let’s do a health check. Here’s your question: What does how you use your money say about you?
Now, before you start to answer this, I want to clarify something. How you use your money does not say everything about you. In other words, it’s not the full picture. Just like the results of your blood test might say that you’re not eating enough iron-rich foods, they still do not tell the full story of you. There’s more to you than that. So, approach this question gently but honestly, without defensiveness.
Perhaps your use of money would say that you like to be entertained, that you get hungry — a lot! Maybe it says that your outward appearance is a high priority for you. Maybe it says that you want your children to participate in fun, character-building activities, that your body’s health and well-being are important to you, or that you like to be surrounded by nice things that are pleasing to the eye. (My use of money also says that I’m responsible for a lot of things that like to break frequently, lol.)
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things. But as I looked over my own list, I noticed that most of what I do with my money is focused on myself. And so I began to ask further questions:
Where do I see Love leading the way in my use of money? (And where might Love need to have more say?)
Do I see any sacrifice?
Is there generosity?
Where is the “other” in how I use my money?
Deeper questions could also include things like:
How might a mindset of scarcity be guiding my choices?
How might a mindset of sufficiency — of trusting in the abundance and provision of God — change what I do with my money?”
In her book The Soul of Money, Lynn Twist shares this thought-provoking word:
“[We] express ourselves in the way we send our money into the world… [When] the mindset of scarcity and the longing for ‘more’ lose their grip, we begin to make different choices. Money becomes a conduit, a way to express our highest ideals. Money becomes the currency of love and commitment, expressing the best of who you are, rather than a currency of consumption driven by emptiness and lack and the allure of external messages.”
What is driving the use of your money? Is it unhealthy consumerism driven by a mindset of lack? Or is it driven by a desire to let money be a way to express love in the world, a way to express the best of who you are?
Many of us are in an unhealthy relationship with money. So, let’s make a plan to get healthier.
First, ask the Lord to diagnose and make you aware of where you are unhealthy. We can’t cure what we aren’t aware of. So, ask for awareness.
Next, look honestly and with new eyes at what the Lord shows you. Receive the diagnosis. Don’t ignore it. Don’t run away from it. Accept what’s true.
Then, commit to the course of treatment. Ask the Lord, What is one healthy change I can make in how I use my money? Write it down and commit to it. You might even want to write out a prayer telling God that you’re committing to this. Ask for the Lord’s help to remain faithful to your commitment.
There is much more to say when it comes to how we use and relate to money. This is a great start, though. Spend as much time on these questions and these steps as you need. And as you work through these, ask the Lord to open your eyes and make you aware of the new and beautiful ways you can use your money to serve him. How much money you have is not the issue. How you use what you have is.
I’ll leave you with one more word from Lynn Twist. Again, this is from the book The Soul of Money.
“The silent power of money culture…is one of the most blind and intractable parts of our lives. We compromise ourselves, hurt ourselves, sometimes without pause, other times putting reservations aside, rationalizing our behavior as acceptable even sensible. We complain, but we don’t question. We groan and moan, but don’t object or refuse. We feel trapped and unhappy, but we rarely take the steps that might make us free.”
I’m praying that we will all begin to take the steps that will make us free.
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”