While many Christians want to be more generous with their giving, they can be faced with an internal struggle that wars against the idea of dipping into their hip pocket. Alex Cook (one of Vision’s resident financial planners) helps unpack what are the three barriers that hold people back from giving generously and reaping the eternal rewards that comes from a giving mindset.
What we do with our money has eternal consequences
Sermons on money are not the easiest to digest. They can provoke a variety of responses in us; guilt, suspicion, regret and sometimes even anger. Now, not every sermon given on the topic of money has been biblically faithful, so there may be good reason to question the teaching received on the subject. However, no matter what teaching you have been exposed to, it is difficult to dispute the fact that after the Kingdom of God, Jesus spoke more on how to handle money and material wealth than any other life issue.
To understand why, Jesus provides an important clue when He unpacks the meaning behind His unorthodox parable of the Unjust Steward (see Luke 16:1-15). In the parable, a steward finds himself about to be fired because of his mishandling of his master’s portfolio. Concerned of his future employment prospects, the steward decides to make friends with his master’s debtors by significantly reducing the debt owed. Before we conclude that Jesus is advocating for employees to steal from their employers, He makes a profound statement to His disciples when challenging their attitude to money and giving generously.
Jesus then goes on to confront the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, for their hidden love of money over the things of God by stating in no uncertain terms:
What then should we make of the strong exhortation Jesus gives His followers to put God first in all things as demonstrated by how we sow our money and wealth? How can we question as Jesus points out that our spiritual health is often indicated by our approach to how we handle our finances?
The New Testament writers were equally charged with the language used to warn believers about the corrosive effects an attachment to money would have on their spiritual lives. The question was not so much how much someone should give but more on the damage inflicted on our spiritual well-being when our sense of value, worth and security is found in how much money we have and what it affords, rather than our identity in Jesus Christ.
Given that what we do with our wealth in this life has eternal consequences, let us now examine what are the three things that hold Christians back from giving generously.
3 Things that hold people back from generous giving
While many Christians want to be more generous with their giving, they can be faced with an internal struggle that wars against the idea of dipping into their hip pocket. As a practicing financial planner with 20 years experience, there are three main roadblocks that stop Christians from sowing into God’s Kingdom and giving above and beyond 10 percent of their income.
Perhaps the number one factor for holding people back when it comes to giving is fear of not having enough materially. We are constantly bombarded with messages to have adequate superannuation or to provide the best for our family that we can quickly fall into the trap of thinking that God doesn’t care about our provision. In fact the exact opposite is true, as Jesus points out in the Sermon on the Mount:
When we can rest in the truth that God is our provider, we can be released to give freely of our finances. The intimacy of knowing that God is your Father and He will take care of you, will break any enslavement to finding your security in your investments, savings account, job or any other income generating activity.
You cannot trust someone you do not know and that is why spending time with God and seeking His Kingdom and righteousness is pivotal to putting your finances in their right place. When you know God and not just about Him, you can make financial decisions from a position of faith and not from fear, which can have damaging effects on your relationships, health and finances in the long run. As the Apostle Paul warns:
This year marks 10 years since the Global Financial Crisis, where millions around the world lost jobs, houses and superannuation. It is a modern day lesson in the transient nature of finances and why we should be careful to not invest all our resources (including our time) in temporary things that can so easily be taken away.
2. Lack of contentment
In a culture that is constantly telling you that your life is found in the abundance of your possessions and experiences, the idea of giving up some of those luxuries and status symbols can become a roadblock to sowing more generously. What is difficult to give away is often an indication of where your treasure lies or where your heart finds its true comfort and refuge. That is why Jesus exhorts His followers to have a light handle on the world’s possessions as they are temporary and invest in eternal riches.
Since riches are fleeting and desires for more goods can feel unceasing, you can always feel like you never have enough. Our contentment in Christ safeguards against the covetousness of the age and an overwhelming pressure to keep spending money on things that do not add value or real benefit to our lives and those around us. American author David Ramsey famously describes the cycle of constant discontentment in accumulating more stuff:
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” – Dave Ramsey, Author of ‘The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan For Financial Fitness
A more ancient warning against making money and possessions your chief delight comes from King Solomon, the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes.
When we hold Jesus as our first and foremost treasure, we can break the power of money, including the desire to be upwardly mobile. Where our consumer capitalist culture is constantly redefining what a “good life” looks like materially, by fixing our eyes on Jesus and His redeeming love for us, we can experience fullness of joy and life that is not measured by our bank balance. It is a transcendent life that protects you from all the false advertising that says you need to spend more to be satisfied and fulfilled.
3. No budget
On the treadmill of consumerism, it is easy to get into a habit of borrowing money to support an addiction to spending. With interest payments to be paid on debt outstanding, it can become increasingly difficult to have the bandwidth to give generously or at all. The Bible warns against getting into too much debt as it can become a ball around one’s neck. Proverbs puts it this way:
When you have no room to give because of the amount of debt you are in, it robs you of the spiritual benefits of giving generously. To start to free yourself from the constraints of indebtedness, you should first write down your current income and expenses. A documented budget can help you better assess areas of spending that you can cut back on and help you move one step closer to eliminating your debt. By sticking to an achievable budget, over time you will have increased financial capacity to plough into God’s Kingdom and reap the spiritual harvest from giving generously.
A new chapter
A Christian who is a wise steward with their finances will reap great eternal rewards. The early church learned this lesson for no sooner did they decide to share their property and possessions to those who had need, did God add daily to their number through salvations (Acts 2:42-43). Far from wasting money on things you do not need, or paying interest on debt that is too high or even losing wealth through a financial downturn, God’s plan for us to steward our finances will see souls saved – a reward no one can take from us.
You have been blessed to be a blessing, and to see eternal impact. Provided you do the due diligence and ensure that you are committing your finances to organisations that are supporting the Lord’s work rather than giving for the sake of it, then you can expect to see a multiplication effect. A great example of this is in microfinancing where through lending to people who are poor using low interest rate loans, people are released from their poverty and can invest in others who find themselves similarly trapped in the cycle of getting by day to day. When we start to reflect God’s generosity in our lives through our giving, then we can truly become the hands and feet of Jesus- setting the captives free by living as faithful disciples.
About Alex Cook
Alex Cook is the Founder of Wealth With Purpose. He recently sold his successful financial planning business to pursue his passion of helping people like you to take control of their finances and future.