Everyone has money, even if just a little. Everyone has stuff, even if not very much. None of us want to lose our money or stuff; most of us wouldn’t mind having a little bit more.
So what does it look like for a Christian, a follower of Jesus, to handle the things of this world? What does God expect of us? How best do we honor Christ through how we handle money and other tangible resources?
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” (Psalm 24:1-2 NIV)
I believe there is one fundamental realization upon which we must build our practices of discipleship in this area: everything belongs to God. All the money in your pocket and in your bank account belongs to God. All the electronic devices within your grasp belong to God. All the coal, oil, gasoline, and wood that you use to heat your home, power your car, and mow your lawn – these all belong to God. All of it belongs to God!
We are simply stewards of what God has entrusted to us.
Abraham realized this, I believe, when he returned home after rescuing his nephew Lot and defeating several neighboring kings in the process. Abraham’s encounter with the mysterious Melchizedek features an important biblical truth: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19 NASB). Only then did Abraham, apparently spontaneously, give Melchizedek a tenth of everything, thus forming the basis for our practice of the tithe. (See Genesis 14:17-20.)
The tithe, a basic standard in which one gives ten percent of one’s income to the church, is a time-honored practice and useful indicator of spiritual health. When we tithe, we acknowledge the truth that everything we have belongs to God, and we owe our very existence to him. Living on the 90% that remains after the tithe is, truly, a blessing. Do you tithe regularly? Is that part of your spiritual lifestyle?
God isn’t interested in pure numbers, though. Once, when Jesus watched people putting money into the temple offering plates, he commented that a poor widow’s two tiny coins were worth more than many rich people’s large gifts (Mark 12:41-44). It could have been that those rich people were giving a tithe of their income, or even more than that. But the one who was applauded by Jesus was the one who acknowledged that everything she had belonged, quite literally, to God.
So let’s assume that you tithe or that you are working toward tithing, toward giving a tenth of your income to the Lord. What do you do with the rest of your money? What do you do with the rest of your stuff?
Have you met someone who needs a hot meal or a new pair of shoes? Do you have a friend whose car is broken down and needs repairs? What about the struggling family whose son is growing into the size of clothes that your boy just outgrew?
How much of your money is going toward junk food, carbonated beverages, tobacco, or alcohol? Are you saving for the future? What kind of (and how much) debt are you in, and are you making progress on paying it off?
If God were to audit your books (those entitled “My Money” and “My Stuff”), what would he find?
One of the surest signs of spiritual health is the wise, God-honoring use of material possessions. Be a good steward of what God has entrusted to you!