There once was a wealthy farmer. He had hundreds of acres, dozens of servants, and two pre-teen sons. One day, a neighbor stopped by the man’s house to chat. Seeing, in the field, the farmer’s own two children sweating beneath the towering shadows of the grown servants, the neighbor rebuked the man. “Shame on you” he said. “Your kids shouldn’t be out there. You’ve got plenty of servants to work your fields and raise your corn.” To which the wise farmer replied, “I’m not raising corn. I’m raising boys into men.”
My wife and I began an exercise with our son this week that some people, like the farmer’s neighbor, might think odd. We started giving…
…our kindergarten-aged son, Sam, an allowance. We did not do this because a five-year old needs money. We did it because he needs to learn stewardship. Men do what they learn as boys.
Giving our son a few dollars each week is a small price to pay if we can teach him the priceless lessons of honoring God, sharing with others, and being fiscally responsible. With debt at an all-time high in the US, there is a swelling tide of fiscal irresponsibility whelming up against his generation. If our kids are not shown how to handle money, the world will gladly show them how to mishandle it.
In preparation for this great stewardship experiment, I gathered up four small, plastic bowls. I labeled each one. There is a bowl for: #1. God, #2. Give, #3. Save, and #4. Spend. These basic money categories are good for five-year olds and fifty-year olds.
So, whether you’re looking to teach your kids or you simply find yourself wrestling with money, here’s a crash course in Stewardship 101.
#1. GOD: “Honor the LORD from your wealth …” (Prov 3:9)
God comes first. He should come first in our thoughts, in our faith, and in our finances. It is an insult for a believer, who has a regular income, to give nothing back to God. He is our generous Father and we are to be His generous children. The most important issue, however, is not the amount we give, it is the attitude by which we give. God said,
“Each one must give just as he has purposed in his heart…God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7)
Granted, the more a person gives, the more faith it reveals and the more room it leaves for God’s blessings.
“He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Cor 9:6)
Above all, be sure your heart is right. Avoid the debtor’s mentality. We don’t give our offering to pay God back. In a thousand lifetimes we could not replenish even an ounce of what He has given us in Christ. Instead, give as an act of obedience, gratitude, and worship.
Grudge givers say, “I have to.” Duty givers say, “I need to.” But, thanks-givers say, “I get to!” Be a thanks-giver with each and every paycheck (or allowance).
A great place to begin is with 10%. We have a wonderful Old Testament pattern for giving this way. It’s also a simple portioning that even kids can understand.
Once you’ve established a sacrificial percentage, make plans to give it regularly. Instead of looking to your checkbook and asking, “What can I give?”; look, instead, to Calvary and ask, “What should I give?” Refusing to honor God in this is a step towards dishonoring Him.
“You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you the power to make wealth…” (Deut. 8:18)
#2. GIVE: “He who is generous will be blessed…” (Prov 22:9)
Our Lord plainly stated,
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
The Scriptures are chocked full of calls for the people of God to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and house the homeless. While the church is the primary place that we give, it should not be the only place. Proverbs 19:17 says,
“One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord.”
Wow! God uses our giving to bless others while He simultaneously blesses us.
Find a person or organization in need and make plans to give to them. Whether you like to support the IMB, NPR, DNC, GOP, PBS, NCAA or any other organization (acronym not required) believers should have other outlets, than just the church, for giving.
It is not about doing man-centered philanthropy. It is about doing gospel-centered generosity. As Johnny Hunt has said, “You are never more like Jesus than when you give.”
#3. SAVE: “Whoever gathers wealth little by little will increase it.” (Prov 13:11)
God is not against riches. In fact, He Himself is quite wealthy, isn’t He? To be sure, though, He wants us to be prudent with our money. He instructs us to make provisions for the future. He tells us,
“Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways…[she] gathers her provisions in the harvest.” (Prov. 6:6, 9)
Rather than running up the credit card or financing everything, learn how to delay gratification. We should always be careful about getting into debt,
“The borrower is the servant to the lender.” (Prov 22:7)
Learn patience. Learn contentment. Learn to save.
Of course, to the other extreme, we should avoid being miserly, stingy, and greedy.
“A stingy man is eager to get rich and is unaware that poverty awaits him.” (Prov 28:22)
In the end, stinginess and greed are not issues related to how much money we save. They are issues related to our heart, or why we save.
Check your heart before God, then save accordingly.
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…” (Prov 13:22)
#4. SPEND: “God has given riches…to enjoy…this is the gift of God.” (Eccl 5:19)
Having said all of this about giving and saving, there is also much to be said about spending. God wants you to enjoy the fruit of your labor. God told Adam in Genesis 2:15 to tend, toil, and work the garden. In the very next verse He said,
“From any tree of the garden you may eat freely…”
Eating follows working. When we work and earn a paycheck, we can, and should, feel good about what we’ve done and celebrate.
Of course, we should avoid certain excesses. We must avoid frivolity,
“He who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty.” (Prov 28:19).
We must avoid gluttony,
“He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” (Prov 21:17).
We should also avoid undue luxury,
“Luxury is not fitting for a fool.” (Prov 19:10)
With these cautions in mind, however, 1 Timothy 6:17 (written specifically to the rich) says that
“God…richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”
God wants you, not only to spend money on your bills and mortgage, but also on your family, hobbies, your home, food, and life. We honor the Creator by enjoying the bounty and blessings of His creation. All of His gifts, though, should cultivate our appreciation of the Giver, not the gifts themselves. Don’t spend money as usual. Spend money as worship.
In the end, money matters. It matters to God what we do and what we don’t do with it. Whether you use bowls, envelopes, or financial software be sure that these four categories are in your financial dealings. It is a heavenly prescription for your earthly portfolio.