God’s goal for our financial life is that it would be driven by the grand call of his kingdom, not by personal need and provision. When we reverse that order, we never end up celebrating God’s generosity and committing to a generous life. If, with our money, we start with ourselves, we will never escape the endless needs, wants, and demands we place on our money. Our money will be dominated by self-focus, and we’ll try to somehow squeeze God into the plan. We will seek our welfare and hope we have something left for his kingdom, instead of seeking his kingdom and believing that as we do, he will faithfully provide.
This is not a call to quit paying our bills and to stop buying groceries. Rather, it is a call to examine our financial lives and make sure that we have the order right. Second Corinthians 5:14–15 tells us that Jesus came so that those who live “might no longer live for themselves.” Since the DNA of sin is selfishness, the huge money temptation we all face is that our thoughts, desires, and decisions about money will be dominated by what we want, what we think we need, and how we feel at the moment. You could argue that the sole reason that money is a problem for any of us is the selfishness of sin. And you could further argue that this side of eternity, when it comes to the use of money, the kingdom of self will always compete for our wallets with the kingdom of God.
Like everything else in life, we need more than a set of sound financial principles and rules. What we really need is rescue and surrender. We need to be rescued from ourselves by a powerful and gracious Savior, and we need to surrender to his wise and loving plan for us and our money. We can’t be satisfied with a better budget that has a line item for a tithe if that budget continues to be driven somehow, someway by self-interest.
A New Paradigm
We need a brand-new way of thinking about money, a way that is rooted in the gospel story and its narrative of the lavish grace of God, most powerfully pictured in the amazing gift of the Lord Jesus. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God frees us from our bondage to ourselves (in terms of money, that means always starting with our interests and concerns) and he frees us to find our identity, meaning, and purpose in him. He calls us to embed our personal money stories in the larger generosity story of Scripture. This means resting in the fact that he has committed to provide everything we need (not want) and accepting that he calls us to be part of his mission of grace. So we view our money not primarily through the lens of personal provision, but through the lens of God’s generosity mission on earth.
Isn’t this exactly the kind of fundamental shift pictured in Ephesians 4:28? Read these words carefully: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Notice Paul doesn’t say, “. . . so that he will have a more legal way to provide for himself.” The shift is from stealing (self-focused) to working in order to be able to give (God- and others-focused). The self-centered thief is not meant to become the self-centered worker. God’s grace is radically transformative and has the power to free us from viewing money as our means to get and begin to see money as our means to give.
The money he provides for us is a means of making his invisible generosity visible. We become the physical representatives of his generous, providing grace. We become the hands that bring real help to those in need. We become one of the primary means God uses to fund the work of his generous kingdom of love and grace. That check that allows a husband and wife to spend a needed weekend together away, or that gift that sends a young person on a missions trip, or that gift of someone’s annual college tuition, or the money to buy groceries for a mom and children who are suddenly without a husband, dad, or income are all ways we participate in God’s mission of goodness, generosity, and grace
Shouldn’t the lavish blessings we have received become the blessing that we willingly and freely give?
In the same way that God gives you rationality so you would know him and emotions so you could love him, he gives you money so that you will have an actual physical means of passing on the beauty of his generous grace. When it comes to our finances, God calls us to stop beginning with ourselves and hoping there’s money left for him and to willingly accept that the main purpose for our money is to fund lives of generosity in worship and service of him. Shouldn’t those who constantly acknowledge the incredible generosity of the Lord be the most joyfully generous community on earth? Shouldn’t the lavish blessings we have received become the blessing that we willingly and freely give? Shouldn’t our celebrations of affluence be transformed into lifestyles of generosity?
May God, in faithful grace, continue to liberate us from our bondage to us, and in so doing, liberate our wallets from their bondage to self-focus—freeing us, with our money, to represent our generous Savior well.
This article is adapted from Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts by Paul David Tripp.
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