“Keep your life free from love of money.”“Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor.”
“Do good… be rich in good works… be generous and ready to share.”
Christians consider the Bible to be our source of truth in matters of faith. And the Bible says more about money than it does about heaven and hell combined. Nearly half of Jesus’ teaching related to money, and there are over 2,300 verses pertaining to money in the Bible. Clearly, it occupies an important place in what we consider to be God’s inspired word. So, what does it say?In short, three things:
• All of our wealth originates from and belongs to God.
• In light of this, our wealth should be used for God’s purposes.
• God’s purpose is to restore the world to wholeness. This occurs spiritually through salvation in Jesus Christ, and physically through our service and giving to serve the poor, needy, and weak.
Implicit in these three statements is the idea that our wealth is not our own. As followers of Jesus we believe that we have been bought with a price – when He died for us, we were purchased into His eternal family, accepted and redeemed. In light of what He’s done for us, nothing but radical and total submission to His purposes would be reasonable.
Thus, our wealth is not to be used for our own goals, but rather subsumed into the greater purposes of God. Since we believe it is God who enables us to get wealth in the first place, and that we are the recipients of His great grace in our lives, our natural and joyful response is to engage in radical generosity on behalf of the Christian church and the poor.This gets expressed in a variety of ways, but a few real-life examples might paint a picture of what 21st-century Christian giving looks like in its highest and best form:
Paul’s Goodbye• Mark and Megan, in their late 20’s, are so thankful for Mark’s $50,000 bonus he earned at his law firm. Joyfully and with a great sense of purpose, they give the entire amount away toward international justice efforts for the poor, and a Christian camp they admire. They rank the opportunity to give to God’s work more highly than their own potential enjoyment of this money, including their imminent need for a home down-payment.
• Tom and Bree relocate to a poor neighborhood, despite Tom’s very high income. They read about God’s heart for the poor in the Bible, and they want to know God’s heart. They lead a Bible study for the community, and eventually welcome a family in need to stay in their home for a while, while they get back on their feet. They give a huge fraction of their income away, raising their family on the median family income out of a desire to serve the world around them.
• Greg and Alison are home shopping. They buy a house that is only about half of the value of what they can afford, because they want to be able to give generously to address international poverty and spread the Christian message of hope, and don’t want to be tied down by their mortgage. The house is less than what they’d like to have, but they’re thankful God has given them money to share with others.
The Apostle Paul stands second only to Jesus in his influence on the Christian faith. In his final goodbye to the Christian community around him, he gave them this charge:
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
He commends them to the word of God’s grace – i.e. the Christian message of spiritual salvation. And then, he tells them that he never coveted money, and goes on to charge them to help the weak and remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Why is Paul mixing up money behaviors with the spiritual message of God’s grace? Consistent with the rest of the Bible, Paul didn’t see money and spiritual matters as separable. His life, free of covetousness and fully generous, was evidence of God’s grace acting in his heart. As the well-known Christian Pastor Tim Keller says, reflecting on this passage,
“To the degree you understand the Gospel of grace, you will live a radically generous life! If you truly have a spiritual inheritance, you are going to be promiscuously generous with your earthly inheritance.”
Christian giving springs from our view of God. Because we believe he emptied himself and gave everything for us, we have no proper response but to turn around, face the world around us, and give ourselves away.
-John Cortines, 27, is the co-author of God and Money: How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School (https://www.amazon.com/God-Money-Discovered-Business-Foreword/dp/1628624078). All book royalties are given to charity. John lives in Orlando with his family and works for Generous Giving (www.generousgiving.org), an organization that can help you host a Journey of Generosity (www.generousgiving.org/smallgatherings) retreat with your friends to further explore this message. John has shared the biblical message of generosity on national radio, TV, and at conferences around the country.