Attitudes toward money can be curious. We all would like to have more of it. Many of us envy those with more than we have, especially the so-called “uber-rich.” Some people complain it’s unequally distributed, and something should be done about that. And yet, if someone asks about our money – how much we earn, how much we have saved, or what our net worth may be – they’ve trod on taboo territory.
We can talk about money so long as we don’t encroach on someone else’s financial turf. The green-eyed monster of jealousy for what others possess can suddenly turn into the green rage of, “My money is none of your business!” In church, whenever the pastor introduces the subject of money in a sermon, many of us reflexively reach for our wallets. “It’s mine!” we think defensively.
It seems to be a universal tendency, regardless of whether one is near the top of the economic strata or the bottom. A frequently cited story recounts a news reporter’s interview with a fabulously wealthy industrialist. At one point the reporter asks him, “How much is enough?” To which the rich man replies, holding his thumb and index finger slightly apart, “Just a little bit more.”
To be honest, I’ve been among those inclined to safeguard my wallet – figuratively if not literally. After all, I spent many long hours earning my money. Shouldn’t I be the one to decide how to use it?
I was convicted about this recently while writing an article about a highly successful and wealthy professional man who died a couple years ago. As I interviewed family members and friends about his legacy, I learned he was extremely generous with his time, talents, and yes, with his financial resources.
In fact, after the man’s passing, his daughter found a sheet of paper in his wallet. On it he had written two Bible passages he had carried for years. They highlighted what the Scriptures teach about money. Both were from the Old Testament, but seemed as fresh and relevant as the eggs Henrietta Hen laid today.
One of them was Deuteronomy 8:17-18, which says, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”
The other was 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, as paraphrased in the Living Bible. The passage declares, “Yours is the mighty power and glory and victory and majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is Yours, O Lord, and this is Your kingdom. We adore You as being in control of everything. Riches and honor come from You alone, and You are the Ruler of all mankind; Your hand controls power and might, and it is at Your discretion that men are made great and given strength.”
These verses concern more than our wallets and bank accounts, but they affirm a simple truth: God owns it all. Everything. One hundred percent. He just graciously allows us, as stewards, to manage resources He entrusts to us.
This is why debates over the tithe in essence are moot. We often hear folks questioning whether the Old Testament teachings about the tithe apply to us since we’re living under grace, rather than law. Even if we concede the validity of tithing in principle, many of us then ask, “Do we have to literally tithe 10 percent?” And if so, “Do we tithe on our gross income – or the net?” Giving, no matter the amount or percentage, is essentially returning to God what He already owns.
I don’t have the spiritual gift of giving, which I believe means God continually giving some people unique opportunities to distribute His money. He shovels it in as fast as they can shovel it out. But over the years I’ve learned giving is about perspective.
Suppose some wealthy person comes to you and says, “I want you to manage some of my finances.” Whether you know anything about that or not is beside the point. What matters is what he or she says next: “Here’s the arrangement – all I expect is 10 percent back. You can keep the other 90 percent, every penny, to do with as you see fit.” Wow! Talk about a good deal!
To make this proposal more tangible, suppose the rich individual entrusted you with a million dollars and only required that you do your best to bring about a good return. He or she gets $100,000 plus whatever gains you can generate, and you get to keep the remaining $900,000 plus investment proceeds on that. If you know of anyone interested in making that kind of deal, tell them I’m available.
The good news is this: We already can know someone like that. His name is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides. I’m not talking about the so-called “health and wealth gospel.” Nowhere does the Bible say, “God wants you to be rich.” At least not in a material sense. But Jesus did affirm, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10). If we demonstrate faithfulness and diligence in using what God entrusts to us, don’t be surprised if He entrusts us with more.
In fact, this is the message in the last book of the Old Testament. God offers the promise, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this…and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:10).
In the four Gospels, Jesus spoke as much – or more – about money and material possessions than any other topic. He explained why: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). As we see so often in the Scriptures, God is as much concerned with our motives as He is with our outward actions.
So, whether we tithe or not, gross or net, that’s a matter solely between us and the Lord. But recognizing that all our material resources, whether much or little, truly belong to Him – and that we’re only stewards of what He’s given to us – will revolutionize our attitudes toward money.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.