Uh-oh. I know I am about to tread on dangerous ground here. If there is anything that people don’t like to be told, it’s how to handle their finances. And I get that. I know that this can be a very dangerous and tricky subject. It’s also a subject that seems to inflame a lot of passion. However, it is a subject that the Bible talks quite a bit about, and a subject that is extremely important. How we use the finances that God has provided for us matters.
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room, shall we? The fact of the matter is that many pastors and preachers have taken advantage of people who are willing to give. Whether they are “tv pastors” or local pastors, taking advantage of givers is never right, and God does not condone it nor does he bless it. We need to make that very clear right now. A pastor saying they are blessed does not necessarily equate to them being blessed. We can say whatever we want, but that doesn’t make it true.
So why do these people seem to prosper? Truthfully, I do not know. But what I do know is that every leader of God’s people will one day have to give an account of what they did with the ministry that God gave them. I am reminded of the Apostle Peter’s words in 1 Peter 5:2-3: “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock…” One thing is very clear from that passage: leaders DO NOT have the right to take advantage of “the sheep” in any way.
The New Testament repeatedly talks about true shepherds versus false shepherds. Jesus addressed it, and so did many of the writers of the New Testament. The unfortunate reality is that there are people out there who take advantage of certain situations in order to make money. This is why Paul tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” This does not exclude pastors or anyone else who is in authority. Anyone can be ruined by the love of money, and it can be an idol in anyone’s life.
But this is why it is so important to give. What do I mean? Well, simply this: if money can ruin the life of anyone, that certainly does not exclude you or me. We can be just as ruined by the love of money as the “leaders” who take money appropriated for the gospel, and use it for themselves. Paul said that “God loves a cheerful giver”, and there is a reason for that. Giving your money requires sacrifice. It requires you taking the thing that can have the biggest impact on your life, and surrendering it on the altar of God. We don’t do this because our pastor tells us we should, or even to be blessed. We do this because God requires it, and it shows our complete devotion to him.
In the church me my wife and I pastored in Philly, I always reminded people that the giving of their finances was not to me, but to the service of the kingdom and to God himself. Easy for me to say, right? Well, not so much. My wife and I rarely took money from the church, and we certainly were not financed by the giving of the church. The point still stands. The first thing we must remember about giving is that we are not giving to a person or even a ministry, but rather to God himself. If we remember that it will always cause us to give with the right attitude.
Our attitudes when we give are just as important as the act of giving itself. It is possible for you to give a thousand dollars, and it be rejected by God because you gave with the wrong motives and attitude. Meanwhile, someone else can give just a few dollars and have the full blessing of God on their lives. The second thing to remember when giving is that the amount you give is not nearly as important as the attitude with which you give. Jesus’ example in Mark 12:41-44 makes that very clear.
The widow that he observed in that story gave everything she had, and she did it with a willing heart. Meanwhile, the rich people gave more money, but they gave out of their abundance. They had the money to give, and because the ritual of the day required them to give, they made an excessive show of it. Jesus said that the poor widow was more blessed than anyone else who gave that day. Why? Because she gave with the right motives. Our motives say much more about us than the amount we give.
Jesus said that our treasure would reflect where our hearts truly are. It can become so easy for us to get caught up in the grip of money. Satan used all the kingdoms of the world and their treasures to try to entice Jesus to bow to him. The devil knows the hold that money tends to have on all of us. However, when we remember that we are really giving to God, and that we should do so with the right attitude and motives, then giving becomes an act of sacrificial love instead of a drudgery. It sounds cliche and maybe a bit cheesy, but how can we withhold our money from the very One who laid down everything for us?