by Alyssa Robinson
I have trust issues. My default setting is to assume that someone is trying to take advantage of me or manipulate me in some way. My guard is always up. Don’t worry - I know it’s not a healthy trait, and I’m working on it. But this means preaching to me is really hard, especially when it comes to money.
Talking about money makes us uncomfortable, and it’s understandable! Dealing with money is stressful. According to a recent CNBC article, 87% of Americans say inflation is driving their stress, and 40% of U.S. adults say that money has affected their mental health. As of 2021, the average American has $90,460 in debt, including all types of debt, from credit cards to personal loans, mortgages and student debt. I know I’m one of them (I’m a little above average, but I’m an overachiever). It’s stressful!
With all of this money-stress building on a daily basis, I understand why we get frustrated when the church wants to talk about money. Usually when we seek Sanctuary we’re looking for a word of hope, encouragement, or comfort. Maybe when the offering plate is passed or the pastor says a word about giving, your hackles go up. Sometimes the entire sermon is about money and giving! I’ve had congregants tell me they choose not to come to church when stewardship season rolls around.
I’ve definitely felt the discomfort of money-talk in church. I suspect it goes back to my original statement. I have trust issues. It’s not a distrust of the church for me; it’s a distrust of the way I’ve heard some people teach about money. Sometimes it feels manipulative.
Here are some manipulation tactics I’ve experienced:
- Jesus spoke about money more than anything else. In his parables, 11 out of 39 are about money.
- The more you give, the more you receive. God will reward you for your generosity.
- The more you earn, the more you can give. The best way to help others is by accumulating wealth.
Have you ever heard any of this from the pulpit or in a Bible Study or church financial course? These teachings are dangerous because they’re half-truths. It’s easy to spot outright lies, but when elements of truth are mixed in, it gets complicated.
I think it’s because we want to believe it. I want to believe that Jesus laid out straightforward instructions for me to manage my finances. I want to believe that God will reward me with material wealth when I give. I want to believe prioritizing profits and earnings makes me a better person because I’m in a position to help others.
Let me address these half-truths directly.
- Jesus spoke about money more than anything else.
Jesus spoke about Kingdom building more than anything else. Yes, Jesus did talk about money in 11 of 39 parables, but we can’t just look at the fact he was talking about money; it’s how he talked about money that matters. He wasn’t giving instructions on managing finances. He was using finances as an illustrative tool to teach about the Kingdom of God because money is something we all use and understand.
Dr. Yancey Arrington of Clear Creek Community Church wrote a great article explaining this distinction.
- The more you give, the more you receive.
Yes, but not in material wealth. When we are generous, it opens our hearts to be compassionate, empathetic, and connected to others. We receive God’s bounty through personal growth and relationship with God. Rev. Daniel Humbert has often taught on 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not regretfully or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” It’s about how you give, not how much! If you aren’t ready to give cheerfully, that’s okay. God doesn’t ask for gifts because God needs them. God wants a relationship with us and spiritual revival for us. Read all of 2 Corinthians 9 to learn about how you can be enriched in thanksgiving through generosity.
- The more you earn, the more you can give.
This is obviously true. I often hear the first half of 1 Timothy 6:10 quoted, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” Undoubtedly followed by the justifying speech that money isn’t the root of evil, the love of money is the root of evil. I agree with this. But if our focus is accumulating wealth in order to give more, I think we’ve missed the point of generosity. Generosity is not transactional, it’s transformational. If we’re using generosity as a platform to justify wealth, that feels like the love of money to me. Jesus taught us by example, the best way to help others is not to be wealthy, but to be present.
So, does God care about money? No! God has no need for money. What God cares about is generosity. I’m not trying to argue that you should stop donating to the church or dismiss the whole idea of giving. God wants us to be generous with our money and resources, but not because God needs the money. God wants us to love and support each other. God longs for us to share our resources, time, money, and talents with each other. God wants us to prioritize love, relationship, and generosity over wealth and finances.
Generosity is a heart decision that leads to spiritual restoration and transformation.
Check out this week’s episode of the Life + God Podcast to hear from two women, Alex Ward and Hillery Cross, who have prioritized generosity through Lovepacs Lewisville. They trusted in God to create divine restoration in our community through generosity, and God showed up! Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.