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Get a hold of my…Wallet.

Are you the master of your money, or is it the other way around?

I have heard it said, and I agree, that there are only 3 things a person can do with money.
 Give It
 Spend It
 Invest It

When talking about money, there is a sea of advice and opinion which can seem overwhelming to wade through.  Topics like where best to invest it, what to spend it on, buy or lease, rent or buy, how much insurance is enough, how much is wise to donate for tax purposes, and on and on.  Most of this information is good to be aware of, and much of it is even wise to practice; however, when talking about God and money, and specifically God Getting a hold of our Wallets, a more foundational issue emerges.
How do we decide how our money gets managed within these three categories?

This is a much bigger question, which will have a tremendous effect when we consider the thousands of money decisions we will make in our lifetime.  It is really a question about our understanding of money, about our attitude and posture towards money.  I hope that as we wrestle with this issue, we will get closer to allowing God to become the master of our money. 

We need to recognize where we’re standing

A basic assumption is the following: the way that we view the money we have will shape what we do with it. 
Watch this video clip and then come back…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3ivK3m8tvk  
If we see the money that we have as ours, then we will decide where it goes.  We will spend it on what we want because, we earned it with our skills, knowledge, and abilties.
If instead we view the money that we have as belonging to God and managed by us, then where it goes will be decided in an entirely different way.  I believe it will become a conversation. 

The best example I can think of is when I became married to my wife Christina.  A lot of things change when 2 become 1, and attitudes towards money is one that absolutely has to.  When we began to live together our individual bank accounts became our ‘joint’ account, and we began to plan how to spend our money together.  Everything from the long term (where do we want to be in 5 years), to the week to week (how much should we spend on groceries), to the day to day (how much can we spend without consulting each other) was discussed, debated, and settled upon.  Now, you might be under the impression that this is a negative thing, that it is giving up control…but, I’ve found the opposite to be true.  Making decisions about money together actually makes me feel better about money decisions, more in control of money.  There is a second opinion, more information, and selfish impulses are quenched.  I am more aware of where the money goes; because, we are on a plan.  My money has become our money and it’s management has become a conversation.   

My money has become our money and it’s management has become a conversation. 

Our conversation about money leads to better decisions, and more satisfaction. 
I believe this same principle to be at work when we allow God to get ahold of our wallets.  We welcome Him into our conversation about money, and the result is better decisions, and more satisfaction.  Let’s begin to allow God to have a voice shall we…

We have to learn where God stands

This section is divided up into the 3 general uses of money listed at the outset, namely we can give it, spend it and invest  it.  Hopefully this emphasizes the point that God desires to be involved in 100% of our money decisions. 

Give ItGod wants us to give joyfully & generously |

That 10% thing.
When we think about what God wants of our money, we are tempted to think that He is after a %. 
This understanding can lead to two dangerous money positions.  We either give him his share, fulfill our obligation, and do what we want with the other 90%,  believing that we are cool with God because He got His.
Or
We fall short of the 10% for some reason, we can’t afford it this week, we lost track of where we were, or we didn’t do the math right, and thus feel guilty that we are stealing from God and about to receive our due punishment. 

Paul’s teaching to the early church mentions nothing of a legaly based tithe.  He does however mention a principle of generosity, being a cheerful giver, and deciding in your heart what to give.  In a letter, the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, writes this instruction to the church in Corinth:

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

What a liberating teaching about how to give!  In this short teaching there is both the freedom from any sort of mandatory tax to God, and the charge to make a responsible decision with our hearts.  If our hearts are making room for God’s Spirit our giving decisions too will be made in conversation with God. 

Spend It | God wants to be involved in our spending decisions |

Money is a form of exchange, and one of it’s main purposes is to be spent.  For all the problems money brings, it can also be a lot of fun.  With money we can have a wonderful night out at a great restaurant, we can buy that car we’ve been pining for, and we can take care of our needs like food on our tables and a roof over our heads.  
There is nothing wrong with spending money.   In fact, Paul writes to Timothy, a young pastor, and says that, “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” (1 Timothy 5:8)

Spending money is an essential, and hopefully enjoyable, practice.  Having said that, in our culture, spending money is basically second nature, and we have become experts at spending money we don’t even have yet!  
The mismanagement of this ‘spending’ category is the cause of all kinds of evil.  

Proverbs mentions that, “the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender,” (Proverbs 22:7).  Our unwillingness to be patient in acquiring our hearts desires turns us into servants of credit card companies, banks, and all types of lenders. 
How much more could we give, or invest, if we became better managers of our spending?

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows,” (James 1:17).

Everything belongs to God, He created the world and all that’s in it.  He gave us the abilities, gifts, and talents that enable us to earn money.  Do we not think that our Lord and Master, might also want to speak about how we spend our money?
Our money talks, it tells stories about us that perhaps we wouldn’t want told very loudly.  What items we purchase, what companies we partner with when we buy our goods and services (it might be helpful to think of our purchases with companies as partnering with them), and even when we choose to buy (is it when we want it, or when we can afford it?), each of these decisions tell stories about us. 

I thoroughly believe that our life of discipleship must extend to our purchase decisions, and that God desparately wants to be involved in those decisions.   

Invest It | We are called to be good managers of our money |

One of the uses of money is to invest it and increase it, put it to good use so that we have more to give, more to invest, and more to spend. 

Jesus presented us with wise financial counsel when He told the parable of the good managers & the bad manager (luke 19:11-26).  In this story the first couple of managers went out and did good things with the money that they were given responsibility for, earning back double what they had started with, and were rewarded handsomly.  The story continues to the other manager, who was so scared he’d lose the money that he hid it away.  He was called a wicked manager and lost the little that he had.

To me, this parable comes as strong counsel to be investing our money.  To put what we have been entrusted with to good use or we risk losing it.  I hear a God who cares about all the money that passes through our fingers, not just a percentage point off the top! 

There is another example about putting money to good use that I can think of.  It is the story of Joseph, whom God used to interpret Pharoah’s dream.  The interpretation was that Pharoah should store up food in years of plenty so that he will have enough to spare in the lean years to come (Genesis 41).  Pharoah listens to this wise advice and ends up expanding his wealth incredibly as the surrounding nations come to Egypt for food.  The lesson I hear about money from this story is another encouragement to invest wisely.  Save up in years of plenty, save an emergency fund, put your money to good use. 

One word of caution with investing, do not invest without regard for the other two uses of giving and spending.  The bible cautions strongly about storing up our treasure in barns.  The rich man had too much to store in his barns, so rather than give or spend them he built bigger barns.  His trust and sense of security rested firmly in his wealth.  At this false trust God says, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God,” (Luke 12:20-21).

Money can be very dangerous and yet we are called to manage it.  Without embracing God’s ideas about money, and without submitting our investment, purchase, and giving decisions to God, we will be standing on dangerous ground.  Money has the potential to master us. 

We need to decide to stand with God

How do we begin to change our attitudes toward money?  To pry our hands off of those bills, and that plastic?  How do we move from a fist to an open hand? 
I would be lying if I said it is just a matter of making one big decision to ask God’s help and you’ll forever change.
We are forgettful and stubborn, not to mention that selfish spending is a habit firmly engrained not only in our culture but in our own hearts. 
Amidst this sobering self-awareness, remember that Paul’s words to the Corinthians were not angry or corrective, but they were filled with promise, hope, and faith in God’s provision.  Hear these faith filled words meant for those who understand and reflect God’s view of money: 

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” 2 Cor 9:10-11

In order for us to allow God to get a hold of our wallets, we will need to invite Him into all of our conversations about money.  How we give it, how we spend it, and how we invest it. 

May we welcome His still small voice into our financial planning.  In Jesus’ name, and for the expansion of His Kingdom, we have these conversations.

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