Saturday, May 31, 2008

Money Habits 2

I received an email that I got permission to use (I made it the first comment under this post). You'll need to read it to understand the context of my response...

When it comes to money and possessions, we need to think more eternally.

I agree with the writer's take that there is a big difference between Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace" and Randy Alcorn's "Treasure Principle." In my assessment, Alcorn's book is a better application of Jesus' teaching.

Jesus makes it abundantly clear in the Sermon (Matt. 5-7) that we should not store up treasures here on earth. We ought to be so careful when it comes to storing up gold, IRAs, stocks, real estate... we are stewards of what God has given us.

It's sad to me how many Christians forfeit the joy of sacrificial giving in the name of conspicuous consumption. As you may have heard it said... "Have you ever noticed how big a 20 dollar bill looks when you're giving it as an offering and yet how small it looks when you're shopping for yourself at the mall?"

Dallas Willard goes yard (once again) in chapter 10 of his book "The Spirit of the Disciplines." The title of the chapter: "Is Poverty Spiritual?" He lays out the bottom line on this issue, which is stewardship.

So to answer the original question from this reader- Leatha and I try to ask ourselves...

Is our use of money going to yield an eternal reward?
Is our 'storing up' causing us to trust God or our storehouse of money?
Why are we amassing more money?
Are we making this decision so it will help us give more later?
Can we consider our present giving to be "sacrificial"?
Do we trust the leadership and vision of the church we are giving to?

Let me issue a warning related to this...

A famous Christian leader (now with the Lord) said "it's wrong to own a vehicle over $40,000." I think it's ludicrous to start making those kind of judgments. We are stewards who will all give an account before God, not each other. You won't have to give an account to me (so I feel no need to judge you), but to God (who will judge us all). "Who are you to judge the servant of another?" (Romans 14:4)

Do you drive a convertible BMW?
Do you own a 5 million dollar house on the beach?
Do you have 12 million in your retirement fund?

My response to you is twofold-

1. I won't hesitate to challenge you not to wrap your affections around those things, but God...and to be generous (1 Timothy 6).
2. Can I take my wife on a date in your car while vacationing at your beach house?


The Arants said...

Hi Mark,
I enjoy reading your blog and your post about money is similar to some things I am thinking about. I have been through FPU and have read Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. My dilemma really started when I recently realized how much I trust in my retirement funds. Dave Ramsey would encourage saving enough to have a very large retirement fund as long as I was tithing and making some free will offerings too. In the examples from FPU, Dave tells us how to retire with 12 million dollars. I understand that few Christians tithe and that would be a good start, but I'm afraid FPU violates scripture. I don't know exactly where wisely saving becomes hoarding, but I'd guess the number to be well below 12 million dollars. I believe Jesus where he says your heart will be where your treasure is. For me, my heart was in my retirement fund.
Alcorn has a very different thought process. He suggests considering if money could be better used for ministry than for any purchase a person is considering. How could we buy anything but bare necessities if we ask ourselves if this purchase is more worthy than ministry? Alcorn suggests trusting God to provide rather than amassing a retirement fund so large that God seems unnecessary. It seems to me that if I claim to believe the Bible is true (which I do), I'd have to agree with Alcorn.
So, where do we find a balance? How much should we give? Can we buy the unnecessary things that we enjoy? Jesus tells us to store our treasures in Heaven. What would our lives look like if we do?

Lissa said...

Hey Mark, I don't know if you guys go back in time to read these comments but if so ... it just makes me a little wary that your post didn't really shoot down the $12 million in savings idea. I agree that we're not the judges of personal decisions like that but I think Jesus was for real when he declared that it'll be harder to get into heaven for a rich person than to fit through the eye of a needle. I understand that you'd be in a pickle to fall too far on either side of this road but as Americans, and as John Piper regards, I think we err to far on the side of comfort and its difficult, often, when looking at American believers (me, for sure, included) to determine if they (we) are trusting solely in Jesus or if they have their comfort stash that helps them along, too.