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FIRST-PERSON: God, money & your faith

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–Some pastors shy away from talking about money. After all, they might say, the church is about spiritual matters like getting souls saved. Absolutely — but then why do you suppose Jesus made such a big deal out of money? Many Christians are amazed to discover that He did.

The Bible has a lot to say about finances and belongings. I have researched God’s Word and found more passages about money and possessions than about heaven, hell or the Second Coming. The Bible offers more than 500 verses on prayer and fewer than 500 on faith — but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions! There is no doubt that the church should have something to say about financial matters in the church as well as in the secular world.

— Who you gonna serve?

Jesus said that you can’t serve God if you’re going to serve riches. “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money” (Matthew 6:24).

Churches may have their own agendas in respect to certain types of ministries. But every local congregation needs to provide opportunities for people inside the church and in the outside community to acquire biblical financial wisdom.

To that end, Crown Financial Ministries has a 10-week small group study that provides an in-depth look at scriptural teaching about money and possessions. Graduates discover that their marriages are strengthened, and individuals are finding their way out of debt. They also become consistent savers, generous givers and sensible consumers. Most importantly, people enter into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ as they learn to apply His Word in their lives.

In addition, Crown has hundreds of trained volunteer budget coaches around the country who work with married couples and individuals, helping them achieve spiritual and financial freedom to serve Christ. They help individuals develop a personal budget, apply biblical principles of stewardship, build a plan to get out of debt and provide practical and Godly financial counsel.

— You gotta have heart

There are great benefits of having a congregation full of financially healthy people — but healthy doesn’t have to mean wealthy. Some pastors may be hesitant to talk about biblical principles of finance and giving because they serve churches with blue collar, lower-income families. They might even envy their peers who pastor in suburbia with congregations of middle- or higher-income families. But, guess what? Giving really has little to do with amount, but it has a lot to do with heart!

In a Nov. 11, 2004 article, the Sun-Herald newspaper in south Mississippi told of an organization known as the Catalogue for Philanthropy that reported interesting statistics in their “2004 Generosity Index.” They found that New England states make more money but give less than other areas of the country. Southern and Midwestern states top off this generosity index, with the high level of liberality in these regions being attributed to the practice of tithing.

Based on the average adjusted income of residents, and the value of itemized charitable donations reported in 2002 federal tax returns, Connecticut had the nation’s highest average adjusted gross income at $64,724, but its residents donated $175 less to charity than the national average. So what’s the point?

Just this: Mississippi ranked as the poorest state in the nation but came in fifth in “giving,” and it consistently earns its place as “Number 1 giver,” because of the disparity between the income and charitable contributions of the folks in Mississippi. The average itemized filer in Mississippi reported $4,484 in donations in 2002, beating the national average by $1,029.

How about that — poorest state, biggest givers! It seems as though I recall someone once saying, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

What an appropriate time in the life of our country for believers to help those generous Mississippians, and others on the Gulf Coast, get back on their feet.

What do financial issues have to do with spirituality? Well, for one thing, you don’t have to be rich to be generous, and poverty isn’t the cause of tightfistedness. So the spirituality part all comes down to where your heart is.

And that’s exactly why the church needs to be equipping God’s people in our country and worldwide to learn, apply and teach God’s financial principles. Because then, believers can be liberated from the bondage of debt, so they may know Christ more intimately, be freed to serve Him, and help fund the Great Commission.

God, money, and faith — do you get the connection?
Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the Web at www.crown.org.

    About the Author

  • Howard Dayton