In my past, there are some financial struggles. I was underemployed, and living in an area with a high cost of living. My family helped me, but God got me through. God helped me scrape by, get into better jobs, and eventually get out from under the debt I incurred in the lean years. Through this, I learned for myself the lesson that God’s faithfulness is most evident when I am faithful in my giving. Because of these experiences, filing my taxes turned into a time to reflect with gratitude on God’s provision and blessings. This year, I noticed that I had made more money than the previous year, yet paid less in taxes. But I don’t think I stopped to praise God for this; I think I may have credited the president, instead. I filed my taxes and felt only impatience to have the refunds credited to my account. I think it is possible to have your heart in the right place when you file your taxes, but this year my heart was in the wrong place.
For a while, I have been listening to Dave Ramsey on the drive home from work. As a result, I’m putting into practice better habits of budgeting and saving, but it comes with side-effects. I spend a lot of time looking at my account balances and fussing over my budgeting spreadsheets, and I don’t think it’s spiritually healthy. Now that I have a plan for handling my money, I am anxious to see it unfold. It has caused a slow change in my heart. I started to feel as though I was in control of my money. I began to think that I could handle it on my own. So, filing my taxes was all about how the refunds would help my savings goals. I was leaving God out of my finances.
I am reading another Christian biography from my Grandpa’s bookshelf, Bob Pierce, This One Thing I Do, by Franklin Graham. Pierce was the founder of the ministries World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse. Franklin Graham shared a discussion he had with Pierce when he asked him, “What is faith?” A full chapter is devoted to Bob’s answer, but I will try share the heart of it:
“. . .nothing is faith as long as you set your goal only as high as the most intelligent, most informed and most expert human efforts could reach. . .Nothing is a miracle until it reaches that area where the very utmost that human effort can do is not enough and God moves in to fill that space between what is possible and what He wants done that is impossible-that is ‘God Room.’” *
For Bob Pierce, these issues of faith were directly tied to money. Whether God was asking him to put a week’s salary in the offering plate or to leave on a trip he didn’t have the money for, yet, Bob felt that faith meant going forward and trusting God to provide. It isn’t faith without ‘God Room.’
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
I try to keep a relatively tight budget because I want to be financially stable and prepared for the future. At the same time, I want to have the ability to give because it makes me happy. More than this, I am accountable to God for how I steward what He has provided. Filing taxes should be a reminder that though my income is average, middle-class in America, I am in the top 1% of the world. And this is only because God has entrusted me with this wealth.
Jesus said in Luke 12:48b, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” If your reading this, you have been entrusted with much. It is easy for Americans to believe that it is our own hard work that has gotten us where we are. The spirit of the American Dream is that we have the opportunity to make a better life for ourselves and our children, if we are willing to work hard. So we have to be careful that we don’t look at what we have and pat ourselves on the back for having earned it. We are here by God’s grace and our successes are due to Him, also.
I have heard God call me to adjust my budget for 2019 giving. He wants me to rely on Him to meet my financial goals. I am not going to abandon my budget, but I am going to reorient my thinking about it. I need to leave room for God and His plans. I know that God’s economic plan cannot be contained in any formula or spreadsheet. Like the widow’s supply of flour and oil in 1 Kings 17:10-16, God has a way of multiplying our resources in ways that we can’t see. Yet, if we are stingy and don’t trust Him, He can also diminish our supplies and frustrate our plans.
If I give so little of my resources that no faith is required, I will miss out on great reward. I want to be as generous as I can be, while still showing discernment. I must learn to hold my own plans loosely while I seek God’s will. I want to give God room to awe me with the scope of His faithfulness. He can’t do it if I don’t give Him the opportunity.