This is the most common and understandable question I’ve been asked following our recent sermon series on “Treasures in Heaven and Stewardship.” In light of the many biblical principles and priorities that we’ve looked at in the course of this series, the next question is, “How do I work this out in the practical details of my life, especially in the area of finances and giving?” Let me try to give some practical direction, which incorporates the thinking of myself and the other Elders at RCG.
What follows is given with the assumption that you are familiar with the biblical truths that lie behind these practical thoughts. If you missed any or all of the sermon series, or you would just like to go over them again, you can find the audio sermons under the “Resources” tab on our website (www.rivercitygrace.org). So, what should you do with whatever money God has entrusted to you?
1. Determine FIRST what you are going to give to God. This priority is based on the principle of giving to God from your “first fruits” (Prov. 3:9,10). It should be your first consideration before thinking about taxes, savings, investments, and living expenses. Giving from your first fruits, would imply giving based on your gross income, not your net. A few additional thoughts under this point:
A. The specific amount is between you and God (and your spouse, if married). Ask Him for wisdom in what you should give, and determine an amount that is sacrificial and in proportion to how He has blessed you. It can be a set dollar amount or a percentage of your income. While I don’t believe a strict tithe (10%) is demanded in the New Covenant, such a percentage might not be a bad place to start.
B. I believe there is biblical support for making your local church the primary focus of your giving. There are certainly other directions you might give as well, but the local church should be a priority.
C. Because the needs of the church are regular and ongoing, your giving should be too. Whether this works out for you in a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly fashion, being regular and consistent in giving is important.
D. If you are in debt, let me encourage you to be working on a plan to eliminate that debt. But, as a matter of principle, it is still important to be giving something, even if it is less than what you might desire to give.
2. SECOND, be faithful in paying your taxes. Believers are to “give to God what is God’s, and give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” (Mt. 22:21)
3. THIRD, develop a reasonable and workable plan for savings and investments. The Bible does not discourage being responsible and wise in this way, so long as our hearts are truly governed by “storing up treasures in heaven” (Mt. 6:19-34), and so long as we are truly honoring the Lord first in our giving. Again, this can be a set dollar amount or a percentage of your income, however you determine to do it.
4. FINALLY, develop a workable budget for how you will use the rest of your financial resources to provide for your living expenses. Having a prayerful, thought-through, and workable budget is essential to being a faithful steward of what God has entrusted to you. Living expenses basically fall into two categories: 1) Non-discretionary items (such as rent, taxes, utilities, etc.), and 2) Discretionary items (such as food, entertainment, etc.). It takes time and effort to develop a workable budget, but it is a very freeing tool. If you need some help in this area, please contact the church office. There are some individuals in our church body who have made themselves available for such counsel.
More could be said, but this hopefully provides some practical starting points. A key in all of this is to realize that God calls us to be proactive and purposeful with our finances, not reactive and haphazard. Even so, please know that handling our finances in a God-glorifying way is not an overnight process. It takes planning, diligence, and patience. But God is gracious and merciful, and able to give us all His wisdom, strength, and help as we seek to be good stewards of what He’s entrusted to us – for His glory, the spread of the Gospel, and the blessing of others!
Growing with you,