Preaching on money is always interesting.
First, it is hard to strike a balance between saying too much and saying too little. When preaching on money, you don’t want to be overly prescriptive, telling your listener how exactly they are to be generous with their money. But you also don’t want to neglect the fact that our understanding of generosity requires action. We don’t just want good theology on generosity, we need good practice.
Second, one’s understanding or use of money is often considered a private issue. The thinking is (more understood than expressed): “sure, you can ask me about my prayer life or how I’ve been living missionally, but my finances are not up for discussion.” Thus, follow-up conversation to a sermon on wealth and generosity tends to be limited or theoretical rather than personal and practical.
But obedience to God requires us to not simply be hearers of the Word, but doers. So here are 7 ideas on how you and I can practice what has been preached from 1 Timothy 6:17-21:
- Let the gospel be your foundation in being generous. This can’t be emphasized enough. The gospel needs to be our motivation for generous living. We are not trying to earn favor from God, nor are we obeying out of obligation. Rather, our generosity is in response to the generosity demonstrated to us by our Lord on the cross.
- Make a decision to live generously. No one stumbles into generous living. It requires an intentional decision to reorient your lifestyle and spending in a way that enables you to give. John Piper was quoted as asking: “What if your giving determined your living?” In other words, a decision to give generously should be the filter through which you make decisions (e.g. what to buy or not buy, what to give up, etc.) and not the other way around (i.e. “this is all I’m able to to give…”).
- Start with the tithe. As Christians, we are not bound by the OT prescription of the tithe. However, maybe giving away 10% of our income isn’t a bad start. First of all, everything belongs to Jesus and He graciously allows us to use the overwhelming majority of his generosity on ourselves. Secondly, if we find it hard to live on 90% of our income, it may be worthwhile for us to consider if something is off with our lifestyle.
- Set it and forget it. A good way to get into the discipline of generosity is to automatically have your paychecks split into two separate accounts. One for your own spending, the other for giving. Talk to your HR department to set this up or do it directly through your bank. This can ensure that you’ll always have money set apart and that you’re continually committed to being generous.
- Be accountable. Sure, finances are a private issue. But so is sex. There is health in being honest and transparent about such things. I’m not telling you to show everyone your bank statements, but at least one person in your life should be aware of your finances and able to challenge and encourage you towards generosity. This can be a spouse or a trusted friend. But don’t live with your finances in the dark.
- Track your spending. If you aren’t already doing so, figure out how you’re spending your money by using a tracking tool like mint.com. This will either confirm what you already know about your spending or help you to realize that you spend as much on lunch each month as you do towards the Kingdom.
- Set a cap on your lifestyle. God has graciously allowed many of us to experience changes in employment that have resulted in an increased salary. Praise God. But as you’re given more, don’t automatically see it as an opportunity to spend more. Instead, ask God to give you a heart of contentment that frees you to be even more generous instead.