I have good news and bad news. The good? My heart is a lot cleaner than the last time we chatted. The anger and bitterness are gone, and God has given me a lot to think about. Namely my own pride and self-righteousness.
My hope and prayer is that 1.) I’ll write this post with honesty and humility. and 2.) It will be received in the spirit in which it was intended. I’m not writing this as someone who’s doing it all right, but I want to be doing it right, and I’m determined to start making some changes based on what I’ve been reading in God’s Word.
Man, last week was rough. I can’t blame Ali’s post (because this is a topic I’ve struggled with long and hard), but she definitely got me thinking afresh about wealth and giving and our friend, Dave Ramsey.
Which brings me to my bad news. At the end of this post, (many of) you and I still aren’t going to agree on certain matters of personal finance. But I’m pretty sure we can still like each other and serve the same God as brothers and sisters in Christ.
And more good news. Out of all the notes I’ve scrawled in my journal, I’m only going to share about 25%. And I’m going to let Jesus and other New Testament writers do just as much (if not more) talking than me.
If you haven’t read Ali’s post, do that first. I’m not going to repeat everything she said. In a nutshell, she questioned Dave Ramsey’s 7 Steps to Financial Peace, specifically Step 7a.) Build wealth and 7b) Give. One of her main concerns (and mine): Is giving something we do at the very end, after building wealth, or should we be giving before that? Let’s explore.
(First: a disclaimer. This post isn’t about Dave’s rockin’ Get-Out-of-Debt Plan. I’m all for getting out of debt. And I think Jesus is too. Well, technically, I think he’s all for not getting into debt in the first place. We’re focusing on 7a and 7b here.)
I do wish I had a couple bucks for every time someone has told me some variation of the following statement: “I can’t wait until I’m out of debt and have more money, because I love to give and can’t wait to give BIG!”
I get that. I do. It makes total sense. That’s why Dave Ramsey is so successful. The dude makes so much sense. But I think for followers of Christ, he might make a little too much sense. Because the Savior we’ve decided to follow? Often makes little to no sense at all.
Take the story of the widow’s offering in Mark 12 (and Luke 21) for example. Jesus sits down across from the temple treasury and watches people putting their offerings in the box (isn’t that funny? I think that’s funny.) Verse 41 says, “Many rich people put in large sums.” Sweet. That’s gonna be me some day. I’m paying off my debt, building wealth, and living (and giving) large.
Then a poor widow puts in two little coins that together equal a penny. Boo. What is that? It’s not like you can even buy anything with a penny. Talk about not making a dent.
Then Jesus (the one who never seems to make any sense) calls his disciples to him and tells them that this poor widow has “put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.”
Did he not see the LARGE SUMS the rich people gave??
“For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
What in the heck is wrong with giving out of your abundance?? Seriously, Jesus?? How can you be happier with ONE CENT than a fistful of twenty-dollar bills??
Then there’s the rich young man who wanted to follow Jesus but walked away greatly saddened when he realized what it was going to cost him–“Sell all you have and give it to the poor and come follow me,” Jesus had told him. (Mark 10:17-31)
And the rich man whose land produced plentifully (sounds like God was blessing him), and he built larger barns to store all his crops, and said to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years: relax, eat, drink, be merry, live like no one else.” (oops, I added that last part) God takes his life that very night and says, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)
And the little kid with the 5 loaves and 2 fishes (talk about a meager offering) that Jesus took and multiplied himself and fed 5000 men + women and children. What if the kid would’ve said, “Hey, I only have this tiny lunch right now, and I know that isn’t going to do squat. But in 15 years, I plan on retiring with lots of money in Roth IRAs, and I’ll come back with lunches for all 12,000 of you. Won’t that be awesome and impressive?”
Moral of the story? From what I’ve been reading (and I read all of Matthew, Mark, and part of Luke this weekend), it appears that Jesus’ plan isn’t to build wealth and then give out of that. It’s give now, and let me turn your puny gift into something outrageous.
And if we’re going to get technical, I can’t find ANY place in the Bible where Jesus tells people to build wealth. In fact, when he tells stories, more often than not, “a rich dude” is his bad guy of choice. Yet we want to be rich??
May I humbly challenge us to think about something? Is the reason we want to build wealth and then give because it will hurt less to give if we have more left afterward? Is it possible that Jesus cares more about how much you’re keeping than how much you’re giving?
If we really, truly want to give like no one else, may I suggest we start TODAY, even if it hurts?