I found myself first thinking about this issue when I was running late for work. I’d been trying in vain to book a GrabHitch – there had been a promo code which would have halved my ride fare.
Although I considered other options, including ride variations on both Grab and Uber, it wouldn’t have been financially prudent to take a ride at those prices – I couldn’t bear to spend the $15, with prices jacked up due to peak-hour traffic. I ended up trudging to the bus stop, knowing I would be late – nonetheless, in my mind, financial prudence took priority over punctuality that day.
Another time, I was having lunch with friends. While I knew my budget constraints, I agreed to the lunch gathering, telling myself that fellowship with community would take precedence. Yet, I was acutely aware of my financial circumstances – and my relative financial lack in contrast to my lunch buddies.
AN EYE ON OUR EXPENDITURE
Since I started my internship, I don’t earn as much as I used to, as per a full-time job. My allowance, while enough for daily living, does not provide much extra for extravagant spending – this allowance goes to my transport expenditure, phone bills, and other ad-hoc necessities like dental appointments.
While I get other paid freelance opportunities on occasion, internship allowance remains my main consistent source of finances for this season of life.
One could argue that I have the option of borrowing money or having my parents give me a small allowance in this time as a temporary measure. While I doubt my parents would object to this, I do. I believe I have the ability to manage my own finances, however much or little it might be. I treasure my financial independence!
Despite the benefits of financial security, wealth cannot provide ultimate security – those who trust in their riches will fall.
This season of my life has made me more concerned about my finances than I used to be, and I am sometimes discouraged when I find myself asking for subsidies – such as for the costs of a young adults’ Bible retreat. Part of me feels a certain shame, as though I shouldn’t be taking such “handouts”.
Yet, the Bible provides wisdom on the issue of money management, to my relief. King Solomon acknowledges in Proverbs 10:15, the harmful effects of poverty – hence, wealth provides protection against financial difficulty.
However, Proverbs also warns that despite the benefits of financial security, wealth cannot provide ultimate security – those who trust in their riches will fall (Proverbs 11:28).
MORE THAN FINANCIAL FREEDOM
Though financial provision holds practical importance for daily living, many other virtues are of higher value than the pursuit of financial wealth.
For instance, King Solomon observes that the pursuit of wisdom is more valuable than precious material riches (Proverbs 8:10, 11), because it brings enduring wealth and righteousness (Proverbs 8:18) – wisdom, and the fruit it brings, represents favour from the Lord (Proverbs 8:35).
This is perhaps why Agur, the son of Jakeh, prays in Proverbs 30 that God would feed him with “the food that is needful”, in order that he may be given “neither poverty nor riches”.
He makes these requests in acknowledgement that in poverty he might steal and thus profane the name of God. On the contrary, he recognises that wealth might lead him to be self-sufficient and deny his need for God (Proverbs 30:8, 9).
Hence, while wealth is more desirable in meeting practical needs, it is not a matter of paramount importance – fearing God and obeying Him, however, is.
WE GIVE BECAUSE HE FIRST GAVE
In response to our fear of Him, we obey God by stewarding our finances (1 Timothy 6:7) in a Gospel-centred manner, by using our finances for the extension of His kingdom (Matthew 6:19, 20).
Consequently, we give of our finances to support the needs of Gospel workers – this is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:14, where the Lord has ordered that Gospel workers should be supported by those who benefit from their ministry.
1 Timothy 5 affirms this, as it calls the church to provide financially (1 Timothy 5:18) for their elders as a form of showing honour.
Hence, we give generously (1 Timothy 6:18) as we are able – in 2 Corinthians, Paul appealed to the Corinthians to contribute financially to help the poor. However, this was not at the expense of being burdened – instead, it was an appeal to the church to do their fair share of giving in order to provide for those in need (2 Corinthians 8:13, 14).
The greatest generosity we can show is to share with others the gift of the salvation, knowing that any material wealth we acquire is futile for those who face spiritual death.
While the New Testament does not tell us the proportion of our finances to give to Gospel work, this is an amount that we have decided in our hearts to give, cheerfully and without compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:7).
In the midst of giving towards Gospel work, however, we also recognise the basis for which we are able to be cheerful and generous givers – God has already provided all we need in giving us His only Son (Romans 8:32).
Yet, in light of this, we ought to recognise that the greatest generosity we can show is to share with others the gift of the Good News of salvation, knowing that any material wealth we acquire is futile for those who face spiritual death and separation from God (Matthew 16:26).
Since God has held no good thing back from us by giving us His only Son, should we not then likewise be generous in sharing with others His gift to us?