What would you do with $500,000?
I received a letter in the mail the other day telling me I was in the running to win $500,000. Pretty awesome! Then of course I started dreaming of all the things I could buy with that money. A new car? An investment property? A new computer? an iPad?
Then I had other questions: Would I give any money away? Who would I give it to? How much? What does God want me to do with all that money?
Of course $500,000 is a lot of money (and I doubt I will win it!). But then I thought about these questions in regards to my weekly earnings or pocket money. I don’t know how much you earn or what kind of money you have but the same kind of questions arise: How much should I be giving away? Are there any rules set out in the Bible?
Well you might be surprised to hear that there is no direct amount we are commanded to give. In the Old Testament, God’s people were told to give 10% (called a 'tithe') of their possessions to him. However because of Jesus bringing in the new covenant we are now free from the old law, particularly as Gentiles. But there are two directions, laid out by Paul in 2 Corinthians 9, given to us:
1. Be Generous
Maybe you will decide that 10% is a helpful amount for you to give. Maybe you will decide that it’s 20%. We have freedom to decide but we are called to be generous, so the amount we give will be different for different people.
But it would be unhelpful to think “I will just wait until I have a full time job to start giving to church”. Giving your money away doesn’t get easier as you grow older. You have more things to pay for even if you do have more money.
It is a good idea to get into good habits while you are young, as those habits will stay with you later on in life. The habit you want to develop towards money is being generous. Paul says that God gave us our wealth so that we can be generous on every occasion!
2. Be Joyful
The other attitude we are to have is to be joyful in our giving.
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.“ (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Once we have decided exactly how much we will give, we need to give it happily and joyfully. Not begrudgingly, not complaining. If we can’t give joyfully, perhaps we need to reconsider how much we are giving or perhaps we are just being greedy or selfish.
These are the things that dictate how we use our money. As far as who we should give our money to, well you can be creative. Often it can be wise to give to your local church first. Then after that, you could give to missionaries (eg. CMS) or children in poverty (eg. Compassion). Maybe you will use your money to buy your friends coffee, make them something, or use it on petrol to give your friend a lift to church every week. The opportunities to be generous are endless.
So consider how you will use your money in a generous way. Then give it joyfully.
And remember the many warnings God gives about the danger of loving money. All you have is from God, and money (along with every material possession) is only temporary. There are lots of reasons why I hope I don’t win that $500,000. But if I do, I hope I will be a generous and joyful giver.