I’ve been reading Randy Alcorn’s Book The Treasure Principle, Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving lately. What is that principle?
You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.
When you study God’s Word on the subject of money, possessions, and earthly treasure you come to the conclusion that we are commanded to lay aside treasures for ourselves. This is a Biblical command. However, that is not all of the Biblical command. We are called to, “lay up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20). On the foundational level, it is a matter of our attitude toward or thinking about the subject of money, possessions, and earthly treasure. Our mind has got to be set on the things of God (cf. Rom. 8:5-7). This is an intentional action on our behalf.
Last week, while teaching this at Calvary Bible Church I mentioned the tension that we all feel when it comes to the area of money, possessions, and earthly treasure. This is the tension between being a resident on earth while being a citizen of heaven. It is the tension that we feel between a savings account and giving to the work of world missions. It is experienced in almost every area of life. Do I buy a new car? Do I fix the one that’s broken down? Do I save money for retirement or kids education? Do I eat steak instead of burger? Do I eat bread instead of meat? New clothes or thrift shop? Do I buy another lawn mower? Etc, etc, etc. And we’ve often tried to ease this tension by applying certain rules. “Christians only buy new cars because God is a God of extravagant grace.” Or, “Christians only buy clunkers because true Christians save their money in order to give to missions.” Or, “Christians don’t eat out because they should be concerned about …”. But the problem is that those rules are normally slippery things. In what ways? Well, what is the distinction between a “new” car and a “clunker”. What is the line that marks out expensive clothing from stuff that’s on sale? The general problem with rules is that there is a necessity to multiply rules faster than rabbits make baby rabbits because there is always a need for one more.
And this tension is often magnified and multiplied when we view our lives as being divided between the “sacred” and the “secular”. We might call this the “compartmentalized life”–a life that is divided into manageable compartments. Christianity, in this view, emphasizes what we do instead of what has been done for us. It is the view that looks at money and says “God wants 10% of your money.” And so long as you’re giving “your 10%” God is pleased and it is that work that determines whether or not you’ll “be blessed”. But if you don’t give “your 10%” God is not pleased and therefore you won’t “be blessed”. In this kind of life there are clear areas that are marked off as “God’s” and then there are the others that are marked “other”. It is often the case that giving money to the church is seen as being “more Godly” than say buying your weekly groceries. Yet the Scriptures teach things like, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Unfortunately, most of us have been instructed that the way to pursue Christian sanctification is to do the right things with very little emphasis on what’s in the heart.
So, how do we resolve this tension? How do we stop feeling the strain that we feel between giving $10.00 to a missionary but keeping $100 for next weeks house payment. The answer is, we don’t. In fact, feeling this tension is part of the work of God in sanctifying us which is the work of making us more like His Son. I don’t think that there is one thing or ten things or fifty things that we can say that will perfectly resolve the strained relation between living as a citizen of heaven while being a resident on earth. And this is especially noticed in the area of money, possessions, and earthly treasures. We should embrace this tension as a reminder of one of the keys to understanding the treasure principle. The first key is: God owns everything–I’m His money manager.
Whenever we think like owners, it’s a red flag. We should be thinking like stewards, investment managers, always looking for the best place to invest the Owner’s money (Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, p. 25).