When we study the Scriptures it is hard to escape the clear testimony that everything is God’s (Deut 10:14; Psalm 24:1). And that anything we possess is not really ours but something that God has entrusted to us to manage and invest.
The Lord owns the earth and all it contains,
the world and all who live in it.
When we read the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30) we are presented with how God has chosen to invest His possessions.
- the master has entrusted his possessions to his own (25:14)
- the master has not distributed his possessions equally, but according to the ability of each person (25:15)
- we are responsible for how we manage and invest what we are given
- the master will come and settle accounts with each of us (25:19)
- the master will evaluate how each of us has invested what we were given
After reading this parable we might start to ask some questions.
What has the Lord entrusted to me?
In a nutshell, everything you have. Your life. Your family and friends. Your talents and abilities. Your possessions. Your opportunities to work and serve. Often this is said to be our time, talent, and treasure.
How am I doing managing and investing what the Lord has entrusted to me?
Am I on track to hear “well done” or I am closer to the assessment of “wicked and lazy”?
What principles should I follow so that I can be a better investor in the kingdom of God instead of my own (Matt 6:33; 7:24-27)?
First, it is essential that we be active in actually investing what we have been given. Knowing we should be investing and even planning to invest is not enough. The wicked and lazy slave did nothing (25:18). Those who heard “well done” followed through on their plans and “went off right away and put [it] to work” (25:16).
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:18)
Second, motives are huge. What we do with what God has entrusted to us is important. But, why we do what we do is even more important.
All a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion,
but the Lord evaluates the motives. (Prov 16:2)
Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God. (1 Cor 4:5b also Rom 2:16)
Do we do what we do to get the approval of man (23:5) or do we seek God’s approval (John 12:43; 1 Thess 2:4; 2 Tim 2:15)? Are we seeking to do things in love from a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith (1 Tim 1:5)?
Of course this is a huge topic, so in this post I am going to very narrowly focus on the area of money. Why? Because while this parable is really using money to talk about how we invest everything, it is still using money to make that point. And what we do with our money is often a good indicator of where our head and heart really are.
When we invest in a stock, bond, or mutual fund we (hopefully) think through some questions.
- What goals am I trying to accomplish by making this investment?
- How much will I invest?
- Can I afford to lose some or all of my principle?
- Is this a short or long term investment?
- How much risk am I willing to assume?
- Is the risk worth the potential gains?
If we want to know if our investment was good we need to look at the cost of investing and the amount in our account and see if we have more than we started with. If we evaluate a little further we might ask if the investment helped us meet the goals we wanted to achieve. We might also compare the investment we made with comparable investments to see if the gains were in line with them.
It is much harder to evaluate the results of our giving (whether time, talent, or treasure) when we look at ministry. Success is not measured by a number in an account, but in restored relationships, healed wounds, and transformed lives. And often, like the stock market, the results of our giving are beyond our control. We have to trust God and those we entrusted with our giving with the outcome.
We are each entrusted with different amounts to manage and it is here that we have control over what we do with it. Specifically, how we manage it, how much we give, and to whom we give it too.
As we making giving decisions we should ask some questions.
- How do we approach our giving?
- What is a reasonable set of criteria to evaluate my giving?
- Do we make it a priority?
- Have we made wise decisions to allow us to give generously?
- Do we give in proportion to what we receive?
- What proportion of our income do we use to guide us in our giving?
Does God provide guidelines for how much we should give?
Under the Mosaic Law, God proscribed a series of tithes (giving 10%) that the Israelites should give. These tithes accomplished various things, from providing for the priests that ministered (Num 18:21), contributing to the festivals (Deut 14:22-27), and helping the poor (Deut 14:28-29).
Throughout the NT, we learn that the Mosaic Law is obsolete (Heb 8:13) and has been replaced by the New Covenant.So what place does the tithe have under this new covenant? Is the tithe only an OT idea or does it have any applicability to the NT church?
There is a fair debate over whether the giving of 10% is a mandated minimum for the NT disciple, or whether it is just a good and reasonable principle to evaluate our giving against. Those who don’t consider it a command further wrestle with whether this should be the starting point in our giving and that as generous disciples we should seek to surpass it. Others would see it as a good goal that we should work towards achieving.
If the tithe was made obsolete with the rest of the Mosaic Law, then what is a good guide for a disciple of Christ to consider? If giving is to be done off the first fruits of what we receive and is to be proportional then it seems logical to ask what proportion are we to use? Is a good measure of giving the evangelical average, which is around 3%? What do we base that percentage on, Scripture, circumstances, the balance in our checking account?
Does God provide guidelines for whom we should give to?
Under the Mosaic Law, God did not only set an amount to give but also to whom it should be given and why (see above). In addition to the debate over tithes, is the debate over whether disciples should contribute their giving to the local church (based on passages about giving to the local storehouse) or whether they have more freedom in where they direct their giving.
Even if the tithe is obsolete and we have total freedom in where we give, do we have an obligation to support our local church and gospel ministers? What about the poor and needy? Should the fact that church budgets are often consumed by building and staff costs influence how we give? How important is it that we evaluate the ministry being done and the financial accountability of the group we are giving to before giving?
Being a wise investor is no easy task.
all Scripture quoted from the NET Bible