Baby steps are for babies.
Of course it’s easier to reduce Christian Money to ‘7 steps to make God happy with your money’. My experience with having a relationship with a living God, however, is that it’s a little more complicated than rote rules like ‘taste not, touch not, borrow not’.
We follow a living, active God who invites us not into religious rule-following, but into an adventurous relationship. A relationship that starts with you having a created purposeful design and that relationship only takes a step forward when you say ‘yes’ to God’s next invitation.
The goal of our life is not to ‘win with money’ but to hear the words from God ‘well done good and faithful servant’. (Matthew 25:23) That approval won’t come from how much money we attain, but by how much obedience we sustain.
This makes things more vague and individual. Just like you have a different relationship with your spouse than their sibling, each of us has a unique and individual relationship with the same person, Jesus. It’s appropriate and healthy for us to respond to that Savior in different or even seemingly opposite ways.
Is this the will of God with my money? Is debt sin? Can I have a successful career and be a follower of God? I can’t answer that for you, but Jesus can.
I have poured over scripture and talked to a lot of missionally minded people about money and I have arrived at 5 principles for Mission Minded Money. These aren’t hard fast rules, but values. It’s a framework for evaluating your money decisions.
It’s steeped in the Bible, not secular financial advice. Its goal is obedience not wealth. Its end game is eternity not retirement.
It’s time Christian Financial Advice grew up and started taking leaps of faith instead of ‘baby steps.’
Mission Minded Money Principle #1
You were created for a purpose
The first Mission Minded Money Principle isn’t even about money at all. As Travis Shelton at Meaning Over Money says “Money is never about money”. I wholeheartedly agree.
In order for your money to be missionally minded, you first have to have a mission. The good news is, You do!
You were created for good works that God actually prepared for YOU (Ephesians 2:10) before even the foundations of the world were set (Ephesians 1:4). God created man to work and tend the territory that He has given them (Genesis 1:26), the curse of working ‘by the sweat of your brow’ in order to get your provision has been broken (Galatians 3:13), and now the work that we do is linked directly to our identity that was formed and created by God, thus returning us to our pre-fall created identity.
Money, is God’s provision for our mission.
Money is a tool that God puts in our hands to accomplish our created purpose. When we use our money to please our flesh, make us feel safe, or gain influence or power, we are using the resources God gave us for OUR mission towards the mission of the evil one.
We are literally embezzling.
Feeding our bodies instead of our mission, misappropriates funds designed to be used to advance the mission given to us by the God of the universe, to somehow protect the ‘old man’ that the Devil desperately wants us to keep on. But Jesus definitively threw off of us (Ephesians 4:22)
So the question becomes.
What is my mission?
Too often, we as Christians sit on our butts ‘discerning’ our lives away to find the ‘one’ mission God has called us to.
The truth is, we don’t have just one mission.
When I was in the Army, I spent half my time waiting in a barracks for a mission, and the other half ‘on mission’ doing the tasks. Each time we came back home we got to say ‘Mission Complete.’
Living on mission isn’t about knowing your one and only calling, it’s about receiving the task God has put in front of you, being obedient to it by committing resources towards it, and then being obedient when God says to stop, pivot or change course.
Want to know how much of your money is on mission? Download the Mission Minded Money Worksheet below.
When we look at our money as ‘dry powder’ to be deployed, instead of a limited resource to be spent or saved, it completely changes our perspective. Nights out with the guys become missions work. Vacations become retreats to receive new ‘orders’, savings accounts become life vests for your neighbors or ammunition towards the darkness you have been called to chase away.
Until you understand that you, (yes you!) were created for works that God intends for you to fulfill and that that purpose has eternal implications, your money will never be on Mission.
Mission Minded Money Principle #2
Money isn’t yours.
Because we were created for a mission and God gave us what we need in order to complete it, Money isn’t ours.
It’s on loan from God. All things are God’s (Psalms 24:1), and every good and perfect gift comes from his hand ( James 1:17).
Although we may ‘put our hand to the plow’ so to speak.
It is God who gives our work growth, our bodies health, our brains intelligence and our hands skill. It is to God we owe even our very lives in response to his good gift of His one and only son Jesus Christ, how much more so do we owe him our money.
Because our money is on loan, when making money decisions our focus should not be “how can I turn this money into more money?” Or “how can I get what I want right now?”. The question we should be asking of our financial decisions is, “does this advance from or detract from my mission?”
You can, of course, over analyze this. How does the $13 dollars I spent at Taco Bell last night play into the Kingdom? But the point isn’t the transaction itself, but the habits.
When I analyze my budget what percentage of my funds are going towards mission critical work and how much is going towards satisfying my flesh?
When we look at our money in terms of what we ‘give’, we consider every dollar we contribute to a non-profit or ministry ‘extra-credit’.
But all the money is God’s.
This persepective fosters a great sense of gratitude for even the simple things, like a Crunch wrap Supreme ®. But to use our money to gratify our flesh at the EXPENSE of our mission is sin and incongruent to the person we are.
The money you have isn’t yours, it’s God’s. What has he asked you to accomplish with it?
Mission Minded Money Principle #3
Stay free from attachments
The death of Jesus Christ satisfied every sin and broke every curse. The Resurrection of Jesus birthed new life in us that allowed us to live literally with Christ in us (Romans 6:10-11, Colossians 1:27). We put off our old life, and begin to live our new pre-fall lives that God created before the foundations of the world.
Because of that, it’s important for a follower of Christ to avoid attachments that receive the curses of sin. You are free from the curse, why would you go back to live under it? There are three main attachments that I am concerned about when it comes to money.
- Debt and Contracts– I’m going to come right out and say it. I don’t believe debt is a sin, and I think there is such a thing as sophisticated use of debt. The problem with debt is not in the borrowing, the problem is in the limiting nature for the future.
When you take out debt, you are promising future payments in exchange for an immediate sum of money. That money could be used for good or for ill. It could be used on mission or it could be used to satisfy your flesh.
When using debt, we need to understand that we are forming an attachment to the lender and decide does this attachment free me up to complete the mission or does it bind me up to satisfy my flesh.
But there are other forms of debt, partnerships and business relationships, leases, promises and obligations. Too often Christians focus on the debt of money, but forget about the debt of agreement or relationships. We need to be careful when we enter into contracts, agreements and take on responsibilities. Is this future time I am getting away advancing my mission or a distraction?
- Possessions- What we own takes time, responsibility and space.
Storage unit companies make millions of dollars housing people’s junk. People build three car garages and then run out of room. Dave Ramsey brags about all his toys with engines.
Do we own things? Or do things own us? How much capital do I have tied up in my toys? If I needed to dispose of my possessions and house to make a cross country move how long would it take me? Is there anything that you wouldn’t be willing to give away?
One of the ways that we can keep possessions from owning us is to be intentional about giving them away.
Do you have a second home? Allow a minister or friend who rarely gets to vacation to stay there for free.
Do you have a third car? Give it to someone who needs it?
Do you have a really large house with extra rooms? Let someone live in one of the rooms as they work towards a degree or get back on their feet.
How many shirts, watches, pairs of shoes do you have? How many do you need?
If you are unwilling to let go of any of your possessions, there is a great chance that it owns you.
- Injustice- Was your shirt made by a slave? Are you sure? How would you know?
Does the day care where your kids go treat their employees fairly?
Is the movie producer of that movie you went to see creating content that glorifies Jesus?
When we part with a dollar we are participating in the entire supply chain of that product.
From the producers picking the raw materials to the retail associate ringing us up, slavery, unsafe work conditions, unsavory business practices and just general exploitation are all potential things that your dollar might support.
In our globalized economy it is nearly impossible to not touch some of these mission detracting practices in some way. The amount of research every purchase would take would be daunting. But we can make decisions that move us, and the world towards a more Eden-like world, where we shift the economic power of our dollar towards economic, labor, and manufacturing processes that honor God and our fellowman.
Mission Minded Money Principle #4
You can’t out give God
I mean come on, this should be obvious right? Every good and perfect gift comes from him and he won’t withhold anything from us! (Romans 8:32)
If all the money we have is God’s, and he wants us to accomplish a mission, then guess who’s responsibility it is to provide what we need for the mission?
Still, few Christians give to their church and even fewer tithe (give 10% of their gross income to the local church). And even fewer Christians give money when they see a need to a stranger, and the fewest Christians of all tip well.
Never have I given money to a stranger, or a friend, or a church member or anybody and later thought. “Dang it! If I hadn’t given that money to so-and-so I’d have enough money now.” It doesn’t happen!
God richly and abundantly provides for us. But often he provides for others through ME! And that’s an amazing part of living on mission. Getting to partner with God in his provision for others is my great privilege.
Christians need to analyze giving opportunities from a sowing and reaping concept more than a budget one.
The question shouldn’t be “can I afford to give?”. The question should be “Do I want that in my life?”
Since I have been on mission I have occasionally been dependent on randomn individual gifts from strangers or friends. I don’t ask for the money, I try not to voice those tough patches too often. I just go about my life, be generous and pray.
But what do I want in my life? Provision for my mission.
So guess what I do? Provide for other ministers who are ministering in faith steps.
And guess what I receive? (You’re getting this by now right?)
I can’t fathom the Christian that wrings their hand in worry and prays for God to provide for them, and won’t spend a dime in provision for anybody else. That’s like eating all the grain seed instead of planting it in the ground. Maybe you’ll be full once. But now there won’t be anything to grow or multiply.
Money is meant to be given away. If you are on mission, and the money you have is God’s, then it’s on God to replace that money that goes towards the missions of others.
You can’t out give God, but it’s fun to try.
Mission Minded Money Principle #5
John Wimber used to say Faith is spelled R-I-S-K. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that faith is the assurance of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
But if you can’t see it, how do you know it’s there?
The only way you can find it. Is to take a risk.
Taking Risks means that your income is not going to go up year after year. Your net worth probably won’t go up and to the right, and you’ll likely make mistakes.
Knowing that following Christ and being on mission equals risk, changes our perspective as we approach life and financial decisions.
There is a safe way to build wealth. You can sit down with virtually any financial advisor or financial coach and they’ll walk you through a pretty text book process to retire comfortably;
- Eliminate debt
- spend less than you make
- plan large purchases
You literally can’t mess it up.
But, when the goal isn’t to be wealthy, when the goal is to be obedient. Your balance sheet may look more like a heart monitor chart than a diagonal line.
Should you move across the country? Quit your job and start the business? Change careers or give more of your income away? I don’t know. It depends on what the mission is.
But saying, “that’s too risky” and calling it ‘wisdom’ doesn’t jive with the Jesus of the Bible who told his followers not to carry a bag of money, to step out of a boat in the middle of the night or who, I don’t know…. died on a cross planning on raising again in three days.
Following Jesus and being on mission is risky.
And it’s not really ‘Faith Based’ Finance, unless risk is involved.
Christian Financial Advice needs a face lift. Well, maybe it needs surgery.
No! It needs resurrected!
It’s dead. It stinks of the old man and it’s full of religious doctrines of man preached like they are the commands of God. (Matthew 15:9)
We need a church that recognizes that they were created to displace the darkness in the world. That they were created to do good works.
We need people who realize that everything is God’s and there’s always more money to be generous with.
What if we had a church that took risks with their money and didn’t support unsustainable and unethical business practices in their purchases? What if every follower of Christ said no to slavery, to explicit content and abusive work practices?
Could we be the light Jesus called us to be? Could the dark greedy world of finance become a bright light to fund the advancement of God’s Kingdom?
I think it can. And that’s my mission.
I’d love to help you get your family’s, your church’s or your non-profit’s money on mission.