What does it look like to honor God with your money? Especially when we read passages in the Bible that we aren’t sure exactly what they mean for us? For example, Luke 12:33,
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
You read that and you think and might think, “Am I really supposed to sell everything I have? Is that what I am supposed to do?” Understanding the context of life in this time period, as well as who Jesus is talking to, helps us understand Jesus’ point better and shows how we can apply it to our own situations today.
In this case, when he says “sell your possessions,” he was talking to his disciples who by and large weren’t wealthy and didn’t really have any money. But they probably owned a few possessions. Meaning, in order for them to be generous they would have to sell something in order to give. However, Jesus doesn’t say how many possessions they are supposed to sell.
To the rich ruler in Luke 18:22 Jesus said, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” So to him, Jesus said sell everything.
When a tax collector named Zaccheus met Jesus, he said in Luke 19:8, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” So Zaccheus gave away half of his possessions.
In Acts 4:37 it says, “Barnabas sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” But it doesn’t say how many fields he owned. While I’m sure it was a sacrifical thing Barnabas did, we aren’t told how much of his resources were tied up in that field.
And with both Zaccheus and Barnabas, their acts of generosity are commended.
So Jesus didn’t say to his disciples in Luke 12:33, “Take some of your savings and be generous.” He essentially said, “Sell something, and be generous.” Why? The simplest assumption is that these guys simply did not have cash to give and had to sell something so they could give. And as theologian John Piper writes, “Jesus wanted his people to move toward simplification, not accumulation.”
SIMPLICITY RATHER THAN ACCUMULATION
This, to me, is one of the simplest and most practical ways to apply Biblical principles to our finances.
Which means Jesus is calling us to be generous, but there is no blanket statement everyone should give X amount or a certain percentage. So how does this translate to us today?
In our modern day context, we can actually give without having to sell something (we have banks, credit cards, etc.). Now that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t sell something we may not need, but in a culture that “trades” with currency and not things/possessions, it means we should be generous with our money. Valuing simplicity over accumulation allows us to be generous with what we have.
Why we should value simplicity
Ultimately, your heart treasures your treasure. Right after telling his disciples to sell some of their possessions to be generous, he tells them why. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (v. 34).”
What this means is A) Our intentions don’t matter. What we actually do with our resources shapes our heart, not what we may want to do AND B) Our heart follows our money, our money does not follow our heart.
Here’s the reality: What we spend our money on reveals what is most important to us. We spend a good percentage of our money on a place to live, a car, food, even our cell phone bills. Why? Because these things are important.
So here’s how we can look at it: after the necessities, what do you spend your money on? That shows you what you care about.
What Jesus is saying here, is that the way you spend your resources reflects what you truly treasure. Is it things that money can buy or is it God? Your bank account reflects that.
Here’s what I always tell people: the quickest way to grow in your faith is to be generous. If we want to treasure God, we have to treasure Him with what He has given us. Jesus talks more about how we handle our resources than he does anything else in the four Gospels, even more than heaven and hell.
Why? Because it is the #1 indicator of where are heart truly lies.
And one last thing we need to know and cannot forget. We strive to honor God with our money, not because He told us to, not because we are trying to get something out of Him, but simply in response of what He has done for us. He was exceedingly generous to us by sending Jesus so that we could have a relationship with Him.
Even as we strive to honor him with our money, He gives us the courage to trust Him. And the forgiveness when we don’t.