Time is money. If you have a job, you understand what this means because you are probably paid by the hour. When you want to buy something, you may look at that purchase from the perspective of how long you must work to pay for it – an hour to buy a few Gatorades, six hours to fill the gas tank, over twenty hours to buy an iPod, an entire summer to buy a car or pay for a semester of college.
The more we think about money, the greater the danger that money controls us. If we do not think we have enough money, we worry. If we have money in our pockets we think about stopping at McDonalds for a Coke or at the gas station for a Monster. Maybe a large amount of money in your bank account burns a hole in your pocket. How much money we have may determine what we buy. How much a boss offers to pay us may determine whether or not we take a job. Money is powerful. It has the ability to control us.
As Christians we must learn to view money in the light of our relationship with God. As we earn money and spend money, we must learn to manage it in the service of God instead of being managed by money. This means that our view and use of money must be governed by God’s Word.
The Money Problem
What is the problem we face in regard to money? We might answer, without hesitation, “Not enough!” Presently for young people it is much more difficult to find a job. Even if you have a job, you might want more hours or better pay because you have a mental list of the things you want to purchase: a car, a cell phone, clothes, and save for college. For young people, earning money opens up a whole new world of being able to purchase things. So it is important that you understand in your youth the real and present danger of money.
Our greatest money problem is not that we do not have enough (Yes, you read that correctly). The greatest money problem we face is the worship of the idol, money. This is what Jesus points out in Matthew 6:19–21: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Paul reiterates this warning of Jesus in I Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all evil…” In what ways does money become the object of our worship? Money becomes the object of our worship if we are anxious about not having enough. It becomes the object of our worship if we think that more money is the answer to all our problems. These are symptoms of a heart problem—a heart that thinks more money will satisfy our lives. Another way money-worship controls us is if we are constantly thinking about what we can purchase instead of thinking about how we can serve God with it—if we are on Craigslist or Amazon searching for the next purchase when we have enough cold, hard cash, instead of how we can serve God with it.
The Scriptures teach us to look at money differently. We are called to worship God and God alone. In him alone is found all that we need. Our joy is found in the Lord Jesus Christ and the riches of salvation we have in him. The things of this world will melt with a fervent heat. The riches of this world are corrupted by moth and rust. Their beauty and value fades. But salvation is truly priceless. The value of salvation is infinitely great. We must learn to worship the eternal God of our salvation with our money instead of worshipping our perishing money.
The Sovereign Manager
The infallible, living, powerful word of God teaches how to view rightly the place of money in our lives. The word for this is stewardship. The following are the four principles of stewardship.
First, God owns all things. The lie we would like to believe is that we own things. We own nothing. God has ownership rights to your car, your paycheck, your bank accounts, and your clothes. He owns all things because he created all things. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”
Second, the sovereign God gives us some things to use for a time. Your job, your money, and all you own was given by God because he sovereignly dispenses everything that people have. We like to think all that we own is ours because we have earned it. God provides all these things through work, gifts, or parents.
Third, God calls us to use all that he has given for the glory of his name. Stewardship is using God-given resources to serve him. We may not use the things of this earth in the way that we want. This is the lie that we want to believe. The truth is that God has entrusted to our care certain earthly things to use in the service of his kingdom. This does not mean we must give all our money to the church or to the poor. Instead, we should spend carefully in the light of our relationship with God.
Fourth, God requires that we give an account of our stewardship. God says to us what we read in Luke 16:2, “Give an account of your stewardship.” We must answer to God for every purchase – a Monster or a car. What was our motivation for that purchase or for that deposit? We will answer to God.
The Money-Managing Life
How do we live the principles of stewardship in our lives, as young people belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ? If we must be faithful stewards of every penny God has given to us, we should budget. I would like to help young people set up a very basic budget. Budgeting may seem complicated, but it is not. If you begin putting yourself on a budget now, when you have few expenses, it will be a great help when you are older and have many more financial obligations.
Budgeting is important because it is a tool for faithful financial stewardship. Having a budget by itself does not mean you are a faithful financial steward. A budget can be used sinfully to save only to buy the things you selfishly desire. Having a budget does not mean you are managing your money in the service of God. Serving God with your money is an issue of the heart. A budget is a tool for the managing of your money to serve God better.
You can budget easily by having an envelope system, in which you put money in one envelope for church giving, another envelope for spending, and another envelope for saving, which gets deposited in the bank. Your beginning budget has three categories.
As you budget, there are two important principles to follow. First, Jesus calls us in Matthew 6:33 to seek first his kingdom. Although this applies to the whole of our lives, in Matthew 6 Jesus is talking about our use of earthly things, including money. This means that as we make money, the first consideration for the use of this money should be giving to support the preaching of the gospel and other kingdom causes, including the care of the poor, the Christian schools, and missions. Although Scripture does not require tithing from us, a tithe of 10% is a good place to start. With this in mind, pray to God and ask him to show you how much you should set aside for kingdom causes. When you put this money in your envelope, make sure that you do not take from it for other expenses.
Second, because you have set aside money for the church does not mean you may spend the rest however you want. Remember that it all belongs to God, and it all must be used in the service of God. When you are young, it is a good idea to save money for things that you need. A car is needed to get to work or school. You do not need a new car, but basic transportation that serves its purpose. Saving for college is a good idea if you know it is God’s will that you go to college to develop your God-given abilities. It is a good idea to save money with the desire to be married one day and have children. The building of a covenant home requires money. I believe that even in your youth it is good to think about the big picture of kingdom service in the years ahead in school, work, and home.
The use of our money says a lot about our relationship to God. Spending money carelessly and giving little or nothing to the church says that we think little or nothing about God in relationship to money. But setting money aside to give to kingdom causes and saving for kingdom service in the future shows a heart that loves and worships God. May God give us such hearts that want to serve him better with our money and possessions, as faithful stewards of what he graciously provides.