Are you hedging your bets against God?
Diversifying your portfolio and hedging your bets are advisable tactics in many situations. It keeps you afloat, eliminates risks and allows for failures and miscalculations.
But we’ve taken this concept of diversifying and have applied it to worshipping God with our finances.
We do not bring the “whole tithe” to the storehouse (Malachi 3:10). Most of us struggle to even bring a piece, let alone the whole thing and many aren’t bringing anything at all. We aren’t fully worshiping God with our finances because we’ve added comfort and success to our worship diversification portfolio. We are hedging our bets against whether God will provide, and we are prioritizing our own financial security above all else.
This is not a new or an American concept.
God’s people have been struggling with upkeeping their own financial security and hedging their bets since 1 Kings.
During the reign of King Ahab, the Israelites added Baal worship to their portfolio. Ahab set up an altar and a temple to Baal, then, for good measure, added an Asherah pole in honor of his fertility god.
The Israelites didn’t completely abandon their history and their belief in God, they simply added Baal into the mix. Baal was known as the god of weather, rain, seasons, fertility and more. For a primarily agricultural society whose economic windfalls were directly correlated with weather maintaining strong crops and fertility maintaining strong offspring, I’m sure they felt the good graces from a god who boasts controlling rain and fertility was worth a little worship diversification.
The worship of Baal is easy for us to see as idolatry. But most of us tend to stop at the statue and not realize the idolatry extends to what the statue represents. In the case of the Israelites, the idolatry seemingly extends to strong crops and strong children, but the real idol is neither. The underlying truth behind the idol is the need for financial security. The idol is money.
The idolatry of money.
At first glance, most of us would refuse we struggle with idolatry. We do not make altars or statues or sing praises to other gods. This may be true, but we would be harder pressed to refuse that money is not the cornerstone of most our decisions and at the forefront of our actions. If we choose to look past the statue and see what the statue represents, we can see financial security, comfort, and our need for plain old things have overlapped our desire to follow God the way he instructed.
Thankfully for us, God knows about our struggles with money and security, and Jesus speaks about handling money and forgoing control over our securities on numerous occasions. The new testament writers warn us about the deceptive nature of money and urge us to be wise in our conduct with its use.
Thankfully for the Israelites, God did not just stand by and watch them struggle to maintain their own financial securities. He sent a messenger, then he sent a drought, then he sent a messenger, then he sent a fire. God showed them he was in control and demanded they notice (1 Kings 18). The same was true then as it is now, God wants our attention and he wants to be in control.
God is sending us messages too (and probably a couple droughts and fires) to show us he wants our hearts, obedience and finances. He does not want us to hedge our bets and worship money and financial securities in addition to worshipping him.
The new testament warns us money will try to gain our worship. In Luke 16: 19-31, Jesus tells a parable of a rich man and a poor man and the eternity they endure. In Matthew, Jesus speaks about serving both God and money, and in Acts, Luke reminds us, to give what we have.
Unfortunately, the majority of us are ignoring these messages because it appears Americans are worshiping money more than God.
I’m sure your first reaction to this is a resolute: Not Me.
But let’s look at the facts: American incomes have been on a steady increase over the last 50 years, but the average giving amounts have dropped from 5.98% to 3.21%, and they should be at 10%.
Jesus says, where your money is, there your heart will be also. If our hearts are following God, our money should be leading the way. Want to back up your resolve, take out your bank statement. Follow the money. Where is your heart?
The Old Testament required a 10 percent tithe in addition to voluntary offerings. Jesus instructed his followers to “give to everyone who asks” (Luke 6:30). The early church “sold property and possessions to give to anyone in need” (Acts 2:45). In today’s culture, we are making more money, living lusher lives, and giving less.
We have an idolatry problem.
So, what’s the solution?
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). God, as always, gives us the answer. Giving is not only a gauge of our hearts, giving actually changes our hearts. When we begin to give to the Kingdom of God our hearts begin to change and our actions and choices reflect it, especially in our finances.
This change can take time, patience and planning to accomplish. If we want to declare our allegiance and follow Jesus in an authentic way, we need to conduct ourselves in a counter-cultural manner like Jesus did. Jesus became poor, so we may become rich. Jesus said he who is last will be first. Trusting in God and following Jesus cannot come with a caveat. This portfolio cannot be diversified. This is an all-in bet.
Here are a couple ideas:
Change your priorities. God does not want your left overs. He wants the first-born, the purest offering, the first fruit. He wants a little sacrifice.
Reevaluate your spending to free up some giving.
The cost and quality of our food choices alone could open up money for generosity. I understand the importance of organic and GMO-free options, but could the devil be using free-range chicken and grass-fed beef to distract us from our calling to take care of our neighbors and give to the poor.
Our habit of grabbing a quick bite out is costing us hundreds of dollars in conveniences. Could packing a paper sack and brewing your own coffee allow you to give in a way that could impact the kingdom and turn your heart toward God.
The first step in changing is knowing. Create a spreadsheet of your spending. Track your grocery and restaurant bills, line item coffee, vitamin supplement and clothing purchases, separate your nails, hair and make-up spending, filter your dance, piano, karate, and sports tuitions and then stack it up against your charitable giving.
Make a conscious choice to buy less expensive things, take less expensive vacations, buy less expensive houses and tell someone you are doing it to worship God.
For some reason, Americans are willing to talk about every aspect of their lives, except money. It has become indecent to talk about our or know about others incomes and giving. Don’t let the devil convince you to hide. It’s one of his tricks.
Jesus tells us to come out of the darkness and into the light. Anything that is in the light cannot also be covered in darkness.
This is also true with finances.
Take the risk. Don’t hedge your bets. Be all in.
Don’t let money and financial securities be an idol in your life, give God control instead.
*Disclaimer: We are not preaching a poverty gospel. Having money is not the problem. The idolatry of money is the problem.
This article was inspired by God’s battle for your bank account by Michael Rhodes.