We live in a data-saturated world.
Every transaction, every website, every phone call, every text message, even every step has the potential to be tracked, measured and counted and captured for our (or others’) convenience.
What if we could do something similar to assess the health of our relationship with God?
What can our bank statement tell us about our faith in God?
Jesus makes it very clear that where our treasure is, our heart can be found (Matthew 6:21). Could it be that our money can give us clues to the quality of our relationship with God? If our bank statement measures our ‘treasure’ what can it tell us about our faith?
The four things our bank statement shows us
As someone who began my professional life in a bank, I can tell you that there was a lot that we can see from our bank statements. This record of transactions can actually point to different aspects of what’s important to us. There are four things that we can see that can give us clues as to what we value in practice. Our Income, our Expenses, our Giving, and our Savings all reflect the actions we take in our day to day lives. In many ways, they are evidence of decisions we make each day. Evidence that can help us circle back to God and evaluate our decisions in His light.
For most of us, much of the provision that God supplies to us is typically manifested in our employment. Our paycheque not only represents time spent in service of our employer, it also represents the investment God has made in us. It represents the talents, abilities and the choices that we have made to use those gifts in the marketplace, in ministry, or in service to others.
I would suggest that there are several ways that God can speak to us through our income.
-Are we letting God actively use us in our workplace?
Anyone who has ever left a job will know that often it’s the people we miss the most. As we look at our income are we presenting our workplace to God as a mission field? Are we looking for ways to share His love to those around us? Are we finding opportunities to articulate the hope that we have inside of us (1 Peter 3:15)?
-Does my identity come from my job, or my creator?
There are times in my career where I’m aware that my job became more important to me than other things. My ego, my identity, my pride all hinged on getting my job done well. The truth was that I was pursuing my own little kingdom, rather than seeking God’s kingdom in my daily life. How can our income be a reminder to anchor our day on God and continue to pursue His kingdom, rather than pursue our own agenda?
-Does my work take me away from God-given responsibilities?
Doing a job well requires us to display diligence, care and integrity in the way we work. But it can also take us away from important roles we have in our families, our communities, our churches and to other people around us. We all go through seasons where it's important to focus on career objectives, study, and responsibilities as carers. As we look at our income, does it represent a healthy balance between paid work and unpaid work? Does it allow us the capacity to invest in the responsibilities that we carry in other areas of life? How can we find a healthy balance?
We spend in pursuit of our own glory more often than we think. Although God is our provider and our successes actually come from God’s hands, we claim them as our own and steal the glory that belongs to God. This leads to houses that are bigger than we need, more clothes than we can reasonably wear, more food than we should ever eat, more luxuries than we should desire, and more debt than anyone should ever carry.
Paul Tripp has written a fantastic book called ‘Redeeming Money.’ It’s not necessarily an easy read, but it starts to open our eyes to the power that money can have over our lives. Our ability to spend buys us not only the practical things we need - it buys us pleasure, experience, richness and, sometimes, emptiness.
Tripp suggests that money has a tendency to draw us towards independence from God, rather than dependency on Him. As we look at our spending, what are we spending our money on? Mostly, it’s our needs. Or even worse, our perceived needs.
“We spend in pursuit of our own glory more often than we think. Although God is our provider and our successes actually come from God’s hands, we claim them as our own and steal the glory that belongs to God. This leads to houses that are bigger than we need, more clothes than we can reasonably wear, more food than we should ever eat, more luxuries than we should desire, and more debt than anyone should ever carry.”
As we look through what we’ve been spending, can we identify times where we’ve spent excessively beyond our needs? For many of us (myself included) we too often spend ‘our’ money without thinking about the God who provided it for our needs, and ultimately for His glory.
The danger of excessive spending is not just what we spend our money on, it’s also debt. As we look at our statements can you see debt climbing? What’s causing this? Are there patterns in our spending that are contributing to unhealthy debt?
Are there times where we can see we’ve used money (or the things it can buy) to comfort us, or provide something that we should be turning to God for?
Our challenge is to keep thanking God for the provision He has given and asking Him to lead us to areas of sacrifice and obedience that will bring Him glory.
One of the best vaccinations against greed is to continue to give and to give generously.
Many of us as children were taught to give our tithe to our local churches. A tithe (or tenth) of our income is a biblical principle that Moses introduced to provide for the Levites after the Israelites left Egypt and prepared for life in the promised land. Rather than owning land, the Levites’ material needs were provided for through tithes from the other tribes. This ten percent rule is an excellent practice and well above what many in the broader Australian community would typically give to charitable offerings.
But do we let this concept of tithing stop us from giving even greater gifts?
As you look through your bank statement, can you identify transactions where you've been generous? Where you’ve purchased a meal for others? Where you’ve given to charity, to ministry or to the needs of others? Of all the things that bring us joy, I’m convinced that gifts are one of the greatest. Think about it for just a moment. Whilst we understand the biblical wisdom that we are blessed as we give rather than receiving (Acts 20:35) I’m not sure that we let this beautiful practice really seep into our everyday.
One of the best vaccinations against greed is to continue to give and to give generously.
As you look through your bank statement is there enough giving? Are there things that you purchase for yourself that might be substituted with a gift that could bring even greater joy?
I have found that many of the people I most admire are not people I admire because of their wealth. The people I’ve had the pleasure to meet and spend time with I've come to admire because of their generosity, rather than their wealth.
The parable of the rich fool reminds us that our aim is to store up treasure in heaven, not on Earth
The last of the four areas that our bank account reveals about our heart are our savings. In the Old Testament, the most powerful example of savings we see is in the story of Joseph. Having been tasked by Pharoah with the responsibility of preparing for famine, Joseph sets aside a portion of the harvest for seven years so that there will be provision for years of famine. In simple terms, the savings were wise to ensure that the people of Egypt were provided for during the famine. Failing to save (especially after God had revealed his plans to Joseph and Pharoah) would have been foolish.
For each of us, having a savings account helps us prepare for the unexpected. The danger of our savings is that we become comfortable with what we have accumulated. Saving money for a productive purpose is not wrong. Having money set aside for emergencies is sensible. But where our savings become about our own comfort is where we can become captured by greed. The parable of the rich fool reminds us that our aim is to store up treasure in heaven, not on Earth (Luke 12).
As you look at your bank statements, are you saving for a productive purpose? Is a portion of your income saved to help prepare for unexpected emergencies? Or do you spend every cent you earn? Similarly, have you acquired funds beyond what you will reasonably need? Planning for a period of time where you will not be earning income (retirement for example) is sensible.
In their book God and Money, Greg Baumer and John Cortines recommend setting a financial finish line. A line at which you can say with reasonable confidence that your needs are provided for. Whether it’s income or assets, anything above that line can be released - given to ministry or other activities that will glorify God and advance His Kingdom.
God’s grace is available to every part of our life.
Fortunately God’s grace is abundant and available to reach into every part of our life - even our finances. As we next look over our bank balance or transaction listing, let’s pause and let God’s love inspire our financial choices - and accept his grace for the times when we get it wrong. After all, our financial life is one more area where an offering to God in humility and obedience will not go unseen.