What to Give to Caesar, what to Give to God?

What to Give to Caesar, what to Give to God?Recently I completed one of “favorite” tasks of any year: filing my annual tax return. I was prepared with all of my documents and I took care of it, even though I never, never enjoy the process.

An in spite of my problems with the U.S. Tax System, I know is a responsibility I could not avoid. Remember this passage in Matthew:

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said.
16 And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.
17 Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?”
18 But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?
19 Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius.
20 And He *said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”
21 They *said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He *said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”
22 And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.
Matthew 22:15-22

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In His answer to the Pharisees, Jesus makes it very clear to us that paying taxes to the government (represented by Caesar in this case) is something we should do. Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us the same thing:

6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Romans 13:6-7

However, I believe the issue goes deeper than a simple manner of a money exchange. Aside from paying taxes, what do owe the government? And what do we owe God?

As Christians, I think what we owe the government is very clear:

  • Obeying the law.
  • Respect to authority (Judges, police, government officials).
  • Participation in the democratic process via the vote (where available).
  • Seek out the wellbeing of the city in which we live.

The apostle Peter summarizes these points very well:

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,
14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.
15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.
16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.
17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
I Peter 2:13-17

Of course as Christians, our obedience to those laws should be limited to those laws that do not contradict God’s express will and His commandments.

Like the Apostles in the book of Acts (Acts 5:24-29) in the moment of persecution and oppression, we should be willing to obey God rather than men and we should already be willing to suffer the consequences.

So, what should we give God then? This is of course the most fundamental question and goes way beyond an issue of money.

As Christians, I believe we owe God:

  • All honor and glory. Total worship. He is the only one worth of all our praise.
  • Obeying His commandments.
  • Service motivated by heart full of gratitude for His many blessings.

So yes. Year after year, I will pay my taxes. I will give Caesar what is owed to Caesar.

However, for me the most important thing is to give God all that I owe to Him. He paid a debt that I could not ever pay by myself.

So the only thing left for me to do is to live every day doing what I can to advance His Kingdom. And to bring Him glory.

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

The Temporal, The Eternal, and Your Money

The Temporal, The Eternal, and Your Money

Today I want to speak directly to my Christian brothers and sisters. And more than just an educational post, I want to start a conversation.

I want you to meditate on the topic and I want to hear your opinions on this topic which has been on my heart and mind for a few weeks.

And here is the topic: as Christians, how can we balance the focus on our financial wellness here on earth with the heavenly and eternal purposes God has for us?

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First of all, I want to affirm that I have not changed my stance on the importance of achieving the control over our money. How critical it is to learn to live on less than we make, to save money, to get out of debt, to have a plan for financial victory.

I have not changed my mind and my opposition to the idea that “money is evil and wealth is not God’s plan for us.

There is more than enough evidence in the Scriptures to show that God rejoices in blessing His people with material wealth. This is true, even though that’s not the only or the primary way in which God takes care of His people.

But the issue that has concerned me lately is this, how as a Christian I can balance temporal and eternal priorities, and how that is reflected in my money management.

How do I best take care of the money god has put in my hands?

And for me, the best way to find that balance is to search the Scriptures. For example, let’s look at this passage in Matthew:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

What do you think the Lord is telling us? That we should not have savings or investments? That all the money we earn should go to the church, a 100%?

I don’t think that’s the case. I believe Jesus is speaking about priorities. Is it our priority the advancement of His kingdom or the advancement of our kingdom?

Are we more worried about what we are going to eat, what we will wear, what we will get to do tomorrow, than making sure the gospel is preached to every creature on earth?

We are talking about earthly priorities vs. heavenly priorities. Hear what the message from the apostle Paul to the Colossians:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
Colossians 3:1-2

So I believe Paul is helping us to really understand the issue. Every day we can get distracted with all of those things that cause us to worry.

Not only money distractions, but also work priorities, family issues, relationships, fun activities, etc.

And that happens. It happens to me every day. That’s because we are used to deal with the tangible, the immediate, with what we can see. But all of that is temporary.

As Christians, the battle to put God’s priorities at the top of our list is a daily one. It is a challenge to maintain our spiritual priorities every single day.

Still, we should remember that God’s priorities are eternal.

However, I don’t want to leave you with a guilty feeling or without hope. What I want to do is to make you think and make me think about that elusive balance between the temporary and the eternal.

If are our hearts and intentions are right, we can achieve the financial victory and we can also glorify God with our money management.

The important thing is not let money become an idol in our lives that replaces Christ as Lord of our lives.

Our finances, just like everything else in our Christian lives, should be used to advance God’s priorities.

So yes, it is important to reach financial wellness. Once we get there, we should think about the best way of glorifying Christ in how we use what He has given us.

Let’s take care of our families. Let’s plan so we don’t have to depend on the government or anyone else. Let’s use money to help others in need.

Let’s also make sure that as far us is concerned, our churches have the resources needed to complete their mission.

And every day, let’s include this question in our daily prayers:

Question: Lord, how do You want me to use Your money today to advance Your kingdom?

The Purpose of Wealth

17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.
18 
Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.
19 
By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

I Timothy 6:17-19 (NLT)

The purpose of getting your finances in order and building wealth is so that you can be a blessing to God and others.

You see, it’s not just about you and me.

So using the passage quoted above, here is how I summarize the purpose of wealth:

The Purpose of Wealth

3 Fundamental Principles of Biblical Stewardship

3 Fundamental Principles of Biblical StewardshipNow this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NASB)

As a Christian, what’s your view of stewardship? Does the word bring up feelings of guilt? Or is being a steward a cause of joy for you?

If we are not careful, we can make this concept of stewardship too complicated. I do believe that part of maturing as a Christian involves growing in our understanding of biblical stewardship.

A mature believer understands that he/she is an asset manager or a steward and that God owns it all (Psalm 24:1). He does not need our money.

But I would like to help us understand the essence of biblical stewardship. Let me use the verses above to share with you the 3 fundamental principles of biblical stewardship.

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Principle #1: We Reap According to what We Sow

In the context of this passage, the Apostle Paul is encouraging the believers at Corinth to gear up and get ready to support the offering for the saints in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 9:1-5).

In this first principle, he borrows a concept from farming. Namely, we reap what we sow. Not only that, but we also reap in the same measure as we sow.

The idea here is that in stewardship, you get back as much as you put in. And he is not only talking about a financial return. He is speaking about all of the benefits that come your way when you give.

Jesus put this way: “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” (Luke 6:38).

You can’t out-give God. He is the Great Giver and He delights in blessing the obedience of His children.

Principle #2: We Should Give with a Joyful Heart

Even though Paul encourages us to give generously, he immediately introduces the second principle.

Yes, we should give but we should do it with a joyful heart. Note that he also indicates that each of us should give as we have purposed in our hearts.

You see, giving is very personal. It’s between you and God and no one else. Yes, He wants you to give and to be a good steward but not under compulsion, out of guilt.

My stepdad worked in construction all of his life. He was usually tinkering around the house doing something:  maybe unloading the tools and wood he used after a hard day of work, or maybe working a project around the house during the weekends.

My mom always felt that I should help him, but to be honest, that was not my first inclination. I always had to be told to go help him which I did grudgingly.

However, every time I helped him, I ended up having a good time and learning something in the process. If I had known better, I would have given my time to that effort happily.

In stewardship, you can enjoy it more if you do it from the heart, from the beginning regardless of the amount. You will receive more than you can ever imagine.

Just try it!

Principle #3: We Should Trust God’s Grace in Provision

Here is the fun part in biblical stewardship:  once we decide to jump in with both feet, we can trust God will provide what we need for every good deed.

Isn’t that something? God will provide all that you and I need to be a good steward. He is more interested in the condition of our hearts than in anything else. And when we give, we are transformed for the better.

When we obey God in the matter of stewardship, we unlock the power of His grace to work in our lives. We can be a blessing to the rest of the body of Christ and to all who are in need of His love and compassion.

Question: What principle of biblical stewardship will you put in practice today? 

“You can’t out give God. Why not try it and see for yourself?”
Greg Laurie,
Senior Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship  

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10 Goals for Your Money in 2014

10 Goals For Your Money in 2014Well here we are. It’s the last month of 2013. I want to be one of the very first to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

And before we get too busy with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, let me ask you a question. How did you do with your money goals this year?

Yes, yes. I know I am meddling a little bit. By the way, I am asking myself that question as well. At the beginning of 2013 I set 4 specific goals for our finances this year. We are going to end up meeting 2 of them, getting close on a third one, and missing one completely.

I don’t want to be the Grinch who stole Christmas but this is a very busy season for all of us. Time will get away from you and me and in less than 30 days a New Year will start. I want you to have a plan and a set of objectives for your money.

Nothing ever gets done well without a plan and a target and that includes the management of your finances. Your money goals should be specific, measurable, realistic, and include a target date.

So, without any further delay here are 10 Goals for Your Money in 2014:

Budget

  1. Live on a monthly budget for 90 days (Jan-Mar 2014). If you have never lived on a budget before, it will take you about 3 months to master this new skill.
  2. Start using a cash envelope for one of your spending categories (e.g. groceries) in January. Using cash helps you control your spending. Cash is finite but when we use plastic, we tend to spend more.

 

Savings

  1. Finish your emergency fund by the end of March 2014. If you still have consumer debt, you should have $1,000 in a beginner’s emergency fund. If you are out of consumer debt, you need 3-6 months of expenses in your fully funded emergency fund.
  2. If you are out of consumer debt and have your fully funded emergency fund, ensure you are contributing 15% of your annual income into retirement by the end of 2014.

 

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Debt

  1. Try living without using a credit card for 90 days (Jan-Mar 2014). If you are on a budget, and living on less than you make, you don’t need a credit card.
  2. Pay off your 3 smallest debts in your debt snowball by the end of June 2014.
  3. Review your credit report by the end of January 2014. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the 3 credit bureaus once a year.

 

Protecting the Household

  1. Complete an insurance needs assessment by the end of April 2014. There are 7 types of insurance that are required to protect your financial household. Make sure you have the right coverage to protect yourself and your family.
  2. Complete the preparation of a will by the end of February 2014. If you have a will, review it for any changes required due to any changes in your family situation.

 

Stewardship/Giving

  1. If you are a Christian, begin tithing to your local church this year. For a Christian, this is not a salvation issue, it’s an obedience issue. If you are already tithing, look for ways to increase your giving. If you are not a person of faith, you can still find someone who needs your help. Ensure giving it’s an element of your financial plan for 2014.

 

I have given you some ideas for goals that cover all areas of your financial plan. But remember: it’s your money and it’s your life. So it’s up to you.

Make adjustments to the items on this list and add to the list. But please, don’t begin 2014 without a plan for your money. Do it today!

Question: What other financial goals would you like to meet in 2014?

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