In the opening minutes of Pastor Mike’s message last Sunday, he jokingly asked if anyone really enjoys sermons about money. Perhaps I’m just the odd guy in the room, but part of me wanted to raise my hand. I actually love sermons about money! I don’t love them because I love money, but because I walk alongside people each and every day around the topic of money. In doing so, I see first-hand how important it is for us to get this money stuff right. Money can really mess us up if we don’t have the proper perspective and don’t handle it in a healthy way. God knows this, which is exactly why money is discussed in the bible nearly 1,000 times!!!
We tend to view money in a very black-and-white way. For example, giving=good. Yes, giving is good. It’s actually my favorite thing. But without the proper perspective and a healthy way to handle our giving, we can turn something so good into something potentially negative (or less than God intended it).
First, the proper perspective. Pastor Mike talked about the idea of “first fruits” (2 Chronicles 31:4-5), meaning giving is the first thing we are called to do upon receiving our income …..not something we do IF there’s leftovers. Why? “God comes first”, as Mike so simply put it. It’s also an acknowledgement everything we have belongs to God, and in turn builds trust and faith that God will provide for our needs. When we give joyfully and sacrificially, it unlocks something in our faith walk. It teaches us humility, trust, contentment, and joy.
Second, handling our giving in a healthy way. There’s a situation I see play out often in my coaching work. It happens for the best of reasons, but often with negative consequences. A family deeply desires to be generous. They regularly give to the church, and maybe they also give to a few other organizations. So far so good! Here’s the catch. Something pops up. Something awesome. A sudden, God-prompted opportunity to give a profound gift to someone in their midst. Maybe it’s paying for a neighbor’s electric bill. Or maybe it’s the single mom who had a mechanical issue and is now in need of a car. Or maybe it’s an opportunity bless some children in need. So many amazing opportunities all around us. “An opportunity to say ‘yes’”, as I like to say. You’re probably thinking “nothing here sounds negative, Travis!” Here’s where it gets dicey.
The ongoing giving to the church, and maybe a few of those other organizations, are part of the rhythm of life. The family knows it’s coming, plans for it, and makes it happen. But these other, more sudden opportunities? They can pop up instantly. It’s a singular, fleeting moment where a decision needs to be made. Do I say “yes”, or do I say “no”? As someone with a deep passion for generosity, I’m always on the side of “yes”. However, given these opportunities can pop up suddenly, there’s a tension in the decision-making process. Three situations just like this recently happened with people I’m working with. Here’s how they played out:
- One family ultimately said “no”, as there simply wasn’t enough money available to make it happen. This was true…..there was in fact a lack of resources available to give this gift. This turned into frustration.
- One family quickly said “no”, as they weighed the opportunity cost of this money and ultimately decided they would rather do something “more fun” with the money. In the hours following this decision – after the opportunity had passed – they felt a deep sense of guilt and regret.
- One family (er, one spouse) quickly said “yes”, but it immediately caused tension in that month’s budget. More importantly, it caused tension in the marriage due to a lack of communication and planning. The gift was amazing, mind you. But there were negative consequences.
Three amazing opportunities to say “yes”, three different outcomes, all with negative consequences. So what’s the answer? Not give at all? Haha! Far from it! We can never outgive God, and giving generously with a proper perspective in a healthy way ALWAYS glorifies God and makes our life richer.
Rather, I had the same conversation with all three families. It’s actually something my wife Sarah and I have done for the last eight years. Early in our marriage, after we recognized the importance of generosity in our faith walk, we decided to set up our giving in a different type of way. We knew our weaknesses, we knew our habits, and we knew how we were supposed to honor God with our giving. So here’s what we did. We set up a separate checking account, tied it to our primary checking account, and every month we “gave” to this giving account. The first thing we do every month – ala first fruits – is make our gift to the giving account.
Once the money is there, we go about the business of giving to the church, to other organizations, and yes, to the sudden, out-of-the-blue, God-prompted opportunities. The neighbor who is struggling to pay the electric bill. The single mom who needs a car. The kids who are in need. When there’s money in the giving account, the question in our mind shifts from “should I give?” to “where should I give?” When that happens, those amazing God-prompted opportunities become the easiest “yes” we’ll ever think about. It’s also where the greatest joy in life can be found.
The second benefit of a separate giving account is it allows us to easily say “yes” to generosity when it’s time to allocate our income. We don’t have to wrestle with questions like “who should we give to?”, or “how much should we give to them?” Instead, it’s “how much of God’s money do we want to give this month?” Then, days or weeks down the road, after prayer and discernment, we’re able to make very intentional and fulfilling decisions about where exactly our giving funds will go. In other words, a separate giving account adds a layer of patience and prayer to our generosity.
Third, when we give into a separate account that’s specifically designated for giving, it removes the mental gymnastics we play in our own heads. We no longer think about other things we could do with that money, because the money has already been “spent”. We never stop and consider the alternative uses for our mortgage payment, or our grocery money, or our electric bill. The same should apply to our giving. When we give into our giving account, the mental debate is over, and we can now get about the business of enjoying generosity.
The fourth and final benefit of handling all our giving through a separate giving account is it makes tracking very easy. When it comes time to account for our gifts (especially around tax season), it’s simple to open up our giving account transaction history and see where the gifts were made. It sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but opening a second checking account and facilitating all our giving from that account actually simplifies our finances.
It’s hard to image how a silly checking account can cause such a profound shift in our generosity mindset, but it’s true. I’ve lived it for many years, as have so many people I’ve had the pleasure to walk alongside. The three families mentioned above are also going to give it a try! It’s not right for everyone, but it’s been a breath of fresh air for many. If this sounds interesting to you, I’d encourage you to give it a try! I’m also happy to discuss further if you have any questions or would like to dive deeper into the mechanics of it. After all, giving is my favorite topic!
In the meantime, happy giving and Merry Christmas!
Travis Shelton, Financial Ministry Leader