When you receive unexpected money, what is the first thing you want to do with it?
Luella and I were in our early days of ministry, with two hungry children, barely making it on the meager salary our little church was able to pay us. I must admit that in those days, I struggled a lot with envy and often wondered what God was doing.
One afternoon an anonymous envelope came in the mail containing a $100 check. It seemed to me like a million dollars, and I immediately started to plan all the ways I would spend it.
I ran and showed Luella. She looked at it for a moment and then said these devastating words: “Paul, we’re doing okay, and we weren’t expecting this money. Why don’t we give it to someone less fortunate?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; I was persuaded my wife had lost her sanity! I felt my dreams slip through my fingers as I begrudgingly gave it to a more needy family in our church.
This moment, while embarrassing, was (and still is) a blessing from God. Sure, I could have interpreted that $100 as a “good gift from above” (James 1:17, which it became for a family less fortunate than ours), but there was a much bigger blessing available than a temporary boost to our bank account.
Money is a blessing because it reveals what rules our hearts.
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. . . . You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1–3)
What is money revealing about what rules your heart? “If only I had this much money, then I would be satisfied.” Or, “If only I could afford _______, then I would be content.”
How many people have believed these lies and ended up with both heart and wallet empty?
If you’re humbly willing to look, your desires for and use of money will help you see what is battling for the rulership of your heart. This is a rescuing blessing from God.
You shall give to him freely [the poor brother], and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. (Deuteronomy 15:10)
Money is a blessing because it allows us to respond to the needs of others.
It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)
In simple terms, you and I are always viewing ourselves as either a container or a conduit for the money God gives us.
Either we want money to stop with us (container) because we have conceived many ways to make our life more pleasurable, or we think of ourselves as a pipeline (conduit) and are excited that the money can bless and benefit the lives of others.
God hasn’t provided for us simply to provide for us, but in providing for us, he has enabled us to be a means of his provision for others.
If you give yourself to the lifestyle of a conduit for the Kingdom of God, you get to watch your money do things that are literally of eternal consequence.
“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. (Proverbs 3:9–10)
So as you interact with money, whether you have much or you have little, and whether it’s budgeted or a surprise bonus, remember that money asks not just for your financial investment, but the allegiance of your heart as well.
The struggle with money is a constant reminder that we still live in a spiritual danger zone. The war continues, and we must be willing to fight until the last enemy is under the foot of the Lord of grace, who will usher us into a place where the danger is no more.
1. How have you spent any unexpected money lately? What does your recent spending (whether budgeted or not) reveal about what may be ruling your heart?
2. Are you willing to take an honest look at your spending? Are you already becoming defensive and justifying certain areas of your finances? Why can we be transparent and fearless?
3. How do worldly gifts that you can afford with your money remind you of God’s goodness? Praise him for those today and allow them to stimulate worship for all the gifts he has lavished on you.
4. How can you be a conduit for the Kingdom of God in the coming days, weeks, and months? Get specific. What are the blessings that can result when you choose to be a conduit and not a container?
5. Reflect on all the ways that God has been generous to you, both spiritually and materially. How might this meditation radically change the way you interact with people, time, and money?