Two weeks ago I wrote about wealth and how the sharing of ideas has contributed to the vast amount of wealth in the world today. In comparison to the majority of nations and people throughout the world, Americans are very wealthy and have an extremely high standard of living.
Two centuries ago, the average world income per human (in present-day prices) was about $3 a day. Currently average income has skyrocketed to $33 a day per human on the planet. Yet it is obvious the distribution of wealth is not equal in every nation. The average American earns $130 a day.
The opportunity to amass wealth here is the United States is astonishing! What does one do with vast riches? How should I handle the wealth that is available to me? My personal savings and investment accounts are not vast, but I do have a modest amount set aside to unexpected emergencies and retirement. However, I am wealthy in areas other than finance: I have very good health, I have a comfortable home, I have a functional car, I have energy and time, I have friends and family, I have faith and purpose. I am wealthy in many things. How can I use these resources to further God’s Kingdom?
There are three options for our financial resources:
purchase things for use today (ENJOY)
invest for the future (SAVE)
generously share with others (GIVE)
I believe that these options can also be viewed as investments – using today’s resources with the mindset that through compounding will grow into something more. With the right balance and a focus on one’s abundance in Christ, we can all handle our wealth appropriately and as God intended.
First, I can ENJOY what I have today. I can spend my wealth on my present needs. If I do so with intentionality, I am investing in myself and the people in my life. I can buy, consume, and enjoy quality food (which is an investment in my health). I can spend on healthy experiences such as hiking, camping, biking, or education (which is an investment in my health and mind). On the other hand, I could spend on things that pass away, are trivial, or become obsolete quickly, such as fancy cars, electronic gadgets, or trendy clothing.
God never commands Christians to live austere lives, rather he wants us to enjoy the abundance He provides, as long as we remember Him and that worldly possessions are temporary.
The Apostle Paul writes that we are to enjoy what God provides for us:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. I Timothy 6:17
A second use for wealth is to SAVE and invest for the future. This is also known as delayed gratification. I put aside some of today’s income as a hedge for the future. I delay today’s enjoyment in order to accumulate enough funds for a future big purchase, such as a car, home or college education. I also invest for a time when I will be older and not as able to work effectively for an income (some call this saving for retirement).
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! … it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. Proverbs 6:6,8
Thirdly, and most important, we are to GIVE, for it is an investment in the future as well. This future is not seen here on earth, but it is God’s Kingdom we invest in. Giving recognizes that my eternal destination is in heaven. This world is passing away. I can take nothing with me when I leave earth – NOTHING! Giving is a response to God’s infinite grace in my life. By giving, I recognize that I have value and that other people have value. Giving is an investment in other people and ultimately God’s Kingdom. As a follower of Jesus, giving demonstrates that God’s love abides in me.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17
Those of us blessed to live in the United States are wealthy. Wealthy Christians are called to be generous and willing to share. An attitude of giving comes from a mindset of abundance and not scarcity. Scarcity thinking hoards and holds one’s resources with a tight fist. Abundance thinking recognizes that my cup overflows – that God richly provides everything I need and that I can enjoy it! If I see my life, my resources as abundant, I can freely give them away.
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:18-19
What do you think? How should one handle wealth? In what ways could changing your mindset from “scarcity” to “abundance” help you be more generous?