Through no virtue of my own, I was born with skills that have allowed me to find a good job, and to manage my money. Before I was a Christian I thought that this was just good luck, and that I didn’t have to thank anyone for this. I could do with my money what I pleased (of course, in consultation with my wife!).
We have always had a joint bank account, but when she became a Christian many years before me, she suggested that we each have an additional private account which we can use completely as we please. I was happy with this, as I could then ‘treat’ myself without feeling guilty, and also it seemed to make the act of giving each other presents a bit more meaningful, and it allowed her to give money to charity without having to ask my permission.
I used to think myself reasonably charitable. I’d give to people in the street, and I gave a little to Macmillan nurses after my father died of cancer. I was probably like most of the rest of the country, quite happily giving less than 1% of my income away. And following worldly advice I set some financial targets for my life – I decided to have saved £100,000 by retirement age. (I have to admit I struggled to know what I was going to do with it, but it is something that you have to do, isn’t it).
On the road to becoming a Christian I read ‘challenging lifestyles’ by Nicky Gumbell. I decided that it was OK to give more away. I didn’t have to keep it all for myself for the future, and so I made a standing order from my bank to a Charity Card account, of a relatively small proportion of my income. Perhaps the surprising rate at which the amount I had in the account built up showed how little I was really giving away. But having that account meant that I had to give it away – and I found that really quite rewarding. “Now, who can I give this to” is quite a nice feeling. And I didn’t feel any poorer!
But when I first visited Mozambique I learned so much more! It was so liberating to see how much closer people come to God when they have no money. And if you put a Mozambican and an Englishman next to each other and dressed them the same, how would you know who was the richer?
But I also saw again the massive amount of good work that is not happening because of lack of money. I wept when Pastor Caetano described how he had started the orphanage at the House of the Sparrow with all he had – how they don’t know each day where food is coming from, but God always provides. Forty-seven children, being cared for and loved by a Christian pastor with nothing but what God provides. I learned that God really cares what we do with our money.
If someone asks us to give to charity the first thought is, “Can we afford it?” Of course we can – we still have so much more than the children in Mozambique. Can we afford not to? No, not unless we want to harden our hearts.
Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal. Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. For your heart will always be where your riches are. (Matthew 6:19-21)
My experience is that my giving to charity has increased twenty-fold or more since choosing to follow Christ, and my financial savings goals have disappeared. Where is the logic in saving for something that might be needed in the future when you can see something that is needed today?