As pastors, we sometimes think we need to talk about money because the church needs it or because our paycheck depends on what people give.
But that’s not really true.
First, we know that God does not need money for His church. He owns it all and can provide even if His people are disobedient.
Second, our provider is not the church. Our provider, like all followers of Jesus, is God. Paul says in Philippians 4:19: "And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus." Paul did not say that "this church will supply your needs" or "this job will supply your needs." It is only God who can provide for us.
So I don't have to preach about money? I'm off the hook?
No, we need to address this topic as Jesus did. We need to be great at talking about money like Jesus was. Jesus talked about money a lot. Why? Because of what it represents–our hearts. God doesn't need our money; He wants our hearts. But God cares about money, because it is often the last part of our heart that we give to or trust God with.
Would it surprise you that, when I talk about money, especially tithing, I have more people make first-time faith decisions than any other message topic? It makes sense. Many individuals are sitting in the seats of churches today who are hesitant over this final issue because they haven't yet given their money or wallets to God. And that is why God will discuss money eventually when it comes to a person's spiritual journey.
Jesus knew this, and He wanted to help us learn how to handle our money in a way that would please God. He wanted us to know that we can't serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). We have to choose whom we will serve. If we are still not submitting our finances to God, we are not serving Him wholeheartedly.
It's All About Perspective
As pastors, we have all heard things like, "All the church cares about is my money." Or "every time I go to church, they ask for money." What if we approached speaking about money with the same perspective as Jesus? He made it clear that if people are serving or bowing down to money, then they can't possibly be worshipping God.
Why does preaching about money matter to God? Because everything we do in our preaching is to live out the Great Commission of "making disciples and teaching them to obey all the commands that He has given us" (Matthew 28:19-20). What commands? Love God and love others, and don't love money!
Don't let money be your God. Your people need to know and live in the truth that money is a great servant but a terrible and fateful master, especially in our spiritual lives. To not teach and preach about money is to leave a big hole in the life of a disciple. To not teach and preach about money leaves those under your care, in your flock, vulnerable to serving the wrong God. And not preaching or teaching about money will rob you of some of the most evangelistic moments you will ever have in your church to lead people to make all-in-faith decisions.
Strategies for Teaching About Money
I schedule teachings on money four times a year, or once a quarter. I also prepare an entire series, typically four weeks every three years. That being said, I teach quite a bit about what the Bible says about money and wealth.
Here are some central messages about God and money that will ultimately lead to greater discipleship.
1. Getting and living debt free.
"Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God's law." (Romans 13:8, NLT)
Preach and teach about the freedom God wants us to live in regarding money. Not that we will all be wealthy according to the world's standards, but He does not want us to live in debt bondage. Help your people live free of the stress they are experiencing from living in the world's debt system.
When people avoid debt, they keep their financial life simple and manageable. Debt can harm their spiritual journey as disciples. Debt partners them with stress, fear, and many other destructive things. Debt is often an indicator of not trusting God as the provider. Help your church members get free of and continue to live free of debt.
It is also important to note that you must teach the children and youth in your church to be responsible and faithful stewards of money as disciples. Think about cultivating a culture of generosity among the generations.
Suppose children and young people in your church grow up trusting God as their Provider. In that case, they are much more likely not to face many of the temptations and struggles our current culture deals with–such as making money their god.
2. God's minimum standard is the tithe.
Never talk about giving and generosity without having at least a moment to confirm tithing.
This is an act of worship, a reminder every time I am paid that God is my provider and that I trust Him to continue to provide. This is the minimum standard God calls us to as we trust Him. Don't think of tithing as an Old Testament regulation; Jesus confirmed tithing in Matthew 23:23.
I love it when someone who is a well-meaning but uninformed Christian says that tithing is the Old Testament law. As a pastor, I know you all live and breathe the basic principle of hermeneutics and the power of the first mention in Scripture when teaching a subject like a tithe.
It's so powerful to go back to the first mention of tithe with Melchizedek and Abram. The principle and power of being faithful in tithe preceded the law and is a part of God's system for how we handle money and are faithful stewards with all He provides (See Genesis 14:18-20).
When we tithe, we say, "God, I trust You with my money. I know that You will provide for me and that You are a good Father who desires to see me prosper." Tithing is about worshipping God with all that we have and recognizing that He is the one who provides for us.
One way that I love to come alongside people whenever I teach on tithing is to offer them a 90 day money-back guarantee if God does not do what He says He will do in Malachi 3:10 and what Jesus confirmed.
The first time I did this, my leadership team said, "We should put aside some money just in case." It was a great teaching moment for them. I challenged them, "Do you realize what you are saying? You are saying God may not keep His Word." We laughed for a moment, went forward with the money-back guarantee, and have used it for the last 25 years helping many people become faithful to God through the stewardship of tithing. (Download the 90 day challenge money back guarantee here for free).
And "No," of the hundreds of people who have taken the challenge, I have never had anyone ask for their money back. I have, however, had hundreds of stories of how that one decision transformed their spiritual journey as a follower of Jesus.
3. Spending habits reflect our attitude toward God.
Another reason why preaching and teaching money matters to God is that how we spend our money reflects our attitude and beliefs about Him. Many people believe that God is either not interested or does not care about how we handle our finances. However, the truth is that how we handle money reveals what we believe about God. If we are always trying to get more and more stuff, it should be a warning sign in our faith. But if we are generous with our money and use it to bless others, it shows that we trust Him and are content with His provision.
Like any other tool, money can be used for good or evil. It all depends on how we use it. For example, we can use the money to bless others and meet their needs, or we can use it to buy things that we don't need.
How we use our money says a lot about our relationship with God. If we are always trying to get more and more stuff, it should be a warning sign in our faith. But if we are generous with our money and use it to bless others, it shows that we trust Him and are content with what He has given us. How we handle money reveals what we believe about God.
4. Giving is an act of faith that releases God's blessing in our lives.
Another important topic to teach on regarding generosity is that giving is an act of faith that releases God's blessing in our lives. Therefore, when we give generously, we trust God to provide for us and bless others with what we have.
When we give, we are releasing God's blessing in our lives. We are telling Him that we believe His promise to provide for us and are willing to share what we have with others. It's like planting a seed in the ground (Galatians 6:7). When we plant a seed, we trust that it will grow and produce fruit. When we give generously, God blesses us in return. He multiplies what we give back to us so that we can be a blessing to others. Therefore, it’s important to be generous with our money and not hold onto it selfishly. When we release our money into God's hands, He will bless us in ways we could never have imagined.
Jesus said that when we live a life of generosity or giving, we are living a more blessed life: "You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35, NLT) As a pastor, I want to train my people as disciples to understand and live the "more blessed" life God has for them.
5. Living on a budget is a way to show wisdom and self-control.
What Scripture teaches us about budgeting can be easily overlooked when teaching a series on generosity. If people do not understand how to handle money according to a prayerful budget that God leads them to, they will quickly end up in debt and their hands will be tied when it comes to giving in God's kingdom.
Don't assume that everyone knows what the Bible says about managing money and that all your church members live on a budget. As a creative, before I began teaching generosity as a pastor, I viewed the word budget as a four-letter word. So now, as I teach about Biblical money management, I talk quite a bit about the benefits of living on a Biblically based budget–peace of mind, freedom, and the ability to give and finance the kingdom.
Focus on the principle and concept of living in God's wisdom (Proverbs 21:20). Everyone gets to choose to live as the wise or as a fool. Not only are people choosing to live in wisdom when they live on a budget, but they are once again acknowledging that God is the one who provides for them.
I love to talk about how when we went to buy our home, the banker told us we could buy and live in a much bigger, more expensive house than we were purchasing. I asked him to show us how and what the payment looked like. When he did, I realized that he was not putting our tithe into our budget. When I told him that our tithe figured into our bottom line, he said that "he had never thought about doing that.” He was a Christian and a finance person, and yet it was not the norm to budget for generosity.
It is important to remember that a budget is not about deprivation or living in poverty; instead, it is about being responsible with our money and using it to bless others.
Most of the people in your church have grown up with a culture of budgeting around maximizing how many material things they can have. Teaching the biblical perspective of budgeting around the priorities of God's kingdom and generosity will stretch their faith. Jesus said that it is the "more blessed" life. It is the life of being a disciple. Help people ensure they build God's kingdom values into their budget. This is transformational for people in their faith journey. Living on a budget is a way to show wisdom and self-control with our money.
Teaching On Money is Part of Discipleship
Teaching Biblical money management is a vital part of discipleship. When we teach people how to handle their finances according to God's plan, we are helping them live in wisdom and freedom. Living on a budget is one way to show self-control and be wise with our money. As pastors, it is essential that we do not avoid this topic but instead teach it with conviction and understanding. We are helping our people grow in their faith journey and become more obedient disciples of Jesus Christ.
If you’d like to learn more about the teaching on the topic of money, check out my book Lord of the Fries. I’ll also be teaching a series based on this book in February 2023. Keep updated with One Voice Ministries here.