This commentary is adapted from “Secure: Discovering True Security in Turbulent Financial Times” by Rick Dunham.

Money can be a cruel master that can impact every part of life. Yet many people willingly serve this unforgiving god, believing the promises it always fails to deliver. No wonder the Bible talks so much about money.  No wonder Jesus took time to deal directly with the seductive nature of its power and influence. 

For the most part, biblical teaching regarding money has failed to seep into the fabric of Christianity in the West.  We demonstrate that every day in how we handle our money. The sad result is that we have a view of money that is more culturally informed than biblically informed, with the result that we place our faith in money to provide us the security we seek, a security that only God can truly provide.

This is much to Satan’s delight and our Heavenly Father’s distress.

One reason our view of money as Christians is not biblically informed is that indirectly (or sometimes directly) we make sure the pastor knows that to talk about money is “off limits.”  We are willing to be taught how to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, how to make our marriages stronger, how to parent better, how to be godly leaders and how to stand for truth and justice in our world.

But we are not real happy when money is the focus of teaching from the pulpit, especially when it comes to giving.  That is over the line or, “none of your business.”

As a consequence, we fail to realize what it means to be stewards of all that God has given us and relegate our view of giving to tithing.  We don’t understand the fundamental role money plays in becoming a wholly devoted follower of Christ and how essential it is to that deeper walk with God that we long to experience.

Instead, the exercise of giving for most of us is more like tipping God than anything else.  If you think that is an overstatement, consider this:  No membership of any Christian denomination comes close to giving 10 percent of its income to religious organizations or churches with the average household giving just 2.8 percent.

That is a tip. And a bad one, at that.

What I came to realize in my spiritual journey, including two close brushes with bankruptcy, was that I did not have a biblical view of money and giving.  Harsh as it may seem, how we handle money is not viewed by most of us as a non-negotiable part of our relationship with Christ.  It is trumped by things like Bible reading, prayer, accountability to others, worship, mission trips and attending small group studies – the endless list of things we focus on to grow spiritually and become whole-hearted followers of Jesus.

Although all of these exercises are important, I believe we cannot enjoy a truly intimate relationship with God if we fail to view and therefore handle money as God has outlined in His Word.

It is simple yet profound.  Jesus put it this way: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6: 21).

When I lost my first job out of seminary many years ago, I thought my family’s problem was that we were financially over-extended and in debt, and that money could fix the mess that we were in.  I believed that if we could just get our hands on more money, we would be secure.

But money can never be a source of genuine security; only God can be that. I think God wants to use the meltdown of our world economy and the resulting financial struggles to help His children – perhaps you – learn this same truth.

Our hearts have been seduced and ensnared by the promise of freedom, peace, and security when, in fact, a wrong attitude towards money only turns our hearts away from fully following after God and His purposes.

We will accumulate the stuff we treasure, one way or another. If we hoard our money and accumulate the stuff of earth, it is temporary.  If we give our money away and accumulate the stuff of heaven, it is eternal.  When that is our focus, God will have our whole heart, which is what He treasures.

March 14, 2011

Rick Dunham is the President and CEO of Dunham+Company, which helps ministries with their marketing and fundraising needs.