Many people are afraid to loosen the death grip they have on their money because they think God will take it all away. Actually, God will treat you better than you treat yourself. God is El Shaddai,2 not El Cheapo. He might make different choices than you would, but He will certainly treat you better.
The church has promoted so many wrong ideas over the years that people think the Lord wants Christians to live in little shacks with no money in our pockets. The Word of God says differently. God wants to bless His children. In fact, if you aren’t embarrassed by your level of prosperity, then there is a good chance you aren’t depending upon God as your source. I know that sounds a little shocking, but I believe it’s true.
A man I used to know bought me cars for a number of years—and he didn’t buy me cheap cars; he bought me top-of-the-line. He gave me a Chevy Suburban that was so nice that everywhere I went, people would ask me where I got it and what I did for a living. When they found out I was a preacher, the look on their face said, “This car is way too nice for a preacher.” It got to be embarrassing for me to take the vehicle out in public.
Eventually I went to the man who gave me the Suburban and said, “Look, I love this vehicle—and I’m not complaining—but it’s embarrassing. People don’t think a preacher should be driving something this nice.” He looked at me for a moment and then said, “If you aren’t embarrassed at your level of prosperity, then God isn’t really your source.” Those words went straight to my heart. It’s true that if you can look at everything you have and say, “I did this; this is all the result of my effort,” then you haven’t tapped into God’s supernatural ability—you’re just depending on yourself.
Of course, godly prosperity is different from coveting riches. Yes, God wants you to have nice things, but you shouldn’t get them by hoarding your money and spending it all on yourself. When you give and handle your assets like a steward of God’s money, then God will bless you—and the blessing of God adds no sorrow with it. You’ll have nice things, but you won’t be in hock up to your eyeballs or working yourself sick.
When you open up your hand and begin to trust God, you’ll see that God is not a taker—He’s a multiplier. He has not come into your life to take from you. The Bible is full of stories of men and women whom God blessed and prospered—and they all had the attitude of a steward. They all recognized God as their source.
David is a good example of a steward. He wanted to build the Lord a temple, but God told him he couldn’t. God wanted David’s son Solomon to build the temple. David obeyed God, but he started setting aside the money and materials Solomon would need one day in order to build the temple. It was his way of contributing. David set aside the equivalent of $36 billion in gold and $14 billion in silver while Solomon was growing up. Then, right before he handed over the throne to Solomon, he made one last gift. He said,
Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, Even three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the houses withal: The gold for things of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and for all manner of work to be made by the hands of artificers. And who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?
1 Chronicles 29:3–5
For this one gift, David gave 110 tons of gold and 260 tons of silver. By today’s prices, that is $6 billion in gold and over $300 million in silver.3 After giving this huge gift, David encouraged other people to give. All the leaders of the tribes caught the spirit of giving and began to donate large sums of money. The leaders gave even more than David: 190 tons of gold and 375 tons of silver. All together, they gave $17 billion in gold and silver in that one day.
Wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.
1 Chronicles 29:10–12
David saw himself as a steward. He knew that all of his assets had been given to him by God. David gave God the credit for being the source of all his riches. God had taken the people of Israel out of slavery and made them a rich and prosperous nation, able to donate more than $16 billion in one day. God had made them great. Then David said,
O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own. I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee.
1 Chronicles 29:16–17
Notice how David said that they had only given what God first gave to them; all they had done was give back to God what was rightfully His anyway. This is the attitude I’m trying to describe. In order to begin to prosper, you have to stop thinking of money as belonging to you. You need to quit seeing yourself as the source of your prosperity, and recognize that all blessings and riches come from God.
The reason people are so stressed out about money is that they think they are in control of their finances. People tend to think they are responsible for all of the factors that lead to prosperity and the money needed to survive. They are worried about losing their jobs or a downturn in the economy because they see themselves as the source of their provision.
Seeing yourself as the source of blessing in your life puts a lot of pressure on you to control circumstances that are really beyond your control. One of the benefits of seeing yourself as a steward is peace of mind and a sense of security. When you know that God is your source, you aren’t worried about the natural circumstances. If God can prosper Abraham and feed his flocks and herds in a desert, then He can bless and prosper you in any economic situation. It doesn’t matter what is going on around you. God is responsible for you, and even has numbered all the hairs of your head. (Matthew 10:30.) The Lord meets our needs according to His riches in glory, not this country’s economy. (Philippians 4:19.) If you are stressed out about finances—maybe you are single and trying to figure out how to make ends meet; or you’re married and arguing with your spouse about money—then I encourage you to start looking to God as the source of your prosperity. God will take better care of your finances than you can.
Sometimes it’s hard to look beyond the physical or natural challenges you face and see into the spiritual realm, but you can do it with a steward’s mentality. Being a steward gives you a sense of confidence that you will never have as long as you see yourself as your source. I’m telling you, adopting the attitude of a steward will really help you.
In my own life, I recognize that I am not the one who has caused my success. It isn’t my great wisdom or ability that has caused our ministry to succeed; it’s the blessing of God. I haven’t forgotten the poverty that God lifted my wife, Jamie, and me out of. I know God is my source. I have resources, but it’s not really my money—it’s God’s money, and I’m a steward.
My mother was 96 at her death in 2009. Just one month before she died, she asked me to tell her again all the things the Lord was doing through this ministry. I shared with her about changed lives all over the world. As I was going on and on about all the Lord was doing, she interrupted with, “Andy, you know this is God.” I replied, “Yes, Mother, I know this is God.” Then she said, “You aren’t smart enough to do this.” Wow! There is nothing like a mother to put you in your place!
But I totally agree. As I look back on my life and ministry, I could not have planned what has happened. I had a vision and desire planted by the Lord, but I didn’t have a clue about how to bring it to pass. All Jamie and I have done is hold on to Jesus for dear life and the Lord has taken us on the most incredible journey. I truly see God as the source of all good things in our lives.
Every one of us needs to see our income as something God has entrusted us with, and then ask ourselves what God wants us to do with it. Knowing that your income is really God’s money makes you approach finances with a totally different attitude—and your attitude toward money is actually more important than what you do with it.
Look at what is written in the book of Psalms about attitude.
Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me. I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High.
God was saying that His disagreement with them wasn’t about a lack of sacrifices on their part; they had been offering sacrifices continually. His complaint against them was the heart attitude they had in making the offerings. They were missing the point! God didn’t need the sacrifices. In instituting the sacrificial system, He was trying to illustrate the need for blood to be spilled in order for men to be made righteous. (Romans 5:9.) It was a prophetic foreshadowing of how Christ would offer His blood in payment for our sins. It was a type and shadow of a future New Testament reality. The Israelites were going through the motions of making the offerings, but they weren’t giving their hearts to God.
They thought they were making sacrifices because God somehow needed their bulls and goats. In this scripture, God was making it clear that He didn’t need anything from them; everything already belongs to the Lord. God said, “If I were hungry, I wouldn’t tell you! The world is mine, and everything in it.” He doesn’t need to ask anyone for food. The truth was that the Israelites needed those sacrifices. They needed to give back to God and show their trust and dependence upon Him. It wasn’t for God—it was for them.
Do you know why God asked us to give 10 percent of our income to the church? It isn’t because God needs our money! All of the gold, silver, and riches in the earth already belong to Him. (Haggai 2:8.) He doesn’t need our donations. God could have set up church finances differently. He could have made every minister of the Gospel independently wealthy like He made Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon, and all the rest. The tithe exists for our benefit, not God’s.
God doesn’t need your money any more than He needed those Old Testament sacrifices. The point of the tithe is for you to learn to recognize God as the source of all of your money. It’s one thing to say you believe God is your source, but it’s another thing to prove it. The way you prove to yourself—not God—that you believe God is your source is to give a portion of what you make back to Him. People who don’t really see God as their source are going to balk at giving part of what they have away. They are going to think, I need that money! But giving back some of what God has already given you is nothing when you see God as your source.
Money is difficult to come by when you think of yourself as the provider. Money reminds you of how hard you have to work just to get by, and giving it away would only seem to put you further away from the goal of having all your needs met. All of that would be true if God wasn’t your source. In God’s economy, you move closer toward your goals by giving than you do by clinging to everything you have.
It all comes down to faith, and that’s why God told us to give. He doesn’t need our money. God could establish His kingdom using other principles. He could give every person in ministry creative ideas that would generate incredible wealth. He could have done all sorts of things, but God set up His kingdom around giving because He wants you to trust Him and recognize Him as your source. He wants you to remember that even though you have money, you didn’t get it by your own power. Moses wrote,
Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
God gives us the power to get wealth, and it’s important for us to recognize that He is our source—regardless of how much effort we put into earning a living. All prosperity comes from God. He blesses us so that “he may establish his covenant,” and so we can be a blessing to others. Yes, God gives you money to survive and pay your bills, but the primary reason He has blessed you is so that you can be a blessing. (Genesis 12:3; Ephesians 4:28; 2 Corinthians 9:8.)
Giving is a problem when you see yourself as the owner of your finances because when God leads you to give, or when you see instructions in the Word that tell you to give, you may start thinking, What right does God have to tell me what to do with my own money? But the truth is that whatever wealth you have came from God. He is the One who gives you the power and ability to prosper.
The interesting thing about this scripture in Deuteronomy 8:18, is that God was talking to the children of Israel who would eventually enter into the Promised Land. They were going to be living in homes built for giants. The fields already had the rocks cleared out of them, the furrows were dug, and the crops were planted. The Israelites were going to step in and benefit from the labor of others. God was telling them not to forget the source of their wealth when they went from living in the desert to living in mansions with abundant prosperity. In context God was saying, “Don’t think you got wealthy by your own might or power. I’m the One who made you rich, and I did it to establish my covenant upon the earth.”
The same is true for us today. God is the One who makes us wealthy. I know a lot of people don’t feel wealthy, but that is partly because our standards for wealth are a little out of balance in the developed world. We are prosperous so far beyond our physical needs that people don’t feel like they have enough unless they drive a brand-new luxury car and own five flat-screen televisions. Our level of poverty doesn’t even compare to what most people on this earth have lived through. Most of us have no idea what it means to struggle to survive.
We live at a level of relative prosperity that most people throughout history couldn’t have dreamed of, yet we didn’t do anything to be born at this time. We didn’t cause ourselves to be born into such opportunity and freedom. Even today, some people are born into social systems that don’t permit them to seek prosperity, or into dictatorships that control their financial status. Others have suffered through war, persecution, and imprisonment. We are super blessed to be born into such a time of prosperity. It should help us see that the ability to prosper is a gift from God, and we can’t boast of the opportunities we have been given.
The apostle Paul talked about that in his letter to the Corinthian church. He said,
For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
1 Corinthians 4:7
Everything we have has been given to us by God, and since we received it, there is no room for boasting that we earned it. The Corinthians worked just like we do, but Paul still said that everything they were and all that they had, came from God. I have probably spent tens of thousands of hours studying the Word, but it would be wrong for me to adopt the attitude that I am a self-made man. I have worked to make sure our ministry does well, but I am not the reason it is successful. God called me into the ministry and blessed me with success by His grace, not because of anything I have done.
Many Christians recognize God as the cause of professional success, but far fewer people make the connection that God is also the source of financial success. A lot of people see the hand of God in granting them professional opportunities, but the truth is that you don’t have a single thing that God didn’t give you. What gets you into financial trouble is failing to recognize your role as a steward of God’s resources. A steward knows that his master wouldn’t want him to go into debt and pay two or three times the actual value of something in interest. Stewards don’t make impulse purchases because they just can’t wait to get a new toy, and they don’t mortgage their future to buy things on credit.
The Word of God is full of instructions to help us make good financial decisions. For instance, the Word tells us to set money aside and be prepared. The reason a little dip in finances devastates a lot of people is that they don’t have any savings, and often it’s because they haven’t made the best use of their money. Some people have plenty of money coming in, but they are living so close to the limit that it only takes a slight economic downturn to send them into financial disaster. Following God’s financial advice will save you from making those mistakes, but you have to adopt the mindset of a steward before you can understand what the Word says about managing money.
It’s possible to prosper without God, but it comes with heartache. The Word says that the blessing of the Lord makes you rich, and He adds no sorrow with it. (Proverbs 10:22.) When you’re doing it all yourself, you carry the load of responsibility also. That’s why people are so stressed out about what’s going to happen in the stock market, or how they’re going to pay their bills. When God is your source, there is no sorrow added to your prosperity. Scripture says,
They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:9,10
The way the world goes about trying to prosper is ungodly, and those who gain prosperity in an ungodly way bring grief upon themselves. The world’s attitude toward finances is causing people to be totally stressed out. They need a pill to get through the day and another pill to get to sleep at night. We need to quit following the example of the world. The godly way to seek prosperity is to remember that God has given us the power to get wealth, and our role is to be stewards of what God has blessed us with. We seek first of all God’s kingdom and He adds all the physical things we need to us. (Matthew 6:33.)
The two most important steps toward prosperity are to realize that God is your source, and to develop the mindset of a steward. Once you do those two things, the Word of God will cause you to prosper. It also takes away the stress and worry associated with finances, because it’s not your money! You don’t have to fear that God is going to take from you if you loosen your grip on money. God is a multiplier, not a subtracter. The fact is that being a steward puts everything into perspective and enables you to receive greater blessings from God. You’ll be blessed, and you’ll be a greater blessing to other people.
2“From shadah, to shed, to pour out. I am that God who pours out blessings, who gives them richly, abundantly, continually.” Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary, “Commentary on Genesis 17,” available from http://www.studylight.org/com/acc/view.cgi?book=ge&chapter=017, S.V. “I am the Almighty God,” Genesis 17:1.
3Gold at $1,730 per ounce, and silver at $40 per ounce (at the time of this writing).