For years I viewed myself as a generous beacon of contentment who loved God too much to worry about money or be ensnared by materialism.
Then I bought a house.
I soon realized that I had never worried about money because my cheap rent allowed me to be completely irresponsible and still have enough cash left over to pay my bills. And I had never been particularly materialistic because I wasn't allowed to paint the walls or install new light fixtures in my old apartment. But ten mortage payments, seven light fixtures, three new appliances, and one property tax adjustment later, I've discovered the ugly truth. I worry about money a lot. And I'm a slave to Restoration Hardware. Another lovely perception of myself shattered.
So now I'm working on trusting God with my money and being a good steward. Which means actually following a budget and writing down everything I purchase. Apparently the concept that having a budget will save you money isn't the old wive's tale I thought it was.
I believe that good stewardship applies to giving, which is why I'm more likely to buy a sandwich for someone asking for money than give him or her cash. And I'm fine with churches having some standards of who they will and won't give money to. However, Tony Woodlief recently posted an interesting little article on this subject called A Year Of Recklessness. He writes:
It’s frightening, even in good economic times, to give in the face of seemingly endless need . . . So we wrap ourselves up in notions of good stewardship. We investigate their needs more thoroughly. We ask tough questions. We remind them to take some responsibility for their lives. These can be good actions, but I know in my own case they’re often sparked by selfish motivations. I remind myself that this homeless man is likely a drug user, and that the poor family over there spent money on a satellite dish. I recall the biblical injunction: If a man will not work, neither shall he eat. I do this not because I am holy or steward-minded but because deep down I am afraid of a relationship with them. I am terrified they will latch on to me in their need and never let go.
Woodlief concludes that:
What would the world think of us if all of us turned off the financial advice shows, imperiled ourselves just a little, and gave so much that every crook and lowlife and spendthrift in town darkened our churches’ doors? They’d call us fools, most likely. Which is a sign, I think, that we were getting ourselves on a better path. It’s when the world thinks us prudent, or business-like, or—merciful God forbid—normal, that we’d better worry.
What do you think? Do you use "good stewardship" as an excuse not to be generous? Do you have any personal criteria for who you do or don't support? Should churches?
Think on these things. I'm off to search for loose change in my couch.