Recently, I’ve been questioning how healthy my relationship with money is. I’ve always been conscious of money, or a lack of it. Growing up in a single parent family meant we couldn’t always afford things like swimming or horse-riding lessons, and I was acutely aware of the privilege it was to go on school trips or have music lessons.
In the Christian discussion of money, the verse: “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” from Matthew 6:19-21 is often quoted, but sometimes I feel this doesn’t engage entirely with my own grappling with money. I’ve always been eager to travel, and this feeds into a desire to go and do charity work around the world. This, of course, costs money. For me then, money symbolises these trips rather than physical, consumable “treasures on earth”. It symbolises memories to be created, experiences to be shared, change to be made, justice to be spread. Aid and mission can be part of God’s plan for the world, so doesn’t money in this case overlap with “treasures in heaven”?
The effectiveness of sending a young Westerner out to share the gospel or offer humanitarian aid is an issue for another post. But that debate aside for now, some of us do feel called to serve overseas. Some have been given the ability to engage with other cultures, learn other languages, or simply have a heart broken for global scourges like human trafficking or gender inequality, or a desire to share Jesus in unreached nations. Yet every trip requires hundreds or even thousands of pounds. So we faithfully save every penny possible, dreaming of the trips they’ll pay for. Sometimes I think I’m downright stingy, hesitating to eat out with friends or even agonising over whether I can justify buying a muffin when I could make six at home for half the price. Money stresses me out, and the panic I felt in a recent struggle with student finance really highlighted the value money has come to have for me.
I’ve been forced to hand it to God. I had to recognise that the issue is not the fundraising I have to do to go on the trips; the issue is that I end up almost idolising the money that will pay for the ticket, rather than trusting the God who called me. If I honestly believe I’m called to serve overseas, I should trust that God will provide regardless of a student funding blip, a lack of fundraising ideas or time, or whatever the issue might be. In a money-driven world, passions we believe are God-given often require financial input. It’s so important to put our trust in Him, rather than our own ability to meet the financial cost of that passion.
In Jeremiah’s story, God tells him: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5). We know that sometimes God calls us to do certain things, and seeking to follow His plans is part of our relationship with Him. But He says: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (29:13), not “you will seek me and find me when you can afford to follow me abroad”. By seeking Him first, we can trust that He will provide for the calling for that He set us apart for, even before we were conceived.