I had a really interesting conversation with a Christian friend the other day who asked a question I’ve been really working through, and since I think best with my fingers on a keyboard, here are some of my thoughts.
The question was something like this: “If God has blessed me financially, is it ok for me to buy a nice car or do I need to give it away?” Here we go…
First, I think this is a great question that I wish more people would ask and discuss. It’s such an honest and down-to-earth question that makes the issue of tithing and Christian giving real and practical, I love this. The question itself comes from a heart that’s doing one of two things: Looking to trap God/Christians into a “they’re only after my money” situation, or (as is the case with my friend) it’s an honest internal struggle to be a faithful steward of what God has entrusted to our care. I hope that we can all agree that we are stewards, not owners, of the things we have – because we will all one day give account for what we were given and how we used it.
Second, We need to consider the 10% tithe. I don’t feel the need to go into why a 10% tithe is biblical (if you want more on that, read what Tim Challies wrote HERE). What I want to focus on is our recognition that we have received much grace from God, and when we realize how deep our need is, how much Christ has given for us and to us, then the Holy Spirit will form within us a generous heart. If we aren’t generous towards others, it’s probably because we don’t realize how generous God has been towards us. Christians should be marked by generosity. Stinginess is distinctly anti-Gospel and unChristian. I’m not really too stuck on the 10% number, and I’d focus more on the heart and the WHY behind the giving than the numer and the HOW MUCH. God loves a cheerful giver more than he loves a generous giver, but cheerful givers are usually quite generous.
Third, I think we need to simply ask, “Are you tithing at least 10% of your income?” If the answer’s no, then don’t buy the car. If buying the car might cut into your “ability” (or willingness, really) to continue tithing at least 10% then don’t buy the car. If there are people close to you who are in legitimate need and you’re in a position to help but you choose to buy a newer expensive car instead, then that’s probably a decision to reconsider. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s sinful, and I personally wouldn’t hold it against someone (as I explain below, I think a lot of this is a conscience issue – my counsel here is to help individuals work through the various questions that apply), but I do think you should prayerfully consider whether or not buying an expensive car will reduce your ability to give towards the needs of others.
Fourth, I think a lot of this could be a conscience issue. We all have different idols we fight. Some value appearances and spend significant money on their wardrobe, hair, etc. to look a certain way; others buy houses they can’t afford because they think it’ll buy them happiness and the ever-elusive American Dream; others buy more books than they have time to read (guess who that would be?!). If buying this new car would become an idol, a source of temptation, a way to change how others look at you, an object to obsess over and value more than a car should be valued… then don’t buy the car.
Fifth, Will it bring you joy or will it be your joy? God blesses us in order to be a blessing, but he also wants us to simply enjoy being blessed! We should not turn God’s blessing into a curse because we’re afraid to take joy and delight in what He’s given us! God isn’t trying to set you up for a fall by blessing you financially. If you’ve been faithful with little and He chooses to give you more, continue handling your money the way you have in the past and enjoy the ride.
As Christians, we should be a people who are marked by generosity: not because we are forced or feel an obligation to give, but because we know how much we have received from our generous God. If you can buy a nice new car in good conscience and with the above-mentioned questions being answered appropriately, then by all means do so… and enjoy it.