The Australian Federal Budget (www.budget.gov.au) was released last Tuesday night (12th May, 2015). And unless you’ve been snuggled up in bed and reading a delightful book, or off on some island holiday, it has been hard to miss the debate and commentary surrounding it. In the lead up to the Budget release, headlines and commentary revolved around how hard the 2015 Budget was on women. Since the Budget release, the main criticism seems to be that the Budget didn’t make enough cuts in order to significantly reduce Australia’s deficit. In case you were hoping for an intelligent article on “how the Budget affects you”, I’ll let you know from the beginning: I’m the wrong person to ask. Instead, it is my hope that in providing a social comment from a Christian Worldview on the Budget discussion as a whole, we will all be encouraged to strive for greater godliness when approaching finances.
In the Budget discussion, women have been getting upset over the cuts to Childcare rebates, the implementation of an either/or paid parental leave for women employed in the government sector and the lack of funding for domestic violence victim help initiatives. As a woman, I understand that the Federal Budget does have an impact on balancing personal budgets, family planning and women’s welfare, however I was saddened by the way that both Christian and non-Christian women discussing this issue appeared to be suffering from a case of the ‘self-entitled blues.’ I recognise that we pay taxes and so expect services in response to this. I also recognise the importance of women in domestic abuse situations being able to access adequate support. Listening to the discussion surrounding the Budget release however, got me wondering what the Bible would have to say about this discussion surrounding the Budget.
Jesus talked frequently about finances. In fact, nearly half of the parables Jesus told revolve around money and people’s attitudes towards it. There are more than 2,000 verses that deal with money in the Bible. Why are there so many? Well, the Bible shows us that there is a key link between our heart attitude and the way we spend our money. In Matthew 6:21, we are encouraged to store up our treasures in heaven, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. As we think about our response to any financial issues- the Federal Budget or our weekly pay-check, we need to evaluate our heart attitude. For our response in these discussions illuminates the spiritual health of our heart.
There is a clear picture of this link between heart and money in the story of the Rich Young Ruler. In Matthew 19:16-26, we read of a rich young ruler coming to Jesus and asking him what he should do to be assured of eternal life. In the end, we read “ Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” ” (Matthew 19:21). Here we see Jesus pointing out that, EVERYTHING pales in comparison to eternal life. When we get caught up in the day-to-day money debates and start feeling entitled to rebates, paid leave or services, I wonder whether our eyes slip a little off eternity.
Over recent weeks, I have thought about the approach of Francis’ Chan to generosity. Chan encourages Christians to embrace generosity and believes that setting aside a tenth (otherwise known as tithing) is unbiblical. While the Bible does mention tithing, ticking off your giving when you reach 10% of your wage misses the point completely. Chan believes that if the church was more generous, people outside of it would be drawn in to discover the gospel for themselves (a quick helpful clip here). I wonder whether so many of the Church programs that are discussed in the early church, such as caring for the orphans and widows (1 Timothy 5:3-16; James 1:27) have been institutionalised and taken over by Government funding. As the Church it then becomes easy to see these issues as a ‘government problem’ rather than an opportunity to show our generosity by caring for those in need. I strongly agree with John MacArthur, when he points out above all Christians must be known for the GOSPEL, rather than social welfare or social restructuring. And in fact, I question when churches begin programs that meet an immediate earthly need without addressing the most important need: that of a hurting world needing to hear of Jesus. Yet I also see Jesus modelling both in his ministry. He cared for the people’s needs (such as food in Feeding of the Five Thousand) but His aim and purpose was to address their spiritual need.
Finally, when thinking of the Federal Budget and the Bible’s view of finances, I think a point needs to be made that I don’t think it should be a blanket rule that Christians shouldn’t accept Government provision that is available. But as we look to the way we gain and use our finances we need to be looking to God and the principles He has laid out for us in His Word, to ensure that our life and heart align with God’s Word and lead to godly living. Some of the principles in the Bible are: we are told to work for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24), provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8), work so that we can eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10) and labour at honest work (Ephesians 4:28).
It is also easy to say, ‘Well then, Christians shouldn’t be wealthy and instead should live a life of poverty’. Like the crowd in the story of the Rich Young Ruler, we would be wrong in assuming that financial wealth immediately equates with God’s salvation and blessing. Jesus does warn us that wealth can be a distraction to our main purpose of gospel-living and gospel-preaching. It can also make it hard for people in their comfort and financial security to see they are in sin and need of a Saviour (Matthew 19:23). But there are examples of wealthy people in the Bible who used their provisions to further the work of the gospel (See Lydia in Acts 16:11-40) and the Old Testament has a number of examples where God did use wealth to bless His people- think Abraham, David and Solomon.
It is my hope and prayer that as we hear of future Budgets and listen to social commentary surrounding them, may we not get caught up in the worldly approach to act entitled and buy into the ‘I give taxes, so give me’. Jesus does instruct us to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s…” (Matthew 22:15-22). Instead, may we first and foremost approach our finances as a resource for furthering the gospel. May we spend our money with eyes fixed on eternity. And may we be above reproach as we wisely seek to be stewards of all that God has entrusted to us.