For a few years now, I’ve had a faith crisis of sorts slowly in the works and it all came to a head recently as we’ve been preparing for some changes in our lives. Changes that, on paper, we can’t afford. Although we can plan for Jon to work extra and for me to take on more photo shoots, the reality is that if something happened to make either Jon or I unable to earn the extra money (a time at work where the census was low, or a season where no one wants pictures, both of which happen pretty frequently) we would not be able to take care of things as we need to. My knee-jerk reaction to this has been to make plans for charging for our produce (as opposed to giving it away as we have been), increasing my photography prices and starting a savings account. And that’s where the faith crisis comes in.
My husband and I have never had a savings account. We’ve never wanted one. We’ve always given away at least a tenth of our income and loved the ability to give away produce and discount (or sometimes give away) photography sessions or pictures. We’ve always believed in the words of Jesus: “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, crushed down, full and running over, they will give to you. For in the same measure as you give, it will be given to you again.” (Luke 6:38.) With a promise like that, why keep a savings account?! In the words of George Muller’s biographer:
“To lay by in store is inconsistent with full trust in God, who in such case would send us to our hoardings before answering prayer for more supplies… Experience confirmed [Muller] in the conviction that a life of trust forbids laying up treasures against unforeseen needs, since with God no emergency is unforeseen and no want unprovided for and He may be as implicitly trusted for extraordinary needs as for our common daily bread”
We’ve always felt that if we had extra money or produce or resources, we should give it to those who are in need now, and trust God to handle our needs whenever they come up. And He always has. I could go on and on about the ways He has provided for us (I’ve mentioned a few of them here before,) often in miraculous ways.
And yet, here I sit, wanting for the first time in my life to keep a savings account. I think there are two main reasons I’m struggling with this. First, several years ago, Jon and I got into some trouble over credit cards. Having never kept a credit card before, we signed up for one so that I could buy a camera (and then got a second one so that I could get a better camera and start a photography business.) Whether that particular decision was right or wrong, what we did with it from there was – without question – irresponsible. And it started me down a path of faithlessness and prayerlessness. No longer was I trusting God to provide for all of my needs, it was just too easy to put some of them on the card! Of course, God didn’t stop providing for our needs – in fact, he has blessed us abundantly over the last few years in completely unexpected ways. And that has actually led to the second reason I’m struggling. At some point over the last year or so, some really nasty thoughts entered my heart, and they go something like this:
“At what point are we going to grow up and stop needing help? We’re being irresponsible, keeping goats and a cow, putting our kids in music lessons, etc. when we know we can’t afford it. We’re putting other people (friends, family members) in the position of feeling like they need to help us. (Nevermind the fact that we’ve never asked for the help and blessings we’ve been given, that doesn’t keep the thought from coming anyway.)
As I was sharing this with Jon today, he asked me a question:
“Do you think the Apostle Paul was a Godly man?”
He went on to remind me that although Paul had a job as a tent maker, he felt free to rely on his brothers and sisters in Christ to meet many of his needs. In Philippians 4 he writes:
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
In this, Paul is referencing the truths laid down in Luke 6:38… that in blessing, we will be blessed, and in receiving a blessing we open a door for others to be blessed in return. In the course of this conversation, I realized something more fully. If we choose to give money away in order to help those in need around us, if we don’t charge for our services or for the things we produce because we want to bless others with it, how else should God provide for us in our need, than to move on the hearts of those around us – to give away their money, not charge for their services, and freely give away what they produce? If the early church members, filled with the holy spirit, sold all of their possessions to “have all things in common” and give to anyone in need (Acts 2:44), then there were obviously some on the receiving end as well as the giving end. Sure, God could cause gold to rain down from the sky if He wanted to, but everything I understand in scripture points to the fact that God wants us to rely on each other. And although He could bless anyone in any way He chose, the method He chooses most often is to bless through blessing. And in my desire to be more “independent,” I am taking away an avenue both for God to bless us, and for God to bless others through their generosity toward us.
Of course, the world will tell us something different. The world will tell us we should be “self sufficient,” that we shouldn’t be a “burden,” that keeping a savings account or a credit card or charging for everything we possibly can is the “responsible” thing to do. The world will tell us everything I’ve been telling myself over the past few months. But God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8) and what doesn’t always make sense to me is perfectly understood by God.
So I guess in the end, the only thing for me to do is to cast my cares upon Him and trust Him to do what He’s always done – love, protect and provide for us. Whether that be “irresponsible” or not.
“If few men have ever been permitted so to trace in the smallest matters God’s care over His children, it is partly because few have so completely abandoned themselves to that care” (AT Pierson, “George Muller of Bristol, His Life of Prayer and Faith”)
To all of those who have helped us over the years – thank you, once again. Thank you for your kindness, your generosity, and thank you for presenting me with this struggle. I will freely accept what you have freely given and I’ll no longer look at myself as a burden, or your giving as a curse. May God meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.