Finances feel like a private matter, and yet they affect so much of our lives and reveal so much about our hearts that I wonder if we should talk more openly about them. What are some reasons to share more transparently about finances within our churches? And how can we do that?
Even those who run headfirst into sensitive topics rarely delve into this one! Our hearts may be an open book, but our credit-card histories are not. No matter how close a relationship, it’s uncomfortable to disclose details about our finances.
The only way to move past this discomfort is by reminding ourselves why it’s important and being willing to open up first. Here are three reasons transparency is wise.
Reason 1: Finances Are a Common Cause of Marital Conflicts
Money is a tension point among married couples—regardless of income level—and is often listed as a leading cause of divorce. To care for couples experiencing financial tension or disagreements, our churches must be places where the topic is discussed openly and in detail.
For the first few years of marriage, money was a frequent source of contention between my husband and me. It was easy to paint a picture wherein I was always right—after all, I was the one more inclined to give and less inclined to spend. But when I shared specifics about our arguments with trusted friends, the details helped them discern sin I’d been blind to. Often, my concern over my husband’s materialism was wrapped up in my pride rather than his sanctification—I hated how that expensive TV reflected on me, and I was motivated by my glory more than God’s.
If we withhold specifics, it’s difficult to give and receive care as we ought—we may even exacerbate problems. How can we offer wisdom and input without understanding details and dynamics? There is an enemy who would love to embitter marriages by tempting us keep our disagreements private. We can fortify our unity by regularly discussing money matters and sharing frankly with trusted friends and leaders when we come to an impasse.
Here are questions we should regularly discuss to strengthen our marriages:
- Are you making any significant financial decisions without the support of your spouse?
- Has your spouse expressed concern that you’re being frivolous/stingy with money? Did you listen humbly to their perspective?
- Are you praying together about how you can best steward the money God has entrusted to you?
- Has trust been broken that needs to be rebuilt? How can you proactively rebuild it?
Reason 2: Teaching Financial Responsibility Is an Act of Love
Debt burdens many. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, and we shouldn’t make premature judgments. That said, debt is also often attributable to discontent, which leads to ungodly spending habits; or to a lack of discernment, which leads to unwise ones. The consequences plummet countless Christians into crisis.
If we talk freely about finances, we can help each other avoid financial disaster. Humbly seeking input from wiser people will curtail common pitfalls. And graciously offering input when a brother or sister is not exercising godly stewardship will serve them and help prevent future strains.
Scripture doesn’t explicitly say how much we should spend on a house, or a wardrobe, or a degree. It doesn’t spell out what our shopping or vacation budget should be. It doesn’t disclose how much we should save. But it does provide principles to apply.
We’re all called to contentment and self-control, so we should help one another fight the insatiable idols of wealth and materialism. We’re all called to generosity, so we should stir one another to consider whether our choices encourage or inhibit giving. Stewardship is an act of discipleship and helping one another practice it is an expression of love.
Here are questions we should regularly discuss to cultivate godly stewardship:
- Are you spending money that you don’t have? If so, why? And do you have a clear plan for paying it back?
- How are you proactively seeking to grow in contentment?
- Do your spending habits indicate you’re more concerned with your earthly or eternal home?
- Are you making shortsighted decisions or considering how they will affect your future?
Reasons 3: Generosity Diminishes the Lure of Greed
All sin is common to man, and greed and materialism aren’t exceptions. One crucial way we can combat these temptations is by encouraging one another toward generosity.
Examples permeate Scripture. Job was known and respected for his generosity to the needy. Paul told the Corinthian church about the generosity of the Macedonians so that they would celebrate God’s grace and be stirred to give with joy. Jesus drew the disciples’ attention to the poor widow who gave her life savings in the temple offering. Zacchaeus, in a public act of repentance, declared that he would give half of his income to the poor. While we should never parade our giving in order to be seen by others, we should discuss it in order for the church to be sanctified.
If we humbly disclose how God has led us to alter our budgets and lifestyles to prioritize generosity, it will encourage others to re-evaluate their own habits and goals. If we enthusiastically share about the ministries we support, it will inspire others to consider how they can invest in kingdom work, too. The reason to talk about giving isn’t to puff up, but to stir up. As we help one another practice generosity, we’ll be blessed by a deeper joy than greed could ever deliver. God doesn’t just love cheerful givers; he makes them.
Here are questions we should regularly discuss to fight greed and stir generosity:
- How have you prioritized living generously in this season of life?
- How are you most tempted to be selfish with your money and possessions? How are you battling those temptations?
- Does fear of the future prevent you from giving now?
- Are you cultivating a compassion for the poor and a passion for gospel endeavors?
There’s no doubt that broaching such questions will feel awkward at first. But these conversations won’t feel normal until we make them normal. Take the initiative—open up at small group or grab a coffee with someone from church, then share humbly, ask graciously, and trust God will work through the discomfort to yield the fruit of holiness.