I know that not every Christian is asking the question, “Will God be mad at me if I put in a pool?” But surely there have been those moments in your Christian journey where you’ve felt the tension between spending your hard-earned money on yourself verses giving it someone in need. Maybe you were struggling with the decision to buy a new car, or go on a vacation or maybe something smaller like going out to eat at a nice restaurant. Typically when I’m asked questions like these, I receive a list of justifications about how this person has worked hard for their money and they deserve it or how this purchase is going to be used for God’s Kingdom. Personally, when I catch myself trying to justify a decision, I take a step back in order to ask the bigger question, “What does the Bible have to say about this decision?” When it comes to how we spend our money, the Bible offers healthy counsel. As Christians, we believe that even though we go to work, ultimately God is the one who provides our jobs, the ability to do our jobs and therefore, God is the one who provides our income. So it isn’t out of the question for God to have an expectation for how we spend our income.
To begin with, I think of the pattern God sets for us in Genesis 1. God works for the first 6 days to create everything that is and then chooses to stop on the 7th day to rest and enjoy the fruit of His labor. Then, God commissions us as His image bearers to emulate this pattern in our weekly lives. Each of us bears the image of the Creator in the work we do: building, repairing, writing, teaching, protecting, organizing, managing, healing, etc. For most of the days of our week, we work. At the end of each week God calls us to stop, rest and enjoy the fruit of His provision in our lives.
In Jeremiah 2:7 God tells the nation of Israel that He brought them to the land of plenty in order that they might enjoy the fruit of the land. So we know it is completely within the character of God to desire for His people to enjoy the fruit of His provisions. So how does God expect us to use the money He provides and what amount are we allowed to enjoy by spending on ourselves? In Malachi 3 God lays out a framework for how we are to manage His provisions for us. He tells us that we are to bring a portion back to Him through giving a tithe (10%) to His “storehouse” or local church. God promises that if we will bring Him the full tithe, He will “open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Malachi 3:10 ESV) God expects us to bring 10% back to Him through the local church and that we are to use the other 90% to live off of and enjoy. Jesus adds to this framework in Matthew 22. When asked if Christians should pay their taxes, Jesus responds by saying that we should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” (Matthew 22:21 ESV) Jesus indicates that His followers should bring their tithe to God as well as meet their legal obligations by paying their taxes. I believe this also includes paying back debt. So, out of everything that I earn in a week, I should bring 10% back to God through the local church, and use the remaining 90% to meet my legal obligations and basic needs of my household like paying the utility bills, buying groceries and maintaining our vehicles.
So what do you do if you have money left over? Is it ok for a Christian to spend what’s left on a new swimming pool? After you have met these biblical expectations with the right heart attitude, you are free to enjoy the fruit of your labor without having to justify yourself. Enjoying the fruit of God’s provision can include going on vacation, going out to eat, putting in a swimming pool, and buying a new car. But before you rush to spend all the money you have left over, I encourage you to consider three additional thoughts:
First, it’s always wise to remember that every “yes” is also a “no”. Everything that you say “yes” to means that you are saying “no” to something else. Whether it’s how you spend your time or your money, you only have so much. If you give to something today, you will never have that time or money back to spend on something else tomorrow. So I encourage you to think about everything you would like to be able to do, not only for yourself, but also for others. Make sure that before you spend all of your remaining money on yourself that you set aside something for emergencies and other things you would like to do which could include helping others. Leave a margin in your budget for the unexpected calamities and the unexpected moments of charity.
Secondly, ask yourself this question: “Will this purchase require me to go into debt?” In other words, will you have to take out a loan or put it on a credit card? If the answer is “yes”, then you are spending money you don’t have. Going into debt is not the same as spending left over money. Debt isn’t always a bad thing, but going into debt to purchase something that is primarily for personal enjoyment can be a terrible idea. You are essentially spending next week’s (or next year’s) provision on this week’s enjoyment. I encourage you to save money first until you have enough for the purchase before spending it on yourself.
Lastly, I encourage you to think creatively. Instead of thinking of it as an either/or question, think about how you can spend your left over money in a way that will allow you to enjoy the fruit of God’s provision AND help someone else. For example, if you like going out to eat in search for the best food in town, think of someone who needs encouragement due to a difficult situation they are dealing with and invite them to join you. You can pay for their meal, share a few encouraging words, pray with them AND eat something that you have been craving all week. If you like to go fishing, rather than spending your time and money solely on yourself, think of someone who may be younger than you who you can spend time with in order to teach them something new about fishing and maybe even life.
I can’t tell you if buying a pool is God’s desire for you and your household. But I can tell you that God is a loving Father who enjoys blessing His children. Enjoy the fruit of His blessing with gratitude. Part of acknowledging God as the provider and enjoying His blessings includes stewarding those blessing according to His biblical principals.
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