There is not a greater commandment in the Bible. Jesus ranks loving the Lord with our hearts, souls, minds, and strength of first importance. Loving our neighbor comes next, probably because how we treat our neighbor is important to him and evidence of how we value God (1 John 4:7-8, 16,19-20).
But what happens when we start to love money a little more than God, a little more than our neighbor?
Here are eight strategic ways to keep your heart from straying:
- Refuse to be mastered by money. Money is a dangerous rival to God. With it comes a unique power that can make you think you don’t need other people, and that you don’t need God either. Unlike all other forms of power, money is impersonal, enabling you to operate in a world that doesn’t require relationships to get what you want or need. Learn more about how Jesus viewed money and where it will lead you if you make it your master.
- Stay connected to the heart of God. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray continually. While it is impossible to have your eyes closed and head bowed 24/7, the more you abide with God through prayer, the more you will be transformed into the image of Christ. It will become second nature for you to see the needs of others through God’s eyes and act when God calls you to give. Love God more. Love people more. Exactly the two things Jesus said were most important.
- Go on a mission trip. A mission trip can take you out of the cares of your everyday life (and the thorns Jesus mentions in Matthew 13:22) and put you in another place with only one goal – serving others. As an individual, with a group, as a family, or even with your employees, a mission trip can take your eyes off yourself and put them squarely on pleasing God and caring for others. This may transform your heart like nothing else can.
- Serve someone. 1 Peter 4:10 (NASB) says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God.” We’ve all been given gifts from God for the purpose of serving others, but it’s more than that. It’s stewarding the grace of God. When we give ourselves to serving, we are more like Christ (Matthew 20:28). We grow to love him more when we follow his example and lay self down for others.
- Earmark money to give away first. Remember that giving is worship. And we’re called to give from our first and best things. So, when a check arrives from a consistent salary, a royalty, or a large bonus, make sure you plan to first set aside a significant portion for giving. We may intend to be generous when giving from whatever is left over, but when we put giving first, we learn to hold money with an open palm instead of a clenched fist.
- Give what’s waiting to be given. Is there money in your Giving Fund? Once you have set money aside for generosity, be sure to start actually being generous! This is one area in life where it’s not the thought that counts; it’s the action. Tune in to God’s gentle prodding by discovering your God-given passions. Then, give generously every time you feel led. Being trusted to faithfully distribute God’s wealth to his people is one of the greatest joys this side of heaven (1 Chronicles 29:14).
- Love God with all he has given you, not just money. Many times, what we have been given and the things we are called to hold loosely are not just cash. Sometimes it’s time. Sometimes it’s talent. Sometimes it’s a business or an asset. When you learn to see all of God’s gifts as ways to love him more, you may see the joyfulness of your giving increase substantially.
- Remember who gives us the ability to make money. So much of our temptation to accumulate and hoard comes from the belief that it is all ours – we earned it. As often as possible, aim to recalibrate. Where have you been placing your trust? Meditate on the truth of Deuteronomy 8:18: It is God who gives us the ability to make money; it is God to whom our money belongs.