What is good stewardship of God's financial gifts?
At least in the Christian circles where I travel, money is primarily discussed in terms of charity and tithing. Obviously there is a strong Biblical basis for giving away our money, but this focus on 10% of our incomes begs the question: what about the other 90%? Certainly God is also interested in how we spend the rest of our money, from our daily expenses to our major purchases.
This issue has been on my mind off and on for quite some time, and this recent article in Christianity Today on Christian financial advisers and consumer debt raised some troubling questions. Whereas Christians are often skeptical of many cultural values and trends, apparently we have uncritically bought into our culture's dangerous spending habits and the notion that debt is good. In fact, the author claims that "there is little difference between the amounts that Christians and non-Christians earn, spend, save, charge, or donate to charities."
Of course, many Christians are intentional about spending their money in ways that reflect their religious values. Some time ago, I wrote about boycotts and other campaigns against corporations in response to their un-Christian policies. Sojourners often focuses on how Christians can be responsible consumers; their recent issue on food explores questions of what we spend our money on (organic vs. conventional, locally grown vs. imported foods?) and where we spend it (at large grocery chains, locally owned food co-ops, or farmers' markets?) when it comes to our daily bread.
A more radical and challenging example is that of the Iona Community in Scotland. Within the community, small family groups challenge the notion that the financial is purely private and agree that members will be accountable to one another in the way they spend their income. In their philosophy, Christ is Lord of all, including personal finances, and Christians can seek God's will not just in our tithing, but in how we, say, budget for groceries, or spend money on entertainment, or pay for Christmas presents.
Are there other ways we can think about personal financial decisions in the light of our faith?