When I first came to faith in Christ I joined a church who had a heart for prayer, worship, missions and integrity. In fact, one of the reasons I respected my pastor so much was because he was a man of great integrity. He would always share with us that the basis of integrity is truthfulness, keeping your word, and financial rectitude.
I remember the story he told once of an award the church received from the local light company. Now it is not often a church receives an award from the community, let alone a utility company. The church had developed a reputation for simply paying their light bill on time. In fact, there was another situation where a TV station called the church in for a meeting to thank them for paying their invoice on time each month. The integrity of the ministry in this one area afforded them major influence in the community.
It was at this church that I first heard the pastor say, if you are a guest, feel no pressure to give. This was a breath of fresh air for me as it removed any thought in my mind of a lack of integrity within the ministry. Yet, this all came from the leadership of the church taking a stand that “it is better to live a life of integrity than shame.”
Proverbs 22:1 says this, “A good name is to be chosen over great wealth.” When was the last time you gave thought to your personal integrity as it relates to your finances? Have you ever had those moments where the Scripture almost leaps off the page and grabs hold of your heart? That is what happened to me as I read Romans 13:7, “Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.” In the context of this verse, Paul is writing about the government and our relation to it. Part of this is paying what is due. Of course, here Paul is talking of taxes that we as citizens pay, at times begrudgingly. As I sat at my kitchen table, it wasn’t the idea of paying taxes that convicted me—it was the truth of paying what it owed. Hence, I was remembered a bill that was past due.
Now, if I am honest, it was not past due because I didn’t have the money to pay it or some financial hardship I was facing, but it was past due because I just didn’t pay it on time. Now you may ask, what is the big deal? Well, the utility company that provides electricity to my home is not free; it has employees and has provided me a service. As a customer, I am obligated to pay what is owed when it is due, not after. The honest truth is many of us shuffle bills around, while putting off paying certain bills and delaying others. This hurts our overall integrity. What we do secretly with our money matters! How can we have greater integrity with our finances?
Lead With Generosity
If the church released your giving, would it find that you are faithfully giving to the work of the Lord? I recently heard of a pastor that was let go because, over the course of several years on staff, he only gave twice a year. If we are standing before the congregation to encourage them to give generously, we should make sure our giving is generous as well. As pastors, we may not be the biggest givers in the church, but we should be the most faithful.
Live By the Budget
If I am honest, I hate to budget. The idea of sitting down monthly or bi-weekly to allocate every dollar spent is not my idea of an enjoyable time. However, when I don’t follow this practice, I spend more than I need to and am less intentional as a steward of God’s money. In our house, I handle most of the paying and tracking of bills. Sitting down to work through our household budget also forces my wife and I to communicate and make plans to spend wisely. One of the greatest blessings we discovered was automatic bill pay. We set it aside, budget for it, and know it will be paid on time.
A man was sitting at home one day and suddenly the power went out in his home. His wife called out to them to see what happened. Well, he knew exactly what happened; he forgot to pay the light bill. In moments like this, it is easy for us to point the finger, but integrity says, “Honey, the truth is, I forgot to pay the bill. I will head out to take care of it right now.” One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was go to my wife and explain to her why a certain thing was paid late. We all face financial hardship that causes money to become tight, but what about when we simply don’t manage or properly steward our resources?
I am thankful for the grace of God that extends to us even when we struggle in areas like this. His grace extends even to our small or big character flaws. As the Lord reveals these areas that need work, let us come to Him with gratitude and ask for help, living as men of integrity both morally and financially.