Hello, My Name is Stingy

Via Flickr, by user Alotor. Used under Creative Commons License.

Tightwad, spendthrift, cheapskate, miser — there are a thousand ways to call a man stingy. I should know; I’ve been called all of them.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been tight with money. As a child, I enjoyed having a crisp $20 bill in my wallet; I could carry it around for weeks without ever wanting to spend it. I gained more pleasure from the bill itself than the spending power that it represented. Had I read Lord of the Rings when I was that age, I may well have called the money “my precious.”

When we love having money — not for the purchasing power, but just for the holding — we very often develop an attitude of stinginess. A stingy heart doesn’t necessarily want to acquire as much money as possible, in order to amass a large collection of stuff the way a greedy heart does. Rather, stinginess clings white-knuckled to the money it already has. Collecting more is a secondary concern. For a stingy man, there aren’t many good reasons to part with hard-earned cash.

Stinginess may not be a problem that everyone has, but for those who struggle with it, this attitude can lead us into financial bondage. Matthew 6:21 tells us:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Whatever we treasure quickly takes control of our hearts. So when we see our money as a treasure in itself, rather than as a resource that we can use to accomplish goals, it begins to take us over. It grips us, it controls us, it transforms us. Lord of the Rings’ depiction of disfigured, corrupted treasure slave wasn’t so far off.

For the Christian, stinginess poses a special problem. God’s Master Plan for our financial lives entails tithing, giving, blessing and other acts that separate us from our money. When God blesses us with financial success, He intends for us to use those resources to be blessing to others. We’re supposed to tithe into our local churches, give to ministries and charities, and help the poor at home and abroad. We are God’s people, and His chosen vessels to bring change into His world. That mission doesn’t jive too well with a stingy heart that wants to hoard and keep.

Stinginess makes slaves of us when we allow our desire to keep our money to outweigh our desire to use those resources to build God’s Kingdom. There are so many great causes in the world, and so many places where we can use our extra cash to make a real, tangible difference in people’s lives. Our money can even help to spread the Gospel. But if stinginess has taken root in our hearts, we end up saying something like: “Let some other Christian give to that cause. I’ve worked too hard for my money.”

The good news is that the truth of God’s word can overcome the stingiest heart. But change has to occur at the heart level. As a man who struggles with this, I must continually submit my heart to His will, and set my mind on things above. The more I see of God and His purposes on earth, the more I seek first the Kingdom.

It’s amazing what God can do with a heart when we let him change us from the inside out. Stinginess wanted to make a slave of me, but God is giving me a generous heart, and turning me into a cheerful giver.