You're nervous. Very nervous. That stomach-churning kind of nervous. You wonder if you and your family will ever come up with the money you need for college. And even if you do manage to make those first-year payments, you've still got three more years of payments. And bills and loans and interest piled onto all of that. Overwhelmed yet?
Now take a long, deep breath, and then check out this question:
Whose money is it, anyway?
Flip through a Bible and open to Psalm 24, verse one:
"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him" (NLT).
Read that verse again. Think about it for a while and let it sink in. This isn't just a nice Sunday school answer. It's an amazing truth that pushes us way back to the creation of the world. The one who created it all, owns it all! Every single thing on the entire planet belongs to God. And this includes every dollar in every wallet and every coin in every pocket.
Oh, sure, banks may keep loads of cash locked away in thief-proof safes. And guards in armored trucks may keep would-be robbers (and desperate college students) at bay with machine guns.
But the reality is this: If God truly owns everything on the whole earth, and in the entire universe, then he also owns that green stuff stamped with pictures of dead presidents.
If God wants you in college, he is completely capable of providing the money you need. Sure, you may have to work hard at the local McDonald's or Wendy's. You may have to search the Internet, the library and every service organization in the country for scholarships. And, yes, you may have to take out some loans.
But if God wants you in college, you will get there. He will provide for your education. The money will come in.
However, there is a catchif you could call it a catch. When the money arrives, it doesn't belong to you. It doesn't even belong to your chosen college. It's still God's cash. If it never really belonged to the bank, it sure doesn't belong to you or to the college you've chosen to attend.
God wants you to use the money as a kind of "heavenly loan." You pay it back by being a faithful servant, by making good use of the money God provides.
Jesus once told a cool story about a rich guy who gave three of his servants some money. Two of the servants worked hard to invest the money well, and they each made the master a good chunk of change. The rich guy was real happy with both of them. But the third servant just stashed the cash under his mattress and didn't make his master a single cent. He didn't even put it in the bank so that it could earn his master a little interest. It's putting it mildly to say the master was upset. He was way-over-the-top ticked off. Why? Because the third servant was lazy and simply didn't make the most of the coins he'd been given. Read the whole story in Matthew 25:14-30.
You see, God wants you to wholeheartedly invest your life and, yes, your money in good and worthwhile things. He wants you to make your life and your money count for his plans and his kingdom. One day he wants to look at you with a great big grin, pat you on the back and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
So does this mean you can't get that occasional piece of pizza or an ice cream cone after a day of grueling studies? Does it mean no more trips to the multiplex or the mall? Of course not. God loves you. He's not out to destroy your fun or ruin your social life. He wants you to enjoy what he gives you. He does, though, want you to use his money in all the right ways.
What's this mean?
First off, it means being careful about your "money attitude." Here's how 1 Timothy 6:9-11 describes a not-so-great attitude toward money:
"People who want to be rich fall into all sorts of temptations and traps. They are caught by foolish and harmful desires that drag them down and destroy them. The love of money causes all kinds of trouble. Some people want money so much that they have given up their faith and caused themselves a lot of pain" (CEV).
To put it another way: Don't let money consume your life or it will consume you.
Next, using his money in the right way means giving a portion of it to support God's work and the local church. Many Christians believe this means giving 10 percenta buck for every 10 he gives you. Whatever amount you give, though, it's important that you give willingly, generously and sacrificially. And your giving must never be "showy" or done with a rotten attitude (Mark 12:41-44 and 2 Corinthians 9:7).
Using his money in the right way also means earning what you can and saving carefully. Again, God will provide. But he doesn't want you to sit back and enjoy a free ride. He wants you to be responsible, disciplined and mature.
And then when you do have a little left over for a movie or some pizza, be sure to stop and give thanks. Not only for the pizza or movie, but also for the way God provides for you each and every dayand that includes the money you need for your college education.