What Should I Do With My COVID-19 Stimulus Check?
On March 27th, President Trump signed the CARES Act, which includes a direct payout for individuals and families. For some in our church, this money comes as a lifeline. For most, however, it’s a bit like the bacon on a cobb salad—most welcome, yet not quite necessary. That leaves us with a question: if we don’t really need the money, then what should we do with it?
For this week’s letter, the most helpful thing I can do is help us think about how to answer that question. First, a few caveats…
- I’m not the Holy Spirit. I’ll give you some rails to run on, but this is your decision. I’m not here to guilt or shame anyone into a particular course of action.
- I’m not a financial planner. Everyone’s situation is different, and what you do with the money is going to depend very much on your personal situation.
So much for what I’m not. What am I? I’m a pastor, so here are a few biblical principles:
- God is our ultimate provider. Everything we have is a gift from our Heavenly Father (Jas 1:17). No matter who signs our stimulus checks, their guarantor is ultimately God.
- Godliness with contentment is great gain. This money is a genuine help to us and others. We can be thankful for that, but we can never find what only God can give (security, peace, etc.) in a check from the IRS (1 Tim 6:6-11).
- Family comes first. Caring for our church and community’s needs is important. But, if we fail to provide for our own households, Paul says we’re worse than unbelievers (1 Tim 5:8). There’s no sin in ensuring your bills are paid and kids are fed before anyone else.
- Saving is a good idea. Past stimulus programs didn’t exactly “stimulate” the economy. Why? Because folks didn’t go out and spend their cash the way the government hoped they would. Be that as it may, there is still wisdom in considering the way of the ant and setting some of this money aside instead of blowing it all at the Lazy Dog (Prov 6:6-8).
- Enjoyment isn’t a sin. Paul commands the well-off not to stop being wealthy but to keep from arrogance, share their stuff, and fix their hope on the God who “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17-19). A nice dinner, a new outfit, a thoughtful gift—there’s no shame in spending some of this money on yourself and the people you love… especially when doing so would bless a business and its employees.
- Cheerful generosity is a virtue. God provides an abundance for us, and He calls us to share what we have with others. He wants us to do so from a place of cheerful conviction, not with reluctance or under compulsion (2 Cor 9:6-15). Whatever you do with this money, be sure that the Lord is the one pulling your purse strings—nobody else.
- Giving is better than getting. The Bible spells it out in black and white (red, in some versions): “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This final principle should soften our hearts, open our hands, and ease the pressure to hoard our resources.
With those guidelines in place, there are a number of ways to honor God with your stimulus money. Here are just a few good options:
- Give it to a neighbor who just lost her job.
- Pay down some (or all) of your debt.
- Increase your savings/emergency fund.
- Order dinner and tip generously.
- Give to a local ministry or non-profit.
- Support an international ministry, missionary, or relief organization.
- Increase your giving to our church. As of April 12th, VCL has received $137,362. With a budgeted income of $167,915, that puts us 2.7 weeks behind expected giving.
- Give to another church who you know is struggling.
- Set up your own household mercy fund.
- Give to our church’s mercy fund.
The Lord has blessed many of us with so much more than we need. This is a time for us to think creatively about how we can extend His blessing to our less fortunate brothers, sisters, friends, and neighbors. Let’s all open our eyes to the people around us, ask thoughtful questions about how we can help them, and be prepared to respond generously when they express their needs.
When you do hear about people’s needs, please keep our church in the loop. As you know, we’re already sending funds to the international students at TIU. We’re eager to receive even more opportunities to give out of the abundance with which the Lord has so abundantly blessed us.
In closing, I leave you with these 3 marks of godly decision-making: faith, wisdom, and righteousness. May all our decisions be motivated by faith (Rom 14:23), directed by wisdom (Eph 5:15-16), and ordered by the righteousness that is ours in Christ (1 Pet 2:24).