Well, he owns cattle on a thousand hills,” we say with a wave of our hands to reassure one another whenever we wonder if God will meet our needs. We usually mean that God operates out of abundance, so we need not worry. When our income doesn’t cover the bills? “Don’t worry. Cattle on a thousand hills.” When tragedy strips us of people we love and possessions—”Remember, cattle.”
The metaphorical backdrop of Psalm 50 is in a court of law. God is accusing Israel of breaking his covenant with them. “Many thought God depended on their sacrifices (50:8)—in fact, God has little concern about these sacrifices. ‘I don’t need your cows,’ he declares, ‘They all belong to me anyway. If I wanted one, I would just take it.’” Dr. Craig Keener, professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, points out on his blog.
So how does this principle relate to our money? Whether we tithe to our church or contribute our financial resources to parachurch ministries, we are not doing God any favors. In Matthew 20:1–16, Jesus told another parable that illustrates God’s sovereignty over cattle as well as cash—and not one aspect hinges on us. A vineyard owner hired workers throughout the course of a workday. When it came time to call it quits and head home, the owner paid each worker the same amount of money, regardless of their shift. The ones who had toiled the longest had contracted to be paid a certain amount. They thought the owner should have paid the latecomers less. The vineyard owner responds, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (v. 15).
In both parables, God sets the terms and supplies the rewards. Our attitudes toward God set the foundation for our actions—a principle that extends to our cash. If we believe we are doing God favors with our money, we might as well keep it and buy a latte. If we view ourselves as managers of God’s “donor-advised funds,” we are careful to use our cash the way he intended: for provision, for people, for his purposes, period. If we use it to leverage human favor, we squander his. Constant acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and grace should steer the use of our cash—and anything our cash can buy.
We are his, and so are our wages. But we can see him more clearly in the day-to-day when we view our cash the same as cattle—as both literally and symbolically belong to him.