The cause for this dismal financial picture is often limited income; which makes sense; if we had “unlimited income” we wouldn’t have a financial problem. However, I am convinced that more often than not, the greater problem is not limited income, but unlimited expense. At every turn, we are bombarded with a compulsion for more! We want bigger, newer, faster, brighter, etc, and there is always the option to buy now, pay later.
What I’d like to do in this Perspective is outline several Biblical principles on the topic of money. Jesus did speak more about money than any other subject besides the “Kingdom of God.” Jesus talked more about money than he did Heaven and Hell combined. Eleven of the 39 parables He tells are about finances.
Why does Jesus talk about money so much? Because He knows what kind of an impact it will have on our spiritual lives. Yes, money is a spiritual issue. Jesus said it himself, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21).
Rather than say what you should or shouldn’t do, I believe that if we follow these Biblical principles we will do well in the area of finances. Doesn’t mean we will “get rich”, but it will certainly put us on the right path both economically and spiritually. Regardless of whether you are well off, or in financial need, whether you are in retirement or a student, these principles will help us stay on track.
Principle #1: Trust in God.
Philippians 4:19 "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
Sooner or later, experience shows us that putting your trust in the economy, your employer, or your bank account is not a good idea. They are not dependable. They can seem to be a great help one moment, but the next moment everything gets changed.
Our American friends put it on their currency: "In God We Trust". Whether people live by that or not is a different story; but it’s a good reminder that even while we are holding money in our hands, that ultimately our hope is in God, not in money.
This is an important principle, for it lays the groundwork for all the rest. It is God who we depend on. That’s one of the reasons why God gave the people in the Old Testament the command for a Sabbath rest. Not only was the Sabbath a day to rest physically, the reason for the rest was so that mankind would learn to put their trust in God. For six days they would labour and toil. For six days they would earn their living, ensuring that they have bread for that day. But on the Sabbath, they rested. Why? In order to be reminded that they depend on God.
Yes, we go to work, we take responsibility, we do what we can – but we do so with an understanding that it is God who will supply all our needs. Incidentally, this is also why we stay away from lotteries and other games of chance; we do not want to put our hope in “luck”. We put our trust in God.
Principle #2: Don’t love Money.
1 Timothy 6:10 says, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
It's important to clarify that the root of all evil is NOT money... it is the love of money. Money is not evil. Having money, and even lots of it, is not evil. God has been known to pour out blessings, even financial blessings, on some. The problem is the love of money; and the love of money has led many people astray.
The problem with the love of money (besides it being idolatry) is that when we pursue it; that is, when we set money as the goal of life, we end up hurting ourselves - and most likely others as well, in the process. Many people have been hurt by the notion of getting rich quick. Others have taken advantage of others in their pursuit of money. Still others have forfeited integrity in order to acquire wealth. The love of money has been the downfall of many relationships. It blinds people and causes them to do what they otherwise would not. In many ways, its rather intoxicating – which is why Jesus said it is difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The more you have, the easier it is to get off track. It’s not impossible to stay on track – it’s just more difficult. We guard against that by keeping an “arms length” relationship with money. In the end, money isn’t to be loved, it is a tool to be used for the honor and glory of God.
Principle #3: Give Generously.
“There he goes…. talking about giving…. doesn’t he know that’s an Old Testament law?”
It is true; Malachi 3:10 does say, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
This an Old Testament command. Aren’t we now living under grace? Absolutely. However, living under grace gives us greater responsibility, not less responsibility. Put another way; what we do under “grace” should far outweigh what we did under “law”, and we clearly see this in the teachings of Jesus.
Several times, in Matthew 5, we find Jesus saying, "You have heard that it was said... but I tell you...." In each instance, Jesus pointed to an Old Testament law, and the pointed to how they needed to surpass that law. In concluding that section in Matthew, Jesus said, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). It is very obvious that under grace we need to do better than the law.
One way we do better is by giving generously. Acts 20:35 "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’"
Giving sets us free, while hoarding entraps us (James 5:2). Giving changes the lives of others (John 3:16). Giving brings blessing back to us (Luke 6:38). Giving allows us to store up treasures in Heaven rather than here on the earth (Matthew 19:21). Giving really is fun – we need to be in on it. It is one of the best ways to keep the love of money in check!
Giving isn't just for individuals. It applies for the church as well. In 2014-2015 our local church gave away 29.9% of our contributions. Incredible! I remember a time when we didn’t have $100 to buy Sunday School materials. Yet, this past year we gave away MORE money than what our donations were 10 years ago.
The truth of the matter is that giving 10% is just a starting point. I like to think of it as a beginner’s tithe. It’s a starting point. I am so grateful to parents who taught me to tithe at a young age. It has never been a burden and always a blessing. God has shown himself faithful time and time again.
Above our tithe, we need to be generous in all our giving; whether that’s helping out a neighbor or a family member or in a special missions offering. We will never go wrong in being generous. People will forget your words, but they will remember your actions.
Principle #4: Stay out of debt.
Proverbs 22:7 reminds us, "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."
When you owe someone money; you are in effect their servant. Now, there's nothing wrong with being a servant - we should be servants - all of us - but we're talking about something else here - we're talking about owing - and when we owe, we are in essence going to work for someone else's behalf.
Perhaps the best way to put this is to suggest that going into debt is a form of self-inflicted slavery. You take something, in exchange for a promise to pay back. You are basically selling your future in order to gain something in the present. That's usually not a good move because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We can get into trouble. It is so much better to stay out of debt (often by saying “no” to self) in the first place. We don’t need the latest. We don’t need the greatest. We don’t need the newest or fastest.
If it is too late for you to stay out of debt, make it a priority to get out of debt. The best way to get out of debt (or to stay out of debt) is to follow our last principle.
Principle #5: Follow a budget.
“Budget” is not a four letter word. It is actually a Biblical principle. In Luke 14:28 Jesus reminds those who were seeking to be his disciple, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”
Many people break into a panic when they hear the word “budget”, thinking that a budget will not allow them to enjoy using money. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a budget does exactly the opposite – it frees you to spend money the way you should.
Many years ago my older brother took his family and my family for a day at Disneyland. I can’t remember how many of us there were, but we were a large crew. By the time the entrance fee was paid and the food was purchased, it amounted to a rather significant amount. Then, to top if off (no pun intended), there were souvenir hats at a ridiculous price. My generous brother paid for it all. I asked him how he could do that and he said it was all money put aside for this purpose. I learned an important lesson that day.
That’s what a budget will do for you – it will allow you to freely spend money according to a plan, instead of on the spur of the moment. It will give you a realistic picture of what you can afford and what you can’t afford. It will help you put the other principles into practice.
The bottom line is you can’t afford to not have a budget.
Money really is an important issue. Like the tongue, it can be used for good or evil. The difficulty is using it for the good. It's not always easy. The more you have, the more challenges you will face. But using money wisely is not impossible.
If we stick to the principles outlined above, we will have done our part. The issue isn’t “how much” we have, but how we honor God with what we have. And the best way to do that, is to live by Biblical principles for handling finances.