How do we cope in a society that is highly affluent compared to the majority of the world, yet seeks security in what we have and own? Should Christians have pensions? Or savings? Have a mortgage? If so how much is too much? What does it mean to be a good steward of our money? How much should I give away?
These are just a few of the questions I am often asked when it comes to using our money well.
The Bible and Money
The Bible has a lot to say about money and resources.
In the Old Testament, especially Proverbs the wise and right use of resources is often referenced. Something about money appears in almost all the New Testament letters, is a major theme and reason for God’s judgement on the world in Revelation, and has significant chunks of teaching in 2 Corinthians 8&9 and 1 Timothy 6.
Jesus and Money
Perhaps most revealing, Jesus talked more about money and processions than any other single topic. 11 of 39 parables are about money, and in Luke’s gospel one of every seven verses has Jesus teaching on money.
Matthew 6v21: might be Jesus’ summary of all this weight on teaching about our approach to wealth and poverty and money: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
In other words, what your money goes after is a signal of what your heart goes after. What our hands do with our money shows what our hearts are doing with God. And what Jesus ultimately wants is our heart.
Richard Halverson, former chaplain to the US Senate has said; ‘Jesus Christ said more about money than about any other single thing because…Money is an exact index to a man’s true character. All through Scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a person’s character and how they handle money.’
Four biblical-principles on how we handle money:
Wisely: to manage the resources entrusted to us in such a way that God is shown as a good provider and people, from those under our direct care outwards, are well served.
The Bible is clear that all we have is delegated or lent to us by God. It is his money and his house and his car. It is all his. But he has entrusted its good use to our care. We are to manage it well. The truism of Proverbs 21:5 says: ‘The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.’
This wise and right use of our resources shows God as the good provider, and begins with those under our care and works out from there toward those in need. ‘Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’ (1Timothy 5:18)
Wisely means using our resources in such a manner that shows God as he truly is – a good provider. So decisions about our pensions and savings and giving and purchases and size and use of home are driven by a desire to show God’s provision is plentiful as we steward the portion he has given us well to serve and provide for others. I read a statistic the other day that there is sufficient food and wealth to feed the entire world’s population twice over. The problem is not how much is in the world but how we distribute what is in the world. The problem is not how much God has given, but how well we steward what he has given to us. He has given to us expecting us to give it away. Are we doing our part?
Generously: to give away our resources with a self-sacrificing generosity that reflects Jesus’ generosity and advances his kingdom work.
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing… (2 Corinthians 8:1-4)
Their generosity was not because they were wealthy. They weren’t. It was driven by a desire to show what Jesus was and is like: generous so it hurts.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (8:9)
They wanted to ‘excel in the grace of giving’ (8:7) Their generosity was not because they were wealthy. They weren’t. It was driven by a desire to see God’s kingdom advance.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. (9:12-13)
Discretely: to be discrete with our financial decisions so that God gets all the admiration (not us).
In Matthew 6:4 Jesus urges that our ‘giving may be in secret.’ It stops us being praised and admired and honoured and instead God, whose resources they are anyway, is given the praise with is rightly his. Be discrete with how you give so God is praised and not you.
Joyfully: to show by our approach to whatever money we have or don’t have we treasure Jesus more.
In 1 Timothy 6 there are four categories of people who in different ways demonstrate the same thing: that they treasure Christ more than money.
Paul has already commanded the church to care well, including financially, for its leaders (1 Timothy 5:17-19). In 1 Timothy 6:3-5 Paul rebukes the money-hungry pastor, dissatisfied with this care, and who is using their position and influence as ‘a means to financial gain.’ It fails to show we value Jesus more.
In 1 Timothy 6:6-8 it’s those who might say ‘I’ve just enough to get by’. They are living close to the edge. They have ‘food and clothing’ (8) and not much else. He praises that their ability to say ‘we will be content with that’ shows they value Jesus more than money and possessions. What a witness.
In 1 Timothy 6:9-16 it’s those, rich or poor, who say ‘I want more’. I am not content. They ‘want to get rich’ (9), ‘love money’ and are ‘eager for money’ (10). It causes all sorts of problems for them. They ‘fall into temptation’, entertain ‘many harmful and foolish desires’, they are ‘plunged into ruin’ (9) and ultimately ‘pierce themselves with many griefs’ (10). Having money is not the problem, loving money is.
Instead we need to show we treasure Christ more. We need to ‘flee from all this’ and ‘pursue good’ (11). Realise ‘taking hold of true life’ (12) is about making the public ‘good confession’ that Jesus means more than money.
The last category is the ‘I have plenty’ in 1 Timothy 6:17-19. They are rich. By refusing to place their hope in money but showing instead their confidence in God by ‘doing good…being generous…and willing to share’ they signal powerfully the greater value of Jesus.
How we use our money, the little or lots we have, shows how much we value Jesus.
Your money; your decisions?
Are there ways you could be wiser with how you manage your money? How much is used wisely and how much is wasted foolishly?
Where could you be generous this week with £5, 50, 100 or 1000, and how could you do it discretely so God is even more praised?
What does your attitude to money, desire for it and use of it, reveal about your heart? Where does your use of money locate your heart in relation to Jesus?