A Christian Model for Handling Money
Throughout the Bible – whether it’s with money or our own salvation – God is continually guiding us in the direction of where He wants us to go but leaves it up to us to choose those paths. He also let us know what happens if we choose to go our own way. Boiling everything God says about money into a few soundbites isn’t easy, but there are two broad themes that emerge from Scripture with regards to money. One is that we should be thankful for what we have. And secondly, we should be ready to act generously with the resources we’ve been blessed with. Generosity, we find, is the action and attitude that separates a hoarder from a wise servant.
Over the years that I’ve studied what the Bible says about money and how we (I) should handle it, I’ve come up with a framework that I hope can be of help to you as you walk down the path of stewarding your financial resources in a Biblical manner. This is the exact framework my wife and I have employed in our own family. I use the word “framework” on purpose because this is not a step-by-step guide. God is always looking at the condition of our hearts, not just our actions. The framework that follows helps prepare our hearts and minds to steward the financial resources we’ve been blessed with for His glory.
1) Acknowledge that God owns everything, including your money. Our attitude towards possessions depends on our ownership in them. Think of a young child that receives a gift at Christmas. The gift immediately becomes “mine” and it takes a heavy dose of parental instruction to convince them that sharing with their siblings is good. It’s no different with us as it relates to the money we earn. If we’re not careful, we can quickly forget that everything we have was a blessing from God. Yes, we work hard for the money we earn, but at the end of the day the silver and gold comes from God and is God’s. Acknowledging God’s ownership of our resources leads us to be grateful for what we have and more willing to share it.
2) Purpose in your heart to advance the Kingdom. If you’ve spent any time at church you’ve probably heard about the Great Commission, where Jesus commands us to spread the Gospel by making disciples. I must admit that when I first started hearing this message, I thought it meant that I should quit my job, go to seminary school and work in a church. That’s not the case. We are told that Believers possess many spiritual gifts. We’re all constructed differently, with different talents. Even if you don’t feel called to work in a church or launch a mission project, you can still participate in the Great Commission by supporting those that are. I firmly believe that great things happen for the Kingdom when generous workers – from the CEO all the way down to the line worker – are partnered with those gifted to lead Kingdom projects like planting churches or launching mission projects.
3) Live with margin. In Greek mythology, we read the story about Icarus, whose wings were held together by wax. His father warned him not to fly too close to the sun so that his wings wouldn’t melt, but Icarus had other ideas and ends up falling into the sea as his wings melted. Living a life with margin means not over-extending ourselves. Monthly budgets help keep our outflows (spending, saving, giving) in-line with our income. Staying out of debt helps us avoid falling into the trap of living beyond our means. Having emergency savings set aside help us ride through any unexpected loss of income or major expense. Finally, having margin allows us to respond to any calls to support special giving programs at church or to help a charity in need.
4) Create a Savings Plan. “Saving” can mean different things to different people. It’s important to distinguish differences between God’s concept of saving and what we are used to thinking in our culture. We may think of saving to mean storing up money in an account so that when we turn 65, we don’t have to work anymore in order to sustain ourselves. The Bible, however, takes a “save now to meet needs later” approach. The book of Proverbs uses the example of the ant storing up food in the summer so it has food to eat in winter. Additionally, in Genesis 41, we see God calling on Egypt to set aside some of their harvest today in order to sustain themselves during a coming seven-year famine. A Biblical approach to saving money is to identify potential needs we may have in the future and to prepare for them today. This includes setting aside resources today to sustain us later in life when we are no longer able to work.
5) Create a giving plan. As mentioned earlier, when you really dig into God’s Word on the topic of money and how we should deal with it, the ultimate characteristic He wants us to live out is being generous. Our generosity (or lack thereof) speaks to the condition of our heart and our relationship with money. Jesus warns us numerous times the folly
of putting our hopes in bigger and bigger bank accounts. He even goes so far as to say we cannot love God if we love money. It’s one or the other. So, what’s the antidote to this condition? Generosity. 2 Corinthians 9 talks about the characteristics of the Cheerful Giver, noting “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way…” The idea here is that God creates a virtuous circle of blessing us when we are generous. He gives as we give. Creating a regular giving plan is critical to keeping your relationship with money in check.
As a financial advisor, the goal with each of my clients – Christian or not – is that they have a plan in place for their financial resources that allows them to take care of their basic needs while taking advantage of life opportunities that are important to them. There’s joy that comes from seeing others benefit from our good planning, such as being able to send our kids to college debt-free.
For the Christian household, the conversation digs deeper into the meaning and purpose of the financial resources that God has blessed them with. The question becomes: “What is my part in God’s Kingdom-work?” Where can you step in to support your brothers and sisters who have been called to lead churches and mission projects around the world? There is real joy in discovering the role God has created for you in the Great Commission.
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