The Bible & Money: Who Owns Your Wealth?
As part of a recent Bible study, I was reading through 1 Chronicles and came across a passage in Chapter 29. To set the stage, King David was transitioning power to his son Solomon and seeking funds to help build a temple for God. In verses 6-9, we read:
“Then the leaders of fathers’ houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work. They gave for the service of the house of God 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze and 100,000 talents of iron. And whoever had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord, in the care of Jehiel the Gershonite. Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.” 1 Chronicles 29:6-9 [emphasis mine]
My thought was: What causes people to be happy about giving away valuable possessions? I don’t know how that offering converts into today’s dollars but it seems like it was a lot of money! I have a hard enough time sharing the carrot cake my Mom makes for me on my birthday. But here, we see people rejoicing about what they were giving towards this project. What was their secret?
The answer to this question comes in the prayer that King David prays right after this offering. I won’t post the entire passage but want to highlight two verses in particular, with emphasis.
“Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.” 1 Chronicles 29:12
“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” 1 Chronicles 29:14
All good things come from God and are God’s. That’s the message we read here. King David and others gave because they recognized that all they had came from God. Understanding this one truth is the key that opens the door to understanding all that God says about money in the Bible. And He says a lot. By most estimates, there are over 2,000 verses that touch on the subject of money.
The Ownership Question
God knows how we think and operate. He knows our hearts and that left to our own devices, we are selfish people. I’m selfish. You’re selfish. Deep down – we’re all selfish. We want what’s ours and what we worked hard for.
Because of this, God made clear in Scripture that He owns everything and that all good things come from Him. You can read it for yourself right here:
“You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 8:18 [emphasis mine]
Or how about:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 [emphasis mine]
“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.” Haggai 2:8 [straightforward…no emphasis needed!]
The message is pretty clear, isn’t it? All that we have is from God. We work hard and earn the money we make but that doesn’t mean we own it.
Ownership is the key to Generosity
Why does God remind us that He owns everything we have? My view is that the Bible focuses on this issue of ownership because it is the foundation of generosity. God wants you to be generous. That’s the overriding message you see as you go through all 2,000 of those verses that relate to money. He calls you to be, “…generous and ready to share.” We’re even told that God loves a cheerful giver!
But Jesus takes this concept of ownership a step further and says we have a choice: Love Him or love money. It’s either-or. One or the other. Not both.
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24
The question of money and who owns it highlights two spiritual challenges we all face:
- Is money a “god” in your life? If so, Jesus says that by definition you cannot love the one True God.
- Are you more willing or less willing to be generous with money that’s “yours” vs. money that God owns?
Acknowledging God’s Ownership
I invite you to pray on this concept of ownership. It matters a lot about your attitude towards giving and generosity.
Let’s take money out of the equation and look at sharing our time. We will use two hypothetical people as examples:
Person A: “My time is valuable.”
Person B: “I’m grateful for every moment God gives me to live and breathe.”
Which of these two people is going to be open to giving their time to someone else? That someone else could be their spouse, child, or an opportunity to help out their church with a project.
Now, let’s put money back into the equation:
Person A: “I worked hard for my money.”
Person B: “I’m grateful for all the material pleasures God has given to me to enjoy here on earth.”
Again, which of these two people is going to be open to sharing their wealth with someone? When your church has a project to upgrade the Kid’s Ministry, are you ready to answer the call? Are you willing to open your home to a family whose breadwinner lost their job?
It should be clear that Person B is going to be in the better position spiritually to use their time and resources to benefit those that need it. Of course, there are limits. We only have so much time in the day and money in the bank.
Can you see why resolving this question of ownership over money is important? I struggle with this issue myself. I know God wants me to be “generous and ready to share” but it’s not easy to do.
Yet deep down – as a follower of Christ – I know that part of the process of sanctification is aligning my finances with God. I hope you can see that as well. This doesn’t mean we should all go out and start throwing our money around to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that comes along asking for it. We are stewards and have to be diligent.
But examining the question of money and ownership is an important spiritual journey. Accepting that God owns everything can yield spiritual fruits that extend well beyond our finances.
“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:11
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