What are some biblical principles and guidelines that will help me understand God's perspective on money and finances?
We'll begin by telling you that, from the scriptural point of view, there are important limits to the value and significance of money. Money cannot be regarded as a measure of self-worth (Deuteronomy 8:16-18; Proverbs 22:2; Ephesians 2:10) or a reward for godly living (1 Corinthians 3:13-15; Hebrews 11). Nor is it a guarantee of contentment (Ecclesiastes 5:10; Philippians 4:11-13) or a measure of success (Joshua 1:8).
What then is money? The Bible represents it as 1) a tool with which to accomplish certain pre-determined purposes (Philippians 4:11-13); 2) a test of the user's loyalties (Luke 16:11-13); and 3) a testimony to the values and priorities that have shaped the user's character. Money, then, is not an end in itself. Instead, it's a useful object that we've been asked to manage according to a higher standard and with reference to a more comprehensive goal. To put it another way, the Bible characterizes our relationship with money as a question of good stewardship. And good biblical stewardship, as exemplified in Jesus' Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), can be characterized in terms of the following principles:
God owns it all. Few Christians would argue with this. But if we really believe it, there are three revolutionary implications that follow. First, God has the right to whatever He wants whenever He wants it. As His steward, I have no rights – only responsibilities. Second, every spending decision is a spiritual decision – there is nothing more spiritual about giving to a ministry than there is about buying a car or paying off a debt. Third, the way I use my money is an indicator of my spiritual health. My checkbook reveals everything that needs to be said about my goals, priorities, convictions, relationships, and even the way I use my time.
We are in a growth process. Our time on earth is temporary and is to be used for our Lord. Money and material possessions are an important part of this picture. Our eternal position and reward are closely intertwined with the way we handle the property God has entrusted to us. When we are faithful in keeping this charge, we move closer to Christ. If we fail in this responsibility, our growth is hindered. It's as simple as that.
The amount is not important. Remember – God owns it all. Therefore, hold with an open hand whatever He chooses to give you, whether it be little or much.
Faith requires action. Simply knowing that God owns it all is not enough. The lazy and wicked servant in Jesus' story (Matthew 25:26-27) knew that he had been entrusted with his master's money, but he did nothing with it. God's resources should be used with an eye to God's goals and objectives.
What does a good steward look like? We'd suggest that there are five key indicators of the faithfulness with which he's carrying out his responsibilities. First, he gives generously in proportion with the level of his resources and abilities (2 Corinthians 8:12). Second, he exercises self-control by maintaining a debt-free lifestyle (Romans 13:8; Galatians 5:23. Third, he pays his taxes with integrity and an attitude of thanksgiving (Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:7). Fourth, he sets financial goals with an eye to the needs of his family and loved ones (1 Timothy 5:8). And fifth, he seeks the counsel of wise advisors and remains accountable to others in all his financial dealings (Proverbs 15:22).
If you need help applying these concepts to the day-to-day realities of your financial situation, don't hesitate to give our counselors a call. They'd be happy to listen to your concerns and assist you with some practical suggestions. They can also provide you with referrals to advisors and counselors who specialize in helping families with financial issues.
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Money and Finances