If God gave out financial advice, would you listen? After all, who better to predict market forecasts? Instructions on how to ride out a down market? Protect us from bad trades? Teach us how to best live in a bull market?
Fortunately, God offers a plethora of financial advice that extends beyond tomorrow’s closing bell on Wall Street. His lessons are tucked away within the pages of Scripture. Here are few that you may want to add to your tip sheet.
- Prepare for leaner times. The poster child for this one is Joseph. Through God’s revelations, he forecasted Egypt’s deadly famine—seven years before it happened. Knowing that it’s pretty much impossible to grow crops without rain, he persuaded Pharaoh to tell the Egyptians to, first, cut down on how much they ate, and second, build storage bins so they would have enough food.
What is the modern-day application? Live modestly today in case of lean times ahead. Joseph understood this concept of going from feast to famine. In today’s volatile economy, we’d all benefit from adopting this model.
- Seek financial advice. Proverbs 28:26 emphasizes the importance of surrounding yourself with wise counsel; a greedy spirit, after all, can cloud the vision of even the most level-headed investor. Remember Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5? They relied on their own intuition instead of consulting other church members; then they fabricated a story about how much they really donated to the church. Consumed by their greedy impulses, God struck them down.
When seeking financial advice, approach a friend, mentor or someone else you trust; ask them to help you answer these two questions, “Why would I not want to do this?” and “What is the worst thing that could happen?” When you and your advisor have anticipated possible outcomes—and have decided you can live with the risk—then you’ve made your financial decision intelligently.
- Be realistic. You’ve probably heard this age-old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.”
Proverbs 28:19 frames it this way: “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.”
Advertisers and marketeers try and entice us with their lofty promises of riches and wealth—without even lifting a finger. Don’t buy into it. Make money-making decisions with cold hard facts and numbers in mind. That doesn’t mean you can’t dream, or perhaps invest money into your dream, but do so knowing exactly what it is—a risk.
- Plan ahead. In Luke 14, Jesus tells the cost of being a disciple.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower,” he says. “Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” (v.28).
Jesus wasn’t talking specifically about money; still, we can use this as a foundational principle for money management.
It goes like this: If I make $1200 a month, and my rent, food, and car bills equal $1200 a month, what would happen if I take a trip to Disneyland and charge $400 on my credit card at 21 percent interest? I’m hoping that you’ve figured out that you can’t pay off your credit card. It’s just that simple.
- Don’t cheat the government. Besides giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s (Matthew 22:21), Hebrews 13:17 admonishes us to obey our leaders and submit to their authority. 1 Peter 2:13-14 also commands us to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men,” either king or governor.
By doing good deeds and living righteously, Christians set an example and silence foolish men. If we truly believe that God is the one who provides us with our needs, then it’s ridiculous trying to justify stealing from the government in order to survive. Besides, eventually, your sins will find you out and compromise your witness for Christ.
- Be Generous. You might think giving is an unorthodox money tip, but over and over again the Scriptures speak of taking care of the poor. Proverbs 28:27 promises us that God will take care of our needs when we take care of the needs of others, but “those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.”
Finally, in Proverbs 11:25, we find out that “a generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
Doesn’t this sound like the “what goes around comes around” principle? I worked for several summers at a homeless ministry. I have to admit there’s nothing quite like working with people who make their homes out of cardboard boxes and sleep under bridges to make you appreciate what you own. It does something else, too. It makes you realize that money can help others, not just yourself.