Managing Money So Money Will Not Manage Us
Money is an oft-repeated topic in the Bible. Why? Maybe because God saw that a wrong view of money distorts everything else. He saw how easily people could be persuaded to put their trust in their material wealth and in their ability to take care of themselves instead of putting their trust in God alone, who is the provider of everything we have.
Here are a few biblical examples of people whose view of money separated them from God:
Israelites. Amos 8:5-6 tells us that God’s own people were eager for the Sabbath and feast days to be over so they can buy and sell again and make money. God gave the Sabbath as a gift to man, for rest, for relationship with him and for time with each other. At some point, Israelites stopped seeing this special day as a gift, but saw it as a hindrance to their making money. They were watching the clock, anxious for the enforced rest to be over so they could get back to work.
Pharisees. In Luke 16:14-15, Jesus confronted religious leaders about their love of money, concluding with “God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” In this passage, we see that those who were given responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the entire nation of Israel were corrupted by their love of money. What a subtle temptation it must be when even those who are in positions of spiritual leadership are led astray by its allure.
Judas. And we know that Judas, who became Jesus’ enemy, highly valued money. In John 12:4-6, he objected to the anointing of Jesus’ feet because of the cost of the perfume. And in Luke 22:4-5, we are told he agreed to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The truly important things in this life – people, spiritual life, health, purpose – cannot be given a monetary value. Apparently, Judas didn’t understand that.
Jesus warned about money’s dangers when he said, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). And, a short time later, “No servant can serve two masters, 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 both God and money” (Luke 16:13).
An incorrect view of money always has a negative spiritual effect. When we see money as God does, we grow up spiritually. We please him and he blesses us. So, for the next few posts, we’ll take a look at what the Bible, particularly in Proverbs, says on this very important subject. We’ll start with two basics:
1. God first.
The teaching in Proverbs is consistent with other passages in the Bible about the importance of giving to God from all that we receive, not out of what we have left after we do life.“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10).
This is a long-standing Old Testament directive: Give God the first and the best of everything. Early on, we see Abraham giving back to God a portion of the spoils of war. Then, at the time of the Exodus, God declared that the firstborn child and the firstborn of each animal belonged to Him (Exodus 13).
Later, in the giving of the law, God required tithes of possessions and agricultural products as well as offerings for special needs (including support of Levites, widows, orphans, needy). In addition, they were asked to give voluntarily to called-for offerings (e.g. for the building of the tabernacle and the temple). The point of the teaching was always that God came first. And the commands associated with this ‘God first’ principle almost always included a promise of blessing to follow. We make God our priority and he will take care of us.
2. Stewardship, not ownership
All we have belongs to God including money and possessions, but also time and abilities. In God’s plan, we don’t own anything, but we are stewards of these gifts. It is our job as stewards to give some back to God and then to use what we have left for the good of the One who entrusted us with it in the first place (Matthew 25:14-30).
That financial stewardship includes honoring God by providing for ourselves and our families, building relationships, supporting his kingdom work in the world, providing for those in need, and, if possible, leaving an inheritance for our children and grandchildren (Proverbs 13:22).
Summing up, these two principles, when applied, will give us a freedom we never thought possible. Give to God first, then exercise wise stewardship of the rest, all the while relying on God as provider. Simple. Freeing.