Psalms 49:6-13 “They that trust in their wealth, And boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, Nor give to God a ransom for him; (For the redemption of their life is costly, And it faileth for ever;) That he should still live alway, That he should not see corruption. For he shall see it. Wise men die; The fool and the brutish alike perish, And leave their wealth to others. Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, And their dwelling-places to all generations; They call their lands after their own names. But man being in honor abideth not: He is like the beasts that perish. This their way is their folly:”
The Psalmist gives a description of the spirit and way of worldly people. Sometimes, unfortunately, these verses too often describe God’s people. We expect worldly men to give God only a passing thought. We might also expect worldly men to care more about the world and have earthly things closer to their heart than spiritual things.
Death will ask one question of all men: “Where is your wealth?” For the worldly men it will be a time of realization – that the things for which they worked so hard can’t go with them. That the things for which they so yearned for, and perhaps achieved, will be left for others to use.
More and more I fear too many Christians will be in the same boat at death because like worldly men, they’ve put far too much attention on money and earthly wealth. The faithful Christian will have something at death that goes beyond this life – wealth he can and will carry with him because he’s lived righteously.
We don’t often talk of money because it’s long been considered one of those taboo subjects. Like discussions about politics, most of us learn that the sure-fire way to offend people is to engage them in a discussion about money – particularly their money. But the Scriptures have quite a lot to say about money.
Money is a broad subject and I don’t intend to dive headlong into the many details that are worthy of our study. Debt, stewardship, lending money, borrowing money, helping our children deal properly with money – these and many other aspects of money are worthy topics for every Christian to seriously consider. My goal is to provide you a few Bible truths so you can better handle the money in your life and so you might be fully persuaded to get your priorities set on heaven and never let money or possessions hinder you from doing what’s right in God’s sight.
God doesn’t view earthly wealth as inherently evil. Solomon was a man of great wealth – gained through legitimate activities. He wrote that a good man will leave an inheritance to his children’s children. (Prov. 13:22) Solomon also recognized that wealth makes friends, even though the friends it makes aren’t often desirable. (Prov. 19:4) Material wealth properly gained and properly used can accomplish good.
In Eccl. 2:24 and Eccl. 5:18-20 the wise man taught that there’s nothing better in life than for a laboring man to enjoy the fruits of his work.
The Lord didn’t teach that the proper use of money or worldly wealth was to hoard it and live miserly. Properly used money can be of great use. But improperly used, it can be the greatest curse man can suffer.
The Scriptures show us poor and rich alike who are righteous and unrighteous. Money and material wealth are neither inherently righteous nor unrighteous. But the Bible reveals the various aspects of money. The Scriptures teach us about debt, how money can compromise us, how money can become the primary object of our lives, how we can be guilty of covetousness, how greed can overtake us, how we can be wasteful, how we can be stingy and how wrong it is to trust in money. God’s Word tells us many things about money, possessions and physical wealth.
Tackling the subject of money is like grabbing a porcupine. You hardly know how to grab hold of it. I hope to give you an overview to better help you in your daily life as you deal with earning and spending your money. We’re going to help provide for you a scriptural view of money – specifically your money!
I suppose a logical starting place is the topic of obtaining money.
Christ taught in Matt. 6:19-21 that we should not lay up for ourselves treasures on earth because they’ll decay, or be stolen. Rather, we’re to lay up treasures in heaven because they’ll last on into eternity. Further, He tells us “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
That’s the crux of the entire matter – Where is your treasure? What do you value the most? What do you clamor after more than anything?
In verse 24 of that same chapter Christ points out a truth few really understand: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Any Bible discussion about money is sure to consider the conversation Christ had with the rich young ruler in Luke 18. An apparently sincere young man seeking guidance and counsel from the Lord because he sought eternal life. What could be more appropriate? He knew the commandments of God in the Old Testament law and he had been faithful to them. He seemed quite pleased when Christ pointed out those things – he’d been faithful in those things. But when Christ told him there was something lacking he was immediately depressed. Christ told him to sell what he had and give it to the poor so he could have treasures in heaven. Do you remember what Christ said after He saw the young man’s sorrow?
“How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the kingdom of God. For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24, 25)
That prompted a question in the very next verse – verse 26: “Who then can be saved?” And that is exactly how the world views things. People can’t believe that the things for which they’ve worked so hard might have to be sacrificed so they can be saved in heaven.
Keep reading in Luke 18. Jesus answers the question of who can be saved. He says that all things are possible with God even though they may be impossible with men. Peter then chimes in to acknowledge that he had given up everything to follow Christ. And in verses 29 and 30 Christ answers Peter: “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or wife, or brethren, or parents, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this time, and in the world to come eternal life.”
The rich young ruler valued his possessions MORE than he valued serving Christ. That was the heart of his problem.
Keep in mind the words of Christ in Luke 9:57, 58 “And as they went on the way, a certain man said unto him, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”
Getting money is time consuming. It can challenge our honesty. It can hinder our family relationships. It can interfere with our relationships with each other as brethren. It can disrupt our marriages. It can stress out our families. A balance has to be found.
Matthew 16:26 “For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?”
Answer that question in your own mind. What good is it to lose your soul and gain as much money as you want? What are you giving today in exchange for your soul?
Every single day we make decisions that can add or subtract to our supply of money or our possessions. We obtain and spend money every single day. Whether it’s walking away with incorrect change from a store cashier or working overtime so we can get time and half – we’re getting more money. Money can be gained through honest efforts or dishonest efforts. Whenever we put money or possessions ahead of the Church and Jesus Christ and our fidelity to Him – then we’ve sold our soul and given our service to the wrong master.
When men take jobs in areas where there is no faithful congregation for miles and miles they’re not seeking Christ and His kingdom first. They’re selling their soul and serving the wrong master. When people go into debt and take on burdens they can’t meet – they’re selling their soul to the devil and serving the wrong master. When people play the lottery or engage in other forms of gambling – fully intending to gain something without doing anything for it – they’re selling their soul and serving the wrong master.
There’s nothing wrong with working hard and working honestly to obtain money and possessions. There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy in these things. But it’s awfully hard to be in these situations and not put these things ahead of the Lord – which is why Christ stated that it was hard for rich men to be saved. The rich tend to trust in their possessions and bank accounts. The person with a plain, seemingly simple life may be rich in the sense that they have possessions that mean more to them than the Church. The amount of money and possessions in our life isn’t the issue. The issue is, “Do we put them ahead of God?”
The scriptures teach us a number of things about money. Let me just give you a few of them.
Money can be deceitful.
Luke 12:15 “And he said unto them, Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”
It’s too easy to think that if we just have more money – then we’ll be happy. Recently social scientists have studied happiness, particularly happiness as it relates to money. You know what they’ve found? Once people are at a point where they have the necessities of life and don’t have to fret about where their next meal is coming from, and don’t have to worry about where they’ll sleep and know they can be safe somewhere – money doesn’t much matter when it comes to making people happy. Households that have a combined income of about $50,000 are just as happy as households that are rich. And in some cases, may be happier. God knew this before the social scientists ever thought of studying it. Money doesn’t make people happy. In fact, it can make people very unhappy.
Life isn’t about money or possessions. That’s not what life consists of – so said our Lord. Life is about relationships – with other people and with God.
Money can be a preoccupation.
The rich young ruler was preoccupied with his wealth. He couldn’t consider leaving it behind to follow the Lord.
Is money an overriding concern in your life? Then you’re learning firsthand how money can preoccupy. How much will I make? How much do I have? How can I get more? Will I have enough? Money can distract you from God. Money will distract you from God if you permit it.
Money will rule your life if you let it. And don’t fool yourself into thinking, “I don’t have enough money to rule my life.” You don’t have to possess lots of money to let it rule your life. You can let the pursuit or worry of money preoccupy your life. It’s the same thing.
Money can also lead to conceit.
1 Timothy 6:17 “Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;”
Satan wants people to forget God. Riches are a great way to accomplish that. Through the pursuit of riches Satan can get our minds focused on hard work, our financial skills, our financial goals and what we’ve accomplished or what we want to accomplish materially. Satan wants us to forget that God is in charge.
James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning.”
We’re indebted to God – the only debt a Christian can take on for which he cannot repay. All other debts in your life must be debts that you pay off – but you’ll never repay God.
If you don’t believe the rich think they’re better than you, then you’ve not been around enough rich folks. I assure you they not only think they’re better than you – they KNOW they’re better than you. That’s the affect money has on people. It leads them to conceit. And I dare say some of us may feel we’re better than those who have less than we have. That’s the nature of money’s conceit trap. With money often comes conceit.
Money can lead to prejudice and partiality.
James 2 depicts a scene of two men entering an assembly. The rich man enters and everybody falls all over him. They offer him a great seat. They honor him. The poor man enters and is treated as lowly as the amount in his bank account. Verse 4 is a question: “Do ye not make distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”
Well, sure they did. They made a harsh judgment based entirely on wealth and the appearance of wealth. Money will do that. People will respect money far more than they should.
I’ve spent my life in sales. I learned very early in my teens that you can’t always pre-judge (which is what prejudice is) if people will buy or not. Nor can you prejudge if they can afford it or not. Stories abound in the sales world of some lowly looking character who spent a fortune on a high end car or some other luxury item that the salesperson had no idea he could afford. Conversely, many a salesperson has skated past some poor looking soul to a fellow dressed in a Brooks Brothers suit because we tend to esteem wealthy men more.
Money can lead to godlessness.
Losing interest in the Church and spiritual matters is a form of godlessness. Money will do that. The Philippines is a harvest field ripe for the Cause of Christ. It’s a country stricken in poverty. Yet in America we find it hard to reach people with the gospel. No surprise really.
1 Corinthians 1:26 “For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:”
Not many successful people – by the world’s standard – are going to obey the Gospel. The reason is clearly stated in Scripture.
Mark 4:18, 19 “And others are they that are sown among the thorns; these are they that have heard the word, and the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”
Money can also cause godlessness because we can become infatuated with the pleasure it brings. Money and possessions can literally choke our spiritual man to death. The sure way to a fruitless life for Christ is to worry and fret about the cares of this life – including chasing riches.
You’ll remember the rebuke of Amos 6 about those who were “at ease in Zion.” Being at ease isn’t a good thing when it comes to our preparation for heaven. Hoping to be rich so we can take life easy isn’t hoping for something wise. Riches deceive us.
Money can also cause us to compromise the Truth – yet another form of godlessness.
2 Peter 2:15, 16 “forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the hire of wrong-doing; but he was rebuked for his own transgression: a dumb ass spake with man’s voice and stayed the madness of the prophet.”
Balaam tried every way possible to preach what Balak wanted to hear. Why? Because he wanted money and possessions that Balak could give.
1 Timothy 6:5 “wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain.”
1 Timothy 6:9, 10 “But they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Money is uncertain. And money’s value is short-lived. Perhaps the greatest summary of money’s role in our spiritual lives is found in Proverbs 30:8, 9 “Remove far from me falsehood and lies; Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is needful for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is Jehovah? Or lest I be poor, and steal, And use profanely the name of my God.”
We should desire the Lord to feed us with food needful for us. We don’t want to be too full – full to the point where we deny the Lord. And we don’t want to be in need. Perhaps our wisest prayer – and desire – would be to have just what we need and no more.
Lastly, let’s think about money and your family. And let’s incorporate a few things about your money and the Church.
If you fight in your home about money – you’re not alone. Money magazine did a survey of 1000 married people. Almost all admitted that money caused tension in their marriage. 70% owned up to arguing about money. According to the article, more couples fought about money than sex or their in-laws. Fighting about money is prevalent in our society.
Is that how it should be in the home of a Christian couple, or a Christian family?
Let the Bible tell us. Proverbs 8:10, 11 “Receive my instruction, and not silver; And knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; And all the things that may be desired are not to be compared unto it.”
God’s wisdom is worth more than any bank account – of any size. Christian husband, Christian wife – never forget that.
But a good name is of greater value than money, too. Proverbs 22:1 “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, And loving favor rather than silver and gold.”
Integrity and character in poverty are greater riches than having lots of money, but being a fool. Proverbs 19:1 “Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity than he that is perverse in his lips and is a fool.”
True love is better than money. Proverbs 15:17 “Better is a dinner of herbs, where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”
There are many things more valuable than money. In our marriages, our trust must be in God. Wealth won’t get you to heaven. That makes it rather frail. So how can we prevent money from disrupting, even destroying, our marriages and our homes?
Possessions help our families and the Lord’s Church. And we realize men are commanded to work and support their families. In every case of righteous rich people – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and others – they kept God first in their life. Like them, we have to work for what we earn – and with God’s help we’re blessed. So, first and foremost prepare to work for what you get. Don’t expect God to drop money or possessions in your lap. Husbands, work to provide for your family. It’s your duty to God and your family – and your own soul. You are obligated to provide for your family.
Secondly, there is wisdom in providing for the future. According to Proverbs the ant labors in the summer so he can survive the winter. So it should be in your home. Marriages require planning and preparation. Think ahead and plan ahead. That’s wise. You want to be a wise steward for the Lord, and for your family.
As a couple one of the first obligations you’ve got is to pay your taxes. Christians are obligated to pay their taxes. Romans 13:6, 7 “For this cause ye pay tribute also; for they are ministers of God’s service, attending continually upon this very thing. Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”
I’m rather certain that 1st century Christians didn’t like the Caesars. Governments tax their citizens. We’re obliged to legally pay those taxes – because when we do we’re faithfully serving God.
Money goals are good and can often help families keep things straight. Proverbs 13:19 says, “A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul.” God understands the value of men setting goals. Maybe you’ve got a goal toward a promotion at work, or perhaps a different line of work. Maybe you’ve got a goal toward a raise or added responsibility at work that will come with a raise. There’s nothing wrong with financial goals, but take great care in what’s driving those goals. Is it so you can engage in some luxurious lifestyle? Is it so you can provide an education for your children? Is it so you can give more to the Church – and others? Have honorable goals that drive your quest.
One goal you should have is to live debt-free as much as possible. More and more Christians are finding themselves in the same condition as those in the world – up to their earlobes in debt. Christians often find themselves living beyond what they earn. No Christian should behave so foolishly. Budget your expenses based on your income. Live within your income.
Both husband and wife have an obligation to each other to be watchful when it comes to everything – including money. Husbands may have to sacrifice in order to allow their wives to spend on something she needs or wants. Wives may have to sacrifice in order to permit their husbands to buy something he needs or wants. Both have a duty to be watchful for the care and concern of the other. In many instances, money is a problem at home because one or both fail in that obligation. When one or both grow self-centered about money, then tensions are elevated.
Husbands, if you won’t discipline yourself to not spend money you don’t have – or if you refuse to sacrifice yourself for your wife and family, then you’re failing in your leadership at home. Wives, if you won’t discipline yourself to not spend money you don’t have – or if you refuse to sacrifice yourself for your husband and family, then you’re failing in your stewardship at home. Both husbands and wives owe it to themselves, to each other, to their family and to God to be wise stewards of the money that blesses their life.
I must reiterate that the Christian should carefully consider taking on any debt that would place undue stress on him or his family. It’s foolish to take on expenses that are beyond what you can reasonably repay. It will test your family and your faith. Don’t do it.
Think of your own current or past situations when money was a source of great anxiety and stress. In almost every case, it was probably the result of living beyond your capacity. How often have we seen families clamor for a newer, bigger house? No sooner have they moved into such a house and tensions begin to rise. Or we find them slipping from the Church as possessions and money concerns preoccupy their lives. The simple frame house they once owned didn’t come with such baggage. Think about what that new thing-a-ma-jig will REALLY cost you. Don’t spend what you don’t yet have.
Did you know that rent-to-own stores operate on a seven times cost basis. That means the people who get a sofa or a TV set at such places end up paying seven times what that item costs – on average.
You know why you see them in every neighborhood and on every corner? Because many people must have it TODAY. These foolish consumers are charged a weekly amount and rarely realize that if they would set aside that $20 a week for a number of months they could go buy that item with cash – and save themselves about 80%. Eighty percent savings – just by having the discipline to wait, and plan. Eighty percent savings just by having the discipline to refuse to spend what you don’t yet have. Rent-to-own companies bank on the fact that most people don’t have that type of discipline. And they’re right. It’s among the highest cash flow businesses on the planet because it preys on this human weakness.
Don’t let money destroy your home. Don’t let money disrupt the peace that should exist in your home. Don’t let money cause you to behave poorly. Don’t let money rob you of your faith or your righteousness. And don’t let money rob you of your commitment to serve God as you should.
Finally, you have to think about the Church and your money.
1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.”
All Christians are commanded to give on the Lord’s Day. How joyful can you be about your giving if you’re begrudging every cent you give? How joyful can you be when you know you’re not giving as you should? How different are we – sometimes – from Ananias and Sapphira when we bring only a pittance to the Lord instead of what we’ve prospered?
The Macedonians were a poor people but they gave above and beyond. The widow didn’t have much, but she gave all she had. How’s your giving?
How do you plan your giving? Do you open up your wallet looking for the smallest bill you’ve got and let that be the extent of your planning? Do you plan for every expense in your life, including luxuries and entertainment – and offer the Lord whatever may be left?
Change that. Begin with the Lord in your plans. Make your first priority to give to the Lord freely and joyfully. Set aside an amount appropriate with your prosperity and income.
Under the Old Law the amount to be given was 10%, but I’d remind you that it was 10% of just about everything they had – and the top 10% at that! Is less required of us? Well, the New Law doesn’t dictate a specific amount, but if you think giving less than what they gave is righteous I’d urge you to carefully consider and study the subject further.
Don’t take giving lightly. Don’t assume it’s just another thing you’ll do out of habit. Think about how you give. Think about what you can give. Strive to give more. What about setting a goal to work harder – not so you can buy a boat – but so you can give more to the Church so the gospel can have its work? We need more Christians setting those kinds of money goals in their lives.
Luxuries are often deemed necessities today. Brethren would dare not go without cable or satellite TV, but they’ll forego giving on the Lord’s Day. Sometimes we need to correct our priorities and better understand who we are – we’re God’s people. We need to behave like God’s people and put the Church first in our life.
Where does the money go that I give to the Church? The church is entrusted to use this money according to the Gospel pattern and to use it wisely. Two specific purposes are given in the scripture: the preaching of the gospel and to help needy saints. All other uses are excluded and must come under the purview of individual works – private works taken on by individual Christians, but NOT a work of the Lord’s Church.
Your money speaks volumes about you. It shows what you value. It shows your wisdom, or foolishness. It reflects your Christianity – or not. It reflects who or what really owns you. I pray all of us will determine to better understand the proper role of our money and our possessions – and not permit any of these earthly things to get the way of our Christian service and prevent us from reaching heaven.