By Steven Clark Goad
“Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).
A recent survey discovered that Americans don’t often look to the Bible for financial advice. They would rather turn to successful business leaders. The Bible, however, has much to say about the stewardship of our resources.
The Right to Earn
Sometimes we get so caught up in our jobs and our paychecks that we forget where our resources originate. God is our provider. Unlike the prayer by Jimmy Stewart in the movie Shenandoah (“Lord, we tilled the ground, we planted the seed, we weeded the fields, and broke our backs at harvest time for the bounty we are about to receive—but we thank you for it anyway. Amen.”), we are indebted to the Lord for every blessing we receive.
God’s Word tells us that those who are slothful and won’t provide for their own are worse than unbelievers (1 Timothy 5:8). We surely must realize that no matter who our employer might be, even if self-employed, we are actually working for Father God (Colossians 3:23). Honest labor is to be enjoyed (Ecclesiastes 5:18, 19). Some people don’t know how to manage their money because they fail to realize it isn’t their money—they haven’t earned it. Many wealthy people around us look prosperous, but they are miserable. “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28, NIV, 1984).
Generous, Open Hands
Because we are made in the image of God we have been created to give. “For God so loved the world that he gave” (John 3:16). The Lord’s generosity is magnanimous—so must ours be. Working only to spend on self and amass a fortune is an expression of greed at its worst level. Every good and perfect gift is from the Lord (James 1:17). If we are to reflect his likeness, we will be eager to share from the storehouse of our own blessings.
One church in the New Testament actually gave out of their poverty to help starving Christians elsewhere (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). The spirit of giving is a key to financial success. Aiding those in need only enhances our profit and loss statements. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18). Most citizens of the United States are rich compared to the standards of wealth in other parts of the world. What is so amazing about giving is that the more we give, the more we receive. It is a promise of God: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6, 7).
Giving isn’t always a noble thing. Some give out of improper motives. A few give in order to receive. “You hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23). Our generosity must always be generated by pure hearts.
Laying Some Aside
It isn’t selfish to save for a rainy day—or for retirement, or college, or to pay off the mortgage. “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but [the] foolish . . . devour all [they have]” (Proverbs 21:20). Even an ant is smarter than some folk. “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (6:6-8). We can learn much from the ant.
Having a nest egg is not the same as hoarding. Jesus said a wise man first counts the cost before he begins his building project (Luke 14:28-30). A good rule of thumb for Christians is to give to God first and then pay oneself next. Ten to 15 percent set aside in some investment or savings, in the long run, will provide a comfortable sum when retirement rolls around. Dave Ramsey illustrates this principle by pointing to a young man who begins saving a marginal amount in his 20s. By age 60 he beomes a multi-millionaire. It isn’t the amount set aside so much as the consistency of saving something without interruption.
In all of this we must remember that money and possessions aren’t evil. It is the love of the money that is the root of all kinds of evil. “Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house” (Proverbs 24:27).
When possible, pay cash. Unmanageable debt leads to anxiety and insolvency. “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously” (Psalm 37:21). Paying one’s debts is directly tied to one’s integrity. “Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later, I’ll give it tomorrow’—when you now have it with you” (Proverbs 3:28). If you say the check’s in the mail, be sure it is.
The habit of borrowing is a sure way to burden yourself with worries and distress. “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). Borrowing from friends and family has fractured many close relationships. “Give everyone what you owe him. If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:7).
Beware of cosigning. If the one whose debt you sign for defaults, you will be left with the indebtedness. “Do not be a man who strikes hands in a pledge or puts up a security for debts. If you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you” (Proverbs 22:26, 27). If this sounds scary, there is a reason for it. Such advice sounds harsh and insensitive, but it really isn’t.
Not Rocket Science
Some of the rules for successful money management are so simple we often overlook them. Here are a few.
Learn to live within your income. Figure out how to make your monthly take-home pay cover your monthly expenses. Don’t spend more than you make. Our politicians do that for us as a nation, and we are suffering the dire consequences.
Save at least a tenth of your income in some investment fund or interest-bearing account.
Pay as you go. Don’t get into the habit of using a credit card for most purchases. Some people have used their credit cards for lunches and wound up paying for years for their pizza or sandwich by paying the monthly minimum.
Always give to the Lord first.
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Put not your trust in money, but put your money in trust.” Entrusting our resources to God is the first order in the business of financial planning. Stewardship of our resources is the acknowledgment that whatever we do in word or deed should be done in the name of the Lord.
We are mere funnels through which the magnificent resources God provides are channeled. The illusion that we own houses and lands is just that—an illusion. God owns it all. We are entrusted with some of his material goods for brief periods of time. In our country the billionaires and the blue-collar workers can both eat well. There are no pockets in a shroud. None of us can take a single stick with us when we cross over.
Rejoice in the Lord’s bounty. Manage it well.
Steven Clark Goad is a freelance writer in Blythe, California.
Teach Your Kids About Cash
I Want to Talk with My Teen About Money Management
by Lisa Crayton
Help teens explore effective strategies for managing money, discover the pitfalls of money, develop wise spending, saving, and investing habits, and recognize the power of money and the authority of God.
I Want to Teach My Child About Money
by Kathie Rechkemmer
From earning and saving to tithing and spending, this book offers clear, concise information about the impact of money plus tips, lists, charts, questions, and practical, interactive suggestions for helping your child.
Visit www.standardpub.com for more information.