Summary: This article reflects on biblical principles in relationship to the cultural subsystem of human living which deals with the accumulation, circulation and distribution of money and wealth.
Biblical stewardship is the acknowledgement of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all areas of the Christian’s life. This broad and holistic understanding of stewardship recognizes that all that we are and all that we have are gifts of God’s grace, freely given for our benefit and for the support of His work on earth. One of these precious gifts of God is money–a “medium of exchange” for human services and goods–but its place in the life of the believer is very often misunderstood. So how should a Christian look at finances (the totality of monetary resources) in the context of a consumer driven and materialistic world we live in? What biblical principles should guide our perspective in relationship to this cultural subsystem of human living which deals with the accumulation, circulation and distribution of money and wealth?
A biblical perspective
The Bible provides many practical admonitions and counsel on the subject of finance for God’s people, and here are a few selected guiding principles to consider for this edition.
1. Money as a human product and expression of personal finances is a gift of God. While humans have a sinful nature, and while every aspect of life on earth is tainted by sin, not every product of human origin is sinful. To the contrary, the Bible takes the view that money and wealth are blessings of God and it can be used for His purposes (Proverbs 5:19).
2. Money as a “measure of value,” is not evil (as there is no life in itself) nor is it an instrument of the devil, but the unguarded want for more money is evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Where money becomes the problem for Christians is when it takes the place of God as the object of personal and corporate worship, which can eventually lead them away from having a relationship with Him.
3. The ability of a person to live within their resources is a sign of spiritual maturity and good financial practice (Proverbs 15:16). The opposite, however, is uncontrolled spending and impulse buying which leads to a life of debt and unnecessary strain and pain on the part of the person and their family. Being content and living on the provisions of God for each day is a sign of responsive Christian living (Exodus 20:17).
4. Saving and investing money for the future is good stewardship. Christians live their lives not just for the present but also in anticipation of the future which very often is uncertain. For this reason, it is imperative for followers of Christ to put aside something of value for tomorrow (Matthew 6:19).
5. The return of God’s tithe and the giving of freewill offerings is part of Christian financial stewardship (Malachi 3:6-8), and it starts with the acknowledgment that God is owner of everything in life. In the disbursement of personal income God’s tithe must be put aside first followed by the giving of offerings as an expression of gratitude and thanksgiving.
6. Supporting the poor and special projects aimed at developing people in community is part of our spiritual worship. In fact, the care of the poor and the disfranchised of society is a spiritual obligation expected of Christ’s people everywhere (Matthew 25:35-40).
7. Financial stewardship includes the proper use and distribution of personal monetary resources in support of God’s mission on earth (Matthew 6:20; 28:19-20). The steward as God’s partner will invest in programs and activities that will result in making disciples for His Kingdom.
Living to give
Sometimes, one of the difficult lessons to learn is living to give and to share one’s blessings with others. Jesus in response to a question on inheritance and possessions told this parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), and made His point clear to His disciples that life is not about the “abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15) but it is about knowing God and His purpose in one’s life (Luke 12:21). Beyond this primary emphasis of living towards God, Jesus was also illustrating the problem with the rich man’s attitude about financial gain as highlighted in the text:
- Personal wealth is not a security or basis for salvation (Luke 12:19).
- God is the constant factor in financial planning (Luke 12:21).
- Jesus expects His disciples to live a life of sharing with others (Luke 12:17).
- Human existence is brief, and death is a reality (Luke 12:20).
- Trust is the essence
In addressing the issues of investment, money, and finances in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:19-34), Jesus made some very important comments to His disciples that are also applicable to His followers today.
1. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matthew 6:21 (NIV). Jesus recognized the power of money and wealth, and is making the point that finances have influence on the human heart and very often the heart will follow earthly treasures. The question for us is “Where is your heart?”
2. “No one 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” Matthew 6:24 (NIV). Christ is making a commitment call by asking all of His followers this question, “Whom will you worship, God or money?”
3. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” Matthew 6:33 (NIV). These words are both a promise and a plea. “I will bless you financially, but I want to have a relationship with you. I want to come into your heart!”
4. “O you of little faith?” Matthew 6:30 (NIV). The bottom line in the matter of Christian living is whether we can trust God with our whole life including our finances, and whether we will allow Him to be an active partner in our financial planning. More importantly is the issue of personal relationship and connectedness with Him daily. Would you let Him be the Lord of your life today?