“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2).
God wants us to prosper; He never wanted us to be poor. He took the first five days when creating the world to make everything men and women would need before He created them. Adam lacked nothing. All he needed and all he desired was there. The prosperity of God is wholistic; hence, “prosper in all things.” This prosperity, however, comes with very clear conditions. Joshua was told:
“Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Josh. 1:7, 8).
If God desires us to be prosperous and successful, why then do we struggle in the management of our finances? We need to examine ourselves, especially our relationship with God. Have we kept the conditions God has given us? This brings us to the most important aspect of Christianity: obedience to God. Can God prosper a disobedient, self-centered person who undermines His law, His instructions, and His will? Will you bless your own child who disobeys you, disrespects you, and undermines your authority? Take note of this fact:
“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (Deut. 8:18).
God has given us clear guidelines on issues of life, even financial matters. Unfortunately, we tend to wander far away from His will and do what we believe is right. Let us look at the things that make us fail to manage our finances:
Getting into debt.
“The borrower is the servant [slave] to the lender” (Prov. 22:7). Debt is a self-inflicted tragedy. It is easy to get and difficult to get rid of. One binds oneself willfully. Jesus came to give us abundant life, and yet we still bind ourselves in debt. Ellen G. White tells us to avoid debt as we would smallpox (see The Adventist Home, p. 393). Today, she might use “coronavirus” rather than “smallpox.” She further wrote, “You must see that one should not manage his affairs in a way that will incur debt. . . . When one becomes involved in debt, he is in one of Satan’s nets, which he sets for souls” (ibid., p. 392). Some claim that debt is unavoidable and that it has become a normal way of life. The Bible warns us clearly against this. Scriptures, such as Deuteronomy 15:1, tell us that those who were in debt got relief after seven years when their debts were written off. This is a guideline for those of us today who struggle with debt. Your financial institution will never write off your debt in seven years, but you must intend to have your debts paid off within seven years. This includes your house loans. If you can pay off your car in five years, why not your house in seven years, which costs more or less the same as the car? A 20-year home loan means buying your home twice.
We also need to ask ourselves whether, among uncertain world economic conditions, we should take on debt? We read more about people losing jobs than job creation. How many young people, including some college graduates, languish in the streets without jobs?
Shocking statistics in South Africa reveal that 75 percent of household income goes toward paying debt. This may not be the case in your country; nonetheless, this may not be far from your situation. As a result of debt, bankruptcy is rising. Even many Christians find their homes and cars repossessed and put on auction. Debt leads to bankruptcy, and therefore cannot be a lifestyle of God-fearing people. Debt is so bad that some people who have failed to come out of it have taken their own lives. Debt destroys healthy relationships and will affect your performance at work. If your debt situation is such a mess, how can you even be faithful in tithes and offering?
Lack of budgeting
Do you have a personal or family budget? Can you account for 75 percent of your income 15 days after earning your wages? Lack of budgeting is one major deficiency in our financial management. This promotes impulse and uncontrollable spending, leading to disaster with one’s personal finances. Budget instills discipline in the management of one’s finances; it ensures that the goals set on spending are achieved. Those without a budget normally cannot account for what they have done with their earnings ten days after they were paid. Here is what God says about budgeting:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him” (Luke 14:28, 29).
Sitting down and counting the cost is nothing more than doing a budget. eNCA, South African television media, reported this statement from one financial institution: “Approximately, 56% of Middle-Income Consumers in South Africa spend all their Monthly Income in 5 days or less.” This is recklessness; for the rest of the month they are broke. It is a failure to manage what God has given us as stewards.
Love of the World and Money
Are Christians different from unbelievers? Do we conduct ourselves as the chosen generation, set apart for holiness? This is what Ellen G. White wrote:
“Christians seek to build as worldlings build, to dress as worldlings dress—to imitate the customs and practices of those who worship only the god of this world” (Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1013).
It is unfortunate that Christians feel the pressure to compete, hence we are enticed into debt, unlawful get-rich-quick schemes, and sometimes even bribery schemes, just like unbelievers. The apostle Paul warned:
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10).
Some Christians also have many credit cards, and when the budget is tight, they use one credit card to pay off another. These are debt traps. Many fail to service their debts, and find themselves patronizing loan sharks who offer loans at exorbitant interest rates. By so doing, they are drawn deeper into debt, just like many non-Christians.
Another important fact to note is that buying groceries with credit cards and failing to pay off the credit card account when due makes your groceries very expensive. The interest charged on your credit card will make your milk and bread far more expensive than you likely realize.
In conclusion, unless we abide by the principles of the One who gave us what we have, unless we are obedient to His guidelines and law, how can we manage that which He has loaned us? God still owns everything; He has never lost anything He created. He gave Adam and his descendants the privilege of managing His creation and also provided the guidelines to do so. Obey Him and He will grant you contentment, even in the midst of your challenges.
 All Bible texts are from the New King James Version. Copyright ã 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.