5 Biblical Principles Regarding Money

This Africa Study Bible article was originally posted on TGC Africa.

The expression, “What’s in your wallet?,” is very common. Men ensure that their money is safe in their pockets while women check their purses. We put our money and assets in banks for safekeeping. These are good measures to ensure our resources are safe. Have you ever wondered who those assets actually belong to? Have you stopped to think how you make that money? What would it be like if you were to lose all your money?

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a garden with everything they needed. The garden was God’s, and they took care of it. When the man and woman disobeyed God, he banished them from the garden and said that their work would be difficult. The woman would have pain when she gives birth and the man would “struggle to scratch as living”from the ground and work “by the sweat of [his] brow” (Genesis 3:16-17, 19).

Making a living and acquiring money and possessions is hard work. It is natural to think that what we get is ours due to our cleverness, good fortune, or the sweat of our brow. It is easy to forget that everything we have is a gift from God and we are only caretakers of it, much like Adam and Eve did not own the garden of Eden but were only caretakers of it.

When It Comes To Money, We’re Merely Stewards

God is very specific about this, “Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the LORD your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the LORD your God…Never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful” (Deuteronomy 8:11-18).

Not only does our wealth—our money and possessions—belong to the Lord, but he tells us to be content with what we have or do not have (Philippians 4:11-12). He also tells us to use what he has given us to care for the needy. A major value in the Bible is helping those in need. For example, Leviticus 19:9-10 quotes God saying not to harvest everything but “leave them for the poor and the foreigners.” In 1 John 3:17 John asks, “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?”

God has made us caretakers of his creation so that we can use it to create wealth—not to glorify ourselves but to glorify him. To do that, we need to learn and practice some key principles about money and possessions reflected in God’s Word including rest, work, planning, savings, investment, and giving.

And remember that true wealth is not just money and possessions, but it is also a sense of well-being that comes from loving relationships with family, friends, and God.

1. Rest: Trust God’s Providence

While hard work yields financial prosperity and having no work leads to discouragement, both assume that self-effort is the primary source of wealth. Many believe that it is through hard work that they can get wealth, so they overwork themselves, forgetting that it is God who gives them the ability to create wealth.

Rest acknowledges God’s providence. We do not rest only because work is done but to honour God. The Sabbath belongs to God (Isaiah 58:13-14). The Sabbath is also God’s gift to us (Exodus 16:29; 20:8-11). While different people may rest on different days, we should not ignore this key principle of setting aside one day in seven for rest. This is particularly true of those who are either employed by the church or volunteer for church work and are occupied over the weekend. They take care of other people’s vineyards but may ignore their own.

Observing a weekly Sabbath (rest) is important for at least three reasons. First is connecting with our Creator. Through rest, we connect with God, whose image in us gives us the ability to co-create with him.Thus, time spent with God is multiplied because it makes us more productive beyond our mere efforts (Psalm 127:1-2). The Sabbath is a time when we bring our cares to God and seek his perspective on our life and work.

Second is the need to re-connect with ourselves. We need to take time to rest, reflect, recreate, and re-engage with our inner person, our fears, hopes, and aspirations. And certainly our body needs to recharge so that we can work some more. The prophet Elijah lost perspective when Queen Jezebel threatened him. He had just seen God perform the miracle of sending fire to consume his water-drenched offering and shame the priests of Baal. But he panicked and ran away when Jezebel threatened him. God intervened at this point and told Elijah, who had been sleeping, to eat (see 1 Kings 18-19).

Third is connecting with one another. A Sabbath rest allows us to reconnect not just with God but also with our fellow human beings and with God’s creation.

Rest is the primary spiritual condition that helps us to be effective and fruitful in our management of wealth. “So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labours, just as God did after creating the world” (Hebrews 4:9-10).

2. Work: Embrace God’s Gift

Work is God’s gift to humankind, where we collaborate with God in taking care of and multiplying his creation. Work is not the same as employment. We can wait for employment or we can identify opportunities to work. Work is service for others, meeting their needs. Work rewards in many different ways but not always in possessions. A Christian can take care of the environment, take care of children or the elderly, or engage in counselling—these always bring benefit. Many people do not want to take up these types of work because they do not directly “put food on the table.” Those who engage in such work often depend on the family of God for their food and other needs.

Work is a calling to all mankind. It is God’s principal way for people to provide for their needs and the needs of others. The apostle Paul declared: “‘Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.’ Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Wealth creation without work is not acceptable in God’s divine plan. Manna for Israel lasted while they were in the wilderness. The moment they got into the promised land, the manna stopped and they had to work. The money we get from our work should not be used in just any manner. God created us and gave us a means to earn a living; therefore, what we earn from work belongs to God.

3. Plan: Manage God’s Resources

To be good users of God’s resources, it is important to plan for effective management of those resources. This term is stewardship, and it involves managing all resources well—time, money, talents, and health (both spiritual and physical). Jesus used a number of work-related principles to teach his disciples about their responsibility. For example, he gave two practical illustrations of planning to illustrate the importance of counting the cost of being his disciple. A wise builder would not attempt to build a house and a military commander would not go to war without proper evaluation and planning (Luke 14:26-32).

The plan to manage money is called a budget. A budget is simply a list of all income you receive and all expenses you pay out. The goal is to pay out less than what you receive. That’s easy to say and hard to do. For one month, write down every time you pay out money so that you can see where your money goes. Looking at your expenses will help you determine where to cut back. Then plan for the following month, setting limits to what you spend in each area.

A budget is a monetary expression of a clear life purpose and plan. Having clear life goals and a clear sense of purpose is the beginning of budgeting.

4. Save: Exercise God’s Wisdom

By saving we acknowledge that we live in a fallen world where things will go wrong. Putting away something in the time of harvest allows us to live through the times of famine. As Pharaoh’s deputy, Joseph stored the grain during the years of plenty, allowing Egypt to survive the years of drought (Genesis 41).

Saving shows that we are prudent. “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” and “fools spend whatever they get” (Proverbs 22:3; 21:20). Even ants know how to store up food when there is an abundance to be used when there is nothing (Proverbs 6:6-8; 30:25). Saving is the opposite of wasteful consuming. Jesus told a powerful story about a young man who convinced his father to give him his inheritance and then went out and wasted it in a short time (Luke 15:11-32).

Mankind’s responsibility is not just “looking after” but “multiplying.” Jesus used the principle of investment and failing to invest to illustrate the importance of diligence and planning in life. He told a story about three servants who were given various amounts of money. Two were faithful and invested while the third only protected the investment (Matthew 25:14-30). The servant who was given one talent was rebuked for simply protecting it. The other two were commended for multiplying what had been entrusted to them.

5. Give: Imitate God’s Generosity

Giving is one of the most important values in Africa as well as the Bible. The first thing said about the second generation of humans is that Cain and Abel gave gifts to God (Genesis 4:3-4). Jesus promised a blessing to the giver: “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38). Christians who practice the habit of giving to the church will help those in vocational religious work to make a living (1 Corinthians 9:3-14). It is through the habit of giving that the church takes care of its workers, as well as caring for the needy and powerless.

Although Christians differ over whether the Old Testament tithe is a command for today, the concept does present us with a good guide for giving. We should give the first and best of what we have, and we are to give consistently and generously (Leviticus 27:33; Numbers 18:21). God loves a person who gives cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Points to Remember

  • All we have and all we earn belong to God. We are merely caretakers of his riches.
  • God has told us to be content with what we have and to use the resources he has given us to help the needy.
  • Humans need to work to take care of themselves and their families. Those who do critical work that does not “put food on the table” need to be supported by the people of God. This is God’s divine plan.
  • Our pattern of work should follow God’s pattern of work and rest, which is the rhythm he set in creation.
  • The proceeds we get from work belong to God. Thus, as good stewards, we must plan, save, invest, and give.

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