Money (1) – What Does the Bible Say?

No reasonable person would dispute that few subjects in today’s society garner more attention, interest, and commentary than money. In our world in 2011, talk shows, cable channels, blogs, websites, and publishing houses pump out a constant stream of chatter about all types of money matters.

What may be a little more surprising to some is to know that the Bible speaks more about money than it does about almost any other single subject. Approximately 2,350 verses deal with money or material possessions – almost twice as many as are devoted to faith and prayer combined. Sixteen of Christ’s parables (out of a total of between 30 and 40) deal with the subject. He talked far more about money matters than He did about any other subject including heaven, hell, obedience, discipleship, or devotion.

The big question for us as God’s people is, where do we turn when we want information about money and material possessions? What forces shape our perspectives on the subject? What principles guide our behavior? Do we rely more on the Wall Street Journal than the Word of God? Are we more influenced by the stock tickers or by the Scriptures? It is absolutely vital that we allow the Bible to challenge our mindsets and adjust our perspectives if we are to have a proper attitude toward money, and if we are to be effective at using it for the glory of God.

This article is aimed at young believers who are starting out in adult life. Many of you have not yet made the mistakes that the generation above you has plunged headlong into, but you are right on the brink and in imminent danger of rushing blindly down the same dangerous pathways! Dear young believer, stop before it’s too late! Money is not what you think it is – it is not what the world around you tries to force you to believe. This article is written with the sincere desire that young readers will turn to the Word of God to find proper, God-given, eternal truth about money that will radically alter their perspective, and steer them away from the empty, materialistic, money-obsessed lifestyle that has such a stranglehold on virtually everyone in our modern western world, many Christians included.

The world’s perspective on money is diabolically driven, and is diametrically opposed to the Bible’s teaching. You can be wrong on a lot of subjects and still not make shipwreck as a believer – but you cannot be wrong when it comes to your attitude toward, and your behavior with, money and then expect your life to amount to anything for God. The Lord Jesus said it so succinctly in Luke 16:13. “No servant can serve two masters, for 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 God and money” (ESV). So in the words of Christ Himself, if you are devoted to money, you despise God! If you are serving money, you cannot serve God!

What does the Bible say about money? Is money evil?

Money itself is morally neutral. It is neither good nor evil. People are good or evil, actions are good or evil, attitudes are good or evil, therefore it’s what we do with money and how we view money that is either good or evil – not money itself. Money is really only a medium of exchange or a method of measuring value. Possessing wealth or material things doesn’t therefore necessarily indicate that a person is out of the will of God, neither does the absence of money or material possessions necessarily equate to god­liness. One of the most misquoted verses in the Bible is 1 Timothy 6:10. Contrary to how it is often quoted, the verse does not state that “money is the root of all evil” but rather warns that “the love of money is a root of all evil.”

The Principle of Stewardship: Whose money is it anyway?

One of the fundamental underpinnings of a capitalistic society is the principle of Private Property Rights. According to this concept, if something belongs to me, then I have all of the rights and freedoms of ownership. I can use it as I wish, I can control it. Nobody has the right to dictate to me about its use, it is mine! Those of us who live, work, and seek to serve God in western countries have been so steeped in this principle since childhood and so brainwashed by the society we are immersed in, that it is very, very difficult for us to recognize that when it comes to money – even what I consider to be my own money – it’s not mine at all, it’s God’s. All of it is God’s. The Scriptures clearly teach that all money and material things belong to God. “All that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine … Both riches and honor come of thee (1Chron 29:11-12). “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains” (Psa 24:1 NASB).

So it is critical, if I am to view money correctly, that I understand the principle of stewardship. My money and material possessions don’t belong to me, but I’ve been entrusted with them by their rightful owner (God) and He has given me responsibility for their care and use. Furthermore, He holds me accountable for the manner in which I discharge that responsibility. It’s not that I take a small portion out of my money and “give it to the Lord” and then use the rest as I see fit. The fact is that it’s all the Lord’s, and I must answer to him as to my attitudes and actions with whatever He entrusts to my care. This is the Biblical principle of stewardship.

How much money do I need? What is financial freedom?

This is one of the most pressing questions of our day, and for many of us the answer most naturally springing to our minds when confronted with it is likely “a little more than I have.” Somehow we never feel like we have enough money. Financial freedom is embraced in our world as a concept to be cherished, a dream to be pursued, and an ambition to be embraced. But the world’s concept of financial freedom is totally flawed when subjected to the Scriptural test. The world indoctrinates us into thinking that financial freedom is “having enough money so I don’t have to worry,” when the Scripture clearly teaches us that “my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). In the latter portion of Matthew 6, the Lord exhorts His own not to be anxious about clothing, food, and material things, because “your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of these things” (Matt 6:32). Financial freedom, from the Scriptural perspective, is to be free from the bondage of serving money and wealth. The freedom of mind and soul comes only from truly trusting God and having peace in my heart that I am using whatever resources He has entrusted to me for His glory. One of the things God cherishes most in His children is trust. It is an insult to our heavenly Father for us to feel that security and freedom can be found in wealth or in hoarding this world’s possessions. These realities can only be found in our God and they are abundantly available for those who place their trust in Him.

The Menacing Marketing Myth of Materialism

Covetousness and materialism are chro­nic plagues in our modern, money-obsessed society, and, left unchecked, they quickly make devastating inroads into our mind-sets, perspectives, lifestyles, and habits as the people of God. It’s instructive that the Lord warned in Luke 12:15 “Beware of covetousness!” We are familiar with warnings such as “beware of dog” or “beware of falling rocks.” We have no difficulty grasping that such warnings alert us to potentially imminent danger; something that could gravely harm us or even destroy us. It is critical that we understand that this is precisely the point the Lord is making in Luke 12. Cov­et­ousness is an ugly, menacing danger that can consume us and ensnare us, and if allowed into our lives, will destroy our usefulness for God and make shipwreck of our Christian testimony. Paul warns about the same danger in 1 Timothy 6 when he writes in verses 10-11 that “the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things.” Notice the forcefulness of Paul’s warning – we are to flee! It’s not that we can allow ourselves to indulge a little in materialistic living as long as we don’t go too far. We can’t cater just a little to the fleshly desires for possessions, provided we remain balanced and don’t go to the excesses that others may do. We are to watch this danger like a menacing enemy, stay far from it and be constantly vigilant against its inroads.

In Luke 12, the Lord elaborates on His warning to “beware of covetousness” by explaining that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15 ESV). This is perhaps one of the most blatant areas where the modern myths of marketing and the teachings of Christ come into flagrant, violent conflict. We are bombarded with messages consciously, sub-consciously, subliminally, and societally, that powerfully persuade us that life does, in fact, consist in the abundance of the things that we possess. Happiness lies just beyond the next purchase. Whether it’s the latest electronic gadget, or the fancy luxury automobile, or the dream vacation, or the prestigious home, or the self-pampering spa treatment, we are constantly being bombarded with marketing messages. The aim of these advertisements is to convince us that “you’ve worked hard for it, you deserve it, you’ll be happy if you get it, you’ll be miserable if you don’t.” And almost without thinking, we blindly imbibe the philosophy of the world, swallow its marketing messages, crank up the speed on the materialistic treadmill of modern west­ern living, and consign ourselves to a miserable, self-centered, barren existence of serving wealth and not serving God.

Dear young believer, please stop and listen to the clear, unambiguous warning of Christ. Your life is more than money or material things. You can survive without the latest gadget, or the newest car, or the fanciest house, or the splashiest vacation. Far better to be content in the center of God’s will for your life and be without some of the things your peer group considers “normal,” than to be rushing headlong after everything your heart craves, and completely miss God’s purpose for living. -To be continued