With Back to School month upon us, I thought it would be good to summarize the basic principles of handling money that are found in the Bible. Did you know that there are over 2,000 verses in the Bible that pertain to money or possessions? God speaks to us on this topic more than any other in the Bible; not because it’s more important to Him, but because He knows it’s important to us. Here is a summary of these basic rules and themes:
Remember God owns it all. The most central theme of money and possessions is that they are all owned by God and we are stewards, or managers, of what He has entrusted to us. Given that everything is His, we must ask ourselves, “How would He have me manage His stuff?” While God uses the money and things that He provides to care for our needs, this perspective should move us away from a self-centered, ‘building bigger barns’ mentality, as found in the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke, chapter 12.
Work. There are many verses in the Bible about work; “hard work is worthwhile,” “being lazy is not different from being a troublemaker,” “be honest and work hard,” “do your work willingly,” “night and day we worked as hard as we could.” Work is the most essential thing we have to exchange for money, which is used to provide for us, and through our generosity, others. Our ability and opportunity to work is what gives us something to be a steward of.
Plan and budget. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. If we are going to be faithful stewards, we must plan and budget so that we can account for the job that we’ve done. Some verses related to planning and budgeting are found in Luke 14 (determine the cost of future plans), 1 Corinthians 14 (do everything properly and in order) and Proverbs 20 (have sound advice before making plans).
Spend less than you earn. This is the most basic of financial principles. If you are going to get ahead financially, you must spend less than you earn so that you have a surplus for other objectives.
Avoid debt. Debt is not a sin, however not repaying it is. So anytime we take on debt we must have a calculated plan for repaying it. Debt is best used when it results in an ability to earn more income, commonly gained through attaining education or skills, or acquiring income producing assets. Debt can become problematic when it is used for consumption of things or activities, as is often the case with car loans and credit cards. The biggest problem with debt is that it always limits your financial freedom in the future, because future earnings must go to pay for prior spending that was facilitated by the debt acquired.
Build savings. There will undoubtedly be times when we have emergencies or our ability to earn an income is diminished. We must build savings for these times. The best example of this in the Bible is when Joseph saved food during the seven years of plenty that preceded the seven years of famine.
Set long-term goals. There are some soon-to-come needs that we know are in our future, like retirement, education and large expenses outside of our normal budget. Plan for these goals by determining how much you will need to fund them, when you will need these funds and how much you need to save between now and then to make these wishes become reality.
Be a generous giver. Having a willingness to give is a byproduct of a growing faith. We are told in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” Also, Deuteronomy 16:17 says, “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.” As we recognize the indescribable and immeasurable gift we have received in salvation through Jesus, our hearts overflow with desire to give likewise to others. Consider how you can use your time, talents and treasures for the blessing of others.
May God richly bless you as you seek to follow these principles!