And introduction to Christian Personal Finance
Let me get something out of the way that will make me feel a lot better: I fall far short when it comes to personal finance. I am not as generous as I should be, I’m not the best steward of what I’ve been given, and I fail to recognize how much I have.
But, personal finance is something I’ve been thinking a lot about. At first, if I’m honest, my intentions were selfish. I had never given my finances too much thought. I mean, I tried not to spend lavishly, never got into credit card debt, and have been working to pay off student loans. But, that was about it.
When I recently started to spend some more time thinking about this, one of my motivating factors was accumulating wealth. Maybe it was because I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to get rich quick, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot more about a Christian approach to money and personal finance.
So, over six more posts I’ll be compiling what I’ve found. We’ll talk about basic principles here, but then move on to assessing, planning, growing, and giving before we conclude.
How Christians approach money and their personal finances
1. Money is a gift
In one of my favorite passages from Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus reminds us that God takes care of all of our daily needs. We don’t need to worry, because God is in control. If He takes care of the flowers and the birds, then why should we expect anything different? Our clothes and food and every basic need comes from Him. It always has, and it always will. One of the ways God brings those things to us, is through our money.
James 1:17 reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” Whatever money we have is from God. It’s all a gift. The way God got that money into your pocket was through your job or career, but ultimately it all comes from above.
When we pause to recognize that everything we have is from God, including our money, that will create in us two reactions: 1. Thankfulness and 2. Humility. How can we not thank God for what He’s given us. Whether we think it’s a lot or a little, God deserves all our thanks and praise. Recognizing where our money (and therefore our house, clothes, shoes, cars, etc.) comes from should also humble us. What we have is not a result of our greatness, but God’s. He deserves the credit for the food on the table and the car in the garage.
2. Money is to be approached with caution.
Even though money is a gift from God that He uses to meet our daily needs, we still need to approach it with caution. It’s not that money is inherently evil, otherwise God wouldn’t give it, but that sin has twisted the good thing and made it something dangerous. I think we all know how dangerous money can be. We’ve seen how greed has ruined lives.
Sin always tempts us to take good things and make them into gods. Let me clarify: a god is anything that you put your hope, trust, faith, or identity in. A god is what gives you an ultimate sense of joy and security. For too many of us, that’s money. We think that if we can just get our 401k to a certain level, then we will be secure. If we just have a few more dollars, then we’ll be happy. We are hoping with all hope to get the promotion or the raise. When that happens, money has become a god.
That’s why God, the one who gives us our money, warns us to approach with caution. In Hebrews 13:5 we read, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” The line between appreciating the gift of money and what it allows us to do in taking care of our daily needs and providing for our families, and then turning that gift into an idol is often thin. We are to love the giver, not the gift.
God knows that we can’t divide our love between Him and money. He deserves it all. Jesus tells us that in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
So, we approach our money with caution. But, that doesn’t mean we need to fear it. We don’t need to sell all we have and move to a monastery out of fear that we’ll make money an idol. No, we simply recognize that money is a gift, and that it can very easily become a problem.
3. Money is an occasion to be generous
Christians are to reflect Christ in all that they do. One of the ways we do that is with our generosity. Just as our Father has been so generous with us, we are generous to those around us. One of the ways we can be generous is with our money. It’s definitely not the only way, but money is one of the ways that we reflect God’s generous love to the world. Our money is also one of the ways that we meet the needs of our neighbor as we follow Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Money is a gift from God that we can use as a tool to bless others.
Generosity is not just about the amount that we give. Even the smallest gifts, given out of a generous heart, can be considered generous. Remember the widow in the temple and her offering? Mark 2:41-44 tells the story of a poor widowed woman who only had two small copper coins to her name. When she gave it away, that small gift was considered to be the most generous gift given that day. And it wasn’t because of the amount, but because it was given out of the generosity of her heart.
Christians are generous with their money. Because we have everything we need in Jesus, because every one of our eternal needs has been met, and because God has been so lovingly generous with us – we give generously too.
That’s it for now. Check out the next post on assessing your personal finances.