Money issues make people anxious. But when Jesus taught on treasures and anxiety in the Sermon on the Mount, he made it clear that when we handle resources God’s way, it should actually alleviate stress and anxiety. Following biblical principles of financial stewardship is not burdensome, but actually takes the pressure off of us:
Matthew 6:25 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
I read about a man who was cheating on his income tax. After hearing a sermon about lying and deceit, he wrote the IRS: “I’m having trouble sleeping at night because I’ve cheated on my taxes. Enclosed is a check for $150. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send the rest.”
There are few issues that keep us up at night like financial pressures and problems. The Bible is full of wisdom about this issue, and we do well to listen and find relief. So here are five guidelines from Scripture that will help you manage your money to the glory of God.
1. Develop a proper view of money.
Money is not intrinsically bad, but the love of money is idolatry. And idolatry can destroy our souls. Laying up treasures on earth is spiritual suicide.
Matthew 6:19- 21 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Basically, money is simply a way to turn our labor into goods and to trade goods in a fair way. It is one of the most brilliant inventions ever in terms of social progress. It allows people to fairly distribute products and services based on the amount of effort people are willing to put into their labor.
Jesus used money (John 12:6) and never taught that it was an evil practice. Plus, many passages in Scripture teach the virtue of hard work, which leads to having “plenty of bread” (Proverbs 12:11) and avoiding poverty. In and of itself, money is not bad. The Christian who thinks so will have a difficult time making his way in this world.
However, though money is not intrinsically evil, it can be extremely dangerous. The desire for wealth can be a soul-killing idol!
Matthew 6:24 No one 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.
Additionally, money will never satisfy the soul:
Ecclesiastes 5:10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
Elevating money to the point of idolatry will lead our souls away from God and into extremely dangerous spiritual territory. When we view money in the place of God (which means to find our identity and security in it, and to pursue it as an end in itself), it is the equivalent of stabbing ourselves in the heart.
1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
In his book Happiness, Randy Alcorn wrote, “While many would say that money can’t buy happiness, nearly everyone wants to test the theory! … As I write, 130,000 Powerball tickets are sold each minute.”
Alcorn also recounted the stories of various lottery winners whose lives were utterly ruined after they had won millions. One winner, Keith Gough, who had won $18 million in 2005, said, “My life was brilliant until the lottery ruined everything…What’s the point of having money when it sends you to bed crying?”
Alcorn summarizes: “When money is exposed as the idol it is, those who have worshipped it are devastated.”
In developing a proper view of money, then, we must see it as a good tool for trading labor for goods and for blessing others in this world, but we must never love it as end in itself. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Instead, we should understand that money comes to us as a gift from God. He owns all of it and allows us to steward portions of it for his glory. We do not ultimately own our money, as Paul teaches here:
1 Corinthians 4:7 What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
A proper view of money takes into account that all we have are things we have received. All of our money comes to us from the hand of God. We must never boast as though we possess money by our own strength.
2. Earn as much money as you honestly can.
In his sermon on money management, John Wesley wrote these wise words:
“It is the…duty of all who are engaged in worldly business to observe that first and great rule of Christian wisdom with respect to money, ‘Gain all you can.’ Gain all you can by honest industry. Use all possible diligence in your calling. Lose no time.”
Given the stark warnings in Scripture against idolizing money, it may surprise some that the Bible also teaches that people should make as much money as they can, so long as they do it without breaking the Sabbath, without neglecting their family, and without hurting people in the process of earning.
Scripture teaches that people should work hard and that the result of hard work is earning money. Consider this famous passage:
Proverbs 6:6-11 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.
Solomon teaches that the end result of laziness is “poverty” (not having any money). So the opposite way of life involves being industrious and creative and consistent in labor. The ants provide a perfect illustration of this principle. They keep themselves busy and reap the good results of their diligence.
I admire people who work two and sometimes three jobs in order to earn extra money. Many are able to do this without missing church and without neglecting their families because they refuse to waste time on things that don’t matter (like binge watching Netflix).
On the other hand, many people are unable to give generously and be a blessing to others simply because they refuse to work hard and earn as much money as they honestly can.
3. Commit to being a steward of your money for God’s glory.
From the beginning, God established mankind as stewards over his creation. Adam was appointed a steward over the Garden of Eden. This is the pattern God has set for us all. He gives us resources of various kinds, including all of our money, and he commands us to manage it and distribute it in a way that brings him glory.
This is a much different mindset than what the world teaches about money. The world tells us that we have to fight for our share of wealth and that once we obtain it, it is ours to do with as we please. A more religious version of this same mindset says fight for your share of wealth and, when you get it, give 10% of it to God, and then the rest is yours. But both of those views are wrong and unbiblical.
The biblical view is that all of our resources belong to God. He gives them to us as we work and labor, and once we have obtained them, then we are to act as a manager over them. It is as if God is the owner of the store, and he has hired us as his managers (consider Matthew 25:14-29). He owns 100% of it and expects us to use all of it in a way that honors him and brings him profit (glory to his name).
This is why we are to “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever” (Proverbs 27:23-24). As good stewards we must be intentional about the flow of money coming into and out of our pockets. It is never wise to just hope for the best or to depend on others to manage your money for you. Each of us has a responsibility to “know well the condition of your flocks.”
In the modern world, this means that each of us need to have a budget. We need to plan how much we anticipate making and how we intend to spend the money once we obtain it. As we recognize that it is not our money, but God’s, we will be very careful how we spend each penny There are many helpful and free online tools to help create a budget, including BudgetSimple and Mint.
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Good stewards also seek accountability. Whether it is a spouse or friend, each of us should get help when it comes to budgeting and controlling what we spend. Because we are sinners, people have a tendency to waste money on self-centered, needless pursuits. A fellow believer can help us fight against that tendency, but we have to be brave and ask.
4. Never waste money.
Once we have a proper view of money (as a good tool but not a beloved idol), and once we have determined to earn as much as we honestly can, and once we have committed to being good stewards of God’s resources (using our budgets), we must then make sure we don’t send cash down the drain. That is, we must never waste God’s money.
Practically, this means, among other things, that we should avoid all debt if possible:
Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
According to statistics, most Christians do not believe in these biblical principles set forth in these verses. Instead, the average person, including Christians, is up to their neck in debt. I recently read about a woman who had a good job but still couldn’t pay her bills on time. She was in a small-claims court over the matter, and the judge asked her, “Can’t you live within your income?” Her response was, “It’s all I can do to live within my credit.”
I read about another person who was overheard talking to his landlord about a late rent payment. He said, “With my daughter’s graduation, our new boat, and our trip to Europe this year, we’re a little strapped.” You think?
The reason most folks fall into debt is because they refuse to be good stewards of God’s money. Believing they deserve to enjoy expensive pleasures and big toys, many people blow their resources on themselves. Then when they want even more, they obtain credit cards and max them out. Before long the interest and other fees compound, creating a total financial shipwreck. The best way to fight against debt is to discipline ourselves to stay within our budgets. We must never spend more than we take in.
Another way of wasting God’s money is by gambling. Essentially gamblers say: “I’m one step away from being rich. All I need now is money.” But Scripture is clear that get-rich schemes are not what God has in mind when he appoints us as stewards over his resources:
Proverbs 28:20 A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
The mere possibility of winning does not justify the practice of gambling. Imagine if you were the owner of a store and the manager you hired to watch over the flow of money decided to take the daily profits to the local casino. You would likely be infuriated. Your manager may argue, “But I thought if I won, I could make your store a lot of money!” You would still be infuriated. What a horrible manager! How do you think God feels when he appoints a person as a steward over his resources, and that person throws the money into a slot machine?
Though there isn’t a direct command against gambling in the Bible, the guidelines of stewardship set forth in Scripture do not allow us to waste money in such a thoughtless way. Raymond Albrektson wrote these words in Christianity Today:
“We’re basically trustees, and a trustee normally does not take high risks with the owner’s wealth. When you entrust assets to a financial manager, you expect rational plans for putting that money to work, not unreasonable risks in hopes of a quick payoff.”
But what about investing in the stock market? Isn’t that the same as gambling? Well, with the exception of day-trading and other forms of get-rich-quick investments, investing in the stock market is much different than gambling. One Christian thinker says it like this:
“Gamblers risk money, which they know they will probably lose, in the hopes of making money quickly. Wise investors buy partial ownership in a company in the hopes of making money over time, which can be a sound way to plan for the future.”
In addition to avoiding debt and gambling, good stewards of God’s money should also be wise in all their purchases. They should avoid buying unneeded things like that candy bar at the check out aisle or a tenth hairbrush. They should consider whether name brand products are worth the price. Most of the time they are not. They must consider whether they are paying too much for their housing and whether there are cheaper options that would work just as well.
Good stewards also do all they can to make things last. Keeping an old automobile running, and avoiding a large monthly payment, is a brilliant financial move. Most of us can change our own oil, replace our own brakes, etc. and save thousands on automobile repairs. Washers, dryers, dishwashers, and other appliances can all be repaired by carefully following the instructions on the thousands of online videos that demonstrate how to repair these items. Why waste money buying a new one when the one you have can be repaired with a bit of creativity and effort? Good stewards think this way. They do not want to waste the Master’s money.
I heard about a teenager who had lost a contact lens while he was playing basketball. He quickly scanned the driveway for it, but gave up after a brief attempt to find it. His mother came out and began diligently searching every inch of the driveway. After awhile she found the lens. The teen asked his mom, “How did you find it?” She responded, “Honey, we were not looking for the same thing. You were looking for a small piece of plastic, but I was looking for $150.” That’s how a good steward thinks! Never waste money!
5. Place a priority on generous kingdom giving.
One of the main reasons God gives us skills, gifts, and talents is so that we will work hard earning as much money as we can, and then use our resources to be a blessing to the world for the glory of God. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
God has designed us so that when we give generously to others for his glory, our hearts are filled with joy and contentment. Those who hoard their money and refuse to give are typically the most miserable people of all. Jesus taught us this principle in a parable:
Luke 12:15-21 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
The truth in this story is a picture of how many of us live. People can be very greedy. I read about the director of a local charity who called a wealthy banker about a possible donation. The director said, “You make $500,000 a year, yet you have never given to a penny to charity.” The banker responded, “Well, my mother is ill and has to pay very expensive medical bills. And my brother is blind and unemployed. And my sister’s husband died, leaving her broke with four kids.” The director said, “I am so sorry. I had no idea.” Then the wealthy banker said, “So if I don’t give them any money, why would I give any to you?”
Though this banker took greed to an extreme, most people struggle with the same sin. We feel as though our needs and wants are so great that giving to others is out of the question. But the Bible is clear on this issue. The reason we are to work hard and gain as much as we can (and avoid wasting) is just so that we can be generous to others. We are stewards of blessing. God gives us money so that we can distribute to others for the sake of his glory. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, caring for our own families.
In the ancient law of God, the principle of tithing was set forth to the people of Israel:
Leviticus 27:30 Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.
The Israelites were to set aside 10% of all they produced and give it away for the sake of kingdom work and ministry. When the Israelites refused to obey this law, God responded like this:
Malachi 3:8-10 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
Now, here we must be careful lest we become legalists. A person is not saved or set into a right standing with God just because they tithe, or even if they go beyond a tithe. Generously giving our money does not save us. Attempting to obey any law, as a matter of fact, does absolutely nothing to repair our broken relationship with a holy God: “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” (Romain 3:20).
We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, not by tithing. However, tithing is still the law. In other words, God appoints us as stewards over 100% of the money he gives to us, but the first 10% of what we produce is meant to go directly to kingdom work and ministry. And since this is a law, when we obey and follow this law for the right reasons and with the right motive (read all of Malachi), we find great joy and contentment.
In order to see that the law of tithing remains in effect even in the New Testament age of grace, consider what Jesus taught the Pharisees here:
Matthew 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
Jesus doesn’t say, “The law of tithing is no longer in effect.” Rather, he says, “These you ought to have done.” The Pharisees tithed meticulously, but in the process they were missing bigger and more important aspects of the law. Jesus informs this of their error, pushing them to focus on “justice and mercy and faithfulness.” But in so doing, Jesus maintains that the law of tithing is still important and still in effect. We are not saved by tithing, but tithing is the law and is therefore a good and necessary practice for human thriving.
If you look at your financial picture and come to the conclusion that tithing is currently impossible, then don’t let that discourage you. Start somewhere. Start at 3% or 4%. Don’t think that because you can’t hit the 10% mark that you shouldn’t give at all. My wife and I have been slowly progressing to higher percentages over a period of years.
I would also suggest that the bulk of your giving be to your local church (assuming you have made sure your church doesn’t waste and squander money). When you give at church, you can give weekly as an act of worship. You can support your church staff and help solidify a strong ministry to your local community. Plus, most churches faithfully give to support missionaries around the world.
But it also seems wise to give smaller portions to other people or groups besides your local church. If your generosity is confined to just your local church, you may slipped into the “I gave at the office” mentality and thus miss the opportunity to be generous in your daily life. Giving to great charitable organizations like Samaritan’s Pure or Compassion International or other ministries doing good work in your area is a wonderful way to steward your money for the glory of God. Additionally, God will always bring individuals into your path that have various needs. To be able to step up and meet a financial need is another way of using your stewardship skills to bring glory to God in the world.
Also, when you give generously, make sure to give cheerfully. Our motive matters! In giving instructions about giving, the apostle Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
When you put all the guidelines together, you get something like this: We are to develop a proper view of money as a good tool for turning labor into goods, but we are never to worship money or love it as an end in itself. We should work diligently to earn as much money as we honestly can. We should commit ourselves to being good stewards over God’s money. He is the owner, and we are managers. Using our budgets, our job is to distribute his resources in a way that glorifies him. Thus, we should never waste money, but rather be as generous as we possibly can to others.
Remember, good stewardship is designed to bring us joy and contentment, not to be a burden:
Malachi 3:10 And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
We are not saved through good stewardship, but the wisdom and ability to be good stewards does indeed flow out of our salvation. When we handle our money according to the guidelines God has set forth in his word, it will be one of the clearest indications in our lives that we are living in dependence upon him alone.
Hear this blog in sermon version:
- Biblical Guidelines for Managing Your Money – Part 1
- Biblical Guidelines for Managing Your Money – Part 2
- Investing Earthly Finances with an Eternal Focus: John MacArthur
- Six Keys to Understanding the Treasure Principle: Randy Alcorn
- Seven Reasons Not to Play the Lottery: John Piper
- Our Money Matters: Alistair Begg
- How the Gospel Makes Us Generous and Content with Our Money: Zach Nielsen