Large bills, lofty plans and the question, “Am I doing enough?” We all experience the stress from each of these, and sometimes it feels as if we are all alone in our quest to manage our resources. Some pastors comfort us with the verse “the love of money is the root of all evil,” and we may even use that advice as a reason to avoid responsibility. But God’s Word is actually full of financial advice to help us in our daily lives and to ensure that we glorify Him through our finances.
Beatrice, a single 20-something Christian, spent nine years in college for two degrees only to discover that she disliked both career fields. Unfortunately, her degrees didn’t come cheap, and her student loan statement showed an ugly six-figure debt. We, like Beatrice, may be some of the many college students who graduated with student loans and wonder how long it will take us to repay the debt. We may have purchased a new car at a high price or a well-built house with a large mortgage. We may be tempted to find an easy way “out,” but how does God want us to handle such financial burdens?
The Bible proffers a multitude of suggestions on diligence and work, but in one of the first passages in the Bible, we see God’s view on human responsibility: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground'” (Genesis 1:28). After reviewing the verse, it’s tempting to think that God only gives man dominion over his environment, when God actually calls us to be responsible with our resources that He gave us. Two of these resources are our time and effort which we use to manage the other resources God gives us.
Other encouragements to be diligent are found throughout Proverbs, for instance, “the plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5) and “lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 10:4). If we borrow money for school, a car or a home, remember that these resources we obtain are not the end, but the beginning of our work. When we borrow money, we have a responsibility to others, and God wants us to honor our responsibilities. (“The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously” Psalm 37:21.) Of course, this leads us to the next financial topic: debt. What is God’s view on borrowing and saving?
Anne is saving money for her future wedding, while David is planning a two-week trip to Europe. Like many of us have experienced, people encourage them to just spend money on credit because saving money for goals isn’t “fun.”
Borrowing money is more American than apple pie. Think about it: Our culture encourages borrowing money for a myriad of things. Want to buy a home? Get a mortgage. Need a new car? Request an auto loan. Want to go back to graduate school? Call your bank for graduate loans. While this has not always been the case in the past (for instance, the credit collapse following the Roaring Twenties, aka The Great Depression, led to a generation who were known for saving), you may find in our current age that you’re expected to borrow money for things you want or need.
But what does God’s Word say about borrowing money?
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7).
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).
God calls us to serve Him and to love others. Therefore, our debt is service to God and loving others as God loves us. However, when we borrow resources for our goals, we become slaves to other masters than God. These other masters may have different priorities than God, and these other priorities may interfere with God’s will in our lives.
Once you discover your financial goals, like Anne and David did, prepare a financial road map by listing your plans and the cost for each plan. Instead of borrowing money when the time comes to pay for that wedding or take that trip to Europe, divide the total cost of the goal by the time you want to meet the goal (for instance, $60,000 saved in five years means saving $12,000 a year or $1,000 a month). In the long run, you will save money by avoiding interest payments and remain solely in God’s service.
You may find the temptation to borrow now and pay later makes life temporarily easier, but you’ll lose the perspective of weighing the cost with the reward as well as placing a master above God’s will. Owing the bank money can decrease your opportunities, and these opportunities may be places where you can serve God the best. And on the topic of opportunities, are there opportunities that come from having money saved?
Caleb felt that working wasn’t enough to honor God’s command of being productive in work (see Genesis 3:17–19) and wanted to increase his production through the money he had saved. In a culture that praises consumption, Caleb wanted to follow God’s example in the first chapter of the Bible and produce more. Some of us may also be in a similar position as Caleb: We have no debt and a healthy amount saved, so do we just spend our money as we want?
In Matthew 25:14–30, Jesus provides a parable of three servants who were called to manage their master’s wealth. Two of the servants expanded the wealth by doubling what they had been called to manage, while one servant buried his wealth. Even though no servant lost his master’s wealth, the two servants who had expanded the wealth were blessed while the other was called “wicked” and “lazy.”
Wealth means responsibility. Ironically, great Americans in the past knew this fact. Two boys from poverty, Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie, built some of the greatest American companies that vastly improved our standard of living. John D. Rockefeller, a devout Christian, gave a huge portion of his wealth to assist in improving humans’ standard of living. Like these great individuals, we should seek out ways in which we can improve society, including giving and investing.
God provides us with wealth not to consume for our pleasure, but to produce and give for His glory. Sadly, some Christians have lost sight of this; thus, the modern church environment sometimes avoids topics pertinent to finances. Yet Jesus tells us that “whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10) and “from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). God never denigrates the responsible use of wealth, but He expects us to use it for His glory. Therefore, we should ask when we use our money, “How does this glorify God?”
Copyright 2011 Timothy Smith. All rights reserved.