How to Gain a Biblical Perspective on Money
|By: Dr. Steven C. Riser; ©2010|
|Most of us probably have a pretty firm perspective on money and materialism, but it can change. Some of us know down deep, it needs to change, and by God’s grace it will change for the better. Some of us need a complete paradigm shift – a more realistic, more biblical perspective.|
Christian leadership experts as well as social psychologists agree that when it comes to change, most people avoid it like the plague. They just don’t like it! Experts say that if a person is going to change his behavior, one of three things will have to happen. We’re ready to change when:
- We learn enough information that we see the need to change. Some people need to see it in their mind, they need more information and when they get enough information, they see the truth or a better alternative and begin to change (Spiritual Illumination – 1 Cor. 2:12-14).
- We hurt so much through the reproofs of life that we’re almost forced to change. Many of us know this is true in marriage, finances, raising kids or something else. Things aren’t going well, we feel the pain and we look for better alternatives (Spiritual Discipline – Heb. 12:5-11).
- We care enough to want to change for the better. Why? We love God because He first loved us. We are grateful to God because our hearts have been transformed by His grace. And we want to please the one we love by doing God’s will for God’s glory (Motivated by Agape Love – 1 John 4:16).
This truth applies to mental as well as behavioral change. A crisis or disaster may cause us: 1) to see the need or 2) to feel the pain or 3) to want to change a faulty perspective to please God.
The things that cause us to change our perspective also apply to our thinking about money. (In this article, we are going to use the topics of money, finances and “stuff” interchangeably.) Most of us probably have a pretty firm perspective on money and materialism, but it can change. Some of us know down deep, it needs to change, and by God’s grace it will change for the better. Some of us need a complete paradigm shift – a more realistic, more biblical perspective.
- If we learn from this article, the information can lead us to change our perspective about money.
- If we’re hurt due to debt or loss of job, the pain may force us to change our views about money.
- If we have had our heart changed by God’s grace, we will want to adopt God’s view of money.
Because we have new life in Christ, God is transforming us by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12). Because we have experienced Christ love, our perspective about everything is changing! Because we love God more than anyone else, we want to please Him more than anyone else.
Five Faulty Perspectives about Money
Here are five faulty perspectives when it comes to money, stuff and materialism. Ask yourself, do any of these represent a defective perspective in your current thought pattern?
- I will always have a job making good money. That’s a faulty perspective! Why? Because it isn’t always true. For example, almost 10% of America is currently unemployed, looking for work. We are living in a time of economic upheaval and there are no guarantees we will always have a job.
- I need money and stuff to achieve internal significance and self worth (Rom. 12:3). Jesus said, “Life doesn’t consist in the abundance of our possessions” (Luke 12:15). Our self worth should be grace based, not possession or performance based. God’s Word and other’s mistakes teach us not to make money our God. There are many who have not learned this important lesson.
- The money I’ve invested or saved will always be there for me. We would hope this is true, but there is no guarantee, is there? There is no such thing as financial security. Financial responsibility – yes; but financial security – no! God’s love, not money, is our true source of security (Rom. 8:35-39).
- Money and stuff will always make me happy, if I just have a little more. Counseling offices are full of the “haves” as well as the “have not’s.” They talk to those who have no money and to those who have everything they ever wanted. It’s a faulty perspective to think money will make me happy. How do I know? Easy, just ask the rich who are unhappy or the poor who are happy.
- Getting money and stuff is always better than giving it away. This is faulty indeed! This defect in thinking requires a heart transplant. We really don’t like to talk about it, but many have this perspective: getting is always better than giving. How does this square with what Jesus taught? He taught that it was always “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20: 35)!
Now, most of us, as we reflect on these five examples of deceptive thinking, would never say, “I hope I get that raise, because right now my self esteem is kind of low, but if I get the raise, I can buy a bigger, better, faster whatever and my self esteem will soar!” Deep down in your heart, do you have unbiblical perspectives about finances and stuff?
Where are you? I’m going to ask you to be as honest with God and yourself as possible. My prayer is that this message will give you new information based on biblical truth which will enable you to discern whether your perspective is one that is wise; that is, whether it is one that’s God-fearing, God-pleasing, God-honoring, God-glorifying and biblically-based or not. According to 2 Corinthians10:5, we are to bring our thinking in line with the authority of God’s Holy Word.
For some, this will help make sense of your pain. Some of you are drowning in debt, unable to do the things you’d like to do, unsure about how you’re going to shuffle the credit cards around to get a lower interest rate. You’re drowning in debt and really hurting. Your marriage is hurting, your parenting is hurting, and your job performance or lack of job is hurting. You’re in pain. To make sense of that hurt you need to see that God has a better way. To see and experience that better way, you need to ask God’s Spirit to change your heart.
God’s Spirit can begin to softly change our heart and bring it in line with what God desires. My prayer is that as you think about God’s Word today, by God’s grace, your heart would begin to change. Our financial life can be something we enjoy, as long as we follow after God’s values, perspective, principles, practices and priorities.
How can we identify our present values and perspectives on money, finances and stuff? One way is by looking at how we spend our money. How do you spend your money? There is a true story being written about all of us, our finances and our true values. This story can be found in our checkbook registries and on our credit card receipts, etc. But the truth of the matter is that as we flip through the pages of our check registry, or as we examine our credit card receipts month after month, there’s a story being written which tells us our true perspective on money and stuff. Like it or not, as we examine our spending habits, the things that we value are rather clearly revealed.
I can tell you this, even though I don’t know you at all: if you gave me access to your checkbook, I could learn some very important things about you. Our stories are being written. Does this story show that we are wise money managers and faithful stewards or not? How would you feel if this confidential information about you was revealed to everyone?
You might feel sad, bad, or mad if you haven’t been wise with your money. Perhaps you don’t want other people to see how much money is going to debt, credit cards and excessive materialism?
Some might proudly say, “Go ahead look at mine! I have no consumer debt and I have the money to do whatever I want! I am a wise money manager and my check register balances. Put it up on the screen, I’m okay with that!” Just because you’re not in debt doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a wise and faithful steward of all the resources God entrusted to you – including the gospel (1 Thess. 2:4).
Some of you would say, very humbly, “You know, a few months or a few years ago, my perspective changed. While I’m not perfect at it, I’d be okay if you saw my check register because, by the grace of God, my perspective, my values and my priorities have changed and are continuing to change for the better.”
When it comes to being a wise money manager, getting wisdom about how we spend our money, Charles Dickens echoes the Bible: “There is a wisdom of the head and a wisdom of the heart.” Proverbs 23:7 says that, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Giving is a matter of the heart! The wisdom of the heart involves learning to desire what God desires. This will lead to a transformation of our mind. When it comes to the stewardship of finances, serving others and living a life of love, God’s ways always look foolish to the spiritually blind.
What we’re talking about is God’s perspective or wisdom when it comes to finances and stuff. Wisdom starts in our hearts and then transforms our heads. We know that we need wisdom in finances and money, but where do we get it? James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
Wisdom! Do you need it? Ask God and search His Word! What I like about James 1:5 is “without finding fault.” Some of us may read something in this article for the first time and may feel guilty. Romans 8:1 says there’s “no condemnation for those in Christ!” You can hear God’s truth and seek His wisdom and no one is going throw it back in your face. God wants to help you, not condemn you.
When we ask God for wisdom, we’re asking how to respond in a way that pleases Him. Our faulty perspective leads us to think, “I’m the owner of my money and my stuff! I put myself through college, I work 70 hours a week, and it’s my money and my stuff – not God’s!” Have you ever felt that way? Perhaps you still do?
We need a new, true, realistic and biblical perspective. The truth is, everything belongs to God. Everything was created by God for His glory. We’re only trustees, stewards or managers of all that God has entrusted to us. David, a man after God’s own heart, had this perspective. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it and all that dwells in it.”
Now this assumes that a person believes in God and the Bible. As a matter of fact, everything in this article is a principle or truth that comes from God through His Word. Everything we have has been given to us by God, belongs to God. Furthermore, everything we have we will leave behind. Why? Because we can’t take it with us!
Some might think: I’m not sure I accept that principle that everything belongs to God. In answer to that concern, listen to one of the richest men in his day. When asked, “What is the secret to your financial success?” Rockefeller’s answer was always the same: “When you get money, give 10 % away. Then, save 10 % for yourself and your future. Finally, have fun spending the 80%.” This is sound advice and it works!
Financial counselor Ron Blue says that there are five things Americans do with their money. He prioritizes these things in order which shows us where our heart is: it reveals an ownership mentality, not a stewardship mentality; it’s a defective perspective! Ron Blue says that most people, when they have money:
- They spend it so they can live (food, clothing and shelter).
- They pay monthly bills and consumer debt.
- They pay taxes.
- They save what they can (usually very little).
- They give what’s left (if anything at all).
As you can see, that doesn’t follow God’s plan. God’s plan is the opposite of man’s plan. What is this new perspective? When I get money, I will do three things with it:
- I will give back to God a tithe – the first fruits on my labor.
- I will give to myself and family by saving for the future.
- I will give to myself now to pay for daily living expenses.
Notice that two of those three go directly to you! It’s your future and yours to spend now. And indirectly, even as we give to God, it comes back to us in a way that’s truly amazing. What is this new perspective on money?
New Perspective on Money
1. Give So We Can Really Live! – Proverbs 3:9-10
We need to learn to give so we can really live, not merely exist. The Bible shows us how to live with a transformed heart, with fulfillment, purpose and security in God’s love. We take what we have and give the first part away (first fruits), so that we can really live. Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with the first part of all your income.” Some might ask, “Why give to God first?”
- To express our gratitude to God for His grace and the privilege and the ability to earn a living. Most of us have worked hard for what we have. But by giving back to God first, it’s like saying, “Thank you, God, for the privileges and blessings you afforded me. Thank you, God, for the country I live in, a healthy body and the opportunity to work, and thank you for saving me.”
- It teaches us to put God first in our lives in an area that’s hard for many. Money is God’s number one competitor for our love/loyalty. Giving to God first helps to get our heart in the right place. Putting God first in our lives helps us overcome our greed and avarice.
- It graphically reminds me that I am a steward and not an owner. When I’m dead, I’m dead, and there’s no U-Haul that’s going to carry all my stuff to heaven. It’s a graphic reminder that when you’re gone, everything you thought was yours goes to someone else.
- It strengthens my faith as I watch God bless my life. This isn’t just in the sense of becoming more materially prosperous. (That health and wealth Gospel is just a bunch of unbiblical nonsense!) As we give back to God and put Him first in our finances, something unexplainable happens in our life, something changes: we experience a new freedom and a new blessing.
- But most importantly, tithing teaches us to fear the Lord – to take God seriously, Deuteronomy 14:23b. The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives. The most important purpose of tithing is also the most important blessing. We need to put our money where our mouth is.
Second Corinthians 9:6-8 teaches that giving is a matter of the heart: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times; having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
The call to generous giving is accompanied by a promise that God will always supernaturally intervene into your family and your financial affairs. It’s a seed that we’re sowing, a mystery that happens in our heart that money can’t buy. So why give to God first? Because He said so! And that should be all the reason we need. But God also deserves to be first. After all, He is God, isn’t He? Tithing helps me to have the right perspective on money. It helps to build God’s kingdom and helps to store up treasure in heaven! What is the next part of the new financial plan?
2. Save What We Will Need (to provide for our family in the future)
Seventy percent of Americans live from hand to mouth (not saving). Most people live only for now. How do I know? Because they spend as much as possible and don’t plan for the future. It is said that 85% of Americans will retire at 65-66 and have less than $250 in savings. Professional athletes these days are making hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions each year, but the average athlete will finish his career in debt. Why? Because they are not practicing biblical principles of finance.
The wisest man once said, Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest (Prov. 6:6-8.) He goes on to say: In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish person devours all he has (Prov. 21:20). It’s biblical to save!
Our financial future requires wise planning. To some degree we choose what our future looks like. We can set our dreams and goals! As we save for a rainy day we can feel good instead of feeling guilty. Why? Because we have honored God first and then provided for the future. You might say, “This all sounds good, but I’m in debt. Should I start saving 10% now?” Tithe first and then increase your saving as you are able. If you can only save 1%, 2%, 3%, 4%, or 5% now, start doing something and then work as fast as you can to get to 10%. Give first to God and then save. If we never save anything, we’ll never have anything.
3. Pay Debts, Bills and Taxes!
Live on the last 80%, with a lifestyle below our income.
A final reversal of perspective:
- Give so we can really live.
- Save what we will need.
- Pay our bills, debts and taxes.
- Spend and enjoy what’s left…
4. Spend and Enjoy What Is Left
God isn’t some “Cosmic Killjoy,” He’s not a titanic tightwad. If you do it God’s way, have the right perspective and you’re not in debt, the 80% is yours to wisely spend. Think about this: can we have the right attitude toward God if we have the wrong attitude toward money? How would Jesus answer that question? For an answer, read what Jesus said in Matthew 6:24.
The happiest people I know are those who live out their financial life by God’s principles. Do people really do that? Do they really save 10%, give 10%, and live on only 80%? Yes, they do, and their hearts radiate with joy, because they know they have given to God first, through their local church; they’re confident in the future because they have saved; and they’re wise when it comes to debt. This leaves them with the unbridled enjoyment of reaping the rewards of their labor. The anthem of the godly is found in Psalms 37:1-5:
“Never envy the wicked! Soon they fade away like grass and disappear. Trust in the Lord instead. Be kind and good to others; then you will live safely here in the land and prosper, feeding in safety. Be delighted with the Lord. Then he will give you all your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him to help you do it, and he will.”
God gave us this world, didn’t He? He gave us our jobs, He gave us this country to live in, and He gave us our lives to enjoy. He wants to give us the desires of our heart.
In closing, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I really want more stuff, or do I want a marriage that fulfills the longing of my soul?
- Do I want a new car or do I want meaningful relationships with good friends?
- Do I want a bigger home, or kids who are in love with God, who love me as a parent?
- Do I want more stuff or the satisfaction of making a difference in this life and the next by honoring God with my time, talents and treasure?
What do I really want? Do I really want to please God more than anything else? Does God really know and want what is best for us? Commit your way to the Lord; trust him and He’ll help you. We need to (wise up) bring our thinking more in line with God’s Word. We need to ask God for wisdom. Dale Carnegie said: Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.
In closing, may I suggest that God’s wisdom involves doing what He wants; God’s blessing is receiving what He wants. God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.