Money is a strange thing. It can meet your needs and open doors of opportunity. But money can also bring stress, uncertainty, and cause us to see life through a lens of greed and selfishness. Attitudes and behaviours around money are at the root of many societal problems. The values that people hold around money impact individuals, families, communities and nations.
How we see money says a lot about who we are and what is important to us.
Frances Bacon said that “Money is a great servant, but a bad master”.
The Bible and money
The Bible has a lot to say about money: 2350 verses refer to money and about 15% of what Jesus spoke about was related to money.
In the Bible, and especially in the teachings of Jesus, we learn that Christians are called to be His stewards. It is wrong to think that God owns 10% and we own the rest. Handing over ownership of our money to God can be challenging but there are great benefits when we see him as our ‘Money Master’. The more we love God the easier it becomes to surrender everything we have to Him.
In Matthew 25 the master commends his servant for taking good care of the things for which he was responsible. As stewards, God has entrusted us to look after money, possessions, and abilities on his behalf. Knowing this affects what we do with our money. It takes faith to believe that God will provide for all our needs.
There are 5 main things we do with money: Earn; Spend; Borrow; Save; and Give. Let’s look at the values we find in the Bible that help us use our money properly.
Honesty in earnings
We all face choices that involve honesty about our earnings. Do we take things from work without our boss knowing? Do we declare our income correctly on tax forms? Do we use the company phone or resources without permission? Do we pay people who work for us fairly?
God has clearly established the standard of honesty for His children, and it requires faith, and a choice to live this out. In Proverbs 16:11 (MSG) we read “God cares about honesty in the workplace; your business is His business.” And in Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…it is the Lord Jesus Christ whom you serve.”
When we see ourselves working for God and not people, it changes the way we think about our work.
Responsibility in Spending
All around us, in the media and society, we are encouraged to spend now without planning for tomorrow. Almost half of South Africans with access to credit now have bad records. Materialism is increasing, with many of us buying things we can’t afford. Responsibility in spending means stewarding your finances well. Matthew 6:20-21 says: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
As Christians we can model how to spend money in ways that don’t enslave us to materialism and greed.
Wisdom in borrowing
We live in a society that says “you cannot live without debt” and we are borrowing money even when it does not make good sense. Over 9.5 million South Africans are over-indebted. While necessity may sometimes force us to borrow money to cover basic needs like food and taxi fares, or to send our children to school, or to pay for funeral policies, we should be wise in how we do this. In Proverbs 22:7 we read “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” The Bible warns us of the dangers of getting into debt, and challenges us to be wise in how we borrow.
Ask God for wise decisions when it comes to borrowing, and who we should borrow from.
Self-Control in Saving
Most people know it’s a good idea to save money for the future but for many, it’s difficult to put into action. About 72% of adult South Africans are not saving. Whether you choose to save or not will affect your ability to be prepared for emergencies, plan for the future, or to be generous. Proverbs 21:20 (ERV) tells us: “Wise people save the nice things they have. Fools use up everything as soon as they get it.”
The Bible encourages us to save money to use in the future. When difficult times come, we can avoid unnecessary debt if we have planned well.
Generosity in Giving
Our giving, be it money, time, goods, skills, friendship, can make a lasting impact on the lives of others. The Bible has more scriptures on being generous than any other on money and finances. We read in 1 John 3:17 “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” We are called to be generous with our finances and all we have. Giving God control of everything we own is an act of worship.
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). When we have His love in our hearts, we are compelled to be generous, just as He has been to us. The Bible tells us that the more generous we are in giving, the more we will be blessed. Giving is one of the best ways we can witness to God’s love for people and redress the inequalities in our society.
Jesus tells us that it’s impossible for anyone to serve two masters, God and money. We get to choose which one we serve. Our love for God and our neighbours needs to determine our value system (Mark 12:29-31).
May God help us to make money our servant, not our master.
More resources on Heartlines Values and Money can be found at Heartlines.