This is the first in a series of articles dealing with personal finances. I’m writing about this topic because of a recent appointment, along with my husband, to apply for a vehicle loan. As the loan officer was keying in our information, he began looking at us as if we were more than human. “You have absolutely no credit card debt?” he asked incredulously. After a few more questions he exclaimed, “I’ve never seen anyone with this good of a Credit Score. According to this report, you rank higher than 94% of U.S consumers.”
Gary and I glanced at each other with raised eyebrows. We have lived simply throughout our 27 years of marriage, but we didn’t realize we were such an anomaly! The loan officer then told us (without revealing any private information) that many people coming in to apply for loans were in serious financial trouble.
That makes me sad, and I hope that by sharing the principles that have guided Gary and me, someone else will be helped.
Since a person’s basic philosophy about money determines how he/she will manage it, that’s where we have to start. Our personal philosophy is built on four biblical principles (not to imply these are the only relevant ones).
#1. Probably the most quoted verse in the Bible about money is 1 Tim. 6:10. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”* Please notice that it is the love of money that is a problem—not money itself. Money is an inanimate object; it is neither good nor bad. It is our attitude regarding money that determines whether it effects our lives for good or evil.
There are many stories of wealthy people in the Bible. Some who were wealthy and did not love their money were Abraham, Job, David and Solomon. Even after everything he owned was destroyed, Job still said, “though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face” Job 13:15.
When God spoke to Solomon and asked him to name whatever he wanted, Solomon said, “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” I Kings 3:9. God was so pleased that he had put people above wealth or long life that He granted Solomon those things in addition to his request for discernment.
There are also examples in the Bible of people who displayed a love of money. Ananias and Sapphira valued money so much that they resorted to deception and broke their promise to the apostles. The rich young ruler (Matt. 19:16-22) was not only wealthy, but he did the right things according to the letter of the law. However, when it came to the spirit if the law, he failed because he put money before God. So the first principle we find in the Bible is that we are not to love money.
#2. The second principle is that we are not to serve money. This is described in Matt. 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and money.” How can a person serve money? Some people become so financially obligated that they are not in control of their lives. They have to work extra hours or second jobs so they can make their payments. I’m not talking about people who have experienced tragedy in their lives, or those who are just trying to provide a family with the basic necessities, but people who think they must have certain things, no matter the cost.
#3. The third principle comes from the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-34. At the end of the story Christ says, “Consider the lilies how they grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
Some people view money as the means to provide the basic elements necessary for survival—food, clothing, shelter, etc. But God says He will provide everything we need if we trust in Him. Does that mean we sit idly by and do nothing? Yes and no. Yes, God can provide in any manner He chooses. But most often He provides by giving us the talents, strength and opportunity to work for the means to provide our basic needs. Money may come and go, but God is always there and has promised to provide whatever we need if we will trust Him. That’s the third principle: We are to trust in God for everything.
#4. The final principle is found throughout the entire Bible, beginning with the story of Creation. Every good thing of this earth is a creation of God. Although things may be twisted by the influence of sin, still the Creator is the true owner. Asaph, writing as if God were speaking, said in Psalm 50:10-12, “For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and creatures of the field are mine. If I was hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”
Christ also talks about this principle in the parable of the talents found in Matt. 25:14-30. Christ has given each of us talents; and He expects us not to hide them. The fourth biblical principle can be summed up this way: Everything belongs to God; and we are to serve as His stewards.
The following articles in this series will deal mainly with being responsible stewards of what God has given us. And always the underlying philosophy will be based on the fact that we are to love, serve and trust in God rather than money.
*All scriptures are from the NIV.