“For the Love of Money . . .”

There’s plenty in Scripture related to money management. In a nutshell, we are to work hard and pay our bills, avoid debt if we can, not cosign for others, pay taxes, care for fellow followers of Jesus, and save a portion of our resources. It’s also important that we’re content with what we have.

Understanding what Scripture has to say about these topics is important for a variety of reasons. For instance, debt turns one into a slave (cf. Proverbs 22:7) and can produce unnecessary stress. This may affect relationships with humans and God alike. The pursuit of money can result in the same negative consequences (see below). Yet, we must earn a living, pay taxes, save for the future, and help others. All of this must be done in a manner that promotes healthy relationships, lack of worry, a caring environment, and security. Of utmost importance is that we’re content with what we have (e.g. Hebrews 13:5). This will help us avoid the temptation to strive for things outside our financial grasp or take from others to get what we want.

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” —Hebrews 13:5.

As we will see below, a focus on working hard will reduce the likelihood of ‘idle hands’ and the mischief that can follow. Avoiding debt will allow us to keep more of the resources we earn. Paying bills and taxes is a biblical principle that, if followed, will help keep us out of trouble. Giving to others out of what’s left of our resources is also a biblical principle that is absolutely necessary for being obedient to God and His Christ. Finally, setting aside some of the balance of our bounty will ensure we can weather financial lows when they come our way. Let’s explore each of these principles in more detail.

  • Work Hard. God’s instruction clearly states that those who can work but don’t shouldn’t eat! Remember the children’s story about the ant and the grasshopper? Do you know it’s based on a biblical proverb that uses the ant as an example for one who isn’t lazy and works hard? You can read more about this and the fact that laziness will result in hunger in Proverbs 6:6-11 and 19:15.
  • Avoid Debt. Going into debt moves an individual from freedom into slavery (cf. Proverbs 22:7). They must now pay a minimum amount of resources to another person or face consequences. Is debt contrary to God’s ways? Not necessarily, but there are risks and consequences (like the financial slavery I mentioned above). Here are a few tips to help reduce risks associated with going into debt when it’s necessary to do so.
    • Don’t borrow unless it’s absolutely necessary. God doesn’t prohibit borrowing and actually condones the charging of interest for money leant (cf. Proverbs 28:8; Matthew 25:27). But remember that borrowing turns us into a slave and any money we borrow will probably cost a lot more than imagined. The Bible tells us to consider the cost of anything we do; borrowing should be no exception.
    • Put ‘skin in the game’ – as much as possible. Insert as much of your own cash as you can to reduce the total amount of debt. This will keep payments lower and help ensure you have equity that can be taken back or used to pay off the debt should you need to sell whatever you borrowed for.
    • Never cosign for a loan!! First, the Bible tells us not to do this: Do not be among those who give pledges, Among those who become guarantors for debts. —Proverbs 22:26. Second, it’s just plain risky. Understand that, when you cosign, you’re guaranteeing the debt of another person. It’s as good as borrowing the money yourself since you’ll be responsible for the debt and its payments if the primary signer defaults. Another disadvantage cosigning may bring is that it can significantly stress or ruin close relationships.
  • Pay Your Bills (Including Taxes) in a Timely Manner. God and His Christ have made very clear that we’re to care for others and honor the authority of those placed over us. We do this in part by paying others what we owe them and satisfying our tax requirements (cf. Luke 20:20-25). Paul tells us to pay our debts and therefore owe nothing (cf. Romans 13:8) and we learn in Psalms 37:21 that those who don’t honor their obligations are wicked.
  • Be Benevolent. Jesus gave us two commandments: serve God appropriately and treat man charitably (cf. Matthew 22:35-40). The 10 commandments are summed up by these admonishments, and we’ll be judged by our obedience to them (i.e. Matthew 25:31-46).

Being ‘nice’ doesn’t count. No amount of money paid into the church building fund or given in offerings will save us in the end. However, obedience in the form of faith that leads to action and is seen by others as ‘fruit’ of God’s Spirit dwelling within us will. The display of fruit is how Jesus said others will know we’re His disciples. What is this fruit? According to Paul, they include love (charitable action), patience, kindness, and goodness – all lend themselves to honoring the Christ’s commandment to love others (cf. Galatians 5:22-23).

Children are to take care of their elderly parents. Jesus’ followers exhibit their faith best when they charitably support the faithful poor such as orphans, widows, the incapacitated, etc. In fact, early church offerings were specifically given for taking care of the needs of the faith community – NOT paying for a building, buying land, or funding religious staff.

  • Save. Lastly, I’d like to stress the importance of setting funds aside for a ‘rainy day’. Many, if not most people, live paycheck to paycheck, praying that they don’t lose their job or suffer a catastrophic event. This lifestyle leads to stress and broken relationships – both of which can be mitigated by living within our means and regularly saving some of our resources. Also, we’re admonished to consider the cost of anything we undertake, which may require us to save an appropriate amount to accomplish goals.

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Tattoos & Piercings: “Holy Inking, Batman!”

Question: “Is it a sin to get tattoos or body piercings?”

Is this more of a cultural than sin-related question? What drives an individual to ink or pierce their bodies? Could the intent (motive) itself be sinful? What does the Bible have to say about tattooing or piercing?

There’s been an incredible explosion in the number of people getting tattoos and multiple piercings these days. So, I’m not surprised at having been asked whether either is sinful. Anyone looking for a definitive sin line in the sand won’t find it here, as intent and culture make it impossible to draw one. This doesn’t mean that getting tattoos or receiving piercings isn’t related to sin, but the actions would most likely be manifestations of underlying sinful behavior such as pride, arrogance, or rebellion.

I mentioned that intent comes into play here (as it does just about anywhere!). Why an action is done is important to understanding whether it’s sinful. For instance, someone may get a tattoo to commemorate the life or death of a loved one. Someone else may have meaningful Scripture tattooed on their body for remembrance or some kind of witness. Is this sinful?

On the other hand, a minor may illegally and immorally receive tattoos or piercings out of rebellion against their parents or because of vanity.  Or, someone may get piercings in particular places for the purpose of enhancing sexual experiences or satisfying a narcissistic, prideful desire to stand out through the use of tattoos or piercings. Of course, these are but a few examples of what may be innocent intent on one hand and sinful desire on the other.  So, what does the Bible say about these activities? How could someone contemplating a tattoo or piercing determine whether they should follow through with the act? Let’s examine them one at a time.

Piercing. The only direct biblical reference to piercing is that of the Old Testament piercing of a slave’s ear by their master (cf. Exodus 21:6 and Deuteronomy 15:17). The Old Testament mentions earrings, but these may have been slipped on and not necessarily inserted through holes in the ears. Because there’s no way to tell for sure, references (e.g. Exodus 35:22) shouldn’t be used in support for or against ear piercings.

Tattoos. This one’s a bit trickier, as God specifically forbade the Israelites from gashing or marking their bodies.  I’ve heard it said that God was just talking about doing this in commemoration of the dead; however, look at the text and you’ll see that the tattoo warning comes after the mention of the “the dead”.

You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves . . .

Besides the biblical warning against tattooing, there are no benefits to the act. You’ll also find definite disadvantages and risks:

  • Permanence. Tattoos are relatively permanent, although today’s technologies may help in removing most evidence of inking.
  • Negative perceptions. These could come from potential friends, spouses, or employers. Why risk not getting an ideal job or missing out on close relationships for the sake of making a statement? You’ll likely find, though, that this isn’t quite the risk it once was; perceptions have changed somewhat as tattoos become more popular.
  • Roadblock to an effective witness. Presenting yourself as an inked Christian could have a detrimental effect on spreading the Gospel or invoking confidence in others. But, as with the ‘negative perceptions’ bullet above, the risk of a roadblock, while valid, may not be as viable as in the past.
  • Risk of infection. This does happen as a result of unsanitary conditions and equipment.

Summary: Unlike piercings, which seem to have no prohibition or permanent effects, tattooing carries a biblical warning and risks while sporting no apparent benefit. Also, the motive behind inking or piercings can be sinful – especially if born of sin such as pride or rebellion. Sinful motives (no matter what the action) should be repented of.

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part XIII “Fear is not of God!”

Misquote: “Fear doesn’t come from God” Well, actually, it does. Our emotion of fear, healthy respect, or awe isn’t some demon with a job title of “the Spirit of Fear”. Instead, it’s an important part of our makeup that aids in our protection by warning of possible or impending danger. Read the entire Bible, keeping references to ‘fear’ in context, and you’ll learn that we’re taught to fear – God, for instance, because of His incredible power and just nature.  You’ll also find that the ‘fear’ we often take out of context actually refers to cowardice in proclaiming the gospel of salvation through Jesus!

This misunderstanding hinges on taking 2Timothy 1:7-8 out of context. Here’s the abused reference:

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God —2Timothy 1:7-8.

The Greek word used here for ‘timidity’ (also translated as ‘fear’ in some versions) is deilia (Strong’s G1167). Incidentally, this is the only place this word is used! It comes from the Greek word deilos (Strong’s G1169), which is used in only three places and represents the fear of men – cowardice (Matthew 8:26, Mark 4:40, and Revelation 21:8).

Indeed, cowardice isn’t of God. In fact, He gives His Spirit to those who follow, and that Spirit brings boldness and the wisdom necessary to tell others about the gospel that leads to life (i.e. Mark 13:11). So, who are the cowardly? Those without the Spirit who are headed to God’s judgment and wrath. Let’s take a brief look at the other types of fear that can be very good for us who do have the Spirit.

  • Fear of God and Christ (i.e. Luke 7:16, Acts 13:16, Romans 13:7, 2Corinthians 7:1, Ephesians 5:21, Philippians 2:12, 1Peter 1:17). This healthy fear is represented by the Greek word phobos (Strong’s G5401); it indicates alarm, fright, or terror.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. —2Corinthians 7:1.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling —Philippians 2:12.

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth —1Peter 1:17.

  • This next ‘fear’, phobeō (Strong’s G5399), comes from the one we just covered, and it basically means to ‘be in awe of’ or revere. Examples of its use can be found in Luke 12:4-5, Romans 11:20-21, Acts 5:10-11, and 1Peter 2:17.

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!—Luke 12:4-5.

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. —1Peter 2:17.

So, what’s the takeaway here? Don’t be a coward. God has offered you a way out of His judgment and wrath through our Christ’s sacrifice. If you’ve taken that path, then you know the gospel that brings life and have a testimony of some kind. Share it with others by the wisdom and boldness of the Spirit. And, have a healthy respect for the power, authority, impartiality, and just nature of our God and Christ!

With this, we’ll end our current series of Apocalyptic Misquotes.  Never fear, though – we’ll continue to train in righteousness through weekly blogs as we equip believers to become followers.

Ron Braley