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!