A slave to debt? Your Financial Wellbeing
Updated: Feb 18, 2022
What do you want to know? Why will so many of us not discuss money? You want more...
In fact, you can't live without it. But that doesn't mean you have to be ruled by it.
In fact, our biblical and theological exploration reveals that God created the foundations of finance and commands us to use finance for social good, specifically for stewardship, justice, and love. Stewardship, justice, and love can have many different meanings, so it is important to establish what we mean by them. That means people should not teach it to mean for gain for themselves.
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. Give, and it will be given to you.
Money can be a stressful part of life, the anxiety of providing for your family by having enough to pay the bills. It is important that we remember to first seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all will be added that is needed. Additionally, it is wise to not have a greedy obsession with money, putting your love of money before your love for God. Hebrews 13:5 tells us, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Stewardship, justice, and love can have many different meanings, so it is important to establish what we mean by them. Stewardship is obedience to God’s mandate to increase his creation from something like a garden to something like a city, all the while remembering it is his. We are to care for it, and we will be held accountable as stewards. Justice is treating persons with due respect for their rights as humans, these rights are based on the fact that every human is loved by God. Love is caring for another person by seeking to bring about their flourishing as an end in itself, and with due respect for that person as a human. Finance within this framework is an excellent place for a Christian to work and to seek societal renewal and transformation, despite the pervasive impact of sin in finance.
Before we go on...
Why does the Church talk so much about money?
There are two good reasons why the Church talks so often about money. First, the reason the Church talks about money is that God talks about money. Consider these statistics on verses about money in the bible:
16 out of 38 of Jesus’ parables deal with money and possessions
Nearly 25% of Jesus’ words in the New Testament deal with biblical stewardship
1 out of 10 verses in the Gospels deal with money
There are more than 2,000 scriptures on tithing in the Bible, money, and possessions in the Bible, which is twice as many as faith and prayer combined
Many verses in the Bible talk about money, and for a good reason too, which leads me to my next point. There's a direct correlation between the way we handle our money and our faith.
When it comes to money, we will either worship wealth or worship with our wealth.
Read that again. There’s a big difference between the two. From the seduction of success to the lure of lust, many things in this world will lust for your affection and devotion. That's right lust for your affection because it's not from God; But the most significant idol you will face is money (Matt. 6:24).
God desires our devotion, and he knows you will come face-to-face with the temptation of money, which is why he speaks so often about it.
Money itself may be amoral. But it’s our attachment to and our worship of money that will lead us into sin and making poor financial decisions.
Discipleship is about money
Money is a tool God uses to help us live and love like Jesus. Regardless of how much—or how little—money you have, God is at work in your life through your circumstances. He is leading you to a deeper trust in him. This is exactly what we see in Philippians 4:11-12:
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need."
Are you struggling financially? Or are you swimming in a financial abundance? Do you have a love of money that isn't healthy?
Regardless of your situation, instead of asking “why” or just saying “thanks,” be sure to ask God what you can learn since there is a connection between your faith and money.
Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.”
Luke 12:34: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Luke 16:11-12: "If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?"
Worship & your money
If you’re not careful, it can be easy to place your hope in money. Money is something we can hold in our hands or look at in our bank account. We feel the weight of its absence or possess a sense of self-sufficiency when we have it in abundance. In Bible verses about putting your hope in money, you’re going to come across a ton of warnings:
“Guard your heart!”
“Don’t be a fool with your money!”
When it comes to money, wealthy people are not the only ones who will be tempted to sin. Regardless of how much money you have, you’ll be tempted to sin in different ways. Instead of placing your hope in money or whatever generates income, place your hope in God. He owns everything, and he will provide you with what you need to live your life for him.
Check out these Bible verses about putting your hope in money:
1 Samuel 2:7: "The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, and he exalts.”
Contentment is worth fighting for
It’s difficult to be content—with yourself, with your work, with your family, and with your possessions. We are bombarded with a slew of messages and images everywhere we go that entice us to pursue something “better.” From wanting a new car, getting a bigger house, or coveting a promotion at work, the world we live in compels us to be dissatisfied with who we are and what we have. Discontentment may not sound like a big deal on the surface. But it’s a subtle sin leading us to desire more or something different, yet it leaves us lacking and empty-handed in the end. Living in a state of discontentment can tempt you to take on unnecessary debt, cheat on your spouse, or make unwise decisions at work in an attempt to get ahead. Now, contentment is more than just being happy with who you are and what you have—contentment is rooted in God’s love for you. It's learning to be satisfied wholly in Christ regardless of if you have a little or a lot of money.
Bible verses about contentment, we learn two essential truths:
You have to fight for contentment
You can be content
In your fight for contentment, God will empower you to obtain this mysterious and elusive virtue. It’s not something beyond your reach. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “I can do all thing through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
His Purposes for Finance
Finance has a role in God’s purposes for humanity. Three primary purposes of human work revealed in the Bible are to reveal God’s glory, engage in stewardship, and provide for justice and love. We will explore each of these shortly. But first, let us note that finance—like all human endeavors—suffers from the profound, devastating effects of sin. For example, greed and dishonesty infect finance in many situations, directly undermining the service of God’s glory, and human stewardship, justice, and love. We will explore the effects of sin in detail a bit later. To begin with, let us explore finance according to God’s original purposes for the world, giving us a glimpse of what God intends and what might be possible through Christ’s redemption.
His Creation revealed in Finances
In the biblical narrative, God creates everything for his glory and honor (Colossians 1:16, Revelation 4:11). The foundations of finance—like all of creation—reveal God’s unmatched creativity. God created time—seasons, years, and lifetimes. God knit us together so that we have the desire and ability to live and flourish in a community with a rich fabric of social interactions, one of which involves sharing resources over time. When people share resources from one time to another in a network of social relationships, we partake of his bountiful creation and revitalize it with the creativity and love he has given us in his image. Like great music and delicious foods, finance reveals God’s glory by displaying his omnipotence and creativity in his creation. We will develop a more detailed appreciation for God’s glory in the next section when we see that God created the specific foundations of finance.
Creation Mandate to Be Good Stewards
Stewardship is the fulfillment of God’s mandate to fill the earth, subdue (or govern) it, work it, and care for it (Genesis 1:28-30, Genesis 2:15). God’s original creation is shown in Genesis as a garden filled with plants and animals and people in perfect communion with God. The garden is good, but it is not meant to stay unchanged forever. When the Bible looks ahead to the fulfillment of God’s creation it shows us a world with people from every nation praising God. They are no longer in a garden, but a city with foundations, walls, gates, tree-lined streets, iron, gold, domesticated animals, and merchant ships (Isaiah 60, Revelation 21). This development of creation from a garden to a city filled with people and their cultural elements is the conclusion of God’s mandate to fill the earth, subdue it, work it and care for it. Even though God’s creation at the beginning was perfect and full of resources, it was not complete as God intended it to become. We can conclude that “God intended from the beginning that human beings would fill the earth with the processes, patterns, and products of cultural formation”. We are God’s creative hands and continue his creative work, building by the grace of God on his perfect and abundant creation foundation.
The Means of Justice and love
Understanding love as care gives us a unified understanding of these four manifestations of love. Care includes action, probably involving some risk or sacrifice on the part of the lover.
Love manifested in care is consistent with other Christian conceptions of justice and love. The major biblical themes of righteousness and justice are closely related concepts meaning “what needs to be done in a particular circumstance or relationship” to restore things to what they ought to be. God chose Abraham specifically as a way to advance his mission of blessing the nations with justice and righteousness. It follows that the reason God chose us was to bless those around us with justice and righteousness. Scripture gives us the reason to actually practice this love. We are mandated by God to bless those around us by showing love, that is by bringing about their flourishing in a way that respects them as people loved by God. And to whom do we show this love and justice? Jesus said his most important teaching is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22, Mark 12, Luke 10), which echoed Moses’ earlier teaching. Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan illustrates that our neighbor is anybody we can show love and justice to, even those with whom we do not have a prior relationship. Scriptures pronounces, “Jesus to be enjoining us to be alert to the obligation placed upon us by the needs to whomever we happen on. Let's explore some foundations of finance to see whether they really do spring from God’s creation.
We Are Timebound
God created a world with time and where human time is limited. By God’s creation, we have days, seasons, generations, and lifetimes (Genesis 1, Psalm 104). Further, we need to be aware of time and will be held accountable for our time (Psalm 90:12, Ecclesiastes 3, Proverbs 6:6-11, Proverbs 20:4). Scripture conclude that time is God’s resource, and we are stewards of time.
Allocating resources among people across different time periods is the underpinning of finance. Financial resources are needed for a few days because of production or shipping time, or a few months due to seasonal business, or a half year due to a growing season, or for several years for new product development and launch, or for decades to build a factory or buy a house, or for most of a lifetime for retirement savings. In a world where people’s needs, opportunities, and available resources vary over time, finance is the primary means of matching resources to needs across time.
We Are Social
Human beings are created to be social and to live in a community, and we have a desire to be with other people. As God put it, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Moreover, we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27; 2 Corinthians 3:8), and the Holy Trinity existing in perfect unity is a model of community for us (Galatians 4:1-7). As a form of resource sharing among people, finance is inherently a social activity. By creating us as social beings, God laid the foundation for the exchange of resources, of which finance is a crucial form. Research the book of Acts.
We Are HEBS (highly evolved beings)
People are created with a wide variety of skills, needs, and desires. In the Bible, we see this in God’s creation in his endowment of people with a wide variety of skills to build the tabernacle (Exodus 35:30-36:5) and to rebuild Jerusalem upon the return of the remnant from the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 7:6-7; Nehemiah 1, 2). Paul emphasizes that we are each gifted differently (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). In addition, since we were not all born at the same time, human society has a rich variety of ages and life stages. Some people are young and not yet able to provide their own food and shelter, others are just beginning to be able to do so, others are in their prime productive years and have resources in excess of their current needs, and still, others are older and need help in supporting themselves or need to draw on resources accumulated during their earlier years.
This is a foundation of financial markets because at any given time some people will have excess resources while others will have a need or opportunity to use resources beyond what they currently possess. For example, some of us will want to borrow money to pursue a business opportunity or build infrastructure to fulfill some unmet needs in society. Others will be savers at some periods of their lives and will be able to lend to meet that borrowing need.
We are the Agents of Acts
People were created to act on others’ behalf, to be stewards or agents. Prime examples are that God mandates us to steward his creation and steward his grace (1 Peter 4:10). We also see that God called Joseph to act as a steward for both Potiphar and Pharaoh (Genesis 39:2-6; 41:41-44). Jesus’ parable of the talents illustrates that we are his stewards and will be held accountable for acting as he would want us to (Matthew 25:14-30).
Finance depends on people acting as agents or stewards on behalf of others. Executives act as agents for the shareholders of a corporation. Mutual fund managers act on behalf of investors to decide which stocks or bonds in which to invest. Lawyers apply their expertise to serve their clients’ interests in financial transactions. An entire branch of finance literature is devoted to better understanding the many agency relationships in finance. Finance can exist because God created people with the ability to act on behalf of others.
We Make Promises
God is a God of promises and covenants. The biblical narrative is a story of God’s promises kept. Humans are created in his image, and thus we have biblical accounts of humans making promises to each other. The story of Ruth hinges on promises between people of different nationalities, for example (Ruth 1:16 -18). Paul references human promises in Galatians 3:15. Humans are created to be able to make and keep promises to each other.
Every financial instrument is a promise between two or more parties and would not be possible if promises were not part of God’s creation. A mortgage loan is a promise to pay a certain amount each month. A share of stock is a promise for a portion of future dividends and a right to elect board members. In modern finance, some of our promises tend to get quite complicated and detailed so it has become common practice to write them down. However, these written contracts simply reflect our created ability to make and keep promises. This ability is so central to financing that the Bible teaches us to not overpromise in our finances (Proverbs 22:26-27).
We Are Not Omniscient
Humanity does not know everything, and individually each of us knows only a tiny fraction of what can be known. God created each of us with our own unique mind which takes in, processes, and remembers things differently from anyone else. Human endeavor depends on each of us using our individual knowledge for mutual benefit, rather than on each of us learning everything needed for success.
Limited knowledge and asymmetric information are mediated by financial markets. This means that when a loan is entered into the borrower has more information about his or her ability to repay than does the lender. It means that when we buy a stock it is possible that the seller knows something about the stock that we do not. This asymmetry will impact our willingness to participate in financial markets and will impact financial prices. Finance is built on two obligations that turn asymmetric information from a hindrance into an opportunity. First, we use promises to convey our certainty about the information we possess that other parties do not. My promise to repay the mortgage, under penalty of losing the house, gives you the confidence to deposit money in the bank that funds the mortgage, even though you do not know my likely future earnings. Secondly, we prohibit falsifying information in financial transactions. If your investment documents tell me that there is a $7million market for products like yours, this information must be accurate. Because of this, we can make use of information provided by others, even if we do not have personal knowledge of its accuracy.