Faith and Wealth
A Guide to Wise Use of Money
There are all kinds of ideas around today about how Christians should view money. These range from the religious idea that we should all live lives of poverty to the prosperity teaching that God wants everybody rich and if only we can pray the right way we will get all we want.
The Bible teaches us that as we walk in obedience to God, He will supply all that we need out of grace. This may come in different ways than we expect, but if we trust Him He will never fail us.
The other side of this is that we have a responsibility to use all of our possessions for God's purposes. This takes wisdom and discernment.
Money is God's
In Psalm 24:1 we read:
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it
The whole earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord. That means that every physical resource belongs to Him to use for His purposes. That includes money, land, every physical thing and every living thing.
The Lord reigns over all the earth, and He has the right to do that because He made it and sustains it.
There is nothing intrinsically good or evil about money- it is just a means of exchanging goods and services in our human society. It is how we use it and how we view it that will determine whether it is good or evil.
In the end, though, money and all that it represents belong to the Lord. For Christians we have the duty to surrender our use of it back to the Lord, ensuring that our use of everything in our life is directed by the Lord and not by our own desires.
Some people claim that because Jesus had no possessions of his own, then we should follow his example and abandon all ownership. However this is not true. Jesus was supported by a number of wealthy people and his band of disciples shared a common purse overseen by none other than Judas.
Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Note that it is the love of money not money as such that is the problem.
God Provides What We Need
In his longest discourse on money, Jesus tells us not to be anxious for anything whether clothes or food or drink. (See Matthew 6:19-34). We should trust in the goodness of our heavenly Father. He concludes with this commandment:
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33
This is the key to unlocking God's provision for our needs- obedient trust.
If we devote ourselves to seeking God's will in our lives, obeying him in every way that we can then he will supply what we need.
In 1996 the Holy Spirit directed me to leave my relatively well-paid ministry in a denominational church and start a “new thing.” This was something that he had been talking to a number of people about over several years. We left with as much integrity as possible, trying to be faithful to God in every part of the process. At the time we had four children at school and just a very small number of people to support the work.
We were forced to rely solely on God during that time and we were constantly amazed at how God provided what we needed. We were able to not only survive but actually thrive through times when human wisdom said that we couldn't possibly live on what we were earning.
After a few years, we had the opportunity to buy a building for our meetings. Now we had to support the building as well as our own needs. We needed to do some modifications, buy furniture and carpet. Every item in our building has a story of a miracle behind it- often God providing some resource that made it possible to obtain things. When we start telling people the stories their mouths open at the grace of provision we have experienced.
From time to time our church has been asked to support various projects to help other people, such as orphanages or water projects in Asia. At times I have been ambivalent about these projects because there are many needs and our church really is small in real terms. When I ask the Lord about these projects and he says to go for it, the people in our church respond with energy and generosity. It is as if the Lord turns on a tap of compassion in their hearts and what I thought was too much to ask they produce and often they exceed the target.
I have travelled overseas on a few occasions to teach and encourage pastors in other countries. This is not something that I seek or desire, but sometimes the opportunities arise and the Lord tells me to go. To be honest, I would just as rather stay at home as I am not a tourist by inclination. But when God says to go then I go. What amazes me is that on these occasions the Lord uses people to provide huge quantities of cash in order to travel. On the most recent trip, I had a number of people come to me and say things like “The Lord wants me to pay one way of your air ticket.”
When we seek God's Kingdom He provides all that we need.
God Provides Abundantly
Some people think that God is rather miserly and only provides reluctantly. Other people think that God supplies all that we want and that we just have to claim the thing we desire. The truth as always is between these extremes.
God is gracious and, like any father, He desires that we have all that is good for us. A wise father doesn't give a child everything they ask for- that results in greed and a demanding spirit. God gives his children more than the bare minimum in life and enough for them to become all that they have been created to be.
God's means of provision and His ideas of what we need are different to our ideas. Elijah was fed throughout a long famine by ravens bringing him food each day. While people all around were staring, Elijah trusted God.
We have always found that God has given us more than we need, despite our circumstances. This provision hasn't always been the way we would have preferred, but we have never been short of what we needed.
I own three cars of which two were bought new- 21 years and 18 years ago! Our “good” car is 10 years old. People may look down at these but God keeps them running well and they do the job of getting us from place to place. While he hasn't given us new up to date vehicles, the Lord has kept them going and made them all fairly economical to run.
The Role of Faith
Faith is simply trusting God to do what He has said He will do.
Faith is not about positive thinking and it is not a mystical force. It is simply accepting that God is who He is and that He wants the best for us.
Abraham is described in the Bible as a man of faith. In Genesis 22, the Lord tests Abraham's faith. Isaac had been a miracle baby, provided in the old age of Abraham and Sarah. He was the child of promise, their hope of seeing the promises of God come to fruition. God tells Abraham to take Isaac up to a mountain to sacrifice him to the Lord. We can only imagine the distress that Abraham went through, not to mention Isaac. Then as the knife is poised ready to kill Abraham's only son, the angel of the Lord calls him to stop and a lamb is provided. Abraham calls the place Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide.
Faith is the quality by which we look to the God who calls us and trusts that He will provide what is needed.
I have heard of people who have been told by God to go to a particular place to minister, but they have not had the price of an aeroplane ticket. Trusting God, they stand in the check-in line, only to have a total stranger come to them and give them a ticket or money for the ticket.
George Muller in the 1800's was called by God to establish orphanages in England. He had no money for this work, yet time and again God would provide miraculously the needs of hundreds of orphans in dozens of locations through England. He never asked anyone but the Lord for what was needed.
Faith is hard because we always want to be in control. We see a need that must be met and we think that we can and should find ways for that need. We lay complicated plans to work harder, buy a lottery ticket or pray in a way that we imagine God must answer.
All that is needed is to trust God to provide.
All of that, of course assumes that we are in the place God has told us to be and doing what He has called us to do. If we are running away from God or avoiding a task that He has set for us, then God's blessing will come in the way of a course correction. God provided a fish to transport Jonah to the right place when he was hurrying in the opposite direction and He will do that for us if we are running from His will.
When I first became a christian many years ago people used to talk about “stewardship” which is not a word used so much now. The idea is that we are not owners of our possessions but stewards, or trusted managers, of God's possessions. We therefore have a responsibility to use what He gives us carefully. These things are not for our benefit as much as they are for the glory of God.
Christians do not have the option of just buying things that they think will give them pleasure. Unlike worldly people we must avoid the temptations of consumerism and just waste money on what pleases us. That's not to say that God does not want His people to have nice things but we should see our purchases as being carried out in partnership with God for His purposes.
Part of this is developing the practice of giving generously to those in need and to those in ministry. All through the Bible followers of the Lord are required to care for the “widows, orphans and foreigners”- that is for those who are the most vulnerable in the community. This is carried over in to the New Testament where from the early chapters of Acts onwards there is exhortation to give generously.
Stewardship also involves saving so that we have money available for God's work or for when there is an urgent need.
If we want the favour of God in our finances the precondition is that we are tithers. This is non-negotiable. The tithe belongs to God and in modern cultures is best expressed by tithing to those who are our fathers in the faith- our pastor or apostle. There is much more that could be said on this topic but that will be found in other articles.
If you want to prosper in God's economy, it is necessary to make sure first of all that you are doing the things God has called you to. This does not apply only to people who are in full time ministry. Every form of work is a calling or vocation, and we need to ensure that we are doing the work God has created us to do in the place He has established for us.
Next you need to use what God gives you for His glory not just your own pleasure. Be responsible in your spending and see yourself as a manager of God's resources.
If God calls you to do something impossible, do not assume that it is impossible. If it is God's will He will supply the resources, whether that is to travel the world preaching the gospel or to build some church or facility. If God gives you a vision or desire, trust Him to supply all that is needed.
Above all live by faith trusting our God who gives to each abundantly.