A lot of people are surprised to learn that Jesus devoted 15 percent of his recorded words to the subject of money, and that the Bible has more than 2,300 verses addressing it.
Money is of great importance because it fuels nearly all our activities in some way and can be used for good or ill. It is utterly necessary for daily living, and its handling is a mark of character, again, for good or ill.
A common misnomer is that the Bible—and therefore God—regards money as evil. But this is a misreading of 1 Timothy 6:10, in which the Apostle Paul warns: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Starting Good Habits Young
For Christians, money presents an opportunity to put our faith into action. That begins with the radical notion that all our money, not just a 10 percent tithe or whatever we are donating to the church, belongs to God. This is the principle of stewardship.
When teaching children about money, it’s very important to begin with the foundational truth that it all belongs to God, and that while God is magnanimous toward us in inestimable ways, we have to operate as stewards of His riches. Only when we do that can we properly handle money, please God and bless our families and others.
While many people in our culture of rugged individuality think of themselves as being in charge, the stewardship model begins in the Book of Genesis, when God assigned Adam and Eve the job of naming the animals and caring for the paradise around them. They lived up to the task of stewardship until falling for the temptation to go beyond their God-given roles into a realm of power reserved only for God. We’ve all been working “by the sweat of our brow” ever since.
Throughout the Bible, we are advised to be good stewards of our Creator’s wealth, which includes our own lives and how we touch the lives of others.
“When it comes to a man’s (or woman’s) real nature, money is of first importance,” said former U.S. Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson. “Money is an exact index to a man’s true character. All through Scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a man’s character and how he handles his money.”
If we view all money we acquire only as our own, we are tempted to believe that we don’t need God or Biblical guidance. It’s the ultimate power trip—we call the shots, no one else. But if we view ourselves as stewards of God’s provision for us, we learn the beauty and joy of giving back and can develop a healthy view of our finances. Concentrating on acquiring money for its own sake can lead to soul-destroying greed and contempt for those less well off than ourselves.
As Jesus Himself warned, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)
In our free-market-based economy, we have many blessings unavailable to people who live under oppressive regimes that punish individual initiative. But materialism, or the love of money, is a constant temptation in our culture, especially since we are pelted daily with advertising designed to make us discontented with what we have and aching to buy whatever they are selling so we can feel better. In and of themselves, ads are not bad; they can inform us of products or services that might be valuable to us, and they support print and broadcast media. But we need to discern real needs from wants.
Wealth can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how we view it and handle it. For one thing, materialism can dull our appreciation for many of the best things in life that are free—including the gift of salvation. As the Roman, North Africa-based Christian author Tertullian put it in 200 A.D., “Nothing that is God’s is obtainable by money.”
Love of money can lead to crime, as evidenced by the fact that motives linked to money or sex account for 80 percent of all crimes in the United States. No wonder Jesus issued so many warnings about the power of money.
Employee theft is estimated to be $50 billion annually, which forces everybody to pay higher prices ("Personal Property Crimes," U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006). Insurance fraud is similarly in the billions, which costs everybody because of higher rates. Materialism is such a powerful motivator that few can resist it without God’s help.
The good news is that we don’t have to do this alone and that there are resources available to guide us.
God has much to say about money, if we take the time to listen.