Do you want to develop a biblical stewardship of money? I’ve got the book (and workbook) for you! Read or listen to this chapter from Your Finances God’s Way to learn about financial stewardship in the Bible.
Table of Contents
- Going Into Full-Time Ministry without Being Paid Much
- When People Don’t Understand a Biblical Stewardship of Money
- “Are You Going to Help Me Become Rich?”
- A Biblical Stewardship of Money Requires Wisdom
- The Your Finances God’s Way Workbook Provides a Biblical Stewardship of Money
- Our Relationship with Money Reflects Our Relationship with Christ
I was driving home feeling terribly discouraged. I don’t think it would be too much to say this was one of the lowest points of my life. I had to tell my wife, Katie, who was pregnant with our first child, that I had just been laid off. With the loss of my job as an elementary schoolteacher also came the loss of our medical insurance.
You see, about two years earlier, I learned of a teaching position available on a local naval base that would give me credit for my military service. This resulted in a considerable raise, but the one drawback was that I lost my secure, tenured position at the district where I taught. The Great Recession hit, and schools began cutting new teachers. So even though I’d been teaching almost ten years, I was included in the terminations. I knew it was going to be difficult to find a position anywhere because every district was facing the same financial crunch.
You might be thinking, So, a book about finances God’s way. Did you just think that God would somehow provide you a job? Actually, I did! Years earlier, I became a Christian in my early twenties during my first year of teaching elementary school. Soon after, my passion for ministry increased. So, you can probably imagine my excitement when a local church, Grace Baptist in Lemoore, California, was looking for a part-time youth pastor. I applied, they hired me, and my elementary school schedule—which granted me summers and holidays off—worked wonderfully with my church position.
Going Into Full-Time Ministry without Being Paid Much
After losing the teaching position on the naval base, I was still a parttime youth pastor, but the pay wasn’t enough to support my family. I told my senior pastor I would have to look for a teaching position elsewhere, and more than likely, that would mean no longer serving as their youth pastor. Grace Baptist’s leadership team stepped out in faith and brought me on fulltime. I knew this was a huge financial strain on the church, but because I felt called to ministry and trusted God to provide, I gratefully accepted the job. Within a few months, as I made the transition to full-time youth pastor, my income dropped by nearly two-thirds. My medical insurance and retirement were gone as well. I had to support my growing family on a fraction of the salary I had received earlier.
Believe it or not, we didn’t feel the financial pinch because we had a biblical stewardship of money. We had already been living frugally, so we didn’t have to make any lifestyle changes. The major difference was that we couldn’t put as much extra money toward our mortgage. This book is the genesis of how all of us, regardless of our financial situation, can use what God has provided even when we find ourselves with less to spend because of commitments, payments, a crisis, or job change. I’ll give you Tip One right now: Live off less money than you make, and you’ll be prepared if you ever really must live off less money than you make! In the pages ahead, I’ll share more tips to put in your financial-planning pocket. But first, I’d like to share why finances God’s way matters so much to me and why I want it to count for you too.
Some Credibility and Encouragement
There are many finance books already available, so why another one? What makes this one different? Is there any reason you should trust what I have to say?
Of greatest importance is that I’m not asking you to trust me, but rather, God. This book is not a collection of my opinions about money, but God’s words as revealed in Scripture. You’ll see in the following chapters I do my best to unpack the Bible’s key verses related to money. God is the One “who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18), and He “makes poor and makes rich” (1 Samuel 2:7). That means God knows what you should and shouldn’t do with your finances, and He has provided you with the needed instructions in His Word. My desire is to present these instructions in a clear, engaging, and biblical manner.
I’ve taught extensively on money to the church I serve. The most common type of counseling that I give is for marriages, with many of the sessions revolving around finances. The time I’ve spent with people in counseling—whether couples or individuals—has made me familiar with the most common problems in marriage, and many of them relate to finances. I have seen people struggle, and the time I’ve spent studying the Bible has equipped me to help them find solutions. I’ve been blessed to watch the truths of God’s Word resolve their problems, restore their relationships, and strengthen their financial situations. Your Finances God’s Way is the culmination of hundreds of hours of Bible study and counseling. I wrote this book because I am passionate about this area of Scripture and life.
As a pastor and counselor, I have witnessed the blessings that come from obeying God and the negative consequences that result from disobedience. As a husband and father, I have experienced firsthand these blessings and consequences myself. As of 2021, our oldest child of nine, Rhea Grace, is 14. Perhaps God will bless us with more. We have always been a single-income family. I was a schoolteacher when Katie and I married; then I became a fulltime youth pastor. And in 2010, I moved from that role to become the senior pastor at Woodland Christian Church in Woodland, Washington.
Living on a Single-Income with Modest Salaries
At no time have we ever lived off anything more than modest salaries, but God still enabled us to pay off all our debt, including our mortgage. Some months we put a few hundred dollars toward debt, while other months we allocated a few thousand. When Katie inherited $10,000, we didn’t think twice before putting it toward the mortgage, and every tax return went toward the mortgage. The year I worked part-time as a youth pastor and full-time as an elementary schoolteacher provided the most money we ever made. More than half of each paycheck went toward the mortgage.
I share my story for three reasons. First, to give you confidence in the biblical principles presented in this book. Second, I don’t want you wondering, Has Scott “walked the talk,” or is he a hypocrite? When I talk about debt, I want you to know we don’t have any. When I talk about paying off a mortgage, I want you to know that’s what we’ve done. Third, I don’t want you thinking, That’s easy for you to say, Scott; you’ve probably made more than I make. Whether you make a lot of money or a little, you’re in the prime of your career or just starting out, you already have a family or look to start one, these principles work because they’re rooted in God’s Word.
In other chapters, I’ll talk more about how my family handles finances without causing us to feel like we are going without, and how managing finances God’s way brings freedom, not lack. For now, I’ll simply share that our financial situation reminds me of what Jesus did with the fish and loaves (Matthew 14:13-21) and what Elisha did with the widow’s oil (2 Kings 4:1-7). In both accounts, there was not much available—a few fish, loaves, and vessels—but God stretched the resources dramatically. He can do the same with our money if we seek to honor Him. The opposite is also true: If we do not honor the Lord with our finances, He can keep even considerable wealth from stretching very far. As God says, “Those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:30).
When People Don’t Understand a Biblical Stewardship of Money
Some years ago, I was at the gym, and a man approached me about his financial problems. Although we hardly knew each other, he was experiencing so much anxiety he felt compelled to talk to someone, and I happened to be the one. I could tell when he walked away that he was as stressed as when we started talking. Who knows how long he continued feeling that way, but I hope he sought some help because financial problems don’t go away on their own. That he would speak with someone he hardly knew reveals how heavily financial burdens can weigh on us.
Aside from health issues and rebellious children, few things cause as much anxiety as finances. When people lie awake at night agonizing over something, it’s often related to money: Why did I buy that? We should’ve started saving earlier. What are we going to do about this bill? Even secular research reveals the prevalence of financial worry. According to a study released by the American Psychological Association, almost three out of four Americans experience anxiety from finances part of the time, and nearly one out of four Americans experience extreme financial anxiety. In a poll conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, more than half of the people who experienced a great deal of stress in the last month identified financial problems as a factor. If statistics are any indication, you’re probably in the first category, and maybe even in the second.
The Devastating Nature of Financial Problems
Financial problems are devastating because they negatively affect other areas of our lives, such as our marriages, friends, jobs, and churches. Sixtyone percent of couples admit that financial discussions turn into arguments. Money problems are the number-one cause of divorce in America. When people are in danger of losing their jobs, homes, cars, savings, or insurance because of financial hardships, extreme stress is produced.
Unemployed fathers feel like failures if they’re unable to provide. Young adults who have established themselves can be forced to return to live with their parents until they are able to get back on their feet. Stay-at-home moms find themselves needing to return to work. Families have trouble being just that—a family. A study of households with school-aged children revealed they were able to spend only 45 minutes together on typical workdays. How much worse is this situation when fathers must work excessive overtime or even take on two jobs to stay on top of bills and expenses?
Is there any good news? Yes! As much as money problems can hurt multiple areas of our lives, strong finances can help strengthen the same areas. My prayer is this book will make that true for you and help you enjoy the blessings of living more comfortably, spending more time with your family, preparing for your earthly and heavenly future, and having more money for giving, saving, and retiring. The biblical principles outlined in the following chapters have worked in my family, my church, and the lives of people I’ve counseled. They can work for you too! Be encouraged that we’ll go through this together. I will share what you need to know each step of the way, helping you learn what to do and not do with your money.
“Are You Going to Help Me Become Rich?”
You should know up front that my primary desire is not to help you live extravagantly! Instead, my goal is to help you develop a biblical stewardship of money. Let me provide a simple picture from the Bible of what I want Your Finances God’ Way to accomplish for you. After Elisha helped the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4, her needs were met. She had enough to be comfortable, but she wasn’t wealthy. Elijah said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest” (verse 7). This book will enable you to pay your debts and live comfortably on the rest.
How will we accomplish this goal? Primarily we will use the biblical practice of “putting off and putting on” (Ephesians 4:22-32 and Colossians 3:5-14). You want to better manage your finances or you wouldn’t be reading these words; therefore, it’s important to understand the single greatest reason we fail to change and make improvements: We “put off” without “putting on.” For example, we put off doing the wrong things (such as wasting money and increasing debt), but we fail to put on the right things (such as paying off debt and being patient before making purchases). If we want to stop a certain behavior, there’s a corresponding behavior we must also start. This principle can be applied to multiple areas of the Christian life, including finances so we have a biblical stewardship of money.
As you learn what to put off and put on, this will dramatically increase the likelihood that you’ll manage your finances God’s way. When you finish the last chapter, you will know what it takes to be free from financial anxiety, prepared for the future, experience contentment, and give charitably.
In that list of blessings, you’ll notice I didn’t include becoming rich. Though you will gain more spending ability, my intent isn’t to make you wealthy. Why? Before Jesus taught the parable of the rich fool, He warned, “Beware of covetousness” (Luke 12:15). In 1 Timothy 6:10, Paul warned against the love of money. Coveting and the love of money can be destructive, so I wouldn’t want to steer you in that direction.
How Wealthy Are Americans?
If you’re like me, you probably read verses about riches and covetousness and think they apply to others, but not you. Yet if you live in America, measured by the living standards of the rest of the world, and especially those throughout history, you live in the wealthiest nation that has ever existed. America enjoys staggering material prosperity.
Take, for instance, the average household wealth, which is the money available to invest, save, or spend after income taxes. This is less than $17,000 per household in Russia, $60,000 in France, $83,000 in the United Kingdom, and $86,000 in Canada. The nation in second place is Switzerland with $128,000. The United States is first with $176,000, or 40 percent more than the second-place finisher. Now, many of us don’t see nearly that amount of money in our household, but on average, you can see where we stand globally with our wealth.
There are 7.85 billion people in the world. China is the world’s most populous nation with 1.44 billion people, which is 18.6 percent. It has 10.5 percent of the world’s wealth. The United States has 333 million people, which is a little more than 4 percent of the world’s population, but we have 41.6 percent of the world’s wealth.
The US poverty threshold for a family of five is $30,500, which means if a family makes less than this, they’re considered living in poverty. The official poverty rate in the United States is 12.3 percent (approximately 39.7 million people). The average global income for a family of five is about $10,500, which means Americans in poverty still make about three times more than the average for the rest of the world. Even the “poor” in the US are, on average, three times wealthier than people in the rest of the world.
What About the Cost of Living in the United States?
You might be saying, “But things are more expensive in the United States!” True, but even after adjusting for cost-of-living differences, the average American still earns an income that is ten times higher than the average income earned in the rest of the world. In the United States, an annual income of $32,400 doesn’t seem very high, but it’s a salary that puts those earners among the top 1 percent of the world’s earners.
Why am I sharing these statistics? You might have started reading this book thinking, My biggest financial problem is I don’t have enough money! I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but as you work through this book, you might discover that’s not the case. Frequently what people perceive to be an income problem may be a spending or budgeting problem. If you’re in need of answers now, the key is to figure out how to live on the money you already have.
And if it turns out that you do find a way to make more money—whether through a raise, gift, tax return, or investment—the best goal is for your spending to remain the same, and your giving and saving to increase. This financial principle is straightforward in that it’s easy to see what to do (increase giving and saving) and not do (increase spending). Because we all have different financial obligations, ultimately, the one thing we need most for handling our finances well is wisdom.
A Biblical Stewardship of Money Requires Wisdom
More wisdom is required with finances than most parts of the Christian life; therefore, managing money involves more than mere self-control and discipline. Yes, we’re going to “put off” and “put on,” but some topics are not as simple as “Do this, but don’t do that,” or “This is good, but this is bad.” Wisdom is required to find the right balance in these areas.
For example, a biblical stewardship of money requires we save money, but not hoard it for ourselves. We must spend money on bills, food, clothing, and other necessities, but we must use discretion to avoid trivial purchases. We must make large purchases, such as homes and vehicles, while pursuing Christian modesty and avoiding extravagance. We’re commanded to give, but not at every opportunity that presents itself. We need wisdom to know when and how to spend, give, and save.
Solomon was the richest man ever to live. First Kings 10:21 says, “All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were gold…Not one was silver, for this was accounted as nothing in the days of Solomon.” He had such an obsession with money that he accumulated enough gold to cause silver to become worthless. Yet he still recognized wisdom’s greater value: “How much better to get wisdom than gold!” (Proverbs 16:16). Solomon also wrote,
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her (Proverbs 3:13-15; see also Proverbs 2:1-5 and 8:10-21).
Wisdom’s Greater Value
Your Finances God’s Way is primarily about money, but it’s important to keep wisdom’s greater value in mind because “a foolish man devours [precious treasure]” (Proverbs 21:20). This verse is often loosely quoted as, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” Unwise people waste money and spend it so carelessly that they soon find themselves penniless. To put it simply: Those who lack wisdom will lack money no matter how much they make. No amount of money is enough for foolish people who don’t know how to manage it well because they will soon be separated from it. The best helps you can give people who don’t know how to manage their finances are wisdom, a budget, and possibly a rebuke, because it is sinful to waste what God has given us. Giving poor stewards the wisdom to have a biblical stewardship of money is more valuable than any amount of money.
The wisdom we need is found in God’s Word. Second Timothy 3:17 says Scripture allows us to “be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work,” and this includes managing our finances. The following chapters will provide an abundance of guidance from Bible verses because if we are going to do things God’s way, we need to know (and obey) what God’s Word says!
How Your Finances God’s Way Gives You a Biblical Stewardship of Money
The early chapters don’t have as much direct financial application, so as you read them, you might be tempted to ask, “When are you going to start telling me what to do with my money?” The opening chapters of this book are designed to establish the foundation that you will need for getting through the rest of the book.
Think about the way the epistles are written in the New Testament. Typically, they begin with theology followed by application. For example:
- Romans is theology in chapters 1–11, followed by application in chapters 12–16.
- Galatians is theology in chapters 1–4, followed by application in chapters 5–6.
- Ephesians is theology in chapters 1–3, followed by application in chapters 4–6.
These books are written this way because it is not enough to simply tell people what to do. They must know why they are doing what they are told to do; otherwise, their hearts won’t be in it. What good is there in learning what to do without a heart to obey?
A Committed Heart Is Needed for Biblical Stewardship of Money
Typically, when people’s hearts aren’t committed, they simply go through the motions. They begin well, but when sacrifice and self-denial are involved (both of which are needed to manage finances God’s way), they give up. We have nine children. We know we can tell them what to do and they will comply, but if their hearts aren’t involved, their obedience will not last. They will conform for a little while, perhaps as long as they live in our home, but as soon as they are on their own, they will disregard our instruction.
That’s the reason for the way I’ve set up Your Finances God’s Way. Many financial books deal with the physical aspect of finances, which is to say they talk about practical ways to manage money. This book does as well, but the early chapters take us beyond the physical (our bank accounts) to the spiritual (our hearts). While money is amoral (or nonspiritual), our relationship to it is moral and spiritual. We handle money the way we do because of our hearts. By focusing on the heart, we are directing our saving, spending, and giving. When people don’t understand that heart issues—such as covetousness, contentment, generosity, patience, self-control, and stewardship—determine what they do with their money, they rarely follow a biblical stewardship of money.
For us to have committed hearts that handle money well, we must be shaped by the truth. Because of our sinful flesh, which tempts us to disobey, we are not naturally inclined to do what is right. Instead, obedience is the byproduct of changed hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Simply put, we do what we do because of our hearts—our hearts determine our actions. The truth (theology, parables, and passages helping us have a biblical stewardship of money) in the earlier chapters will prepare our hearts to obey the later chapters that are filled with application.
The Your Finances God’s Way Workbook Provides a Biblical Stewardship of Money
I have written an accompanying workbook to help you apply the teachings that follow and plant them in your heart. James 1:22 says, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” This verse reveals a common mistake we make with God’s Word: We believe we have done enough by learning without obeying.
As believers, our responsibility goes much further than simply obtaining information. We must also apply it, or none of the knowledge gained will benefit us. Answering the questions in the workbook will help reinforce the teachings from the book so you can be not just a hearer (or reader), but a doer (or obey-er).
Our Relationship with Money Reflects Our Relationship with Christ
Consider this: Jesus talked about money more than He talked about anything else except the kingdom of God. He talked about money more than He talked about heaven and hell—combined. There are 39 parables, and almost one-third of them (11) are about money. In the Gospels, one out of every ten verses (288 total) are about money.
Some people hear a sermon about money and think, Shouldn’t he be preaching about something important and spiritual, such as prayer, forgiveness, love, or Jesus? Because the Bible has so much to say about money, money is important and spiritual. Jesus said the Bible is about Him (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39, 46; Hebrews 10:7), so what we do with money says much about our relationship with Him. What we do with money reveals our obedience (or disobedience) to Jesus, who said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Please keep this in mind as you read other chapters: Our financial decisions are outpourings of our faith. It wouldn’t be too much to say that financial maturity often parallels spiritual maturity. Rare is the Christian who is spiritually mature but financially immature. We should develop a biblical stewardship of money not because we want to be rich, but because we want to please our Lord and Savior. This should be our highest motivation. The obvious question, then, is this: How can we do so? I’m glad you asked! Let’s get started.