God and money — where’s the balance?

Studies show that aside from those in true poverty, money cannot buy happiness.  But mismanaging money can definitely lead to unhappiness.

See Money and Possessions in Proverbs – Kevin DeYoung for a thorough and well-balanced take on what God says about money.  I often see people go to either extreme:

On the one hand, it’s easy to see where Prosperity Theology comes from. Take a few promises of the Mosaic covenant out of their national context, take the promise in Malachi 3 about throwing open the storehouses of heaven, mix in some of Jesus’ statements about receiving whatever you ask for in faith, and you can bake up a little health and wealth gospel.

On the other hand, it’s possible to come up with an imbalanced Austerity Theology. Point out that Jesus had nowhere to lay his head, turn to the story of the rich young ruler, stir in the parable of the rich fool, and you’ll have a theology that says money is bad and so are those who have it.

As always, you want to read the passages in the immediate context and the larger context of the entire Bible.

If you take these tips seriously I think your odds of esteeming money properly will be very high:

Ten Principles on Money and Possessions from Proverbs

1. There are extremes of wealth and poverty that provide unique temptations to those who live in them (Prov. 30:7-9).

2. Don’t worry about keeping up with the Jones’ (Prov. 12:913:7).

3. The rich and poor are more alike than they think (Prov. 22:229:13).

4. You can’t out give God (Prov. 3:9-1011:2422:9).

5. Poverty is not pretty (Prov. 10:1514:2019:4).

6. Money cannot give you ultimate security (Prov. 11:711:2813:8).

7. The Lord hates those who get rich by injustice (Prov. 21:622:1622-23).

8. The Lord loves those who are generous to the poor (Prov. 14:213119:728:21)

9. Hard work and good decision-making usually lead to increased prosperity (Prov. 6:6-1110:413:1114:24;  21:172022:41327:23-2728:20

10. Money isn’t everything. It does not satisfy (Prov. 23:4-5). It is inferior to wisdom (Prov. 8:10-1118-1924:3-4). It is inferior to righteousness (10:2; 11:4; 13:25; 16:8; 19:22; 20:17; 28:6). It is inferior to the fear of the Lord (Prov. 15:16). It is inferior to humility (Prov. 16:19). It is inferior to good relationships (Prov. 15:1717:1).

You can’t understand the biblical view of money unless you are prepared to accept a number of truths held in tension.

  • You’ll probably acquire more money if you work hard and are full of wisdom. But if all you care about is getting more money, you are the biggest fool.
  • Money is a blessing from God, but you’ll be more blessed if you give it away.
  • God gives you money because he is generous, but he is generous with you so that you can be generous with others. And if you are generous with your money, God will likely be more generous with you.
  • It is wise to save money, but don’t ever think money gives you real security.
  • Wealth is more desirable than poverty, but wealth is not as good as righteousness, humility, wisdom, good relationships, and the fear of the Lord.
I encourage you to read the whole post and subscribe to Kevin’s blog.  He does great work.

10 thoughts on “God and money — where’s the balance?”

  1. You have to understand what “true riches” really are. I don’t think it has much to do with money.

    Philippians 4:12-13
    “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

    I find this works for me.


  2. Are you saying that I’m not blessed by voting for people who take money from my neighbor and give it to others so that they will vote for them?


    1. 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

      And we can just say, no problem, that is what we paid taxes for.

      PS. I think I’ll keep sending my monthly check to Samaritan’s Purse, just to hedge my bets.


  3. Another point that I think many of today’s liberals, and even conservatives, miss is that a person’s financial situation is not permanent; that is unless that person has resigned himself to their financial situation being a product of what the government deems to be their lot as in welfare checks and such. My parents were dirt poor when they were young but fortunately their situation was not frozen in time. I think that is one of the dangers of the modern liberal outlook, it seeks to freeze people in a situation in which they cannot better themselves by hard work. Their only hope is that they can use their power in numbers to raid the coffers of the rich, nor realizing that it was the very rich who ultimately put them in that situation in the first place by playing the young poor against the older better-off as if both of those situation were, for ever-past, reality.


  4. Heh…this made me think of a funny (and more than a little sad) story about a church my wife and I tried out in when we were shopping for a local church home several years ago.

    The Pastor seemed to spend an awful lot of time preaching about wealth and how to acquire it. I was skeptical (his preaching sounded eerily similar to a Joel Osteen motivational seminar) but we gave it a few chances.

    Anyway, this big series he was doing ended with a “powerful” message on why it is necessary (yes, as in requisite) to aim to be wealthy. The reason? If you are poor, you can’t give to the poor. Therefore it is “sinful” to not aim to acquire wealth. Note that he’s not talking about being lazy or a poor steward of money…but simply that possessing enough of it is a key part of Christianity.

    Worse, everything centered on one “fact”-Jesus was filthy rich because he offered good wine at the wedding feast in Cana.

    At first I thought “rich in spirit”, but no. Now, I’ve read many compelling arguments about the bible and wealth. I’ve also read many a debate over what the wine really was, but I’ve never read that turning water into wine was merely a matter of Jesus’ monetary possession.

    So it’s not surprising to me that people can even come away from churches confused about money in the bible.

    Anyway, thanks for linking that. It’s a solid, to-the-point overview!


  5. The relevant stat is that, in America, earning more than $50,000 a year does not make you any happier than earning $50,000 a year, but happiness increases up to the $50k mark. That is, once you have enough for healthy food, decent medical care (those people probably have health insurance for work or can buy it themselves), and some sort of property, you’re good.

    Of course, that is because money is a means to an end and not an end in itself. The Objectivists will tell you that it’s the only honest means of encouraging people to work and to produce (paraphrasing, but the three ways to get a man to work are a gun, a whip, and a dollar; remove the dollar, and you’re left with violence and enslavement). Or it’s the means by which we trade parts of our very finite lives – the way in which we say, “I’m going to give you an hour spent shoveling that person’s driveway in exchange for the hour that you spent helping that other person with their tax returns.” (Those who advocate bartering seem to miss that you are then stuck negotiating only the things that the two people can offer each other.)


    1. Which is to say – a lot of human problems are caused when people confuse a means to an end and something that is an end in its own right. People (myself included) also forget to decide what they want and when they have enough of something. As everything on this planet is finite – especially our time on it – it’s problematic to make something categorically more important than anything else.

      My personal goal is to make more than I consume, such that I can support myself and have something left over at the end, whether that go to my family or to charity. (At this point, the best I can do for others is to give away my time, but it would be nice if I could use my energy and education to make money and then use that to help those who don’t have what I do.)


      1. Ha! Yes, I must confess that I often see people driving very expensive cars and wonder how much stress they have in their lives because of that. Meanwhile, I could afford those but choose not to buy them. [Releases endorphins]


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