Archives For Personal Finance Bible Study

       On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chuck Bentley, the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, about his upcoming book The Root of Riches: What If Everything You Think about Money Is Wrong?. The book will be released in the next week or so, but if you’d like to get a 20% discount you can go to http://www.crown.org/rootofriches and sign up to pre-order the book and get a free sample chapter.

       I had the chance to read the book before the interview and I highly recommend it to all of you. Chuck does a good job of getting to the heart of our issues with money by highlighting how being rooted in Christ is the only way to receive true riches. The interview below will give you a good overview of the central ideas in the book and help you determine if it’s something you’d want to read.

       I’ve included the audio here which you can listen to on the website or download for later. I’ve also transcribed the interview for those of you who prefer to read. I’d be interested in your feedback on how well you liked this because it’s the first time I’ve tried doing an interview/podcast. (I was quite pleased with how my intro and outro music turned out!) Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page, and if you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Credits: intro and outro music for the audio is from “Bucolique Utopique” by David on Jamendo

Note: I was not paid anything to post this interview. I only agreed to it after reading the book because I believed Chuck’s message in The Root of Riches is excellent and needs to become more prominent in Christian personal finance.

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       About a month ago, Trent at The Simple Dollar posted an article titled Theming in Personal Finance: Do Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett Work Without Jesus?. Trent says he thinks it’s a good thing when people tie Christian beliefs with good personal finance advice in a way that reinforces both. He goes on to say that the personal finance information in many books that do this would work without the other material (the Christian parts).

       I agree with Trent. Good personal finance advice is good personal finance advice. It doesn’t matter if you dress it up with Bible verses or political views. Spending less than you earn is always going to be good advice. Saving for future needs is wise. Avoiding ridiculous consumer debt just makes good sense.

       But I find his initial question interesting. Do Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett (‘s advice) work without Jesus? In other words, can Christian personal finance advice work without Jesus? And my answer is that if it can, it isn’t Christian!

What Makes Christian Personal Finance Christian?

       Here’s what I mean. If all the advice that any “Christian” finance guru gives can work without Jesus, then the advice itself is not Christian. If Christian personal finance blogs are just giving the same advice that all other personal finance blogs give, then there’s nothing uniquely Christian about them.

       Now I’m not saying that Christian personal finance advice should not include any of the same material as “regular” personal finance advice. As I said before, good personal finance advice is good personal finance advice. It doesn’t really matter where it comes from.

       But for it to be Christian personal finance advice, it needs to be consistent with the message of Christ.

Twisting Scripture

       On Trent’s post, I left a comment saying, “Perhaps the reason ‘Christian’ personal finance can work without Jesus is because we’ve twisted the message He brought to fit our society’s desires.” You see, if Christian personal finance advice just takes regular personal finance advice and dresses it up with a few carefully chosen Bible verses, then it’s just twisting Scripture to fit in with the ideals that our society already accepts.

       But if you start with the message that Jesus brought and that Scripture as a whole teaches, then you’re not going to come up with advice that fits in with society’s standard way of doing things. Too often, Christian personal finance does it the other way around. We start with the world’s ways and fit Jesus into it. There’s nothing Christian about that. In fact, that’s just telling people what they want to hear.

       If “Christian” personal finance advice revolves around budgeting, getting out of debt, saving and investing, and growing your income just so you can reach your goals and your dreams, then it’s no different from the regular personal finance advice. The focus is all about you – which is what we want to hear.

       But Jesus didn’t come with a message all about you. He brought us a message that was all about God and others. He didn’t come to tell us how to get rich and retire early. In fact, He had some strong warnings for the rich and a parable about a man who was all too happy with his ability to retire early. Rather, He taught about how we should serve others and how we should give God our primary focus. He told us that if we want to serve money we won’t be able to serve God.

       So if you’re reading a “Christian” personal finance book or website and there’s not something in it that’s really challenging how you think about money, it might be good to step back and ask yourself if it’s really giving you Christian advice or just plain advice.

The Emphasis Here at Provident Planning

       I’m trying to avoid that here on Provident Planning. When I did my initial study of personal finance in the Bible, I was very challenged by what I read. Rather than emphasizing material comfort and luxury, God emphasizes contentment. Rather than glorifying early retirement and amassing wealth for yourself, He holds up generosity as a greater goal.

       It’s not always easy to keep the Christian aspect of personal finance in the forefront. But I hope you’ve realized from what I’ve written that the kind of approach to finances that I’m encouraging can’t work without Jesus.

       When I talk about contentment, I’m talking about contentment in Christ. I’m talking about contentment that is steadfast through all trials and all circumstances. I’m talking about a kind of contentment that realizes nothing in this world compares to the glorious riches we have in Christ. I’m talking about a contentment that you can’t explain or experience without Jesus.

       And when I talk about generosity, I’m not talking giving just to meet your obligation to God so you can do what you want with the rest. I’m talking about generosity as the ultimate goal of your personal finances. I’m talking about generosity that sacrifices to meet the desperate needs of others. I’m talking about a generosity that you can’t explain or experience without Jesus.

One Voice Among Many

       I’m not the only one trying to emphasize Christian personal finance that’s true to Christ’s message.

       I’ve had great conversations with my friend Kevin Tupper at Christian Simplicity (currently under construction) about “living a life that’s inwardly rich toward God and outwardly rich toward our neighbors” and the implications that has for our finances.

       My friend Craig Ford at Money Help for Christians just announced that he’s going to spend more time focusing on spiritual issues of money and the problem of materialism in American churches.

       And I’ve just finished reading Chuck Bentley’s The Root of Riches and will be posting an interview with him next week. Chuck’s book is focused on how we will never be truly rich unless we’re rooted in Christ. All the right behaviors in the world aren’t going to help us if we still hold on to the wrong beliefs.

       These are just some of the people who are passionately pursuing a kind of Christian personal finance that absolutely cannot work without Jesus. And I’m glad to be working alongside them as I learn and experience a transformation of my heart that only comes from God. I pray you’ll join us as we seek God’s will for our personal finances rather than trying to find ways to justify our own will for our money.

       This post is a short summary of the Personal Finance Bible Study on work. It contains links to all of the articles in this study. You can also read Bible verses about work here.

Called to Work

       Made to Work
       Called to Work

       In the first part of this Bible study, we looked at how God has created and called Christians to work hard. We also looked at how our work can glorify God.

The Value of Hard Work

       Providing for Our Needs
       Bringing Honor to God
       Gaining Wealth to Honor God

       Next, we looked at some of the benefits of pursuing God’s call to work hard. There are tangible benefits to hard work, and God desires to bless us with these benefits when we follow His teaching on work.

The Dangers of Too Much Rest and Laziness

       Laziness Brings Poverty
       Laziness Brings Dishonor
       Laziness Brings Difficulty

       Then we looked at the dangers of not following God’s call to work hard and instead pursuing rest, leisure, and laziness. God wants to protect us from these dangers, and that’s part of the reason He calls us to work hard.

Our Need for Rest

       God Wants Us to Rest
       We Need to Rest

       In following God’s call to work hard, we must not forget our need for rest. God wants us to rest because He knows we need it. We will do our best work for Him when we balance diligence and a strong work ethic with the prudence to know when to take our rest.

God’s Business Values and Ethics

       Be Fair & Just to All
       Keep Your Integrity
       Be Mindful of the Poor
       Be a Good Steward
       Don’t Use the Church for Business

       Finally, we looked at God’s business values and ethics as He teaches in the Bible. How should we conduct our business and work so we can best glorify Him? As the Spirit works through us, we will naturally follow God’s will in our work. But identifying these values can help us better serve God as we grow in our walk with Him.


       Thank you for reading this Bible study on work. Feel free to use it in your church or Bible study group. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave me a comment!

       The final business value we’ll look at in the Bible is God’s desire that we don’t use the Church for business. The Bible relates at least two instances where Jesus spoke out against people who were turning religion into a business and greedily taking profits on the sacrifices and offerings used at the Temple.

       The first instance we see is in the Gospel of John, not long after Jesus was baptized and turned the water into wine:

       14 He found in the temple those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, and the changers of money sitting. 15 He made a whip of cords, and threw all out of the temple, both the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew their tables. 16 To those who sold the doves, he said, “Take these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace!”

John 2:14-16 (WEB)



       The rest of the Gospels also relate what seems to be a second incidence where Jesus spoke out against using the Temple for business:

       15 They came to Jerusalem, and Jesus entered into the temple, and began to throw out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of those who sold the doves. 16 He would not allow anyone to carry a container through the temple. 17 He taught, saying to them, “Isn’t it written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers!”

Mark 11:15-17 (WEB)

This passage is also found in Matthew 21:12-13 and Luke 19:45-46.



       The religious leaders and merchants had made a business out of selling space in the Temple courtyard, animals for sacrifices, and exchanging foreign money for Jewish money. They desecrated the Temple by using it for business instead of prayer and teaching God’s Word. It’s also thought they were using the Court of the Gentiles for this business, which was the only place the Gentiles were allowed to be in the Temple. A busy marketplace would make it much more difficult to pray to God and learn from a teacher.

       Jesus understood that God’s Temple should be used only for glorifying Him. In their greed, the religious leaders and merchants forgot the purpose of the Temple. The love of money blinded them to the unrighteousness they were committing and replaced the love for God they should have had instead.

       We see this same exploitation of religion in the early church throughout the New Testament, and we still see it today. Many people use faith and godliness as a means to worldly gain, and in their greed they mislead and steal from many. The body of Christ should have His same zeal for God and not allow the Gospel to be used in such a way. If you see this happening in your church, speak out against it and do not fear man. If you are involved in such greedy gain through religion, repent and seek Jesus. Ask Him to pour His Holy Spirit over you and give you a burning love for God instead of love for money.

       Jesus wants us to carefully revere the Lord and be on guard against the dangers that greed presents for our witness to the world. Any exploitation of the Word for profit and dishonest gain has devastating effects on those who do not believe, and it can have even more destructive effects on those who do believe. Greed and love of money destroy the Church and rip the body of Christ into pieces.

       Maintain Jesus’ zeal for God, and do not use the church for business. Don’t turn religion into a business so you can profit off the faith of others. While there is Biblical teaching for supporting those who minister in the Word, there is even stronger teaching against those who use the Word for greedy gain. There’s a distinct difference between a pastor or any church worker who is content in Christ on a salary of $30,000 or $40,000 (or even less!) and one who lives on $100,000 or $200,000 or more. The apostle Paul even went so far as to take no support for his ministry in some cases so he could be a better example to the churches.

       Pray for the Spirit’s discernment and guidance that you do not get involved in such greedy use of the Church. And if you see such greed that needs to be confronted, pray for how you should approach the situation. It may require the zeal that Jesus showed, or it may require a different course of action. Either way, we should be outraged when we see such things happening and we should follow Jesus’ example in purging it from our churches.

       Another way we can honor God through our work is by being good stewards. This applies to our personal finances as well, so we’ll be looking at it in more depth when we talk about stewardship. However, the concept of stewardship has strong implications for our work lives as well – whether self-employed or working for someone else.

Pay Attention!

       Proverbs provides good advice for any person involved in business, but especially those involved in managing or overseeing the operations:

       23 Know well the state of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds: 24 for riches are not forever, nor does even the crown endure to all generations.

Proverbs 27:23-24 (WEB)



       A good manager knows the condition of every aspect of the business he manages. Whether it’s your own business or someone else’s, you should be careful to pay attention to what’s going on. Being a good steward doesn’t mean you do just enough to get by. A good steward looks to maximize whatever has been put under his care – he wants to return it to his superior in a better condition than he found it. Being especially careful with things that belong to others in addition to our own things provides a strong witness that we care about the person those things belong to.

Be Faithful in All Things

       Jesus challenged us to be faithful in all things whether great or small. His teaching can apply to our business lives, our personal lives, and most definitely our spiritual lives.

       10 He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. He who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon (money), who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 If you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

Luke 16:10-12 (WEB)



       In anything that is assigned to us, we should be honest and faithful regardless of how unimportant it may seem. We build trust with others by first proving ourselves trustworthy with small and seemingly insignificant things. Then we begin to build a stronger relationship and deeper trust as bigger and more important responsibilities are given to us. While those small things do not seem like they matter at first, how we handle them can have huge implications for our future relationships.

       Jesus’ teaching here applies to many different aspects of our lives – not just business – and most specifically it applies to our spiritual lives. Jesus goes on to talk about how we cannot serve both God and money. The way Jesus taught us to handle the money and possessions God has entrusted to us is vastly different from the ways of the world. Jesus teaches us here that if we cannot handle something so unrighteous as money according to His teaching, how can we expect God to give us true riches? We must prove to be faithful in the small things (money) in order to receive the greater things (the true riches of Heaven and eternal life).

       As we continue to examine God’s Provident Plan for our finances, we’ll see that He calls us to approach money and possessions with a mindset the world cannot understand. You see, the financial advice God gives us in the Bible can be applied successfully by anyone. Spend less than you earn, earn more, manage your money well, avoid debt – all of these ideas are good advice for Christians and non-Christians alike. But the results God desires – generous and sacrificial giving – are far different from the worldly views of retiring early, getting the car you’ve always dreamed of, living in a nicer home, traveling the world, or just doing anything you “deserve” because of your hard work and smart decisions. Following God’s plans to achieve His desire requires that you understand His plan and His view of the world and that you have a relationship with His Son, Jesus. You will never understand the idea of following God’s financial principles so you can give generously unless His Spirit lives in you.

       However, the rewards are vastly different as well. Instead of amassing worldly wealth that will pass away and do you absolutely no good when you die, you’ll inherit eternal life and true riches. You’ll take hold of that which is truly life and enjoy God’s creation as He meant you to. You’ll find the contentment in Christ that no one can take away from you. And that’s worth much more than any pile of cash you can put in the bank.

       I’ve gotten away from the main point here, but it’s important to understand what it really means to be a good steward and why we should even worry about how Jesus taught us to handle our finances. God wants us to handle money as if it doesn’t matter. He wants us to use it not to just make ourselves comfortable but to further His Kingdom. And that mindset of living sacrificially will lead us to follow all of His teaching on personal finances naturally. With His Spirit living in us, we will approach our spending and working with His love and understanding. And we’ll glorify Him with all of it.

       Next week we’ll finish up this study on work, and then I’ll put together a summary post for easy reference.

       God desires His children to be especially mindful of the poor. His love and mercy reach down to those in need and in struggles, so it is His love working through us that should prompt us to be quick to help the poor. We’ll look at this in much more depth as we examine God’s teaching on giving, but for now we can look at two specific ways we should treat the poor in our business and work.

Pay Them Quickly

       God gave a special law to the Israelites about how they should treat their hired servants who are poor. While we are no longer under the Law, these instructions can help us see at least one way we can be mindful of the needs of the poor. The poor who have no savings to tide them over to their next paycheck may be helped by receiving their paychecks more often. In the Law, God taught the Israelites to pay their poor hired servants every day.

       14 You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he be of your brothers, or of your foreigners who are in your land within your gates: 15 in his day you shall give him his hire (paycheck), neither shall the sun go down on it; for he is poor, and sets his heart on it: lest he cry against you to Yahweh, and it be sin to you.

Deuteronomy 24:14-15 (WEB)



       As I said before, we are no longer under the Law. But this commandment makes sense even in light of the New Covenant. If we have a poor person who works for us, it would be better to pay them more often because they need the money as soon as they can get it. This is especially true if it would help them avoid using a payday lender. There are other long-term solutions that could help them better manage their money, but this is an easy way to help them avoid the less desirable alternatives (payday loans, credit cards, etc.).

Do Not Show Favoritism to the Rich

       Many people respect the rich and treat them better than they would the poor. This could be because of what the rich have done for them in the past, or it could be because of what they think the rich could do for them in the future. Either way, such favoritism and respect based on net worth is not from God. Jesus taught us to “love our neighbors as ourselves”. He didn’t say “love your rich neighbors as yourself, and show a little love for the poor while you’re at it”. There’s no distinction between our neighbors – we are to love all people equally regardless of their position in this world or even whether they show us love. James provides clear teaching on how this applies in our churches, but it should apply equally in all areas of Christian life:

       1 My brothers, don’t hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partiality. 2 For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your synagogue, and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in; 3 and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing, and say, “Sit here in a good place”; and you tell the poor man, “Stand there,” or “Sit by my footstool”; 4 haven’t you shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

James 2:1-4 (WEB)



       When we make distinctions between the rich and the poor, or any other distinction that affects how we treat people, we become judges and fail to follow Jesus’ teaching and His Spirit. The Spirit of Love shows no partiality among people but loves all the same. The application of this teaching can easily be seen for our business lives – we should give the same quality of service to the poor that we would give to the rich. I’m not saying the people should get what they don’t pay for, but they should be treated with the same respect, courtesy, and kindness regardless of how much they buy from us. We must never forget that all people are the work of God’s hands, and we should show no distinction among anyone when it comes to showing love just as God has shown no distinction in the gift of His Son. Job acknowledges the fact that all are made by God and He shows no favoritism:

       Who doesn’t respect the persons of princes, nor respects the rich more than the poor; for they all are the work of his hands.

Job 34:19 (WEB)



       When God looks at us, He sees each one of us individually and knows us personally. But He loves us all the same, regardless of how righteous or unrighteous or poor or rich we are. He seeks to reconcile all of us to Himself through His Son. It’s with this same love – this blind love – that His Spirit compels us to love our neighbors. This love is not blind to the needs of people, but it is blind to their faults and mistakes. Loving people like God loves them while looking after their needs means that we love the poor as we would anyone else and we do what we can to help them. So be mindful of the poor in your work, and show all people God’s love.

       In the last part of this series on work, we looked at God’s desire for us to treat each other honestly and fairly. But we also find a special emphasis on the fact that we should maintain this honest and fair treatment of others at all times. God provides no exceptions for Christians to be honest and just to anyone. Keeping your honesty and fairness at all times and sticking to a moral code is called integrity. God wants us to keep our integrity at all times, which will further strengthen our witness to the world and the success of our work.

Our Guiding Light

       When we keep our integrity in all situations, we are looking to God for direction. We are seeking out His ways so we can do His will. When we let the Spirit lead us in everything, work or play, we are keeping our integrity – our strict adherence to looking at what the Father is doing and wants us to do. It’s in this way that our integrity will be our guiding light.

       The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them.

Proverbs 11:3 (WEB)



       The Bible tells us that our integrity shall guide us, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them. This is a powerful witness to the importance of keeping our integrity at all times. When we allow Satan to twist our thinking and turn our eyes away from God’s ways, we are walking down the path to destruction. And it doesn’t take much. It’s so easy to ruin our reputation, and Satan is glad to find a way to tarnish any witness we might have to the world. That’s why it’s so important to keep our integrity all the time – not just when we think people are looking.

       Many people, thinking no one was looking, have compromised their integrity to benefit themselves – often monetarily. We see this all the time in corporate, political, and even church scandals. But God tells us it’s not worth it. There is no amount of money worth compromising our integrity or risking our good name.

       A good name is more desirable than great riches, and loving favor is better than silver and gold.

Proverbs 22:1 (WEB)



       And again:

       Better is the poor who walks in his integrity, than he who is perverse in his ways, and he is rich.

Proverbs 28:6 (WEB)



       Though it may seem like maintaining our integrity – even when we don’t think it matters – will do little to benefit us here and now, following God in all things has immense benefits to our spiritual lives and will draw us ever closer to Him. It will also make our witness as Christians even more powerful – not because of the good things we’ve done, but because of the love God has given us and shows through us for all people. This love is shown greatly when we continue to treat everyone honestly and fairly no matter what the situation.

Keeping Your Integrity

       So how do we go about keeping our integrity. What can we do to make sure we don’t fall into Satan’s traps or become disillusioned by the false promises of riches? God gives us practical advice in this area:

       25 Let your eyes look straight ahead. Fix your gaze directly before you. 26 Make the path of your feet level. Let all of your ways be established. 27 Don’t turn to the right hand nor to the left. Remove your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:25-27 (WEB)



       We need to keep our eyes focused on God. If we look to the side, Satan will rush in with excuses and reasons we should stray just a little this once. “It’s OK to cheat on your taxes…everyone does it, and the government will just waste the money anyway.” “It won’t hurt anyone if you take a little extra. Who will know?” If we keep our eyes focused on Jesus and His message, these thoughts will not be able to withstand the power of His love and teaching and we’ll be able to keep our integrity.

       God also tells us to make our path level. We should remove any obstacles, distractions, or temptations that might cause us to stumble as we try to walk in His ways. By doing this, we make it easier to keep our focus on Him alone. He also wants us to “establish” our ways. We need to make a habit of always seeking God’s will – a habit of always taking time to stop and let the Spirit teach us how God wants us to handle the situations we encounter. The simple act of taking some time to pray before acting can save us from so many dangers and sins.

       It’s clear that God wants us to be honest and just. But it’s equally clear that He wants us to be that way all the time. He wants us to keep our integrity – so we’ll become closer to Him, and so we’ll be even greater examples of the power of God’s love in our lives. Take time to consider how you can better keep your integrity and honor God with your life completely.