Archives For Personal Finance Bible Study

       In the last part of this series, we began looking at God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives so we can start to focus on serving Him instead of serving Money. We’re continuing that discussion today, and we’ll finish it up in the next part of the series. Then it’s on to practical applications.

       In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus teaches us that we should focus on storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth:

       19 “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21 (WEB)

This passage is also found in Luke 12:33-34.

       Jesus makes two main points here:

  1. Earthly treasures are only temporary. The wealth of this world provides no eternal security and very little security in this life. It is easily stolen, lost, or otherwise destroyed. On the other hand, heavenly treasures last forever.
  2. Whatever we treasure will control our heart. If we hold the riches of the World in high regard, our hearts will be focused on serving Money. If we value God’s Word more than the World’s riches, we’ll be able to truly serve God and experience His blessing. God will have the only thing He needs to work through us—our hearts.

What's in your treasure chest? (Treasure chest by markleggett on Flickr)       God’s View of storing up treasure is so different from ours. Instead of worrying about the value of our 401(k) plans and savings accounts, Jesus would rather have us thinking about how many people we’ve shown love to in the past 24 hours—and how we can share His love with even more people tomorrow. Instead of looking at things in terms of the past few months or over our lifetimes, we need to start viewing everything in light of eternity. It’s the only way we can really get God’s View.

       If we let the Things of this World come in and take over our lives and our hearts, Jesus tells us very plainly what will happen. In Mark 4:18-19, He explains the parable of the sower:

       18 “Others are those who are sown among the thorns. These are those who have heard the word, 19 and the cares of this age, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

Mark 4:18-19 (WEB)

This passage is also found in Matthew 13:22 and Luke 8:14.

Thorn bush by Elsie esq. on Flickr       As Christians, we often discuss bearing the good fruit that comes from having the Spirit within us. But look at what Jesus says. If we let the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come into our lives and take over our hearts, we will be unfruitful.

       Getting caught up in the things the world reveres—wealth and all its trappings—chokes God’s power in us and keeps us from doing His Will. To fully serve God, we have to view everything in terms of eternity and reject the World’s view of money and meaning. Once we do this, we can break free of the thorns in our lives and flourish in God’s glory.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

       In the last part of this series, we began looking at the solution to the problem with The World’s message. We’re continuing that discussion today and over the next parts of the series. We’ll look at God’s View of the world, money, and our lives so we can start to focus on serving Him instead of serving Money.

       In Luke 18:18-30, we see the story of the rich ruler. The ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Here is Jesus’ response:

       18 A certain ruler asked him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 Jesus asked him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good, except one—God. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Don’t commit adultery,’ ‘Don’t murder,’ ‘Don’t steal,’ ‘Don’t give false testimony,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”

21 He said, “I have observed all these things from my youth up.”

22 When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me.”

23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was very rich.

24 Jesus, seeing that he became very sad, said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”

27 But he said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

28 Peter said, “Look, we have left everything, and followed you.”

29 He said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children, for the Kingdom of God’s sake, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the world to come, eternal life.”

Luke 18:18-30 (WEB)

This story is also found in Matthew 19:21-30 and Mark 10:17-27.

       When this rich ruler approached Him, Jesus knew that his heart was still focused on his wealth even though he had kept all the commandments since he was young. Earlier in our Personal Finance Bible Study, we learned that focusing on or serving Money keeps us from serving God. When Jesus answered the ruler’s question, he quickly honed in on this fact and challenged the rich ruler to give up his wealth if he truly wanted to serve God and inherit eternal life.

       But we see the rich ruler’s response. He was saddened at the thought of giving up all of his wealth. What would we do if Jesus told us to sell everything, give it to the poor, and follow Him? Would we be so attached to our material possessions and wealth that we wouldn’t give it up for Jesus?

Green My Apple iPod by Brianfit on Flickr       What if Jesus asked us to sell our iPods so we could feed the hungry? Or buy a smaller home so we could give clean water to those in third-world countries? Or forgo a new car and get a used one instead so we could give medicine to the weak? These are small things in comparison to selling everything we own, but there’s a good chance we feel resistance at the very thought of those actions.

       Naturally, we hold the Things of This World very dear to our hearts because we clearly and plainly see them every day. We easily understand the necessity of some things, and we enjoy the convenience and fun of others. But our focus on This World keeps us from seeing the necessity of God’s viewpoint—of realizing that love and relationships matter much, much more than iPods, big homes, and new cars. We can take nothing with us when we die, yet look at how we strive to accumulate so much Stuff all our lives! This is exactly one of the reasons that Solomon said everything under the Sun is meaningless.

       But if it is so natural for us to be attached to the Things of This World, how can we be saved if the salvation Jesus offers requires us to give up that very attachment to our natural world? We can try to remind ourselves that eternal happiness with God in Heaven is worth more than anything The World can offer, but we cannot completely remove the attachment to The World without God’s help. What is impossible for us on our own is possible with God. Through prayer and a close relationship with God, our hearts can be changed so we focus on God’s World and not ours.

Hot Meal by Ordered Chaos on Flickr       The reward of contentment is very great. Our lives are made easier and much more joyful here on Earth because contentment makes the smallest things very great. A hot meal, warm clothes, or a soft bed—all are great wealth to the person who is content. We also get the eternal reward of communion with God and everlasting life in Heaven. How can any benefit of the world’s wealth be greater than the benefit of God’s rewards for us?

       So this is the first part of God’s view we must begin to take on for ourselves. Our attachment to This World keeps us from fully receiving God’s gifts and fully serving Him. We must give up this attachment if we want to truly receive eternal life in Jesus. And we cannot do it on our own—we must ask God to change our hearts and teach us His ways. If it seems impossible, remember you are not alone. God can do it through you!

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

       In the last part of this series, we talked about the problem with The World’s message. Loving money and believing The World’s message keep us from serving God. Additionally, The World can offer us no eternal reward and the Stuff it tells us to buy can’t be taken with us when we’re dead.

       Today, we’re going to begin talking about the solution to the problem with The World’s message. We’ll only get through part of it now, but we’ll finish up the discussion in the next part of this series.

Where Does the Problem Start?

       In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus clearly tells us where the problems of greed and envy start:

       21 “For from within, out of the hearts of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, sexual sins, murders, thefts, 22 covetings, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”

Mark 7:21-23 (WEB)

Broken Heart by CarbonNYC on Flickr       Greed and envy come from within—they’re heart problems. These aren’t the kinds of heart problems that can be fixed by taking the right kinds of medicine, getting enough exercise, or eating right. Greed and envy are reflections of our deepest motives, desires, and attitudes. Humans are inherently prone to these kinds of thoughts because Sin infects every area of our lives. The only way we can get these things out of our hearts is to let God come in and take over.

       For a while at my Bible study we had a guest speaker named Butch Marvin. One of Butch’s favorite sayings is that God doesn’t want your money, your good works, or anything else you think you can offer Him. God only wants your heart—because once He’s got your heart he’ll get everything else as well.

Renew Your Mind!

       For God to fix our hearts and get rid of all the evil things that can come from within us, we have to fully accept Jesus and let Him live in us. That means we have to give up our lives, our hearts, our selfish ambitions—everything! We need to ask God to change our hearts and the way we think. We need to ask Him to keep us focused on His Ways instead of The World’s ways.

       2 Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:2 (WEB)

       God can rid our lives of greed and envy and teach us to be content, if we’ll just ask Him to change the way we think. Only then can we truly understand the great gain that comes from contentment and begin to see God’s perfect will for our lives.

   36 Turn my heart toward your statutes,
       not toward selfish gain.

Psalm 119:36 (WEB)

Human Brain by Gaetan Lee on Flickr       We can start the process of renewing our minds and becoming new people by simply praying to God. David’s simple prayer here is a great way to start—simply asking God to keep us focused on Him and not on This World.

       In the next part of this series, we’ll talk about the next step in this process: getting God’s view on our lives, money, and the things of This World.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

       In the last part of this series, we talked about The World’s message – if we can just get more of what The World can offer us, we’ll be happy and satisfied. God tells us The World’s message is wrong and clearly shows us in the Bible that only His Message is true. Only God can bring us true happiness, satisfaction, and security.

       Today, we’re going to look a little more at why The World’s message is a problem.

It Keeps Us from Serving God

In Luke 16:13-15, Jesus tells us:

       13 “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You aren’t able to serve God and mammon.” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they scoffed at him. 15 He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Luke 16:13-15 (WEB)

       If we’re focused on The World and the things it offers, effectively we’re serving Money. And Jesus tells us when we are serving Money, we absolutely cannot serve God.

Deep Emotional Attachment by baslow on Flickr       God knows our hearts, and if we value the things of This World above Him then we are detestable in His sight. Putting more faith in the “wisdom” of The World than in God’s Wisdom means that we have demoted God to a lesser status. And we Christians know that the greatest commandment of all is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind – our entire being. If we place The World’s message above God’s Message, we cannot keep this greatest commandment.

It Cannot Provide an Eternal Reward

       Psalm 49 does a wonderful job of explaining why we shouldn’t believe The World’s message. The wealth of This World cannot save us from death; and once we die (as we all must), we cannot take any of it with us. Slowly read this passage and reflect upon it as you ask God to reveal the lies of The World and teach you His Truth.

   1 For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by the sons of Korah.

   Hear this, all you peoples.
   Listen, all you inhabitants of the world,
   2 both low and high,
   rich and poor together.
   3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom.
   My heart shall utter understanding.
   4 I will incline my ear to a proverb.
   I will open my riddle on the harp.

   5 Why should I fear in the days of evil,
   when iniquity at my heels surrounds me?
   6 Those who trust in their wealth,
   and boast in the multitude of their riches –
   7 none of them can by any means redeem his brother,
   nor give God a ransom for him.
   8 For the redemption of their life is costly,
   no payment is ever enough,
   9 That he should live on forever,
   that he should not see corruption.

   10 For he sees that wise men die;
   likewise the fool and the senseless perish,
   and leave their wealth to others.
   11 Their inward thought is that their houses will endure forever,
   and their dwelling places to all generations.
   They name their lands after themselves.
   12 But man, despite his riches, doesn’t endure.
   He is like the animals that perish.
   13 This is the destiny of those who are foolish,
   and of those who approve their sayings. Selah.

   14 They are appointed as a flock for Sheol.
   Death shall be their shepherd.
   The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning.
   Their beauty shall decay in Sheol,
   far from their mansion.
   15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,
   for he will receive me. Selah.

   16 Don’t be afraid when a man is made rich,
   when the glory of his house is increased.
   17 For when he dies he shall carry nothing away.
   His glory shall not descend after him.
   18 Though while he lived he blessed his soul –
   and men praise you when you do well for yourself –
   19 he shall go to the generation of his fathers.
   They shall never see the light.
   20 A man who has riches without understanding,
   is like the animals that perish.

Psalm 49:1-20 (WEB)

Tree and Gravestones by Jim Frazier on Flickr       I especially like the last three verses. How often do we admire the wealthy for their success? Yet despite all their success, if they trust in their wealth they will die just like wild animals. God is the only one who can save us from death, and He can only do that if we give up believing The World’s message and seek His Truth.

       In the next part of this series, we’ll start talking about how we can ignore The World’s message and begin understanding the Truth.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

       The allure of shopping and consumerism has blinded millions of people. Many think more money or more stuff will make them happier. They always have to have the latest model, the newest car, the hottest fashions, or the biggest house they can afford. Advertisements tell us every day that we are missing out if we don’t have the things they’re selling. They bombard us with images of all the things we “need” to make us happy. We’re told that if we’ll just buy this gadget or these clothes we’ll be more popular, get more friends, have an easier life, or just feel better about ourselves.

       We’ve even been taught that our role in society is to be consumers – consumers of stuff. We’re supposed to work hard so we can buy more stuff. The more stuff we have, the happier we’ll be. And if we work hard enough and save up, we’ll get to a point where we don’t have to work any more but we can keep buying stuff. We’ll be able to spend all our time buying stuff or doing things that will really make us happy. Much happier than we were when we were working so hard before…

       This is just one of the many messages from The World that flies smack in the face of The Message that God has been trying to tell us for thousands of years. Jesus speaks directly to those who believe the world’s message in Revelation 3:17-18.

       17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked; 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich; and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.

Revelation 3:17-18 (WEB)

       The World tries to tell us that if we just acquire more wealth & things, then we won’t need anything else – we’ll be satisfied and secure. But the truth is that the more we get the more we’ll want. The World can not offer us any true satisfaction or security. It’s a false hope to think that a bigger bank account will make you happier or more fulfilled. Jesus already knows The World can’t satisfy us, and that we’ll actually be pitiful, poor, blind, and naked if we listen to The World’s message. Only God can provide us with true wealth and open our eyes so we can see the truth.

Something Better

       God has a higher purpose for us than riches far beyond our needs and 6,000 square foot homes. God wants more meaning in our lives than a brand new luxury car in the driveway and a shiny yacht next to the dock. God has a higher calling for our retirement years than fruitless day after fruitless day spent on the golf course, beach, or back porch.

       There’s a major problem with The World’s message – specifically in that it contradicts God’s Message. We’ll talk more about why The World’s message is a problem in the next part of this series.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

Preaching Christ Crucified

Corey —  May 11, 2010

       I want to apologize.

       I want to apologize for anything I have taught that did not point to Christ crucified.

       If I have written about giving without emphasizing that giving does not make you righteous, I have missed the point. If I have ever implied that your generosity will please God, I have been wrong. If I have suggested that you can find contentment through your own power, I was in error.

       All too often in “Christian” personal finance (and Christianity in general), we fail to emphasize the fact that Christ accomplished all on the Cross. We can put heavy burdens on readers and listeners because we may teach that your choices and your determination will glorify God.

       There is a choice you must make. But that choice is not to change your heart of greed to a heart of generosity, your heart of laziness to a heart of diligence, or your heart of covetousness to a heart of contentment.

       The only choice you must make is to accept the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that Christ offers us through His death on the Cross for our sins. Until you accept that Gift, nothing will make you right before God – in your finances or any other area of your life.

       Tithing will not make you holy. Generous, sacrificial giving will not make you righteous. Contentment will not bring you salvation. Diligence cannot save your soul. Only Christ can.

       The evidence of a Christ-filled life is not in your choosing to be generous. Generosity flows out of your choosing to follow Christ. Contentment does not come by your choosing to live simply and reject consumerism. Contentment comes from your choosing to focus solely on Christ and the rich Gift He gives.

       If I ever teach that you will glorify God through your finances by doing certain things, living a certain way, or giving a certain amount, I am wrong. You will glorify God through your finances as Christ lives in you and pours out His love through your life. Contentment, diligence, stewardship, and generosity will result as you look to Jesus’ example and follow Him – not as you make specific choices and fulfill certain objectives.

       Do not be misled by what I am saying. Faith without works is certainly dead. How can our response to Jesus be anything other than contentment, diligence, stewardship, and generosity? But neither are we saved by our works. And it is not our power that produces these good things within us. It is Jesus who saves us and the power of God’s Spirit that produces whatever good we see in our lives. This does not relieve us from responsibility for our actions. We are called to seek holy lives in light of our new life in Christ. If we are not following and obeying Jesus, how can we call ourselves His disciples?

       I ask you to keep me honest to this truth. If you see me teach anything other than Christ crucified, call me out on it! If I teach that you will please God by doing specific things, remind me that God is pleased when we listen to His Son and follow Him. Yes, this requires action on our part. But it is action that flows out of faith (faith that works) – not action that precedes faith or salvation. Show me my error and refute it. Do not allow me to continue in a lie or lead others in it either. I pray that we may all remember how powerless and fallen we are and that we will learn to rely only on the salvation Jesus gives and the example He taught and lived.

       22 For Jews ask for signs, Greeks seek after wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Greeks, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25 (WEB)

Tithing Is So Old Testament

Corey —  March 30, 2010

       If you’ve read my articles on tithing, you might begin to think that I hate tithing. (In fact, I almost titled this article “I Don’t Hate Tithing”.) Or maybe you think I’m just stingy. Although that conclusion would be difficult to reach after reading my thoughts about New Covenant giving. But the truth is there’s a deeper reason behind why I teach against tithing as a giving standard for Christians.

       Tithing is the Old Testament example and standard for giving. It was part of the Law of Moses given specifically to the Israelites through the Old Covenant. But Christians today are no longer under that covenant. We’re under the New Covenant. And you see an interesting trend when you look at what the early Christians were taught about giving.

       Keeping in mind that the New Covenant began after Jesus’ death on the cross, consider the teaching you find in the New Testament about giving. Can you find any passages where tithing is used as the example that Christians should follow for giving? I’ll wait while you look.

       I can already tell you that you won’t find any. I know because I’ve looked. I’ve searched long and hard to find all the verses in the Bible that talk about personal finance. And you know what I’ve found in the New Testament about giving? The only example ever used to explain how much Christians should give is Jesus. Not tithing, not the Old Testament offerings – only the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

       That’s a significant statement. We’re supposed to give like Jesus did?! That sounds so difficult. How can I ever be that generous? How do I even calculate that for my budget??? But He is our example for giving as Christians who want to honor God. No, it’s not as easy to figure out as 10% of your income, but there are some general giving guidelines we can glean from the New Testament. New Covenant giving requires a deep, intimate relationship with God and demands that you spend time in His Word and in prayer seeking His will.

       Recently, I did a personal finance Bible study at my church for our winter Sunday school elective. When we started talking about tithing and giving, one person brought up the statistic that Christians only give about 2-3% on average. I also brought up the fact that only about 6% of Christians tithe to their churches (though about 27% of evangelical Christians give at least 10% of their income to charities). With statistics like that, why would I even try to teach something beyond giving 10%? We can’t even get to a tithing standard. How can I expect Christians to give generously and sacrificially???

       But I think that’s our first mistake. We think that by teaching tithing we’re giving Christians a simple, straightforward guideline that they can follow for their giving. It’s clearly taught in the Old Testament and even comes with curses and blessings. Surely that will motivate people to give generously. And that’s the problem.

       The reason I teach so strongly against tithing is because we have a much greater example and motivation for giving. Tithing never suffered for us. Tithing did not die for our sins. Tithing will not grant us eternal life. Tithing does not love us.

       But Jesus did suffer and die for our sins. Jesus will give us eternal life with God in Heaven. Jesus does love us – extravagantly, generously, sacrificially – even to the point of death!

       Brothers and sisters, why would we choose to continue using a lesser, weaker example for giving? We wonder why no one is motivated to tithe. Why don’t we teach giving based on Jesus’ life and sacrifice? How can our response to His gift be anything other than love, which will then produce generous, sacrificial giving in us? We can dismiss tithing and come up with excuses why we can’t afford it right now. But we cannot dismiss the gift of Jesus – the gift of His death for our sins so that we can have eternal life. The Holy Spirit will compel us to give if He is our focus.

       So if you wonder why I teach against tithing, that’s it. I don’t care if you disagree with my thoughts about why tithing no longer applies to Christians. I’m not here to debate the Law versus Faith (or Grace) ideas with you. But can’t we agree that teaching a giving standard based on Jesus’ gift to us will result in more generous, more sacrificial, and more cheerful Christian givers than teaching based on tithing? Let me know in the comments.