Archives For Christian personal finance

How is Christian Finance Unique?

Corey —  March 25, 2012

One of the many things that has kept me from starting a Christian personal finance website to this point is the fact that I have been left wondering what is so unique about Christianity from other finances. Often, the token distinction between a Christian personal finance blog and just a regular old personal finance blog is the attention to one issue: tithing. Is this really the only distinction between a Christian personal finance blog and any other finance blog?

Before I dive into this question further, another question that haunts me is whether it makes a difference. Does it matter if Christian finance is unique? What I mean is that there seems to be a troubling exclusiveness to Christianity. Growing up in a Christian family, it is easy for me to say that this rings true with my experience. There is a constant need within some Christian communities to completely separate themselves from the rest of the world. Understanding these two issues will not only help me focus and share the direction of the site, but should also clear up some misconceptions about Christianity.

Does Christianity Need to be Exclusive?

The first of these two questions is then, whether Christianity needs to be exclusive. This issue arises out of a tradition that reinforces a false dualism. Many people have heard the terms sacred (or Christian) and secular. These are terms that have changed meanings over the years. Nowadays, these terms are used to apply strict labels to items, people, movements, etc. Have you ever heard of music being defined as secular?

Growing up in a Christian home, I was determined to listen to only “Christian” music. While I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, it was along the assumption that this would make me a better Christian. Somehow, I understood the path or identity of a Christian to be one who separated him/herself from anything specifically Christian. This mentality stems out of this strict and false binary. It has to be either Christian or secular. There is no middle ground or shade of gray.

In the past few years, I have come to realize that the world is much more complicated than this simple division. I am reminded that I am not one to judge someone’s identity with strict labels. Instead, I have come to understand the complexity in which this world exists and thrives.

How do I Distinguish Christian Personal Finance from Personal Finance

If my understanding of the world is one that is complicated, without strict borders, the question naturally arises how to distinguish christian approach to personal finance. The question, “How is Christian finance different?” still echoes. The easy answer would be to continually emphasizing themes of giving, generosity, and compassion for those without. This is why Christian blogs often discuss tithing, or giving and using the Bible as a source of information. It is the easiest overlap of the two.

The more difficult answer would be that there isn’t always a distinction. Sometimes, the “Christian” financial advice is the same as advice that does not self-identify as Christian. The truth is that in managing your personal finances, everyone is forced to wrestle with questions that Christians also face. How much should I save for my future? Am I giving enough to help the world? Am I treating myself too much? Are my spending habits healthy? Even in using the Bible as a source, everyone is interpreting it in their own context…

Personal finances offers us a unique overlap with the Christian faith. Yet, at the same time – it is not exclusively Christian. Sometimes the need to be exclusive is more of a deterrent than anything else. Perhaps the need to separate or distinguish Christian personal finance is all in vain.

On the About page, I state that Provident Planning is dedicated to exploring God’s Provident Plan for the personal finances of Christians. But what does that mean? What is God’s Provident Plan? It’s God’s clear Biblical message that through contentment in Christ, diligent work, and good stewardship Christians can prosper so we can give generously in the name of Christ. By following the Provident Plan, Christians can glorify God through their finances.

This message is what I discovered as I have studied personal finance in the Bible. As a Christian and someone who studied financial planning in college, I wanted to know how I could give sound, Biblical advice, but I found so many conflicting opinions that I felt I should find out for myself. After searching for all the Bible verses I could find about personal finance, I began to see God’s wonderful plan for a Christian’s personal finances.

It’s not a plan focused on making Christians rich, or how we can retire early, or the things we can do to make us feel good about ourselves or our money. No – just like every other part of God’s plans for Christians it brings glory to His name and strengthens the witness of Christ in the world. If all Christians followed God’s Provident Plan for their finances, we would radically change the Church and the world. And while it involves how we handle our money – it’s all dependent and focused on the transformation that occurs when we fully give ourselves to Christ and realize the power of His death, resurrection, and the life we have in Him. Let’s take a closer look at each part of God’s Provident Plan.

Contentment in Christ

Once we have decided to follow Jesus, He becomes everything to us. We are in a continual struggle against Satan to keep other things (especially money) from taking the place of Christ. When we find contentment in Christ and Christ alone, the importance of money in our lives diminishes and pales to the value we place on Jesus. We learn the secret to being happy in all situations – whether we’re full or starving, rich or poor, employed or jobless, single or married – nothing in this life matters at all when compared to the glorious gift of Jesus and the fact that no one and no circumstance can take that away from us. We see everything in light of eternity, and we find that nothing on earth is of more value than our faith in Christ. We come to fully believe and trust that God cares for us and will provide everything we need.

Once we have this habit of always finding our contentment in Christ, the Spirit will teach us to place much less importance on material things. We will no longer be focused solely on our own needs and wants – an early retirement, a bigger house, a nicer car, and so on. Instead, we’ll be consumed with a desire to focus on the needs of others – to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and show God’s love to the world through our faith and our deeds. We’ll spend less and less on ourselves as we give more and more to others.

You can read more about contentment in the Bible here or by downloading a free copy of Contentment Is Wealth.

Diligent Work

Where contentment helps us to spend less on ourselves, understanding God’s call to work diligently helps us earn more money. As the gap between our spending and our income grows, we are left with more to manage wisely, prosper, and then give generously to the needs of others. The attitude and spirit we have as we approach our work can also glorify and honor God’s name. His witness can be seen in how we deal with people in our businesses and our motivation in our work.

You can read more about hard work in the Bible here.

Good Stewardship

While the Bible says little about financial planning as we know it today, God has shown us the value of using wisdom and prudence in managing our affairs. There are verses that speak to planning ahead, saving, avoiding debt, and other practical matters we will encounter in our personal finances. By wisely managing the blessings God provides (that gap between our income and our spending), we can be good stewards and have even more to give in His name.


As we follow God’s teaching on contentment, diligent work, and good stewardship, He will bless and prosper us. When we think about prosperity our focus needs to be on having God’s view of prosperity and its purpose. Prosperity can come in many other ways than just material blessings, and God wants us to use our prosperity to honor Him – not just make ourselves more comfortable. When God prospers us, it’s so we can further glorify Him as we give more and more to those in need.


Giving is the purpose of God’s Provident Plan. All other aspects of His Provident Plan are a means to this end. Through our contentment in Christ, we spend less so we have more to give. Our hard work provides more income so we will have more to give. Through good stewardship we avoid wasting what God has given us so we will have more to give. Our prosperity comes from God not so we can make ourselves richer but so we can give even more. God’s Provident Plan is completely focused on others – on how we can glorify God by laying down our lives and our wants for the needs of others. We live simply so others can simply live.

At the same time, we’ll realize that God’s Provident Plan gives much to us as well. Peace beyond understanding, joy beyond description, and happiness beyond compare are all ours as we trust ourselves to God’s care. When we first begin following God’s Provident Plan, we hardly realize the potential benefits it will have for our own lives because we were still mired in the views of the world. But as we follow Jesus and see that He is trustworthy and faithful, we become aware of the indestructible treasures in heaven that He has taught us to accumulate.

When we fully grasp God’s Provident Plan, we’ll see that giving in the New Covenant has nothing to do with tithing or percentages. It’s not about requirements, rules, obligations, or blessings or curses. Our giving is to be completely motivated by love – joyous and cheerful as we realize that our sacrifice is not loss but gain in Christ. We give freely, generously, and sacrificially not out of compulsion but out of our joy and contentment in Christ. Such giving is a sign of our total commitment to Christ and His teaching, and it’s a very powerful witness to the world.

Following God’s Provident Plan

Following God’s Provident Plan for our personal finances has huge implications for our lives. It goes against every motive the world gives us for why we should manage our finances well. Instead of focusing on what’s in it for us, we look at what’s in it for God and others. But we know that the rewards God has for us far outweigh the deceitful and false promises of worldly riches. If you feel God calling you to follow His Provident Plan for your finances, please browse around the website and sign up for free updates through email or your favorite feed reader!

       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.

       A while back, I received a free copy of Upside Living in a Downside Economy by Mike Slaughter from the publisher for my review. Mike is the lead pastor at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio. In this book, Mike offers insight into God’s perspective on our money concerns using passages from the book of James and other Bible verses. At 96 pages and 5″ x 7″, it’s a short little book. However, it contains some powerful ideas about how Christians should approach their personal finances. I’ve broken down this review into the four chapters you’ll find in the book:

Seeking God’s Perspective

       In the first chapter, Mike focuses on getting the right perspective on our finances. First, he looks at God’s character as a loving father. Next, he mentions a couple of God’s perspectives on money and emphasizes that we must seek to put God first and serve Him with our money. This is key to following God’s plan for our finances and fully understanding His desire for our lives. Then, Mike talks about checking our motives. We have to be careful about pursuing material things and loving money. Finally, he finishes the chapter by asking us to look at the source of our motives and who we are listening to. He warns of listening to the media and recommends that we seek God’s Word and wise advice from Christians instead.

Rebalancing Life Investments

       Mike then looks at seven “right actions” we should take as a response to God’s priorities for our finances and lives:

1. Do the first “right” thing: planned giving to God.
2. Seek wise counsel through an accountability group or counselor.
3. Write or rework a budget.
4. Perform plastic surgery and reduce your debt.
5. Set future goals and practice delayed gratification.
6. Nurture an attitude of gratitude.
7. Pray, pray, pray.

       These seven actions cover some important ideas God teaches us through the Bible. They’re not comprehensive, and Mike’s discussion of these actions is mostly motivational. It is not a step-by-step guide, and Mike never claims that it is.

Do It Today

       Mike then discusses the importance of planning in accordance with God’s Will. Planning for the future does not mean we are not relying on God. Throughout the Bible, God encourages us to prudently plan and prepare for the future. However, when we are planning for the future, we should be careful to make sure we approach it prayerfully and seek God’s Kingdom first.

       Mike covers what he calls the “fundamental life principles of sowing and reaping”:

1. You reap what you sow.
2. You determine the size of the harvest at the time of planting.
3. You will reap more than you sow.
4. The harvest comes in a later season than the sowing.
5. You are responsible for the work of sowing; God is responsible for the harvest.

       Anyone familiar with gardening or farming can tell you these are accurate statements regarding sowing and reaping (with the exception of disasters that wipe out the entire crop). When you apply these principles to your finances, God can bless you just as He has promised. Your actions show your faith in His promises.

       Finally, Mike talks about seven steps in creating a financial plan:

1. Do a financial analysis.
2. Begin an aggressive program of debt reduction.
3. Create an emergency fund.
4. Be sure you have adequate life insurance.
5. Write a will.
6. Look at your giving.
7. Create a budget.

       Again, this is not a full list of the things you should do when creating your financial plan, but they are a good start. If you can do these seven things, you’ll be ahead of most people. This section is more about leading you down the right path rather than directing you along the way.

Investing in God’s Future Harvest

       In the final chapter, Mike discusses three ways we can invest in God’s future harvest. First, he looks at living and giving thankfully. We must realize that all we have is from God, and we should be thankful for the blessings he gives us. We need to appreciate what we have, even during hard times. Second, he talks about living and giving faithfully. God calls us to live by faith regardless of our circumstances. We must always lean on God and trust in His teaching. In this way, we can live free from fear.

       Finally, he covers living and giving sacrificially. As Christians, we have to remember we are the body of Christ. We are how He blesses and cares for people. Our purpose is to complete the work He has prepared for us—not to achieve the “American Dream” or other materialistic goals. Mike challenges us to give everything over to God—our money, our time, our entire being. Though it seems foolish or impossible from the world’s viewpoint, it is the true calling God has for those who follow Christ and it is possible through faith in Him.

Rebalancing Your Life

       At the end of the book, there’s a short section where you can reflect on the ideas in the book and write down goals for yourself. It’s only four small pages, but it’s a start to looking at how you should use the lessons in this book in your own life.

My Recommendation

       Upside Living in a Downside Economy is not a book that will guide you through the steps needed to fully align your finances with God’s Will. But it will give you a good start at understanding God’s perspective on our finances and our lives.

       My only concerns with Mike’s teaching in the book have to do with his emphasis on tithing and the incongruity of his views on giving to the poor and his own personal life. Any emphasis on tithing as God’s desire for Christians fails to acknowledge that Christians are called to give much more generously than just 10% of their income. There are also other problems with teaching the tithe that I will address when I discuss giving in my personal finance Bible study.

       I also found it hard to give credence to Mike when he discusses how Christians must live and give sacrificially in the same book where he explains that one of his personal goals was to have a mountain home by 2004. It’s difficult for me to think that having a second home of any sort is really sacrificial when millions of people around the world don’t even have suitable shelter. There were a couple other passages in the book that gave me this same feeling. I don’t mean to attack Mike and I’m not saying I’m better than him. There are areas of my life where I am not congruent in my actions and God’s teaching, but God is changing me as I grow in Jesus Christ. I agree with his ideas about living and giving sacrificially and most of his ideas in the book, but I would have liked to see him living out examples of this more clearly as a teacher of God’s Word.

       At a cost of $8.00, I’m not sure I can recommend that you buy the book. It is short and doesn’t contain much on the side of practical application. However, if you’re just starting to seek God’s perspective on money and want to start with an easy read, Upside Living in a Downside Economy may be right for you. Borrow it from the library, your church, or a friend if you can, otherwise feel free to click the picture of the book above and purchase it on Amazon.