Archives For personal finance in the Bible

       With all this talk about how God calls us to hard work, you might begin to wonder when you’ll ever get to rest. Despite the fact that God does call us to work hard and avoid laziness, we are not to forsake rest and relaxation when it is needed. God knows that we need rest and He knows that many people may not rest when they need to. We can get caught up in our work sometimes and forget that we need to take a break in order to do our best. This is one reason God has commanded us to rest.

God Commanded Rest

       When God instituted the Law for the Israelites, one command that we find numerous times is to keep the Sabbath. God commanded the Israelites to rest for several reasons, but we’re going to look at two main reasons. First, God wants us to remember that it is He who sanctifies us.

       Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies them.

Ezekiel 20:12 (WEB)

       God wants us to remember that it is He who created us, who cares for us, and who sanctifies us. We cannot accomplish what God has done by means of our own work. By taking rest and remembering the Lord, we can keep in mind the power and providence of God.

       Another reason God commanded the Israelites to rest is because He knows we need to rest. Left to ourselves, we might work every day of the week in our attempt to secure our future or seek after the things of the world. But in the process, we’ll exhaust ourselves and strain our families. We can see the effects of overworking in the lives of workaholics. Stress, poor health, and struggling families are all caused by working too much. God wants us to take rest so that we can be refreshed and avoid these difficulties.

       12 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Yahweh your God commanded you. 13 You shall labor six days, and do all your work; 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God, in which you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.

Deuteronomy 5:12-14 (WEB) emphasis mine

       I won’t say more about our need for rest because we’re going to look at it in more depth in the next part of this series.

The Sabbath Was Made for Man

       God’s command to the Israelites about keeping the Sabbath was very serious, but in their zealousness for keeping the letter of the Law they forgot the purpose of the Sabbath. When the Pharisees saw Jesus’ disciples picking grain on the Sabbath and accused them of breaking the Sabbath, Jesus made the purpose of the Sabbath clear.

       23 It happened that he was going on the Sabbath day through the grain fields, and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Behold, why do they do that which is not lawful on the Sabbath day?” 25 He said to them, “Did you never read what David did, when he had need, and was hungry — he, and those who were with him? 26 How he entered into God’s house when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the show bread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and gave also to those who were with him?” 27 He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:23-28 (WEB)
This passage is also found in Matthew 12:1-8 and Luke 6:1-5.

       Jesus explains that God created the Sabbath for man and not the other way around. We are not here just to keep the Sabbath – as if that is our sole purpose for being created. God created the Sabbath so that we might have rest – rest that we need to refresh ourselves to do the hard work He has called us to. In all their arguments about what it meant to keep the Sabbath, the Israelites forgot why the Sabbath was created in the first place.

       We see this same kind of legalism and loss of vision today in arguments about which day should be celebrated as the Sabbath and what should or shouldn’t be allowed. We forget the purpose of the Sabbath and what God intended it to be about. The important thing is that we rest, remember God as our Creator, Provider, and Redeemer, and seek to honor Him. We would do well just to keep the purpose of the Sabbath in mind rather than arguing about which day it should be observed and whether or not you’ll go to Hell if you don’t do it on the right day.

       In the next part of this series, we’re going to look a little more at Jesus’ teaching about the Sabbath – that it was made for man so we might rest and remember God. God knows that we need rest, and He does not want us to work ourselves so hard that we do not take the rest He has created for us. We’ll look at the fact that we need rest, that God desires rest for us, and that Jesus led by example on this idea of rest.

       The final danger of laziness that we’ll look at is the unnecessary difficulty it creates in our lives. Where the distractions of laziness allow small problems to grow into big ones, careful and constant diligence prevents many problems from ever occurring.

A Little Bit of Laziness Can Go a Long Way…

       The verse we’re going to look at in Ecclesiastes reminds me of an oft-quoted saying of Benjamin Franklin: “…for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for want of care about a horse-shoe nail.” A little bit of neglect or laziness can cause great problems and difficulty, especially when concerning important matters.

       In our finances or our work, misplaced focus or intentional laziness can cause problems that would have been easily avoided with a little hard work and diligence. A little bit of time spent on maintenance and gradual improvement can have a profound effect when continued over a long period of time. In the same way, a little bit of laziness can have disastrous results when sustained over time.

       By slothfulness the roof sinks in; and through idleness of the hands the house leaks.

Ecclesiastes 10:18 (WEB)

       Maintaining a house takes a lot of work, but it’s often many small tasks that need to be done rather than many large ones. With diligent care, the house can be kept in good condition. Without it, small problems become major ones. Projects that could have been completed inexpensively can become a major drain on your savings.

       This analogy easily carries over into many other areas of our life. Small projects and tasks at work can often be dealt with quickly and prevent future (and larger) problems. But the inconvenience of these tasks often causes us to slack off and procrastinate – creating much more work for ourselves in the future than if we had just dealt with it early on. God wants us to embrace hard work and diligence to save us from this extra work. He knows that there’s no need for us to deal with many of the problems we encounter if we’ll follow His call to work hard.

       The wisdom of hard work and diligence and the difficulty it can save us from is also reflected in this verse from Proverbs:

       The way of the sluggard is like a thorn patch, but the path of the upright is a highway.

Proverbs 15:19 (WEB)

       I really enjoy hiking in the woods. I find my hikes especially easy and enjoyable when I have a clear trail to walk along. I can see where I’m going and find the obstacles easily. And I get to my destination quickly. But when the trail is overgrown and difficult to navigate, I find it takes much longer to get where I’m going and I can’t see the dangers ahead very easily at all. While it can be exciting to overcome such a challenge at times, I don’t have the same peaceful and relaxing experience as I do when the trail is clean and clear.

       Clearing a trail that’s very overgrown is difficult and takes a lot of time. But clearing a trail that’s been carefully maintained through diligent work is easy and quick. Laziness is what allows the trails in our lives to become overgrown and difficult to walk. God wants us to use hard work to keep the trails clear so we can focus on Him and doing His will instead of dealing with hassles and problems all the time.

       It’s clear that God is looking out for our interests when He calls us to work hard. If we apply this idea of diligence to everything we do in life, we’ll find we can overcome huge hurdles easily and we’ll encounter fewer unexpected problems along the way. However, we must also remember that God does want us to rest when needed. In all our hard work, we must not forget to rest and refresh ourselves so we are ready for the work that lies ahead and are able to do it with all our might. We’ll look at our need for rest in the next two parts.

       Another danger of laziness is dishonor or a bad reputation. If we are the body of Christ, our actions and reputation impact other people’s ideas about Christ. If people know us to be lazy, we weaken our witness as Christians and bring dishonor to God’s name.

The Destruction of Laziness

       Proverbs contains a powerful warning against the destructiveness of laziness. Laziness can affect us and our reputation so strongly that it makes us a brother to the “master of destruction”, or Satan.

       One who is slack in his work is brother to him who is a master of destruction.

Proverbs 18:9 (WEB)

       If laziness makes us a brother to Satan, we can easily see why God has called us to work hard. There is no glory for God in laziness. (Let’s make sure we agree on the definition of laziness. Laziness is refusing to do work when work needs to be done or should be done. It is not the same as recreation, which comes after the necessary work has been finished.)

       We don’t admire lazy people. We don’t look at a lazy person and say, “Now he’s a respectable fellow.” We might envy or covet their rest, but that is only an indication that our heart is not right or that Satan is tempting us. But we do not look up to lazy people as an example to be followed. This is why laziness is warned against so strongly in the Bible, and especially by Paul in the New Testament. Laziness can destroy our reputation and completely undermine any witness we have in Christ. And that’s the most terrible effect of all.

       Not only can laziness ruin our reputation, but it can also ruin our life. Laziness in our work can lose us our job. Laziness in managing our finances can bankrupt us. Laziness in our relationships can hurt others. Only a short-sighted fool would choose laziness over doing the work needed to keep things going smoothly.

       The fool folds his hands together and ruins himself.

Ecclesiastes 4:5 (WEB)

       It’s clear that laziness is extremely destructive in our lives. Whether we’re looking at the spiritual aspects of our lives or the temporal, the devastating effects of laziness are not worth the fleeting pleasure of rest. Even just a little bit of laziness can make things much more difficult than they need to be, and we’ll talk about that a bit more in the next part of this series.

       But it’s also important to remember that we do need rest. Proper rest taken at the right time is essential to our health and well-being. After we look at the difficulty laziness brings, we’ll look at our need for rest.

       We’ve discussed how God calls Christians to work hard as a way to glorify Him and because of the benefits hard work affords. However, there is a third aspect to this calling. God knows that laziness and too much rest can be dangerous for our well-being and can become a stumbling block in bringing others to Christ. In the next three parts, we’ll look at the dangers of too much rest and laziness.

The Traps of Laziness and Excuses

       The problem with laziness and excuses is that their full effect is not felt for quite a while. It never seems like a little more sleep here and a little more fun there will cause our entire world to crumble. But it’s the cumulative effects of our procrastination that can wreak havoc in our lives. With steady, diligent care we can manage our lives well. But if we allow ourselves to get sidetracked with sleep, idleness, or unimportant things, we can quickly lose track of what we need to be doing and become overwhelmed with the mess that piles up.

       30 I went by the field of the sluggard, by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 Behold, it was all grown over with thorns. Its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. 32 Then I saw, and considered well. I saw, and received instruction: 33 a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep; 34 so your poverty will come as a robber, and your want as an armed man.

Proverbs 24:30-34 (WEB)

       Continual neglect of our work and the important matters in our lives, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time, can cause poverty and want to creep up on us – even to the point where we don’t realize it until it’s too late. In stark contrast, continual care, maintenance, and repair, even though it doesn’t seem like much, can keep our work running smoothly and help us deal with our lives much more easily – especially when disasters strike.

       But even if you’re at the point where your neglect has ruined your work or your finances, do not fear. With the Lord, nothing is impossible. You can overcome the weeds that have taken over your life, if you will fall back on the Lord and commit to His ways. The same thing that prevents the ruin of poverty and neglect can overcome it – diligent, hard work over time will bring you and your affairs back into order. During this recovery time be careful not to forget prayer and do not be so proud as to reject the help of your fellow Christians.

       The are two main ways to prevent poverty and disaster from sneaking up on you. One, be careful of how much you sleep. And two, be cautious of using excuses to avoid work.

       Don’t love sleep, lest you come to poverty. Open your eyes, and you shall be satisfied with bread.

Proverbs 20:13 (WEB)

       Sleep and naps can easily rob us of time we need to do work. While sleep is necessary and a quick nap may refresh us enough to get some work done, it’s easy to fall into the habit of excess. But it’s easy to see that too much sleeping and napping can quickly bring you to poverty. You just can’t do any work while you’re sleeping or napping.

       The sluggard will not plow by reason of the winter; therefore he shall beg in harvest, and have nothing.

Proverbs 20:4 (WEB)

       Another trap we must avoid is using excuses to get out of work. I don’t just mean calling in sick to get a day off. These excuses can come in all kinds of disguises depending on your circumstances. It’s up to you, through the power of the Spirit, to uncover those excuses for what they are – lies designed to distract us from the work God calls us to. I’m not saying you should be out breaking your back if you’re on your deathbed. But we all know how we use excuses and half-truths to get out of things we don’t feel like doing at the time.

       If a farmer doesn’t plant his seed in the spring, there will be no harvest in the summer and fall. And if we don’t do our work when we need to, there won’t be a paycheck to pick up next Friday. Don’t let the excuses Satan feeds you distract you from the work God has called you to. Pray to God for deliverance from Satan and ask for His strength and guidance. His will can overcome any excuse.

Should Christians Save Money?

Corey —  November 8, 2010

Saving Money - Greed or Wisdom?       My Sunday school class recently finished the book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan. I think it’s an excellent look at the dangers of being a lukewarm Christian, and Francis shares some valuable insights into the awesomeness of God’s love for us and how we should respond to that love.

       For the most part, I thought Francis was spot on in his assessment of lukewarm Christians and how we need to be obsessed with serving God. But one particular aspect of his ideas bothered me. Specifically, this part from page 78 concerned me:

Crazy Love:  Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan       Lukewarm People do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don’t have to trust God if something unexpected happens – they have their savings account. They don’t need God to help them – they have their retirement plan in place. They don’t genuinely seek out what life God would have them live – they have life figured and mapped out. They don’t depend on God on a daily basis – their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn’t look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God.

from Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan

       Francis then quotes the parable of the rich fool from Luke 12:16-21. Along with some other parts of the book, Francis seems to be hinting at the fact that Christians shouldn’t save money at all. They should be giving everything away.

       Make no mistake. I firmly believe that Christians should be marked by radical generosity. But I think the flaw in Francis’ ideas is that they ignore the counsel of Scripture as a whole.

Treasures in Heaven

       I think some people are quick to say Christians shouldn’t save because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:19-21:

       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)

       I’ve heard some comment on this passage as though Jesus is condemning anyone who saves up money. Their logic is that if you’re saving up money and not giving it away, then your heart is attached to that money rather than to God.

       But think for a moment about the word “treasures”. We’d hardly use that word to talk about just enough to meet our needs. Rather, it denotes the idea of wealth – an abundance that far exceeds our needs. When we look at the whole of Jesus’ teachings about money, we see that His warnings were targeted at greed and selfishness rather than prudent money management combined with contentment.

       I say this with some confidence because Jesus never contradicted Scripture. And throughout Scripture we see admonition and teaching to wisely manage our affairs while still trusting in God.

Prudence and Responsibility

       Consider the numerous verses in Proverbs that commend wisdom in handling money and our affairs. Here are just a few:

       The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.

Proverbs 22:3 (WEB)

       Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.

Proverbs 21:20 (WEB)

       6 Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways, and be wise; 7 which having no chief, overseer, or ruler, 8 provides her bread in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.

Proverbs 6:6-8 (WEB)

       Additionally, the New Testament speaks to our responsibility to care for the needs of our family (including ourselves) so that we will not burden the Church.

       But if anyone doesn’t provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8 (WEB)

       If any man or woman who believes has widows, let them relieve them, and don’t let the assembly be burdened; that it might relieve those who are widows indeed.

1 Timothy 5:16 (WEB)

       11 …and that you make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we instructed you; 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (WEB)

       Clearly, we are to do what is wise and honorable so that we can provide for our family and our needs within reason. This would also include saving, since we know that the unexpected happens. Car repairs, medical expenses, job loss – they often come without warning and we should be prepared for them. That doesn’t mean we aren’t depending on God or trusting in Him. We’re simply fulfilling our responsibility to do what we ought to do.

The Danger of Saving

       Despite the fact that we are encouraged to save and handle money wisely, we must still be on our guard against trusting in money. This is what Jesus was warning against. In our efforts to provide for our family, we can go overboard. We can save too much.

       But the Christian who is seeking contentment in Christ and the heart of God will be concerned for the poor as well as responsible money management. That’s where our total walk with Jesus works to help us understand our true needs, meet those needs through work and saving, and generously give away as much as possible. I think Paul’s words to the Corinthians summarize the basic idea of Christian giving well:

       13 For this is not that others may be eased and you distressed, 14 but for equality. Your abundance at this present time supplies their lack, that their abundance also may become a supply for your lack; that there may be equality.

2 Corinthians 8:13-14 (WEB)

       The goal is not to live on the edge but to give generously from our abundance so that we can meet the needs of others. The idea is almost communistic except that it is not forced. This is the kind of giving that flows from love. We restrict our standard of living by not satisfying all of our wants so that we can show love to others through generosity. That’s the key to Jesus’ message on wealth and giving.

Your Thoughts

       Do you think Christians shouldn’t save money? Why? And if not, have you ever encountered someone who felt this way? How did you approach this issue with them? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

(photo credit: Liz West)

       Besides providing for our needs and bringing honor to our name and God’s, hard work can help us to gain wealth beyond what is required to meet our needs. To honor God with this extra money, we need to be focused on how we can serve Him with our extra instead of thinking about how we can use it all for ourselves.

Hard Work Brings Wealth

       Hard work is the fuel for wealth. (The engine would be spending less than you earn because that’s what actually gets you to wealth.) We cannot gain wealth without hard work, regardless of whether we’re trying to honor God or ourselves. And it’s not enough to work “just enough”. We have to be willing to put in the effort:

       He becomes poor who works with a lazy hand, but the hand of the diligent brings wealth.

Proverbs 10:4 (WEB)

       Once we combine work with diligence and focus, then we can begin to gain wealth. We can all think of people we’ve worked with who did only what was required so they didn’t get fired. But it’s rarely those people who get the promotions, raises, and bonuses. This principle of working with a diligent hand is even more important for the self-employed. When you are your own boss, your income is primarily the result of your effort.

Honoring God with Your Wealth

       We’ve already determined that God calls Christians to work hard. Being lazy and bumming around when we are able to work does not glorify God at all. When we begin working hard, we not only honor God but we also reap the benefits of our work – namely providing for our needs.

       The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.

Proverbs 21:25 (WEB)

       But it’s not just how we work that makes Christians different from the rest of the world. It’s what we do with the wealth we gain from our work. The worldly view is to use whatever you earn for yourself – it’s your money, so do what you want with it. The Christian view should be vastly different. Everything we have, do, earn, or gain belongs to God. And after meeting our needs, we are to honor God with the rest of our wealth by giving generously. (And by needs, I do not mean a luxury car because you “need” transportation.)

       Take a moment to realize how different that idea is from the rest of the world. While everyone else is worried about how they can get a bigger house, better car, nicer clothes, fancier country club – more and nicer stuff – Christians are supposed to be focused on how we can glorify God with what He has given us. How can we bless more people, meet the needs of the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter the homeless, heal the sick, comfort the mourning and the lonely? Those are the things that should constantly be on our mind. While the world is seeking more and more for itself, we’re trying to give more and more of ourselves.

       There are those who covet greedily all day long; but the righteous give and don’t withhold.

Proverbs 21:26 (WEB)

       This idea of giving generously out of our wealth, even to the point of denying many of our own wants, seems like utter foolishness to the world. But for Christians who trust in God and believe Christ, it is a sure reward. We are no longer working just so we can buy more stuff. We’re not breaking our backs so we can keep a house that’s much larger than we actually need. We are working so we can glorify God by giving away the wealth we gain and blessing the poor and needy. We are working for a sure reward.

       Wicked people earn deceitful wages, but one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.

Proverbs 11:18 (WEB)

Redefining Riches: Giveaway

Corey —  November 2, 2010

Redefining Riches       My friend Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine has recently released a four lesson Sunday school series called Redefining Riches. It’s a great series and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in studying this at your church or small group. It’s an excellent value at only $3.99 as it includes PowerPoint slides, leader’s guides, handouts, and the right to print as many copies as you need for your group.

       You can see an overview of the main areas it covers in these posts on Provident Planning:

The Redefining Riches Giveaway

       If you’d like to try this series out with your group but aren’t sure about buying it, here’s your chance to win a free copy! Rob has agreed to let me give away one copy of the Redefining Riches Sunday school series. You’ll get the whole package if you win.

       To enter, simply leave a comment at the bottom of the post letting me know you’d like to enter. I’ll randomly select a winner and announce it on this post. I’ll email the package to the winner, so be sure to use a valid email address! You’ve got until 7:00 P.M. EDT on November 3, 2010 to enter.