What Does the Bible Tell Us about How to Handle Money?
By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
I’ve been reading the New Testament and it surprises me how often Jesus referred to money.
For example, in Luke 21:1-4, “He commended the widow who did not have much, but from what she did have, she gave it all to the Lord.”
He criticized the Pharisees for giving the tithe while they were rejecting the more important parts of sacrifice (Matthew 23:23).
Of course, in the parable of the talents, Jesus declared that those who invest well will receive more and those who don’t invest well will lose it all (Matthew 25:14-30).
So, I was taken a little aback when I came to 1 Timothy 6 and read how harshly the apostle Paul dealt with Christians who are not managing their money well! Can you please draw for us some lessons from Paul’s teaching? How am I supposed to handle money?
I think that the best way to answer your question is by moving through 1 Timothy 6 verse by verse, gleaning Paul’s meaning. You’ll notice that each statement is a critical key to how God intended for us to handle money wisely and well.
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“Godliness and Contentment Is Great Gain” (1 Timothy 6:6)
This is perhaps the most succinct statement of the Biblical philosophy of money in all of the Bible. Don’t miss it. Money can never—will never—be as valuable as godliness, nor worth as much as contentment. Paul is beginning to put money in its proper place in relation to the rest of life.
“For We Brought Nothing into the World” (1 Timothy 6 7-8)
“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Food and clothing refer to the bare essentials of life. Notice that Paul says nothing about having shelter—a house. His omission isn’t saying that God doesn’t want us to have a house. Many verses throughout Scripture teach about shelter and our home. Paul is saying that the basic essentials are enough. Again, he’s helping us understand where money falls in biblical priority.
“People Who Want to Get Rich Fall into Temptation” (1 Timothy 6:9)
“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.”
That is quite a strong verse, isn’t it? In other words, those who set a goal in life of accumulating wealth fall into a trap that will ruin their lives. Paul is clearly pointing out that money can’t be our singular or even first pursuit. When that priority gets out of whack, everything else falls apart.
The Love of Money Is a Root of All Kinds of Evil (1 Timothy 6:10a)
Read that again for me. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, not THE root of ALL evil. Many of us have memorized these words incorrectly!
Now read it one more time. The LOVE of money is a root of all kinds of evil, not MONEY is the root of all kinds of evil.
When we read Paul’s words carefully and accurately, it’s clear that there is nothing inherently wrong with having money or being rich. The issues come with our attitudes and the desires of our hearts!
Now, Paul gets very personal with Christians.
“Some People, Eager for Money, have Wandered from the Faith” (1 Timothy 6:10b)
“The faith” Paul describes here is the Christian faith. He’s referring to doctrinal truth as contained in the Bible.
The phrase “eager for money,” is a Greek word that means to stretch oneself out in other to touch or grasp something. It describes the Christian who is reaching out after material wealth. “Eagerness for money” will cause Christians to wander away from Christianity.
Let’s look at that phrase again. It can also be translated as “materialism.” Here are some symptoms of what materialism can look like:
- Compulsive Buying
- Holding on to more wealth than we need (Hoarding)
- Failing to give God the top portion of our income
- Borrowing money for depreciating items
- Cheating on our income tax
- Using a credit card and not paying off or being able to pay off the balance completely at the end of the month
- Getting nervous or upset when the pastor preaches on money
Take a moment to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any of these symptoms in your life. We all have some! But it’s absolutely critical to realize how damaging they can be to our spiritual lives.
Again, materialism will cause you to wander away from your faith.
Reverse Spiritual Growth (see 1 Timothy 6:10c)
Grasping after wealth sets into motion a reverse spiritual growth process. If the trend continues, our sin natures can produce any brand of sin – and trap – imaginable.
Oh, so you think that I am overstating the case! Look at the last phrase in verse 10.
“Some people, eager for money… pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10c).
"Pierced themselves" is an interesting phrase. Translated from the original Greek, it literally means “to put on a spit.” You know what a spit is. You put a raw piece of meat on a spit and roast it over an open fire.
I want you to get the picture. Instead of putting a piece of chicken or beef on a spit, suppose you put a live human being on the spit and turn him over and over again and roast him on an open fire.
The materials used to start the fire are the things after which he or she was grasping.
I know some people who are being tortured emotionally, mentally, financially, and physically … and if you trace it all back, it may very well lead to an unbiblical philosophy of money.
Do you think that those are strong words? I haven't been able to find any stronger words in the Bible addressed to Christians than these right here.
Paul is telling us that the Christian who is guilty of this sin will end up with a ruined and defeated life.
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God’s Plan for Finances Is That We Have a Surplus so We Can Give Some Away
In 1 Timothy 6:18, Paul continues, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
The reason so many of us say we can't afford to care for the poor, or give to God, or invest in the kingdom, is because we have already spent it all on ourselves!
We haven’t put ourselves in a position to be able to share—and that is a tragedy. We are wasting the opportunity to share and show God’s love through generosity.
Materialism Can Lead Us Selling Our Souls for Worthless Things
It has been said that every person has his or her price—that is especially true if you are a materialist.
I hope that is not true for you. I hope you are priceless.
There was once a fancy banquet in a high-class New York hotel. A famous author sat next to a very beautiful and gracious woman. He was awestruck by her beauty.
As they sat through the meal and talked, he finally asked her if she would spend the night with him for $100,000.
She blushed, looked down, and finally said, “Yes.”
He said, “Would you do it for ten dollars?”
She protested, “What do you think I am?”
He replied, “We've already established that; now we're working on the price.”
Do you get the message? It isn't the price that's the issue. It's what you are in your heart. It’s what you love, what you pursue, what you prioritize.
Some of us have sold out our spiritual hearts and eternal future for things we cannot hold on to.
Drifting into the Sin of Materialism
Unless we are involved in a continuous deprogramming and reprogramming process, we will drift automatically into the sin of materialism.
We turn on the TV or radio at any time of the day or night, we get into a conversation with just about anybody at school or work, we pick up any newspaper or go to any movie—and we are being programmed to think like materialists.
We are being programmed to seek a higher standard of living than we now have, to borrow money for depreciating items, to spend now and save nothing, and to buy things that we do not need. And it is happening automatically. We don't have to do a thing. It is all around us.
The priests of materialism are everywhere—indoctrinating us with the idea that true joy, life, and happiness can always be found if we just have enough money to spend! So, Americans all across our land are chasing after and bowing down to the god of money and material things.
Victory occurs when our rotten, materialistic, human viewpoint is flushed out and replaced by the divine eternal truth of the Word of God:
But, you man of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness…
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves… as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:11, 17-19)
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The Only Inflation-Proof Investment in the Universe Is the Investment in the Lord’s Work
People are always looking for good investments. People are asking, “Where should I invest my money to beat inflation? Should I buy stocks, gold, silver, bonds, real estate?” Those are difficult questions to answer because there are times when gold is a great investment… times when it is a bad investment… real estate goes up… then down.
But I want you to know that investment in the things of God is the only one that will last!
Study and meditate on Proverbs 3:9-10:
“Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the first fruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
If you’ll permit me to put that in 21st-century language, King Solomon—the wisest man ever—is saying that the first part of every dollar of income is to be used to honor the Lord. Gifts made to the church, to ministries who help the needy, heal the sick, and share the gospel, to friends and family who need care … these are the investments that will last forever!
Do you see the inflation hedge in that verse? You can’t beat this kind of investment.
And it all begins at the point of commitment when we decide to serve God instead of money, to place money in the right part of our priorities. To let go of materialism and invest in God’s Kingdom work. Jesus said that it is impossible to serve two masters.
You must make a choice. God or money. Who will it be?
Mark, I hope that you’ll find this helpful as you use your money wisely for the kingdom.