Biblical Personal Finance: Earning for God’s Glory
To paraphrase a question often asked by a popular financial advisor, imagine what the people of God could do if their financial houses were in order.
If the question doesn’t sound very “spiritual” we might have an unbiblical notion of spirituality. More than 2,000 Scripture verses deal with money and possessions. The way we manage money is fundamentally a spiritual matter (Luke 16:10-11). On top of this, consider the problems related to poor money management. In a recent survey 46% of Americans reported suffering from debt-related stress. Financial problems can lead to marital breakdowns and contribute to unethical behavior (Prov. 30:8-9).
It never ceases to amaze me that algebra is required in school but personal finance is not. We desperately need to hear what the Bible says about personal finance.
In Ephesians 4:28 Paul boils personal finance down to two points: Earning and spending. He does so not as a financial guru but as a pastor teaching believers how to “walk worthy of the calling with which [they] were called” (v. 1).
Fiscal fidelity looks different from family to family. Some believers cannot work due to severe handicap. Sometimes wives contribute to the family’s budget by working in the home. Still, ordinarily, earning and saving helps us to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4).
A number of principles help us navigate the waters of earning:
1. Heads of Household Must Provide
Paul says something startling in 1 Timothy 5:8. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” It’s hard to understand Paul’s phrase “worse than an unbeliever.” What could be worse than denying the gospel and rejecting God’s free grace? God’s answer: Failing to provide for your family. While it is permissible for a man to delegate breadwinning to his wife for weighty and justifiable reasons, the responsibility ultimately rests on him (Ruth 3:1-4; Eph. 5:28-29).
2. Needlessly Burdening Others Is Sin
It has become acceptable today for people who could be helping provide for themselves, to burden others. I’ll never forget the answer I heard when I once asked a man what he did for work. “I leech off the government,” he said. Even though such an answer approaches the pinnacle of shame, I have stopped being surprised having now heard the answer a number of times. The Bible says, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” Paul goes on to write, “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread” (2 Thess. 3:10-12).
3. Work Is for God’s Glory
Roughly 25% of our adult lives are dedicated to work. If we don’t work well, much of our life displeases our Maker. Even those who do not need to work to provide for their families still must work to glorify God. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:23,24).
This rule of God-honoring productivity also applies to young people. Children should begin laboring on behalf of the family from an early age. By their early teen years they should be pulling much of their own weight. This is important because children are developing lifelong habits. For a few generations many parents have not required their children to work. As a result, laziness and self-serving indulgence abounds. In some families a young person’s schooling is viewed as their work. When this is the case parents must see that their students are academically disciplined. Students not working hard at school should be otherwise gainfully employed so they can “eat their own bread.” The status of “student” doesn’t entitle anyone to be slothful and unproductive.
4. Workaholism Does Not Honor God
Very few people in our day and place are forced to overwork in order to survive. Instead, often workaholism is a sign of imbalance. It may indicate a retreat from family stressors. It may indicate that the family is spending more than they should and may need to downsize in order for the breadwinner to be home more. Workaholism can also be one of the many counterfeit gods we worship. The love of money, the seduction of success, and the power and glory of achievement may drive us to work too much. Even during busy times God demands rest (Ex. 34:21).
In an future post we’ll consider spending for God’s glory. Also, if you would like to study the subject of economics further, Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr.’s series Economics for Everybody is a recommended resource.