When trying to understand money management from a biblical perspective, the most important thing to consider is our salvation. Fully understanding the gospel is the key to money management that obeys the command to honor the Lord with your finances!
There are various aspects of our salvation that should drive how we handle our personal finances. The reality of our being made right before a holy and just God, and also being set free from sin, should have a huge affect on how we even view our money.
The first aspect that we are going to look at is the fact that once we have been set free from the bondage of sin, we instantly become slaves of Christ. This then means that we should manage our money differently than we did before God gave us a new heart!
Slaves of Jesus Christ
Many times in the bible, Christians are referred to (or refer to themselves) as slaves of God and slaves of Christ! Here are a few passages:
- Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God ~ Romans 1:1
- For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. ~ 1 Corinthians 7:22
- For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. ~ Galatians 1:10
- …not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. ~ Ephesians 6:6
- Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons ~ Philippians 1:1
- Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. ~ Colossians 4:12
- Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness ~ Titus 1:1
- James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. ~ James 1:1
- Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. ~ 1 Peter 2:16
- Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ ~ 2 Peter 1:1
- Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ ~ Jude 1:1
- The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John ~ Revelation 1:1
In each one of the verses above, the words slave, bond-servant, and bondslave all translate the Greek word Doulos. The word doulos literally means a slave! We are all slaves and Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master!
Since we are slaves to our Lord Jesus Christ, that means that we are to be obedient to His commands and subject to His will. As slaves, we do not have authority over our own bodies, desires, or even finances; but instead, we are to submit them to our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. The motivation behind everything that we do in life needs to be a desire to please our master, and glorify God!
The Apostle Paul puts it this way:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
The bible is clear here, we are not our own because we have been “bought with a price” – this is a clear reference to believers being redeemed (cf. 1 Peter 1:18) from the bondage of sin. We were purchased (or bought as Paul described it) with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and because of this we are not our own, and we are to glorify God in our bodies!
This doesn’t only apply when it comes to deep spiritual matters, but it is true of every area in our lives! Well, the question which we are seeking to answer is, “How does my salvation and resulting slavery impact my finances?“.
Slaves And Stewards
A steward is one who is responsible for the possessions of another. For instance, if a king went away to fight a battle, he might appoint a steward to manage the kingdom while he is gone. Many wealthy individuals would appoint stewards to be over their finances – having them handle the day-to-day activities on their behalf. Two points about stewards are important for us in our discussion…
- Stewards have complete authority to act on the owner’s behalf
- Stewards are expected to carry out the will of the true owner
In the ancient world – especially the Greek and Roman cultures – it was common for a master to give certain responsibilities to their slaves. They all weren’t just relegated to manual labor, but some were actually given roles of leadership (consider Joseph being the 2nd in command under Pharaoh – Genesis 41:38-45). In fact, in ancient Greek culture, slaves were the primary educators for many children!
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a parable (commonly known as the ‘parable of the talents’) about a man who goes on a journey and appoints three of his slaves to be stewards over a portion of his wealth. I believe that by looking at this parable, we can get a good idea of what it means to be a steward over God’s possessions:
14 For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.
This is a perfect picture of our relationship to God, especially in the realm of “our” finances! The bible tells us that God owns everything in this world:
For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains. ~ Psalm 50:10-12
God owns everything, we are His slaves, and has entrusted us with His possessions.
15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.
17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.
I think that there is something very important that we most note here: Each one of the Lord’s slaves were given a different amount of money over which to be a steward, according to their ability. What we see here is that the Lord gives each one of his followers a certain level of responsibility. Even the one who wasn’t really a follower was given responsibility (though much less), and, as we will see later, his inability to be fruitful showed that he wasn’t really a believer at all.
But, the thing to take away from here is that every one of us is responsible to be good stewards over what God has given to us. It doesn’t matter if we have more or less than those around us – every penny has been given to us by God, and He expects us to be faithful to His will in using it.
18 “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.
Each one of us will have to give an account on how we use all of our gifts, including our money! We need to manage our money as a wise and faithful steward who will be called to give an account of how we used our Master’s money while here on earth!
20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.‘
21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
22 Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.‘
23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
I think this is one of the most encouraging aspects of this parable. In fact, I’ll let John MacArthur sum up this point:
Both the man with 5 talents and the man with two received exactly the same reward, indicating that the reward is based on faithfulness, not results. ~ MacArthur Study Bible (notes on Matthew 25:23)
This is why it is so important for us to not get caught up in what we don’t have, or what someone else does. We can’t say, “Oh, I would give a lot more if I had as much money as him“! We have to be faithful with whatever we have, and try to be a blessing to others. Remember, God commands us to be faithful, and He promises to bless our obedience to His word!
24 And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.
The fact that this “slave” didn’t understand his Master’s character, as well as his slothful attitude, reveals that he is not a genuine believer! Jesus said (speaking about false prophets), “you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). This man’s fruit was laziness and disbelief; clearly not the fruit of a believer.
25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’
26 But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.
27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
This wicked slave was condemned by his own words. If he was afraid of the Master’s wrath, then that should have been motivation for him to be obedient!
28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
29 For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.
Allow me to quote from the MacArthur Study Bible once again:
The recipients of divine grace inherit immeasurable blessings in addition to eternal life and the favor of God (cf. Romans 8:32). But those who despise the riches of God’s goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering (Romans 2:4), burying them in the ground and clinging instead to the paltry and transient goods of this world, will ultimately lose everything they have (cf Matthew 6:19; John 12:25) ~ Note on Matthew 25:29
One motivation for proper money management on Earth, is the fact that we will have immeasurable treasures in Heaven! There is no worldly possession, jewel, precious metal, or other form of wealth that can compare to the riches waiting for us in Christ Jesus!
30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The unfaithful, unregenerate slave will spend eternity in Hell, because of his failure to trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross to bear the punishment of his sin; not for his lack of proper money management. However, his inability to please the Master is a direct result of his heart!
photo by bela_kiefer
If we are to please God with how we handle our personal finances, we must first realize that we are slaves of Christ! Another aspect of our slavery (which we will talk about in a future article) is the fact that God will provide for us completely. Everything that we have is from God, and we are to be faithful stewards over all we have. We should understand that we all have been entrusted with various levels of wealth, and our main responsibility is to use it to carry out God’s will – which means that we must study and pray in order to know His will!
Examine your heart and your checkbook to see if you have this mindset. If you have gone through life thinking that the money in your bank account is yours, and that you can spend it how you please, then take a moment to confess that sin to God, allow Him to cleanse you and begin to show you this truth. Pray and ask God to help you desire a willingness to selflessly serve Him and be faithful to His commands.
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