What the Bible Says About Money
The Bible has a great deal to say about money and our use of it. Though an outspoken group of people today suggest that having wealth and making wise financial decisions is selfish or sinful, the Bible simply doesn’t take that viewpoint.
One example is that of King Solomon. According to historians, the wealth of king Solomon was simply astronomical. He was at least the wealthiness person in history at that point. And yet the Bible says that it was God who gave Solomon his wealth. God gave that massive, lavish wealth to Solomon even though Solomon didn’t ask for it. If having great wealth and money itself were in fact evil, why would God choose to give someone large amounts of it?
There are other people whom the Bible calls righteous who were blessed by God with great wealth. God blessed Job with great wealth after Job was tested. He also blessed Abraham and David with wealth. If God saw being wealthy as sinful then would He have blessed faithful people with money?
Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.”
Yet at the same time the Bible tells us that the blessing of wealth is not a reward God gives to those who are lazy. Again in Proverbs we read, “He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment” (12:11).
Other passages in Proverbs about work:
- “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (14:23).
- “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in the summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son” (10:4,5).
- ”One who is slack in his work is a close relative of one who destroys” (18:9).
- “Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing” (20:4).
- “The cravings of sluggards will be the death of them, because their hands refuse to work” (21:25).
- “I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest–and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man” (24:30-34).
1 Timothy 5:8 says that anyone who does not take care of his own family “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
In Proverbs we’re also told that, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (13:22). In order to leave an inheritance, not just to our own children, but to our children’s children requires work, discipline, investing, planning and saving up our money!
The Bible tells us that it is through noble qualities that wealth is obtained (hard work, diligence, sacrifice) and that failure to do those things will result in poverty. That’s not to say that all those who are poor or in poverty are sluggards or refuse to work, but it does tell us that those kinds of characteristics and flaws will most often lead to poverty.
In Luke 19 we read where Jesus tells a parable about three servants who were given charge over some money. In the story, Jesus says that two of the servants wisely invested the money while the third buried it in the ground. In His story, the one who simply buried it in the ground was called “lazy and wicked.”
What Can We Do With Money?
According to the Bible there are things we can do with money that are fine, good and proper. Here is a list:
1. Further God’s Kingdom – This is to be taken care of above all else. The Jewish people took 10 percent off the top of their earnings to give to further God’s Kingdom. We should also give to the church to send missionaries, train teachers and oversee the work of the church (Malachi 3:7-12, 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, 2 Corinthians 9:7).
2. Provide for our own families. The Bible says that we are expected to provide for our own families. Once we’ve done that, we can worry about helping others and, in fact, we should work toward being in a financial state where we can help other families but each person should make sure that he/she provides for his/her immediate family first and work outward from there (1 Timothy 5:8, Proverbs 13:22).
3. Help the poor. I don’t know how anyone who is able can refuse to help someone who is in great need. But it doesn’t just have to be with money. As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Maybe the best way to help is to train someone to earn for themselves. But when someone is in a time of misfortune, those who have taken care of the first two priorities listed above will be prepared and able to provide financial assistance to help someone get back on his feet.
The challenge is to determine which would be best: money, training or, if the person is lazy, to allow that person to experience hunger so that they’ll appreciate the value of work. Sometimes that is also being “kind” as Proverbs 19:17 says we should be to the poor (Proverbs 19:17, 21:13, 29:7). 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” It’s our duty to have a very good idea whether someone is hungry because they won’t work or because they can’t (or have had recent difficult times). Knowing this would require a relationship and perhaps that is why Paul wrote the statement to the Thessalonian church rather than calling on a government or other source. We aren’t called to enable laziness or to fund irresponsibility. In fact, we’re told that we shouldn’t provide for someone who won’t work. Allowing someone to experience the consequences of their actions (or inaction), though difficult, is sometimes very helpful to them in the long run. Either way, the Bible tells us to help the poor.
4. Invest for our future. It is wrong to mooch off of others especially if we’re able-bodied enough to do something to earn an income. And as we are earning we should be planning for a day when we aren’t able to work as hard or as long. The Bible speaks well of those who leave an inheritance to their children, but not those who live off of their children. We should plan and save for the future (Proverbs 13:22, 21:20, 27:18, 31:25, Ecclesiastes 11:2, Luke 19:12-26).
5. Enjoy the fruits of our labor. The Bible doesn’t condemn enjoying the results of your work. In fact, we very often read about feasting and celebrations in the Bible after a time of work and production. The first miracle of Jesus was to turn water to wine at a feast of a wealthy man. The Bible says there is a time to “laugh” to “dance” and to have “peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; also see Proverbs 13:25, 14:24, 15:6, 31:31).
What the Bible Says About Debt
Proverbs 22:7 says “…the borrower is slave to the lender.”
The Bible never speaks well of debt. Debt is an anchor around our necks that prevents us from restful nights and restricts our ability to invest for our future.
“One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor but has great wealth” (Proverbs 13:7; also see Proverbs 12:9).
Debt is a temptation because it allows us to have what we can’t afford and have not earned. Yet we pay a larger price for it then someone who can afford it. For example, if someone pays cash for a car, they don’t pay the interest payments that someone would pay who borrows money. So the person who can afford the brand new car pays less for it than the person who can’t. The person who can’t afford it in the first place “pretends to be wealthy” but digs themselves a deeper hole in which they are able to afford even less because of the burden of debt. Debt is indeed deceptive and prevents us from becoming financially stable or wealthy.
So as Proverbs points out, it is many times the wealthy who don’t buy the latest and greatest gadgets or live in large, expensive houses. But because they have saved, invested wisely and avoided debt they are able to survive and even thrive during a bad economic time or in unforeseen hardships (see Proverbs 13:8).
I once spoke with a financial advisor and asked him a hypothetical question: “How can I be financially independent?” His answer was, “It depends on how much you spend.” He went on to explain that if my cars were paid off and I didn’t spend a lot of money I wouldn’t need as much. So if I lived on less and was slow to spend, I could retire early or start my own business and survive during the early days when the business is getting off the ground. It would be especially helpful if I saved my money instead of spending it and then used what I saved for basics when starting my business. Far better to do that than to go in debt.
The message was clear — don’t spend what I don’t have, don’t borrow to “pretend” to be rich and DO save my money for the future. If you read through Proverbs, Solomon says that’s how it’s supposed to be anyway even if you’re not trying to start a business. It is through that type of behavior that someone builds wealth and the Lord blesses such wisdom in action.
So the next time you hear someone villainizing a wealthy person because they are wealthy, remember that the Bible attributes wealth to hard work, wisdom, personal sacrifice, patience, perseverance, self control and wisdom. Not only that, but the Bible says that “the blessing of the Lord brings wealth (Proverbs 10:22).”
It’s time for us to see money as it should be seen so that we can use it as it should be used. The next time you see someone who is wealthy, instead of feeling jealous, perhaps you should try to learn from them. Not all people earn money through an honest, respectable way but the ones who do are good examples for us and the Bible says we should “Walk with the wise to become wise…” (Proverbs 13:20).