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Money Matters

It’s been well said time and time again that money is like a microscope; magnifying what is really inside of us. In other words, when something affects our wallet, our reaction often reveals our heart. Are we generous where God has called us to be? Are we eager to meet the needs of others? Are we content in seasons of little and faithful during seasons of plenty? These are the questions that we ought to ask; trusting the Holy Spirit to convict and shape us through the Word.

In the Gospels, an average of one out of every 10 verses deals with money. Luke’s Gospel leads the way with the more talk of money than all the other Synoptic Gospels. Clearly, Jesus wanted us to be well-informed when it comes to how we manage money. As you and I seek to be teachable stewards under the sanctifying chisel of the Holy Spirit, Luke’s Gospel can be a great place to turn for guidance.

Here are several principles for money management from Luke, along with references for further study.

Followers of Jesus march to different beat when it comes to money

Even before Jesus arrived, John the Baptist was announcing His arrival and declaring that followers of the Lamb of God would be called to a renewed way of living — and giving. The Baptist called for the “fruit of repentance” (Luke 3:8) and when asked, “Then what shall we do?” (3:10) he told them to share food and clothing (3:11), conduct business with integrity (3:12-13), and if they were in powerful positions to be content refrain from monetary exploitation (3:14). This is different.

Guard your heart against greed

From the parable of the soils and the thorny snare of riches and pleasure (Luke 8:14), to the rich young ruler who couldn’t stand the thought of choosing Christ over cash (18:18-25), we must guard our hearts against greed (12:13-15). It’s a trap with eternal ramifications.

Earthly security is not a sign of spiritual security

Jesus didn’t mince words when He asked, “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25). You can have all this world but still not have the One who holds the world. Building bigger barns and fattening your soul with the comforts of this fleeting world guarantees nothing with God. For God Himself said, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” (12:20).

Giving money doesn’t make up for a lifestyle of disobedience

The Pharisees were experts at external righteousness — but Jesus had some bad news for these seemingly good, religious experts. In Luke 11:42 Jesus warns, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Jesus calls His followers to give generously but never is that a “get out of jail free” card concerning sin, injustice, and shallow religiosity.

Where your treasure is, there your heart is

The world chases physical security as though it will preserve them spiritually. On their way to achieving temporal security they worry until medications control their anxiety. In the race of life, to have is to win — and many die trying. Those with the most boast of being the master of their destiny; the captain of their soul. Jesus targets the heart of humankind declaring, “For where you treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). The words of Martin Luther are fitting here: “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.” Christian, do not fear for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom (12:32). Seek it! All else will fall into place according to His will (12:31).

Big offerings don’t necessarily mean big sacrifice

If a billionaire gives $10,000 dollars and a broke widow gives $10, what does God see? In Luke 21:1-4 Jesus squares up the wealthy as they arrogantly put their large gifts into the treasury. Their show of generosity was just that — a show. Then, in the midst of their pompous display a humble widow comes forward. I doubt few even noticed but Jesus certainly did. Christ’s words dropped like an anvil of conviction; melting their haughty hearts. He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that had to live on” (21:3-4).

Death is the great equalizer for both the rich and the poor

Jesus was teaching His disciples about money one day and told the story about a rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus was but a poor man who ate the crumbs off the rich man’s table and lay by his gate; helplessly left in his poverty (Luke 19:21). Eventually, the rich man would die in his fine robes and poor Lazarus in his rags (16:22-23). One would go to heaven, the other into Hades. From this sobering glimpse of life beyond the grave we learn that death is the great equalizer.The rich and the poor will one day share the same end. From his agony and torment in Hades the rich man cried out for just a drop of water for his burning tongue (Luke 16:24). Father Abraham — who held Lazarus closely in heavenly paradise — responds saying, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony” (16:25). On judgment day, it won’t matter how much you possessed on earth but Whom you possessed. Those who by grace have Christ shall have life, and life more abundantly.

It’s human nature to view money as a false sense of security. May the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke be a Spirit-inspired reminder to master our money for His glory and kingdom’s gain.

A Biblical View of Wealth

Money tests our hearts like little else on earth. Whether it be the test of poverty, or the test of prosperity, money brings out the best and worst in us. Far too often, and I am sure you’d agree, we don’t know as much about God’s view on money as we ought to, but are afraid to admit. Within church-circles, it’s even more daunting to face our deficiencies on money-management because we’re “supposed” to be people of the Book – with all of the answers rolling off the tip our tongue. Some people preach the prosperity gospel (false), promising God wants you rich. Some preach the poverty gospel (also false), promising God wants you poor. Reality is, everybody needs to continuously revisit biblical principles on money and be a balanced, lifelong student of financial stewardship. To help contrast some of the bad teaching out there, here are some starter-principles to build upon.

Principle #1: God owns everything

When we think of wealth, first, we have to understand that God owns everything! God doesn’t owe you and I anything, He isn’t shocked by the state of the world, and He never “lost the deed to the earth” when Adam sinned, as prosperity preachers and Word of Faith enthusiasts will preach. God doesn’t just hold the deed to all land; He is the Creator of all land.

God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10); He owns everything under heaven, for that matter (Job 41:11). The Psalmist declares, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). There is no arguing with the Bible on who owns everything. God does.

So if God is the owner of everything, what does that make us? When we understand this first principle, we quickly realize we are simply, managers. One day, we’ll give an account for how we managed what He’s entrusted to us (see Matthew 25:14–30).

Principle #2: Wealth isn’t guaranteed on earth

The Bible is equally as clear that while God owns everything, wealth isn’t guaranteed for everyone on earth. Jesus told His disciples that the poor would always be with them (John 12:8). We can gather from His words that people are naturally going to struggle financially in this broken world. No wonder Scripture is so adamant that the poor be cared for—they are some of society’s most vulnerable people. Assuming, of course, that they are not poor because they are lazy (the Bible has much to say on laziness, but we’ll have to cover that another time), God cares greatly for those who are in need. The book of Proverbs contains wisdom on serving the poor because wealth is not always going to be evenly spread around the world. Because of that we should:

  • Not oppress the poor, but rather, be kind to them (Proverbs 14:31)
  • Lend to the poor and trust the Lord with the results (Proverbs 19:17)
  • Be generous and share food with the poor (Proverbs 22:9)
  • Give to the poor and not ignore them (Proverbs 28:27)
  • Protect the rights of the poor (Proverbs 29:7)

Caring for the poor is necessary because wealth is not guaranteed for all. Beyond that, Scripture show us what God wants for all of us. Contentment, not riches, should be the goal of every believer. We must maintain balance in our understanding on wealth and poverty. With his intelligence, extensive religious training (Acts 26:5), and Roman citizenship (Acts 22:27), the apostle Paul was certainly deserving of great wealth, but clearly he wasn’t focused on whatever the prosperity preachers of today are selling. He has learned the value in contentment (Philippians 4:12).

God accomplishes his purposes in and through both the poor and the rich. In the end, contentment is the key to a happy heart (1 Timothy 6:8).

Principle #3: Wealth is a tool for gospel advancement

Even though wealth is not guaranteed on earth, God does give the opportunity to gain wealth. You may say, “Nobody gave me wealth—I earned it!” The children of Israel thought the same thing, but Moses reminded them that it was God who was blessing them based solely on His sovereign will (Deuteronomy 8:17–18). In short, if God has blessed you with wealth, you ought to humbly thank Him and realize that you have a great responsibility.

When it comes to being rich, the Bible is hardly silent on what rich people are supposed to do with their abundance of money. Yes, it’s biblical and prudent to leave an inheritance for your children (Proverbs 13:22), and it’s good to work hard and save for the future (Proverbs 6:6). But you know what the greatest purpose of wealth is? To advance the gospel and do God’s will! Paul told Timothy that rich people are to do this very thing. In a very straightforward passage he says,

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 6:17–19)

There you have it. Wealth is not a sin. You’re allowed to enjoy it. But don’t for a second fix your hope on it. It’s a tool for ministry, not materialism.

The best investment strategy on earth is putting stock in heaven! Jesus affirmed this investment strategy when He said to store up treasure in heaven where nothing can destroy it (Matthew 6:19–21).

Use your wealth to advance the gospel. You can’t take it with you. There will be no U-Haul behind the hearse.

Principle #4: Wealth is not a sign of elite spiritual status

Prosperity preachers will tell you that wealth is a sign of an elite spiritual awakening. As in, “You have finally realized your full identity as a child of God when you step into the wealth God has for you.…” Or some nonsense like that.

Again, check the Bible on this. It is estimated the Bible contains upwards of two thousand references to money. Approximately 50 percent of Jesus’s parables dealt with stewardship of money and “stuff,” and nearly three hundred verses in just the Gospels alone deal with money. Doesn’t this tell you that money and wealth are a very serious subject to God? Nor do all these verses contain exciting affirmations about being wealthy; rather, many of them contain warnings about being wealthy. In fact, wealth is often a distraction from what really matters, so it takes a lot of discipline and biblical teaching to keep your heart from being sucked in by money’s malicious pull. The wealthy are often in a tug-of-war between their affections for earthly things (Philippians 3:19) and the eternal life to come. Wealthy believers, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can overcome temptations and use wealth as a tool for good, but more than likely there will always be a battle in the heart between giving generously and the natural inclination to keep, keep, keep.

Does the Bible paint wealth as a mark of the spiritual elite, or does it warn of the dangers of having all the things your heart desires? Look at what the Bible warns about wealth and decide for yourself:

  • You can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).
  • The deceitfulness of riches chokes out fruitfulness (Mark 4:19).
  • It’s difficult for rich people to choose Christ over wealth (Luke 18:22–23).
  • It’s difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:25).
  • The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
  • Your soul is your most important asset (Luke 12:20).
  • You can gain the whole world yet lose your soul if you do not have Christ (Mark 8:36).

Furthermore, in the Bible, the poor and afflicted are given special attention when it comes to spiritual care, and they are often able to worship more freely because they are free of the entanglements that riches bring. Revelation 2:9 illustrates this perfectly and tells us what real riches are. Jesus calls the church of Smyrna “rich” because even though they are in poverty and tribulation, they have held fast to their faith no matter the cost! They receive the highly esteemed crown of life for their faithfulness and suffering on earth (Revelation 2:10). What a powerful truth! Wealth is not a sign of elite spiritual status—having Christ is.

Don’t buy the lies the prosperity preachers sell. The wealthy should be asking, “How can I be more sacrificial?” Rather than, “How can I boast in my elite status?” 

Principle #5: Wealth is an immense responsibility

If you’re wealthy, you were meant to build God’s kingdom, not your own earthly empire. Jesus said not to be anxious about any kind of provision but to instead seek His kingdom and his righteousness and that everything else would be taken care of (Matthew 6:31–33). In fact, we are all called to live generous lives with whatever means we have. Jesus said that when a widow gave two cents, she had given more than the wealthy who had given large amounts (Luke 21:1–4). He doesn’t see the size of your gift; He sees the state of your heart. When we give, we must give willingly, not under compulsion (2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:7). Wealth is a responsibility to steward, trusting that God has blessed you to be a blessing and that He will keep blessing you as He sees fit. Our job isn’t to keep; our job is to work hard, invest well, and give generously (again, see Matthew 25:14–30).

Prosperity gospel preachers want you to give to them to make them rich, but God wants you to give to faithful gospel ministries to help them reach. There is a world of hurting and broken people, and money can make a huge impact in ways that will long outlive you. You will be accountable for how you managed the wealth God has given you. That is an immense responsibility. What will your conversation be like before the throne of Christ? Will you stammer and stutter, claiming to have tried to give a little here and there while you spent most of it on your own pleasures and let the poor suffer and the church struggle? Or will you joyfully report to the Master, saying, “Lord, sometimes it went against the grain of this world to give sacrificially for your work, but pleasing you was the priceless treasure I held on to!” If we live that way, I have no doubt we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).

So go ahead! Work hard, enjoy life, and celebrate the gifts that God has given you. Be content, seek His kingdom first, care for others, and give generously in whatever ways He has enabled you to do. In all your working, living, striving, giving, and caring, remember to maintain biblical balance and keep eternity in mind.

God is not trying to take away all you have—He’s the one who gave it. He is, more than anything, testing the affections of your heart and offering you a joy beyond this world with Him in glory.

Wealth is not a sin; it’s a responsibility. Use it well.