15 Oct I and my Money
As income disparities rise in the modern economy, it is becoming harder to maintain love and harmony between rich and poor. Paternalistic arrogance seems to be growing among the wealthy, and resentful envy seems to be growing among the poor. This estrangement is a major cause of our ongoing political and economic dysfunctions. We are not the first culture to struggle with this problem. The Bible contains hundreds of verses on poverty (some have suggested as many as 2,000). That makes it one of the most prominent topics in the entire Bible.
It wouldn’t be that bad if all the verses said pretty much the same thing. But they don’t. Instead, we get verses like “blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20) and other verses that say God rewards those who fear him with riches (e.g. Prov 22:4). And I’ve heard sermons that ignore both perspectives: either making poverty sound like the height of spirituality and equating wealth with greed and sin, or naively associating poverty with laziness and identifying wealth with blessing. Both approaches neglect some aspect of the biblical perspective on the subject.
Money in today’s society is godlike. It is an auxiliary god. And, if we aren’t careful, it will rule and ruin our lives. Many people don’t think we should bring God into our finances and one reason for this thinking is that money is too “worldly. Well, money is God’s. “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the LORD” (Psalm 24:1). It’s God’s money that we’re dealing with, and there is nothing too worldly for the one who created the world in the first place.
Once we recognize that God is the proprietor of all money, then we begin to understand our role to his money, his properties, and his gifts. From the very outset God placed humans in charge of his possessions. God said to Adam, “‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28). Jesus’ speaks in Matthew 6 in the language of a master to his servant, an owner to his steward, a CEO to his manager. The Biblical understanding of management is stewardship. It means a person who manages things that belong to someone else. A trustee of an estate is a good example. The estate is not theirs – they don’t own it – they are simply to manage the estate for the owner.
Often we get caught up in net worth statements and checkbook balances and how much is in the retirement account. We are bottom line people. So is God. But the bottom line for God is not how much money we have. It is how we use the money he entrusted to us to expand his kingdom. So we appreciate God’s part in money – it is his. And, our part – we are supervisors of his money. And, money’s role – a tool, a test, and a testimony. Now to return to the all important question. How is it possible to break the considerable influence money holds over us? The answer is to give it away. There is a greater power than money and that power is giving it away. French sociologist Jacques Ellul explains, “There is one act par excellence which profanes money by going directly against the law of money, an act for which money is not made. This act is giving.”
Think about it this way. How do you gain more vigor in your life? You spend energy. You give it away through workouts. How do you gain power over sin? You stride away from sin. You give up the choice and in doing so you get power over it. So how do you get control over money? By giving it away.Fitting spiritual stewardship shows to others that Christ is first in our lives. It proves that our faith is in God and it shows that Jesus is in control of our lives.
Shantanu Dutta is associated with the Delhi EGF and serves with the International Justice Mission. He is also a part of the Theological Research and Communications Institute (TRACI).