As Christians in the personal finance world, we walk a fine line. We need to advocate for personal financial responsibility, for being productive, for being good stewards of our money and for providing reasonably for contingencies for ourselves and our families. That effort has long arms—it extends to income, debt, investing, retirement planning and a host of other money related activities.
Against that backdrop we also have consider another reality that our faith teaches us: we will not be here forever. That has broad implications for our finances.
We’re not building empires here
In 1 Timothy 6:7-10, the Apostle Paul tells us:
“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”—1 Timothy 6:7-10 (NIV)
While it’s clear that we need to provide financially for ourselves and our families, we must always guard against taking those activities too far. If we pursue that goal too zealously we risk deserting our faith—of gaining the whole world yet losing our souls (Matthew 16:26).
We’re not building empires here on earth, not financial or any other way. All the great empires of history have collapsed—the Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans and every other since. Our own little “empires” will go the same way, no matter how well we plan them or how much we fund them. And nothing that we do can possibly insulate us from all forms of misfortune.
Take care of your finances, but understand that it has limits and keep a sense of proportion as you do.
Building walls around your stuff
Life in the 21st Century seems like the quest for stuff. We save for it, borrow for it and when we have it we revel in it, care for it, insure it and protect it. For that last part, we have fences and home security systems. We cherish our stuff as if it defines us.
The world does this, and we follow suit. But what does the world think when it sees us doing the same? Should we be handling it in a different way, and maybe trying to make a different statement? Should Christians have a different attitude toward stuff at all?
A house full of stuff will have no value in eternity.
Money and possession are only tools
Money and possessions can be great blessings. They can free us to concentrate on Kingdom work, on spreading the Gospel more fearlessly, and on helping those around us who are in need. Money and possessions therefore, are not evil in themselves.
More than anything though, it’s our own attitudes toward money and possessions that are most significant. Do we see them merely as tools that God has blessed us with, or do we put them up on an altar and worship them? If we allow them to define us in any way, or feel that we can’t part with them, then worship is exactly what we’re doing.
People are more important
Money can be a blessing, but only if we use it to bless others. We can and should enjoy some of our money, but at the same time we need to consider that the world is filled with struggling people. We need to be doing something for them where ever we can. No, we can’t fix all the problems of the world, but we can help a few people along the path of life.
Money is one way we can do that. And just like tithing, one of the spiritual sacrifices we make by helping others with money is that we’re letting go of money—our money. It’s not that we don’t value money or that it isn’t important to us, but rather that there are other things we consider to be more important.
And faith is more important still
We won’t take money and possessions out of the world with us, but there is one thing that we will take with us, and that’s our faith. If we think it’s important to guard our money, it’s infinitely more important that we guard and grow our faith.
Money can serve us during the course of our lives, but it’s purpose will stop at the grave. Faith will serve us for eternity. We should never let it take a backseat to our finances.
Our eternal salvation is not determined by a stellar credit rating, a fat retirement plan, a paid off home, or by the biggest collection of possessions we can afford. It will come only from our faith in Jesus Christ.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6
All the money in the world can’t buy that for us, but it could do a great job of getting in the way.
photo by nzgabriel