From the January/February 2022 issue of Discern Magazine

What Does the Bible Say About Money?

Is the way we manage “our” money only a physical, bookkeeping consideration, or is it a character issue? Make a full study of what the Bible says about money.

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Money management. Is it merely a secular matter, or is it a spiritual issue—a test of Christian character? The Bible teaches us that it can be both. Full understanding comes from considering all that God reveals on this topic.

Money is just a thing, a physical concept. In and of itself, it doesn’t satisfy any of the basic needs of life—food, clothing and shelter. We can’t eat money. We don’t wear it. We don’t live in it.

Instead, in our modern, nonbarter economies, money represents buying power. It is the means of acquiring other physical goods and services that do sustain us and do satisfy our most basic needs—something to eat, something to wear and a place to protect us from the elements. It makes it possible for us to support our family.

So it’s understandable that money, money management and budgeting can be viewed as merely physical issues, involving only arithmetic. We try to see to it that our inflow of money is at least equal to our outflow.

Many issues regarding money are spiritual matters, involving choices and character

But there is more to it than arithmetic. Where we obtain our money and how we choose to spend it obviously involve choices. Choices often involve character and spiritual issues.

For example, would God be equally pleased if we “earned” our income by fraudulent and deceptive advertising, as contrasted to honest labor? Would God be indifferent as to whether we earned our income by working on a Tuesday, as contrasted to working on His holy Sabbath?

Or, say a person has a hundred dollars to spend. Would his character be identically judged by God if he chose to spend it on food for his family, rather than on illicit drugs—or on a wager involving a sporting event—or on pornography?

We don’t have to discuss money management very long before character and spiritual issues and God’s judgment come to the fore.

What does the Bible say about money, wealth and our management of it?

Consider the following question. What is the single most important passage in the Bible regarding money, wealth and our management of it?

Several possible answers come to mind. Here are some verses and passages you may wish to refer to as you formulate your answer.

Is it what Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 6:25-34?

Or is it what the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:10? Or what he wrote in 1 Timothy 5:8?

Or how about what God spoke through the prophet Malachi, recorded in Malachi 3:10?

Jesus said some other things about money and wealth. Is it one of these statements: Luke 6:20; Mark 10:23-25; or Luke 12:15?

Or might it be what the psalmist was inspired to write in Psalm 112:1-3?

Or is the answer what is said of Abraham, God’s “friend” and the “father” of the faithful, as recorded in Genesis 13:1-2?

I invite you to read all of these passages, and others that come to your mind, before answering the question, “What is the single most important passage in the Bible regarding money and wealth and our management of it?”

What is your answer?

Wealth is a blessing: one answer that some come to

Some people look into the Bible and select their answer from among the following candidates: Genesis 12:1-3; 13:1-2; Deuteronomy 28:1-8; Malachi 3:10; Psalms 37:25; 112:1-3; Proverbs 3:13-16; 10:22; and 3 John 1:2. I invite you to read all of these verses.

Whichever one passage they select from this list, they then develop a biblical view of money, wealth and our management of it that could be summarized as follows:

Money and physical wealth (possessions) are simply things. They are not inherently either good or bad. It is His people’s use of the thing and attitude toward the thing that God is most concerned with.The Bible teaches that God will materially and financially bless those He is pleased with, and that having abundant money and physical wealth is a good thing—a thing from God.

Sometimes those who focus on such passages adhere to what has become known as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel. Obey God, please Him, and He will bless you materially and see to it that you are rich. Perhaps it is understandable that people could come to that conclusion. After all, they certainly seem to have scriptural support for it.

Blessed are the poor: a different biblical answer to the same question

Others answer the question by using one of the candidates from the following list (again, you are invited to read these passages yourself): Mark 10:23-25; Luke 6:20; 1 Timothy 6:10; James 2:5; and Revelation 2:8-10.

Whichever particular passage they use for their answer, they develop a different biblical view regarding this whole topic—a view that could be summarized as follows:

The Bible teaches that God will allow (or cause) His people to be poor, and that having abundant physical wealth is a spiritually dangerous, troublesome and onerous thing for the righteous and is contrary to God’s will.

And they, too, sure seem to have scriptural support for their conclusion. Just read the verses listed above. These people are convinced that God intends for the righteous to be poor in this lifetime. It’s best for them. Having money and riches will ruin them.

A fuller, balanced look at what the Bible says about money

Depending on the circumstances and the particular way God is working with His people at a specific time and place in history, either biblical understanding could be the correct and relevant one. It’s best to look at many passages, not just one or a few, to come to a mature and balanced understanding about a topic as big as money, wealth and management of it.

In fact, the question posed at the beginning of the article was a bit of a trick question. There is no one single passage in the Bible that is more important than all the others. Everything God says on a matter should be studied. We need to beware of an approach that results in a “single verse” doctrinal understanding.

The topic of this article is only one example. It is far better to study all the scriptures, not just a few, in order to understand God’s will on any subject. And, of course, it is important to pray for a full, mature and balanced understanding of any topic, after studying as many biblical passages as we can on that topic.

God and money: a fuller and more complete conclusion

Here is a third set of passages, most of which were not included in either of the first two sets. If you would like to take the time and make a personal Bible study about money, consider all of the following: Deuteronomy 6:10-13; Psalm 62:10; Proverbs 6:6-9; 13:22; 15:16-17; Matthew 6:25-34; 13:22; Luke 3:14; 9:23-25; 12:15-21; Acts 20:35; Philippians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 6:8, 10, 17-18; and Revelation 3:15-18.

Taking them prayerfully into consideration would help a person develop a more mature and fully developed understanding of this topic. Now, something like the following summary statement would be appropriate:

Money and physical wealth (possessions) are simply things. They are not inherently either good or bad. It is His people’s use of the thing and attitude toward the thing that God is most concerned with. God sometimes does permit or cause His people to face poverty and need, sometimes as a test. In those cases, they should be grateful for and content with the necessities, and look to Him for His help and provision. In other cases, God blesses His people abundantly, and they should be grateful, generous and humble in the face of those blessings, never forgetting their source.

For those interested in pursuing this large topic more fully, see these articles:

The prayer of Agur

Though there is no one single most important verse in the Bible concerning money and wealth, perhaps it would be good to conclude with one final passage that expresses a spiritually mature and balanced approach to the subject of money and wealth.

It is the wisdom we find in the prayer of Agur: “Two things I request of You (deprive me not before I die): remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9).

About the Author

Tom Kirkpatrick

Tom Kirkpatrick holds a PhD in accounting from the University of North Texas, and is a retired CPA. He has taught accounting and business courses at the university graduate level, and has served in the financial management of Church of God organizations. He most recently pastored two congregations of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, before his retirement in 2020.

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