At the beginning of this series we talked about personal finance in the Bible and explored what I like to call God's Provident Plan. This article is the 2nd part of a series in which I talk personal finance in the good book. Last time we discussed the importance of contentment in Christ. Today, we'll look at God's call for diligent work and good stewardship.
Where contentment helps us to spend less on ourselves, understanding God’s call to work diligently helps us earn more money. As the gap between our spending and our income grows, we are left with more and more to manage wisely, prosper, and give generously to the needs of others. The attitude and spirit we have as we approach our work can also glorify and honor God’s name. We can be a witness to the goodness of God in how we deal with people in our businesses and our motivation in our work.
From the beginning of creation, part of our purpose was to work. When God created Adam, He assigned Adam the task of working in the Garden of Eden.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15 (NIV)
Additionally, we need to work to meet our needs. Proverbs 28:19 says:
He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty. Proverbs 28:19 (NIV)
We can use the abundance that comes from diligent work to meet our needs and to meet the needs of others. Paul exhorted his fellow Christians to work precisely for those reasons. Ephesians 4:28 says:
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Ephesians 4:28 (NIV)
Paul lived out the example of diligent work by meeting his own needs while he was serving among the brothers. Acts 20:34-35 says:
34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:34-35 (NIV)
The Bible warns against the dangers of laziness because it brings poverty, dishonor, and difficulties in life. God wants to protect us from these dangers, and that’s part of the reason He calls us to work hard. But in following God’s call to work hard, we must not forget our need for rest. God wants us to rest because He knows we need it. We will do our best work for Him and others when we balance diligence and a strong work ethic with the wisdom to know when to take our rest.
Finally, we can honor God by reflecting His character in our business and work. God values fairness, justice, integrity, and careful stewardship. These are values that we should use in our businesses and as we work for our employers. As the Spirit works through us, we will naturally follow God’s will in our work. But identifying the values and ethics God teaches us in the Bible can help us better serve Him as we grow in the likeness of Christ.
While the Bible says little about financial planning as we know it today, God has shown us the value of using wisdom and prudence in managing our affairs. There are verses that speak to planning ahead, saving, avoiding debt, and other practical matters we will encounter in our personal finances. By wisely managing the blessings God provides (that gap between our income and our spending), we can be good stewards and have even more to give in His name.
Good stewardship starts with understanding that God is the Creator of all things, the Owner of all things, and the Giver of all things.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 (NIV)
1 The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2 for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. Psalm 24:1-2 (NIV)
And David says in 1 Chronicles 29:14:
But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 1 Chronicles 29:14 (NIV)
The fact that God created all things, owns all things, and gives us all that we have should profoundly shape our lives. When we start to see our lives through the lens of God’s ownership, we make decisions based on eternal results. How you spend your money, what you buy, how you spend your time, your plans for the future – they must all run through the filter of God’s will. We must step back and ask ourselves “How does God want me to handle this decision?”. Through prayer, study, and discernment we learn how we can glorify and honor God through our personal finances.
What this often boils down to is determining how we can store up treasures in Heaven rather than treasures on Earth. Instead of always focusing on how we can maximize our wealth to meet our desires and dreams, we learn to focus on how we can meet the needs of others. We learn to follow Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 6:17-19:
17 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. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 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 (NIV)
Be sure to check in next week when we'll look at what the Bible says about prosperity!