God and Money, Part 1

“The most basic truth regarding money and possessions that we need to be regularly reminded of is the fact that God owns everything.”    

Personal finances are a tricky thing. We all struggle with our finances in one way or another. We live in a world that is obsessed with material possessions, yet we live in a kingdom that calls us to store our treasures in heaven. The tension that these two realities cause is tangible for all of us. We wonder if we’re saving too much or not saving enough. We wonder if we’re being too generous or not generous enough. We wrestle with our desire to buy certain things with the question of whether or not that purchase is glorifying to God. And the problem is that most people have no idea how to even begin answering those questions.

As a result, without a pathway to clarity, most people just end up giving up. Maybe you resort to just spending their paycheck every month and saving or giving whatever is left over. Or maybe you resort to using a credit card and hoping that your credit card bill is smaller than your paycheck at the end of the month.

But God isn’t calling us to give up, in fact he cares deeply about how we use our money. Jesus talked about money more than any other earthly subject. The reason was because he knows that our money (and what we do with it) is closely tied to our hearts. Our money follows wherever our hearts lead. And our hearts long for wherever our money has gone. This is why we constantly need to be reminded of some fundamental truths regarding money as well as some practical biblical principles that can help us answer the difficult questions mentioned above. We’ll dive into some of those principles in the next few posts, but let’s start by looking a few fundamental truths regarding our money and possessions.

God Owns Everything

The most basic truth regarding money and possessions that we need to be regularly reminded of is the fact that God owns everything. There may be possessions that are legally in your name, there may be many things within your possession, but everything that you have ultimately belongs to God and has been given to you for his purposes. As the Psalmist writes:

“The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.”(Psalm 24:1-2)

Everything is God’s, which means that everything we possess has been given to us and entrusted to us by God. Both John the Baptist and the Apostle Paul related similar sentiments:

“John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” (John 3:27)

“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

But if God owns everything, how are we to view those things that the world tells us belong to us? Your bank account is in your name. Your car is in your name. How do we think about ownership in this world if Scripture teaches us that everything belongs to God?

We are Stewards

There are a number of different aspects of our identity in Christ. In Christ we are children, we are saints, we are brothers and sisters, we are temples. But when it comes to our money and possessions the most central identity we have in Christ is that we are stewards. The definition of a steward is “a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another.” We are not owners but managers. God has granted to us the ability of ownership on this earth, but all that is within our possession is under our name as a manager for its true owner.

And as stewards, the best return we can get for that which we have been entrusted with is to invest it in eternity. Our stewardship is to follow the focal point of our lives. When we focus our lives on this world, our investments are made in the fleeing possessions and experiences of this world. When we focus our lives on Christ, our investments are made in eternity.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Stewards Budget

So, how are you stewarding the resources God has given you? Do you even know? Most of us feel like we’re doing alright. But how do you know? How you feel about your finances may be a helpful indicator of whether or not you need to take a closer look, but our feelings are actually a pretty ineffective evaluative tool in determining how healthy and eternally focused our money and possessions are.

This is why you need a budget. In the following posts we’re going to discuss topics like choosing a lifestyle, saving, investing, debt, and giving. But you can’t actually put any of the principles we are going to discuss into practice unless you use a budget. Evaluating your personal finances without a budget is like trying to evaluate your health without using a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, x-ray, or MRI. How you feel about your finances (or your physical health) may give you some vague indication of how you’re doing, but it’s nowhere near as specific as you need and can oftentimes be misleading.

This is why the very first step in utilizing your finances for the glory of God is developing an accurate budget. Start by tracking your expenses for a month and build your budget off of that. If everything you had simply belonged to you, you could handle it however you pleased, but the truth is it doesn’t. And if everything you have actually belongs to someone else and you are simply the caretaker, then it’s time to figure out what kind of caretaker you’re being. Are you utilizing what you’ve been entrusted with according to the desires of its owner, or are you utilizing what you’ve been entrusted with simply to your own advantage and benefit (something even the world doesn’t tolerate in any business or organization). Whose glory do you utilize your possessions for? It’s this question that we’ll look at in more depth in the next post.