We have a very complex relationship with money. The whole world actually revolves around it, whether we like it or not. The making of it. Buying. Selling. There is no getting away from it. Money is a powerful thing. Whether you have it or whether you don’t, it can be very consuming. So how is a servant of God, a true Christian, to be righteous when it concerns financial matters?
The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to love money or the things that money can buy. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Timothy 6:10. We can see that very clearly in the world around us. A desire for wealth – greed – brings with it a lot of hardship and evil. Yet we all have to deal with money in our lives; it’s inescapable. Whether it’s struggling just to have enough to live on, which is a very real struggle for many people, or using that which we have wisely and righteously, or the temptation to get caught up in the clamor of constantly wanting more.
The righteous steward
Jesus tells a parable about being a righteous steward. A steward is one who looks after something that has been made their responsibility. In the conclusion of the parable Jesus says: “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [earthly matters] who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” Luke 16:10-12. Jesus makes it clear that being righteous in earthly matters, over that which God has given you, is imperative. Clearly righteousness in financial matters is essential to living an exemplary Christian life. If we can’t manage this, then how can God entrust true riches to us?
Whether you have very little money, or whether you are well-off, God requires righteousness with what you have. Nearly three thousand years ago Solomon wrote these words: “Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” Ecclesiastes 7:29. In modern society this applies just as much. Often the schemes that people come up with involve ways to benefit oneself, regardless of the expense to others around them. And when these schemes concern financial matters, the root is often covetousness, which is defined as greedy acquisition of material possessions. How many have the humility to recognise this in themselves? We naturally seek for more and more, because of our inherent pride and belief that we deserve better than what we have.
However, God’s Word speaks very clearly about covetousness. It is one of the original ten commandments that God gave His people in the old covenant. And that hasn’t changed for the modern world. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.” Hebrews 13:5. We have an incredible example in the Apostle Paul, who gives his testimony about these matters: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:10-13. As God-fearing Christians, our goal should be that we have the same testimony in our lives. That, leaving stress and striving behind us, we are content with what we have, believing that God will look after all those who have their confidence in Him. Learning, as Paul did, to be satisfied with our financial status in life will be of great benefit to ourselves and those whom our lives touch. This means being stewards of what God has seen fit to entrust us with in righteousness, and not in selfish pursuits.
“Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice.” Proverbs 16:8.
Putting in an effort to earn money is not wrong, and there is no more virtue in being poor than being rich, but if it is the lusts of the flesh that compel us to earn more and more and seek more, bringing unrest and sin that separates from the will of God, then of course it’s time to judge ourselves and cleanse out all unrighteousness.
Seek first the kingdom of God
Neither is it righteousness or godliness to “just let my finances go” in order to “have more time for spiritual things.” It’s written that “… God is not a God of confusion and disorder, but of peace and order …” 1 Corinthians 14:33 (Amplified version). Being faithful and righteous in money matters means taking the time and the effort to have things in order. If we learn to take it as Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, everything becomes clear and simple. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness …” this frees us from being preoccupied with our earthly needs when we believe that “… all these things shall be added unto you …”
“The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” Isaiah 32:7.
As with all righteousness, being righteous in financial matters has great promises attached to it. “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” Hebrews 1:9. Being diligently faithful and righteous with our finances causes that oil of gladness to come over our lives as well. Imagine the peace and rest that comes when we are free from all the stress and striving that unrighteousness, love of money, and greed causes! As we practice righteousness, we learn it more and more and it becomes a part of our nature. We learn to love it and the blessed, peaceful effect it has in our lives.