When it comes to money, God has a lot to say.
So it’s time to set the record straight on three things the Bible does not say about money—despite what we may have heard. Here are three wrong views.
1. God Guarantees Prosperity
The prosperity gospel comes in a variety of forms, but the bottom line is God blesses our obedience by making us materially better off. The message says to honor God with your money and you will know this blessing. Of course, the flip side is that if you’re not doing well financially, it must mean you’re disbelieving or disobeying God.
The great mistake of the prosperity gospel is ignoring that this promise of financial blessing comes under the old covenant. The new covenant doesn’t work the same way. In fact, Jesus says his followers are blessed when they’re poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted, and rejected (Luke 6:20–22).
Financial blessing simply isn’t promised to Christians. Yet a general principle does remain: God will bless our obedience. Jesus promised:
No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29–30)
A Christian will never give to God and finally get the rough end of the bargain. God blesses our giving. But how? What’s the nature of the blessing?
Jesus cannot mean that if we give up our home we’ll own a hundred more. He means God will give us blessing in a hundred homes being open to us, and in knowing new family in the church.
Notice also he adds that we will receive “persecutions.” Jesus is not saying our lives will be marked by blessing with luxury, but by blessing with hardship. There is no sacrifice you can make for Jesus you will regret.
The prosperity gospel is an ugly thing. But there’s a beautiful flip side. God does honor our giving. Sacrifice a vacation for the sake of giving to your church and you may find greater richness in unity and love in your church. Give generously to someone in need and you may find people giving you gifts. I use the word “may” since I don’t know what sort of blessing God will give, but I know he will bless you—if not in this life, then in the next. We can never outgive God.
2. God Must Approve of My Approach
I can easily think my particular approach is the one God likes. For example, I tend to buy clothes on sale rather than at full price, and I can easily look down on those who don’t. But of course there are things I do spend money on, like drinking decent coffee or going out for a beer, that others might consider an unnecessary luxury.
So here’s the problem. We can all fall into thinking God likes what we happen to do, and then look down on other ways of doing it. But we must not equate our personal financial decisions with godliness and use them as a yardstick by which to judge. While we may be able to see what others are spending, we can rarely know why. What we need is a good deal of self-awareness and honesty, respect for other approaches, and the ability to discuss financial decisions with straightforwardness and love. It’s worth asking ourselves questions like:
- What do I consider good use of money? Why?
- What in my background or personality shapes my use of money?
- Whom do I look down on for their use of money? Why?
- Where am I proud or self-righteous concerning finances?
What’s the positive side of the coin? Simply that it’s possible God does like my approach because I’ve tried to be an honest and generous and self-aware steward. Of course, this should mean I acknowledge that God can like other people’s approach as much as I prefer mine.
3. God Prefers Financial Independence
Does the Lord approve of the hardworking man or woman who pays his or her own way through life?
We should begin by saying yes. God approves of hard work, and people should earn their own living (2 Thess. 3:10). You can probably tell there’s a “but” coming. Yes, God approves of us working and earning, but not without the right attitude. In many cultures, paying your own way is assumed or admired. The person who starts his own business and finds success is revered. He’s “self-made.”
It’s not the success that’s the problem; it’s the view of how the world works. All we have comes from God in the first place: our time, our energy, our gifts, the natural resources we work with, the power we use—everything. There is no such thing, therefore, as financial independence. Whether we recognize it or not, we always depend on God. As David prayed, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chron. 29:14).
Everything we have is from God’s hand, not merely earned by ours. Anything we possess is from him, and anything we give him we’re only giving back. We’re never self-made.
So, yes, God does like us to work and earn, and not depend on others if possible. But we must never start to feel we don’t depend on God.
Finding True Joy
Wrong thinking always leads to wrong living. It’s as true with money as with anything else.
But wonderfully, the opposite is true, too: right thinking leads to right living. And when we get our thinking about money right—when we grasp what God does say about money—we can find true joy.
Editors’ note: A version of this article appeared in Premier Christianity.