The Bible contains more verses on money and possessions than nearly any other topic. Howard Dayton teaches that there are over 2,300 of such verses. With so much said in the Bible on this topic, it’s no wonder that there’s confusing and contradictory teachings within the church. While the teachings on money are all over the place in our churches, a faithful study of the Bible paints a surprisingly consistent picture. Taken as a whole, the Bible provides some very clear themes and teachings on money and possessions. These teachings help us identify and defend against bad and misleading teaching in this area. In my upcoming book, Free to Follow: Discover the riches of a surrendered life, I take a chapter to unpack the Bible’s five overarching themes on money. Below they are presented in summary form.
- Creation is a good gift to enjoy and steward for God’s glory. From the beginning, the Bible teaches us that everything God created was good (Gen. 1:31). Not only that, but God gave us the task of caring for his good creation (Gen. 1:28). “One key in properly enjoying God’s creation is to enjoy it in tandem with our call to steward the earth. This means not thinking only of ourselves, and not treasuring the creation over the Creator. That means living lives of simple enjoyment both for our well-being and the well-being of others. Jesus tells us that this is the proper way to view and use creation—use it, but don’t place your joy or hope in it. Don’t get sucked into the trap of believing that a bunch of created things can bring lasting joy.” (ch. 4) How are you enjoying and stewarding creation for God’s glory?
- God will not be second (i.e., do not worship creation). When God appoints man to steward His creation, man almost immediately questions the goodness of God, rejects His good plan, and chooses the creation of the Creator. Man puts God in second place. This leads God to command and teach His people to worship Him and Him alone. “What we see over and over in the Bible is that God will not settle for second place. He demands to be preeminent, not merely a part of our lives. When we put anything before God, we become separated from him, and following him becomes impossible.” (ch. 4) In the New Testament, we see Jesus highlight money as a particularly destructive idol that people easily place above God (Luke 16:13). The warnings that accompany this verse are breathtaking. If we put money above God, the result is that we end up hating and despising God. Money is indeed a dangerous idol. How have you put money in the place that belongs to God in your life?
- Greed and covetousness destroy our relationship with God and are two of the chief means of turning our hearts from God. A detailed study of the Bible reveals that greed and covetousness are regularly warned against as being deadly to our relationship with God. From the laws in the Old Testament, to the examples of the kings of Israel, to the vast teaching in the New Testament, it is clear that greed is a deadly sin that must be dealt with. “The Bible lists covetousness in its hall of fame of sins. It calls greedy people unfruitful fools who invite God’s wrath while flittering away their eternal inheritance. When I’m greedy, when I’m rich toward myself and not toward God or others, when I believe more is the answer, I’m providing evidence that I’m not following Jesus.” (ch. 4) How has greed and covetousness damaged your relationship and intimacy with God?
- Wealth is dangerous, therefore be abundantly careful. The warnings, testimonies, and dangers about idolatry and greed are overwhelming in the Bible. Just look at a few of the warnings from Jesus, “[He] tells us that riches choke out God’s words and make us unfruitful (Matt. 13:22). He tells us that riches bring about worry, vanity, false security, oppression of the weak, and indifference to the needy (Matt. 6:25–34; 18:23–25; 25:31–46; Luke 10:29–37; 12:22–34; 14:17–21; 16:22–26). He says that riches make it hard to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:23; Mark 10:17–31; Luke 18:18–30).” (ch. 4) It is odd to me how many warnings there are in the Bible about the dangers of wealth and how few take them seriously. These warnings are everywhere and they are for us to consider seriously. How have you seen wealth draw you or others away from God or the church?
- How we use our wealth demonstrates what we believe and treasure. The passages dealing with this last theme are some of the most challenging in the whole Bible. They warn us that when we use money to pursue the things of the world, we are demonstrating that we don’t love God (1 John 2:15–17). They warn that when we “characteristically fail to use our money to care for the poor, we demonstrate we’re not children of God” (James 2:17–17, 1 John 3:17). Finally, they demonstrate that when I fail to use my money to care for my persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, I reveal that God doesn’t know me (Matt. 25:41–43). These passages reveal the truth that how we use our money will reveal what we believe about God. It matters how we use our money. While we can’t spend our way to salvation, we can examine our spending and see the true condition of our hearts. What does your spending reveal about what you believe and treasure the most?
To learn more about what the Bible says about money and possessions, see the following resources:
Blomberg, Craig (2000). Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions. Grand Rapids: IVP Academic.
Blue, Michael (2020). Free to Follow: Discover the riches of a surrendered life. Austin, TX: Thirsty Land Press. (release date, late 2020)
Platt, David (2010). Secret Church: The gospel, possessions, and prosperity. Birmingham: Radical.