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Dealing With Money Problems
Money in one form or another has been around and valued highly by most for thousands of years. But money, debt and finances have also been the source of many personal and family problems over those years. What does the practical wisdom of the Bible teach us about how to deal with money problems?
Skip, a Christian from California, relates this story:
"We were not making enough money to cover our needs. My wife had quit her job because I thought that I was the one who should be the principal income maker. Our income went from $14,000 per year in 1971 to $6,000 a year in 1972. We needed help.Share Your Story
"The first thing we did was to seek counsel. After that we both sat down and admitted that this would have to be a mutual effort. Together we would succeed or fail. Then we prayed, together.
"At this point we wrote down everything that we really needed to live. Since I had a job, I needed to get to work. I had a car and it needed gas, but I didn't need to stop before work for coffee. We wrote down exactly what we needed and did not need and discussed this with each other.
"Many things then became wants and not needs.
"We had no children yet, so we could evaluate a bit more ruthlessly on items like food. All expensive items were eliminated; basics became normal. Shopping is not a pastime if you are in survival mode! Soups and casseroles were standard, and nothing was wasted. Lunch was often leftover dinner from the night before.
"If you have a job, thank God and tithe on your increase! We did. I had trained and studied to become a teacher, but there were few, if any, openings in 1976 and 1977.
"It became disheartening, but with my God-given, vigorous good health and working at all the labor jobs that I could find, we managed to almost scrape by—actually going into the hole a little each month. Things got worse before they got better.
"And then that recession was over, and school districts started hiring again. I had gotten my credentials in 1975 but hadn't even looked for a teaching job that year. But as soon as I interviewed for a teaching job in 1978, I was told that one awaited me at the beginning of the spring semester 1979.
"Were there lessons I needed to learn before God answered yes to our prayers for a good job? They are too numerous to recite! But in retrospect, not having much money was a valuable training program for when we were blessed with more money. You can't really remember what you never went through."
What Does the Bible Say About Money?How long has money been around? Probably ever since there were more people than one extended family. The Bible tells about various financial transactions Abraham made about 4,000 years ago (Genesis 13:2; 14:20; 20:16; 23:9). It is obvious Abraham was a rich man, but he was also a generous, good man.
Does God object to riches?
Proverbs 10:22If God gives riches, obviously money isn't bad in itself, and He does not object to wealth.
The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.
What isn't good in God's sight?
Matthew 6:24, 33Trusting in riches or wealth is wrong. Serving mammon (the New International Version translates this "Money") and not God is wrong. Greediness is absolutely wrong. But can we enjoy both God and the correct bounty of this world? We can if we do things God's way. Matthew 6:33 indicates that God can and will bless us abundantly if we get the right perspective in our mind.
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon...
"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."
1 Timothy 6:9-10
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.
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.
Why aren't many of God's people rich or wealthy?
1 Corinthians 1:26, 29God has not chosen to call many of the "important" or famous people of the world now, but to use the weak and the poor to demonstrate that it is God who makes a difference in our lives. "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31).
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called...
that no flesh should glory in His presence.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
Paul's instructions to Timothy tell us that some Christians were rich. But his warnings give some hints about the spiritual problems being wealthy can cause. Unfortunately when and if we strike it rich, we tend to take credit ourselves and not give credit to God. On the other hand, if we have had to struggle a bit, we have a much better chance of learning that the race is not always to the swift. As a result, we just might more easily and readily thank God.
Can there be real problems with having more than enough money?
Mark 10:21-27What if God asks us to give up the good life? This parable shows a real challenge that a wealthy Christian could face.
Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."
But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!"
And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?"
But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."
The world around us bases financial decisions on self-interest—and even blatant greed. But what underlying attitude does the Bible teach?
Acts 20:35The apostle Paul showed by his own example and by a quote from Jesus Christ that we should live a way of give, rather than basing all our decisions on what we can get. We can give to others in need and give gifts to show our love. We are also instructed to give tithes and offerings to God, since everything we have comes from Him in the first place (Malachi 3:8-9; Matthew 23:23). Offerings state to God that we know where our blessings really come from.
"I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
Using Money WiselyIs there a correct sequence for living life?
Proverbs 24:27The New Living Bible translates this: "Develop your business first before building your house."
Prepare your outside work, make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterward build your house.
God anticipated that people could become infatuated before they had established a trade or profession. Worrying about having a good, solid job might seem somewhat mundane when you're in love, but you still need to earn a living! Get a good education, the best that you can, but don't end up being a perennial student with lots of smarts and no real wisdom.
Having good skills and good work habits will help in finding and keeping a good job. And work is a vital aspect of the training program God has for us in this life. See also our lessons on "Job Satisfaction and the Value of Work" and "Dealing With Unemployment."
What should we do to avoid money problems? How can we make sure we spend our money correctly?
Proverbs 22:3A major part of financial wisdom involves planning. Have a budget and follow it. We publish a practical and helpful booklet titled Managing Your Finances that will help you begin to formulate your own personal plan or budget. Seeking wisdom from God, His Bible and wise counselors can help us avoid problems or map out a way through those problems.
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Does God encourage saving?
Proverbs 13:22Saving for a rainy day (Proverbs 6:6-11) and providing an inheritance are two things for which God encourages us to save money.
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.
What do we need to do to improve our financial situation and prepare for the future?
Proverbs 27:23-27God encourages us to be diligent in our work and in attending to our personal property and financial situation. When we do, our fleeting life will not become a mad scramble to meet our needs in the retirement years.
Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations.
When the hay is removed, and the tender grass shows itself, and the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field; you shall have enough goats' milk for your food, for the food of your household, and the nourishment of your maidservants.
What are some specific financial steps to take to avoid problems?
Romans 13:1-2, 6God expects us to pay taxes and obey the laws of the land we live in. We should also work hard to avoid accidents (usually involving cars, not oxen, today). But it is also wise, and often required, to have insurance in case of accidents. Insurance is also a cost that proves its value should you somehow run afoul of a litigious person who intends to sue you for everything you've got.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves...
For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing.
"And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it, the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner, but the dead animal shall be his."
Avoiding PitfallsWhat does the Bible say about debt and credit?
Proverbs 22:7Why does God state that "the borrower is servant to the lender"? Because it is simply true! Become frugal and ignore the pleas on TV that state, "You owe it to yourself!" You will end up owing everybody who talks you into believing that lie. If you don't need it, don't buy it. If you do need it, look for a sale. Sometimes, like waiting 15 minutes after a meal to have dessert, you find you don't really want it at all.
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
What is a credit card? A device that unlocks your personal wealth and gives it to others. Okay, most people in the Western world need at least one credit card to rent a car or establish a solid financial history. Credit cards can also be helpful to cover short-term costs for a legitimate emergency. But do not ever think that the company who gave you the credit card has your best interest at heart. Unless it is the interest you will pay!
If you are in debt, make a plan for getting out of debt as quickly as possible. Managing Your Finances has practical information on paying off credit-card debt, avoiding debt, a "buying self-test" and a sidebar on "credit counseling services."
Can money can be a test?
Luke 12:16-21In this parable the person obviously was successful, but instead of thanking God for such a blessing and sharing it appropriately with others, he chose to really protect his investment like Fort Knox. God saw his plan and changed it by simply requiring that man's life that night.
Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.
"And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?'
"So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.
"'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."'
"But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'
"So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
All we have said about planning and even saving is true, but if it is all only for self, as this man's plan was, it can be all for naught. "One's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15).
What is it that people really want that money can't buy?
Philippians 4:6-7Our consumer culture emphasizes what we don't have, but God wants us to recognize and be content with what we do have (Philippians 4:11-13). Being content, thankful and reliant on God will help us to have peace of mind. And isn't peace what people really want? You can have peace of mind and satisfaction that you have lived your life as God intended.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
If we seek God's Kingdom first and foremost and if we diligently search God's Word daily, asking God to help us understand His truth, then we will be given resources now, brimful and overflowing, and eternal life later.
That is certainly more than money can buy.
Apply NowThere is much more to this subject than we could cover in this lesson. Our free booklet Managing Your Finances gives even more practical information that can really help. Click on the link to read, download or order a printed copy now.
Please especially read the practical and helpful chapter "Keys to Successful Money Management" and use the accompanying charts, "Determining Your Net Worth" and "Monthly Income and Expense Worksheet," to help you plan and manage your budget. Even if you have never planned a budget before, these tools can help make it simple and effective.
Also, if you are having money problems, then let our heavenly Father know about it now. Yes, He already knows, but He appreciates hearing your sincere prayer. And don't reject His response! Humbly work at what you can until your plans for financial success begin to pay off.
Questions about this lesson? Feedback about this lesson?
Managing Your Finances
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Five Steps to Teach Your Children Money Management
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Getting Control of Your Money
The Debt Trap: How Do I Get Free?
Will Global Economic Turmoil Precede Jesus Christ's Return?
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