If you open up a concordance and just start reading everything the Bible says about money, you might walk away with the wrong impression. Scripture makes a lot of strong and pointed statements about wealth, and it would be easy to assume that money is a terrible necessity.
The truth is that money plays a valuable role in society. It allows the farmer or the carpenter to trade for goods and services without having to carry cows, produce, and lumber everywhere they go. The problem that Scripture recognizes and addresses is how money can usurp the place of God in our lives and be used to rule over and control others.
The more you look at how the Bible addresses money, the more you discover very practical advice about stewardship, devotion, and discipline.
Money principle #1: Grow Wealth Strategically
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.—Proverbs 13:11
You hear about it all the time, the lottery winner whose life is destroyed by their instant wealth. They don’t have self-discipline to deny themselves ridiculous purchases, they haven’t learned where to go for help for money-management advice, and they don’t know how to deal with all the requests from friends and family for loans. It’s a living illustration of this Proverb’s principle.
Adversely, when you build wealth over time by making strategic, thoughtful decisions, you’re learning how to care for it. You’re learning the diligence and responsibility that will help you manage your money better.
Money principle #2: Do Not be Greedy
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”—Luke 12:15
It’s imperative that we don’t misread Scripture and walk away with the idea that asceticism is the key to right Christian living. Greed and avarice are wrong, but having money isn’t. Throughout the Bible, God financially blesses others—in fact, so much of God’s work relies on responsible and charitable people of means.
It’s when we begin grasping at wealth and desire it above all that it poisons us.
Money principle #3: Don’t Start Without a Plan
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”—Luke 14:28–30
Jesus uses this example to make the point that he isn’t out recruiting followers under false pretenses. If you come to him, he wants you to count the cost and consider the sacrifice. He uses the example of a man who begins a building project without considering how much it is going to cost him, and before he is finished, he’s run out of money.
It’s obvious from the story that Jesus intends the audience to instantly recognize how foolish of an act this is. This should be a lesson to us that even a largely uneducated peasant audience knows that you don’t start a project without counting the cost first.
Money principle #4: Be Diligent in Paying Your Workers
You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning.—Leviticus 19:13
The first five books in the Old Testament (Pentateuch) tell the story of God’s creation of a nation who would serve him and worship him—and through whom he could bless the rest of the world. A lot of the Pentateuch is full of expectations and laws about how Israelites would treat each other and those outside of their community.
These passages can often feel laborious, but it’s nice to see how seriously God takes treating each other with dignity and respect. Here the Lord instructs them on how to treat their fellow Israelite. (Jesus will dramatically change the definition of neighbor later.)
We’re told that Israelites shouldn’t oppress their neighbor or help themselves to each other’s property. As an example, we’re told that a boss shouldn’t withhold the wages of an employee. This advice comes from a time when daily wages were needed to meet daily expenses.
The important thing to notice here is that the boss is only holding the wages overnight. It’s not as if he’s trying to keep them from the worker. It could be that he simply forgot. The point is that the worker needs to be paid for work in a way that allows him to look after his personal needs. And more importantly, God is paying attention to these kinds of details.
Money principle #5: Protect Your Reputation
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.—Proverbs 22:1
A verse like this is going to make more sense in some cultures than others. In modern western cultures, we’re not necessarily at the mercy of our family name. But in honor-bound cultures, nothing can ruin you faster than having a name that was associated with criminal or disreputable behavior.
A good reputation is better than riches, and the former should never be sacrificed to gain the latter.
Money principle #6: Be Honest in Transactions
You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.—Deuteronomy 25:13–15
In the ancient world, a lot of trading was done using scales for goods like spices or gold. It was possible for crooked merchants to use different scales and measures for both sides of the arrangement. If a merchant used one scale for the sale, he was expected to use the same weight for the payment.
God does not take kindly to the little ways that we might give ourselves an advantage over others in our exchanges.
Money principle #7: Be Vigilant Over Your Resources
Know well the condition of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds—Proverbs 27:23
If you were an Israelite when Proverbs was written, it’s likely that your flocks would be a sign of your wealth. A wise owner would hire good and thoughtful shepherds who would watch over and care for their livestock. It was important for every one of them to be accounted for and protected.
In the same way, a wise person is going to give thoughtful care to their finances and portfolios. So much is lost from want of diligent attention.
Money principle #8: Some Things Are Worth Investing In
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”—Matthew 13:44–46
There are so many times that Jesus uses money as a way to communicate a spiritual truth. Here his point is obvious that God’s kingdom is valuable enough that a wise person would liquidate everything in order to have it.
What gives these parables their power is that they're based on genuine financial principles. In the first century a landowner might bury a strongbox full of coins. If it was found by an unsuspected peasant, that peasant might sell everything he had in order to buy that property because the deed would give him the land and everything on it.
Obviously when you find something of value, you’re willing to make sacrifices to own it.
Money principle #9: Wisdom And Money Provide Security
For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.—Ecclesiastes 7:12
Here the author of Ecclesiastes wants the reader to understand the value of wisdom so he compares it to the money.
Both give you security and shelter. Living wisely has the benefit of receiving God’s blessing.
Money principle #10: Prosperity Can Be a Blessing
The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.—Deuteronomy 28:12
As God lays out the potential blessings for Israel’s obedience, he includes this promise: “you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.” This promise comes from a time when debt was reserved for the most desperate situations, and could quite literally make someone beholden to their debtor. The writer of Proverbs communicates this well when he says, “the rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” (Prov. 22:7)
In this time period, debt was tied to slavery. Because of this, being a lender as opposed to a debtor was linked to having power and, in this instance, God’s favor. With this promise, God tells the Israelites that their obedience would lead them to a place of prominence and power over other nations.
Money principle #11: Leave A Legacy
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children,
but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.—Proverbs 13:22
Here’s a good example of a passage that helps to clarify money’s place in life. The writer of Proverbs tells us that a good man will leave an inheritance for not only his children, but also his grandchildren.
One has to amass a certain amount of wealth and understand how to invest it for that to be able to happen. Scripture supports wise and strategic uses of money.
Money principle #12: Give Wealth Its Proper Place
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.—Ecclesiastes 5:10
Most of the problems the Bible attributes to money have to do with this point. Money is an incredible tool which allows you to do some pretty amazing things. The minute you fall in love with the tool, it has the potential to uproot your entire life.
The things you love consume you. Because, as Jesus puts it, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:21) When you love riches for their own sake, you’ll never have enough.
Money principle #13: Grow What You’re Given
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[e] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? hen you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”—Matthew 25:14–30
Here’s another example of a financial parable that Jesus uses to communicate a spiritual truth. Here he wants to teach us stewarding the gifts he has entrusted to us. These could be talents and abilities or they might be the very message of grace that he has entrusted us with. We don’t all receive the same gifts, but we’re all expected to return our master’s investment.
This parable’s point rests on a real-world example of stewardship. High-level slaves in the first century would be responsible for the stewardship of the master’s resources. Moneylending was a fairly ubiquitous way for people of means to help others while increasing their own wealth. If they didn’t have enough money to lend, they could at least keep it in temple banks where it would be secure and earn a small amount of interest.
Jesus’ use of the parable helps us understand a spiritual principle while giving us a peek into the financial practices of the day—and the wisdom of wisely investing your capital.
Money principle #14: Give Money; Don’t Serve It
“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.—Luke 14:13–14
When Jesus says, “you cannot serve God and money,” the word used for money is specifically “mammon.” Just as “wisdom” is personified throughout the Bible, Jesus personifies money here as another entity that vies for our allegiance. What’s interesting here is that the Pharisees were infected with this love of money, and it caused them to immediately discount what Jesus was saying.
It’s important that we periodically do a personal wellness check in regards to our attitudes about money and possessions. One of the sure signs that there might be a problem is related to how quickly we dismiss the idea that there might be a problem.
Money principle #15: Pay The Taxes You Owe
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.—Romans 13:7–8
In this brief passage where Paul communicates the debt of love that all of Jesus’ followers are under, he addresses taxes. This was in a time when Rome was using taxes to do everything from build roads to erect statues of Caesars to be worshiped. To Paul, how taxes are used isn’t the taxpayer’s issue.
He simply tells them, “If you owe taxes, pay them.”
Money principle #16: Provide For Your Family
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.—1 Timothy 5:8
This is a strong statement. The fact that Paul considers not providing for your family as worse than being a nonbeliever is profound. First of all, even near-eastern Gentiles provided for the needs of their immediate family and aging parents. Secondly, the explicit implication here is that by not providing for members of your household, you are in essence denying your faith.
Money principle #17: People Should Benefit From Their Work
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”—1 Timothy 5:17–18
For Paul, a worker deserves to benefit from the work they do. This includes work done for the kingdom of God.
Money principle #18: Use Money; Don’t Worship It
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.—1 Timothy 6:10
You’ve inevitably heard this verse misquoted. Most of the time when you hear it, the person remembers it as, “Money is a root of all evil.” Obviously there’s a huge difference between the two. Money is benign and innocuous . . . until you empower it with affection. That’s when it leads to all kinds of evil.
Don’t think for a moment that only wealthy people are infected with the love of money. This affection occurs at every income level. There are many incredibly wealthy people whose lives are marked by charity and benevolence just like there are many people of insufficient means that are infatuated with money.
We all need to be attentive that we don’t fall into the sin of loving money. The price is too costly.
Money principle #19: Remember What Lasts
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”—Hebrews 13:5
The key to not falling into the snare of loving money is correct perspective.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and it’s our reliance and trust in God’s goodness that removes the roots that money might sink deeply into our hearts.
Money principle #20: Don’t Let Prosperity Blind You
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.—Revelation 3:17
Throughout the Old Testament, gain is tied to the blessings of God. In the New Testament, it’s reframed as a potential calamity. It can be both. The scariest place to be is in a position of security that blinds you to your need for the goodness and grace of God in our lives. Inwardly we all come to God as a beggar. When we have what we need, it’s easy to mistake our outward comfort for our inward condition.
Did we miss your favorite verse about stewardship and money? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!