There are some subjects in the Christian world we probably talk about too much and some we may talk about too little. Over time, I think we swing back and forth, often overcorrecting. In my experience money has been one of those subjects we sometimes over-emphasize and at other times almost forget altogether.
I have benefited tremendously from frank, Bible-based discussions on how Christians are to use their money. I have modeled my use of money after people who spoke to me, or who wrote candidly, about their own use of money. As far as I can discern they did not do this in order to boast, but in order to lead and disciple. Their practical counsel has shaped my understanding of the right use of money at least as much as any sermons I’ve heard.
Someone once drew my attention to four questions to ask when I am about to make a purchase—any purchase. Looking back, I can see how much better I am at managing money when I keep questions like these in mind (which, I believe, were first posed by John Wesley).
1. In spending this money, am I acting as if I own it, or am I acting as the Lord’s trustee? I need to have a constant awareness that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). God owns everything in this world, and that includes both me and my money. I am not the owner of my money, but a mere steward or trustee. I am given money so I can use it on God’s behalf. When I face my next purchase, I need to ask myself whether I am acting as if I own my money, or whether I am aware that this is God’s money. This question alone may make all the difference between a good purchase and a foolish one.
2. What Scripture passage requires me to spend this money in this way? The Bible gives guidance on the way I am to use my money and I need to keep a careful watch on myself to ensure I am using it that way. Money is to be used to support myself and my family, to support local church ministry, to bring relief to the poor, and many other noble ends. I tend to look for the cracks and the wiggle room that will give me license to use my money in any way I want. I believe we are permitted to spend a portion of our money on gifts and rest and enjoying the good things of this world, so this question does not remove all fun in life! But this question does ensure I am using my money in a balanced and biblical way.
3. Can I offer up this purchase as a sacrifice to the Lord? This is a question of stewardship and heart allegiances. If I am a trustee or steward of God’s money, I am able to hold loosely to my money and the things it purchases for me. I need to be able to make a purchase and say to the Lord, “I did it for you. It’s all yours to use as you will.” I have to be willing not to have this thing, or be willing to have it taken away, if that serves the Lord. I think I struggle with this one most when I am at the Apple store!
4. Will God reward me for this expenditure at the resurrection of the just? When I stand before the Lord, will he say, “Well done good and faithful servant” about this particular purchase? Will this be a purchase that is rewarded, or a purchase that will prove still another sin that Christ has had to settle on my behalf? I do well to consider whether this is a noble purchase, a proper use of God’s money, or whether I am pursuing only selfish ends.