Tag Archives: stewardship

Why Christians Care About Economics

How we make our money is just as important as how we spend it.

Economic activity is one of the most common and basic forms of human interaction and the Bible has much to say about it. However, it takes time to understand the complexities of our modern economy so that we can better apply God’s principles to our everyday activity. Here are five reasons your effort will be worthwhile.

1) Good stewardship includes taking care of the economy.

Everything is God’s (Psalm 24:1). We are given the privilege of being stewards of God’s creation. (Genesis 1:26–28). But good stewardship involves more than charitable giving, wise spending, and performing our jobs with integrity.

Good stewardship includes taking care of the economy. In Israel, people provided for their families utilizing land, capital (tools and animals), and their own labor. Prohibitions against theft, laziness, and moving boundary markers were designed to maintain everyone’s ability to steward his allotted piece of God’s creation.

In today’s complex economy, protecting each person’s ability to steward from the evil schemes of others is no less important. In an agricultural society you literally reap what you sow. But in our economy, most people entrust their money to a local bank, the government, or a financial institution. The problem is, as attested by events leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, they may invest your money in dishonest ways that enrich some while bankrupting others. You might become a victim or unwittingly victimize others.

How we make our money is important because, if we gain wealth at the expense of others rather than produce wealth, we take what God has given to others to steward and thus deprive them of that opportunity.

A better understanding of economics will help Christians identify, oppose, and refrain from participating in investment vehicles that simply transfer wealth rather than produce it.

2) God expects us to defend the defenseless and deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

The Bible often describes the wicked in terms of economic interaction. The wicked have no concern for the poor (Proverbs 29:7), use dishonest and deceptive means to gain wealth (Micah 6:10–12), and are free to oppress the poor when society honors their vile practices (Psalm 12:5–8).

Psalm 82:2–4 neatly sums up our responsibility to defend the poor, orphans, and the oppressed from the wicked. We can only maintain their rights and rescue them when we stop defending laws and systems that show partiality to the wicked.

Understanding economics helps us uncover wicked practices in an economy that is, by design, complex and non-transparent. Further motivation to study economics comes from knowing God’s heart to defend the poor and his determination to judge their oppressors (Isaiah 3:13–14).

3) We want our government to restrain evil, not enable it.

We know stealing and lying are wrong, but in our economy there are legal ways to get something for nothing and deceive others on a grand scale. Economists refer to one such practice as “rent seeking” which has been popularly described as an effort to grab a bigger slice of the economic pie rather than make the pie bigger. One familiar form of rent seeking is lobbying to gain an unfair advantage. Those with more money have more opportunity to obtain rents from the government. Thus these transfers of wealth tend to be from the majority of taxpayers to the rich, though sometimes, economic equals compete for rents.

Also, when government fails to properly restrain evil in financial markets, wealth is transferred by deceptive or fraudulent practices simply because people can do so without consequences. Quite the contrary, they often can expect the government to bail them out.

Legalized theft is not a new problem. Consider this from the Heidelberg Catechism (1563):

Question 110. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment? 
 Answer. Not only such theft and robbery as are punished by the magistrate; but God views as theft all wicked tricks and devices, whereby we seek to draw to ourselves our neighbor’s goods, whether by force or with show of right, such as unjust weights, ells, measures, wares, coins, usury, or any means forbidden of God; so moreover all covetousness, and all useless waste of His gifts. (emphasis mine)

4) We want to leave an inheritance to the next generation, not debt and a ruined economy.

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children (Proverbs 13:22). One can argue, considering other passages that condemn the accumulation of wealth for selfish purposes (Luke 12:16–21) or for security (Job 31:24Psalm 52:7), that the biblical emphasis is on preserving the ability of the next generation to steward resources. In economic terms, this means stewarding present resources in a manner that leaves the next generation unburdened by debt and in a position to work productively.

5) We need to keep ourselves unstained by the world economy.

Any economic system devised by sinful humanity will often be opposed to biblical values. Our economic system encourages covetousness and scoffs at contentment. It rewards debtors and punishes savers. It implements immoral wealth transfers. It enables one generation to live beyond its means and pass the bill to the next.

We must not be deceived into thinking that conservatism or liberalism has the answers. God has given us the answers in the Bible. Our first priority is to learn what the Bible says about money, but an understanding of economics helps Christians test economic practices and the words of economists, bankers, business leaders, and politicians against biblical truth.

God, the “Father of the fatherless and the protector of widows” (Psalm 68:5), views our religion as pure and undefiled when we look after them in their distress (James 1:27). To rescue the needy or to be a Good Samaritan or oppose oppressors will always cost us something. Whatever cost, inconvenience, or trial we encounter because we choose to live by biblical economic principles cannot compare to the immeasurable joy that belongs to us who, because we are followers of Jesus, steward our time and money wisely (Matthew 25:22–23).

(This article first appeared at desiringGod.org.)

How Important Is Christian Stewardship?

offering box for stewardship

Most Christians would probably agree that stewardship of our money is an important aspect of our faith. But if we merely nod our head in agreement without taking demonstrable action, we may be in grave danger.

John Wesley proposed four questions about how to spend money. These questions are as pertinent today as in Wesley’s time (1703-1791).

The four questions are:

  1. In spending this money, am I acting like I owned it, or am I acting like the Lord’s trustee?
  2. What Scripture requires me to spend this money in this way?
  3. Can I offer up this purchase as a sacrifice to the Lord?
  4. Will God reward me for this expenditure at the resurrection of the just?

Wired from birth to think of things as belonging to us, we instinctively want to protect “our things” from others. A young child will cry out “That’s mine!”  if he discovers a sibling playing with his toys. As adults we speak of how we earn what we have. With this perception of ownership, spending money becomes a right instead of a privilege and giving money becomes a burden rather than a joy. The Bible gives us the proper perspective – “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1)

Ownership and stewardship differ in one important aspect. Ownership entitles a person to decide how he uses his wealth; he answers to no one. A steward acts on behalf of the owner and at his direction. In either case property must be protected from theft.

In regard to Wesley’s first question, when we act as if we own our money we don’t protect it from theft so that we can use it for God’s purposes. Instead we protect it from being used for God’s purposes so that we can use it for our purposes. But the Bible proclaims that in doing so we become the thief. We rob God (Malachi 3:8) and place ourselves in danger of losing our life because we are not rich toward God (Luke 12:20). In contrast, when we act as his steward we store our treasure in heaven where the thief cannot steal it (Matthew 6:20). We are able to live life unshackled from worry (Matthew 6:31-34).

Wesley’s second question addresses God’s right, as owner, to direct how we spend our money. For example, he expects us to provide food, clothing and shelter for ourselves and for those depending on us. He also expects us to help the widow and orphan. He expects us to use our resources to spread the gospel. We can find many other commands in the Bible to guide us in our stewardship.

Wesley’s third question helps us prioritize our spending. When we act like we own our money, God gets our leftovers. We sacrifice not at all having already purchased what we wanted. When we act like a steward of God’s money, we give him the first fruits trusting him to provide our needs. If we don’t give this serious thought we will, by default, spend money on luxuries that God intended us to spend on furthering his kingdom. God gives his children good gifts to enjoy, but not everything he gives us is for our personal use.

The fourth question, emphasizes why, from an eternal perspective, it is important that we be good stewards. Having an “owner” mentality, unwilling to use money as God directs, results in eternal judgment (Matthew 25:30). Stewards get rewarded in eternity. When we faithfully steward God’s resources wisely, we share our master’s happiness forever (Matthew 25:23).

It is important to emphasize we are not saved by our stewardship. But how we spend our time and money is evidence at the last judgment that proves or disproves the genuineness of our professed faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We spend our money on what we value. Good stewardship directs resources to advance the kingdom of God, thus showing faith in and love for the King (Matthew 25:31-40).

Wesley set a high standard consistent with the Bible. To seek God’s will so that every expenditure accomplishes his purpose is a concept foreign to Christians enchanted with Western individualism. Conforming to a society that opposes freedom to do God’s will in favor of a freedom designed to shield us from God’s will, results in our harm. Those who give nothing of their time and money to further God’s kingdom can expect to be among the goats, assigned to eternal punishment at the last judgment (Matthew 25:30; 25:41-46).