Christian Financial advice is centered around the idea that the most Biblical thing Christ follower’s can do with their money is get control of it. They need to budget stringently, pay down debt excessively and get the best deal on EVERYTHING.
What if Jesus did none of these things?
What if the example of the person, Jesus Christ, who Christians claim to follow, is in stark contrast to the financial ‘wisdom’ that is preached in pulpits and by financial pundits across the nation? We have as a church, as we so often have, transitioned from a heart captivated by the love and instruction of Jesus, into men “preaching the doctrines of man as the commands of God”. But before we can align our money mindset with Jesus. We have to do a little demolition.
Jesus never budgeted (or told his followers to): Jesus shows up on a mountain and his disciples get nervous. “Uh…boss? Where we going to get the food to feed all these people.” Jesus didn’t plan ahead. Jesus didn’t set aside a certain amount of his budget for ‘food expenses’ or ‘tax expenses’ (he owed back taxes at the temple). Jesus simply states “the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58 Jesus didn’t even know where he was sleeping that night!
Many people will quote Luke 14:28 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? To prove that Jesus said to budget.
This is just bad scripture reading. This verse has nothing to do with financial preparation. In fact, quite the opposite, just five verses later Jesus tells the disciples.
So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:33
This verse is about financial risk, not about financial safety.
Now before you start spending with reckless abandon, my point is NOT that we shouldn’t be responsible with our money. Budgets cure the outside behavior of selfish and gratuitous spending. But Jesus wants to cure the heart. He wants to address the root causes of our spending, and align our wallet with his purposes for us, not teach us how to accomplish our purposes better.
The Bible doesn’t preach against debt: In fact, where the Bible addresses debt it is normally the LENDER who the Bible is vilifying not the BORROWER.
In Nehemiah, the people take out loans for the tax they owe the king. They are in debt, they are poor, they can’t eat, they have even had to enslave their sons and daughters to survive.
Nehemiah doesn’t say “Well you should’ve gotten intense about paying down your debt.” or “You should’ve gotten on your debt snow ball” or “Well what baby step are you on?”
Nehemiah turns to the lenders and says “What you are doing isn’t right!” Nehemiah 5:9
Jesus tells a parable about a servant who gets a large debt forgiven (Matthew 18:21-35) and then he turns around and prosecutes a man who owes him money. Jesus doesn’t use this as an opportunity to tell his followers the dangers of being in debt. He uses it to show the pettiness of unforgiveness in light of eternity.
Again, this isn’t to say that we should all rack up credit cards. But the church stigma, that somehow being in debt makes you further from God, is more of the familiar shame-based legalism the world has come to expect from the church.
“The Borrower is subservient to the lender” Proverbs 22:7 we quote…. out of context. Just before this verse the proverb says the “rich rule over the poor”. Since the church takes this verse as a mandate to avoid debt, should we also consider it a mandate to not be poor? Are those poor among us less ‘holy’ because of the teachings of this proverb. This verse isn’t talking about avoiding debt entrapment, but highlighting the responsibility those in power have for those who are disadvantaged. THIS aligns with the Biblical narrative and teachings of Jesus.
The problem with debt is not that you are borrowing money. The problem is what it reveals about our heart. When we willing entrap ourselves into our jobs, and our living situations in order to keep up with loan payments that were derived from unchecked spending on the passions of our flesh. This reveals the heart. The single income family that has a car loan, although they could pay cash if the other parent worked, is no less in God’s service than the “double income no kids” financially independent.
Jesus wasn’t a miser
When Jesus turned water into wine, he made the top shelf stuff.
When he broke the bread and loaves he had EXTRA.
A woman broke a priceless bottle of perfume over his body, and he said it was a good thing. He didn’t berate her for not getting the off-label stuff.
I’m all for reducing my monthly cash outflow. But often in ‘church-going’ circles it manifests itself in selfishness.
My wife and I both worked in restaurants when we were young. It’s an earned stigma that the after-church crowd are the worst tippers. How could that be?
Jesus gave to all who were around him. Even as an itinerant minister it’s apparent that Jesus and his disciples run their own benevolence fund, giving money to the poor, pouring out all they had to the point of not being able to afford the temple tax.
Unfortunately, I see Christian business men and women take advantage of people in tough situations. Refusing to give them raises or better benefits. Refusing to recognize the employee for the contribution to their company and expecting their employees to be grateful they have jobs. Rather than acting as Jesus acts to us, inviting us into his mission and letting us benefit along the way.
We don’t tip, and we do we do it poorly. We haggle with someone who is clearly in a tougher financial position than us. We look for opportunities to exploit financial stress in other’s lives so that we can benefit.
This thinking is so full of a scarcity mentality, that has nothing to do with the abundance of the Kingdom of God. It reveals a heart that is selfish and ‘deceitful above all things’. When you take advantage of someone’s misfortune for your own gain, that isn’t being a good steward. It’s doing exactly what almost every prophet cried foul about throughout the new testament. And certainly, what grinded Jesus’ gears when he tossed the tables in the temple.
Christian financial pundits got it wrong. They are teaching the doctrines of man as commands from God. It’s imperative that as follower’s of Christ we actually use our money and wallet as if He’s in charge. God has a mission for you, for your family, for your life and for your money. There are smart ways to use money and there are less smart ways, but making water out of wine doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Sometimes, being on mission for Jesus, just might require some wisdom from God that seems foolish or even risky. We need to avoid leaving Jesus behind on our quest for Christian Financial Advice.
How can we have Christian Money without Christ?