King's Evangelical Divinity School

10 June 2010

Christians and Personal Finance

An area I find intriguing and have wanted to blog about for some time is Christians and personal finance, specifically a biblical theology approach to handling personal finance. A Reformed Protestant focus upon thrift, evidence that better money management following conversion has contributed to Pentecostal upward social mobility in regions such as Latin America, and biblical theology themes such as good stewardship, all demonstrate the relevance of this subject for everyday Christians. The current economic climate, too, and what may yet transpire in, for example, the Eurozone (together with a wider global knock-on effect), arguably make it even more relevant. Today's brief post, then, will be the first of several thoughts on the issue over coming months. Of course, when it comes to personal finance there are so many issues to explore, but rather than spend time writing one or two lengthy, detailed essays offering a comprehensive biblical theology of personal finance I thought I would simply share brief thoughts as and when, beginning with the suggestion that wise management of personal finance is indeed a Christian principle.

The concept of good stewardship is well-established in Scripture. Drawing on the management of a household's affairs and finances, this theme of stewardship serves as a model for the oversight, organisation and management of ministries which God has enstrusted to His servants. And (tangentially) neither should we limit ministry to full-time or large-scale callings. Whether full-time, part-time or lay ministry, an important scriptural principle seems to be that, generally speaking, faithful and successful stewardship in small or relatively minor areas of ministry eventually lead to God entrusting us with greater ministerial responsibility (see Mt 25:24-28, Lk 16:9-11). So whatever your church job or ministry, regardless of how small or seemingly menial it appears, doing it well for the glory of God often proves we are ready and able to handle larger ministerial responsibility. In short, prove yourself a faithful steward in a little and the likelihood is God will entrust you with stewardship of a lot. (I should add, of course, that we ought not to extrapolate from this that smaller ministry is automatically a sign of failure. It is not. Sometimes God specifically calls people to ministries which by their very nature will never expand exponentially or be regarded as successful in strictly human terms. Jeremiah's calling, a prophetic ministry which went unlistened to and secured multiple enemies, is a case in point).

But I digress. Ministerial responsibility aside, it seems pretty clear that faithful stewardship and careful, wise management of finite resources are concepts which are well-attested in Scripture. Whether the thrift of the woman detailed in Proverbs 31, important lessons gleaned from the Parable of the Talents, or various references to good household management and stewardship, arguably there is plenty of evidence to suggest wise management of personal finance represents an important biblical principle. Moreover, given how as Christians we believe that all we have comes from God, it seems doubly important to exercise good stewardship over our personal finance. This is what I'm interested in touching upon over forthcoming months, exploring possible biblical and practical guidelines for the efficient management of personal finance, including issues such as debt, interest, saving, investing, and so on, together with Christian attitudes towards money and finances.

Sadly, the prevalence of the prosperity gospel and the damage it has caused has resulted in some Christian leaders reacting the other way, failing even to discuss what the Bible has to say about money, personal finance and Christians responsibilities in these areas. Yet many Christians are proactively seeking biblical teaching on these issues, not out of an obsession with money and finance (after all, it is impossible to serve God and Mammon), but rather basic biblical guidelines on good stewardship of personal finance. There is no doubt such stewardship offers enourmous benefits.

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