learning about money.

primarily for Christians

This document was originally conceived in October 1999 after listening to several people talk or preach or teach on the subjects of money and what they called “God's financial blessing”.

Original, October 1999,
revised January 2000.
revised June 2000.


This document contains excerpts from scripture that convey the predominant biblical teaching for Christians about material wealth, money, ...  This is not, however, the entirety of biblical teaching and a simple word search on “wealth”, for example, would produce many more passages than those shown below and some of those passages would change the taught conclusion slightly.  They have been omitted partly because they are so many, partly because they are not dominant, and partly because they form that side of the discussion that is most usually preached by way of the “prosperity gospel” (so called).  The texts below are the counterpoint to the popular and evil prosperity teaching.

All texts are taken from the New International Version of the bible.

When I have time, I might get around to adding notes or a commentary and adding some of the other peripheral passages.

Exodus 22:25.   If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.
Leviticus 25:37.  You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit.

When the Israelites were taught about material wealth by Moses he gave them the instructions that we find in Deuteronomy chapter 15, verse 7 and reproduced below:

If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tight-fisted toward your poor brother.  Rather be open-handed and freely lend him whatever he needs.  Be careful not to harbour this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for cancelling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing.  He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin.  Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.  There will always be poor people in the land.  Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

There are several principles that we can learn from the above passage:  First, we learn that there will always be poor people in the land.  This teaches us that financial prosperity is NOT guaranteed for God's chosen people.

Before we can reach our second point we need to understand what the “seventh” year is all about.  Basically, every seventh year in the Israelite calendar all outstanding debts were to be completely cancelled.  This meant that if a person had borrowed something and could not repay it before the “seventh” year came around, whatever amount was outstanding had to be written off by the lender and became, effectively, a free gift from the lender to the borrower.

The second thing that we learn from the above passage is that God's chosen people were to lend their family and neighbours whatever they needed and give it to them if they couldn't repay it.

The third lesson is that they were to give generously and not grudgingly.

Lesson four was simply that generous giving was not God's recommendation or advice; rather it was his command.  Generosity was an order to be obeyed and failure to give generously was a sin.

The fifth point we need to note is that, although God does say that those who give will be blessed in all that they do, he does NOT say what form the blessing will take nor does he say that they should give in order to be blessed.

In many passages we learn that material wealth is not necessarily good and that it can lead people into a trap:

Ecclesiastes 5:10.   Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless.

The Israelites were often reminded that material prosperity was for their present lives only and they were not going to take it with them.

Proverbs 11:4.   Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

Proverbs 11:16   A kind-hearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.

To understand the above passage properly we need to understand that it is better to be respected than wealthy.  If a person gains the respect of their neighbours then this shows that they have taken the first steps towards a life that pleases God.  A person's reputation always travels in front of them and so the reputation travels even to God and will go to heaven and to judgement.  However if a person gains wealth then what they have is with them only until they die.  Ultimately the money is worthless but the good reputation is valuable even in heaven.

The teaching in the new testament is similar to that in the old but, perhaps, more emphatic and more demanding.  Jesus told his followers that they should:

Matthew 5:42  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Luke 6:30   Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Luke 12:33   Sell your possessions and give to the poor.  Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Luke 6:34   And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Luke 16:9   “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.  Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?  And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?  No servant can serve two masters.  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 both God and Money.”  The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.  He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.  What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.”

So we learn that we should give unconditionally; there are no limits placed on our giving.  Under the old covenant a man was expected to make certain offerings, pay 10% of his income as a religious tax and look after his family and the community of people he lived among.  The new instructions given by Jesus do not limit our giving to 10% or to our immediate companions; rather we are to give to whoever asks.   We are not called to be “wise” as a modern bank is wise and give only to those who can repay us but we should give even to those who oppose us — our enemies who might take what we give and use it against us.  If we are robbed we are not to attempt to recover what was stolen.  Furthermore we learn that generosity during this life is repaid even more abundantly in the next life.  The comment that God detests what men esteem is worthy of particular consideration when making our plans.

Not only were the followers of Jesus told to give to those who ask but they were encouraged to give to those who don't ask but who are obviously in need.  This type of giving was exemplified by the story of the “good Samaritan” who found a man who had been beaten lying by the roadside.  The injured man was not able to ask for help (because he was “half dead”) but the Samaritan assisted because he could see the need:

LUKE 10:30  ...  Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers.  They stripped him of his  clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper.  'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'  "Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”   Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


Mark 12:41    Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything -- all she had to live on.”

The above passage teaches us that generosity is not defined by the amount we give but rather it is defined by the percentage that we give.  Hence the person (an old lady in this example) who gave 100% of a tiny amount was deemed to have given more than a person who gave a large amount that was only a small percentage of his total possessions.

Matthew 13:22   The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

The above passage teaches us many things.  First, it is possible to hear the word of God but still bear no fruit.  The fact that it is possible to be unfruitful should put a true fear of God into the hearts of every believer because Jesus warned that unfruitful branches would be cut-off and burned.  Second, what is it that makes a person unfruitful?  Jesus said that a person becomes unfruitful for two reasons:  (a)  because they are too busy worrying about day-to-day matters and (b) because they are deceived by wealth.  This does not mean that they actually had wealth but rather it means that they were deceived into making wealth a priority in their lives.  Instead of seeking God, they ran after money and they made immoral compromises because they hoped to get rich with goods and property.  The third thing we learn is that it is the nature of money to deceive.  This implies that we should be extra careful when we make plans about earning or spending money — money is deceitful and if we are not careful it will trick us and make our faith to be of no effect.

1 Timothy 6:5  ...  and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.  But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

The above passage mentions a problem that is certainly apparent in the 21st century; namely that some people believe that their spirituality will lead to wealth.  This (false) doctrine can be heard preached in many places.  The people who teach that Christians should be rich are not “men of God” but rather they are “corrupt” men who do not know the truth.  When people want to get rich they end up in “ruin and destruction”.  We see here that the man of God should run away from the temptations of wealth.  The desirable qualities (listed in the last sentence, above) that a man should seek to attain are contrasted with the love of money.  This teaches us that the love of money will prevent a man from achieving those things which God esteems.

2 Timothy 3:1    But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.

The above passage includes a command that God fearing people should have nothing to do with those who love money.  However, notice how the love of money is described ...  It is not a virtue, it is not even a mere inconvenience, no it is a terrible thing.  Loving money is not a sign of godliness it is a sign of godlessness.  Now how do we know whether a person loves money?  Well this is very simple.  If a man talks constantly about a woman then we know that he loves that woman.  If a man talks all day about his car then we know he loves the car.  If a man spends his time thinking how to win a woman's heart then we know he is in love with that woman.  If a man spends all his time repairing and polishing his car then we know he loves that car.  If a woman talks about a man we know she loves the man, if she spends her free time trying to please him then we know she loves him.  In other words we can often know what a person loves by what they say and what they think and what they do.  So, if a person spends all their time talking about money, thinking about how to make money or spends all their time trying to obtain money then it is very likely that money is what they love.  This is a subtle trap, some men try to get rich by working hard and investing, some women try to get rich by flirting with men who have money.  If a person compromises fidelity, loyalty, honesty or legality or if a person does immoral things in order to get financial or material benefits then, for sure, that person loves money.  The command of God is that we should have nothing to do with such people.

1 Timothy 6:17   Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

From this passage we learn several things of which one is that God provides everything we need for our enjoyment.  Another thing we learn (again) is that wealth is not a guaranteed blessing of God because it is uncertain.  Wealth can come and go like the morning mist.  We do not need to think about wealth because God provides what we need.  Instead of thinking about wealth we should think about doing good — being honest, being helpful, and using what we do have to help other people.

Hebrews 13:5   Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”  Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

From the above passage we learn that it is good that we should learn to be satisfied with what we actually have instead of always longing for more or better.

James 5:1   Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.  Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.  Your gold and silver are corroded.  Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.  You have hoarded wealth in the last days.  Look!  The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you.  The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.  You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.  You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

The above passage that is taken from James should frighten those who make wealth and comfort their priority.  Not only will their wealth make them unfruitful because it is deceptive but now look what will happen in the day of judgement.  When that person stands before the throne of God the money that they obtained by lying and cheating, the car that they drove as a result of their dishonesty, the bank balance that is fat because they did not give generously, the money they invested because they trusted money more than God — all of these things will stand-up in the court of heaven and will be the proof that this person loved money more than God.  The money that they chased after in the first life will condemn that person.

So now remember, money is deceitful.  Money makes promises that it cannot and will not keep.  Money is a snare that people stumble over and into.  Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

  • For the love of money, people lie to their friends and neighbours.
  • For the love of money, people betray their friends.
  • For the love of money, people are unfaithful to those who trusted them.
  • For the love of money, people disobey the government and laws.
  • For the love of money, people cheat on their taxes.
  • For the love of money, people enter immoral, godless, unholy relationships.
  • For the love of money, people adopt false names, false birth dates, false identities.
  • For the love of money, people slander, kill and destroy.
  • For the love of money, people repay kindness with evil and curse those who blessed them.
  • For the love of money, people abandon the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life and walk instead along the broad path that leads to destruction.

Now some general thoughts:

First, a person who has been saved from the penalty of sin was saved because they were “bought” by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Now if a person has been bought then they and everything that they possess belongs to the person who bought them.  When a Christian has money, or a car or some other thing, he or she is merely looking after that money or object on God's behalf.  The Christian is merely the steward — not the owner.  The money or property belongs entirely to God because God bought that person with the blood of Jesus Christ.  Consequently a Christian should remember that whatever they possess does not belong to them but to someone else and treat it accordingly.

Second, Christians are told that they should not worry even about their food or clothes because God already knows what they need and is well able to provide it.  Instead the Christian is supposed to concern him or herself with being obedient to God.

Third, God does not bless people through dishonest or immoral means.  If we cannot obtain something without doing wrong then we were simply not supposed to have it — it isn't ours.  Anything we gain by lying, theft or any other form of immorality will only make us miserable, ruin our lives and separate us from God.  If we do not repent and give up the thing gained by wrong means then ultimately it will stand-up and accuse us on the day of judgement.

Fourth, what shall it profit a man (or woman) if he (or she) shall gain the whole world yet lose his (or her) own soul.  The money might feel good, the car might be fancy, the house might be comfortable but you aren't taking any of them with you.  On the day of judgement God will not ask you “were you rich?  what kind of car did you drive?  was your house in a nice area?  did you have a big television?”  He might ask “Does my son know you?  Were you obedient?  What spiritual fruit did your character bring forth?”

Fifth, maybe you can impress a few godless and stupid people now with your stereo music system, your television sets, your fancy car, your house in a good location, your luxury furniture, your trendy and beautiful clothes but do you think God is so easily fooled?  When other men and women start to admire your possessions and praise you for your ill-gotten gains then you should be afraid, yes be very afraid — afraid of the wrath of God that is coming to you, afraid of judgement when those same possessions will accuse you and testify against you in the court of heaven.  The angels weep because of such things.  God himself calls you blind, naked and stupid.

Sixth, to the rich man who stored up his treasure and thought only of his own future comfort, God said “you fool!”

Seventh, you do not know when God will demand your life.  You do not know when you will stand before the throne of God and give an account of your life.  You should be quick to repent because death may be only hours or even minutes away.  Do not leave repentance until tomorrow — tomorrow may never come.  Every day people die without warning.  These were people who had no thought of death, people who were young, healthy and full of life, people full of hopes and dreams.  And then suddenly they turn and death is waiting for them.  In a moment they are gone.  Suddenly, there is no more time for repentance, no more time to apologise, no more time to make good what has been done wrong.  The final examination has come and they are not prepared.  Now they see clearly the true worth of what they lived and lied for.  Now the value of their dishonest gain is made known to them.  The brief pleasures that deceitful, immoral, greedy, faithless living gave them must now be compared to to the eternal pleasures that they have forsaken and the eternal punishment that they must endure.  Repent quickly!  Every day and every night heaven is busy calling men and women to account.  You do not know when your name will be called.  You do not need money, fine clothes, comfortable houses, and fancy cars — you need the new life that only Jesus Christ can give.  Cry out and ask him to give you that new life while there is still air in your lungs.  You do not know how long you have.  Turn away from your sin.  Leave your lust behind.  Stop pretending that God doesn't mind your immoral living.  Stop playing with religion.  Stop telling lies.  You bless your friends and neighbours and lie to them with the same mouth — what kind of religion is that?  God has called you to holiness.  He has called you to a life of faith and purity.  He has called you to a life of honesty and obedience.  Repent, repent, repent!  Eternity is a long time to burn.  You worry because you have no money but at judgement God will not ask you for your bank balance — he will ask for the fruit that are evidence of a life of faith and purity.  Where are those fruit?

Eighth, what you sow you will surely reap.  There are no exceptions.  There is no magic that will cause a thistle seed to grow into a banana tree.  If you sow for a life of selfish, disobedient, godless comfort and pleasure you will reap misery now and eternal destruction afterwards.  Learn from your mistakes!

It is the pagans and godless people who run after money.  Christians need to learn to trust their heavenly father who is well able to provide them with all that they need.

So these are a few conclusions:
  1. Money is not a reward that God gives to good people, it is a deceitful thing that leads men and women astray — even to eternal damnation.
  2. Money is to be used in obedience to God.
  3. Some of God's people might be rich, some of them will be poor.
  4. You came into the world naked and you will take nothing with you when you leave.  Do not be obsessed with what you are leaving behind.
  5. We should trust God to provide us with what we need, not necessarily with what we want.
  6. We must learn to be content with what we have.
  7. The love of money causes people to do all the things that God despises; it destroys their character, destroys their reputation and, eventually, destroys their soul.
  8. It is better to be poor and honest than rich and dishonest.

And so,

  • if you are a person who loves money,
  • if financial security, fancy cars, material possessions, nice houses, smart clothes and a good Hi-fi or TV are more important to you than honesty and obedience,
  • if you are a person who is engaged in an immoral relationship because you want financial security,
  • if you are a person who is lying and cheating to earn a living,
  • if you are more interested in a financial “harvest” than a harvest of the fruits of the spirit (which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control)
  • if you prefer self comfort to self-denial,
  • if the sermons about financial blessings are more interesting to you than the sermons about Calvary, the blood of Christ, self-denial and obedience,

then this is the word of God to you:

  • Repent.
  • Purify your heart you double minded person.
  • You are far away from God and in danger of eternal destruction.  Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.