The Bible, You and Money

The Bible does not minimize the importance of economics. The Garden of Eden makes mention of gold and precious stones:

“The gold of that land is good.” Genesis 2:11-12.

Jesus used money as a teaching device in many of His parables. John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church, Panorama City, California, said that

16 out of 38 of Christ’s parables deal with money; more is said in the New Testament about money than heaven and hell combined; five times more is said about money than prayer; and while there are 500 plus verses on both prayer and faith, there are over 2,000 verses dealing with money and possessions.[1]

One of the criteria for leadership in the church is based on how a man uses money (1 Tim. 3:3). This includes management of his own household (v. 4). As Christians we have no biblical warrant to avoid the topic of money, investments, savings, and inheritance. A case could be made that an elder who does not have money to manage is not a good candidate for the office. And what applies to church government should apply as well to civil government. One of the reasons our economy is in a mess is that most of the men and women holding office have never owned a business. Economics is a biblical word rich with meaning.

The word economy comes from oeconomia, a combination of two Greek words, oikos (house) plus nomos (law, rule). The root meaning of the word, is the frugal or economic management or government of a family or the concerns of a household. The study of economics (household management) now includes larger units than the household: the business firm and its complex relationships with suppliers, customers, and other firms with which it competes; and even the conglomerate mass of such relationships within entire nations, and even between nations.[2]

The word oikonomia is translated “stewardship” in the New Testament. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) gives it this definition: “One who manages domestic or other concerns with frugality; one who expends money, time or labor judiciously, and without waste.” What is the extent of the Christian’s stewardship? It’s the world! “Our global house is the world, which is owned by God. Man is placed in the world as a steward of God’s house.”[3]

There is not one area of life where the Christian can exempt the Bible. Every decision the Christian makes must find its justification in Scripture.

The starting-point of Christian economics is not what “works,” — pragmatism — but the commands and prohibitions of God’s law. All human action stands under the judgment of God. Lawful activity is blessed by God, in this life and the next; unlawful activity is cursed by God, in this life and the next. Unbiblical economics does not work because it is morally wrong and therefore is cursed. Biblical economics acknowledges scarcity (Genesis 3:15-17), the dominion covenant (Genesis 1:28), and personal responsibility (Philippians 2:12).[4]

Humans are never prescient or omniscient. They can’t see in the future and they don’t know everything. For someone to claim that a never-before-tried program will work is the height of arrogance and borders on blasphemy.

The Bible specifically outlines spheres of jurisdiction for the family, church, and State. Limited and delegated power and authority are granted to each sphere. For example, the State is given specific power and authority to operate within its jurisdictional boundaries that are not given to the family or to the church (e.g., collect taxes, punish criminals, maintain just weights and measures, etc.). When the State enlarges its jurisdictional boundaries without any regard to limits, it gradually assumes what God alone possesses: unlimited power and authority. The State is a provider of justice, not a dispenser of sustenance. To make the State our provider, our parent, is to deny God (Deut. 8; 1 Sam. 8; Dan. 4).

The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect us against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as [C.S.] Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. “Our whole lives are their business.”[5]

But our nation has rejected God’s way of provision. More and more Americans (Christians included) are turning to the State for sustenance. The people no longer cry out, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” but rather, “The State is my shepherd, I want more, and tax those rich bastards while you’re at it!” The mindset that Uncle Sam will pay for it is a trap and the acknowledgment of a new religion. There is little incentive to save or make sound economic decisions (e.g., sub-prime mortgages) if you know the State is always there to bail you out. If we are constantly turning to the State for assistance (and as a nation we usually are), then be assured that the State has become our god.

[1] Quoted in Ron Blue, Master Your Money: A Step-By-Step Plan for Financial Freedom (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1986), 19.
[2] Tom Rose, Economics: Principles and Policy from a Christian Perspective (Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1977), 19–20.
[3] Linda Rowley, “Tapetalk: The Christian and Economics from the series, Christian World View by R.C. Sproul,” Tabletalk, (February 1985), 10.
[4] David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1988), 260. [5] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 183–184.