Pastor Marc Likins
Whatever the relationship you have with money, whether you are wealthy or strapped or somewhere in the middle, God wants you to have freedom, joy, and wisdom in regard to your finances. The most basic and important aspect of stewardship is how you see money. This does not exist on spreadsheets or budgets but is embedded in how you view money and work. This can be explained in three ways: Red Light, Green Light, and Yellow Light.
Red Light: Stop, money is bad!
This is the idea that money can distract you, make you proud, dishonest, and ruthless. This idea advises you to run away from money, or as soon as you get it, to get rid of it.
Proverbs 11:4: Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.
There is definitely truth to this—money has the power to absorb all your time, energy, and imagination so you have too little left to pay attention to more important things. People get stuck in the cycle of making more and spending more to the point where they feel trapped. From this polarizing view of money—that it is the root of all evil—stems the degradation of the wealthy and a romanticization of poverty.
But, the Bible does not teach this mindset. David, Solomon, and Job all had money and were used by God as His servants. Paul instructed us to glorify God with both a little and a lot.
However, it is also problematic to adhere to the other end of the spectrum—Green Light mentality.
Green Light: Go for it, money is the best!
This idea tells you to get as much money as you can! Money makes the world go around, so capitalize on that.
Proverbs 8:17-18: I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.
If you love and seek wisdom, you will get riches that last, which definitely seems like a good thing.
Proverbs 10:22: The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
God can bless you with riches, making you both spiritually and materially rich. These verses show wealth as a good thing, as a blessing, and as a product of seeking wisdom.
Some will focus on these verses to the exclusion of many others and begin to promote ideas like the prosperity gospel. They tie wealth to blessing and wisdom and then insist that if you do not have a lot, you must be unwise or have a problem with your spiritual life. God blesses through bestowing prosperity, and if you do not have that prosperity, your faith, love of God, or wisdom must be lacking. But we see in the Bible that many of God’s choicest servants did not have much—including Jesus Himself.
We can find a great balance in these verses:
Proverbs 30:8-9: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
There are downsides to both wealth and poverty. Wealth can tempt us to forget God and rely fully on ourselves and our own prosperity. Poverty has the power to influence unethical actions and demand our desperation.
Both above ideas of money are correct. It has the potential to be a blessing and a trap. The key is to find the healthy response to both. The healthy money mindset, the Bible money mindset is this:
Yellow Light: Proceed with caution. Wealth is a good, but not the greatest good.
You can pursue money and use it as a tool to demonstrate your love of God and love of neighbor, but it's not the most important. Wealth is less important than wisdom and insight (Proverbs 16:16), wealth is less important than relationships (Proverbs 17:1), and wealth is less important than integrity and character (Proverbs 28:6).
The bottom line: Prize wealth, but don’t trust it.
Though wealth is an extremely useful thing, it can give you nothing of lasting value or happiness. It’s a poor substitute for God. When you look to money instead of God for meaning, value, significance, and security, you will only get disappointment. The Apostle Paul articulates this so well:
1 Timothy 6:17: Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
Here are the questions we should be asking ourselves:
Have you placed too little value on money or too great a value on money?
Are you stuck on the crazy cycle with money: earn more, spend more, earn more, spend more?
Are your trust and hope migrating away from God and to your wealth?
Are you willing to pray, “Lord, don’t give me financial success until you first give me character, a good conscience, and strong relationships”?
These will indicate whether you have the right mindset or not when comes to money, and that mindset will determine who your master is—God or money.