When it’s tax time, that means its time to focus on the one thing that comes third in our lives, after God and family, and that’s money. Did you know that the Bible has more to say about money and money management than any other single topic? It’s no wonder, since many of our decisions often factor in 1) how much will this cost? 2) will I be able to pay this off, and 3) does my insurance cover this? Whether we are thinking about a house, a car, a new job, or surgery, money often becomes a deciding factor in our decision. Thankfully the Bible gives us solid guidelines on the use and saving of money, because money often represents time, as often as it represents assets.
Converting time and assets into money is nothing new. Ancient Israelites would convert their livestock into money, making it easier for them to travel to Jerusalem and there buy the proper sacrifices for the Temple. A person’s time working in another man’s field was considered a “day’s wage”. When you collect a paycheck, you are agreeing to the exchange of time (and skill), your invaluable, irreplaceable commodity, for the benefit of someone else’s profit margin. But this is a willing surrender, since compensation means a house payment, a car payment, and food on the table.
The Bible also speaks to the ownership of private property when it commands “thou shalt not steal”. God is very concerned about fairness, but not income inequality. Though the idea of equal pay for equal work is to be commended, income inequality is about envy, contrary to another commandment, “thou shalt not covet . . .”.
The Bible gives us rules and ethics for honest work, and what it means to provide for our families, but it also teaches about the proper use of debt, the payment of taxes, giving back to God, and saving for retirement. Just a cursory glance at the Bible’s principles of spending and saving money is enough to make me wonder if I’m honoring God with my money.
Principle of Work
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
Paul reminds the Thessalonians that even though he was apostle, he did not ignore the fact that he needed to work, with his own hands, to take care of his own needs. He argues that he had the right to expect compensation, but their sake, did not demand it. As long as we are able, we should be willing to work with our hands hands to care for our daily needs.
Principles of Debt and Repayment
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
In this section on respecting and honoring government (even when its hostile), Paul also reminds them that just because you are now a new man in Christ doesn’t erase financial and legal obligations to the state and others whose privileges you enjoy.
Principles of Giving
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians about giving go far beyond tithing to the idea that we give as as we believe, according to our dependence on God. God lays no strict tithing program upon the Christian, but to give as he is cheerfully able.
Warning about Retirement and Planning for the Future
And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
Jesus’ warning to the Jews of his day include this short story about a man whose barns weren’t big enough to store his crop. It is a this point that the man decides to retire. This is exactly when God warns him that his life has come to an end, and what does he have to show for it? When it comes to retirement planning, Jesus is is calling us to give greater thought to how we plan for ourselves and our families.