Managing Money Based on Biblical Principles
“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity.” Proverbs 21:5a (NLT)
Two summers ago, I helped our 12-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old-son, Shawn, start a lawn mowing business. They would earn money to contribute toward stuff they wanted and develop character that comes from doing work and doing it well. I soon learned that a small lawn mowing business is a real business. I could write a short book on all the lessons they are learning: To do each job well to please the customers and retain their business. To accept critical feedback, from customers and from Dad, without getting overly emotional. To find a balance between doing a job well and being a perfectionist. To appreciate financial value—the quality-to-price equation—because cheap equipment is often just that, cheap.
The most valuable lesson they are learning is to manage their money based on God’s design, according to his principles as communicated in the Bible. They are learning that God owns it all, and he provides them with the ability to work, which enables them to serve others and to earn money.
Set Priorities Based on God’s Design for Spending
There are two different patterns of spending, one based on the world’s priorities and the other based on God’s priorities.
The World's Priorities
1. Lifestyle 2. Saving/Investing 3. Giving
1. Giving 2. Saving/Investing 3. Lifestyle
The world’s priorities for spending lead our children to first spend it on themselves. The problem with first spending on their lifestyles is that they won’t have much, if anything, left to save or give. But God turns the world’s priorities upside down. He expects our children to place giving first. Saving is next. Their lifestyle is third. His priorities aren’t designed to rob of us our children of freedom and joy. Instead, his design leads to a better life, with greater freedom and joy.
Give the First Fruits
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Mal. 3:10)
We need to remember who we are giving to. We don’t merely give to our local church or pastors or to orphans in Africa. When we give, we are giving to God. It is good to give to and through the local church because this is part of God’s design for giving. In the Old Testament, God’s people obeyed his command to tithe at least 10% of their earnings. Tithing isn’t a means toward earning salvation, but it is good to give our first fruits.
Saving Builds Confidence and Character
“The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.” (Prov. 21:20, NLB)
The discipline of saving toward a goal is an essential life skill—both for us and for our children. Mastering the skill of saving toward a desired good or activity builds confidence and character. Creating financial margin in our lives by developing a savings fund is foundational to achieving financial fitness.
Of course, the discipline of saving is also essential to avoid the trap of consumer debt. Parents, your children need to learn this lesson early in life. Many people never develop this discipline, and consequently they often rely on credit cards to fund a lifestyle beyond their means.
Spend on Their Lifestyle
“When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift from God.” (Eccl. 5:19)
It is good to enjoy life by enjoying the fruit of our labor. Parents, this is another important lesson for our children. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and God wants us to enjoy the resources he gives us. So encourage your children to use some of their money to go to a concert, buy songs from iTunes, or perhaps buy a fishing pole or a mountain bike. Enjoying life is a gift from the Lord.
My children are earning and managing their own money in their small business mowing lawns. My role is to help them think about the biblical perspective toward business and money. All of us can use the reminder. All of us can use more skills to prioritize our spending based on God’s priorities. As we earn money and as we spend it, God can use finances to transform us into the type of people Jesus wants us to be.
Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:
- Do you have a budget at work or at home? What does your budget say about your values?
- For more about work and money, read Ed Gungor’s article “Work for God, Not Money.”
- If you have two and a half minutes, watch the hilarious (and clean) Saturday Night Live skit “Don’t Buy Stuff.” Are you spending money you don’t have? Why?