Does the Bible help us see the proper relationship between God and wealth for those who sincerely desire to serve and please Him?
God, money and you: What is the proper relationship of these three? Have you ever thought about it? Has God promised you lots of money if you please Him? On the other hand, will you please God if you give Him all your money? Is it even possible to please God if you have lots of money? If you are wealthy, is money your god?
As with all of the great questions, opinions vary. But what does God say?
In short, does the Bible say anything about your relationship to God in the context of money matters?
Indeed it does. However, we must examine all the scriptures that relate to money, wealth and possessions before we can come to a balanced and informed understanding of God's will. To focus on only one or two scriptures can lead to an unbalanced and erroneous conclusion.
Seek a right perspective
For example, if you limit your scriptural search for insight to verses such as Luke:6:20 ("Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven") and Mark:10:25 ("It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God"), you can easily conclude that God wants you to have virtually no money at all, nor the things you can buy with it. You may think you should avoid money like the plague or that it is inherently bad for you.
Some read these verses and conclude that money and physical wealth are curses, a spiritual drag on one's life. They further conclude that God is displeased with any but the poor. Some even take pride in being one of "God's poor."
On the other hand, if your scriptural focus is limited to certain other passages, you might come to an altogether different conclusion. You might conclude that God promises to bless all those serve Him with an abundance of money and material wealth. For example:
Proverbs:10:22: "The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it."
3 John 2: "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers."
Malachi:3:10: ". . . 'Try Me now in this,' says the LORD of hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.'"
Some people use scriptures such as these to support what some have called a "health and wealth" gospel. In this view God promises physical and financial abundance to any who please Him.
Yet we can gain a balanced understanding only by considering the entirety of God's instructions in the Bible.
Properly framing the issue
The issue of the proper relationship between God on the one hand and you and money on the other is best framed by the scriptures already quoted and others including the following:
Psalm:24:1: "The earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness . . ." God is the creator and owner of everything. All our wealth ultimately comes from the ground (the earth), and the earth belongs to God.
Mankind in general, and you as an individual, can enjoy the things that sustain and give enjoyment to physical life only by using some of what is ultimately God's possession.
It's important to keep this in mind. As the apostle James wrote: "Every good gift and every perfect gift [including material possessions and the money that makes possible their acquisition] is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James:1:17).
God spoke to the ancient Israelites words that are still relevant and instructive. He warned them about developing a wrongheaded, self-reliant, disobedient attitude about wealth and its acquisition:
"For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; . . . a land in which you will . . . lack nothing . . . Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest . . . when your heart is lifted up . . . then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.' . . . For it is He who gives you power to get wealth . . ." (Deuteronomy:8:7-18, emphasis added throughout).
Not only do the earth and its wealth belong to God, but we should ponder that even the "power to get wealth," mentioned in the above passage, is a gift from Him.
That includes our abilities and aptitudes, minds and creativity and the health and strength it takes to work and make a living.
All of these are a gift from our Creator.
If a person recognizes and believes this, His approach toward money and wealth will be quite different from his attitude if he is not conscious of or thankful for God's blessings.
Jesus warned all who would be His disciples to "take heed and beware of covetousness" (Luke:12:15). Why? Because "one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (same verse). God knows that we as physical beings need physical things to sustain us. He provides for our real needs. We are not to worry about or be obsessed by the pursuit of more things, even life's necessities. Jesus'words should settle our minds:
"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on . . . For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things" (Matthew:6:25-32).
To yield to covetousness is to put our desire for physical things on a plane that should be reserved for God alone. Money and things can become idols in the human heart. Colossians:3:5 tells us to "put to death" such selfish desires as "fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and covetousness, which is idolatry ."
Put God first
God , not the pursuit of money and wealth, should be first in the lives of those who seek to please Him. It comes down to a matter of whether we humbly and faithfully acknowledge God as sovereign in our lives.
Is His will more important than anything else, including money? Is honoring Him our chief desire?
Our lives consist of time. In most cases (except for inheritances or gifts), the wealth we acquire represents the wisdom we have used in spending our time in productive effort. So our income is usually a monetary reflection of the wise use of our time.
If a person's life is dedicated to God's service, so will be a portion of his wealth or income. God's Word tells us to "honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase" (Proverbs:3:9). If God is a priority in your life, you will desire to honor Him with your life and your time—as represented by your income, your money.
God reveals in His Word that one way to do this is to tithe to Him. Tithing is giving the first 10 percent of one's income ("increase," Deuteronomy:14:22) to God. To tithe is to give God what is His , not ours. However, even though it is really all His (Psalm:50:12; 89:11), He lays claim to just the first 10 percent of our increase (Leviticus:27:30).
Obviously we have no way of giving cash or a check directly to God in person. Our Creator has directed, through the ages, that the tithe that is His be given to those on earth whom He designates to receive it, those actively doing His work.
Abraham, the "father" of the faithful (Romans:4:16), gave tithes to Melchizedek, God's representative (Genesis:14:16-20). Indeed, He was the preincarnate Jesus Christ (request our free booklet Who Is God? to learn more). Later, under the terms of the covenant between God and the nation of Israel, God assigned the tithe to be given to the tribe of Levi for the work of the tabernacle and later the temple (Numbers:18:21).
However, since Jesus Christ's resurrection to be the High Priest of the New Covenant (Hebrews:6:20), the tithe no longer goes to the Levites but to His Church and the faithful ministers who serve under Him in proclaiming His true gospel and caring for His flock (Hebrews:7:12). (You can learn more about the Body of Christ in our free booklet The Church Jesus Built .)
Does God need our money?
Because God doesn't need our money, it may seem ironic that God would tell those who want to serve Him to give a tithe for His work. As God, He could devise some other way to finance His work on earth.
Indeed, He could simply miraculously create money and give it to those He designates to oversee His work (compare, for example, the remarkable account in Matthew:17:24-27).
But those who serve God are the ones in need, and one of their needs is to learn to properly honor Him. One way we do that is with a portion of our increase. It keeps us mindful of the fact that God is the source of all our increase when we give to Him the first 10 percent for the purpose of spreading His message to others.
One of the greatest examples of a man who understood that honoring God, by giving back to Him physical wealth, is not a burden but a privilege was David. At a time when this king had led the nation in generously giving offerings for the furtherance of God's work, he prayed some instructive words. Rather than reflecting smug selfcongratulations at his (and the nation's) large offering, David's words capture the essence of spiritually mature giving to God:
"Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given to You" (1 Chronicles:29:13- 14). Truly this is the sort of humble and cheerful giving that God honors and loves (2 Corinthians:9:7).
Another need is that we learn spiritual maturity and develop God's giving nature (Acts:20:35; 2 Corinthians:9:7). God's nature helps us not to be covetous, selfish, grasping in physical things. Indeed, it helps us to be ever mindful of something bigger than ourselves.
In the book of Malachi, God puts into stark language the spiritual issues related to tithing: "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now in this,' says the LORD of hosts" (Malachi:3:8-10).
The balanced approach
God's Word reveals a balanced view of the relationship between God,money and you. At certain times and places, faithful servants of God have been wealthy.
Abraham, the father of the faithful, was a prosperous man. So were Job, David and Joseph. At other times, equally faithful servants of God have suffered poverty.
For example, the faithful church of God at Smyrna suffered not only poverty but great trials and tribulation (Revelation:2:8-11).
Paul the apostle experienced both abundance and need at different times. ". . . For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased [live humbly], and I know how to abound [live in prosperity]. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" (Philippians 4:11-12).
Notice how Paul could maintain such contentment whether he was rich or poor: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (verse 13).This was the same Paul whom God inspired to write, for our edification: "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire [in a spirit of covetousness] to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money [not its right use] is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Timothy:6:7-10).
The balanced approach is to recognize that money and wealth are temporary and may be used for good or evil. God's truth and plan for us, however, are eternal. We should honor God with the biblical proportion of whatever money we have and not set our hearts on—that is, covet—wealth (see King David's advice in Psalm:62:10), knowing that God in His wisdom will care for our needs.
Again, Jesus'words should be our guide: ". . . Do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you" (Luke:12:29-31). GN